Friday, October 29, 2010

Exactly as it should be?

Every now and then, I drown in thoughts of "is this all?!?!" and "what's my role in this life?!"

Don't get me wrong, I DO truly appreciate my life right now. I mean, what more could a girl ask for? A comfortable life, loving and protective husband, great family back home, awesome friends all over the world. But then I get itchy and wonder, "this can't be all there is to life?!"

I leisurely get ready for class, do household chores slowly, or help out with the stuff I do at the restaurant at my own pace, while everyone around me is rushing around with a mission, a purpose, an aim. Everyone seems soooo busy, while I have all the time in the world.

For a while, I even hated going on FaceBook cos frenemies who used to be 'lower' than me (career-wise, at least) seemed to be doing well and being successful and having a fulfilling life and all. While now I am just a housewife.

This really is a case of be careful what you wish for. Two years ago, being in the rat race made me pray soooo fervently to be a taitai. Today, I'm not a taitai, of course. But I got my wish of not having to be stressed and working like a mad woman.

I even used to tell people how I never ever had a break, ever. You see, I was lucky in that I secured a job even before graduating from Uni, so the moment our last class was over, I started work the week after. I complained about it then though. Complained about the fact that I never had a break the way other people did. I complained about the fact that I had gone from secondary school straight to uni with not even a month's break, then from uni to work in less than a week, and then worked with no more than a week's break every year, for 8 years.

So from being the girl who was busy, stressed, busy, stressed, I have now been given the break I wanted all my life. But, as is often the case of the grass is greener on the other side, I am now bored. And also incredibly self conscious about the fact that I seem like the typical stay at home Asian wife married to a gwai-lo.

While this was the life I used to joke around with my ex colleagues about wanting to have, I just never realized how much inner strength and confidence someone must have to live a life like this.

It's not easy to face people when all you have is YOU. When there is nothing else, no job title, no glamor, really, truly, nothing else to define who you are but YOU.

In the past, it boosted my ego to no end when I could fluff my peacock-like feathers behind my very cool business card, or have people introduce me as, "Heather from XXXX. She's the XXXX, and in charge of XXXX." And the other person would be suitably impressed and ask me intelligent questions that I could answer wittily and humbly cos I'm don't want to appear too cocky, and then I would go home feeling oh-so-smug about myself.

These days, I'm just Heather, the chef's wife. And do you know how much more you have to try to be charming and smart and witty when you're JUST a wife to be taken seriously? Most new people you meet won't even deign to give you a second look. Well, not all. Some still give me the time of day here, cos I'm still a little cool like that. But being 'just a wife' has subjected me to quite a few strange questions. Here are just two cos I don't want to get all worked up thinking of the rest. 

1. How did you learn to speak English?
I promise you. If I was still Heather from XXXX, in charge of XXXX, no one would even think to ask such a stupid question. I promise you.
I realise too that if I was still Heather from XXXX, in charge of XXXX, I might also not take offence to this question cos I would be secure in my perceived esteemed position and all.

2. Did you marry for love or because you wanted to move to Europe?
OH! I swear someone asked me this! Took every inch of my self control to not slap the questionee silly!

*bristling just thinking of this question again*

Okay. What was the point of all this rambling again?

Ah. The point is that the past few months have been an incredibly wonderful character building exercise for me. I look back on the days of Heather from XXXX, in charge of XXXX fondly, of course. But most days, I'm learning to be comfortable with just being Heather. Wife.

Now that THAT lesson is (hopefully) over, and I've really, deeply learnt that all titles are superficial and all I have is me and that I should focus on developing myself internally and all those good things I try to repeat to myself after reading all the self help books I can get my hands on, it brings me back to the question in my first paragraph. "What's my role in this life?" "Shouldn't I be doing something to make a positive difference to the world?"

What frustrates me daily is that I have no clue what to do or what action to take. The thing with a career is that there is always a path. Now there's no career, so I haven't a clue what to do. Ideally, I'd love to work for an NGO or charity and find a way to contribute to society. But for now, my French/ Luxembourgish/ German is still not up to par. So I know that my language courses are what I need to focus on. Which I am doing now, of course.

But there are still so many other hours in the day when I have no idea what to do with myself. Which is hard to admit. Cos I'd love to seem like I'm extremely busy and all, like the rest of the cool people who don't have enough hours in a day, because there is just soooo much to do. I end up online window shopping.

Not that I want to do anything and everything just to keep myself busy, of course. Some people have tried to take advantage of my very available state to get me to work for free and such. I'm sorry, but my employers used to pay me very good money. Just because I'm 'just' a wife at this moment doesn't mean that I forgot my worth, ok?

I'm not after a career (though I DO miss the big fat paychecks I used to get in SH. *ahhhh... $$$$$$ my old friend, come back to meeeee....* ). I just want to wake up everyday with a purpose and go to bed feeling like I've fulfilled something, ya know? It's always been my dream to be part of something, an organization or group with a purpose bigger than just making money and climbing up the corporate ladder. To do something for the world. For humanity. In my idealistic mind, there is something so noble and fulfilling in jobs like that. How I find my way in that is the question I ask myself every single day.

Hubby reckons we should make babies. I tell him to touch wood and don't think crazy. Babies cost much more than actual online shopping.


