defragment.me

One Strong Belief: You create your own reality

Am participating in the #trust30 30-day writing challenge , I was hesitating earlier because I didn't think I could commit for all 30 days, but to me, again it is some, better than none. :) This post is in response for the prompt of today.

I have plenty of strong beliefs, but if I have to pick only one life-defining belief, it would be, "You create your own reality". I actually wrote a blog post (check it out if you want more background) about it two years ago and even though now I am about to be on medication for chronic depression, my belief has never wavered. In fact, I think it has gone on to be stronger.

Till today, I am still believe that my choices define my own reality. Reality is relative. You may think I am nuts, but Einstein made it a theory like more than a hundred years ago. Scientists know that the perception of events depends on the observer. I don't think we have to be geniuses to know that this is true.

This single belief has driven me to take risky but worthwhile decisions in my life, it is also the same belief that has driven me to seek help for my chronic depression. I *want* to be healthier and in a better mental state to continue creating my own reality. I do not want my life to be defined by the state of the world's economies – I want to live out of the matrix.

You don't have to share the same belief, but I prompt you to think about it with an open mind. We are what we believe ourselves to be, we do what we believe we can accomplish. If that means you believe that you can fly to the moon, so be it. Why not? Someone has already done that decades ago. If people didn't think reality could be constantly re-defined, why would we have space shuttles or even that satellite that transmit your digital tv signals to you now?

If people wait for science to provide evidence to prove that things can be real instead of doing it anyway and inevitably proving it along the way, what would the world be right now?

Make your fantasies real. I have made some of mine. If someone like me, who have suffered from suicide ideation, chronic depression, low-self-esteem can do it, I think, anybody can. If you don't believe in your own dreams, how would anybody believe in yours?

All the best. :)

The power of my choice

I believe that one can create his or her own reality. I even wrote a post on this a couple of years ago.

Somehow, I forgot. I forgot while dealing with the uncertainty and insecurity of self-employment, the stress of moving residences repeatedly, the perceived failure of my decision making.

I was upset with myself for causing myself to be caught in stressful situations. Because I've always made leaps of faith, and in the end they all seem to come back to haunt me. I was angry that I kept over-working myself due to my own insecurity. I was tired, very tired of fighting. All I wanted was some stability.

Things got so bad until there was this day when I wondered if I could de-exist permanently. Like if re-incarnation was possible, I would like to opt out, please. I didn't want to be in spirit form either. I just wanted to be nothing. All my spiritual beliefs were being threatened. I refused to buy into the whole 'you live to learn' thing.

I felt like I was being coerced into this cycle whereby I have no choice but to live life after life. I tried to see the point of it all. If living was to learn, and learning was to evolve, what if I did not want to be part of this evolution?

I couldn't see the point then and to be honest, I still don't see the point now (or perhaps non-linear time is too complex for me to understand). But something magical happened. It always does. I sink to the bottom and there's always light waiting for me there.

One fine day, a series of synchronistic events made me remember. A movie, a book, a few words. I remembered. I chose to be here. I chose this life. I probably chose all the challenges that life was throwing me. I loved the challenges. I've always attributed my growth to all my previous challenges. I needed to learn the power of limitations. I knew, if everything went smooth-sailing, I would be living a very comfortable life. There *is* a lazy streak in me. I like luxury and sometimes I just want to do nothing. Chill. But that is not what I truly want. I want a life that I can be proud of. If I was born with a body that has boundless energy, I would be doing everything under the sun without focus. There are people who know how to make good use of their innate gifts without experiencing limitations. Not me.

There and then, I asked myself. If right at this moment, I could choose to stop 'suffering' and exchange my current life for a life that is full of peace, stability and comfort, how would I make that choice?

I realised that I would still choose this life. No matter how tiring, how difficult things can get, how broken it has made me feel sometimes. I still want my life.

At that very split-second, it all returned to me. The power of my choice.

The knowledge that I have the power to make choices that will influence my own destiny. Everything that happens today is a sum of my own decisions yesterday. Now, is a consequence of all that happened before. The future, is a consequence of all that happens now. My life circumstances in this life, was an agreement I willingly entered into, before incarnation. Nobody can make decisions for me, nobody can make me make decisions I do not want. They can influence, they can guilt-trip or manipulate, but the decision is mine alone. I cannot point fingers at anybody.

