You have probably seen some memes, parody and 9GAG videos – the most popular stereotype about Asian parents is that they are Nazis about pushing their kids to the very top – and this is a very literal and definite “top” by the way, not the “top 10 percentile” bullshit.
When I was in high school, the most important thing at the time was to go to Regionals and Nationals (academic competition – 80 million population mind you), which I did and eventually scored second prize. So here I was, all cheeky and happy like ranking second out of millions should make you feel, trying to tell my father how well I did and then BAM! Before I even had time to blink, I’ve gotten myself into some serious spanking for “Why didn’t you get the first place, daughter?”
So my daddy issues wasn’t the only thing that helped me fit right in the land of the Free, but it was also America’s obsession with being the Outlier, the very best, the pinnacle of whatever weird thing the internet could give birth to. Yes, that was what closed the deal.
And as much as I have been telling myself that this obsession with being the best is a necessary evil, I could not deny how toxic it was for myself and the people around me.
Living in the constant threat of being the second best means you would always hear voices in your head telling you over and over again where you failed, could fail and will fail; it also means you cannot go one day without treating every single small bump in life like a full blown crisis; it means you will never be happy with people around you, because one way or another they have failed you and failed themselves by being the second best version of themselves.
And as a manager, it was productive to have that mentality at a certain point in my life – it taught me self-discipline, to never settle, to always thrive and expect the best and motivate the best from others. And then I get to a point that it was no longer a button I could push to activate but rather an preset setting that runs all the time at the back of my head.
The funny thing is, me and you, we all (to a certain level) understand that we know absolutely nothing about the future, about the things that could have, should have, would have. And yet, despite our relative level of rationality, we somehow convince ourselves that we know exactly what could have been better, no, best, or ideal.
We know what an “ideal” boyfriend/husband is like and we compare the ones we have in real life with that ideal imagined one.
We know what an “ideal” boss, environment, organization, coworkers, staff and pay we deserve and hell, we do know that the ones we have right now are soooo not ideal.
We know what an “ideal” job should be like and that we’d ace it.
We know what an “ideal” dress is like, the only thing we don’t know is whether we could afford it, and if we can fit in it.
The obsession with the idea that some “ideal” parallel universe exists and that somehow we got ourself stuck in this less fortunate, second-rate, sucky one is devastating.
Tonight as I drove back home from work and my mind wanders as my motorbike weaves its way through this:
These thoughts came into my mind:
I should have bought a car, breathing this air is just gonna give some weird cancer, and my skin, oh my skin is going to suffer. May be I should ditch this job, and get the high paying one, at least I won’t have to stay so late, ride in this terrible traffic and commute so far. I should have made enough to buy myself a mini Cooper by this time if I stayed at my old job. My boss hasn’t been nice to me lately, and I do not like the way he talked to me last week in the BOD meeting, oh and even at lunch today he was kind of an ass, and no one stood up for me. Someone should have. I know someone should. Did I do something wrong? Do people hate me that much? That girl from the backoffice sure does, yeah the ugly one. Is she just ugly or do I feel like she’s ugly because I don’t like her? No, it is she that disliked me first. But wait, what the hell did I do? I have always been professional, and I do not even remember her (apart from the fact that’s she’s rather challenged in the looks department)! I can’t believe the company hired her. I can’t believe my friends hired her. What the hell were they thinking? Morons. May be I should just quit and let my boyfriend support me, that will teach them a lesson. Should have paid me higher, treated me better, and definitely make better hires. Mentioning the boyfriend, where the hell is he? I texted him like 3 days ago and he hasn’t replied. I should have married that architect, at least he feeds me.
Yes and that’s when it hit me. That finding faults in every single situation, in myself, my life, my friends and family had just turned me into this scorned old bitch that literally hates everyone and thinks it’s everybody’s fault but hers.
And this is going to be difficult to explain. But right at that moment I asked myself “What if, things are just perfect?”
What if as cliche as it is, things are perfect for you, because you needed this, because you were supposed to go through this, because somehow you deserve this. And it’s quite alright.
So what if your company is not in fortune 500, it’s perfect now just like it’s going to be perfect in the next 10 years when its IPO will be covered in the Economist like Jack Ma was last month.
So what if you’re riding a motorcycle instead of driving around in the Mini cooper. What if the universe wants to spare you the suffering of finding parking space in this horrendous traffic.
So what if your boyfriend is constantly busy and never answers his phone. Why not realizing he is always working so hard, and that’s what made you fall in love with him the first place, and that’s the only way he can afford you the fancy Piaggio, those 48 delicious but horridly expensive bottles of Italian wine you consume every year. And that despite all the long hours and stress he had never once forgotten to go home to you, and enjoy your terrible cooking and made love to you.
And that’s when I realized that no soft-cover self-help book could say it better than you realizing and convincing yourself that things are just perfect.
Even the fact that you are having those terrible and morbidly bitchy thoughts in your head. It’s fine and It’s perfect.
You are perfect and your life is as perfect as it should be.
And this time, it is not the definite and literal “perfect”. This time “perfect”should be understood as “perfect as it should and could be”.
And that’s how I came to enjoy the best thing about not being the best.