The price of being different

I recently read a local comic book entitled The Resident Tourist. It is an ongoing autobiography of Troy Chin who is also the artist behind the series of books. Troy studied in US and pursued a music career there for 10 years. He came back to Singapore in 2008 and finds it hard to fit back into the Singapore society. Hence the title The Resident Tourist – feeling like a tourist in your own motherland.

If I ever meet Troy, I would love to tell him that he doesn’t have to be away from Singapore for a decade to feel like you don’t belong. In fact, all over the island are people who never left it but also never felt at home either. There’s a difference between the familiarity of homeland and feeling belonged to a society.

This year I would have lived in Singapore for 30 years but feel no less a part of this society. A society that measures success in dollars and cents, a society that doesn’t believe in going the extra mile (free of charge of course), a society that is so afraid of being left out and behind.

I had the impression that things were getting better at work and I could finally focus on actual work instead of defending my right to exist. How wrong I was. Things never got better, it just went underground. I found that my colleagues were sharing emails with each other and another colleague and myself were the ONLY ones not on the mailing list.

I tried to pretend that it didn’t matter to me. Afterall they are just colleagues not friends but deep down, it hurt a lot. It hurts like mad to know how unaccepted I am within the office that I spend more than half my waking hours in. A colleague who is within that circle advised that this is not because I am obnoxious or difficult to get along. It is simply because I keep challenging the norm.

It blows my mind apart that there are people who are so resistant to change that they would discriminate me this way. I don’t challenge the norm for the sake of it but because their methods have not proven to be successful. On the contrary, since joining I found out that my colleagues have been hiding their own inefficiencies and ineffectiveness behind a guile of unexplainable hit rates.  Is it wrong to question all this?

Anyway that’s the price I pay for choosing to be different. I am hearten to know that there are others who feel this way too. Those who simply cannot find it in themselves to conform and fit the mold that this society demands. But it doesn’t stop this the incessant nagging that irritates the hell out of you and drives you insane. It is hard to know what the truth is when you’re constantly against the flow.

So what should I do? Do I keep on fighting this unconquerable battle, do I conform, do I accept the fact that’s just the way things are – that there will always be opposing forces in every society, ebbing and flowing and the final outcome will be an equilibrium weighed by the strength of each force.

It’s almost like what the X-Men comics represent – a group who fights for what is right no matter how difficult, a group who fights for its own survival no matter the cost and a group who discriminates anyone who is different.

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