Tell us we’re being picky. Tell us there is no perfect man. Tell us our standards are impossible. Tell us to compromise.
Say what you want. The truth is: you don’t understand.
Our entire lives, we are taught to be driven and motivated, to set high goals, that women are just as capable as men, that societies are built on the backs of strong women, that we should never give up our dreams because we face obstacles.
Then we grow up. We are told that good girls don’t go away for school. Good girls live with their parents until they marry. Most of us comply, many reluctantly so, but we comply. We convince ourselves that it’s not the school or its rank that define our success, it’s how we use the knowledge we gain. We excel. We outshine everyone in our classes, we are our professors’ favorites, we rack up more grants, scholarships, honors, awards, recognitions, and leadership experience than all of our brothers and our friends’ brothers combined. We are scholastic superstars. We are the immigrant success story, the smiling face on the cover of diversity brochures advertising our universities, we are the ambassadors of our foreign religion and culture, we are the articulate tan face that always has a question or a comment or a caveat to add.
We are blessed. Our parents encourage us, our communities support us, our universities celebrate us. Then we graduate and the façade crumbles.
“Why aren’t you married? Why are your priorities so out of whack? You’re getting old and all of your friends are married! Hurry up, time is running out!”
All of a sudden, the things you’d been conditioned your entire life to embody are your greatest faults. Making your community proud, representing them in a positive light, your student activism for causes everyone in the community silently supports, and your densely packed resume make you undesirable.
You wonder, why would they raise me to be this way if they despise it so much? Then you realize. These values they instilled in you were not intended to be applied to your own life. No, you are taught these values so that you can be a quality mother, the kind of mother that teaches her kids to be successful and ambitious, so that one day her sons can make the community proud and her daughters can marry young and raise boys like their fathers. You realize that your entire life, you were being groomed not to be a doctor, lawyer, academic, journalist, or professional. Rather, you were being groomed to be a mother who raises sons who assume these important societal roles and professions.
Now, all of a sudden, you find yourself single, over 24, and on track for a great career. You have attainable goals, a multitude of contacts, and perfect and relavent experience in your field. You really are headed places. You are making real plans and the career of your dreams is within your reach.
Instead of wasting your time obsessing over something beyond your control, like marriage (everything is naseeb after all, right?), you dedicated yourself fully to benefitting your family and community with whatever contribution you can make. You know where you want to live, what institution you want to work for, and the kind of hours and work environment you seek.
All of your upbringing was a lie; you are not a valuable person whose critical thoughts and challenging opinions have worth. No, you are a wife. A wife with a good resume, but only a wife nonetheless. Do not expect more and do not aim to change norms. Submit. Don’t fight. You lose. It’s over.
There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.” The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast – How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if Ireally, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”
This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.
Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.
I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.
John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.
H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not
to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)
To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the notion of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?
This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.
And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.
We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.
The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.
For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.
For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.
For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.
So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.
I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!
Sometimes the pressures from the society are even more pressuring than being single itself.
The frequency of people asking you “when are you getting married?” when you stepped into university life, aren’t as much as when you have started working because it seems like some sort of indicator that one can afford to get married even if he/she don’t even have a stable job to even feed one more mouth.
What if every single person was to answer like this instead of our usual answer:
“I am still single, because I am still mending myself from a broken heart”
And they will say.
“Oh you will find another, there’s always another”
The question is, who?
Being heartbroken is not something that we can simply replace from one love to another.
You are lucky enough to even find one who could make you want to love again.
Sometimes you hear this from married people
“Oh I am so lucky that I don’t have to answer those questions anymore – laughs hysterically at the single”
Seriously? Who can even be so sure how long their marriage can last? For all you know, you could even be back to single after a few years of marriage. The jokes will then be on you, instead.
As we grow up from one relationship to another, we become more and more careful not to make the same mistakes or being caught with a situation that will only bring us into a deeper problem, ruining other people’s life for deciding to get married.
It is not uncommon to hear that some who marries too early, decided to get a divorce. This is no longer common among the non muslims but even among muslims,just go to the syariah court and there will be piles of unresolved divorce cases. Some may not get a divorce due to – again ‘pressure from society’ that expects you to stay through the marriage even if you are not happy with the marriage.
