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Life lessons from the screen

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Despite having the right degree, the right job and the right salary, owning a house in Malaysia is a struggle for many – unlike in the movies, laments Yasmin Bathamanathan.

My husband’s and my idea of romance is curling up in front of the television and watching films and TV shows.

Our taste, while eclectic, do tend to veer towards romantic comedies (films) and comedies (TV shows).

We take delight in laughing together, and according to many of the films we watch, that is the key to a happy life.

If you are like me and spend much time watching films, I am certain you would have realised by now that real life and the depiction of life on the silver screen can be quite contradictory.

Sure, most of what we see on screen is beautiful white people who, regardless of what happens along the way, end up winners.

As a bona fide adult, who turned 33 recently, I am going to take some time in the coming months to explore wisdoms, truths, lies and exaggerations depicted in films and television shows to see how they measure to real life in Malaysia.

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Well, actually, we do know what we will get. Most chocolate boxes have a content guide that shows which chocolate is of which flavour.

All we have to do is flip the box over and pick which chocolate we want to have. I always go for the dark chocolate, and if there is a coconut one, better yet.

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Just like in life, we often know the general frame of an outcome, unless it is something completely out of our control.

Life is not a series of random events and experiences, and to hold on to the view that it is can be problematic in real life.

In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the titular character embarks on a series of adventures that are uncharacteristic of his personality.

As we follow Walter Mitty on his adventures, the romance of the unpredictable is strong enough to seduce one to quit one’s job and empty one’s savings to embark on an unplanned journey.

This unplanned journey, cosmically aligned and positively life transforming, worked for Mitty because it is a work of fiction.

For you and me, the best way to navigate this life would be to know what is in that box of chocolates and pick the right ones more often than not.

Young and broke but living fabulously

Have you ever wondered how those young people in films tend to live in gorgeous apartments in expensive cities even though they are not scripted as rich?

Bridget Jones has a rather spacious 1-bedroom apartment all to herself in the expensive city of London, and “Friends” Rachel and Monica’s large New York apartment comes with a balcony.

Even Penny of The Big Bang Theory, who is a struggling actress and waiter, rents an apartment all by herself.

Recently, a friend and former colleague was bemoaning the renting situation in Penang.

She was looking to rent a room in the Pulau Tikus area and was finding it impossible to get a decent place for under RM500.

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I know of married couples who sub-rent rooms because the rent is too high, and friends well into their mid-30s who are in room co-sharing rentals.

But looking on screen, you would think that at least by your mid-20s, one would have made the move to an independent living situation.

This also echoes the lessons we were brought up with – study hard, go to university, get a good job, make money and buy your house.

Yet, we know that despite having the right degree, the right job and the right salary, owning a house in Malaysia is a struggle for many.

Even if we do manage to secure one and make the downpayment, we are left with a hefty mortgage that would take us all our adult life to pay off.

But alas, fiction is fiction and life is, well, life. And life in Malaysia is about to get a lot more difficult what with the onslaught of job layoffs, the tanking economy and the ever rising cost of living.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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