On a Wednesday morning, E dropped a bomb on me: He was moving to Hong Kong for work in one month.
It wasn’t an unusual move for someone who had been in the corporate world for many years, but it was a sucker punch to my gut.
We weren’t an item, but after seeing each other for three months, an emotional bond inevitably formed, and I suddenly felt like I could empathize with the thousands of expats from all over the globe.
I have never considered myself particularly mature, nor do I exclusively date older men, but when we met, we instantly hit it off.
The nine-year age gap didn’t bring about a disparity in power dynamics or an inferiority complex.
E treated me as an equal, and we discussed affairs the same way I would with my fellow university friends.
Of course, because we belonged to different generations, our influences and interests were different.
He talked about Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera’s popular rivalry, watched “The West Wing” reruns and needed my help using Snapchat.
Dating an older man — apart from the novelty — has taught me much and opened my eyes.
“No one is gifted with such strong feelings of jealousy as amateurs.” — Oscar Wilde
I came across this quote while reading “Teleny,” and it struck a chord with me.
I have always prided myself on my logical thinking skills and low propensity f0r unnecessary emotions, so irrational feelings of jealousy and neediness born from attachment both annoyed and repulsed me.
I felt this especially strongly when I believed E had a better control over his affairs than I did, making me feel like a silly school girl.
Yet, I came to realize that at 30 years old, he had far more years of relationship experience than I did; he had loved and lost a few times already.
This inevitably hardened him, even though experiences and emotions still manifest as very raw to 21-year-olds like myself.
Young people are still very passionate and driven by their feelings, no matter how logical we think we are.
Adults have bills and bigger responsibilities to care about.
They don’t bother tracking blue ticks on WhatsApp (what everyone claims not to do), or feel obliged to respond to your messages immediately.
An insight into the working world
E shared many stories with me that helped me prepare myself for the corporate world.
I like to be exposed to some life lessons in advance, so as to avoid certain pitfalls before they are due to happen.
He told me that when we’re hot-blooded youths, we have an internal sense of control, believing our dreams are ours for the taking and within our reach.
As long as we throw ourselves on the right path, we will get to where we want to be.
Yet, adults slowly transform to having an external control, having dealt some blows from life, which made them realize how powerless humans can be when subjugated to a larger environment.
E also revealed that not all fresh graduates deal with the working world well.
Academic success did not necessarily translate to excellence in the workplace; many other factors come into place.
I wasn’t scared away by his prophecies. Apart from his compelling stories, I felt that my learning and understanding of the real world was accelerated.
Different stages in our life cycles
There are some things age differences bring about that we cannot avoid, no matter how small the disparity in maturity is.
Firstly, as a student, I like to discuss ideals, theories and philosophies with my friends.
University — as much as we love to complain about its sometimes-stifling environment — provides a great platform to meet people with whom you can discuss ideas and have enriching conversations.
These topics need not necessarily have an impact on the real world; my friends and I find joy in discussing a variety of things, from film to sexuality to religion.
Yet, when people move into different stages of their life cycles, their responsibilities and environments engage their interests in different areas.
Adults become less interested in discussing frivolous topics and more interested in the here and now.
Sometimes, I get disappointed when I fail to engage E in a topic that interests me, though my friends would reciprocate enthusiastically. But, I realize he is far beyond his university-debate phase.
I also realize there are so many things to be thankful for as a youth. I hear about how people’s metabolism slows down when they hit 25 and they put on an frightening amount of weight, despite consuming the same calories as before.
I can go to work on Friday, sleep at my friend’s place, go out the next morning to prepare for her party, spend the afternoon at the beach, sleep for less than seven hours and still have the energy to wake up early to go to church on Sunday.
E claims a night of clubbing on Friday would completely obliterate his energy and would require his whole Saturday for recuperation.
On weeknights, he goes to sleep at around 11 pm.
The fear that youth is wasted on the young like me drives me to be more appreciative and hedonistic in my current lifestyle.
The future is uncertain, so I hope to make the most of the time I have now. Learning about an older perspective has certainly taught me to appreciate that.