The Road Not Taken

The grass is always greener on the other side. The apples, sweeter. Envy has always been a part of us humans since time immemorial. The first murder by Qabil was done out of envy. Since then, more and more human downfalls can be attributed to envy. Initially, I thought what I had been through this past three months was out of envy. It didn’t feel quite right, but I’m sure envy was part of it. That, I was right. But envy the main contributor, I was wrong.

I have always been a self-centred guy since I was little, and I was well aware of the fact. You could say I was sort of a precocious boy. I developed a sense of ‘feeling’ the importance of each and every detail of everyday living since I was a chap. I have an insatiable hunger for knowledge. I wanted to know why, why, why. I am drawn into various schools of thought, into multiple disciplines, into geography and history and theology and philosophy and politics and science and language, the barriers each of these have, the pros and cons of each theory, the story behind each becoming, that sort of stuff. When I was eight years old, my class teacher (we don’t have the homeroom teacher concept back then) asked each of us our ambition. Being kids, the normal and popular answers would be a doctor, a policeman, a soldier, and a teacher. Some would go out of the way and say that they wanted to be an astronaut or a scientist for one out of two reasons; to stand out of the crowd, or to conform to their younger day’s passion. What was my answer?

I wanted to be everything.

I was not content with sticking to one job, one title that limits me to only one field. It would be a waste, or so I thought back then. By nine I figured that if we really want to work towards one goal, one profession, might as well we build schools based on those professions and not waste one’s time learning things that will not be useful in their grown-up lives. It was a rough concept and as I grow up, find it not practical for one’s survival in this chaotic world. We do need knowledge unrelated to our work because life itself is a profession we can’t run from since the very beginning, and those ‘useless’ knowledge come in handy in those areas. But it didn’t matter to me. I wanted to be everything, so there’s no knowledge that is useless to me. Well, sort of.

My ultimate goal in life is to achieve a state of complete redha when I leave this temporary plane. English doesn’t exactly catch the meaning, but Malay has it keyed down to its exact context. Mati puas, dan puas mati. ‘Dying happily, and be happy with death’ is as close as English can capture it in words. In order to achieve that goal, I need to satiate this hunger of mine. I need to dig, eat, process, and churn out new ideas, new theories to complete my quest, my understanding, alleviate my worth as an individual, the society I am part of, and  humanity as a whole. It is a big dream, a far-fetch idea, something too big for one to handle, and I realize the reality of this. So I digressed. If it is too big of an objective, let’s break it down into smaller bite-size pieces, tackle one at a time, and move on to the next piece until I get all the parts, or at least die trying to get all of it. I am mediocre, I believe I am one to the truest of meaning but I will not stay with this label. At least, I won’t be content with it. I’ll try to break this mediocre label shackling me down and move on to a higher plane of greatness. This is where two of my life principles come from.

The first one is ‘be optimistic and pessimistic at the same time, at all times’.

The second one is ‘be happy with what you have, but always be angry at yourself for not having more’.

So I worked my way up in life with two of these principles (among other self-taught principles) in mind. I always had them in mind. They are my guidelines in surviving this profession called life, and they had worked well. That is, until three months ago.

I still can’t pinpoint what happened in Kulim. Two events happened simultaneously that led to my depressed state. One is the disappointment I had towards my society as a whole, the other is me unable to get anything written out of myself, the big wall stopping me from expressing myself. Tembok Hati was a miracle. The other crap I’ve written in these three months are crap, lifeless, doesn’t really capture the meaning and does not have the essence of what I want to convey in them. I was at a standstill. I’ve realized from time to time that I am one who can’t stand still. I’ll go crazy if I don’t move forward. I can’t take a break. I need to always evolve, to always grow. If not, I’ll feel useless. So a standstill really is a great big demotivation. And it got me depressed.

The things that went through my mind in these three months always revolve around the concept of discontent. I am not happy with my current life. With it comes a nuance of regret. I was working before. I chose to abandon work to further my study, because the past me thought I could grow exponentially doing this, and the past me thought this will bring me closer to my ultimate goal, which is tied to how much I can contribute to society and humanity. But the current me thinks this is all a big mistake. The prospect of working with the likes of them in Kulim in this country, in this kill-or-be-killed industry, in this state-of-mind society kills me inside. Everything becomes bleak. Even my project has been reduced to a mere to-pass-my-program project, and I don’t want that. I specifically chose my project because the past me thought it would benefit society in the long run. But now it doesn’t seem that way. Then the ‘if’s’ came flying by.

If I was still working, I could see the smiles and relieved looks on the patients’ faces. I could guide them around the massive pseudo-science and myths regarding health and medicines that floats around on the net and in chatters of office workers and neighbourhoods. I could bring a direct positive change to their lives.

