RECENTLY, I was having a meal with a few orang asal from Sabah. They were discussing the difference between orang asal and orang asli with us. I supposed we West Malaysians should have been embarrassed, but at least we wanted to learn. Interestingly, they pointed out something that never occurred to me before. "These categories – Iban, Kadazan, Dusun – they are just a mindset. They are categories that never occurred to us and were given to us when the British came," one of them explained. "When we greet each other, we never think about what category or tribe we belong to." She continued, "When we came to the peninsula, we were surprised at how people always asked us about our tribe or category and how fixated people are about what race or creed one belongs to. It's all just a mindset," she concluded. This led me to thinking. Of course, categories of race and creed are just a mindset, of which I have written on before, although not in these exact terms. After speaking to this girl, I was happy to find that I am not the only one who thought so. After all, who created the constructs of race and creed but ourselves. That a certain group of people must behave in a certain way because they are of a certain race. Or that we need to behave in a certain way because we are of a certain ethnicity. Who created and dictated these terms but ourselves. And that is just a mindset. But beyond this, isn't everything just a mindset? I would say that it is. In the 1980s and earlier, parents wanted their children to be one of the four professionals: lawyer, doctor, accountant or engineer. This is whether the child herself wanted to pursue such a career. Many people in their forties or older who are lawyers, doctors, accountants or engineers are in that profession, not because they are passionate about it, but because it was a mindset their parents had, which they acceded to whether in mutiny or not. People like to belong. And people are a restless bunch, always looking for something to entertain themselves. Looking at how much money Nintendo has made from Pokemon Go; the herds of people running around like "zombies" (I didn't coin that phrase); the traffic accidents that game has caused; and even the job it has caused; how can one run away from the fact that so many things in our lives are mindsets? These mindsets either appeal to us and we embrace them. Sometimes we don't find them appealing but because it is how we have always done things, we accept them or we are too lazy to think of another solution. One morning, I was observing an old man who lives in my apartment block. As early as 5am, he goes to the rubbish bin on every floor, separating the papers, bottles and other recyclable material from the other waste. By 11am, he has a mountain of recyclable goods harnessed over his bicycle. He is a little old man, at maybe 5' 3", stooped but looking relatively healthy. I watched him get on his bike at 11.15am and head off to his destination. At that moment, I felt sympathy for this little old man but then I hesitated. This guy has been doing this for all the time I have lived here. He doesn't complain and he doesn't seem unhappy. Perhaps this wasn't patience and endurance in his trials of life. Maybe he is actually happy. People have dictated to me for so long what happiness is that for a moment I forgot that maybe someone could be happy in such a circumstance. No big car, no big house, no domestic helpers, just a simple life. That might be happiness. Breaking the walls of mindsets is difficult, especially if so much of one's identity or being has been weaved into those mindsets. But after that comes freedom and perhaps some taste of happiness for ourselves too.