  1. 10 Rue de la Vallée
    L-7411 Ansembourg
    G.-D. de Luxembourg

  2. Peut être que votre famille et l'Asie vous manquent . je suis asiatique et je vis en France depuis très longtemps , je comprends très bien votre état d'âme. C'est très dur d'être étrangère sans famille proche en Europe surtout si vous êtes du genre qui "cogite" beaucoup . Attention à ne pas déprimer !


  3. u just summed up how i've been feeling about myself. some of my friends retired early n never regretted doing tt but i miss working, sometimes n esp now tt the kids are grown. like you, i made a wish to retire, b4 i turned 40. i got my wish. now i wish i wished it later. i think of all the 'wasted' time when i could've been making tons of $ n having a more productive n meaningful life instead of waking up late (which is not bad actually), picking up kids from school n planning what to cook for dinner. wait. why am i telling you this here. i'll write to u:)) hang in there.

  4. I reckon the English question, one just gets it anyhow lah, if you're not from an English-speaking country etc.

    You don't want babies? Not that I want any of my own, but it's a lot of people's dreams to have babies so I'm just asking!

  5. yo jie, ann here! and jie, dont worry.. if u really one day have babies, i'll come 2 luxemburg and help u take care of them! hahaha! cant wait to go to luxemburg!! love and miss u and will jie!! LOVE U!!! xoxoxoxo

  6. Daddy - I find my way, k?

    NL - Thank you so much for the sweet words. And no worries, I'm not depressed, just thinking out loud :)

    A.Terri - :) I'm hanging in there. And u DID do manyyyy years of good work AND you DO have 3 wonderful kids... More than a handful! I can't even compare to your accomplishments. Would be proud to to achieve half of what you and mummy did when I'm your age, actually.

    Suan: Yeah, I get the English thing. I'm just being petty, i guess. And kids, erm, lets just say 'not ready yet' :)

    Pouts: Come la! Faster confirm your dates, k? Nag them!!! :)

  7. Hallo Heather,
    I like your writings, but never leave any comment until now.
    It's true, other garden looks always greener. I've been in both situation. I'm still learning to be thankful and enjoy every moment I go through.
    Good luck to you and cheers,

  8. Thanks so much Dina. All the best to you in your journey too :)

  9. Dear Heather,

    I feel some of what you're feeling! Am from the same corner (approximately) of the woods as you, and was for a short time engaged to a mat salleh. When we went shopping for the ring, the salesperson in the shop more or less asked him if he had met me in a bar in Asia. When in reality we had met in church while both of us were students at one of the best universities in the world. Unfortunately it's probably the sad truth that statistically, a majority of such pairings involve unequal statuses, so Joe Public probably assumes all pairings are unequal.

    I wonder if humour/sarcasm might help when responding to hurtful questions like the thoughtless person who asked if you married so that you could live in Europe. Me personally, I have quite a thick skin and delight in returning rudeness for rudeness. So in that situation I might have answered something like, "In fact, I came to Europe to join my lesbian Luxembourg lover, but same-sex relationships are illegal." Or "In fact I had the choice to marry an American and move to the US but the chocolates in Luxembourg taste better."

    A comment also about the speaking English. All my Malaysian friends either speak English at home, or speak it to first language standard. One particularly linguistically gifted friend of mine is perfectly trilingual! But sadly I think we have to concede that this is really the minority. In fact the standard of English is Malaysia has deteriorated over the years and after all, it is not the lingua franca! Perhaps you could help intercultural understanding by explaining that while Malay is the national language, families speak many different languages, including English, at home?

  10. dear Heather,

    your writings touch my heart... i totally understand what you're thinking and feeling when you're writing this (esp the fb part) (and except that i'm not a gwai-lo's wife lol)
    i have the exact same feelings when i withdraw from the editor's life, and living as a housewife in shanghai 3 years ago. frankly, till now, i'm still having the, as what you said, "character building exercise" (yes, even after i've given birth to Jansie) i'm still learning to be myself, joshua's wife and now, jansie's mom. lol!
    ya, the lesson is still going on for me, but hey, why not? life's a learning process, just enjoy what you're living right now :)
    these words that i type might not fully express what i'm feeling for you (you know lah, i'm hua-yu ren, not english-ren, hahaha!) but, just wanted to say that i love what you do, keep on writing!

    cheers and miss ya!
    (just in case it appear as anonymous after i post comment, coz i might forgot my own blogspot password after so long living in china) (but wish to write again soon since we're free from the fire wall, LOL! will update you after we've settle down here in hongkong:)

  11. Dear Anon, Thank you so much for the thoughtful and funny comments. I LOL-ed reading them :) :) :) I guess my realization after all this was that the insignificance I was feeling was due to my own insecurities. And it's not something I can change in others, but only in myself. :-/ my new year's resolution: be more thick-skinned!

    My dear Shan, :) I feel you, you feel me!!!! :) :) :) Awwwww... i miss you and our girly chats in SH! Thank you so much for your comments dear. It helps to know that someone so happy and optimistic as you has felt like this. I've always loved your attitude and optimism, and it inspires me to learn and improve more. Love to you, Joshua and Jansie. And three cheers to your new life in HK :)