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Episodes of disjointed thoughts;

-All stories begin with an end-

A chapter in the life I have known for the past 1.5 years has come to a close, and I’m beginning a new chapter starting from July. I will be embarking on a two-year masters programme in public policy; whilst it has been a programme that I was eyeing ever since I was in my final year of my undergrad studies, deciding to take up the admissions offer was arguably the biggest decision I had made in the last ten years of my life. It was also a decision that took every fiber of bravery I had in me, and even till now, I am still filled with trepidation, and apprehension for what lies ahead. I know that the path ahead will not be easy, and I find myself wondering about what could have been. But life simply is too short for such regrets, and I do know that it was the correct decision– people have to make all sorts of sacrifices while chasing their dreams, and I have only learned it now. So I told myself, it’s ok to be scared; be scared, but do it anyway.

– Prices we pay-

Increasingly I am also of the opinion that there are no such theories as “wasted experiences”, because we take different things with us as we trudge along. With every decision we make, the ripples of water will never be the same again, and I believe that the heart, and the guts know what is right. A part of me keeps asking “what if”, and also wonders if I should have waited a little more; but somehow, events have transpired in a way that led me to believe that if I had waited a little more, I would have missed the boat; the rest of my life has yet to be lived, and if I were to turn back now, does this mean that my conviction had been worth little right from the start? I refuse to succumb, and give up; I can’t give up now; not when I’m so close. Sometimes I think my stubbornness will be the death of me, but perhaps we all need an obstinate streak every now and then, to remind us that youth is on our side. Furthermore, if we were to drill it down to the basics, most things in life have an opportunity cost, and when we decide on an option, the doors to others are automatically rendered unavailable. What’s more insidious is that many fail to notice the price for getting what we want, is getting what we once wanted. Human nature dictates that we shall never be satiated and we will always continue looking forward to the next journey in the horizon that looms ahead.

-Nostalgia and the lost years- 

I had dinner recently, with a very special friend from long ago, and as we sat along the Singapore River, we started reminiscing about times long gone. It was a beautiful night, with the gentle winds caressing our faces; there were people, but the crowd wasn’t rowdy. As we sat there, he suddenly mentioned something about the alignment of stars, and how there’s a right time for everything. I wanted to add that while the stars do align, the heart must also find it in itself to say that yes, it’s the right time to accept the love/the opportunities that came along. We laughed and said that the undergrad years felt like they had belonged to the memories of a different life, where we both had been younger, chirpier and our hearts were not yet, so gray and old. I will always remember that night, because for that few hours, I had my friend back. The glow of the night, and the stepped paths along the river formed the contours of a liminal space, a space where the years that came between us were non-existent. Then you snap back into reality and realised that time has once again robbed us of our guileless gaze.

-Seasons out of time-

Time has been a perennial, and yet ephemeral figure in my life for the past six months. Earlier this week, I had a conversation on time and seasons, and how there’s a time and tide for things, and for the issues that the human mind cannot comprehend, we leave it to the hand of fate, or to the big guy up there. I admit that I’ve always prided in the wonders of human agency, and that humans are ultimately the main actors of their lives. But increasingly I’ve come to realise the limitations of such fallacious thinking, and I’ve also started to pay more attention to the role of luck in life. Perhaps it is true, as what my love had told me, that luck will always be with those who are destined to succeed. I don’t think I will ever stop wondering otherwise, but perhaps it’s time for me to accept that there’s a reason why things happen, why we feel it’s important that this happened and not that; perhaps it’s even true to say that our own biological clock is able to finger the pulses of time and seasons more acutely than our constructed, rational minds can.

So once again, I’m left with more questions, and a lingering anticipation for what has yet to come. Be still my heart, and never cower, for difficulties and challenges also lead you closer to who you can be.

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Cry heart, but never break.

