Do you have a boyfriend? Tick, tock. Tick, tock. When are you two getting married? Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Bought a house yet? Tick, tock. Tick, tock. When are you going to have a baby? Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Have you planned for your retirement yet? Tick, tock. Have your kids given you grandkids yet? Tick, tock. 


What! You don’t want to do any of that? Haven’t you heard? THE CLOCK IS TICKING.

“For what?” Charmaine Yam says over Skype. “Reproduction? Death? People who tell me that the clock is ticking are ignorant people. Their priorities are not my priorities. Especially if they don’t know me. Your kids are going to have Down Syndrome if you don’t have kids before you’re 30. Are you feeling the pressure? When I hear that I hear someone who’s quite close-minded. 

“They must feel like time is running out. That they have all these achievements that they have to do while they’re still young. But these may not be the achievements you have to achieve. 

“You should have priorities in life which you can set for yourself. I think when you are young, you should figure out what those priorities are. My priority is discovering who I am and being the truest form of myself. But other people might have other priorities like having a stable, comfortable living environment, having a stable man and looking after kids.

“The problem is when we live a life following someone else’s priorities. That’s never going to end well. You should live your life in accordance to achieving your priorities.”

Amen to that.

It’s hard to watch people pretending to be okay with a life that makes them deeply unhappy. But since it’s what they’re ‘supposed’ to be doing, they have that superficial success. Sometimes even those closest to you may not understand why you choose to walk your own path instead of following convention.

But you have to set your own agenda in this life. If you don’t – only you – and you alone will pay the price. 


“Some people think that if you don’t follow convention, you end up alienated and isolated,” I say. “What are your thoughts?”

“If you understand who you are and what you want from life,” Charmaine says, “then you’re authentic and tend to attract people who think like you and understand you. When that happens, you certainly don’t feel alienated and isolated. It might be more alienating and isolating when you’re living a life based on convention when it’s something you don’t actually want.

“A lot of women who are unhappy have nice husbands, good jobs and are still depressed and can’t explain why. Maybe this is not what they want. They may be even more isolated if they’re around people like them – who’ve achieved what they’re supposed to achieve. They’re around the wrong people cause there’re not being their genuine selves. That’s far more alienating and lonely. 

“If you’re like hey this is me and this is what I want in life, take it or leave it. Then the people who talk to you are like-minded. It doesn’t take much to feel understood. You just need a couple of people to get it and then you don’t feel lonely. 

“It’s the people who lie to themselves that feel the most isolated and lonely.”


Solitude is not the same thing as loneliness. Over the years, I’ve met some people who have that ability to make you feel really really lonely. They don’t understand you. Perhaps they don’t even know how to. Sometimes they just don’t bloody care. But the worst is when they pretend to be someone they’re not just to get you to like them. 


Loving someone for the reality of who they are as opposed to a fantasy that they’ve projected – is far more valuable in the long run. How many superficial friendships are you going to have and maintain? Wouldn’t you rather have people in your life who love you for who you really are? How long can you possibly pretend for?

Set your own priorities. Live up to your own expectations. If you don’t – only you – and you alone will pay the price. 

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