Friday, December 11, 2015

C is for Choices and Courage

So I've been away this time due to...well, I needed a break to recalibrate my life. A lot people mistake me for an extrovert, however deep inside I'm really a very private and introverted person.

Like a good battery, we all need to recharge.

So I've gotten to conceptualise this post - inspired by the many thoughts I've had. Those who know me, understand that I'm a big advocate of making the right choices. It doesn't take a lot, simply moral courage to do the right thing.

So the next letter C in this relationships sequel is dedicated to Choice.

Choices creep up on us - the daily things, the mundane request for lunch, the everyday-tasks. We choose to arrive to work late or early. We choose whether we want to speak to that cute guy or girl in the lift. However choosing can be very tiring if it were done consciously, logically all the time.

So we also choose with our heart - we choose with what makes us feel good or repulsive. There's nothing wrong with it, after all that's how the great romances begin, why our parents decided to marry...sometimes the brain needs time to catch up to the decisions made with the heart.

Yet the heart is not all-knowing. We make impulsive choices - to have a one night stand despite having partners based on the heart (or other parts of the body). We then sink into depression over the mess we've made. Most of us will have to face the consequences of our actions, but not many will have the courage to respond.

For the record I have no issues with ONS, I have issues when it hurts people around you.

It all starts with saying No. It starts with standing up for a standard above our own. Those guidelines are not simply messages written on a wall, floating about in our conscience. It supports our weight when we go tumbling down the zip line. It holds us up because we can't simply be expected to do it ourselves. Ego tells us we can handle the aftermath, humility tells us we are human and make mistakes. Whichever bible or scripture you choose, to me, it stands for millennia of "I made this mistake, try not to do it too". The timelessness of regret, guilt and avoidable pain is applicable across centuries.

We are human. We make bad choices but at the same time, had every opportunity to make one that was better. It's not always clear whether we're about to commit with the devil, ultimately we never know at that the Y-fork of the road. We could only make the one we regret least. That is good enough. Equally important is to forgive ourselves if we have indeed taken the wrong path and to put aside our pride and simply make amends, and hope that our loved ones have the graciousness to forgive for our errors.

Yet I see people around me, partners, spouses, friends, make choices wholly with their heart - out of anger, selfishness, out of pain and bitterness, out of despair. We also make worse choices when we are elated, blinded by the romance and drunkedness of champagne love.

How then? If we are to make a choice worth our while.

I think this calls for another word; contemplation. No one is rushing you to make a choice - and in this day of instant messaging, it's easy to believe we have to decide now, soon. Contemplation slows everything. Think about the Matrix trilogies. When we consciously think about slowing time, it does. In the same thread of thought, just taking time off to slow down and think of what we want, forces us to be honest. It will always be in circles, we will think of a thousand things at once. But no galaxy was formed without chaos, and with time and some good friends and conversation, this chaos will congeal into a singularity. It will become clear.

When we contemplate, we sometimes that that time to worry instead. It's our space, our realm of freedom to let loose all possibilities. It is a safe bubble where we can let loose our worries. When the sediments finally settle, we will see which weighs us the most and if those cannot addressed, do we move on? Do we not?

I think with practice, allows me to make choices quickly and with serendipity. I still seek this unique balance and suspect I will spend my whole life practicing.

This world is filled with enough things that call for our attention, we need to learn to sometimes not give a fuck, and just contemplate on ourselves. Do I want to marry this man? Should I cheat on my girlfriend? Would he be okay if I moved across continents to be with him?

Is this over?

Having another C word, courage is also important to deal with whatever that comes after. The sense of accountability and responsibility means we must deal with the results of our actions. We often blame others or bad luck for our choices and bad decisions when they don't turn out the way we want them too.

We also cannot be held 100% accountable, ultimately we had imperfect information. We are imperfect as well.

However courage helps us grow into the people we want to be, and we just need to face the music when we did something of harm to others.

(Partly why I believe in corporal punishment for kids)

Choices require time and space for contemplation, and we all need courage to face the consequences of our actions.

I no longer respect, and have no patience for people who indulge in escapism or resort to bullying others when they're faced with the outcome of their actions and leave it to their friends and family to clean the shit they've made. It's alright if we falter once in a while, but too many times just leaves a bad taste in people's mouths.

Life is already hard, we need soldiers who can face the storm together. Choose wisely.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Breaking Up

So I made a vow that I'll post a reflection about love and relationships every week. I've skipped a week because it was such a tough week given my boss's away.

Last post, I devoted A to represent Acceptance, as the resolution for our inherent judgemental attitudes towards people whom we love. We accept what we cannot change, and have courage to support the change of those that we can. The serenity prayer gives me strength when the going gets tough, because ultimately no relationship is perfect and tough-going moments are opportunities for each of us to grow into each other.

Having said, it's often harder done than preached. Many of these lofty ideas can easily be dismissed as ignorant, naive and idealistic. Given the number and circumstances of break up these days, even I get demoralised on most days.

So I have devoted the B to break-up. We have the dramatic break ups that happen; both blame each other, harsh words are said, hearts torn apart. We also have the quiet, subtle, over-the-years drift-apart break ups when both parties leave a little sadder, but also freer. We also have the break up which happens before the couple even got off. The kind of whirlwind romance that lasted for 5 months and then died as soon as it started.

But what do they all mean?

Going through my own frustration break up, I've learnt a couple of things.

1. Break ups need not be messy
I think many times, when emotions are high, and the pride of "not losing", especially when I wasn't the one who wanted the relationship to end, makes me want to do some damage. I think this is where it gets really immature, hurtful, and messy. I cried, I also ranted to my ex-boyfriend then for giving us up. However, I also took the big gulp of air to stop myself from scolding and making him feel bad.

I had a very good teacher once told me, it takes way more courage for a person to say you did something wrong, than it takes for a person to accept the critique. The person also had all to risk, they risk your drama, your ill-affections and most of all your friendship.

I think we are at an age, where we should be mindful that our actions have consequences. We shouldn't be rational - we're human after all. However, know when to walk away from an argument that is going nowhere. My grief is now my own, and my ex no longer need to partake in my own internal storm. Good friends do that, they help you heal and I chose to take that drama elsewhere until I was ready to face him again.

It's oddly satisfying to realise you don't really need your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend to look after you when you're down and out. That was strength to keep me going - to take control back from the relationship and have it sit within me again, until such a time when I'm ready to make myself vulnerable and fall in love.

2. Break ups are goodbyes to our old selves.
I've always held the belief that with every break up, we say good bye to some parts of ourselves. I can safely say, my exes would not be able to connect with me now because I've changed with every romantic goodbye I've said.

We learn from harsh experiences the best, partly because we remember the shit pain that we've gone through and if we didn't learn from that lesson, it's like going through fire getting all burn but gaining no insight.

I think I've shed my old self many times, with every kiss goodbye. I gain clarity in what I want, who I want to date, and the kind of partner I deserve in life. It's also a good process of internal reflection - our insecurities that plague our previous relationship should make us stronger for the next one. I now learn that I need to be less judgemental, more supportive, and definitely wiser for my next relationship. I also gained from this painful but necessary experience, to not lie to myself just because circumstances seem right at that time. To always want and speak the truth of what matters to me - to voice my unhappiness to weed out any inherent problems during dating and we could've all avoided this one big heartache.