It’s only the third week of 2017 and I feel like I’ve aged by ten years. I wasn’t joking when I hoped that 2017 would be a year of growth and more learning, but the fact that the last two weeks have been one of the most trying periods of my life, both physically and emotionally is no joke. It’s only the third week of 2017 and I’ve gone through several emotional upheavals, realising that trust between two people is extremely fragile and can be severed anytime. That’s when I knew, forgiveness does not come easily to me. The capacity to forgive comes from the heart of a person who is able to let things go, and that takes a great deal of sacrifice, understanding and empathy. It demands for you to be greater than your being, and to separate yourself from the person who was originally hurt by it. This sounds meta, and I do not know how to describe it either.

Over the past week, I had a chance encounter with death too, with the passing of my grand uncle. That was when it dawned upon me that no matter how hard one tries to reconcile oneself with the reality of death, that death is a part of life and not apart from life, it still hurts when it confronts you in the face. I thought I was alright. I remembered hearing the news, and feeling half dazed; but that was about it. I looked at his serene face and I said my silent goodbye; I was alright. However tears started welling when I saw his family members bid goodbye to him, and a wave of emotions just swept my resolution away, and I wept. Silently, I tried to imagine what it must be like, to feel things from their perspective. A wife who has lost her cherished partner of fifty years, a daughter who has lost her esteemed father, a grandson who has lost his doting granddad… only in the face of death will all these memories revisit, and you realise that remembering too much can be a painful affair. It brings relief that you’ve had several decades of goodness with him, but it also reminds you that for the rest of your life, this person will forever be conspicuously absent. How does one deal with the cards that they’ve been dealt, when reality can be capricious and by a twist of fate, you lose all that you’ve had overnight? I wept because I will no longer see the grand uncle again every Chinese New Year. While we hardly interacted, he always had an air of quiet presence around him,and that presence represented something reassuring, and was a constant in all my years. It is Chinese New Year next week, and it will be my first Chinese New Year without him. Gone is his quiet presence; I will never hear his voice again, and never see him smile again. My heart breaks when I think of this. I am alright, but there is a gnawing emptiness amidst everything, that when we weep over the demise of a person, we are weeping over a self that has gone away, and will never come back. Maybe our attachment to things stem from the meaning we have ascribed to it; a part of our childhood is captured in an object, in a person, and when we cease to see it, we lose that part of ourselves. It is an indication that we have aged, and there is no turning back. The thought that one can never recapture something is a scary thought, and has the ability to haunt for eons. When I wept, I wept for a reality that will never be again, and I can only understand a quarter of how a loved one must have felt when he received his lemon barley from someone else, because the person who used to offer it no longer is. The reality that he knew has ceased to exist as such, simply because the protagonist has taken his final bow. Perhaps we are weeping over the demise of a certain type of humanity that has been ascribed to a person; because every person is intrinsically unique, he has left a solid footprint in the minds of people he had met, and that is in itself can never be replicated. We cry because we understand that the reality that we know is no longer the same again; the demise of a constant, the death of a habit. Is it even possible to accord reasons as to why we cry?

Sometimes I wonder why I bother to type things down, because I can never fully translate the thoughts in my head into writing. Somehow in the midst of translating into semantics, the intensity of my emotions are diluted, with each tap of an alphabet. But it is human nature to record things down, for time immemorial, because it is human nature to reflect, and to make sense of things on hindsight. My only question is, how many times must we weep before we can adequately understand the essentialist nature of life, and the fact that one can never reenact the first, fineless rapture? That things don’t happen the same way twice, and while nothing is irreplaceable in this world, it will not, and cannot be replicated. Such is the essentialist nature of experience.

So cry heart, but never break. Such are the vagaries of life, and this is a journey you must walk, alone or not.

As I sit here writing this, on the very last day of 2016, I am acutely aware that what mortals call New Year’s Eve, may be a mere day in the calendar of other worlds, and that time on this earth is essentially a social construct; but because we are humans and bounded by time, we hold New Year’s Eve to its word and that’s the reason why I’m sitting here, writing this and reflecting on the past year.

