a person of no ambition

over lunch with RS a coupla afternoons ago, i am joined by TD who’s working on a neighboring project. and i honestly don’t know how one topic leads to another, and suddenly, we find ourselves talking about career, or rather, life aspirations.

you see TD spoke about life back at his kampung. where life was simple. you sow the seeds. you tend to the field. you harvest the crop. you celebrate. and the cycle starts all over again. and while life is hard and money is scarce, you do have just enough to get by. life is poor. life is simple. but that is just what the urbanites see from behind their expensive designer gucci glasses.

and here are the yuppies. what JJ calls, the pizza generation. who grew up with half their social lives in the virtual world. cannot live without internet, mobile phone, astro and hot water showers. highly educated. good launch in life in executive positions. those who dream about becoming managers. and the directors. and then to own their own empire. bigger and bigger cars. bigger and bigger houses. more and more money. the vision of a successful life.

but with all this definition of success, you compromise a few things. we work harder to show the boss how capable we are. we stay back, do projects, extra assignments. rewarded with fame and more money. we go to work early. we stay back late. we neglect – would i be so bold to use the word ‘neglect’? – our children. TD tells me that to meet ends meet, to provide his family the luxuries of life – good education, tuitions, insurances – he worked and worked and worked. and one day, he goes home and he realises that his kids were already ten years old. and the next day, they were fifteen. and he wonders, where did all the time in between go?

and here are those poor kampung folk. who grew up bathing with ice cold water. who only had about four tv channels to watch. whose lives revolved around the harvest at hand. breakfast with the family. lunch at home. teaching the children how to sing songs in the evenings. telling wonderful stories that your father told you and his father told him. and you are a part of their every phase in life.

and i, with my modern car and big house, smile a small smile, TD tells me. my kampung folk smile from ear to ear. i earn far more than they do but i carry the stress of the world on my shoulders. they make barely enough to buy fuel in their kapcai motorcycles, and yet, they laugh out loud with envious happiness.

and so, what is happiness?

my father was an engineer. he loved his job. he loves all the electronics and gadgets and gizmos and taking them apart and repairing them, and seeing how they work. he’s that kind of guy. and he did his job well. so well, that his bosses wanted to promote him. but he turned it down all the time.

you see, if he were promoted, he won’t be able to do what he loved anymore. he’d be a manager. he’d have to do paperwork. he’d have to go for meetings. and stay back in the office late. and be back early next morning. and work in the weekends. and in the middle of the night.

dad was an engineer till the day he retired last year. i can’t say for sure if he loved every moment of his job, but he did what he enjoyed doing. even now, he keeps himself busy with all kinds of electronic projects – when he is not driving my mom crazy at home.

you work so hard, and then you die – TD tells me. no matter how hard you work and how much money you earn. no matter how high up the food chain you climb and how many songs you have sung. you die.

and what is ambition, and what is happiness? of course, it depends on the world you were born into. the kampung or the city. but i think at some point, you do have a choice. to define for yourself what happiness means. and i am happy with what i am doing. dare i take another step forward? isn’t that the natural thing to do? and if i do, will i be happier?

i’m good. and if something ain’t broken, why fix it. so this year, i resolute to play the role of a person of no ambition. i like the whole environmentalist hat. and writing. and i think i’d be just happy doing just this. quality. not quantity.

ya, i know, this is a heavy contemplation. too heavy for a lunchtime topic. far to heavy for 4.45pm on a wednesday evening. but i’m counting on going home soon. something i don’t know if i could advancing further in my career.

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