I was recording a podcast episode with my close friend and business partner Koay the other day, at his place. After the session ended, I was halfway out the door when we struck up a conversation. It was about home – Penang, Malaysia – as usual. That’s all I ever talk about with anyone who knows what Penang is, because that’s all I think about these days.
You see, studying in Canada didn’t turn out to be all it was hyped up to be. Sure, I’m getting paid a shit ton of money by my dad to be here, enough to be binge drinking on weekends and wearing Gucci under my winter coat, but I just find myself missing my real home over everything else. You know, the home where I could walk outside at 6AM in a t-shirt and indulge in cheap street food at the market to get my daily dose of carcinogens.
The home where, as I discovered recently, one of my very close friends isn’t doing too well, mentally/ emotionally speaking.
You see, I’ve always done poorly in school – and that became especially true when I started college. But months and months of C’s and D’s didn’t move the needle of Mika’s Drop Out of College Meter nearly as much as hearing about my buddy in Penang who was not okay.
I’d been debating leaving this dumbass college campus every day for months, ever since I first got here, but I was still trying my best to stay, for the sake of my dad. I was taking the extreme unhappiness for the sake of the money I was getting but also preserving what we had left of a relationship. I put every penny towards running my businesses and learning new things, so I thought it was a worthy sacrifice.
But in the ten minutes after I saw the text from my buddy who’s not okay, telling me she wasn’t okay, I knew my 1.5-GPA lazy ass was going home.
This piece isn’t about friendship – it’s really about risk.
All my life, I’ve had to risk things because I wanted to improve them. The first thing I ever risked was probably my relationship with my parents – when they were being dickheads, I turned the other way and did my own thing, discarding my obligation to obey. Of course, as I did this more and more, our relationship turned sour – but now I’m free. And it’s not like I’m on drugs. Not even booze. Not even weed, when it’s legal in Canada. I turned out just fine.
Because I risk big things for one thing only: to pursue my passion of using all my talents to help people, in the best way I can.
That’s why, right now, I can even consider throwing away a fifty-thousand-Canadian-dollar per year lifestyle to live a five-thousand-Canadian-dollar per year lifestyle, where I work four times as hard. Because I can’t help jack shit if I’m drowning in unhappiness and overdue assignments myself. In the latter case, I’ll be working harder, but working harder on what I love.
It’s not just the work, however, that I’m taking the risk for – I have a chance to make an actual difference this time.
You have to understand that I’m crazy: I sincerely believe that I can help change the tide for this buddy of mine who’s not okay. I don’t know how exactly I can be of service, but I have a personal incentive to try because I was there before too – and I had no one who could identify with my struggles to reach out to.
I know how awesome I feel now, and I know how worthless I felt back then. Which is why I’m extremely passionate about suffocating the living shit out of unhappiness and insecurity to become the best version of yourself you can possibly be. I believe this buddy of mine has the chance to become a truly badass lady, the kind of motherfucker whose roasts I would re-share and whose story I would tell with reverence. I think of her that way even now, as someone whose word I respect and whose opinion I value. I don’t value many people’s opinions, so that’s a big deal. Thus to see her struggle under the weight of so much darkness trips me up.
This is some messed up, serious shit – but I genuinely think I’m in a position to help. Even if I’m not directly talking to her all the time, what I can do is be the happiest, most productive dream-chasing motherfucker on the planet. I’ll show her that good things can come out of the dark place we both know.
I believe there’s tremendous value in setting an example by being happy. It’s not that I’m so great or good enough to be her role model here. All I’m saying is that in a few months, when I’m making my third trip around the grocery store trying to find food that will fit in my shrinking food budget, I’ll be content that I’m there for someone, whether they need me specifically or not.
I learned something about myself from this experience.
I’ve wanted to drop out of college since the day I got here, and I’ve been here for eight months. It makes me overwhelmingly unhappy – but for all those eight months, it was all about me. My happiness. My opinion. My wellbeing.
Here’s the single most important sentence in this entire mess of an article: I don’t think anyone, myself included, really understands how much the game changed when it became about someone else.
In a few years, when people ask me why I left my comfortable life in Canada and went home to starve and work my ass off, I’ll be able to say with conviction that, for once in my damn life, I didn’t do it for me. What tipped the scale in the end was realizing I care about someone else enough to risk my future.
And as I’m sitting here typing this shit, I feel weird inside. This sense of responsibility, this concern, this fierce protectiveness of someone else is not something I am very familiar with. I think I’m quite a dumbass in a way – I can never resist an opportunity to chase something I don’t understand.