There is a spiritual angle to all of this (but of course). If you realise that you are the one who has chosen the pain, hurt and difficult lessons prior to living this life, you would have the same epiphany as me.

We all have the power to create. That not everything can be understood on a physical, superficial level. That pain and suffering need not be perceived as negative. Just because it makes us feel bad doesn't mean that it is not good.

Anyway, these concepts are not something that can be explored in a blog entry. (I would recommend this book and books from Michael Newton or Brian Weiss, and the entire "Conversations with God" series. )

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What a difference a split-second can make. I have been going on with my life with a bounce ever since I remembered. I say remembered because I have always known, but I forgot about it among all that pragmatic worries I had.

Previously when I had fallen sick, I would go into a very negative state of mind because being sick didn't allow me to do what I want, in fact, being sick places me in considerable stress because being self-employed, everyday I am sick equates to no income. Over the Chinese New Year, I was down with flu for two weeks. I was feeling very bad physically, with all that nausea, sinus-pressure, chills. But this time, even all of that didn't make me feel negative. I was constantly in a positive state of mind because I knew everything will happen in its own time and space. Nothing was impossible as long as I believe that I have the power to influence my own destiny.

I made a decision in my mind and my heart, that I would from now on, try to make decisions out of courage and not out of fear. No matter how crazy, how much risk or potential stress.

I started making these small little decisions, then some bigger ones, a couple of people-would-think-I-am-crazy ones.

And you know what. Life has been awesome since then. And I truly mean it. I know, it would continue to be awesome as long as I remember I hold the power to my choices. I have been experiencing the effects of all decisions within a short span of weeks. Some just took days. I hope to be writing soon in detail about how drastically things have progressed.

I don't know about everyone else. But I think I have finally accepted that the route to security is not one for me. I have to live my life on the edge, because that is what I truly want – a life that I would be proud of on my deathbed.

Action plan for change

I've been in a state of limbo for the whole of 2010 – a year which I thought will bring tons of positive developments to my life, after all the groundwork I've put in for the past couple of years. The previous year in 2009 I have been hard at work to try and curb all my personal fears and issues in order to give myself the platform that I need to pursue my various goals in life. I've took the step out to:

  • write openly about my low self-esteem
  • end my hermit-dom (aka social phobia) and meet people from my online social circles which cumulated into attending an industry event full of 200 over people I don't know
  • start travelling solo which ended up my life-long fear of sleeping in the dark & various paranoias of being alone in a foreign land
  • take various metaphysical courses which have always been an interest that I've put aside for 'proper' work

Life can only get better I thought since I'd gradually overcome the issue that was affecting me the post – myself.

This was a significant life-lesson to me, never be complacent and expect things to run smoothly within your expectations, ever. Life always has this uncanny ability to throw us curveballs when we least expect it.

Background story

So, the story of 2010 can be broken down in 3-month parts from January to September.

First 3 months was spent in anxiety and denial about the situation which transformed to a delayed reaction of anger and it ended up with myself breaking down physically, mentally and emotionally. I can't really write about the actual situation itself, except that it involved me having to shift my entire plans for this year which included a drastic breakdown of a relationship that was very dear to me. Having a fear of conflict didn't help as I tried desperately for it not to evolve into a conflict and it backfired instead for all parties involved as buried feelings and forgotten childhood hurt rose to the surface.

On the surface, the situation is not that big a deal. I think it could be difficult for people to understand why it affected me so much. I actually didn't understand it myself and it contributed to the worsening of the situation as I repeatedly asked myself whether I was over-reacting. On hindsight, I think I was just very weary of fighting similar battles in my life – I had this feeling that I've spent all my life fighting, and just when I thought the worst is long over, everything crumbled again. It drove me into feelings of helplessness, self-resentment, half wondering if I didn't try hard enough, and half wondering if the Universe was intent to make a joke out of me. I have done my best, but my best just wasn't enough. It seemed like no matter what I did was enough to earn me a period of peace and quiet.