I always believe that it is better to be happily single than unhappily married.
An unhappy marriage will only lead to even more problem, especially between two families and the couple itself because they are bitter about each other, fighting over an issue that will only break the children’s heart, and sometimes even bicker about one another.
The demands and expectation from the society have grown to even more demanding than it used to be, wanting almost everyone to become part of a society that are also breaking its very foundation. Getting married, is a lifelong commitment, that we know, certainly as a single person, our commitment sometimes varies. Some had to put off their own wedding plans to make way for the rest of the siblings, or because they have to be the head of family should either one of the parents no longer alive or capable in providing for the family. It could be anything.
Every single person, I believe knows the benefits of getting married but they are also well aware of the downside of it should it go wrong. Sometimes, they were too busy managing their own life, that they don’t even realize that they have been so focused on their own life that they have completely shy away from being out there in the ‘market’ – if there is such.
If you were to want them to go out there selling them off, or grabbing a stranger and get a shotgun marriage, or all the typical love stories about love from the first sight, then probably you have been watching too much movies. Love, to some is not about the first sight, but the second, third, period of time to know each other if they are compatible enough to spend the rest of their life with.
To some who are lucky enough to find the right one within a month or two getting to know each other, well congratulations to you because some whom have like 6 years of relationship could not even survive one month of marriage after realizing that they are not suitable for each other.
If marriage are about gaining someone in their life, and what their job are, and all, then I would rather not get married for marriage to me is not about gaining or losing someone. It is more to completing each other’s deen, insecurities and flaws , believing one another despite our imperfections rather than an easy way out to stop people from asking the question , or just because they think that they should get married because everyone are already married to someone and even worst because they are lonely and not when they are ready.
I always ask people who gets married, why they get married. Most of the answers I get are how they felt right about each other, that they feel that the person they are marrying can make them happy. Certainly I would like to feel that way, to feel right about a person, a certain ‘right’ feeling that can’t be explained unless felt by that person itself. And as far as of now, I do not feel ‘right’ towards anyone, and it is not rightful of me to simply get married now, when you can’t even convince your own heart if that person is right for you or not.
The Quran says,
“And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between you; Verily, in that are signs for people who reflect.” (Quran 30:21)
Such tranquility are hard to find these days, whenever my friend ask me about getting married and all, I will ask them back, can you find me someone who will? They tell me, they can’t. So if you can’t even help that person to find someone whom they deemed compatible enough to be married to, then what do you expect we could do?
Any single person, I believe have at least come across one or two or even more person in their life whom they think can be married to only to realize they weren’t the person meant for them for various reason. Some were cheated, some were left without a word, some suddenly decides to breaks up with them, some weren’t committed enough to get married with them, some turn out to be gay. By the way, don’t assume that just because they are over 30 and not married means every person you come across with are gay because some of them went through a lot than you could even imagine that they remain single until they die. Some of them are even more devoted to religion because that is the only protection from changing partners outside marriage. Some were even tired of the whole dating drama because they always get disappointed by it, that they choose to be single. This is just a general reason why people don’t make it as far as getting married.
Those who are smart enough to walk away before it is too late, chooses to break it off and remain single until they find someone who would stay and committed to the relationship. Some knowingly the bad side of that person would rather swallow their own pride, and get married because they think they can change that person. Chances are, it will only result to divorce or endless emotional torture, or even worst domestic violence.
When this happens, suddenly the society says that its not their problem or a family problem. So what chances do we even have?
Since the family units are slowly disintegrating, the kind of society we have now are even more disintegrated than we used to live in. Back then, if there is a robbery around the neighborhood, the villagers normally will instantly sets up a patrol system where they can look after one another.
When any of the family member are in trouble, they will try to help one another, even acquiring land, they will share with one another under the same grant to purchase a land. If there is a sick family member, they will come over and help whatever they could. When they have weddings, the whole village will help out with the wedding preparation thus reducing the cost of the wedding itself and shares the joy with the family rather than the family having to to pay all the cost onto themselves. When any of the relative’s children can’t go to school, the ones more well off in the family will help to cover for the school and even take them in as their own children until they finish their school. And when they couldn’t find a job, those who runs their own business or working on their own will take them in to help with the job they are working as. If they don’t have a house to live, they will stay with the relative house until they can afford to live in their own house or get married. And as much as arranged marriage were seen the last option to some, most arranged marriage at the time survive longer than your kids grows up and gets married.
