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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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.

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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.

 

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Cambodia, March 2015

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想看见陪我到最后谁是朋友,你是我最期待的那一个。

It’s Friday! TGIF! It has been a whirlwind week, what with 6 days spent in Siem Reap, Cambodia with some of the best folks in the world. It has been a truly gratifying experience so far and no words in the world can ever summarize the intensity of my emotions as well as the happiness experienced during the past week. It is amazing when you realize that the world has so much to offer beyond your own comfort zone and it is simply surreal. I was so distraught on Wednesday morning when I realized that I had to leave Cambodia. This trip is certainly the highlight of my year so far and with all the plans that have been lined out for the rest of my year, I’m confident that it will be a good year, overall. I am honestly overly saturated with work to type out my own thoughts right now but here is just what I feel currently–I am in love and intoxicated with life. I can’t wait for what the rest of life has installed for me and I do think that living itself is going to be the biggest adventure. It is high time that we treasure every damn thing in life, be it the big moments or the small moments–often enough we try to contemplate about what the future has installed for us and we forget that all we have is the Now. I think, I’ll never want to learn from time to appreciate what I have because by then, it would be too late.

The opportunity to visit Cambodia is honestly a heavensent and I am really grateful for this opportunity. It came out of the blue and never did I expect it to come knocking at my door. I am in debt to the organizations in Singapore for having so much faith in me because to be honest, chances are given by people and I do not think that I am that worthy of the nomination, but I am glad that I crossed their minds and I’m really unsure about how I can express my gratitude in other terms–perhaps, being the best that I can be and doing my part for Singapore will be one of the manners in which I can repay them one day. Also I am incredibly thankful that my professors and schoolmates have been very accommodating and understanding of my schedule as well. Blessed with many “firsts” in this trip–I was asked by the organizers back home to moderate a session for more than a hundred participants in the conference–combating my fear of public speaking was the biggest challenge and figuring out what to do next was also an issue. Thankfully I had the support of the Singaporean delegation and the friends whom I’ve made along the way. Had the pleasure to befriend one of the most inspiring people in this world–he’s one of the most amazing lads I’ve ever met–young, free spirited and with alot of love for humanity and for the world. He has grand dreams too, which I can only hope will come to fruition because if there’s anyone I believe in, it’s in this friend of mine. He was actually a fellow moderator for another session and the first friend I made when we set foot in Siem Reap. It was also through our own puzzlement about the session and the stress that accompanied the preparation of the report that allowed us to bond. As I listened to him share his stories about all the places he had been to, I felt inspired to embark on a similar route too. Talk about positive influence XD. Being young has its merits–it allows us to have the capacity to dream and to feel, without having to arm yourself with too much pleasantries/false fronts.

We went to several landmarks during the trip. One of them was the Angkor Wat, the cultural heritage and symbolic marker of Cambodia. All the hype about the temple wasn’t overrated at all. Commercialized, yes, but overrated–no. When you gaze and marvel at the architecture of Angkor Wat, it reminds you of how much humans are capable of achieving. Bear in mind that the temple was actually constructed in the 11th century–how on earth were the people back then able to construct buildings that strutted way out into the sky without risking the fall? How were they able to harness the technology back then? So many questions bogged my mind as I climbed up the building. Angkor Wat was indeed a beauty and it’s majestic presence will always be imprinted in my mind. However, what really touched my heart in Cambodia wasn’t the breathtaking, astounding monuments that I saw, but the ordinary, everyday people whom I had the chance to interact with. What stunned me into self reflection was the fact that they smile so readily and they seemed to be pretty contented with their lot in life. I am aware that I may be making a sweeping generalization about the Cambodians at large, but at least for the people whom I’ve interacted with, they gave me the impression of being happy with their lot. Their smiles were so genuine and whenever they smiled, you can see the light reach their eyes. I think this is a quality that is lacking in the faces of city life. We are embroiled in a culture of speed and ambitions and we are always telling ourselves to move faster, be better and to aim higher. Yet in the midst of chasing these illusive goals we tend to forget that life is for the living and is for the present. In our pursuit of so many goals we tend to lose sight of the things that matter and such mental myopia may cause us to lose even more in the long run.

From this trip, I am even more certain that life waits for no one and is highly capricious. Sometimes, you’ve got to play by ear and go with the flow. Whatever that begins will have an end, and where there is joy, sadness will abide. But where there is sorrow there is also happiness. Perhaps instead of seeing things in a dichotomized fashion, it’ll be better to allow there to be some leeway.

