Welcome 2010, the Year of the Metal Tiger

Resolutions. Yeah, I always make up a list. Some people think it is cheesy, I think it is a good way to set the year. Chances are I will break most of them by Chinese New Year, but hey one can hope, right?

So here it is:

I want to be a nicer person.

It took a while, but more and more I see and believe that you can live a life of grace that doesn’t leave a path of destruction or nastiness behind you.

There were a few things that used to puzzle me when I was much younger.

For instance, in high school I wondered why my seniors would tell me I should be thankful for their ragging and lecturing because they used to get even worse treatment from their seniors. If the precedence did not make sense, why did you subject your juniors to the same treatment? Because it was payback? For whom?

In college, there was once I was visiting a friend at another university and missed the last bus home. So, another friend offered for me to sleep over in her room, and I did. On the cold hard floor. It was literally a bedsheet on the floor and I curled up like a freezing pangolin; I wasn’t offered a change of clothing or a towel to take a shower or a pillow and blanket. It was such an eye-opener because I had lived my life, up to that point, practicing certain rituals when receiving guests. You always make them a drink, served with a light snack or desserts; and a proper meal if they are staying overnight. You always offer them a change of clothing, the most comfortable bed in the house, the spare toothbrush etc. You are the one expected to sleep on the floor. Never your guest. I didn’t know any other way. If you go to someone else’s home, you offer to help – fold the laundry, set the table, wash the dishes, chop the vegetables. Whatever. It wasn’t something that you learned formally, it was just something that you do. Didn’t everyone else get the memo?

Trust me I was grateful to my friend and I thanked her profusely for letting me crash for the night. And I am not saying she was not hospitable. The problem was with me. Call it a cultural shock but it was the first time I realized that there are very different, distinct ways of looking at the world and living it.

And then the most famous lesson of all, one that I learned over lunch at a small little bistro in Ampang Park just a few years ago, when one of the people at the table casually remarked, is it so bad to suck up?

The are many ways to be nice, and many different definitions for it.

Nice to some  is being a doormat, being agreeable. Nice to some is a weakness, a flaw that needs correcting or to be rid of even. Nice to some is an appearance, a skillful act that’s perfected over time, a tool.

For me it means knowing what I want and don’t want to be when I grow up. Of  breaking the cycle of indifference so that I’d be free from the values and behavior that I was never comfortable with, which I had somehow grown accustomed to and accepted as okay. It’s an act of obeisance, one of respect and sensitivity, knowing that the world looks different from someone else’s eyes.

I still have a lot to learn. A long long way to go.

I want to be nicer. That’s my resolution for 2010.



Filed under food for thought

2 responses to “Welcome 2010, the Year of the Metal Tiger

  1. reading this made me want to be a bit nicer, too. i was actually looking for artwork of pangolins, since i was thinking of using “Magpie and Pangolin” or “Civet and Pangolin” as a corporate name. and found this inspiration instead. than you!

    btw, i have had the same experience. when my “friend” had my husband and i sleep on the floor while she snored on the Queensize. And we were NOT uninvited or unexpected guests.

    i always go to the opposite extreme with guests. hospitality is a lost art.

  2. I agree. In my current apt, I have a box of things for guests – shirts, fresh towels, pajamas, personal care items, toiletry etc; and it amazes me that guests are amazed that I have such a box. It also scares me that someday I too will forget how to be hospitable the way I once knew. This post is a reminder to the future me.

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