My colleagues and I were recently asked this question: What makes you happy?
I'll admit I took a while to respond. Not because I didn't know what makes me happy but because I couldn't decide what makes me happy most.
I was going back and forth between family, friends, food, sleep, my bed, holidays, chocolate, music... But after a while I realised what makes me happy is this -
All my favourite things and all my favourite people are located on this one little island. Just for the record, my friends from uni also make me happy (Nat, Isabel, Charlotte, Clarissa, YW and all my other KL people this one is for you, pls don't merajuk).
And it is because all my favourite people and things are back in Penang that I can't ever imagine myself living away permanently. I know lots of people don't understand it and lots of people are super doubtful that I will go back, now that I am in Singapore. I mean, I've said it before and I'll say it again - the money/exchange rate is great here but nothing beats being home. I hate to break it to you guys, but money really doesn't and really can't buy happiness. The way I see it, if you're just earning to live, you're not really living at all. You could be the richest person on the face of the earth, you could be super successful in your field, but it would all mean nothing if you don't have family and friends (and God) to share it with.
Trust me when I say I've heard so, so, so many stories from people about how they "didn't plan to stay in Singapore for a long time" and then ended up staying for 5, 6, 7+ years. Every time I hear that, all I can do is fake a laugh and suppress the very strong urge to roll my eyes and snap back with a snarky comment.
Because Penang means so much to me, whenever I get the time to be back on the island, the way I choose to spend my time is extremely precious. Friends who always say, "Wah come back never say. Ask you go out, you say don't want," please understand that family is always my priority so as much as I love and want to hang out with you guys, most of my time will be spent at home or with my family. It is no easy task to live away from your family, especially when you come from a tight-knit one like me. Most of the time, I am only back for less than 2 days. Give chance pls. Lol.
I suppose I should say that Malaysia, in general, makes me happy. Not just Penang. I don't know about others but being out of the country, I get a very strong sense of pride being a Malaysian.
When I was in KL, I only ever felt homesick once. I'm not kidding. Three years in KL, the one time I felt so badly homesick was some time in my final year there and it was because I was tired and stressed as heck; I remember telling my mom how much I wanted to go home. It's different here in Singapore. I get homesick more often than I thought I would. It's not easy, guys. It really isn't. For those of you who willingly leave Penang, who willingly leave Malaysia, I hope you've put a lot of thought into it and I hope whatever decision you make, you will be happy with it. For me, leaving Penang again was not an easy decision to make. Some of the people closest to me can testify to this.
Everyone complains about how bad Malaysia is, how the economy isn't great, how the government is so corrupt, how the pay elsewhere is so much better. What I do not understand is why people can't just choose to look past those "material" things. Hey, I am not oblivious to the state of Malaysia right now, okay. Just because I choose to not comment on them on Facebook does not make me sheltered. I have opinions and thoughts about the shit that's happening ok. Trust me, I do. I just don't see how complaining all day everyday will make any difference whatsoever. When things get bad, I like to (try to) focus on the things that are good. You guys should try it sometime. I think I always just gravitate towards happy things/people/songs/colours/feelings - I swear 60% of my lifetime has been spent laughing (loudly).
I know that Malaysia is not in good shape at this moment, but there is still good in this land. Despite the politics, Malaysia is beautiful and Malaysia is blessed. I hadn't thought of it before till it was mentioned to me in Singapore but Malaysians, do you know how lucky you are to be a country of 14 different states with over 40 different islands? Singaporeans do not have that same luxury. Think about it. Someone could ask you, "Which part of Malaysia are you from?" and you could be from any one of the 14 states. In Singapore (and other similar countries), you would only be able to say which area of Singapore you're from (East, West, Central etc). Singapore is definitely a top-grade country, and it's been going alright for me here so far, but it's not perfect.
Penang may be small but it has so much to offer. Penang may move at a slower pace, but what's so wrong about that? Why does Penang need to move fast? I love the fact that Penang is still laid-back even though it's gone through so many changes and development over the recent years. I mean, do you know how tiring it is to have to walk like you're sprinting all the time? I love that Penang, at the end of the day, is still Penang. The food, the infamous reputation of Penang drivers, the heritage, the street art, the culture, the Hokkien, the mamaks and everything that makes Penang what it is...it's home. So, say what you want about Penang and about Malaysia; I'm not changing my mind about going home. Penang makes me happy and there's nothing you can say or do to make me feel otherwise.
If you made it through this incredibly lengthy post (wow, I like you), I have a question for you - What makes you happy?