Monthly Archives: March 2011

Lock, stock and beanbag

I never liked moving house. That is not to say I’ve done it many times, but I think it’s because I haven’t done it many times that I don’t like when the time comes that I have to do it. When I moved out of my University at Buffalo dorm to a house in the ghetto, I had not much more than my clothes and personal effects to lug along. When I moved out of the ghetto to an apartment in the suburbs and lived on my own, I had my clothes, personal effects and furniture to move along. When I moved from Buffalo to Boston for my TEFL training, I was back to bringing just my clothes and personal effects. When I moved from the U.S. back to Malaysia, I had to ship my clothes and personal effects back to my parents’ house.

And now, after three years of living with my parents, I’ll be moving out again, this time to a house that they have very very generously acquired for me (“Most people start off homeless, then when they get married they start off with their in-laws; we’re making sure you fall into neither category,” my mother likes to remind me). After many debates with my parents over buying a piece of landed property or a condominium unit, we settled for a townhouse in Sunway Damansara, strangely named Challis Damansara.

The good thing is that this house has never been lived in, so we get to furnish it exactly the way we want it. The bad thing is that this house has never been lived in, so we have to furnish it ourselves. I used to think it would be fun shopping for furniture and picking out beds and sofas and tables — until we got confused from looking at so many beds and sofas and tables. We’ve spent the past few weekends furniture hunting, going from Ikea to Midvalley to Sungai Buloh to look for pieces that might appeal to us, also having to remember that we had to outfit the kitchen and closets as well, and shop for appliances.

Then my father decided that since he has engaged an architect to renovate my parents’ ‘retirement home’ in Klang, he would get her to outfit my entire house as well, the relief of which can only be surpassed by that of quitting my job. So now that every scrap of shelving and cabinet outfitting is being taken care of by the architect, I’m back to looking at beds and sofas and tables.

The difficult part about moving in with someone is remembering to take their preferences into consideration as well. We can agree to havingĀ  minimalistic furniture in clean colors like white, gray and black, but it becomes a bit of a struggle when one wants to add a pop of color with a bright pink beanbag, and the other refuses to live with anything pink. Up until this point I have agreed to a royal blue beanbag, but as we won’t be moving to Challis until June or July, every now and then I try my luck and suggest a bright pink one instead.

Who should be taught?

They say that when someone is dealt a certain circumstance in life, they tend to become much more aware of others in the same circumstances. When Shirley was pregnant back in 2007, I suddenly started seeing a great many other pregnant women trawling around town. When I briefly dated a man who had two daughters, aged 10 and 3 at the time, I began to realize just how many children there were out in public, especially at the malls, which did not bode well for both Shirley and me because they were the kind of children we detested: loud, unruly and incorrigible.

A few months ago, I toyed with the idea of changing careers entirely, which involved shedding my snarky, self-possessed self for a much gentler and more people-tolerant one. In particular, I had to become more child-friendly. Now anyone who knows me knows that this would be a great challenge, because I’m not the fondest of children. This is, however, not a sweeping statement because I quite like babies in general — I loved helping Shirley take care of Aiden after he was born — and I dislike the loud, unruly and incorrigible children solely because their parents failed to teach them any better and to find fault with their behavior.

Nevertheless, in an attempt to align myself with the youngsters for the sake of my career change, I began to observe the children I see in public and try to determine what makes them behave the way they do. And because my awareness of children and their behaviors is now significantly heightened, my findings have been a bit disturbing.

Everybody wants a child who is intelligent and can learn quickly; by all accounts the number of children who aren’t intelligent are few and far between. But I realized that the main difference between a child who, at 38 months, can say, “Ewww, that’s disgusting,” and a 32-month-old who doesn’t seem able to string a full sentence together, is largely in the way they have been taught by their parents. If the universal presumption is that children can learn by imitation from as early as a year old — in some cases even younger — then it’s safe to hope that they would all be holding perfectly coherent conversations by the time they’re 3 years old. And yet, when they have learned to say, “I like blue,” but can’t answer to “Do you like blue?” the conclusion can be that they may have been taught to imitate, but not to implement, probably due to a lack of interaction between parent and child.