3. Break ups need not be about the excuses.
I was lucky, that my ex told me that the reason he broke up with me was because he didn't love me anymore. I have girlfriends blaming their exes for giving the most ridiculous excuses like, "it's not you, it's me. You did nothing wrong, I just want a change". For guys, they ask me for the best "excuse" to break up with a girl. I mean, a break up need not be about the why, nor the how. If one party feels constrained, or doesn't want to commit anymore, the only "why" we have to give is the one that is truest in our heart. It might become a realisation that we actually don't want a break up, but rather a break in habits. Some of us might become too clingy, and the other party no longer find it endearing. Or some of us, might have become too accommodating for too long - not realising we are losing bits of ourselves in the relationship.

We owe it to the other party, when we break up - to break the news in person, in private and with all due respect given. This is someone we still treasure, and now love albeit in a different way. It's a lot to ask, but ultimately, a simple and honest reason gives the other party closure. It also forces us to confront to exactly why we wanted this to end.

Relationships end for a reason, knowing what that reason is clearly, gives us perspective because the last thing we want is to break up, get together again, and then break up again because we oh-finally knew the reason why we broke up in the first place.

It's so tough, and very much unfortunate. Although for some of my friends, I would buy them champagne if they finally broke up - we all have that group of friends whom we find their partners disapproving. Regardless, it's their choice, and their life. And we don't normally see what's beyond their Facebook posts as well.

I think something as intimately heartbreaking, break ups teach us that love is to be guarded selfishly, yet also given freely. I gained much strength from a poem by Albert Camus, and I hope it'll give you strength to walk on during these moments in life.

Credits to Zen Pencils for this awesome cartoon of this most amazing quote!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


The theme of the past few weeks continues, about love and relationships. This time with complete bluntness and honesty - about what we want, our values and that "fuzzy" feeling called love.

I recently shared a book with my ex, for the sole purpose of sharing extremely good prose and writing that don't occur often in literature. I've always admired short but brilliant writing, and I wanted to discuss some of the book's thoughts with him, given how we've both survived our break-up to remain as friends.
Perhaps what my heart wanted to do that my mind had to catch up to, was that I was looking for acceptance. I wanted him to accept that my ideas, thoughts, feelings about the book, to have co-passion about those ideas and find that connection that one can only obtain from shared insight.
I was looking for someone to accept who I am, how I thought, and I cared that someone who once loved me would at least understand some of my passions about the main thesis of the book. I cared that he approved of my tastes, about my braininess. I still yearned for his judgement.

I stopped.

And walked away mentally from that space.

I didn't need him to love the book, and indeed he felt it was simply about 2 incompatible lovers. I felt remorse that his interpretation of the author's complex thesis was as such, at the sake time he probably begrudge that "as usual", I read too much into the text. It reaffirms how much we do not give way to each other. We both wanted the other to change into what we both felt was best for the person. We didn't love, we didn't have our freedoms to express our inner-most vulnerabilities because we were too busy telling each other what was best to do.

It's my fatal flaw, that pride and ego, that over-confidence in my own thoughts that I am the best person that knows what's going on. We love because we accept that part of the other who is not perfect, we come to realise our own imperfections are no larger or worse, just different and it's okay. We are all human, and find resonance and dissonance in different things. Beethoven have already shown us how dissonance is beautiful, and diminished 7ths, are no uglier than perfect 5ths.

Ironically enough, my very attempt to seek approval from my ex about the book, is the very thing that draws me further away from him.

Being judged positively, to be placed on a pedestal, is as pathological as being judged negatively. Both represent 2 sides of the same coin. It is the positive expression of ego, it places people in an impossible space, that constant fear of disappointing you. They try harder, it becomes extremely stressful, extremely soul-ripping because humans are not meant to be Gods. We find mutual company in the mundane weakness of our peers. They may have fucked up lives, and some more fucked up than most, but nevertheless, we are all cut from the same cloth. A lover, once saw me as a god-sent, this unique individual, worshiped the ground I walked on. As flattering as it is, it also felt extremely lonely. You are not walking with a person on this journey. You're walking on top of that carpet they have laid down with their innards, flesh, heart, blood....

That devotion is stiffling, and it also starts from the "I". I feel you're too good for me, I feel you are my only, only YOU understand ME. It's equally toxic, and phrased in certain contexts these words become poison. I don't want to be worshiped, I want to be pinned under, with the weight my partner's flaws, insecurities and dreams.

God or dog, acceptance is something that is increasingly lost in the ego-centric world. A friend once told me my values are old, archaic, even extinct. I don't disagree, and I am actually now more okay that I may never find someone who shares these values.

Yet interestingly when I talk to people, we all want these for ourselves, and distract ourselves with so much frivolity, fringe benefits that we forgot at the core of what we want that is Love. So if this is what we want, why don't we be more honest with ourselves and pursue the very thing that is important to us. We complain incessantly, yet have no moral courage to do what we want because we want someone to blame for the speed bumps that come up later. We'd rather hate our partners when we're 45 for not being the partner we want, than to do something now.

This sense of accountability is also an acceptance that we are fallible, to accept that we have to face to consequences of our actions. That everything we do has repercussions of our lives and those around us. We need to take blame for our choices, as much as forgive ourselves for circumstances we could not have controlled. Self-blame, the "oh it's all my fault" is equally egoistical as blaming everything else. It proves that we assume everything was under our control in the first place. Many times the illusion of control is really, it's not.

Perhaps to love ourselves, starts by first removing any judgement that is directed inward, to remove all barriers called lies and comforting "self-talk". To be brutally honest with ourselves, find ways to change those we can change, and let go of things that we cannot. Perhaps when we drop impossible standards held to ourselves, can we come to accept and later love.

Monday, October 5, 2015

the courage to walk

There's been a theme that's been running through my week - one book by Kundera about the unbearable lightness of being, two men who are part of my lives that I both love and cannot have, three men whom I know want to bed me but are attached to their girlfriends, and lastly, four hours of conversation with a friend on relationships in general.

It's given me pause to think about my relationships thus far, and take count of the lessons for last year and this year. It's after all, pretty much towards the end of the year and I've been fortunate to have loved, lost and love again. Part of my conversations with the above friend, revolved around the idea of settling down - why we both face men who are looking to have sex with people other than their partners.

They seemed the "ideal" - 2-4 years relationships, already purchased a BTO, some even bought engagement rings, and still...this happens. It's made me very pessimistic and woeful about the current state of our zeitgeist (spirit of our times) when it comes to relationships. Even my ex felt that "forever" was too forbidden, and impossible concept. That used to give me shivers, but now I can empathise where this mournful dream, fantasy, came from.

As much that it is hard to have hope about one's own partner - that they will remain faithful, to embrace the weight of the responsibility, and take joy in having someone to care for - it is also equally hard to walk away when that burden no longer becomes bearable, when that weight doesn't ground you but sink you.

