“It often makes me think about the alternative.” My friend E says. She is a very nice, cute girl full of common sense. By the say, she is also a nurse living in Queens borough of New York City. Once she told me that many of her colleagues complain that they have to try very hard to make ends meet. I guess with a nurse’s salary, it is hard in the City. I mean if one has a mortgage and a couple of kids, I can imagine. And E really knows how to manage her household. Just listen to her talking about how to reduce weekly grocery bill to somewhere under $70 is quite breathtaking.
E has been keen on “the alternative” ever since her husband decided to quit New York and fly across the Pacific for a job much less stressful. Needless to say, E couldn’t get a job equally good and rewarding in the same place. And I have to say I’ve witnessed many incidents like this. This might be a modern problem since job security is relatively low now and people go all over the places to search for better positions. And for immigrants, this problem is more serious and more widespread. Usually it’s the husband who finds greener grass, but the wife for various reasons cannot follow the husband.
E is coping well. If I were her, I would be having an existential crisis for months, but she is more resigned. Still she has since become a lover of “the alternative”. When she talked about other guys who used to like her and who she used to like, she was thinking about these alternatives. I don’t know if the alternative is better–I really don’t know. We never know how life’s vicissitude is going to play out; we never know the trajectory of a man’s future career.
I’ve met E’s parents who’s no help to E at all in my opinion. They still adhere to their old beliefs despite the fact that their old ways of stable jobs and never changing neighborhoods don’t exist anymore. Although they have never expressed their opinions in front of me, I somehow guess that they might be saying something like, “I told you not to marry him but to marry the other guy,” or something to that effect. Probably I am not being really fair to her parents since this is just my imagination. They might very well be more reasonable and helpful than I give them credit for.
Today, when E talked about the alternative, she is talking about YouTube videos she watched, in which an Asian guy S travels in different countries, making videos of his life and his travel. His son is attending school in Thailand and obviously he has more videos about Thailand than other countries. His videos are very unique in the way that he asks people how they live their daily life, go to market to show the price of various items, interview parents about different levels of schools children can attend. He is the most down to earth guy and gives very practical advice. No wonder he has so many followers right now. S used to be a successful businessman, but business setbacks and his own depression forced him to give up his occupation. Also his son at the time was also quite depressed due to mounting homework in school. This is why S made the drastic decision to move the family to Thailand, which is one of the few countries in Asia that has a more relaxed attitudes towards school, education, and life in general.
“Why do I have to live such a stressful life? Why can’t I live a life like S?” That’s what E was asking me. I have no answers. And I’ve experienced life long enough to know that life has no answers. The problem is that our school education and our parents told us that life has correct answers–often they talk about that one correct answer we should all strive for. (At least this is the case for my life.) This correct answer can take the form of a school test, or a romantic love with a twist that can enhance the plot but not ruin the relationship or the social order. However real life is more complicated. And often we are not prepared for real life events. Unfortunately usually women are more unprepared than men since there are more variables in women’s life.
“So what do you think?” E asked. So I started to dream of this alternative life with her. We talked so happily for a while. Then we both felt better.