Monday, April 6, 2009; 10:42 AM
Institutionalized
As I rode on the bus to work this morning, I peered out through the foggy windows and sniffed at the rain-sodden air of a frosty cold morning. On the bus, every day, were commuters just like myself - groggy eyed and bitter about going to work, trying to steal an extra minute's worth of sleep on the ride.

And maybe because it was a Monday morning, just like the hundred and one other Monday mornings before this, or maybe it was because I sat down and watched Shawshank Redemption last night - that I somehow realized we don't really need to be in prison to be prisoners.

After all, it is uncannily similar. We all wake up at the same time, every day - we report to our bosses, we spend a day's work in hard labor - we eat when we are told to, we take our breaks when they are allocated, we go to bed at set times and we have to submit applications for days off. Unless you are your own boss and life is relatively easy for you, masses of other people who live the life of a drone, day in and day out - prison is a term best used loosely.

We are not really truly free. We are always prisoners to society, conforming and adapting to the standards and expectations of what the community wants. Perhaps we are not free until we live like a bird, doing just what we love, whenever and however we want to. Me, I feel free in a sense when I am cantering off on horseback, or when I am simply strolling along the sidewalk hand-in-hand with the person I love - when I am doing something I thoroughly enjoy and choose to do out of choice, and not because I have to pay the bills.

What would we do without our imprisonment? What would we do if left stranded all alone on a completely deserted island - no need to work, play or hunt for food - what would we do? Perhaps most of us would feel lost, maybe even desperate.

I want to break free - I want to do things I want to do, recklessly abandoning all consequences, I want to go far far away with someone I love, I want to wake up whenever I want and I want to work hard because I choose to enjoy the work. Reality is harsh, they say - but so is prison. And escaping from prison is no mean feat - and trying might kill me.

As we all shuffle into work at the same time, dressed in drab tones of grey and black, like a pack of penguins, like clones from Star Wars, perhaps, in a way, we are all already institutionalized.

Labels: ,

5 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Welcome to your quarter life crisis. Where the first 2 years after graduating makes you feel nothing more than a small, small cog churning away at nothing and you think to yourself "I studied all this years for THIS?"

You either fight the system, end up poorer but happier, or be like the other 99% of population who trudge on down and end up having acute mid life crisis. :P

Blogger Yin said...
Thanks for the advice! Poorer but happier sounds so depressing - why do we have to choose between being rich (or well-off) and happy?! Dangnabbit I want to have both! D:

Mid-life crisis is only fun if there is someone riding shotgun, so you can pull at each other's cellulite. awesome!

OpenID seiza said...
Even when you're your own boss, you can't make and break the rules at whim. You can't just close up shop everytime you feel like it-- customers depend on a regular schedule they can trust, including timely opening hours. My cousin had the bad habit of leaving for lunch anytime he wanted (he manned the shop his parents owned). My mother predicted the shop wouldn't last, and it didn't. There were a lot of problems, granted, but such lack of discipline didn't help.

Writers, who I imagine to be one of the freest people out there (you know, the image of a writer touching pen to jaw, mulling over the perfect line while sitting on a balcony overlooking a brilliant oceanic view and so on so forth *___*), have infamously crushing deadlines to adhere to.

Freedom without limits is rampant libertinism. Leave a bunch of children unsupervised, and watch the ensuing mess. It's one of those "be careful what you wish for" things, IMO.

Every Monday, I wonder why the heck I have to drag myself up and trudge to class when half of the students don't even bother showing up.

Then I remind myself it's my choice to be here, with all its accompanying responsibilities, perks and pitfalls. And I chose to be here because I decided it was worth it. For what, I dunno anymore. That's a bit of a snag, admittedly. I thought I did, but I'm not so sure now. But I'll find out.

Anyway, it's kind of hard to grumble since then I'd have to blame myself. Who the hell likes that? XD So up we go, time's a-wastin'.

And there's always the future to look forward to, even if it's just two hours later when you're freed to buy bubble tea.

It may be that the "quarter life crisis" is fogging up the lenses for now, acting like quicksand and dragging you into a stationary funk. You think you're stuck in a giant machine, but humans are not cogs. Unlike cogs, we always have the choice to move up or out (or down).

I'm sure you didn't get where you are by accident. You chose, weighed, and decided. You may need something to remind you why you did what you did, but just remember-- you already made a choice by studying something "unpragmatic" (^_~) and in a totally foreign country. Choice can be frightening, because it means we can also make bad choices. Sometimes it's more comforting to think we're forced into bad situations by an unfair outer structure.

Sometimes it's easy to forget that structure -- the social norms, the culture, the prison -- does not exist autonomously. It is created by society, and society is created by us.

Have a good Easter weekend, luv.

Blogger Elly + Yin said...
Howdie Partner!

Very impressive diary! A++ I think you should consider writing on our blog instead of me.

eLLy*from upstairs
clicketie clacketie clock***

Blogger Yin said...
Lynn, I know I've said it a million and one time before, but I have to rinse and repeat : ilu. You put those thoughts in words far better than I ever could have. AGH YOU come back to melb for another visit I am still so BITTER I missed you last time dammit!

Food for thought indeed, I guess life is what you make of it and people should form their lives to what they want it to be. So yes, I will get off my arse, (TRY) to stop whining *and the key word here is TRY* and start getting my goals in order - or like you so cleverly put it - my cogs a'turning. ;)
Thanks for the wise words of wisdom sweetie, very much appreciated indeed! Hope you had a great easter too and I will hunt you and Pam down in SG sometime for that elusive chocolate buffet!

LOL @Elly, your blog is better in terms of pictures than mine! I'm lucky if anyone reads my boring rambles. Photos are always infinitely more entertaining! <3