It's not hard to imagine why someone would choose to cheat, and after being an almost-home wrecker myself, I can understand why men find comfort in the bosoms of their mistresses. Why that escape is something they yearn for. They chose something bigger than themselves, their family, children - and I have friends whose fathers walked out on the families, leaving the mother defenceless and alone to raise her own children, that scene is equally tragic. 

Does it have to be that way? Do we have to land ourselves into an entanglement, that incredible mess before we realise we are currently lead the lives we do not want. Kundera spoke about having only 1 life, and because of that, we have no basis of comparison - that life is not even a sketch because it stands for an outline of something, but when we don't even have a sample of our own lives to model, the idea of a sketch is meaningless. However, I do believe that our lives can be extrapolated, we can "see" and make intelligent predictions of our futures. We may jump to conclusions, but if self-fulfilling prophecies have any merit, if we choose to believe, we then become the very thing we believe in.

So be careful what you wish for.

I think the point really, is that at what point do walk away? I think with life's uncertainties, the foreboding feeling of spending an eternity alone - while most of our friends move on with life and their families is enough to keep most of us within an unhappy relationship. My best friend once asked me after my break up, "have you ever thought that maybe you're just not meant to find someone, and that's okay."

And that's okay.

Those 3 words struck me, and in some ways still gives me great sense of comfort. It's okay to be alone, or perhaps, it's okay to accept that we may not find someone now, next year, or ever - and there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that.

Just as not all of us can become millionaires, it is just as likely that not many of us can find a life-long partner, and even more rarely, find a partner whom we can love for a lifetime happily. It is just as likely that we can find our soulmate, but because we may not have the courage nor stamina to keep up with a relationship, we may also choose to walk away from the person who we will come to love for an eternity. We may come to love each other apart.

Two opposing thoughts: one the unbearable weight of a being caught in a prison of our own making, and the other, the ever-vastness of being adrift forever and ever...

Both require courage to make choices, very difficult and life altering choices for both ourselves and others. Both are not simple choices, both require some kind of a leap of faith to change fate, and both require large sacrifices.

It gives us pause.

That perhaps, happiness is not worth it, it is not worth breaking up families, it's not worth making our spouses cry, scar our children. Happiness - it's not worth the effort to put up a wedding, the whole charade we have to put in-front of our future in-laws, it's not worth crying our eyes out when we lost someone dear to us. 

Love is sacrifice, it calls for us to sacrifice others for ourselves, as much as we sacrifice ourselves for others. Love can come at a high price, and many stories we tell ourselves about love does not mention this enough. For this reason, I have always been cautious about who I love and till now I have not truly opened my heart because the pride of knowing we all wield and deal the power over someone, and conversely for someone to have that power over me, is a step I am not yet courageous enough to take.

But now, I am different - I can start to feels the wall come apart, that love is not all about power over someone's heart- but the ability to empower. Love empowers people, and once love stops being empowering, we must then have the courage to walk away. I am starting to see love (and relationships) in a different light, and with this paradigm shift, my pride starts to be less of an issue. I always had a large amount of pride, to always have to be right. However, when I start to see how loving someone - anyone - is about giving them the space to sometimes be wrong. It is sometimes necessary to teach them wrong thing to illustrate a concept we want someone to learn. It is not so much to "instruct" but to support them when they fall, for a deed given in when, is twice the favour.

As the Kentucky bourbon wanes while I finish this prose, I have a couple of parting thoughts.

The lies we tell others are often the lies we tell ourselves. Facing up to the truth is something we don't do enough. We should never face the truth as a form of necessity, but with courage that whatever the outcome is, we will be okay. We pack ourselves with so much frivolity - careers, money, fame - to keep us distanced from being hurt. We need to have the courage to walk away, whether it be the lives we are leading now, or the walk into the lives we are afraid to have. Love should empower those choices we make, and that agape, that unconditional expression of love, that bearable burden of responsibility of our choices should make us happy and we must also have the courage or choose differently when it no longer makes us who we are.

My life, should be better than my dreams. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

We Don't Cook Enough

We don't cook enough.

Singapore is unique because we have ready-made food at our doorsteps with minimal fuss and prices. Despite import prices, we are lucky to have ingenious hawkers that cook for us. So we really don't have to learn how to cook, or have any reason to learn the use of a galangal ginger or the 100 types of seeds/beans.

I sigh a little every time when I walk into NTUC Fairprice, or Coldstorage, to see the canned and frozen food section expand with every shuffle of inventory. The fresh food places are getting smaller, and even "fresh food" is seasoned wings, or steaks that you can simply pick up and place it on a pan at home.

I am not a romantic - like every busy individual, I eat out more often than not. However, I am also privileged, because my family taught me to cook from a very young age. I know my way around the kitchen. I worry for my peers, for those who are not learning from their parents/grandparents. These precious recipes, and know-hows will one day pass out of our generation.

For instance, do you know you can add salt to orange juice to make them sweet? Or do you know that bread is cooked when you knock and bottom and it sounds hollow? Do we even know how to cook rice without a "rice-cooker"?

I like cooking and baking, precisely because I know what goes into the pot. It's also therapeutic. On the other hand, cooking for my loved ones is my expression of affection. Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone enjoy the food I made. Nothing tastes better than fresh-out-of-the-oven pastry, or straight-out-of-the-wok stir fry.

My best memories about my family, surrounds around the act of cooking. We will hustle around like a well-oiled machine knowing our tasks and "place" in the kitchen. We put aside our phones and electronic distractions, to just concentrate on each other and the task at hand.

Cooking saves so much money, and while I understand for others who experienced it to be a chore, it's a cultivation of habit. So hey, it's always good to make friends with people who love to cook and bake. I am always giving away food ^^

Come by, for tea one day, around freshly baked scones or cupcakes. We can make something wonderful together. You'll be surprised how easy it is!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Stand tall, Don't slouch

As I head to work today, I was reminded of this small nag my mum used to always tell me when I bid her farewell at my primary school gates.

"Stand tall! Don't slouch when you walk."

My mum has many "don'ts" for me when I was younger - so much so that sometimes I felt the American notion of childhood freedom read in Nancy Drews and Sweet Valley High was a taste I'll never be able to experience.

Certainly, my mum was refering to bad posture, and spine problems later in life. My primary school late principal insisted all students carried their bags when they walked into school. Parents or maids who carried bags for the students will be kindly reminded by the teachers and vice-principal (read: malu). The notion is to remind students that the burden of learning and knowledge is really their own and no one else. Also, it also taught me to pack lighter. Haha.

So as a result, we literally bend over backwards to carry our daily load of textbooks. Stand tall, don't slouch.

When I corrected my posture, I could immediately feel the weight of the books threaten to pull my shoulders to the floor. It was extremely uncomfortable, and it hurt. But I could also breathe better, walk faster and eventually I was so used to the load, when there were extra books, it was no effort at all to carry them.

Moving on, when educational levels climbed higher and bags became smaller, the ability to carry the load became such a habit, I don't notice how heavy my "lighter" bag was in comparison to my peers. I was simply too used to the weight.

Reflecting back, what did my mum see when she saw me carrying an obviously heavy bag and walking tall and upright? She must have worried for my spine and all, but more than that, I think she wanted me to me strong both physically and mentally. The sight of a 7 year old walking straight despite a 7kg school bag, must have made her proud.