In many ways, 2016 was a year filled with immense growth–I hasten to say that it is the best year yet, because that is what we say of every year that has passed; but I would definitely say that 2016 was a year of many firsts, of mistakes, of second chances, of trying again after every embittered battle, of fresh faces, of new memories and of…loving again. I do not think I have grown wiser over 2016, but the year has really exposed me to the wonders of this universe, of the everyday sights that I’ve seen, but have never really observed. This is the year where I found myself pondering more about the vicissitudes of life, of the frailty of the human condition, of the strengths of humans and of the reasons for one’s existence. Surely life has to be more than just the tasks that we have to endure,surely a person is more than the reasons for his existence–there seems to be a force governing this world, a force that neither science nor religion in its individual capacity can explain. 2016 has taught me to appreciate the blurriness of categories, and boundaries even more. It has allowed me to appreciate the different dimensions of truth, the diverging nature of perspectives that give richness to life, and the fact that perhaps there is no one truth in this world, and our interpretations of everyday happenings say more about who we are, rather than what is. It is also in 2016 that I came to realise more acutely, the follies of humans; how high people place themselves on certain pedestals, and how bad the crash comes. In essence, 2016 has been a sobering year; a wake up call in many aspects, but I am grateful for it because I now find myself being able to understand more about life in all its granularity, and yet still retain the belief that all of us are stardust in human form. We are capable of the change we believe in, only if we stop to think deeply about how we are going to achieve it. But the trick is to always believe, because once we stop believing in things, we settle. Settling doesn’t solve problems, for it only maintains the status quo. I’m not sure if I’ll be happy with a future self who merely settles. Life is more than that and I am more than that.

In a similar vein, 2016 has also gifted me with a person who shares similar convictions as myself, and it is fascinating to see the world through his eyes. It is through him that I came to think more about the possibilities of this universe, or other universes even. I began to see beauty in the smallest of things, in the most foreign of things, because essentially life in its entirety, can be summarised in a few words; albeit in an extremely generalised manner that hardly gives justice to it, but I shall still attempt to do so. Life begins when a person embarks on a quest for self-awareness, and a quest for self. What makes the self? What is the self? Is the self whole or truly unique? What differentiates you from the other? I may not have the answer, but I believe that the process of discovery is more critical, and the answers may always change. We can arrive at the closest approximation of the answer, but never the answer itself. The day we do will most probably be the day the journey ends. Perhaps then we will wake up and find that this world may have been a dream after all. Who really knows? That,is the beauty of 2016–the year has opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities, and all sorts of questions, which have in turn, given me more impetus to live bravely, love fiercely, and laugh heartily.

The world is a fascinating place. As I sit here writing this, I am aware that the future is full of uncertainties, and as humble humans we can only plan, but things may not go as planned. At 19 I was terrified of the future, at 22 I was devastated that the present that I knew was never going to be the same. At 24, going on 25 I am still afraid that I am heading down unclear paths, and that my plans may not come to fruition; but this time I find myself embracing the unknown with open arms, because if I knew what was going to happen, if I knew who I would be in future, the certainty would definitely hinder me from exploring all sorts of possibilities. I sound confident–don’t get me wrong; I am still afraid. I know I will be discouraged, and even disappointed if things don’t go as planned, but I also believe that way leads onto way, and the life project will carry on, no matter what. Perhaps the life project is made up of moments, moments juxtaposed into each other, rather than a seamless narrative of ups and down that make sense–we humans are the ones that make sense of things but reality is so much more complex, and it would do as good to recognise that every moment is unique, and never again, will there be one like the other. But life is also a series of moments jumbled up in an anachronistic fashion–you have scenes of the future flashing in the past, and the present is dotted with vignettes of the future, with the past flitting by in the future horizon. Who’s to say what’ll transpire, along the next street corner?

Maybe somewhere down the line, when we are all comfortable in our own skins will we share stories that tell of our deepest fears, and of the times that make our hearts burst with happiness.

I end with a hopeful quote by Mary Oliver.

