N: Whenever I bump into old high school girls like I did last week, whether they’re my batch or several years apart, I’m always genuinely puzzled by how they’ve turned out. So many of these girls have grown up so… well. Very put-together and glam, you know what I mean? Slimmer now, more fab – attractive – it’s like they’ve blossomed and so much at that. And I’m just… me. Still like how I was back then.
Eldest Sis: And maybe those girls look at you and wonder how you’ve turned out so self-reliant and independent…
Sometimes I wonder how I would’ve turned out if I wasn’t so ambitious.
What if Mum was just a homemaker, not this trailblazing, strong-willed academician that she still is today? What if Dad was a good-for-nothing bum and not this studious, passionate mechanical engineering professor who, until today, considers his books as his wealth? What if our family home was filled with flashy jewelry or maybe, was simply a humble abode instead of being what it is – endless shelves of books? What if I grew up with tales from their childhood and youth set locally with distinctly Malaysian flavors and idiosyncrasies, instead of stories of their lives abroad as overseas students first in neighboring Indonesia then way over in the US? What if Mum and Dad never made it as far as they did because in a surprise plot twist, they were instead defeated by reality and circumstances of their hard lives back in the early 1950s?
Would I have grown up still as ambitious?
If no, then how differently?
I love this statement that Dad once said to me after I admitted to him how affected I was whenever I get to glimpse into other girls’ lives, those from the past, and realize that they’re faring off, from my point-of-view at least, incredibly well post-high school. “She’s doing fabulously,” I’d say as I recall an old classmate of mine he’d once greeted hello to; or “She’s now living abroad and traveling often!” I’d chip in as I shared tales of another long-lost pal. Because where there was order – chronological and general structure – in high school, the school of life is a wilderness of makeshift trails. For instance, today I found out that a girl a year my junior has been a wife for a year-plus and now a new mother – both of which are roles of scrutiny and curiosity to my now-adult self, yet still foreign and otherworldly to my ageless soul. Life continues to be fluid, of course, but our paths are checkered with different checkpoints at varying timelines. So I love this particular statement by Dad, not only because it is in true Dad fashion – but also because it puts things back into perspectives;
“Rezeki orang lain-lain, Jane.” (lit. “Each person’s blessings are unique unto themselves, Jane.”)