Doesn't mean she didn't insist on checking my bag every night to make sure I didn't useless things (like books I didn't need that day, paint brushes, a dictionary AND a thesaurus).

Stand tall - persevere despite the load life constantly adds to us. Don't slouch - don't ever let my guard down, never take the easy way out even when it seems like the best idea at that time with no apparent consequences.

My mum was only 1.50cm, she had to stand taller to be heard by others around her. Being the oldest and also the shortest child, I've seen her carry weights more than her petite frame can manage. She took care of everyone around her, saved and scrimp so that I could have the best. She stood tall, and never found an excuse to slouch.

One of my primary school's is perseverance, and my mum's insistence on my posture, her own demands, revolves around this very idea. As times seem tough at work, I must look back at this anecdote, and remind myself to

Stand tall, don't slouch.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

SG50: what were we celebrating?

Working in marketing, you get bombarded with SG50 requests long before the SG50 ads pop up. Along the way, I also received similar messages of disappointing arguments in parliament on why single mums should not have the sake benefits, the massive breakdown of SMRT, the billions of dollars thrown into the firework sky and the upcoming elections.

Money never looked so beautiful.

Of course, the shadow cast after 9 August includes whispers of the 10% GST behind closed family doors.

I wonder as a Singaporean who left my country on national day, what were we celebrating? Our freedoms and way of life are bound by many factors, our jobs become increasingly difficult for Singaporeans, as graduates find themselves underemployed. Our ways, defined by awesome fried hawker food, the easy commanderie of the wet markets, the diligence to put our heads down to work for a future, are being undermined by ourselves, deleting the absolute sacrifices of those who came before us for our country.

As we desperately hold on to our entitlements, as the "next generation", I cannot help but feel they sacrificed for nothing. Their own parents came to SEA for a better life, will they smile at our livelihoods now? Will they be happy to learn we work 9-8pm everyday? Will they be pleased that we no longer have families to share our bounty with? Will try be comforted to know we are mostly a lonely nation obsessed with screens?
Yet we also deserve a pat on our back, the thousands of civil servants fighting against an impossible system, the millions of good quality-of-life-changing ideas trashed. The muffled voices of those who spoke up, the unwritten parts of our country is perfect, but at least what Hossan Leon sang before, "at least it's interesting".

We throw up fireworks because of spectacle. I also think we are burning the ashes of the unheard, unsung, unrecognised. I know when we sing the national anthem in D major, what we feel about the future really seems more like Ab minor. We worry because we know we can do better - in some strange way for all the merits of LKY's legacy, the pursuit for perfection in combination of gumption to succeed did rub off the rest of us.

My father has been watching the old speeches of LKY, and in all intents and purposes, that man can really rally a crowd. He spoke with sense although his logic might not always be proper, people were ready to listen because he had the art of persuasion down to a tee.

"You will trample over us, over our dead bodies."

As a Singaporean, I feel privileged to be able to speak English flawlessly, to also be able to converse in Mandarin and some French. I travel with my head held high knowing my passport is respected everywhere. As we build Singapore, may we never shield our children from the harshest part of our history, may we never shelter and protect them from the stakes we play to get here. May our children never shy from asking difficult questions about their government, that they may also develop the capacity to express themselves most persuasively. May they be proud of the fact that they can call this ever changing landscape home.

It's a country with many idiosyncrasies, we hold on to those quirks very seriously. We jump into delightful Singlish when we bump into each other abroad. I had a friend who said, "walao, you know I am damn happy to how to see you. Can speak singlish and faster, the angmohs here all have to speak slowly one."

Indeed, our thirst for growth reflects in our speech and efficiency. We compensate our low productivity with long hours, while is a bad thing, nevertheless shows our willingness to still work for it. This is a country of hardworking people who try to make a way.

This is my home, my country, and my (sometimes jin jialat) people. We are not family, for we came from all over and never had a shared identity in the traditional sense of the word. We bond over kopi-o and teh-c siudai. We laugh at our politicians and curse at the rising GST and retirement ages.

I don't wish to whitewash our bitterness as a Singaporean. Anger is important, that fire and passion, tempered by logic and patience for delayed gratification - "for our kids" - is something I never want to let go. I am fiercely proud of my island despite my vast interest in everything and anything anglo-franco phone. We are not nationalistic, as nationalism has never been good for anyone (Nazi Germany anyone?). We are a community of a very small and limited species. For that, we become fiercely protective of our culture and practices because we are the only ones who care enough to do so.

"Welcome to Singapore, and for Singaporeans, welcome home."

I did not celebrate SG50 because Singapore is not 50 years old, our grandparents are older than that and have endured much much more (WWII, and all that).

"Due to track fault, please expect up to 15mins additional travelling time."

To all my fellow Singaporeans, Majulah Singapura. It will take us additional 15 mins to travel in this stuffy train and we will complain like mad, but we endure and move onward.

Of course, we also know in the next coming election, who to blame of this stupid delay. #justsaying

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Being insignificant

When it comes to holiday types, I would say I'm absolutely terrified when it comes to wide open spaces like beaches, mountains and flying through space. At the same time, it is just as thrilling because of the possibilities those vacation types bring. It's also strangely liberating.

For a long time, humans have built cities, where an increasing proportion of people now live in. If we take for a moment to consider architecture and the purpose of a built city, it's extremely anthropocentric. That's a big cheem word for "based on human interests and needs". Things are tailored to our size, our bipedal way of getting around and our comfort. I feel this subconsciously fuels our sense of self-entitlement. That as humans, we become upset when nature throws us off and tears down our buildings, our habitat.

I've gone hiking in the south Germany's Black Forest, and despite my fear for open water, saw the dead coral reefs of Phuket. Both experiences made me extremely small and insignificant.

And that feeling was perfectly wonderful.
People get the feeling of satisfaction because they "conquered" a mountain by scaling it. They take deep dives to see the wonders of the ocean. Technology made all these possible and it's amazing why we've achieved. At the same time, we have a voyeuristic fascination with ship wrecks, being island-stranded where people have no one but themselves to fend against nature, the enemy. We want to maintain our supremacy and like a threatened monarch, we hang on desperately to power at all costs.

I'm not advocating the fact that we go straight into the wilderness and start living again from the cave. Yet, at the same time we should be reminded of our vast insignificance, that all work we do, is human work and we represent very little of the reality in life. Like the late George Carlin would say, "earth will shake us off like a bad case of fleas".

The earth really doesn't need saving, saying this will turn things for the worse. It blinds us to the true fact that we are desperately holding on to our supremacy of this epoch, and saving the earth is really saving ourselves. The frightful thing is that people with money and power have the resources to survive, while the poor and impotent will not. Climate change, is inevitably a problem of poverty in both ethics and economics.

I feel an implacable sense of peace precisely because I am powerless over what is before me. The forces that move mountains will crush my skull in a heartbeat, the waves can dissolve my corpse in a week. That sense of peace is perhaps what Buddha was saying - to consider how life ebbs and flows, and nothing is everything while everything can become nothing. We have to let go our control - our sense of ego.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Emotional vampires

Recently, I met a guy who tried very hard to woo at the beginning, and subsequently called every day (late at night when I'm sleeping geez), and sang love songs to me.