The second 3-month period was spent cleaning up the mess as I gathered every last bit of my sanity and energy to rationally handle my responsibilities. I was blessed because most of my clients understood as I tried to make my poor health and emotions take a backseat.

It wasn't just poor health and unstable emotions though, it was a loss of something that makes me never ever want to feel that way again. I lost my enthusiasm for life. Even travelling didn't help me feel better, but what it did was to give me the space I needed to pick up the pieces, thankfully.

The final 3 months of June to September I spent trying to heal. I was able to stop working for at least a month from mid august to mid september. I went through several transformative experiences during this period and I would like to write about it in the near future.

I came back in mid-september and amusingly (it is amusing to me now) went through another stressful period house-hunting, dealing with awful property agents, feeling anxious about my housing-budget, packing and finally moving.

I am back to the physical state I was before my travels, tired. But this time it is different. I am carrying the same physical fatigue, but my mindset is totally switched. If I cannot control my external circumstances, I may at least be in the optimum state to deal with it.

I thought it would be good to share my action plan with all of you (as well as a reminder to myself). I no longer want to give myself excuses or be in denial about myself.

1. Build my fitness

I've always suffered from a chronic lack of energy and I wonder if I was predisposed to it. I guess I will only know if I actually did try to make an effort to build my fitness. I admit I don't exercise much and I should. Now with a swimming pool near me, I really have no excuses. Water calms me down as well. I forgot to mention building my fitness involves taking greater care of my diet.

2. Learn to calm my mind

I think this is closely related to the one above, I guess if I am always twitching with nervous energy from lack of exercise, then I cannot really blame my mind for going wild. Will like to try regular meditation practice as well.

3. Condition my mind

I suffer from fear and anxiety in relation to several issues that are no longer relevant to me but I still suffer the long-term effects of having to cope with (or run away) from these issues for so long. For example, I have absolute faith in the Universe's integrity yet my mind tries to make me paranoid because of the fear of lack. I know security is an illusion and yet sometimes I unconsciously strive towards it. I want to truly live in the now, make the best of each and every moment instead of worrying about some event in the future that may never happen. All things shall come to pass.

4. Practice detachment

This is also closely related to point 3. The reason why I am prone to depression, anxiety, fear (apart from possible faulty genes) is because I tend to feel emotional about anything and everything. I am proud of being emotionally sensitive, but it gets to the point whereby I don't stand up for myself or my mood gets affected feeling upset about something that I should not get upset with, if only I can put aside my emotions to gain a clearer perspective.

5. Trust

I suffer from an immense distrust in myself because of what happened in the first 3 months of 2010. I have this paranoia that my breakdown will happen again. I find it difficult to trust myself to rise from adversity. There is no reason to feel that way if I do my best to manage myself well. The worst situation can happen but I have no reason to fear if I truly believe in myself and the Universe.

At least I've tried

Despite of what had happened, one belief has never changed. I rather die trying than to never have tried before.

Adversity happens for a reason. I now look back and realise that the events were immensely beneficial to my growth. If everything went as smoothly as expected, I wouldn't have the time to reflect on what truly matters. I also wouldn't have been pushed to such a corner – to make drastic changes to my life. I wouldn't have been reminded again that never to put all your eggs in one basket, we need to constantly renew and rejuvenate ourselves in order to stay progressive in life. The pursuit of security is a tiring, endless and fruitless game. Think about it, the Universe has ways to take away your comfort, money, anything whenever it wants. The point is to make the best out of every moment. Keep the faith.

Thin line between delusion & faith

I've been regularly labelled as being delusional, an escapist or simply naive. I don't get upset anymore, am rather used to it actually.

Guess what? If I never had my ideals and succumbed to people's version of cold reality, I wouldn't be having the liberty to work wherever I want while not having to answer a single phone-call while finding the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I'll be working somewhere comfortable and would probably be with someone 'comfortable' as well.