Nowadays, you can only afford to look after yourselves that in the end you are cut off from these units and had to carry the responsibility on your own shoulder. Therefore, you had to pay your own schools, borrow from loans, look for your own house to rent, and find yourselves with a job enough to get you by the end of the month, sometimes only half of the month so you had to find part time job that can cover the other half.
What’s funny is that when a single person decides to continue their studies, they would at the first few month congratulates you by saying that you are a diligent (rajin) enough to continue your studies before waiting for that time to ask you again, why haven’t you finish with studying?
Learning, are highly encouraged in Islam, but why is it the society have turn into such a capitalistic form of society that expects you to work instantly when sometimes even a degree aren’t enough to get a job? Some job requires more than a degree for the job they are applying for, a degree alone nowadays don’t mean much to some employer. You either have a master or Ph.D, if you don’t have the skills or ‘enough’ experience to work. Therefore, continuing their studies is their way in improving their expertise because one has to master a certain expertise before they can graduate.
Learning is not just about learning the Islamic religion only, but other fields that is ‘fardhu kifayah’ if one do not study it. Some may already have a good basic in Islam, therefore they want to learn more in other fields that they are interested in.
Postgraduate students for example, especially those who do research, vary the timeline for each of the person who continues their master depending on the field they are studying in. Some data cannot easily be obtained, some even had to be hospitalized due to some sickness and had to start it all over again, most common when some computer crash wiping off everything they have been working on, some gets married and could never return back to doing their research because of family commitment, some studies a totally new area that to even get what they need to find is harder than getting someone’s phone number. So unless you are in their shoes and actually walking on it, please do not simply make your own conclusions.
These may seem just some reasons for those who are looking from the outside, but I believe that everyone in one time of their life were single and have come across such situations. So why the need to make fun of people being single by saying that you were just joking only to become just like the rest of the society you once hated? It’s not even funny to begin with and certainly its not something that you should joke about, we are not immune from getting hurt. Would you like it if we were to make fun of your misery and all the troubles you are going through after you got married and say that you were just joking?
For without realizing, it’s another form of bully against the single person just because they are used to being asked these questions doesn’t mean that they enjoy being asked the same question all over again, sometimes we don’t even have anymore answer than the very fact that we really don’t have anyone right now – which no one believes it anyway. We do feel depressed and stressed out by the pressures people give to us, it’s enough that we had to deal with our own problems be it family, studies, or even work, adding to that won’t even help us find anyone.
So, instead of joking around on issues that we know too well about it already, pray for us that we find someone whom we can also share the bliss of being married. Be considerate and kind to one another, everyone is going through their own struggles.
As for the matter of when I am getting married, I leave that to God to give the answer for He is the best planner. Allah knows best what we know not.
Funny as it may be, a friend of my father joked about Generation X to be a stable generation compared to Generation Y, simply because , generation Y only have one leg to stand on. I believe there is some truth in it for they are much much more stable in leading their life than us, who will always wonder what our future will be.
Changing from one job to another, or to the creative ones, will have to create their own job that they are passionate about and succeeds. But it can also fail too if you don’t have the skills to it, and simply follow the trend. Resulting to disastrous mistakes or perhaps mistakes that will take you to a different path instead.
Generation X are those who was born in a time where the government needs them instead of them needing the government. A series of uprise and demonstrations can be seen through out the years such as the Vietnam War, or the workers strike. But in generation Y, it is almost impossible to make a strike when the workers are paid through contracts, or big companies opening up their franchise all over the world.
Generation X, according to my father are a generation where companies were run by family members only and not foreign share holder. Skills were taught and handed down from one generation to another, even small business like cooking in restaurants or hawker stall were passed down with much secrecy to only family members.
In this generation, the recipe’s are handed down via franchise of fast food, through a timed alarm clock, whereby the next order were given within a number of minutes. “We will serve you in 5 minutes”
Many don’t have that much time to cook a proper meal, working late because they still have something to finish, and a lot of other reasons that reduces their time with family.
