Thursday, 17 December 2015

Almost a Vagabond: A Personal Insight

Wow, I must have made a couple cups of strong coffee to feel this motivated today - I am about as restless as a man high on cocaine. Guess my caffeine tolerance is down a notch. It doesn't help with the fact that I'm currently a complete bum, and there's no stressful work to direct all of this energy. God help me, I feel like I can bounce off the walls like a well-coked Spider-Man. 

Anyhow, since I definitely do not possess the superpowers of a superhero nor magical powers, and being a complete Muggle, I have decided to blog it out. 

In this state of mind and being, I feel the need to reach out to see if there's anyone out there who has shared the same life experience I had: moving a fuck-load of times.

I'm not just saying, like, moving interstate in your own country, but internationally and a fuck-load in the same country you've moved to as well.

Here's an estimated summarized table:

Do you believe me now?

The table above is based on what I can actually remember (I am sure I am missing one, but that isn't included as I was only an infant), and yes, this is including my childhood years. Surprisingly, even with my shitty-ass memory, I do have recollections of homes I've lived in.

As impressive as it might sound to some, moving internationally is and always will be a nightmare. To a certain degree.
In a way, I've learnt a lot being in these different countries: you get to experience being a local, as opposed to being a tourist. You see the good, bad and the ugly. Granted, some of the countries I've lived in, I was only a wee lass so I didn't have the first-hand stress of having to deal with the adulthood problems of moving (costs, giving up personal goods, packing, etc.).

I remember the the taste of pure licorice, whilst chewing on the root in the Beamish Museum, to the breathtaking haunted view of the Whitby Abbey in England, to the beautiful penguin-filled Boulder's Beach in Cape Town, and my all-time favourite snack: the biltong. Sincerely, I have so many other fond memories of these places, it would take days to construct a readable memoir.

Good memories aside, moving is, well, still moving so the stress is real. Thankfully, as a child, the responsibilities of costs (and etc.,) fell upon my poor mother.

My mother had the mentality, that English was crucially essential (Thank heavens!) and the key to success in ... well, almost every country I've moved to (or moved back to). Technically speaking, my first language is English, though you might be able to tell that I'm proficient, my grammar is lacking somewhat. During my childhood years, I had to face different language obstacles despite speaking English: I had to learn Afrikaans in South Africa (I only know like a few phrases now), conversational Cantonese to communicate with my grandparents, with a bit of Mandarin/Hokkien phrases, Bahasa Melayu as a compulsory lanugage during my education in Malaysia, basic Spanish in the IB diploma, and now needing to French/Quebecois. Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Don't get me wrong. Learning a new language is amazing ... if you're a kid. There are some adults, with the right motivation and opportunity to be completely proficient in the new language. Me, with my selective memory, find this quite challenging. Especially now as an adult I'm using this as an excuse it is harder to learn a new language. It is also hard to retain a language you've learnt when you do not use it as often: I've noticed that my Cantonese and Malay proficiency has decreased over the time I have not used it.

Language aside, social relationships are hard man. Like, you meet new people, you get close, and then you fucking lose contact (times prior to social networking sites). Even now, even though you are "connected" as "friends" on social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and whatnot, you're not close. Sure, you maybe have good memories together, and then those times pass and now you're like the person they had fun with but they've moved on. It's exactly like the sad story of your previous relationships. I sit here sometimes, turning green with envy when reading stories of people who have been best friends with their buddy for long periods of time. You just don't have that when you're constantly moving. Eventually you'll either lose contact: people move, move on with their lives and make new best buddies.

Occasionally stating this, you get some people saying "Oh, what about your Significant Other [S.O]? Isn't he meant to be your best friend?". Yes, he is. We've been through Hell and back together, but it doesn't mean that I share ALL personal information with him. Like, there has to be one friend whom you get to rant and confide in about your S.O. If you go ranting about all the negative things you find about your S.O, to your S.O, either an argument/break-up will ensue (especially if both parties are equally as impatient, ruthless & tactless). Sometimes you just need a listening ear who is just not your S.O. A best friend will provide a listening ear, nod, provide occasional great advice (on your side or not) and most importantly, not flare up during a personal conversation/confession; a neutral third-party.

What I find personally disturbing, during a quick Google search about people who move frequently, are the degrading articles of psychological effects of frequent relocation. Articles that state:

"the more times people have moved as children, the more likely they were to report lower "well-being" and "life satisfaction" as adults (two standard measure used to quantify that ineffable thing called"happiness"). And adults who had moved a lot were more likely to have died when researchers did follow-ups 10 years later." 

"We know that children who move frequently are more likely to perform poorly in school and have more behavioral problems" ... The researchers found that the more times people moved as children, the more likely they were to report lower life satisfaction and psychological well-being at the time they were surveyed, even when controlling for age, gender and education level. The research also showed that those who moved frequently as children had fewer quality social relationships as adults."

Both articles stated similar findings, and both agreed with the fact that it does only affect mostly those who are more introverted than others. However, how do you really determine or categorize 'introverts' and 'extroverts'? I would personally classify myself as both: I don't like people, but yet I yearn for human interaction; therefore I'm neither an introvert or an extrovert? How is this then applicable?

I dare say that it is grim to think that I have higher chances of dying because I'm "unhappy", but it is somewhat true. I personally do find life is way below my expectations, and wish there is more. But doesn't this apply to the most of us?

Don't most of us wish that we have more of [x] amount of things that would make us happy? More wealth, have a family, travel more, etc.?

Not to mention, my partner is is the complete opposite, and he experiences "lower life satisfaction" - he has only moved like a few times, performed poorly in school and have "fewer quality social relationships". Yet, he is deemed somewhat successful in his career - above average wage, and the opportunity to travel.  He has the dream to be rich, whereas I want to travel the world. What constitutes as our "happiness" is completely subjective, and unlike the study quotes above.

If we were to measure happiness on an individual scale, it would not make for a good scientific study as is it a very subjective variable. What makes me happy, doesn't necessarily make you happy. I might say that good food plays a large role in my life and provides substantial "content", whereas you might disagree. In addition, my personal observation has proven to me that a person doesn't need to move to display the negative behavioral problems listed in the quotes; you don't need to move to have behavioral problems & have lower life satisfaction.

From a personal standpoint, I would say that I am unhappy because I am sick of moving. I am sick of having to give away or throw out personal belongings which provides comfort & memories (yes, I am sentimental and materialistic). Or having my personal belongings split in different countries. I have books and sentimental items back in Malaysia, but it is there because I cannot afford to ship everything across.

I really do not have a real home. I've lived in so many places that not one place is a real home to me. I'll live in a place for a long time, but am I truly integrated? I do not fit in anywhere, and I am to be a chameleon, learning to blend and adapt to the new society before me. And before I get all comfortable and have "adapted", I move once again to a foreign land, just to repeat the process all over again.

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