“To live in this world you must be able to do three things; to love what is mortal, to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it, and when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” 

Turning point

This pretty much summarises my time in Hong Kong. It was a great trip, filled with fond memories and I also tried things which I never would, with people I barely knew for a few hours, let alone days. It was also a period of meeting old friends again, and reminiscing over old days. I was pretty distraught initially as there were a few people whom I had yet bade a proper farewell to, as events just led to events and youth isn’t always inclined to bid goodbye to anything, because of its uncanny predilection to hope. This reminds me of this a quote, “Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.” Reuniting with old friends and having the same camaraderie repeat itself, despite the numerous days that have come between us is amazing and I thank life for bestowing upon me these groups of people. Like what a friend said, we live under the same world, and there are so many issues for us to tend to, that the days pass in a flash and before you know it, we will probably be all old, wrinkly and gray–hopefully we would have achieved the goals and dreams that we clutched tightly to, in our youth.

The trip also offered me a good respite,from the doldrums of reality and it gave me time for some introspection, which was severely lacking in the last few months. I found myself reconnecting with my inner voices, and the words of my own heart resonated more clearly when I was away. It dawned upon me that I had been stuck in my own little world for way too long, and there were many things I had neglected along the way; including my passion and my dreams. It’s a cliche to say that dreams are the cornerstone of your identity, and while I thought I was actively pursuing mine, it seems that somewhere along the way, I had derailed from my original path, and I unknowingly let the fire in me dimmer and die. It was only in the conference where I was surrounded by fresh-eyed students, and people who spoke with so much zeal that I realised I had forgotten what it meant to have so much enthusiasm, and so much hope coursing through one’s veins–and in that moment, I felt that we were all invincible. It awoke emotions that had been dormant since I started work, and for once, I felt like myself again, kind of. I am more convinced now that a healthy getaway every now and then is nourishment for the soul, and that you do need to have something to fight for–if I can’t find that in my daily life, I’ve to start looking around and think of the things that make me tick, and today, I found myself going back to Dakota once again. It feels strange, but it feels right. It will be an uphill journey ahead, but it feels right, and that is good enough for now. Hong Kong also validated some plans that I’ve been toying with for a long time, and it is only after the trip that I realise I should really act upon it. Who knows whether I’ll change my mind; the future is uncertain, but if I don’t try I’ll never know. Failure is necessary before one succeeds.

There’s currently so many thoughts running through my head still, but I think, this quote sums it all. To old and current friends, and people I’ve not met yet, and experiences I’ve yet to gain, here it goes, “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

 

Perhaps somewhere down the line, I’ll see you again.

The first quarter of 2016 has just passed and we are into May now. 2016 has been a teacher in its own right, dealing cards that were rather surprising, and hard to handle at times. But I am glad to say that I have emerged stronger, albeit battered all the same. I officially entered the workforce this year, and boy must I say that life is indeed, never a bed of roses. From questioning my own mental faculties to suspecting my own language prowess, there were countless times where I doubted myself and my own abilities–I still do. But I have learned to accept that whatever life deals me, it’s to make me stronger and while I continue to make mistakes, I am more knowledgeable than whom I was yesterday,a month ago, and definitely a teeny bit wiser than the girl who started her first day of work, bleary-eyed, and unsure of everything else. The last few weeks have been crazy for me, and challenging at the same time. My self-esteem was also dealt a great blow when I realised that I could not handle something as easy as compressing a file or editing the backdrop of a slide that is by default, a photograph which someone had photoshopped. My inefficient self can hardly handle the wonders of technology and I felt incredibly dim-witted and incompetent all at once. But I am learning, everyday. I hope there will come a day when I would be able to deal with such issues well and I hope to stay curious through everything else. Pick the battles you wanna fight; that is my mantra as issues come flying at me unexpectedly at work, and in life. No one says that growth is easy. Growing up was, and always is painful and I realised that I have a long way to go. It’s not about falling or failing–it’s about remembering the reasons that brought me here in the first place.

