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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.” 

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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.

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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.

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The best bunch of people whom I had the honour to befriend this summer. (Hiroshima, July-August 2015)

What can I say, where can I start? Summer’s ending way too soon and I am really surprise at how fast it FLEW by. I believe that as you get older, the days just melt into one another and before you know it, seasons change, wrinkles appear and hair turns to gray. Okay I’m being a little melodramatic here but here’s some updates on the best summer of my life so far. Over the last few months, I was busy with my internship, preparing for thesis and summer school in Japan. Initially I was really apprehensive about my decision to apply for school in Japan. It marked the start of traveling alone and I was swamped with work ;AAA; but it proved to be the best decision I’ve made so far and I am so grateful for all the events that have transpired so far. Arrived home on August 8 and I’ve got to say that as much as I was glad to be home, a better part of me wished that I could have stayed on in Japan. I still think that a country or a city is less about the place than it is about the people. I have made so many great friends in Hiroshima over the last two weeks and it is devastating to bid goodbye to all of them. Tears were shed, alcohol was consumed, smiles were cracked and hugs were extended to everyone in the span of two weeks and it is remarkable how despite our diverse backgrounds we have gelled so well together. This reminds me of how nationalities can never define people thoroughly. Nationalities, territories, language are but arbitrary boundaries that seek to position us in categories that serve the modern nation state; but beyond that I still stick to my belief that we are all citizens of the world and there is only one race–the human race. I have so much to say, but for the greatest of all experiences words can only do so much justice. Leaving Hiroshima and all the friends whom I’ve made feels the closest to heartbreak and I feel as though I’ve left a part of my heart behind. It IS possible to have your heart in different places and I am counting down to the day that I get back again. Although there is a part of me that is certain things will never be the same (I mean, cmon what’s the likelihood of having EVERYONE back in the same place again?), I think it will be just as amazing to catch up with one another and to see how much we have changed and grown. I made a comment earlier that hopefully by the time we meet again, we may have a better idea of what we will like to do in this world and perhaps, even achieved some of our goals. It is a life changing experience, probably because now I realize that the world is so huge and there’s SO MANY POSSIBILITIES (of course I knew this even before I left for Japan, but somehow experience after experience taught me that one of the most wonderful aspects of living is that the road ahead has so much to offer and there are still so dreams to be chased and goals to be attained. There’s nothing like people who hail from different backgrounds with their own life histories gather together and talk about world issues, issues that relate to the most fundamental aspect of life itself–peace, truth and justice. It is also heartening to meet so many friends who share the same vision and set of values as me and even though I am unsure of what the future holds, I know we will all make our mark in this world one day, no matter how long the journey takes or how many stumbling blocks there are on this yellow road. Till we meet again, these friends will form a chapter of my life, a chapter which I will always look back on, fondly. People don’t really leave when they stay on in your heart, that’s what I believe, and we have photographs to remind us that all these were real, and not merely a figment of the mind’s attempt to escape from reality. For now, More experiences await, and my thesis awaits(SIGH)

冥冥中的那个人,一个之前不可能想到,不可能意识到的人,各自在不同的地方,不同的环境下成长,却能在一个偶然的机会中相遇相识。This summarizes the beauty of Life.

“It’s been a long day without you my friend, and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again, we’ve come a long way, from where we’ve began, oh I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again”

Till then, May peace, love and joy be yours. 

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Follow the rainbow, and ride it. And this is the legacy of the first Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

For those who are unaware, the past week was a week dedicated to the memory of Lee Kuan Yew. I woke up on Monday morning to newsflashes on the demise of the man himself. When I first heard the news, I wasn’t that shocked because the PMO had been slowly preparing Singaporeans for his eventual fate over the past few weeks. I cannot remember how I felt then when I was first informed of the news, but I do know that the emptiness inside of me started welling up the moment I knew he was no more. I didn’t know how to express that sense of loss I had, that continued to swell and eat me up from inside. Life went on as normal. Over the last few days, I found myself weeping inside for the man who had finally claimed his place in the pages of history, proper. He was now a name that can only exist in the pages of history books, rather than a living and breathing figure. All my life I’ve been taught that Mr Lee was the first PM of Singapore and he was the key architect responsible in transforming Singapore from a third world country to a bustling metropolis. All my life I’ve been so accustomed to seeing the familiar man on television screens and reading about him through the books that my mother bought. I am now in my early twenties and thus old enough to remember Mr Lee as who he was, and as a History major, he isn’t a historical “historical” figure for me because he was alive and well, and it is honestly disconcerting to have him imprinted in a two-dimensional, pixelated fashion now. This sense of loss is inexplicable. I think all of us have our own mental images of him and how we perceive him to be. To me, he was a man who never stopped trying. He never rested on his laurels and was always seeking ways to improve himself, and the world around him. He reminded us that life was not a sprint, but a marathon and you will only see the finish line when your next breath doesn’t come. The thought of summarizing what Mr Lee Kuan Yew meant to me in the past tense is a reality that is particularly jarring now, and also hard to come to terms with, but we all have to eventually.

