Wedding costumes on display at Starwood Malaysia Wedding Fair in 2014. Career-driven single women should not give in to peer pressure to get married. Pix by Surianie Mohd Hanif

I WAS enjoying an evening out with an old friend after we decided to meet and catch up on old times over a cup of coffee recently, when the subject of marriage came up.

She was feeling upset people were making remarks about her reaching her 40s and still unmarried.

Most of her peers her age (and younger) were putting pressure on her to find a man and get married, as they cautioned her about the risks of settling down and having children at an older age.

Her immediate family members and relatives weren’t helping either, as they constantly reminded her about growing old and dying alone.

You see, she does not share her family and friends’ sentiments, as she is more than happy with her life. She is a successful professional who loves her job and has worked hard to achieve her success.

While her peers were busy getting married, she was busy working on her postgraduate degree.

While her peers were busy procreating, she was busy climbing up the corporate ladder.

While her peers were busy making lunchboxes and sending their children to school, she was busy travelling the world.

I asked her if she had regretted her decision to focus on her career, and if she could have done things differently.

With a self-assured laugh, she shook her head and said she had always been headstrong about what she had wanted in life, and that her career had always been a priority.

It surprised me to come to a realisation that she simply did not allow society to dictate what she should, or shouldn’t do in life. It stunned me to see that she was so confident in herself that no one else’s opinion mattered.

By the time, we parted ways at the end of the evening, I came to one conclusion: more career-driven single women should aspire to be just like her in order to truly be happy.

I admit that I, too, was once a victim of peer pressure in regard to the topic of marriage.

I remembered family members and friends asking me about plans to settle down and have children.

Whenever I snickered and said I was married to my job, they would roll their eyes and shake their heads. They resented me for refusing to do what I was supposed to do as an ordinary woman.

They would proceed to hound me by setting up blind dates with potential spouses and making fun of me by regarding me as bizarre for not taking the path most travelled by women my age.

However, after a while of meeting other professionals, who were at peace with themselves despite not settling down, I finally understood why these women were happy with their lives although everyone else around them were convinced otherwise.

It dawned on me that happiness is not something that is decreed by society.

Rather, it is something unique to each individual. Perhaps, back in the Victorian era, things were different.

Back then, women were raised to become good wives and mothers, and not ambitious career women. Heck, women back then were simply discouraged from pursuing higher education.

That being said, things have changed tremendously for women in the past fifty years. The circumstances are different now; women do not need to do what they do not wish to. There is nothing holding them back in chasing their dreams of becoming famous artists, successful businesswomen or powerful lawyers.

Talking to my friend really opened my eyes and made me realise that we are all different — physically, mentally and emotionally.

We have diverse interests and dissimilar outlooks on life and everything that consists of. One should never be afraid or hesitate when it comes to finding her passion, be it via motherhood or career success.

It’s time we rise up and walk proud, knowing that we are free to make our own choices regarding what gives us pleasure and happiness in life, however different they may be from one another, regardless of what society has to say about it.

Ashley Greig, a lecturer at Sunway College, is a Malaysian-born Eurasian with Scottish/Japanese/ Indian lineage. She believes in a tomorrow where there is no racism and hatred

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