Typical romance, typical brief courtship.

The conversations were not unenjoyable, but I always felt tired at the end of it. It struck me that this guy spoke nothing but his experiences, and when I shared, I could tell he wasn't really listening. He was self-obsessed. People that are like black holes, who suck your energy, that even your light cannot escape from it.

So I, like any other person, went to Google what it means to be around emotional vampires. From Mark Mason(.net):

1. Do you feel that people often don’t (or can’t) understand you or your problems?
Do you feel that there are many barriers in your life which you have no control over?

2. Do you often ask for help from others and/or feel like few people are willing to help you?

3. Do you feel like you often don’t receive the attention or appreciation that you deserve?

4. Do people often complain that you don’t listen to them, when in fact, you feel like they don’t listen to you?

5. Do you feel like most other people have lives that are much easier than yours?

6. Do you fight with close friends and loved ones often?
If so, is it usually their fault?

7. Do people suddenly drop contact with you with no explanation and refuse to communicate with you again?

8. Do you often feel helpless, like you have little opportunity to improve your life?

Interestingly, I answered yes to some of them. So today, I decided to confess to parts of myself that I never acknowledged existed - until today.

(Having said my best friend as a knack for dragging me out of that cesspool of self-pity.)

I'm an emotional vampire too. On deeper reading, I deduced that emotional vampires really only care about themselves and have this vortex of self-entitlement that my problems are more important than others. That my "predicament" is unique. Now I wonder how many people are silently judging when I go into one of oh-my-life-sucks mode.

I think the more people I meet, the more I become self-aware that my mum falling to a stroke, may not actually be the worst problem in the world. I realise that not having a life-partner is not the most important issue. It's easier to consider that our problems are the worst, when many times others are called to fight different demons within their cell of existence.

It's not that "things could be a lot worse". Not that "lucky that life isn't mine". It's not that a stroke is worse than a sprain or a perpetual kidney problem. Rather, recognising the inner strength it takes for each and every one of us to carry on, takes the focus away from myself, is far more a productive way of dealing with my problem than self-wallowing. Ultimately, we've all been there, and because we have, we know the personal triumph needed to overcome obstacles in our lives.

Of course there will be days where we slip and fall, and consider our days the darkest because it really seems so. Of course, we are entitled to be emotional and lean on others a bit. It is a nice feeling to be taken care of, and like that patient who refuses to leave the hospital, getting used to that makes us a burden to others. Eventually, no one likes hanging around a vampire. It's an open market, and people have limited time. Don't waste their time with our inane selfishness.

To those whom I've burdened with my problems, I'm grateful you stuck by my side when at times, I refuse to budge from my sickbed when I'm perfectly well to walk again. I will be stronger, more self-less =) I will be there for you, as you have for me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The person in the mirror

The man in the mirror is often used to illustrate a point that we only need to look inside ourselves to find the change we want.

In reality, the people we interact with are pieces of broken mirrors, reflecting bits and pieces of ourselves. It reminds us of the flaws and goodness within, yet never having the full picture.

On rare occasions someone walks by with a big piece of glass that reflects a whole face, or even a torso and for once one could see how the small pieces of glass fit into our web of existence.

Yesterday I met such a person, whom life's regrets, rants and experience showed me this big piece of my own reflection. Strangely, he didn't have the same experience, he didn't lose his mother, but the sentiment of having survived despite of adversity makes one grow up very quickly. It's also the sense of survivorship, and despite it all we are still hopeful. It also reflected a long struggle of mine - the self pity and swinging between inferior and superior complexity. I have no sympathies, and being more cerebral than others, I often intellectualise a problem. Yesterday in that conversation, I am starting to catch a glimpse of this person....and I understand now why people say I don't listen enough.

It is perhaps not a coincidence that the day I received news of having won an academic medal, I also received a strange call from someone who would also show me the sum of the parts.

Perhaps it's also a reminder that I'm ready to see and be honest with what I see within me. Hubris often prevents us from taking our rose tinted glasses off and admit the ground below is thin ice.

It is also not a complete coincidence that the past week, people have been opening up to me, and how I've been telling them what my counsellor told me a long time ago - it takes great courage to admit you were wrong, you were young, and you made mistakes. Reflection is circular and as much as we listen, sometimes listening to others, we become healed in return.

The pieces of the broken glass now fits and I see my faces within each shard that people in my life have given me. It is not a complete mirror, complete with ornate frames. We are broken and some parts of us cannot mend.

We are also larger than the sum of our parts.

There is no person in the mirror, there are many selves in pieces, some of them we haven't even discovered yet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The letter and the number

People usually say math is a language, and when I was younger at school, it was certainly as impenetrable as Sanskrit.

Fast forward to present times, my finance team struggle to structure a convincing email to ask my clients to pay, and my engineering university mates could not make a symphony out of words even if their lives depended on it.

Are verbal and numerical dexterities really so different, that we cannot grapple with both in tandem?

I suppose with the cheem words I've just used, it might be "yah duh?"

Many of my course mates in geography are put off by statistics, numbers and all sorts of numerical representations. A wall of text is our SOP. I've always found that amusing, because we're so infatuated with the written word, we completely close off ourselves to the other half of the world that speaks a different language. It might take more effort for me to fiddle with numbers and trust me, it wasn't an easy process. However it must be done or we risk alienating ourselves from having meaningful conversations with people very different from us.

On the other bank, people who work primarily with math and equation, can benefit greatly from the swaying power of words. Words behave like a seductive mistress, caressing your subconscious and draws you toward certain outcomes. The directness of math and the poetry of translating that into other aspects that keep our work going, cannot be understood and appreciated if business propositions are not written, emails not crafted and grant applications not filled out.

The sword and the shield are both equally important in battle. Increasingly I'm starting to read numbers and discursively analyse my campaign results by looking beyond the "text" and drawing links between cause and effect. Then explaining using words to rationally lay out the facts while at the same time phrase it in ways where clients can be convinced by both word and number.

We of course cannot straddle both well at the same time. I'm not suggesting we become extremely adept at both. But it's always good to explore what's on the other side and learn what we can to help enrich our own backyard.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Time Pte Ltd

My days have been sort of "opening" up months after my break up. When we revolve so much of our lives around our other half, inevitably, we forget to also spend time with ourselves, or worse still, our friends.

Recently, my social life has been packed - happily so. I've made so many new friends, some whom I've grown very fond of. I've also taken the time to catch up with my past.

Gradually so, I find my time increasingly blocked out (a term I learnt at work), and booked up. I had to turn down appointments, schedule my social life a month in advance. I apologetically have to turn away last minute call-ups, or even sheepishly suggest we meet for an hour when others have already cleared the whole day ahead for me.

It's not that I'm in high demand, or have a super fantastic social life. Neither am I popular (oh heaven forbid). However, it's kind of a snowball effect when you start meeting people, and before you know it, people want to meet you. How do we prioritise? I find myself in a position where I would love to meet everyone, but have very little time. I wish my pockets are as deep as time and I wished time was as plentiful as my will.

