This is a user submission to IRL. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, and do not represent the opinions of IRL or its affiliates.
Living in the suburbs of Johor Bahru my whole life seeded a deep curiosity about the world in me. Growing up, I listened to my uncle tell his stories about travelling the world, via his business trips to Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and other far-flung locales.
[Visited the cafes at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee]
When I grew older and could explore Johor a little bit more, I realized there aren’t many places to discover. Don’t get me wrong, there are great places in Johor — like the food and cafés at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.
But Johor does not have a cultural hub like Kuala Lumpur. Memories that I have here are the basic malls, fast food restaurants and schools. The best parts of Johor are the beach resorts.
After my SPM, I did not have the money to travel overseas, so I decided to start small by visiting the other states of Malaysia, starting with the capital.
“KL? That’s way too far!”
When I talked to my parents about furthering my studies in KL, that was the first reaction I got from my parents, their eyes wide open in shock.
[My sweet cousin sister on the left who brought me around KL]
Knowing my overprotective parents, I was not surprised by their reaction. I explained to them why I chose KL — how affordable the university I chose, how it would teach me independence.
They were alright with my choice of university — but they weren’t okay with KL. I thought my parents would change their minds in time, but I was wrong.
If you’re a Malaysian Indian reading this, you can relate when I say that whatever decision a family makes will spread like wildfire to relatives, extended family and family friends.
My relatives painted a horrible picture of KL
And then it got worse.
My extended family and family friends said that I’ll be badly influenced as the social life there involves drinking, smoking and clubbing. They also pointed out that it isn’t safe, with a higher crime rate in targeting girls. Basically, it was a horrible picture of KL and it really made my parents worried.
So my parents vetoed my choice to study in KL. They told me that they don’t trust me enough to go on my own. I was devastated.
[Visiting KL Eco Park]
I was locked in a dilemma with myself: Should I study in KL? Or stick to following other people’s opinions? A small part of me feared that they could be right. But I also had people who supported my decision, and they kept me pushing to my goal.
I knew I couldn’t stay angry at my parents’ decision — you can’t fight fire with fire, after all.
I planned on convincing my parents by just being kind, obedient, and to prove to them that I could lead a good and healthy lifestyle in KL.
But when my SPM results came out, my dreams were crushed
Things were going on as usual until my SPM results came out in March 2018.
My parents weren’t happy about my 7A’s 2 B’s results — well, what can I say, Asian parents.
As a child, I felt like I had disappointed my family. Especially my mum, a STPM Chemistry teacher, for scoring a grade B in Chemistry. At that point of time, I wanted to give up my goals. I was probably gonna end up in matriculation or do my A-levels in Johor.
I was sad and angry with myself, and with my parents. And yet, I was so stubborn that I applied to the college that I wanted in KL anyway, because I badly wanted to leave Johor.
Around this dark time, my grandma sent some light towards me. My grandma’s own experience of growing up was one where her own parents controlled her every move. But when she raised my mum, she let her study and work wherever she wanted, and was proud of her successes. I think she wanted the same for me.
Realising my parents were holding me back from going to KL, she intervened on my behalf and talked to them. To my surprise, she somehow persuaded them to let me go.
Later she took me aside and said: “You deserve the chance to be on your own as you can’t keep depending on your parents for everything. You must go after your desires.”
[Me on the far left as a member of the Student Council in my college]
So my parents relented, and let me go. I was incredibly happy — and I wanted to prove to everyone that when it comes to becoming a better person, it’s not the environment that matters, it’s having the right willpower and energy.
The true picture of KL
A few weeks later, my parents and I visited the university and they loved the campus and environment.
I met up with my cousin who showed me around KL for the first time! I joined the student council and made lots of friends on campus.
KL is a lot more convenient as it is a lot easier to travel around with LRT. All I have to do was find the way through the trains.
The people here are open-minded because of the mixed cultures and the mix of people from different countries.
Walking to the mamak with my friends in the late evening, seeing the Petronas Twin Towers from afar gives me a strange feeling. The night view of the Petronas Twin Towers still amazes me till today, with the different cultural places and modern buildings.
It’s amazing how beautiful KL is. I used to feel like Malaysia had little to offer, but exploring KL had made me feel proud to be a Malaysian.
“If you keep going, you’ll get to where you want in life, just not the way you imagined it.”
Sure, I did miss my family once in a while. But I realized that I have to live on my own and I took it as a challenge.
I realised that people’s negative opinions reflect their insecurities
The negative news that people hold are borrowed ones; heard externally from the media or someone else.
Yes, in a city area, there are people who can be a good or bad influence, but it all depends on one’s own beliefs and willpower to allow to be influenced. It’s best to create the right circle of friends.
Of course in a city place like KL, it’s a little more dangerous with all types of people you can meet, so it’s good to be aware of your surroundings.
But when people say something negative, it just means that they wouldn’t have done something that I would do. So they project that to me just because I am doing it.
They aren’t speaking from experience; they’re speaking from the way they feel. Sometimes people are right, but most of the time they’re not – because it’s only their thoughts.
[At the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra]
I realised, then, that I can’t let people’s opinions consume me; I should take advice from experienced and like-minded people.
Sometimes when you’re scared to do something because of other people’s opinions, it is also the thing that you MUST do.
As I am writing this, I am about to board a plane with my parents to Penang to start my new journey on continuing my degree. Wish me luck!