By JEREMY TEO
THIS Chinese New Year, I was tasked with something I have never been asked to do before: be the driver for my family’s annual trip back to our hometown in Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan.
This is usually my father’s duty, but this year, I think he wanted to take it easy and have his kids (me!) take on some of the responsibility. With my younger brother now married with a child, the family squad has grown to seven and my mother thought that it would be nice for all of us to go in one big car instead of two.
At that moment, I didn’t think too much of it. Being asked to drive was simple – just drive and get from Point A to Point B.
Until it was time to head off.
On the day of the journey, three realisations struck me – I had never driven to Kuala Pilah before, I have never driven my entire family anywhere, and I was about to ferry three generations of my bloodline on some of the most stressful highway conditions in a van that I had borrowed.
Nothing like a splash of cold sweat to start the first day of Chinese New Year.
But aside from a jam at the toll due to a broken SMART Tag lane and the baby needing a diaper change in the middle of the trip, I’m happy to report that the journey went well.
We made visits to temples, stopped for some cendol, spent some time with relatives and spent the day feeling like we belonged in a Chinese New Year commercial.
And it was right about here that I had a bit of an epiphany.
I’ve never really thought about it before, but this was probably the first time I have ever had to be responsible for my family.
Sure, I try to do my duty – help with some of the expenses, sort out my dad’s Netflix account, etc. – but being trusted to be the driver while the rest of the family takes a snooze? That’s a major responsibility right there.
We live in the era of the “kidult” – where it is perfectly fine for adults to have interests that are traditionally seen as suitable for children, like comics, video games or toys. Couple that with the fact that it’s normal for most Malaysians to live with their families until way into their adult years, and it’s not difficult to end up with an adult who isn’t really an adult.
Traditionally, society has defined an adult as somebody who has reached a certain age or achieved some form of status like being financially independent or having moved out of their parents’ house. However, it occurs to me that to be an adult is a little bit more than that.
I remember reading something on the Internet about how when you are a child it is as if you’re holding a bucket, waiting for it to be filled. But when you become an adult, it’s your responsibility to fill the buckets of those around you.
In some strange way, Chinese New Year is a great gauge for this. One day, instead of being on the receiving end of, “Wah, you’re so big now!”, you’ll be the one gushing over how much your younger cousins have grown.
You’ll also notice it when your angpow haul decreases and it comes loaded with questions of when you’re going to get married.
Even though the whole “aunty-asking-when-you’re-going-to-get-married” is quickly becoming a tired trope, it serves as a reminder that we don’t remain kids forever. Responsibility as an adult is something we learn to grow into. Being an adult is not an overnight transformation and instead requires quite a bit of work.
And I think being aware of this helps us become a little bit less of a noob when it comes to growing up.
Jeremy Teo is an emcee and host, and also sometimes a little bit of a noob. But he’s trying to change that, one new experience at a time. Follow him on youtube.com/jeresays to check his progress!