I also have to constantly remind myself to give time to myself - my "me" time to replenish and recharge. Usually when I feel obligated to meet someone, it's usually a sign that I need time out. It's not necessarily a sign that the person is a bore or a chore, just that I don't have the emotional and mental capacity to deal with him/her today. Battery at 20% doesn't function well.

Time is private and limited, more so if we treat time as currency, to selfishly hoard and traded, we will become more mindful of the things we do and who we do them with. Recently I choose my time with those that rejuvenate me, rather than those that drain.

"Where got time?"

In Mandarin, we say time is "dug out" (抽出来). It's true, time is given, blocked out, offered up because we value something that grows within the time spent with each other. It makes no sense to spend it on people who demand all of it but give nothing in return.

That's what I call a bad investment.

Monday, May 4, 2015

What is a bad choice?

Yesterday's conversation got me thinking about choices, namely bad ones, that we see our friends make that we know will adversely affect their lives.

What's a choice? For me, it's a decision we make where there's more than 1 outcome. So that's the objective definition, but when we add judgement, good/bad, the normative value measure becomes harder to define.

To the person making the choice, it may seem good while to opinion of others, they see nothing but disaster coming. This may be proven true, at the same time, there's a chance that the "bad" choice turns out to be admirable foresight with the benefit of hindsight.

At the heart of the issue, the very core of it, is information. Any good business decision is made with having credible information translated into usable knowledge. It is the same with our personal lives as well, how do we know that our choices will most likely turn out well, is the kind of credible and reliable information from people around us who have themselves gone through similar experiences, or have friends who had, and are also sincere in sharing their knowledge without the necessary exaggerations.

We hear of stories of people who "despite all" went with "their gut" and did the thing they wanted anyway. There's an incredible amount of (*cough defensive) people who use this as an excuse to ignore the wise counsel of their loved ones (people like me actually). I never for a moment these successful people were that wise and far sighted to have made it on their own. It is human to be insecure and doubt, and I am convinced that they must have a close circle of friends or family whom they trust to have affirmed or advised them along the way. "Despite all", I feel refers to the group of haters-gotta-be-haters who delight from the failure of others. I mean, honestly I could hardly acknowledge that as proper advice.

So if it's knowledge and information (wisdom and knowledge) that allows us to make choices, and with the best possible outcome, then why do so many of us resist the advice of (wiser) others?

What makes us so damn defensive?

Off the top of my head? The truth hurts. It stings in a special place that reminds us we are human and we actually don't really know any better. In this society where knowledge is just a Google away, where instagram and facebook tells us we're awesome with a couple of likes, arrogance is at an all time high. We cannot relent to the fact that we are weak, stumbling and sometimes need others to pick ourselves up.

So we rather make bad choices and hope for a good outcome so we can be comfortable in the ostrich-sized hole we dug for ourselves. It's the very definition of insanity, doing something over and over again in hopes of a different outcome.

The second reason I fear why people reject good advice to make good choices, is simply that we think our thoughts are more 'correct' than others. This is especially prevalent in people who have done well in life and continue to do so in spite of their own mistakes. It's again, arrogance that gives us this false cocoon. Friends who give advice suddenly find themselves devalued, because their ideas, which may be perfectly sound, are drowned out by the person who out-reason, out-articulate them. Of course, our friends can always speak better, have better logic, but the concern and their partial experience should nevertheless be respected enough for us to give some measure of thought.

We often make choices at critical cross roads, and I've believed for a long time (blame it on Marvel) that in the long run, those choices make who we are. We don't necessarily have all the information, nor wisdom, to make choices that we can be sure if. Sometimes people on the outside see it clearer because they have critical distance, and being less emotionally vested allows for clarity of a unique kind. The kind that see things for what they are, and may even offer other insights hidden from us due to our cloud if passion and self-centeredness.

At the end of the day, while we walk alone in this path, we are not alone in the forest. Seek counsel of the trees, at least listen and consider, for they are there to shelter you. Those trees are our friends, concerned colleagues and family. And they are tall in experience to know what's ahead, or at least know what's above your head. It is true there are falsehoods amongst those who stand with you, the only way we know is to gain lessons from mistakes moving forward and gradually we can tell the trees apart, from the young saplings who know little, to the wise knores of willows who can and will guide.

Try not to let a couple of bad trees dissuade you from making the best choices to the best possible outcome, even when the outcome may not be immediately apparent. Don't miss the forest for the trees, don't mistake and blame the messenger for the message.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

What keeps you going today?

Good morning fellow salaried citizens,

As I ride the train to work, between the impossible squeeze and torrid weather, I ask myself, what drags me out of bed every morning at 6.30am?

Is it the endless bills and debts I've accrued, or the nagging worry that I might not have enough for my old age? Or is it my aging parents whom I have to support, or the pride in being part of the "working force"?

What keeps us going?

I have long doubted the career I'm in, and I thought I was alone. And then I spoke to many of my peers and many don't seem to know what they are going about either. We seem to bumble along, finding the next opportunity to skip and hop, until we finally find the sweet spot we could then finally settle - if we're lucky.

Many of my peers express a reluctance to go to work in the morning, and display a similar degree of joy when there's a public holiday or when a long leave break is coming up.

We work for survival, we work to keep ourselves financially afloat - our eyes shine when we see the monthly paycheck come in, only to also have it shine in tears when it flows down the drain within the same month.

So back to my question, what keeps us going?

For some, it's their family and children, the exchange of money to bring their families comfort gives them a sense of pride and responsibility. The insurmountable fulfilment you can give. Yet others are content with the material pleasures their money brings, the occasional pamperings and having freedom to be able to buy almost anything they'll like. Those that work for peanuts, and also asked to perform like monkeys who see themselvew work for a higher cause. They plough through the dirty and demeaning because they know their work holds purpose. It is duty that carries them through.

What do I work for? Honestly I don't know. Most times, it's auto-pilot that I wake up 6.30am, collect my paycheck on the 23 of every month, and pay my bills shortly a week after. Other times I relish in the warm companionship of my colleagues, and think "life isn't so bad". Some times I walk down the CBD feeling lucky to have a full time position here where it all happens. On rare instances, when shit hits the fan and there's no cover, I am filled with doubts if this brittle façade is really something that brings me joy and happiness.

A job, in all intents and purposes, does not bring joy. What does bring us fulfilment, is knowing who we are working for, who we are working with, and ultimately it's all about the people you meet and care for. I find it exceedingly idealistic when someone said "find a job you're passionate in". Yes, nonetheless it's true, we should find a job we are at least somewhat passionate in, but not because the job will make you happy, but because you'll join a community of like-minded individuals. People who speak and listen like you, they may even dress like you, or see things the same way. You will never have to work another day, if your work is surrounded by supportive individuals who make the workplace home as much as your own family does. It is a feeling of belonging we crave when we work in an industry that we're passionate in.

I wake up every morning because there's something to solve, a goal to work towards to. I push through the fog of sleep because I know there are people at work who understands the difficulties I'm facing, who have the same wavelength as I. Some days are harder than most, and until the day when most days are harder than some, I see myself keeping calm and carrying on.