So I’m going to put all these into writing. Words can only say so much but I do know that I want to dedicate a post to his memory. I’m not a fan of posting my heartfelt emotions on Facebook or twitter, so here goes. (because I know no one really reads this space anyway.)

Thank you Mr Lee for everything that you’ve done for us. It makes me feel lucky, having been born here in Singapore and enjoying the sweet fruits of your leadership. There will never be another man like you again, and I think, you’re every measure of the man most boys would aspire to be as they mature into adulthood. Thank you for being so calm and stable and the pillar of strength for so many Singaporeans. It hurts to say that you are no more and you didn’t believe that much in the afterlife either, because you once mentioned that if there really was an afterlife, it would be overpopulated–I think only you would phrase it this way. As childish as it may sound, if there really was an afterlife, or a next life, I would still like you to be the PM of my country.On second thoughts, maybe not. Giving up your life once is enough–if there really is an afterlife or a next life, I hope that you’ll live the life of an ordinary citizen then, and relish every single moment. It wasn’t easy, dedicating all you have for Singapore–I think it’s really hard to find another character like you today. Tough times maketh a man and you truly are. Your absence will take a little getting used to, and I cannot fathom what it’ll be like come August when I can no longer see your face light up on the television screen. But then again, you are with us. I like to think that you live on, somehow. Not in physical form, but spiritually and emotionally, you’re ingrained in our national psyche and your contributions can be seen everywhere, from the towering housing blocks to the lush greenery that surrounds us, everyday. For that, thank you sir. I don’t know where you are now, I don’t think the human mind will ever know. But wherever you are now, I hope you’re happy. Have a good rest Mr Lee, and if we are lucky, we’ll see you again. Till then, there’s still many things for us to do–there are goals to be accomplished and dreams to be fulfilled and a nation to defend. I think that’s your legacy and the most enduring gift you’ve bestowed upon us–you gave the young and future generations the luxury to dream and to fulfill our potentials. For that, thank you. We will dream big, act wisely and do your memory proud.

So long, and goodbye, for now.

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Recharge and Renew.

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2014 hk爱里放手才可能伟大。

for life is a balancing act between holding on and letting go. Just know that it hurt because it was real, and that is what matters. Then, move on.

Because I’m a tad lazy to actually blog about what 2014 meant to me–so here’s a photosummary of what the year was; all these photos have been carefully selected to present the people who have meant most to me this year and have played such huge roles in my life that it is difficult to omit them out. 2014 was a year tinged with lots of smiles, tears, happiness and also sadness. However just like how there are two sides to a coin, life is fair in a way that even when the world is coated in darkness, the stars still shine and will provide a trail out. There’s a silver lining to every aspect and the dual face of life and death exists all at once. What I’ve learnt so far is that it is myopic and even dense to look at events/issues as a binary, but rather things unfold in a way that leaves you wondering what goes on in between. In the most destitute and forlorn of times humans are able to find within themselves a beacon of light–more often than not that light is not discovered elsewhere but it emanates within themselves. I still believe in the world and in the human race. I choose to have faith in the human race–we are all such unique individuals with a calling in life–things may be destined, but how we choose to remember or be remembered depends on how we make life out to be.

The last few hours of 2014 has brought to me a greater perspicuity, nudging me out from my earlier despondence. I was reviewing what I had felt throughout the year–or the last few months to be exact and I realized that the last few months had been a real rollercoaster ride and the torrent of emotions that I felt had consumed me to the point that I thought I could no longer be myself and I was always reliant on somebody else for my own happiness, for my own well being and for my ability to feel alive. In fact, I do not disagree that I felt the most alive in the last few months than the rest of my 22 years put together. I will always look back on the last few months of 2014 fondly, with glassy eyes and with a heart filled with gratitude. The friends that I’ve made, the people whom I had dedicated the bulk of my time to will always have a special place in my heart, even if one day life drives us apart–I understand now that sometimes people may have to drift away from one another to reunite again, and that things need not end, but if only they don’t stay the same. As with my previous post, all of us have our own dreams and goals in life to meet and fulfill and life is the most enduring teacher. We all have our own growing up to do. I honestly have no idea what 2015 will bring, but I hope that those whom I care about will continue to stay in my life in their own little ways. Them not caring about or loving you in the way you want them to doesn’t preclude the reality that they do love you in their own quirky ways, as subtle as they may be. Because sometimes, silence means that they’re listening and sometimes, passivity is an act of kindness, a love that is tender and apparent only when you feel it with your heart.

To the new year, I’m ready for all the challenges that you may bring, because I know that what doesn’t break me will only make me stronger. Life doesn’t end just yet and it took two decades to make me understand that I do not just want to survive, but I want to live. Cheers to the new year ahead, and to both the good and the bad. 2014, you’ll always be special, but its time to let you go now, and turn the page so the rest of my story can ensue.

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