This is another point of my life when I'm pulled into drawing strength from my inner-reserves again. This time around, the stakes are higher. I'll be lying if I tell you I am not paranoid nor insecure. Which is a contradiction because I believe that security is an illusion and therefore insecurity shouldn't exist. But try telling that to my human mind. ;p

People tell me that I am lucky or they wish they can be as gutsy as me. I go through the same paranoia process and indecision like anybody, in fact it may be more (ask my partner if you don't believe, I wake her up in the middle of the night all the time to *repeat* my paranoia to her all the time). What could be the difference is that I am not willing to live a mundane life. No matter how insecure, paranoid, down-in-the-dumps, upset, depressed, angry, in-confident, weak I can be, I am never willing to wake up, go to work, get paid, buy some stuff to comfort myself, grow old, get sick, be happy because I have money to treat my medical conditions, wait to die. Sorry, that sort of safe existence makes me not want to exist at all.

Plenty of times undesirable circumstances are there to push you out of your comfort zone for your necessary growth. I have spent the first half of the year fretting about the uncertainty I was about to face, but right now, I cannot help but feel totally grateful for it has given me the opportunity to go through a renewal process that was very much needed. One door closes and another opens.

I have a friend who keeps making ridiculous (even to me) decisions in his new venture but through his bold decision-making, his venture is experiencing tremendous growth. If you do not know him personally you may misunderstand his attitude on being borderline flippant. What most people do not know is that he has gone through a personal tragedy and it has allowed him to have very different perspectives while making decisions. When you have personally come across the face of death, what used to be important no longer becomes so and vice versa.

I have not experienced that sort of personal tragedy but have come close to it by being the creator of my own tragedy. I have been to that point where I have lost all love and enthusiasm for life. I was decaying.

Nothing can be worse than losing the desire to live, not even poverty or sickness. This period of healing has allowed me to recover my enthusiasm and that is very precious, the desire to look forward to another day. We can either be fearful or excited about the unknown, that is the beauty of our free will.

I choose to have faith, I keep having the choices presented to me and I still choose to have faith. I have faith that as long as I try my best and lead my life in the most meaningful manner, to the best of my capacity, the Universe will provide for me. It has never failed me so far, I have always been given what I have desired, as long as I was not afraid to take the plunge.

I do not know if I am deluding myself or if I am biting off more than I can chew, but who is to determine what are we truly capable of? It is only but ourselves who have limiting beliefs. How many of us in history had accomplished seemingly impossible feats precisely because of great ideals?

I have made the leap, and the height of that leap has increased since I last wrote, but I have always been an all or nothing person. It is either I do something with my best effort, or I don't do it, rather than trying to go the 'safe' route. What is the worst that can happen? That my partner end me end up having to sweep floors? That we can do, as long as we're in it together, united in the same direction, it doesn't matter if we really end up falling flat our faces. At the very least, we have tried our best.

Giant leap of faith

If you really know me well, you will know that I am a pretty extreme person. I swing between extremes. My mind is the eternal pessimist, prepare yourself for the worst, because then you'll never be disappointed, while my heart is the eternal optimist, if you never try you will never know.

My life has existed in cycles, whereby I swing between trying to listen to my heart and getting derided by my mind. Often the mind wins, because the mind is logical and rational. It convinces me in eloquent arguments while the heart just goes I don't know why but this is how I feel, so trust it anyway.

I attribute my depressive cycles to this, when the curve swings upwards it is usually because I am functioning well, trusting my intuition, following my heart. When it swings downwards the mind goes, there I told you so in an infinite loop. The mind mocks at the heart for being naive, the heart crumbles and breaks. I gradually lose the trust I have in myself, if any at all. My heart just wants to believe in the good, yet it gets repeatedly stepped upon because it wants to believe.

The past two decades, I have lost the ability to really, truly, trust myself. I want to trust everybody and everything but just not myself. Why would I trust myself when it seems like I have been the one making all the poor decisions rendering me in heart-breaking circumstances?

Perhaps I have never truly trusted myself. If I did, I would never have felt any fear, and even if things go wrong it wouldn't scare me, because I will always be there for myself, to pick myself up. But I don't trust myself to pick myself up. I would only envision myself being broken again, some part of me would die, and that process would be irreversible. I would never be whole again. I am weak, else why would I always feel so broken each time something goes wrong?

Somehow there is this tiny part of me that never dies. After all the tears, there is always this tiny part that wants to believe. I have no idea why. I have no idea why time and time again, I still remain hopeful. Why I repeatedly allow myself to be broken again and again, yet I still believe in ideals. In hope. In faith.