Having the privilege to encounter so many people of diverse backgrounds exposed me to vistas which I have yet to see, and stories that I have yet to live for myself. It makes me ponder about how we are all from different parts of the world, yet we are still so similar in many aspects–passion is probably the glue that binds us all together and the belief in the wondrous possibilities that await. After all, what is youth if it isn’t about chasing one’s dreams? It hurts so badly for me to say goodbye on Wednesday, because to be honest I was really unsure about whether I’ll see them again in future. I am still unsure now but then again, to be sad about not seeing these people again only meant that I am lucky enough to have people I’ll miss because it means that the feelings were real and not just a product of my mind. If I were to be presented with another alternative, which is to not meet them at all by giving up the opportunity when it was offered to me under the premise of having too much work to do and deadlines to meet, I would choose the former. I’d go through the pain of separation for every chance to say hello, because even though people come and go, life is in itself, ephemeral and transient. I am heartened, honoured and very privileged to have been given this opportunity to see the world in a different country, and through the eyes of the many others who have dropped by my life briefly, but have made their presence felt in my heart. Not many people are able to stay on in your life and there are many reasons for their eventual absence, be it geographical, financial or even cultural factors but that doesn’t discount their impact and I think, in a world where billions reside, being able to have met these people in a sea of blurred faces is comfort by itself. Let that be enough. Let the memories be enough. We all have our own lives to live, and I’ll take the photographs along with me as I go on. 我们还有很多梦没做 还有很多明天要走。May our paths cross again one day, but till then I’m sure we will all be living our lives in the best way we can. Cheers to humanity, and to life.

百年修得同船渡,千年修得共枕眠。 前世的五百次回眸,才换来今世的擦肩而过。 For the rest of my life, I’ll always be thankful for this chance meeting, even if life takes us on diverging routes from here.

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summer 1

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summer7

 

So these pictures pretty much sum up what summer has been for me (Circa 7 May 2014-10 August 2014)

It has been an eventful summer and a summer like no other. You know how fiction and travelogues like to romanticize summer and how drama also thrives on promoting summer as one of unforgettable memories and long endless nights? Well my summer has been pretty grounded, yet fulfilling. I’ve embarked on two internships during these two months odd and also managed to make time for catching up with friends and people whom I care about (please note that if you don’t see yourself in the photographs its not that you’re not in my mental list it probably means that those photographs are not on my laptop or we did not take a shot together). Truth be told, on retrospect I feel like I’ve accomplished quite abit of things this summer–I’ve a taste of what it was to be in the workforce, to work in the public service as well as private sector. I’ve gone for the talks and symposiums that I’ve always wanted to go, I’ve finished a project for a professor and I’ve also handled all my numerous datelines pretty well. More importantly, I’ve read all the books and novels that I wanted to read and got in touch with people that I wanted to keep in contact with. It’s been a summer well spent. Of course there were hiccups along the way and sometimes you find yourself planning, but life always gets the better of you. Somehow, no one can outwit what Provenance has installed for us and many times you just make do. That is not saying that I am unhappy, yet it may be abit too much for me to ask for life to listen to me all the time. I try and think back about what I’ve been doing these few months and it all blurs into a melange of many memories stitched into a parasol in my mind’s eye, a parasol that will shelter me through rain or storm.

I used to pride myself on being predictable, but the older you get the more you realize that the only moment you really have is the present. I can spend days, months and years planning for my future, even if the future refers to that of tomorrow, or months or even years away. It takes only a finger, a scrawling of pen on fresh parchment to unravel all the plans that I have so painfully weave for myself. Which brings me to another point that I am too acutely aware of this summer–that good things take their time to happen to you, and sometimes, you’ve really got to let go of some things. I really have no idea what awaits tomorrow, but I am really crossing my fingers and praying that whatever that happens, would be the best thing that could happen for me. That is not saying that I may not be upset or even indignant at the state of things, but I’m really hoping that I do have the prescience to understand that all will be done, in good time and as unhappy as I will be to accept certain ways of life, or particular manifestations of things, it will fall into place with time and ten years from now I will not ruminate about this phase in my life as one that is dotted with “what ifs” and ” should have beens”, but instead I’ll smile and say that I am glad for it all to happen.

This summer has been a special one, in many ways that I could hardly imagine. I can’t put some stuff to writing, but know that when I look back on this lull in my life, it will be with fondness because there’s only the happy, because…some things came without warning, like a blizzard and I’ve not been the same again.

