In a world where everyone is pressured to meet society’s expectations of them, we have to be vigilant. If we’re not careful, we may fall into the trap of comparison and lose sight of what’s really important to us.
I grew up in Singapore, a small island nation that somehow managed to evolve from a small fishing village to a first-world country, all in the span of just fifty years.
To get to where Singapore is today, it took a lot of hustle and hard work, and while my beloved nation’s fast track to success is highly admirable and makes me immensely proud to be Singaporean, there’s no denying that its people have become an extremely competitive breed.
The Singaporean society is based on meritocracy, and almost everything depends on how well you’ve performed at school or at your job.
Naturally, we begin competing against our peers at a tender age; first comparing grades in primary school till university, then positions and salaries in our jobs or career paths, and then how well-to-do you are compared to your peers.
After speaking with many Singaporean friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that we have a strain of comparison and competitiveness instilled in our DNA (due to both nature and nurture), and it takes a deeply conscious effort on our part to refrain from doing so. In a country as tiny as Singapore, people tend to measure others on the same few yardsticks – what you do at work; the type of house you live in; your standard of living. And even when other people aren’t comparing you with others, you tend to do it yourself.
There is a certain ideal notion of what success is considered to be – climbing up the corporate ladder in a professional career, owning landed property, having your kids in good schools and enjoying frequent opportunities to travel.
But what if you simply don’t fall in this group, because you didn’t do well enough in school to land yourself a prestigious and high-paying job? Or what if, by your own decision, you decided that you didn’t want to slave for a boss doing work you don’t care much about and preferred to start your own business instead?
Does that mean that you’re unsuccessful, simply because you don’t fit into society’s pre-made mold?
There is a lot of pressure to reach the expectations of our society, our family and our friends; but when push comes to shove, and it’s your happiness versus doing what is expected of you, what will you choose?
In the past year or so, I’ve come across so many who choose to stay in the rat race, forcing themselves to go to an office where they hate their jobs and find their work meaningless because they have a 30-year mortgage for their new condo looming over their heads; people stuck in the wrong professions who would prefer to meet the expectations of society to the detriment of their own happiness and against their own beliefs; friends who are so stressed out by their jobs that they’ve lost extreme weight and don’t have enough time to sleep more than just a few hours each night.
That saddens me tremendously.
Have we become such a one-dimensional society whose only interest is material and superficial?
Yet at the same time, I’ve also met so many inspiring friends who have decided that they’ll take the risk to explore opportunities outside of their comfort zones; people whose fears and vulnerability is equal to or more than their courage and but still fight for what they dream of; human beings who realised early on that they’ve only got one shot at life, and want to make it count.
The second group of people gives me hope. It makes me believe that not everyone wants to conform to the norm simply to be able to fit in.
Mostly, it gives me courage, because the last decade of my life is nothing like the normal blueprint of a typical Singaporean’s life; and it shows me that while my path may be different, and the route less traveled, it’s what I chose and what I am happy with.
It reminds me that leaving a well-paying job in a bank in Singapore to live in Argentina doesn’t diminish my worth as a person, nor does choosing to write as a career instead of working for a company whose work I don’t identify with reduce my value.
It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve been questioning my value; my decisions and my life choices. But thankfully, it’s also been one of those weeks where I’ve crossed paths with blips of inspiration and encouragement.
To those of you who are constantly cheering me on; rooting for me and pushing me to reach for my wildest dreams, thank you, from the deepest depths of my heart.
And for those of you who are experiencing a tug of war between doing what you’re destined to do versus working for someone else’s dream, don’t hesitate any longer. Stretch yourself and aim for your goals.
Today’s recipe is a simple one, but one that is colorful, vibrant and fragrant.
A side dish made with rainbow carrots that are roasted until tender and soft, coated with fragrant rosemary and fresh chopped parsley, this recipe is easy but tasty and comforting.
I find it best served alongside meats like chicken, pork or beef.
- 12 medium rainbow carrots
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 450 deg Fahrenheit (230 deg Celsius)
- Wash the carrots well, and pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable cooking oil in a baking dish or cast iron skillet
- Place carrots in the baking dish or cast iron skillet and drizzle a bit of oil over carrots
- Sprinkle fresh rosemary over the carrots
- Roast carrots in oven for 45 minutes, turning over once halfway
- Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and add salt and pepper to taste
- Serve as a side dish to meats like chicken, pork or beef.