Is that the infinite part of my soul? Why do I believe in God (the non-religious version, thank you)? I cannot explain it in words, but there is this part of me that knows, that knowing cannot be refuted, it cannot disintegrate, it will always be there. It can be hidden or lost, but it will always be there. I think it is like a paradox. It is because it is so unexplainable, illogical, yet so true, thus the belief to begin with.

Our minds only wants to believe in the proven. My mind wants me to be the logical person I cannot be. I got depressed because I know I can never be the person my mind or society or even my loved ones want me to be.

That tiny voice in me has gotten louder in the past few years. Ironically, the more I fell, the louder it got. It keeps telling me, if only you have listened to me in the first place. The more I realised I cannot depend on outer reality, the more I drew strength from inwards. I started to see that I cannot ask for external motivation if I do not possess it internally. I cannot ask for people to believe in me when I don't even trust myself.

That tiny voice tells me to keep the faith. There are no walls of security that I can lean on, no calculated risks I can take, but it keeps telling to take that leap. That giant leap of faith.

Do I trust myself? After all those times that I have trusted and yet got broken? I realised I have never fully trusted myself, many times I have taken the step to trust my inner voice, only to sell out to the ever-persuasive mind. Eg. I took the leap to going solo because I trust my inner voice, but I ended up being persuaded by the fearful mind to take on projects that was not necessarily beneficial for me because I was insecure. Or those times that I mistakenly thought I was making decisions for the better, but only to realise now that I was trying to preserve my comfort zone. Being comfortable does not equate to being better.

Have you ever really analysed why you keep getting into undesirable situations? Or simply blame it on your own 'luck'? I was one of those who believed I was destined to live a wretched life, because I keep trying and yet I keep getting into 'unlucky' situations. I now have the benefit of hindsight. The 'unlucky' situations always have a reason. Eg. I was in a totally monotonous job for six months that did nothing for my portfolio, but it was there that I met the friend who would play such a vital role in my growth in the past decade.

So, I am gonna take a giant leap of faith. I am going to listen to that tiny but growing voice. I may fall flat on my face but I will gain the experience of trying, rather than to live with another 'what if' in my life.

I cannot take that lying down and that is perhaps the strength I possess. I am tired of living with the constant fear of lack. From now on, I just want to live in a life that is full of abundance.

"If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway."

Mother Theresa, via fastcompany.com

I am who I am

I've finished reading "The Fountainhead" yesterday after seeing the book or the author mentioned in 3 separate blogs in a space of 1 week, after never having heard of it all my life (I love to read, but I am really not that literary). I was barely into it for 20 pages before I had this OMG moment whereby I wondered why on earth did I not read it earlier. This is almost the book I have been waiting for all my life. Almost.

If you're working in a creative field or you have issues reconciling your individuality with society, go read it now. The true depth of the book has to be experienced by the individual reader, but there were a few parts that touched the very core of my soul which I would like to write about.

The protagonist, Howard Roark is an architect. He is the what Ayn Rand, the author, thinks as the perfect man. The man that upholds his ideals no matter what. He believed so much in what he was doing, that it didn't matter if nobody believed in him.

There was this part of the story whereby after a series of incidents whereby the society did everything it could to repel him, Howard had no work – he would rather remain idle and face the possibility of suffering, rather than to compromise of his ideals. His friend, very concerned, tried to advise him to compromise, just a little. Howard refused, and so his friend asked him what was he waiting for if he wouldn't compromise?

Howard replied, "My kind of people".

When I read that part, I just froze. I know exactly what he meant, because I too, have been waiting for "my kind of people".

Howard Roark was everything that mainstream society hated. They thought of him as selfish, because he only cared about what he did and would not integrate himself into society (i.e. develop PR skills and do what other people expect). He believed in creating buildings that were functional, he refused to add a feature to his buildings simply for the sake of pure aesthetic. He was born ahead of his time and he was despised for it. Why?

"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received- hatred. the great creators- the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors- stood alone against the men of their time. every great new thought was opposed. every great new invention was denounced. the first motor was considered foolish. the airplane was considered impossible. the power loom was considered vicious. anesthesia was considered sinful. but the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. they fought, they suffered and they paid. but they won." - Howard Roark / Ayn Rand

Considering this book was written more than half a century ago, I now realise that the issues that exist in our modern society now have probably existed throughout the history of mankind.

