Maybe there is still a chance to have it all
One of my girlfriends is visiting NY for meetings and she asked me to help her to pick up her wedding gown from Vera Wang the day before. I am so happy for her. You know there are times when you say “good for you” you actually feel “gosh it’s so unfair I cannot believe she is getting this while I didn’t!” But that kind of feeling is not in my dictionary anymore. I am lucky to be surrounded by both guys and girls who are as ambitious, capable, observant, insightful and FUN as myself (sorry I’m complimenting myself again), if not more, and they complement me as a human being, and they inspire me every day to give back more with passion and love.
Ultimately it’s not about a competition after all. It’s about inviting someone to join the life journey with you, to learn, to share, to enjoy; or sometimes, just to sit quietly together while looking out of the window, and maybe laugh, and sing.
Treat people right, any people
When I was in Hong Kong I went to this Portuguese restaurant once and ordered some baked pork and rice dish. I asked the waiter some standard question on what kind of sauce he recommends, how long it will take, and how big the portion is etc. Apparently he was relatively new and he couldn’t answer half of the questions. I got very impatient. I unintentionally raised my voice and I was at the edge of asking to be served by another waiter. He was embarrassed obviously, and my friend who went with me gave me a very disturbed stare, which I couldn’t quite figure out why at the moment.
Later on he asked me if I noticed I was being quite rude to the waiter. I said well I just happen to be a person who weighs a lot on efficiency. The waiter gets PAID to do his job and these are the things he SHOULD know. Why should I be so patient and nice about it if this is what he should be doing in the first place? It’s not like he is going out of his way to help me or give me a discount.
My friend gave me another stare: “so what you are saying is: you are only nice to people who are good at what they do. If they are not good, if they are still in the process of learning, you are not nice and you want to yell at them.” “Well I must just have high standards, people are not always nice at work, but I still thrive to do a good job, always. So I guess I am asking the same from other people too.”
My friend was silent for a while, and then he said, almost with anger, “RIGHT, PEOPLE ARE NOT ALWAYS NICE AT WORK, BUT YOU GET PAID TO SUCK IT UP! But if you treat everyone else around you like that, in real life, you are F*CKED!”
I was speechless and it was right there and then that I realized there is nothing to be proud of that I am not a typical “nice” person. Previously I always thought if you say someone is “nice”, it means you have nothing else to say about them. So if anything I was always proud that I am the other way around – “assertive” or even “aggressive”. But isn’t that too narrow or too deceiving a definition of being nice? Being nice means understanding and respect, it demands a great deal of emotional intelligence, mental cultivation, patience and strength in character in order to achieve that attitude.
And I realized it’s something hard to find in other people too. The more well-off you are, the more privilege you have, the busier you are with your own life, the less likely you care about how other people feel. That is unfortunate. But if you are going down that road, just like how I felt I was before, it’s not too late to stop.
Is there anything else you can hold on to?
A guy friend used to tell me how he navigates the dating scene in New York: I know what you girls are thinking about. Ivy League school – check; a job in finance with good pay and all that – check. Great, let’s date! We can worry about all the rest later!
Isn’t that how our parents (typical Asian) think? You need to be with someone who had a good education, a good job, a good family background. And if there is someone they know who has all that, they will be so surprised, how come you are not dating him? How come you are not together already, how come you are not talking about getting engaged and all that?!
If it’s that simple, if it’s really that simple, if it’s really about 2, 3, 4 checks on a spreadsheet, then half of the population in the world will probably lose their jobs instantly. People know it doesn’t work that way, but we still secretly judge, and compare. So I guess I can’t be too harsh on my friend because I used to have those little checks too.
Then I realized there’s nothing wrong with being proud that you went to a top school and you have a great job. You earned those things and you deserve the respect. What bothered me was the fact that he thinks these are the ONLY pre-requisites or the very foundation of a good and healthy relationship. But really?!
It’s just like going into an interview. The best interview you could ever have is an interview about fun things and more personal experiences, and nothing really related to your resume (or your so-called qualifications).
You are great on paper but the deeper question is: WHO ARE YOU AS A PERSON? Aside from Ivy League and investment banking, aside from top brand handbags and shoes, and a big house or an expensive car, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN HOLD ON TO?
Some questions worth asking twice, if not more
There are many answers you could give to a simple question “How are you?”
1. Good, how are you?
2. Great, oh I love your skirt!
3. Not bad, really busy, but we should catch up next week over coffee or something.
4. I’m doing okay. Work kind of sucks, thinking of switching jobs now, let me know if you know any openings.
5. Good, just came back from vacation, had a great time, met this amazing guy and I think he’s kind of into me too, so we’ll see!
6. Can’t be better. My parents are in town this weekend. I wanted to invite you to come over for dinner!
Note that these answers do NOT reflect just the reality of the person but the RELATIONSHIP between the two having the conversation. Why? These answers could very well come from the SAME person but TO DIFFERENT people, and how detailed how intimate your answers are define how close you are with the other person.
But honestly, out of all your connections, colleagues, friends, how many people fit into the “1-3” category? How many of them would count toward the “4-6”? For all those people you have only talked to on a level of “1-3”, have you ever even tried to take the conversation to a level of “4-6”, or maybe even “7-9”?
We evolve with our environment and our experiences, but we all have walls built up against our hearts. How many times do you get that question “how do you feel” and your default response will always be “good!” regardless of how you really feel. And how many times the other person cares enough to ask you a second time “talk to me, how do you really feel?” And how many times does it take for him/her to ask you in order for you to really open up and tell him/her what’s truly on your mind?
These are hard questions. And many people don’t even bother. But that defines a deep conversation, that defines any sort of relationships, and that defines us as human beings.
So if you ever wonder: How come I know so many people but there is absolutely nobody to call when I feel mad, sad, disturbed, depressed?! Or…How come I’ve known this person for so long but I still don’t really know who he/she is?! Then maybe you should start knocking off these walls already.
It will not be easy. But “we only live twice”.
YOU WILL BE OKAY
Last night I was really happy. I had a 3-hour long dinner with a couple of girlfriends, walked 30 some blocks from the restaurant back home, called a good old friend and talked about nothing and everything, and I felt genuinely relaxed and at ease.
Just like my girlfriend who said: “I may be heart-broken again, I may do all I did and be not given the credit I deserve again, I may lose everything I thought that’s important to me again, and I may cry like a baby again, but I know I will be okay”, it will all be okay.
So maybe there’s still a chance of having it all after all. We pursue what’s good in life, but we are not perfectionist. The chance of having it all is a state of mind, and it lives in our hearts, our hearts that are peaceful, happy, and full of hope.
I hope one day, you will feel it in your heart too.