Generation X however, are fortunate enough to either have a 9 – 5 job where they can go straight home without getting stuck in the traffic jam too long and spends time with their kids more. Some could even go back earlier than that because they run their own business or seasonal job where you only have to work at a certain season and rest in another season like the fishermans, the paddy planters, rubber tapper etc.
Generation Y however, don’t have that. Their time depend on the company workload, deadline and even company events. Why? Because they are working for a share holder lead company that can fire you anytime they want if you don’t perform. Thus resulting into a very nasty competition among workers into becoming the best or getting the highest target. Family run companies however, takes care of each other’s welfare and don’t easily get threatened by the younger manager because they are blood related, therefore they pretty much know who they are dealing with. If they don’t like about a person, they can talk it out as a family instead of superior to worker.
The disintegration of almost all units, from family, to community have lead us into becoming such an individualistic person that we only bother about each other if we know them. Many will say “Mind your own business” , but when one day, an old person dies in his own home after a few weeks, after a bad smell comes from that house, do you still say “Mind your own business?”
Back then there are still a strong sense of community where people actually takes care of each other, even if they live in a small, poor neighbourhood, but that is how everyone almost know everyone in the neighbourhood that when a stranger they have never seen will instantly be stopped or ask of who they are.
Recalling what my grandmother said, even festivals such as ‘kenduri’ or weddings, is very community like, where everyone brings their own chicken , vegetables, and even lends their plates and glasses , and help with the cooking. Therefore, catering was rather a foreign idea at that time, the cost of a wedding were shared by the community and is actually a celebration among them rather than a stage show of who have the best wedding or food or goodie bags.
Relatives of the family lives almost near to one another that sometimes there’s even one street lived by the same family. This happens in both of my family side, one in the northern, the other in the southern. So whenever its Eid time, it was so easy to visit one another because you just have to visit one or two streets and you are done with the whole Eid.
Nowadays, everyone live almost every part of the country, which makes it hard to attend and what more help with the wedding preparation. So you have to do it yourself, and rely on wedding planners, or nearby services making all the cost totally on you.
And when it comes to connections, while it is convenient to have facebook to get in touch with our family members, but the reality is, most of us only knows the updates of our family members from facebook rather than calling them up or visiting them.
Therefore, it is not surprising that many may not come and help you when you are in trouble, what more donate to other muslim country because we are too busy ‘Minding our own business”
Yukioshige was a policemen, sent to work in Japans infamous most suicide location
His job was often to go out in a small boat, and fish the remains of the victims out of the sea.
In one month he recovered 10 bodies and wondered:
“Why did nobody to ever try to stop people from jumping?”
When he retired he came back , and try to do something.He uses his retirement money to open a tiny cafe near the cliff edge. From there he patrols, everyday, all day
“In the case of traffic accidents, its the responsibility of the police. The prevention of traffic accidents,is a law and order issue.The police took the leading role, in trying to reduce the number of traffic accidents. The government and citizen work together. Today the number have fallen.
Looking at suicide in Japan, there have been 30000 death every year for the past 12 years. Despite this high number of death, nobody takes responsibility or action This is just a desperate situation, if we can’t force the government to do anything, we the ordinary people can try to do something.
So I managed to gather some people, now I have 87 volunteers working with me. About 20 of them patrols the cliff with me. So far by doing this for 6 years and 7 month, we’ve been able to save up to 297 lives up to today
This cliff here is the number one spot for suicide, often people are waiting here alone until sunset . They’re just sitting here, waiting for somebody to talk to them. We go over and talk to them.
We ask them what is troubling them?And we try to solve their problems. From the 297 people we rescued, only 4 of them killed themselves afterwards. The rest are doing well and have made a new start.
Nobody wants to die, they’re just waiting for help. Why don’t we try to reach out to help them? A citizen life is priceless, its a treasure isn’t it?People are begging for help aren’t they? Why are we not reaching out our hand to them?
If you just look the other away , thats just the same as a crime. Its an aggravated abandonment crime. Thats a crime, its the same as murder.
We already know the answers, we know exactly what to do but we choose to do absolutely nothing.
“Its not up to the government, blaming this or that, sometimes all you need to save somebody’s life, is to take the time to listen. If we are looking on the enemy on the war on suicide, all we have to do is look on the mirror.