Ayn Rand's believed that the man should be selfish in order to be truly selfless. It is man's destiny to live up to his/her fullest potential, to create what he/she is truly capable of, unwavering in his/her vision, in order to share his/her greatest gifts with his/her fellow human beings. I may not have worded it right here and I don't think I am equipped to do so. I agree with most of what she was trying to convey, only that I personally believe that the ideal world requires diversity. I believe in the concept of duality and I believe the individual only can exist because of the mass, just like how I believe you need to experience pain in order to fully experience joy.

I guess if I have read this book earlier in my youth, I may have saved myself a lot of pain. Pain of trying to integrate myself into the mainstream society instead of celebrating my individuality. Though I must say, I appreciate my individuality very much now, because of what I went through in order to preserve it.

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For the past two weeks I seem to be undergoing some surreal reality that I find it hard to explain in words. I kept getting tested in many different situations, with people that exist in social circles that do not overlap each other. I got questioned for my beliefs, people trying to persuade me to see the light of their advice (which was kind and I appreciate), some trying to veer me off the path I was intent to take. Mostly out of good and 'right' intentions in their perspectives.

It was as though I was being asked, "red or blue pill" every other day. It was an interesting experience from my own observation because the more I was being tested and as I defended my beliefs, the more I grew in my conviction. I had plenty of opportunities to take the more comfortable and perhaps easier path. Yet I simply refused.

I no longer cared whether I could get people to believe in what I was doing, neither did I care whether they understood, or even respected my choices. I was someone who always looked for external validation and I needed a lot of it, but this time round, I just didn't think it mattered anymore. I believed in what I was doing and that was enough. Of course, it made me appreciate the empathy I got, out of the very few who understood, even more. My kind of people.

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Life amuses me. The moment I decided to give up control, the moment I stopped hoping for people to validate me, they start popping from nowhere.

Today, I simply feel very blessed. Blessed that somehow throughout the years of society's conditioning I somehow, barely managed to remain true to myself. Blessed that my partner fully supports me. Blessed that I have a select few who is exactly the "my kind of people" I have been waiting for. Blessed for that hug a client gave me today, the same person who saw something in me that I myself couldn't see, much less others. Blessed for that conversation I had in the evening because I could make a difference to someone else. And that someone else could make a difference to me.

Most of all, I am blessed that I seem to be finally able to feel comfortable in my own skin. For I am who I am, I live the life I want to lead. I cannot tell anyone else to live like me, neither can others tell me to live like them. This is the basic right of a human being – free will – that somehow I seem to have lost along the way. I take back that right of mine, today.

If one attends to the problems of humanity and commits oneself to solving them, the universe will care for that person the same way it cares for a flower or a bird. - Buckminster Fuller

A personal tribute to Denise Ho (hocc)

Disclaimer: This is very much personal and is made up of my personal recollection. There may be inaccuracies due to old, failing memory. ;p

I've always been particularly enamored by singer-songwriter types. I've spent a large part of my teenage years obsessed over Faye Wong and when she retired I was convinced there won't be any artiste that would set my heart fluttering again.

I have to admit, when I first noticed Denise Ho (she's relatively unknown in Singapore because cantopop is no longer in the musical diet of the people here these days) it wasn't because of any of her talents. It was because a good friend had pointed her out to me during a karaoke session – nope, not because of the song she was singing, but because she was strongly rumoured to be gay. And that she is the late Anita Mui's protégé.

Her appeal

She always had this androgynous quality, even back in those days when she had long, silky hair. She was always charismatic, though not in the same league as her mentor and definitely different from the unapproachable Faye Wong.

She's not naturally gifted with a voice that would take people's breaths away, neither is she blessed with drop-dead gorgeous looks. She knows this herself and acknowledged it during her 2006 concert. However, she makes up for it with musical ability – she has produced a stage musical, written several memorable songs and is great with the electric guitar. Most of all, she has a lot of heart. That unflappable drive and determination to succeed – not as the most popular artiste, but as the one who stays true to the path she wants.

