Some years ago, our local papers published an article from an American criticising Singapore youths for living with our parents well into our adulthood and our lack of independence.
It has been many, many years, and I have forgotten the details of the letter, but I still remember my indignation.
Frankly, get over the independence part already. I don’t consider the individual living in a pig-sty of his own making, behind the rent and not being able to hold down a proper job independent. Consider his extreme counterpart, living in his parents’ home, contributing financially to the household, helping out with chores around the house, working at a proper job and saving money. That is independence. And then we have all the variations in between.
Which all goes to show – Independence is a state of mind, not the physical living arrangement.
Now, personal freedom. That is another story.
I think sometimes there is a misconception that Asian youths do not crave freedom as much as their Western counterparts. Personally, I think that is bullsh*t. Youth is universal, and youths always crave freedom.
But we are also tied by tradition and social contracts which goes counter to the pursuit of personal freedom. So we temper our cravings and let these duties bind us, because these are as important to us in our own way. But it doesn’t mean we don’t have them, and it doesn’t mean things are any easier living with the parents compared to living alone, or even with room-mates.
I have accepted the fact that I am staying with the parents for the rest of my adulthood until they pass on, and I admit that financially, it isn’t a bad deal considering housing and rental costs in Singapore. But that is like saying going to prison is a good deal because all living costs are paid for. And I sometimes feel like that – like I am facing an indefinite prison term. At these times, I wish I could just break free of my sense of duty and just leave the family home behind.
I have tried to make the break before, just one time. I was asked why I wanted to abandon my parents. The guilt was so strong that I never did consider it again until recently, when there was a huge blow up between my father and I. It was a big enough one that I was almost attempted to move out, but it would have broken up the family as well as my mother’s heart. So I didn’t. But the on-going hostilities don’t make it easy, and I have to now find a way to put things back on even keel again.
So, to the American who wrote about Singapore youths all those years ago, this is belated, but no less sincere. Leaving (running away?) is sometimes easier than staying. Give us some credit for at least trying to do (what we believe is) the right thing.