It's the little things that get to you, the alarm in in the morning, the tough times in the office. But hang in there, and soldier on, you are not alone. We are all in this huge foreign world together.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The pursuit of peace

I think mundane every-day history, revealed that we are a very unrestful race. From Buddha's journey to find nirvana - the state of everlasting peace and serenity - to Judeo-Christian doctrine to find peace amongst ourselves and in God, this illustrious quality in life have always been overshadowed by the more positive, more active pursuit of happyness.

Happyness - a state of elation, fulfillment and satisfaction. It is a state where one seeks to be happy, to perform actions to then achieve that state. Like a good panadol, the effects are immediately felt, no matter long difficult the journey it took to get there.

However there is always a sense of uneasiness. How long will happiness last? And like the musical Wicked reminds us, at what cost? What whose cost did we pay or others near and dear have to pay for this?

Ultimately life will always throw a wrench in our plans, and happiness and sadness come and go. Perhaps active states are not what we look for, but a state of being still in the midst of rushing water. It is not the same as relenting to one's fate, but to do what we can and accept whatever the consequences that occur that are out of our power to control.

I have given what I could to A job, and if the rewards are still not justified by industry standards, then that is out of my control. Instead of vexing over say, the lost of my memory (an entirely senior moment) that cost my team time and money, we can choose to be let the mistake go and learn from it. To find peace with myself is to learn how to let go all recognition and blame, to understand to some extend we are responsible and the rest was all up to the incalculable odds of probability.

Peace to me, are the little things in life - the mundane mistress of the everyday the gives us strength to take it 1 day at a time. It is an especially elusive mistress because our everyday is filled with distractions that clouds her presence and like a perfectly concealed optical illusion, we only see because we are in the right frame of mind.

A friend once told me she felt being successful in life is to be a peace. It might seem odd - but not anymore now after more thought because all the money and power cannot trade in for a good night's sleep. It is far more difficult than happiness and it is also no surprise we often relate happiness and peace, the twins of what we really want in life.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A lesson in the vocabulary of Empathy

These couple of days, I find myself being on the other end of a listening ear - career troubles, personal woes, insecurities and the like. It struck me how far I've come along, to be able to just listen and take in everything when just a week ago, I was doing everything but.

I have been accused of not being able to listen, and more so not being able to understand. I think this habit of judging is masked under the excuse of problem solving, when in fact I find it comfortable to judge from afar and dissociate myself from the situation. When it comes to problems that need solving, such an attitude is at an advantage. However, when it comes to putting myself in other people's shoes, all I could do was to critique how the colour of the socks goes wrongly with the shoes.

I think yesterday and today, I took a different step - I have decided to be more aware of what the person's trying to tell me. A good friend of mine told me, that people often know the answers for the questions they ask, and when they reach out, they really are just looking to you to understand and in their moment of weakness, lean on you.

It's true, and on hindsight, my friends often have decided their course of action and my "advice" is affirming and supportive - and while I may not agree, ultimately it's something that I keep in private. It is their time to speak, and so I've learn that keeping silent about my own opinions about their course of action is not essential, it is mandatory. It is the same, when I seek others for help - the last thing I want is a break down of 10 other ways I could have managed the situation better. I seek for comfort and understanding - a friendly hug and a warm smile to tell me everything is going to be okay.

It's the vocabulary of empathy that I need to build - amongst my linguistically ones, because ultimately people communicate with each other with more than just words.

I've chosen to act differently today - to share my stories when someone is sharing with me how hard it is to work-study a degree at the same time. I've chosen to show support and belief in a friend who feels that his career is going nowhere because of a glass ceiling. I've chosen to be thankful that they confided in me, and not take that trust and betray it by instilling my opinions of them which may hinder their spiritual recovery. I've chosen to be kind - and it took me a long way to finally realise what it means to listen.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Our culture is novelty.

When I just broke up, my aim in life is suddenly stunted because plans we used to make together, are now made apart. The loss is as painful as the knowledge that it is necessary to abandon the path once forged together. Like my very wise driving instructor used to tell me, "our basic instinct is to survive, to give up - now that's something we have to learn."

So give up I have, and moving on I shall. And in true Yoda fashion, I pledge to write again and while finding a topic to comment upon, an article about the frequent SMRT breakdowns struck me.

Mr Desmond Kuek, President and Group Chief Executive Officer of SMRT, added: “We apologise for the rail incidents over the past week. Our transport professionals are giving their all to make your journey a better one. The SMRT team will stay focused on safety and reliability improvements as we work to renew Singapore’s ageing rail network to the benefit of our commuters."


Honestly, it's such a joke to call our rail network ageing when it's barely 40 years old. I don't know SMRT's definition of old, but I'm pretty sure we can all agree that 40 years in public transportation years is hardly a prick in the fabric. I am of course not here to find fault (hahaha geddit) with SMRT, but that phrase struck me about Singapore and our obsession with The New.

Even our Chinese phonetic translation of the Malay word Singapura - Singapore, has 新, which pretty much means new.

Our history is riddled with renewal and more specifically, the expulsion of what came before for what is coming. The British and the indigenous community, Raffles's schemes to establish a British trading port by out-manoeuvring the Malay royalty's influence. The current history (of you know who and what) also echoes of such patterns of supersucession and our people are immigrants embracing change of a better life.

This current hipster movement, to cherish the old through the commodification of items past their practical use - to memorialise childhoods that no longer apply to your own children is both a symptom and a cause of our own approach to cope with a culture who never knew how to cope with anything but being "new".

We see the old in contempt, our children chase the latest gadgets, our cars have an expiry date of 10 years, employment restructuring takes place a every 15 years, a rail network is considered old at 40.

We are a nation who are not obsessed with the new, because it suggests that we are shifting from the old to the new. Truth is, new is all we ever knew. We don't know how to cope with the old. What do you do with old bits of history? CHIJMES. What do you do with old memories? Who needs them? In our school textbooks, heritage is taught as a  duty, to keep the old as something inherently valuable and as a culture where new is all we ever know, we cannot resonate with such a concept. We were never taught why it was valuable because that would raise awkward questions about how some things are done...If you get my drift.

Our solution to old things is to demolish, refurbish and gentrify. We wipe the slate because there is so little resistance and start anew. I think there is also a sense of arrogance because we measure time and chart changes within our lifespan, I don't think we stopped to consider that some things will exist beyond us. We also find a constant need for the "new and improved" - and we are intolerant to quirks that old things bring.

What does it say about how we treat our old? What does it say about how we maintain relationships once they are past their due? What kind of stories will our children hear, and in turn tell their own children?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Losing someone and hanging on

There are some people in our lives, we want to desperately hold on to, whether it's a friend, a lover or a co-worker. It hurts more for someone to leave us, than for us to leave someone behind.

So we try, very hard, to hang on to them, do everything within our power to make them stay, or have them connect with you. Mostly we will fail, and the emptiness that ensues haunts us for the length of days.

Perhaps people leave us for a reason, reasons that are not apparent to us yet. Maybe when people walk out of our lives, they are doing us a favour - to teach us an important lesson we must learn, and to take that lesson forward so we might become better people. We always see loss as a negative thing, something to be avoided at all cost. I want to think of it as renewal of our lives - as we change, so do the people around us.