With all that is being said and done, I am also been lucky to have wonderful people by my side through everything else. At my workplace, I have warm, friendly colleagues. The working environment is quite collegiate, even though many of the colleagues are in their thirties or late twenties. I learn alot through my conversations with them and they inspire me everyday. I have also met someone, or a few whom have taught me life’s greatest lessons–he taught me to be kind and gracious and to always extend a helping hand because life is tough enough, she taught me to be calm and composed no matter the situation and he also taught me to smile through the ups and downs, and that everyone loves a sincere soul, who is responsible when he has to be, and yet not take life that seriously. I swear, in this world, if we do take life that seriously, the news will be splattered with people whose lives have ended too prematurely– not that there aren’t already a couple of such cases reported every single day. But I have been blessed. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by my current batch of colleagues.  I am glad that for my first job, I have met so many sentient beings that it will hurt to say goodbye. I will be devastated when that day comes, but I am also aware that one day, I will be the one who leaves, because things will come full circle, and that every encounter must be completed with a farewell. Adults who have seen and experienced more than I do, commented that once I’ve worked long enough, I’ll come to understand that people come and go– but I also think that while we have little control over who comes into our lives, it is up to us to decide if they are keepers. Fate is a word that is easily trivialised these days–people simply use fate as a shorthand term to explain why certain people leave, why relationships wilt and why some folks only exist as photographs. But I honestly feel that we can only lament the ending of a relationship only after we have tried hard enough.

Speaking of relationships, I also mended a friendship with an old friend. From this experience I learned that while we are careful with our words and we do not speak in a fit of anger,wounds can only heal when it is exposed to air. There is little use if we keep mum about it and just “let it pass”, because honey, nothing really passes unless you let it to. Time heals wounds only when you’re no longer holding onto that memory with a clenched fist.  I am glad that we  resolved a misunderstanding that would have surely led to some form of regret on my part had I not broached it. I knew myself too well to understand that had I not mustered the courage to bring up the issue, I would have let myself lose a precious friend. Because we have mended our relations, I can now let this friend go. I will be able to accept that perhaps one day this friend–this person would only be a footnote in my life, but I will also be comforted by the fact that yes, I had tried, and we both had tried–so there are no regrets; only learning points and good memories. Things change not only  because we are no longer who we were, but because life has other plans installed for us. Unfortunately the other isn’t assigned a role in that chapter. Things need not end, but they hardly stay the same. The question we should ask is, does it matter if things change? How can we expect things to remain the same when change is the only constant, and that change would also bring growth?

because there will come a day when the risk to remain tight in the bud hurts more than the risk taken to blossom.

With that, I end here for now. Dear you who are reading this, I hope you’ve been inspired, or slightly moved by this post. I just want to tell you that you are never alone in this world. It’s amazing, what links and  queries have led you to this post– Though I may never have a chance to know you, or who you are, I’ll like to think that you’re similar to me in the sense that we are both trying our best to find our place in this world, and whatever we are doing is for a cause that is greater than our own–I hope wherever you are, in this virtual space, you are also trying to be better than whom you were yesterday, and maybe with abit of luck and lots of hard work and determination, you’ll get there. I wish you well.

 

Auld Lang Syne

2015 has gone by in a flash. I learned alot this year and as every year is regarded more significantly than the one that has gone by, 2015 has been a spectacular year in every single aspect. What I’ve learned most from this year is that there is no such thing as objectivity. Everything is subjected to relativity, depending on the sociological background of the person who is experiencing it. I guess the moment one understands that “subjectivity” is not merely an activity of the mind, but something that is real and breathing, the corollary is that one is able to finally have a finger on the pulse of events. Instead of merely trying to understand, we go beyond the contours of comprehension and move towards a gradual acceptance of what really is. 2015 has also been a year of travels, of meeting new people, of learning more of different cultures and diverse beliefs. It has been a year of stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to find silver linings in every encounter and every experience. My faith has been tried and questioned, my beliefs placed under rehabilitation and my resolution undermined continuously by factors beyond my control. But they say that while happiness is ephemeral, suffering and sadness too are fleeting. What struck me most poignantly this year is the fragility of human relationships. What took years to consolidate may be undermined easily by the callousness of time or by one simple event that did not seem to matter much to the other party, but means the whole world to you. Perhaps it is all about tempering one’s expectations and accepting that people hold varying values and react to situations differently. While effort may not always be reciprocal, relationships are always a two-way street. Not burning bridges does not mean that one renders the maintenance of bridges non-compulsory. There is only enough time spent apart before one realizes that too much time has passed to mend estranged ties again. The tricky thing is, when do we know when’s the next time or when is ever the last time before you can meet the other next? We are changing constantly. We change from day to day, from taste to taste, from experiences to experiences. While one preaches that self-love is the biggest priority of a person, what about the fact that no man is a lone island in this increasingly connected world? I have been grappling with myself in the course of finding this answer, of trying to find a middle ground in the balancing act of holding on and letting go.

