A Year’s Learnings.

Last October, I set a new one-year goal. Periodically I evaluate my own life decisions and identify the areas of growth and knowledge I seek to live the life I believe in. This time last year I was lonely and tired, with my graduation certificate in my hands. I had silently went through 3 years, bit my lip through long painful days, without failing any modules. My situation back then gave me an opportunity to realise what I’ve neglected – my mental well-being, emotional responses as well as my relationships. The fact is they impact one another. With that, I told myself to be in touch with myself again and for one year, I will be patient. I will work on my distant relationships with myself, my family and my friends.

Becoming distant was not a choice I made. It was the consequence of the hunger and pursuit of professional progress and excellence. I took up a degree without financial support, taking a loan that I refuse to spend my life paying. I gave myself 1-3 years to pay my debt. I wasn’t willing to compromise on job experience so I took up challenging career roles that could, on hindsight, damage me if I was to slack on my dilligence, ethics, and reputation. I earned enough to pay my monthly bills. I learnt a lot, in marketing, in friendships, from other people and I modified some of my values and mentality. I realised the importance of having resillience – also that grit – to so desperately want to make things happen. That no matter what others say of you, it is not true until you agree. I am more convicted that only I, have the power to determine the person I am and want to be. We don’t know what we are able to do until we are left with that one choice.

There are people that gained clarity on life upon knowledge of chronic disease, illnesses or disability to themselves. I find it a blessing that I had embrace the knowledge or death and uncertainty of circumstances at a younger age. That allowed me to see what mattered to me. I want to make an impact, in people’s lives, no matter how small the gesture. I want to share my learnings, and the learnings others share with me, with more people. I believe my life purpose is to create. Among all other things I want to create, I started small, and finally created a blog – this blog.

Call it ignorance or complacence, I neglected my favorite hobbies as a kid. I used to paint and draw for hours and that is practically the only thing that could make me focus and remain wordless for hours. I thought it was a useless gift because in Singapore, that cannot earn you enough dough to feed myself, needless to say, a family in the future. Then I realised, there are so many parts of us that make us up. After 9 years, I took up a pencil and a brush again and started creating. I realised what I was missing, and what made me fall in love with it as a kid. It is a communication channel, a form of expression that is universal. While creating you speak to yourself, you ask yourself what colors to put in, how detail you want the strokes to be, how precise you want your artwork to replicate the real thing. I became effortlessly happy, appreciating some of the mundane surroundings which I’ve overlooked for years, found back my love for nature and I became present.

Becoming present was the most valuable lesson I relearned. It is not difficult yet easily forgotten in the fast paced economy. To me, being present is the root of appreciation. Being present is doing what you can at the moment to change whatever you didn’t like about your life. Being present is not procrastinating, being decisive when you can yet being yielding when it comes to situations we can’t change immediately. The fact is we cannot make things significantly better overnight, but being present means being honest with yourself – where you are at and where you ideally want to be.

I neglected my emotional well-being, working until 3am in the morning on some days and 10pm on the other days. On those days I end at 10pm, it is because my office building have a lights-off policy. I either went back to continue my work, or did my school work and projects. My weekends were spent in front of my Macbook, scooping whatever food that was placed in front of me, having conversations with my significant other and the TV playing in the background. I met my close friends once a year, and I forgot what it is like to shop in a mall. I was constantly stressed out, snapping at many whoevers and whatevers that hindered my work. I slept on sofas on most of the days, was on the phone with clients in the taxi, did my make-up in the car and my phone messages are left unanswered for days, until I decided it was time to rest. This one year, I took things slower, trained a little more patience, and had more time to listen. I realised how emotional well-being impacted my physical state – I was constantly sick. I also notice the changes in my loved ones attitude towards me – nonchalence. I refined my understanding towards my ideal mental and physical states and the importance of them.

