Fifteen years ago, 14-year-old me was contemplating where I should go for high school. It was between going to a trade school and immediately get a job, or go to a regular high school and go to college like normal people do, which was a foreign idea to me. No one in my immediate family went to university. We weren’t dirt poor, but we didn’t have money for college.
My family is quite unique and somewhat pretty isolated from the social ideal of “this is how you should act and behave”. None of them ever had an office job. They’re either slaving away finding out random scrappy projects on their own or make connections with people to the point they’ll be trusted to be responsible for something.
Family life was also pretty unorthodox too. We never had meals at the dinner table together. I eat in front of my TV. Plate in one hand, spoon in the other. I got my first Playstation 2 after my parents had a lucky night out gambling. I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was like 12 years old (no one taught me!). In third grade, I woke up in the morning one day to find out my parents has been arrested for drug possession. There are more weird, borderline embarrassing (at least at that time) stuff that I’m not ready to share in this blog post.
I hated it. I wanted to have a normal family where both of my parents work 9-to-5, have dinner together, plan boring vacations. That never happened, but I was still desperate for normalcy. I honed my personality to be as likable as possible. I desperately wanted to fit in just so that I can cling into friends and have an insight into what “being normal” looks like. This desperation also comes with a handful of high-grade insecurity and indecisiveness. How can you decide who or what you want to be when the default option of “living a normal life” seems so out of reach?
As my quest for normalcy went on during my teenage years, relatively abnormal things happened: I moved to a small island called Taiwan on a scholarship, got fluent in Mandarin, stayed here for another 10 years. In the grand scheme of things, there are definitely more exciting things by order of magnitude that can happen to one’s life. Still, from the lens of an Indonesian kid who didn’t even understand why people would go to college, this unexpected new world is some Narnia level shit.
Paradoxically, I realized that my relatively high tolerance for non-normal, batshit life situations always pulled me into a slightly different road, whether I realized it or not. If my end goal is to live a life full of normalcy, I’m way off track right now, in a good way. I used to thought I want something “normal”, but it appears I just want something “different.” – and as weird as it is for me to say this, all those child traumas finally counts for something!
I’m turning 29 soon. Has anything changed in 15 years? Did I finally find the normal life I so thoroughly pursued? I don’t know. Maybe this is normal compared to how other people live, maybe not. One thing I’m certain is that it’s a life where I can freely surprise myself in the most exciting ways possible.