2004-2006: transformation

Her first concert was held 10 years after she started her career. 10 years is a long time, especially for an artiste. The passing away of Anita Mui, her beloved mentor was the unfortunate trigger to her transformation. I believe many a time we all have to sink to the bottom in order to rise up. That was quite literal in this case.

I remember her speaking in an interview, admitting that she had always been stubborn in executing her musical career, never wanting to wear fanciful costumes or attract publicity. She simply wanted to be herself and perform great music. Her mentor once told her, once you become an entertainer, you belong to the stage and the audience. You have a responsibility to entertain.

I guess the passing away allowed her to take a look at the bigger picture and reset her priorities. She probably felt very much inclined to carry on her mentor's legacy, not only to entertain, but to do good in her capacity as a celebrity. And sometimes, in fact most times, in order to fulfill a greater purpose, you will need to step out of your own comfort zone and be committed to do things that you typically will not want to do.

So she started putting on the glittering costumes, included smooth, complicated dance routines into her songs, made the effort to put herself into the mainstream. I apologise if I made it sound like she was a sell-out, but that was far from the truth. In taking those steps forward she brought her talents out into the open. (At barcamp 4 last year, Joe Augustine pointed out that if you have a gift, you owe it to society to market yourself. To enable the sharing of the gift. I would not have really agreed with this one year earlier, but now I feel that it is very much the truth.)

So what if you need to do a little packaging, a bit of mass marketing, ultimately the goal is to get the message out to as many people as possible. It is all about looking at the bigger picture and doing the necessary bridging to your desired destination.

She had the blessed help of a truly gifted lyricist, Wyman Wong, who writes the lyrics of 95% of her songs. His lyrics are so haunting, intricate and beautiful that no words of description will do him justice. Strings of cantonese words that makes your heart wince when you listen to them. She was also blessed with a personal band – Green Mountain Orchestra, which consists of her brother and three other talented musicians.

What started of as pure curiosity when I took notice of her the first time at the ktv developed into pure admiration (okay, almost obsession lol). The more I found out about her, the more I listened to her music, the more I watched her perform; the more my admiration grew.

So when the news arrived that she was finally due to hold her first concert in Hongkong, I bought the concert and *air* tickets almost immediately. I was not doing very well financially back then but I knew it would be worth it. I was not let down. While artistes naturally gifted with amazing voices (no names mentioned lol) would perhaps run out of breath during a dance segment or struggle to reach the high notes during a live concert, Denise delivered an almost flawless performance. And it was only 'almost' flawless because the flaws came at those times she could no longer control her delivery – due to tears.

Every single cent I spent flying to Hongkong was not only worth it, but I probably had a double ROI (return of investment) in terms of the memories I brought back, at least.

2009: losing in order to gain

So when I attended her concert again last year, I went with the same expectations of a good, live, performance. But I was stunned. Just when I thought it could not get any better, she proved me wrong. She managed to deliver a vocal performance that was even better than the last. While previously she betrayed split-moments of doubts and weakness when switching to falsetto (pardon me, I have no knowledge of the proper musical terms), this time round she sounded better than a studio recording! It was better than a studio recording because apart from the impeccable vocal delivery, she infused her charged emotions into every single note. She sang as if every note would be her last.

Having been to concerts whereby the artistes sounded like they were regurgitating the song from their distant memory and as though they cannot wait to finish it, it was difficult not to be appreciative of her performance.

Synchronicity in action

I always believe in synchronicity and I believe I was meant to catch her 2009 performance. It was written in the stars. I had actually made the decision *not* to go, my Tokyo trip had blew my travel budget for the entire year. With a strange twist of fate, an ex-client from Hongkong decided to visit Singapore and meet me up for coffee before she was due to be back. I have never met this client before and in fact I had never met any of my clients (by choice), but a few months before that meeting I made the conscious decision to end my hermit-dom. If she had decided to drop by Singapore any other time, I would never have agreed! ;p (Seriously, I had a very serious case of hermit-dity.)