Like I said, I neglected my relationships. I wasn’t there to listen when my family and friends needed me. I wasn’t there to solve any misunderstandings and unhappy feelings of my loved ones. I didn’t regret my decision to take that path, but I deeply regreted my failure to be present on special occasions, even though I never fail to remember and wish them. It hit me really hard one day in my 2nd year of school, when my closest friends didn’t wish me on my birthday, and the enthusiasm level visibly dropped each year for 3 years. I learnt. This one year, I dedicated myself to be present for every meet up. Initiating messages and meet-ups with them, reassuring that I’m not doing this because I got into a sales line. I focussed on regaining their trust. After this year of change, I feel much more fulfilled. That translated into a healthier mental and physical state. I’m still improving until this day. It is not as quick as I would like, but I believe thet will become ideal again, following with maintaining them with consistency and patience. Regardless of how difficult conversations might be, I will go through them. Through heated disucssions and sometimes tears, I learnt that although peole can be brought together by common interests and preferences, true friendships require much more. The people you can talk to and hit it off does not mean your friendships will be strong. True, strong friendships are made. They are made through effort, time and translating that into shared experience and memories. True friends are not perfect conversationalists or exceptional intellectual exchanges, but they are uniquely forged by two people who genuinely care about each other. They stand the strongest through time and adversity, and the individual differences make each member valuable. Besides friends, I was thankful to the unconditional love my parents have shown throughout despite co-inhabiting with an explosive robot, triggered by the sound of her own name. I will continue to strive for understanding from me, and to me, with my parents. They are my only pair and will always be.

It’s not a valuable lesson if there’s no change. It’s not a sustainable change without an attempt to make it a habit. It’s no longer a one-year goal. I will now continue to love – myself, my family and my friends – better, and with more strength and courage.

 

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Unsettled.

I love learning. I love to gain wisdom. I love to grow wiser. It’s not about book smarts or general intelligence. It’s the wisdom of attaining happiness. Happiness and success. I can’t stand being stagnant. I need to keep moving. Keep going. Rest and keep going. Life has so much to offer, and choosing to just feel contentment forever is a pity.

I can’t imagine settling for a partner that will never crave or seek improvement in life. No matter how slow I go, I never want to stop. I don’t want someone who stops midway and wants to sit down forever on the side of the path because he’s walked enough. I would love someone that’s able to walk on a similar pace, someone that takes care of himself well to walk the journey, someone that’s able to run together, slow down together, enjoy the flowers together and talk endlessly about the sun and the stars together. Someone that during the nights even when we don’t see where we’re going, or when the road is seemingly endless, he holds my hand and shares my optimism, and shows his courage to walk uncommon roads. Someone that seeks out new passions, attempts to understand the shades, highlights and colors of life. Someone that seeks depth in understanding me. 

And a partner that aboveall, chooses to love me every single day. That’s the one I wanna be with. Because marriage isn’t the end goal, marriage is a mere promise. Spending a lifetime together and experiencing all that life has to offer, that’s what I want. It’s not a goal. It’s a process, and I want to be able to choose this person everyday. That’s beauty, that’s happiness, and that’s the ultimate wisdom I seek.

P.S. Pardon typos and grammars. It has yet to be vetted.

Homemade.

Nothing beats homemade curry rice by my father on a rainy day.

Literally nothing.

Except maybe my mother’s omelette with long beans.

The understated notes of black pepper and paprika, loaded with curry powder and onions, you could taste from the potatoes cooked till the right ‘doneness’. (In my family, everything has a certain type of doneness, even potatoes). My parents are amazing. We fight, we disagree, we annoy the hell out of each other and it’s not always smooth sailing, but I love them to bits.

Mummy is quite the feisty one, she grew up in challenging situations and she figured out her life independently. She was harsh, she challenged me, but made me as independent as her. I would describe our relationship kind of like tough love. She taught me sometimes the person with the harshest words love you the most. The one who taught me how to protect myself yet protected me when odds were not in my favor. The one who wrote my Chinese words for me to submit but then made me write another page to show her that I learned. The one who showed me Chinese was not intimidating and made me passionate about it. Her who sacrificed her youth and drive to raise us to adults.