Another issue is discipline. The 38-month-old is given a timeout for misbehavior, during which he bawls his eyes out and apologizes to the heavens and his mother, but also learns what he should or shouldn’t do to avoid future timeouts. And yet, the 32-month-old, spoiled and overindulged all his life, now depends solely on ear-splitting screams and tears to get his way, and occasionally has to be stowed away in isolation to teach him a lesson because he is now too far past the point of being taught the difference between right and wrong. And you have the children who have a penchant for running in between tables at restaurants, putting themselves, the wait staff and other patrons at burn risk, yet whose parents do nothing to ensure they remained seated — and, if necessary, chained to their chairs. So it would appear, then, that if they have not been taught any better, is it because their own parents don’t know any better, or they just failed to realize that disciplining their children is one of the most basic ways to show that they care?

I used to think that if I took this career change, I would design the work I plan to do according to the age groups of the children. However, after looking at how children so close in age can behave so differently, I’m considering remodeling my plan to go by mental and behavioral development. And maybe throw in the parents to teach them a couple of things too.

Playing the career wild card

“He is a person. He gets to make his own damned choices. I am going through the worst caffeine withdrawal of my life because somebody thinks that being pregnant means I’m no longer of sound freakin’ mind!” – Callie Torres, Grey’s Anatomy

With more than a week past since I quit my job, I’ve had people emailing me or stopping by my desk when they’re in my office to ask if it was true that I quit my job (I finally figured out the way to stave off this inane question and subtly admonish them for butting into business that isn’t theirs is to sneer back: “If you have to ask, you already know.”). After a moment of abashed silence this response generates, they ask which company I’m moving to, another indication that they’re still determined to keep their derrieres in business that isn’t theirs. And I say, “Not a bank,” which is completely vague, yet totally accurate.

However, when I did tell one person whom I thought would take the revelation in stride, or at least with a smile and encouraging word to help reduce my perpetual worry that I’m doing the wrong thing, the response was “Are you sure you want to do that? You don’t have the social skills for it,” and a raised eyebrow (or two).

As offended as I was by that statement, which was said in the matter-of-fact way that indicates the person knows it’s true, I realized it wasn’t the first time I had heard it. For as long as I’ve been on this job, people — both old friends and new acquaintances — have told me that I’m in the wrong profession, because I lack, in no particular order:

  1. the patience for office politics;
  2. the ability to put on a poker face or a genuine-looking smile;
  3. the ability (or willingness) to filter my words, instead of letting everything in my head come out of my mouth without thinking of the consequences
  4. the desire for any human interaction when I’m at work;
  5. the sympathy for anything but furry animals and infants; and
  6. the gene that all girls but me have that makes them fawn over occasions like weddings, which I think are stupid, unnecessary and a waste of money, and keep swearing never to attend again for as long as I still draw breath. *

In other words, I have appalling to zero social skills. **

So when I tell people I’m going to another company to do almost the same thing that I’m doing now, I imagine they’re trying really hard not to say aloud that essentially, I’m just going somewhere else to torture other people.

The truth is, I don’t know what I really want to do. A month ago, I had plans for something that was going to remove me completely from this world I’ve been in for nearly three years (by ‘world’, I mean ‘environment’, and not, unfortunately, ‘this country’). But, due to my utter conviction that it will fail, I’ve been making excuses to put off getting started on it.

So am I sure I want to do this? I think so. Do I have the social skills for it? Most likely not. I really don’t know what I want to do. I just know that I really don’t want what I have right now. So maybe when people ask me what I’ll be doing once I leave this place, I should just say, “I’m going somewhere else to torture other people.”

* Excluding Afham’s sister’s mosque wedding, only because I was asked to be a dulang girl and I will admit I actually do want to experience it

** Here I have to restrain myself from adding that I fear I have Asperger Syndrome, because I’m still afraid of getting myself diagnosed, even though it’s something that has been suggested to me by more than one person