Stigmatised Solitude

“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.” – Buddha

I had a very interesting conversation with a Grab Car driver over the weekend. The nice Chinese gentleman in his mid-40s was very concern with the fact that I am 29, single and living alone, far away from my family. And he did not mean this in an offensive way. In fact, I was cool with his thoughts and opinions.

How it started was he began talking about school holidays and asking what my children are doing. So, I told him I am single. It was an interesting 20 minutes conversation.

He also said something very interesting, though.

“Walaupun lu punya hati banyak besar, lu jangan kasi harapan kepada semua orang. Jangan kongsi sama ramai orang. Hati lu cuma untuk satu orang yang lu sayang. Bunga ada banyak, kumbang pun ada banyak. Tetapi satu untuk satu. Kalau mahu main-main, jangan cari pasangan untuk lu kahwin. Suami cari duit untuk jaga isteri dan anak. Suami bertanggungjawab buat mereka gembira. Kalau lu mahu cari suami, jangan cari yang main-main sahaja. Mesti ada kerja. Gaji kurang dari lu punya pun tidak apa. Sama-sama lu usaha. Saya punya isteri dan anak banyak gembira. Saya dulu ada girlfriend. Dia kerja shampoo girl. Dia cantik oh. Saya banyak sayang sama dia. Tetapi dia main-main sahaja. Lagi pula dia ada banyak tattoo oh. Macam gangster. Ini isteri saya, mula-mula saya tidak sayang dia. Ini kawan punya mak yang kasi kenal sama saya. Orang putih cakap ‘arranged marriage’. Tetapi lama-lama, saya sangat sayang sama dia. Dia kerja office, pandai masak dan jaga anak. Nanti bila anak sudah besar sikit, saya bawa mereka pergi Kuching lah jumpa lu.”

As we age, our priorities shift. Our wants and our needs change. Not only that, our social contacts tend to decrease too. Due to that, many would rather move to the city for better opportunities. Or to live alone in a relatively new environment.

I moved to the Peninsula mainly for educational attainment, meeting my life expectancy, and securing median earnings. Along with that, I also crave for inspirations to write and enrich my intelligence.

Whenever I go home for a short break, people would ask me when am I moving back to Kuching for good. And I used to tell them, “I have no idea. I can’t see it now.”

They have many assumptions as to why I have not planned on moving back. Many assume I enjoy the nightlife, the social life, and the money. They thought I earn double their salaries and am having the best time of my life. Unfortunately, financially, that is not the case. In fact, I am losing more than what I make due to the cost of living and that I am responsible for all of my own bills.

Well, I am going to skip the impressive attributes of this very city. Despite the traffic congestion, I love it here. But I love it because I am happy living alone. I don’t actually live in the heart of the city but, I would not want to live any other way. Because to me, living alone is a collective achievement.

I am a compulsive thinker and I cherish individualism. On a prosaic level, I am self-centred. I prefer to make my own decision although, for certain occasions, I would consult my friends. Be that as it may, I do not like people telling me what to do or what they think I should do. Like roommates or a typical Chinese landlady who pretend she fucking care about my wellbeing.

When you live alone, you are free from the distractions and judgments of others. You can truly be yourself, 24/7, indulging wonderful habits like just being lazy and walk around the house naked.

And living alone is not necessarily an entirely solitary experience. Though many would say that an isolation like this is depressing and horrific. WRONG. Living alone encourages productivity and creativity. Trust me, I know this very well.

It is hard to write or compose something when people are arguing very loudly in the next room. But when you are alone, the calm is glorious and brilliance can strike just like that. You have the time and freedom to explore and work on your passions, to create your magnum opus. And it gives you the ultimate freedom to wind down and relax, helping you to recover from your busy and intense work days.

Yes, sometimes I do feel lonely. Back home I have my parents and four younger sisters. It’s a very noisy house and don’t get me wrong, I love being around my parents and sisters. We could be the next Kardashians if people were to film us. But half the time, I prefer to be by myself. I just value my privacy and solitude over traditional family and societal structures.

But anyways, it is not only being alone that make someone lonely. Many people I know who are not alone feels trapped by feelings of solitude. By lonely in my case, I mean when I am sick, there is no one to look out for me, make soup for me.

Yes, we do have a favourable male-to-female ratio here. But the chances of meeting a life partner or be in a steady relationship is very thin. Instead of being one of the best cities for dating, the big bustling Kuala Lumpur is just another place for hook-ups. Thank you, Tinder. You are one of the perks for urban dwellers and I am guilty of reaping the benefit for a few times.

Women living alone is a trend that is catching fire in our society. And this is spreading all throughout the world, even in Asia. Whether by choice or chance, the number of women living alone is increasing. I personally, find having roommates makes me feel less of an adult. And this leads me to talk about the notion of the ‘singularist’ and the right to have and make that choice.

In a society where marriage is common and has been held up as the ideal, married people misunderstand how singletons experience living alone. When they look at the singletons, they think that there is a sense of failure or that there is something wrong with them. That they are some kind of a loser. Or that maybe they are gay. And they will also tell you to your face that you are going to die a sad spinster.

FAILURE? LOSER? GAY? SPINSTER? Frankly speaking, that is just ridiculous.

Since the last decade, people have been opting if not, happily living the single life, realising that the marriage or partnerships they formed are failing. And today, not only just based on statistics, but based on my observation, a large number of women – career women, specifically – has made the single life a much more attractive option than matrimony with an unsatisfactory partner.

This is not a failure. This is the right thing to do. There is a limit to making sacrifices and trying to work things out. Even being married or in a relationship, you get lonely too. And loneliness is not tied to relationship status. Because emotional intimacy takes work. To assume that marriage or cohabitation is the solution is illogical. If your relationship is on the rocks, you are likely to be less happy than people who are unmarried or divorced.

My best friends since my college days are married. In fact, two are mums now. And one has other priorities she needs to look into for now. They and other people are married are happy in their own terms. What happiness is to them is different than was it is to the singletons. And in my opinion, happiness is subjective because it comes differently for everyone. There are things in life that can make you happy that are subjective. A bottle of Coke, for example, makes me happy while my best friend’s husband prefers Pepsi.

Everyone seeks happiness in their own way. And we all long for meaningful relationships and social connections. Being single and living alone is a form of emotional armour. Being single, one does not have to deal with the anxiety associated with relationships.

But whatever the decision one made – whether to be single or married, to live alone or have roommates, none of us has the right to judge and tell them what is best for them. The ultimate thing to do as human beings is to be happy.

Despite having a bad track record in the man-woman relationship department, as much as I put myself out there, I also stood many people up. I never feel bad about it although it would be nice to have different people to have a cup of coffee with. My love affair with my friends has formed the cornerstone of my life. They matter more to me after my parents and sisters.

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I will not actually bail on domestic life and I do not have a disinclination to settle down. It is just not now to live in and it is not healthy to believe in marriage as the ultimate turnpike to happiness.

At the moment, I am happy living alone without the pairing colour to my monochrome.

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