Daddy is quite the non-confrontational one. The peacekeeper. The one who would draw with me when I cannot figure out how to draw ducks at 4 years old. The one that would ask and understand my exploratory paintings even when it looks like strange streaks of color. The one that would fetch me to school. The one that would wake up to wake me up. The one who shows me acts of service makes love the real deal. The one that shows me he does it, not because he thinks I cannot do it but wants to genuinely show his concern. He inspires me to be humble and appreciative. He cooks great meals, but he almost never cooks. My mother used to cook frequently, and each time he shows his eagerness to enjoy my mum’s cooking. He taught me sacrifice, because I learned that his family is his duty. He used to play the guitar, but I’ve only seen him played once when I was a kid.

Each day I learn more about my parents. I understand them more. I’m glad I never gave up on communicating, despite how difficult it was at various phases. Because of them, I understood what love is to me.

Love is consistent, anything else, that is not love.

Love is a series of deliberate choices, moments, consistent considerations, that you show each other, and thereby translating to bulks of good, positive feelings. It is not induced by feelings, it induces feelings.

Love is not winning, if you see her upset.

It is not instant – like the moment you get together – that’s being a pushover. It’s an understanding. It wouldn’t happen overnight, people fight, quarrel and learn each other’s boundaries. We learn by being honest with each other. Teach each other that aggression is toxin to the soul, accept and make a conscious effort to want to work it out with them.

Love is understated, classy and timeless.

Love is not always showy and grand. They disguise themselves as nags, reminders and bland food, if they make you the better person you want to be. Love volunteers their services even if it sometimes means going out of their way to make your life a little better. They also end it with a smile. Or perhaps, a pouty glare or rolling eyes when we fucked up, but still solves the problem and laugh at your silliness together at the end of the day. They always kiss you goodnight. It withstands time because they won’t change in their quality of love. And we never take it for granted.

The best kind of love makes you feel warm, and yet you received it delicately like it is soft and fluffy. It fills you up, like you got a fresh set of lives on Super Mario, and leave you with smiles of satisfaction. Perhaps, just like the most perfect meal I could ask for – curry chicken rice and omelette with long bean.

Mother.

Too much you bothered,

About the dust the house gathered.

“What about the messy drawer?”

“We’ll talk about that later.”

I’ve brought your favorite flowers,

Please focus on getting better.

The rest shouldn’t matter,

‘Cause this is your day, my Mother.

Steps.

Don’t feel pressured,

Take your time.

For no one should dictate,

The pace of your life.

Irate.

Small portrait it is,

Takes me a week.

It pains my wrist,

To finish a tweak.

She kept my brushes,

Obsessed with organisation.

Armed with kindness,

And the best intentions.

But artists hate it,

When their tools are kept,

It is symbolic,

Their inspiration trapped in a shed.

Infant.

Like a loved canine,

So patient and kind.

Cares for details so very fine,

Nurtures my mind – it’s quite a grind.

Father of mine,

He’s 69.

Intent.

Like a sister from another father,

She wanted you.

Like a lover from another timeline rather,

She craved you.

Like a mother you couldn’t bother,

She only had you.

Impassioned.

I don’t understand how someone could express my thoughts half a century earlier and double a dozen times clearer.

I frequently mentioned that if I had a choice, I would choose to be born a boy. However I wasn’t given that choice and I always believed in taking things in stride. I’ve appreciated what I’ve been given and never considered being anything less than a woman, except, I believe in female strength and equality. As kids, we were all told to have our own big dreams and creating our special impact in this world we co-exist in. Somewhere though, I believe things went a little awry and people conform to stereotypes, stereotypes of race, gender. People were told where they belong and how to be themselves.

Standing at 5 foot 2, I came from a protective Asian family with siblings one to two decades older and my parents, almost 3 times older. The following quote sits especially well with me.

“Yes, my consuming desire is to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, barroom regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all this is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always supposedly in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yes, God, I want to talk to everybody as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night…

– Sylvia Plath

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