Are we old, Melissa?
I don’t think so, but isn’t age subjective? Aren’t we the ones that decide if we’re old or not?
It’s late January, 2023, although it probably won’t be by the time you read this. We’ve just celebrated Chinese New Year in Malaysia for the first time in a long time. We’ve eaten out more times than I can count, received heaps of red packets, had all the Chinese new year snacks that you can’t normally get outside of Asian countries, and been visited by all the distant relatives I only see every time I’m here. It’s all been great.
I was kind of indifferent about this trip when I booked the tickets, but now that I’m here, I’m glad I decided to come. While it’s always great to go back every few years to visit my grandparents and see the uncles and aunties I haven’t seen in a while, not to mention catch up with the cousins that are still around, el rono put a significant dent in any plans we might have made. So this trip, the first in five years and the first after Covid, is a little special. Even though we might make plans to meet up again in a year or two, there’s no guarantee that will happen due to any number of circumstances. Maybe next time instead of avoiding the spicy cough, we’ll be avoiding the plague, or worse. But we’re making the most of this trip now that we’re all here, and doing all the usual things. It’s all been great, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But something feels different, somehow. Most of our cousins are now somewhere between their late 20s and mid 30s. Three are married, and while only one has children of their own, I get the feeling that most of us are starting to feel the realities of life creep in. No longer are we carefree teenagers in high school, or uni students mooching off our parents, but now most of us are actual adults that have settled into our own lives, our own full-time jobs, and in some cases, even our own houses and mortgages.
What this means is that some can’t take leave from work for the whole time I’m here, or that they have to be back to work or study in another part of Malaysia soon after the Chinese New Year is all done and dusted.
It’s a different vibe, for sure.
Which is why, as someone who isn’t married, as someone who doesn’t have children, I feel as though it’s at least partly my responsibility to make sure that even though we are older, that doesn’t mean we can’t have as much fun as we did when we were younger. If anything, thanks to the wonders of disposable income, maybe we can even have more fun.
The first instance of this was quite a few years ago, when all of the cousins were back. I picked up a One Direction poster in Penang, then brought it back as a present to my other Australian cousins. Being two guys, they were the most appropriate cousins to give it to (or least, depending on how you look at it, which is what made it so funny), and they were probably the only ones who would know who One Direction are in the first place, never mind appreciate a One Direction poster. I didn’t expect they would do anything with it, and I think they ended up putting it in the bin, but their reactions were absolutely worth whatever minuscule amount I paid for the poster.
With a distinct lack of cousins this time around, I bought presents for my cousin’s children. They’re both boys, 7 and 3, and it’s been so long since I was last back that I hadn’t met one, and the other was just a two-year old the last time I was around.
It turns out buying toys for kids is hard. Not only do you have to consider the kind of things they’re into, the toy ideally doesn’t have batteries or require power, and can be played with multiple times. For bonus points, the toy might even be mildly educational or maybe triggers some kind of curiosity on their behalf, instead of just something for them to do when they can’t watch YouTube. I went to the same Toy World three times and half a dozen other stores before I could decide on something that was going to be a) fun, b) could be played with multiple times, and c) wasn’t going to cause their parents huge amounts of grief by being messy, too noisy, or need their help to be played with.
I ended up choosing this magnetic-ball racetrack thing you had to build out of plastic parts that snapped together, as well as a kid’s pogo-stick thing that made squeaky noises when you jumped on it.
I kind-of did a little experiment with Diet Coke and mentos as well, to show the kids something that they might not have seen before. For some reason, Diet Coke was impossible to find, and as it turns out, the Diet Coke and mentos thing doesn’t work very well with Coke zero sugar. By the time I wanted to try again with the Pepsi no sugar that I found that included the artificial sweetener aspartame found in Diet Coke, someone had stolen it. Clearly, they thought Pepsi was OK in lieu of Coke.
But as much fun as all those were, I wish we could have hung out more. Like we did when we were kids, when we all had zero responsibilities. Do you remember that time we stayed up all night talking over a very slow game of mahjong? I miss those days, when there weren’t kids to feed and shower and tuck into bed. Or kids that threw tantrums because they couldn’t stay up late and watch movies with the adults. I loved the one time that I went out with your siblings to get late night McDonald’s, but I wish we could have done that together. If not to get McDonalds per se, but to give us another chance to talk, to catch up.
But we all have to play the cards we’re dealt, right? When we grow up, we all have to make decisions about what we want to do with our lives, the kind of people we want to be. No one is unique in this respect.
So I think the answer to the question “are we old?” is no, absolutely not. We’re not old. We still sit on the kids table when we go out to dinner with our parents. Age is subjective anyway, and I think we still have a long way to go before I even begin to think of us as old.
We just need to make the most of the time we have now.
You know, before we get old.
I know what you’re thinking. Another birthday post? In such close temporal proximity to the previous one? But yes, it’s true. And now we’re all caught up.