 

 

 

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japanese friends

Many things happened this semester– but I’ll like to dedicate the end of junior year at University to the bunch of people who have made my third year so amazing.

August 2013-May 2014, third year at NUS.

Third year started off on a positive note and I was pretty optimistic for the semester to begin after a series of whammies last summer. But I’m glad that the schooling year ushered in new friends, new discoveries, fresh passions and it is definitely the year– on the cusp of 20 and turning 21 where I experienced the magic of life. I learned things I never knew, studied what I loved and explored new passions and boundaries and I engaged and left my heart in every single new person whom I’ve had the fortune of having met. It’s indeed true when they say that the best things happen when you least expect them to, and it works when you use your heart to connect with every single being who comes your way– whether they’re meant to stay, or just acquaintances who just happen to share the particular path with you, I think there’s a role for everyone who comes past your life. I am more than happy to say that everyone whom I’ve met this year, as fleeting as it may be all have made or etched an indelible footprint in the sands of my heart. The adage that whatever that is most essential is invisible to the eye rings so poignantly. I am so thankful to all my friends who have stood by me incessantly this semester, and I hardly make a personal dedication here, but to my friend of more than a decade, Elsa, thank you for making your way back to me when we were sophomores. Thank you for being my pillar of strength this semester when things were especially hard and I was such a miserable wreck over things that wouldn’t have bothered me ten years from now. I love you girl, you’re beautiful in every single way and I hope that you’ll always be here to stay. 

Back to the significance of this post, I dedicate it to junior year and the people in it. Yesterday I was at the farewell party of my Japanese friends and one of them said something that will forever stick with me, “To be honest I won’t really miss Singapore, but I will miss the people here.” This reminds me of how the human connection is of perennial importance because a place doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We don’t remember places as they are, but rather we link places with people. As my first ever Japanese friend, the dear boy holds a special position in my heart and I am really thankful that in the first semester of third year, I went out on a limb and signed up for the module which I’ve been avoiding for semesters, but decided to go ahead with it anyway because the best things come when you step out of your own effervescent bubble. I couldn’t help but weep when the hosts yesterday made their personal “speeches” and it was awhile before I realized that my face was wet with tears. Another pal, who seemingly looks cool and hardy spoke to me after that and beneath that tough demeanor of his, lies a tender and sensitive heart. I wish we had more chances at interaction I wish I had known him earlier, but the time spent was enough, because when you really love somebody, be it your family, friends or a significant other, time spent together will never be enough. Forever is probably needed, but I think that shred of memory that we hold on to will be as good as our forever for they will be crystallized in photographs and in the mind’s eye and that is perhaps, the only eternal in a world where all things are in a constant state of flux. I’m not sure how much my friends will change when they will return to Japan, nor am I sure how much I will change in the coming months. My head starts to pulse and ache when I think about things and times beyond the immediate field of vision, but I think I will be even more myopic if I keep wondering about the future and forget to live in the moment, because a moment gone is a second gone and its something I’ll never get back again. No words can express how I feel right now as I sit on the bed, typing this away. I’m due at the airport in a few hours time to bid farewell to this group of lovely beings, and the mere thought of me makes my heart ache and my eyes well again, yet I know that it probably hurts them too, and it will hurt everyone of us who have established a special rapport with them, but I do know that in time this feeling will fade and we might start to forget a little as the rest of our lives unfold. But that doesn’t mean that things must end, and every end could possibly herald a new beginning. Hope is a natal reflex and I suppose, till we meet again then.

 

I have this gnawing impulse to learn Japanese and I am even more acutely aware now that friendship cannot be defined by nationality or borders, or even by categories. It has to be felt with the heart and ultimately, we are all sentient beings of the world, finding our way out of this labyrinth of life. May our paths cross again one day. Till then, remembering will be enough. So are photographs for they capture the instant, the instant that will never be again because things never happen the same way twice. All I have in my heart now are peace and gratitude and the accompanying sense of optimism, which I hope will carry me through the vicissitudes of this little, but epic life.

 

我々は再び会うまで. (Till we meet again). Until then, I know we will all be amazing in our respective ways.

 

We all have our dreams, we all want to fly.

