Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Can't Do Attitude

I can't do it! There's no way I can do it. These were all comments I heard while vacationing this past week. I've realized people in Asia are plagued with this attitude. And sadly, I saw it amongst some of my friends during this trip. It also made me realize that was exactly how I was growing up. And I can clearly see why living in a "privileged" lifestyle breeds this type of self-depreciation.

I hesitate to write about this subject, in fear that I might offend some of my friends. But I'm hoping if someone unpleasantly realizes they fall into this category, that my observations will act as constructive criticism and not a personal attack.

Growing up in the Philippines, I don't remember having to do anything for myself. It wasn't just the chores around the house but important things, like buying my books at the start of the school year or filling up forms or anything similar. And so when the day came to start applying for college in the US, I was over whelmed and my eyes boggled at all the papers I had to fill up! Even though I started getting used to being responsible for myself, I always had the programmed notion that when faced with something hard or challenging that someone will come along and sort it out for me.

I remember this clearly when I wanted to register my business name in California and didn't know how to go about it. I thought the guy I was dating then would just say don't worry about it and that he'll deal with it for me. But of course, that offer never came. I was whining about how complicated it looked and that I didn't know what steps to take next. All my ex could offer was dropping me off at the business registration place. It was after I got my business name registered that I realized had it been in the Philippines, someone would have done it for me and I would have missed out on learning the process and be a better person for it.

Although I no longer think this way, I can't help but revert back to this way of thinking when it comes to getting things done in the Philippines. When I had to get a police clearance from the Philippines to complete my migration papers to come to Australia, the first thing I thought of was who I can ask to get it done for me in Manila. I thought it couldn't be too expensive and that'll save me the hassle of having to take care of it myself. Besides, I had no idea what to do, so that was enough justification to hire or even bribe someone to do it for me. But when I called the people my parents referred me to, I was surprised at how expensive it would be! Knowing there was no way Hubby would allow me to spend that amount of money simply because I was lazy after all, I dragged myself to the Philippine Consulate and sorted it out myself. It took time, but wasn't as complicated as I thought it would be.

And even now, as a woman in my late 30's, my parents are still "spoiling" me in a twisted way. I know they are just being protective, but with the birth of each of my kids, I hear them saying ok that's enough, how can you handle more? It's hard to decipher what they really mean when they tell me I'm the frail type and must make sure I get enough rest and that its best if we can hire a helper. It was ok because we were living in HK at that time and we did eventually hire a helper. But to this day, although I know they are just being protective, I wonder if there is a correlation between the degree of their protectiveness to how "unable" they think I am. Does that make sense?

So going back to my trip last week, I reached the conclusion that had I not left the Philippines, I would be plagued by this "can't do" attitude and never realize just how much I am actually capable of.

One friend mentioned the reason why they don't have kids yet is because she's not sure if she can handle it. Another couple said they aren't even considering life outside of the Philippines because they can't imagine handling their child's diabetes with no helpers. One couldn't imagine any of her washables not ironed but dread to think what would happen if she could no longer hire an ironing lady. Another said she could never clean their toilet. Pretty much all my friends have their "people" they mention when their work, job or children are asked about. With labor so cheap and help of any kind readily available, everyone diverts to the thought of who can do this for me instead of when and how will I do it.

But there are those who have hope yet. A friend mentioned its been a few weeks now since their household has had no helpers. She talked about how easy it was after all to do the cleaning herself. Another said she was dissappointed at how a suitor turned her down after mentioning she's always had a helper and might not survive life in the States. She said of course if she were to move there, she would step up to the challenge and manage.

I do have to admit however that having lots of "people" do things for you sure have their perks! If it weren't for the fact that these friends of mine have helpers and assistants, then I wouldn't have been able to see most of them. My clothes were laundered with one request, I had a drink with a press of the intercom button and there was a driver and car to take me to the airport even before most of my friends were awake. Quality of life is definitely great, though closed off.

If I were still living there today, I admit I could easily have said there's no way I can picture myself cleaning the toilet or getting any thing of substance done. I definitely wouldn't have the "I can do anything" attitude I have now and maybe cause my parents to be even more worried about me than they should.

I live the way I do now because I have no other choice. Hubby didn't give me the pleasure of choosing whether or not I wanted a full time helper when I first moved to HK. Although it sucked, I am grateful to him for not continuing to spoil me. But for my friends in the Philippines, most of them go through life with their "people". For them, its almost as if they too have no choice. Because this is the way life has always been for them, they think they can't survive any other way.

I just hope someday all of them will realize they won't know just how capable they really are until they try it.

1 comment:

christao408 said...

Fascinating on any number of levels. Having moved from the US, land of the do-it-yourselfer, to Thailand and having a partner who also comes from the social milieu where there are always people around to help with the messy work, I see this picture probably in a similar way to how Chris does.

It is nice to have someone to tidy up the house, iron the clothes, etc. but I still think it is best to be able to do these things on your own. At the very least, it makes you appreciate how hard the work is.