If I was back in Sabah, I could work my ass off doing voluntary works at the orphanage my parents built with their friends. I could reach out to part of society that needed help the most. I could teach and inspire them to better themselves and the society they belong to. I could bring a direct positive change to their lives.

If I were to follow my adventurous heart, I could’ve leave everything behind and travel the world, make new friends, new experiences, and maybe work on a novel or two, spend time learning the ways of the world the hard way, reflecting on what I have and what they have, be grateful for what I have, and in the end return to my hometown a grown man, spreading what I have learned to better society and the world, bringing a direct positive change to their lives.

If only I didn’t take this road, and took one of the many roads my imagination and fantasies could project onto my mind’s canvas. Each road is within my grasp. I have the means to do each and every one of them, and this is not saying it hypothetically. I do have the means and the contacts, but I chose this mundane road because it seemed normal and less controversial to those around me. In the end, I choose to conform to the stigmas of society. And now I regret it.

Well, at least a part of me regrets that decision I took two years ago. Another part of me doesn’t think that way. This other part of me thinks that the regretting part is way too full of himself and is overthinking things. This other part realized that this is all in my mind, in my head, and there’s no physical hurdle to overcome. The other part realized that the regretting part is holding me down, and is disappointed in the regretting part’s actions. A third part of me saw the commotion between the two prior parts, and is disappointed in my insecurity, my lack of drive, and the fallacy of it all. All three parts of me are me, and the cycle of regret and disappointment goes on in a spiral, ever looping around with no clear exit in sight. It all feels like back in 2007, where I crumbled down to overthinking. Back then, the exit was not visible, similar to this time. The thought of me regressing into that state frightened me. I don’t want to live like that again. Feeling all useless, not worth living but shy of dying. No. Not again. Nobody can help me out of it if I’m stuck here. Nobody could do anything to me back then except myself. So as long as I don’t have the strength to get out of this spiral, I won’t have the chance to leave. That was what I thought. Nobody can help me now, because nobody fully understands me. Heck, I don’t even understand myself.

But contrary to what I always do, I did something really not me. I reached out. I seek help from someone that I don’t know, someone that I don’t even trust. I went for counselling.

Here came Hajah Rosni, a woman with six golden rings on four fingers, gold bangles on both hands, crooked teeth, and eyes saying ‘oh boy, here comes another one’. I was sceptical at first, but told myself ‘to hell with her. I’m here to get it out of my system, not really expecting her to help me’. The thing is I am a self-centred guy. This translates into pride, which then bore the fruits of arrogance. I was right in not expecting her to not help me, but was wrong in belittling her capabilities.

After two sessions, it finally clicked in my mind that what was the core to my maddening situation was not envy for others, nor was it for the possible me’s on other roads. It wasn’t envy at all. It was greed. In a glimpse of her words, it suddenly came to me. I had forgotten my own nature. I am greedy, I want it all. Usually I keep that in check by the ‘be happy’ part of the happy/angry principle I had. I lost it on the way. I had lost it in Kulim. I still don’t know exactly what the trigger was, but for sure I had lost my way because I had abandoned that principle as a whole. That led me to lose my anchors to earth, and my mind was aswirl in the clouds. I have always known that I am a man of fantasy, of dreams. That is one of my weaknesses, also the source of my strength. That is why I like being around or in contact with people who have their roots firmly grounded on earth. They stick to reality and face reality head on, not longing for escapism like me.

And now I have come to terms with myself. I was greedy, and I have lost my way because of it. I can’t traverse all roads at the same time, but I suddenly forgot about the fact. It’s not that I didn’t know about it but more like I’ve forgotten about it. Thanks to Hajah Rosni and Allah’s will, I remember to pull myself and my head back down to earth. I was laughing my ass off to the absurdity and nonsense that had entrapped me these three months so hard, I may have frightened Hajah Rosni.

Thinking about it last night made me realize another thing. Something that is funny and frightening at the same time. Back in 2007, I was facing similar situations of depression due to pride. Wanting to be irreplaceable when in truth I am replaceable, my pride got in the way. Now I have gone through another bout due to greed. The thing is pride and greed are part of a list. So will I have other episodes due to the other five on the list? Funny how that will unfold, but at the same time I dread the moment, that is if there is one for each. Please Allah, protect me from myself.

Have I grown? Am I ready? I don’t know, but I’ll try my best again, like how I used to. I really hope this is the end to this time. I really hope I have grown stronger. I need to focus and be done with this road with a flash and a bang!

The grass is always greener on the other side. Wait till I get there, ‘other side’. I’m coming for all of you, one at a time.


31st October 2015

The Road Not Taken

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