For a long time, I have moved on from a lot of people, and many people have moved on from me too. Those that stay with me, are a few whom I had the fortune of growing together - although our paths are different, but we are all roots of the same tree.

It will always hurt to let someone go - especially someone you cared deeply about. It's even harder to let someone go knowing they are in pain, they are hurting because of you, and to cut out contact with those whom you once shared a life with. Saying goodbye is can be meaningful and it will always be something we carry in our hearts. They are landmarks through the course of our lives, to identify the pivotal moments where we've changed, and the adversities we're gone through. We may say goodbye to our old selves and the people we used to associate with, because our life view changes.

There are some goodbyes that are forced upon us, be it a heart break or a death of someone we love dearly. It is a painful and permanent reminder that life is too short to not give thanks to those we have around us presently, and to cherish each and everyone who walked in our lives.

 Don't cry because it's gone, smile because it happened.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How do I find meaning in happiness

Before I start, the title might somewhat be misleading because you might think that it's a self-help type of post. In actual fact, it's the exact opposite.


How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 8 that,
My bodyweight was not perfect.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 12 that,
My results were never good enough to go into a school I wanted.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 16 that,
The best of friends will turn you away because they couldn't take your truths.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 17 that,
The friends later regret because you were a threat to them.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 18 that,
I was good enough just to be the best, but I wasn't good enough for the rest.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 19 that,
My family will never be able to afford me to fulfil my dreams.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 19 that,
Very same year I blamed my family, I would also lose my mum.

I regret.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 20 that,
The people supposed to support you have instead betrayed you and broke your family apart.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 21 that,
My first brush with society out there was a lawyer who cheated my family's money.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 22 that,
All the hard work I've put in, will never amount to being bright enough to be accepted.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 23 that,
People can lie to you with smiles on their faces.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 24 that,
Most men only want to selfishly feel good about themselves.

How do I find meaning in happiness,
When all I've ever known when I was 25 that,
I've driven away the very person who made me undoubtedly happy in all other ways.

All the years, all these timesites,
I've forgotten how to find meaning in happiness.

All the people in my life in the past and present,
Have all tried to show me more than sadness,
And yet all I could think of was self-pity.

Simply because I did not know how to find meaning in happiness.

Misery loves company, and I think I've become so familar with sadness, disappointment and betrayals, it is easier to self-blame and pin it on "just another lesson to learn" than to truly live in the moment and be happy about it.

I build walls to keep my feelings to myself because I assumed no one will understand me. When someone is reaching out - it is far more familiar to judge from afar, blame from afar, and solve the problem than to make myself vulnerable to the other. To feel together.

I'm afraid to feel - because most of my life, I've only felt pain. Subconsciously my mind drives me to enjoy pain, and suffer pleasure because I can deal with the former but the latter scares me. I felt undeserving, that happiness - after all I've experienced - is something that only happens to other people. I've hurt so much since my mum's illness, that I was resigned to a lifetime of melancholy.

What if I am disappointed again? What if I'm hurt again? What if one day, I can no longer pick myself up again? What if people tell me I'm not good enough?

All the what-ifs and why-me have manifested itself into this formidable fortress, fortified with pride and intellect, it has driven people away either in fear or in awe. It has cost me dearly, and this time I am paying the price of it. I deserve to be happy, to love, to feel, to empathise, to open myself and let others in.

I long to feel one day, to make my life slightly messy because it's worth it.

Some people, are worth it. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015


A heart break is a literal thing - it's not a metaphor as much as it is a richly accurate description of the pain and disappointment when one goes through it. It doesn't always refer to the complications one faces in or at the end of a romantic relationship, but also the end of a life of someone we love, or the separation of two siblings, friends or comrades.

It is easy to become angry with the world, turn cynical and bitter at how life has treated us - and become even more angry at ourselves because of this innate helplessness we feel when we realise circumstances beyond our control has brought us to this state. We want to receive the help when friends tell us "let me know if I can do anything", we assert ever more agency in light of situations that are going out of control. It demands that we act, do, wield power over the mess of the nuclear fallout. It insists that we take control over things.

When it comes to affairs of the heart, we become stunted because we cannot control, cannot act, what more do. Instead of doing, we have to listen - to our friends and those who will be there for us. To take in not only the words of comfort, but the extension of compassion from a human being to another. Knowing that someone will be there for us, regardless of our mental state is something I will try never to take for granted. The wait will be painful and the nights will be harsh. Our minds will itch for a solution, or a resolution and our hearts will want closure. I found peace with myself after I relinquished the desire to want a person back. I could have wished ill for the people that left me, but isn't holding on to anger much like drinking poison but expecting the other person to die (from Buddha)? Detachment from another person is painful - my mum's stroke taught me that, and it's giving up part of you and understanding that you'll never get it back. So don't - let it go, and the part that grows from you again will be beautiful as well.

I think I'm starting to understand the sayings of Buddhism a lot more now, and appreciate the value of  letting go of desire. Nothing is truly permanent and attachment to things and people become a drug where the withdrawal is twice as much as the initial pain. Pain is there for a reason, it tells us something bad has happened to our body, it forces chemical reactions to start the healing process. Why should our minds be any different. Perhaps the break in the heart is there to tell us that some part deeper in our consciousness needs healing - and the situations that we're undergoing now are symptoms manifesting because somehow we've reached a threshold of tolerance. The dam is breaking, so let it flood our eyes. Let us ride out the pain and then let it go for all to heal. Forgive our mistakes, and all our past wrong-doings for we were not wise enough as today to see what the consequences of our actions have caused. We are wiser today, and will continue to be wiser tomorrow . And even if the mistakes is committed again, we can only tell ourselves we have chosen not to learn, and we have to learn to cope with that choice.

These 2 weeks have been rough - having relationship problems where the end seems nigh, and my mum hospitalised for pneumonia with her life hanging on oxygen for now. It seems that everything that can go wrong has. It doesn't help that my father is overseas and the one I used to turn to is facing personal issues of his own. But over the days, I've realised from the nuggets of conversations with my friends, we are all going through our own wars - and they have given me their time and love to help me through mine. I'm eternally grateful and thankful for the support my friends, and colleagues during these trying times. Encouragement can be hollow from those who do not mean well. It is twice as hurting to hear from someone who asks you "how are you?" only to have to give an obligatory answer that "I'll be okay". The question is not an invitation for us to open our hearts, but an assurance for the person who asked the question that their universe is still okay. My universe is not okay - not now, and I'm beyond giving a damn to give the obligated answer that I'm "okay". Real friends don't want to know you're okay, they know when you are okay.

To borrow a quote from the motto of Paris, "Fluctuat nec mergitur" - Il est agité par les vagues, et ne sombre pas. To translate the french translation of the latin phrase it simply means: she is tossed by the waves but does not sink. We're all bumbling along, with only stars for navigation on a good day, and the rest of the times we are constantly changing courses. Life is pointless that way, I guess the only thing I can really come to terms with, is just to enjoy the ride and the view while it lasts.