 

 

 

 

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Shanghai and Beijing 2013

winter tripwinter trip 3 winter trip 4 winter trip 5 winter trip 6

13 December 2013-22 December 2013.

So I am finally back after a 10 day learning journey trip from Shanghai and Beijing. Many things are concurrently flashing across my head now, like the reeling of a film and I realized that as much as I have lots to say, words fail me. I can’t seem to articulate my words well enough because most of the emotions need to be felt in the heart and cannot be narrated out. But I shall try my best. To summarize it all, I thought I went through an emotional and psychological learning journey during the past 10 days. As short as it may seem, my world paradigm jostled and shifted again. If people were to ask us who we actually are, I don’t think I can aver and say “I am _______”, but rather I’ll just choose the easier way out and say that “I am just a sum of all my experiences and the people whom I met.” These ten days have taught me many things and alerted me to the crucial issues out there-of growing up, of learning how to communicate with people and of chasing dreams. What is youth without the ethereal ideal of fulfilling one’s wildest fantasies and being accorded the prized ability to dream? These ten days I felt armored by the ability to live out my innermost desires and to excavate new wants deep inside of me, desires that have been lurking around for a long while, only to see the light of day over the course of the past few days.

Many life lessons will stay with me. Before I left for Shanghai, I thought I knew what I wanted in life. I was so affirmative of my decision to join the heritage sector or to proceed with my dreams of being a curator.But now, I am in a state of flux. I can no longer announce clearly that this is what I want. The past ten days have taught me that anything is possible as long as you are willing to give your all and your best shot in anything. But all great things come with a sacrifice/price. The more important question then is, how far are you willing to go? Are you willing to parlay all you have? This is not a game of chess, not everything has to be done strategically-what matters is the very instance in which you are dealt with that particular piece. How do you make your move? Does it really matter in the longee duree? All I can say is, right now I don’t think I believe in regrets. I choose to define regrets as something that would have panned out alternatively had you not picked that route at the given point in time. I’ll like to abide by my stand that despite us being rational, sensible human beings, we are all emotional creatures who are deft with our life choices. We do what is best for us and whatever that happened, was probably the best that could have happened. When all else fails, sit back and hand the steering wheel to the big guy up there.

Shanghai has been the city of my dreams for a very long time. Ever since I did a paper on Shanghai when I was in sophomore year, I fell in love with the city. Shanghai is a city of many contradictions, yet its charm also lies in its duality. Its a city which embraces the old and the new, a metropolis where many cultures conflate to produce a synergy like no other. If people were to ask me what I love most about Shanghai, I would say the dynamism that seeps through the veins of the urban-polis and the fact that its a living palimpsest of many ideas, traditions yet it is able to balance the many facets of its identity to nurture in its residents a dual citizenship-that of a Chinese and that of a global citizen. Naysayers will argue that I am very much naive, but hey what is youth without wide eyed innocence? Beijing on the other hand was very much fashioned by its reputation as the capital, which was connoted with political vigour, yet it remained a historical city at heart. Its a lovely city, a city which bore the pride of the Chinese and a city which aspired to reach even greater heights for in its nub lies a nesting ground of ideas opportunities and fortuitous encounters.

A very inspiring lady told me something during the trip and I shall quote her here “everything is more difficult in China, but anything is possible here.” The most luxurious aspect of China is not the readily expandable market that it proffers, but the expanse of space and human ambition that is available. China is such a large and humongous country that opportunities loiter in every nook and cranny of the country. I strongly believe in human agency and thus I think opportunities are bestowed, yet they have to be discovered. The lure of China lies in the ability of the country to absorb your failures-you are given not one chance, but multiple chances. I think all of us need to know that we have choices in life and we should give ourselves time to fail, time to get back on our feet and time to try again. When we know that we have more than one option, we become more humane. We start to treat ourselves better and to be gentle with ourselves. Second chances provide platforms for self reflection, and I think in today’s man eat man world, where we are all haplessly mired in the rat race, it helps to know that there IS a way out. I can’t assure you that the road ahead is easier, but I hope that if you know you still have a way out, you’ll be able to face the future with open arms and to thrust yourself into the green light. There’s a time for everything and as scarred beings, we all need to learn how to dream and to love again. This is my main takeaway from China.

I met many inspiring and ingenious people over the past ten days and as fleeting as those encounters may be, it was fate that allowed us to meet.For that I will always be thankful. They will always stay in my heart because we are a sum of experiences and of people whom we met. What amazes me is that despite that facade of conformity, we are all dreamers deep down. Unpolished diamonds waiting for the day the sun shines down on the begrimed surfaces, allowing the glow to permeate once more.

For that, China will always hold a special position in my heart.

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