Today, I realize that letting go and forgiveness are not actions that need to be verbalized, but rather are actions that need to be accepted by one’s heart. You commit those actions for yourself and not for anyone else. I have found it within my own soul to understand that in this too big world, having met specific individuals and being able to embark on the same path with them for a certain period, is a privilege. Maybe that alone is enough. We all have our own things to do and our paths to walk in the future. Being able to come to this realization hurts and it takes awhile to let it settle in but it’ll work out eventually. After all, 越撑心会闷, 越闷心会冷。现在的放手是以后的成全。

2016 will bring lots of changes in the life that I’ve known for the last ten to fifteen years. For the first time I will begin the year not as a student, but as a working adult. That in itself is a huge change and I am honestly very very afraid. I cannot pinpoint what I am scared about, but I feel as though this is gonna be a life-changing year. It’ll be a year where I’ll wean off old friends and make new ones, a year where I will continue to challenge myself and to grow more. I don’t know what else to expect, maybe I should expect nothing at all and just go with the flow. Right, I’ll go with that…then again, a few days later I’ll be “okay what the heck WAS I THINKING???” Excuse this incoherence, but you get my point. Oh well. Everyday is a new day to try something new, so I’ll see how it goes.

Philosophy for 2016: 用最好的心情面对最坏的事。(to always face the worst things in life with the best optimism one can muster)

Till then, I hope you have a brilliant year ahead. I hope that you will always have the strength and courage to brave through all the turbulences in life. May you laugh and cry just as easily because that will mean that you’ve always been steadfast and loyal towards your own emotions. You feel because you are alive and no one can take that away from you.

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Just got back from HPAIR Asia Conference in Manila. It would be safe to say that I never regretted this decision and it was probably what felt right at that point in time. It’s impossible to write everything down so let me just bring up one main point–> Conferences are all about the people and it is amazing to feel humbled in a world that is bombarded with cynicism that arose out of conflict and strife. I think it’s a unique and astounding experience because one gets to meet people from all the far flung countries, something that we will normally not have the opportunity to. It increases one’s awareness of all the politics within this world and reminds us how much work must be put in before all the fruits can be reaped. What I loved most about the conference is that core values are something that is universal, something that cannot be defined by geographical boundaries. Love and trust are both fundamental human values that link all of us together and the last five days were testaments to that. Feeling like there’s so much to be done in this world makes me afraid, but I’m ready to take on the challenges, whatever they are. This is where writing escapes me again and I can only be content by looking at the photographs that were taken and these lyrics come to mind.

谁人谈再见再可见面
谁祈求拍照记低笑面
难重逢我至觉得 期待你会出现
人总于今天 想昨天

Some people leave as quickly as they come, without rhyme or reason, but I believe I’ll understand in due time. Perhaps it’s not so much of whether we stay in contact, but the fact that we were all in this together for six days in Manila is a common experience that no one can take away from us. Maybe that alone is enough. Till then, we all have our respective roads ahead and I have a graduation thesis to write, jobs to apply for and the rest of my life waiting. Mabuhay, my friends. We may or may not meet again, but wherever you are, I’m always wishing for you to have a good life and I hope that you’ll be the Change you wanna see in this world. More importantly, be happy and be at peace with yourself.