So we were having a good conversation and I casually mentioned that I was supposed to be in Hongkong that week to catch Denise Ho's concert. She was like, hey, come, you can stay over at my place! This was a person that I never met before in my life and we only worked together for a couple of projects and she had no reservations about inviting a near-stranger over to her place. If this was not in pure, good faith, I wouldn't know what to call it. (Thanks, Belle.)

Anyway, I told her that the tickets were sold out, it was too late to go anyway. She flew back to Hongkong that evening, saw on facebook that a friend was selling the tickets (I said it was written in the stars) and bought them as a gift for me. She emailed me right away, complete with a screenshot of that facebook status and scans of the tickets.

I was speechless. Events like these restore my faith in humanity.

Meant to be there

I was experiencing a low period in my life at that time, fatigued in every manner possible. The moment the concert kicked off, I felt a surge of energy (very similar to how I felt at the AWARE egm), the atmosphere and energy level was electrifying. If you had been in a place whereby tons of people come together, united by a common cause, you would know what I am trying to express. This is beyond words.

Midway through the concert, I understood why I had to be there. She said to us, that in the past 3 years people would have thought that she had lost a lot, but she felt that she has gained more than what she had lost. That if you believe in a cause, you should stay strong in that belief, even if means being the odd one out or going against the flow. (Isn't this what I've been writing all the time at this blog!?)

She could have gone on to greater heights from 2006, during the peak of her career. Just when everyone was expecting her to move forward from there and perhaps take the crown off Joey Yung (the reigning canto-pop queen), she almost retreated back into obscurity.

Going against the flow

Instead of doing what everyone is expecting her to do, she took what most people would view as steps backwards. She took a lot of time out to get involved in charity and social causes, produced albums that were more of an artistic ambition than an attempt for mainstream success. She married artistic ambition and her effort for causes when she produced an album (Ten Days in the Madhouse) that was accompanied by a documentary on people living in a mental institution, as well as staging a free concert themed "Happiness is free".

Her mainstream popularity waned during this period and probably people thought her career was going downhill. But she probably understood that in life, you win some and lose some – this was a tradeoff she was willing to make. Her decisions were validated during that concert. If you had been there, as part of the audience, you would have felt what she felt. Ultimately it was the people there that mattered. The support that stayed with her throughout the years, the people who understood her. She managed to influence less people, but on a much deeper level.

What really matters

I have always maintained while writing this blog that it doesn't matter if the mass audience think I am writing crap or if I am delusional, because I know that there will be people who will connect with my writing, however few and these are the people that matters. When you want to make a difference you cannot expect to change the world single-handedly, there is a reason why there is diversity in the world. Diversity is what that unites and divides people, it is what that makes the world so beautiful and yet so ugly.

You can only hope in faith that you will manage to touch the lives of a few people genuinely, and these people will go on and touch a few other lives. Just like how I was touched by a few good people and I am now trying to do the same.

She spoke of the difficulties she faced while trying to stay true to her path and the many times she has contemplated giving up, but standing at the stage that day, feeling all that love and support, she knows she has to carry on.

I swallowed back tears of empathy when I was listening to her, because it stroke a chord with me. How difficult it can be. To try and do what feels right.

Me, being part of the audience that night, I too, knew I had to carry on.

She asked the audience, was the past 3 years smooth or difficult? And that what matters was that despite whatever that happened during those 3 years, we are still there with her. I had a flashback of my past 3 years and I couldn't help but feel emotional. How much have gone by. How much I have survived. But I still did. I still survived.

I thanked my guides silently, I had felt immense gratitude to be there. That it was kind of a nice reminder for me to stay true to my cause. I went back to Singapore refreshed.

Bringing peace

She came to Singapore last weekend to act in a stage play directed by Edward Lam, "Man and Woman, War and Peace". This time, I went with no expectations (I saw a few promo clips and didn't think it looked very interesting, see am not a biased fan), and in all honesty, it was just because I wanted to see her, not because I wanted to indulge in any cultural activity of any sort.

And I am glad I went with no expectations because it provided me a clean slate to really enjoy and appreciate the play. Again, it reminded me of the time she has taken out to go on this tour, just to stay true to her ideals.

"When two people are together, they only see each other. The "third party", however, represents a way out instead of a dead end. Because two people in love only have eyes for each other, they only see each other's strengths and weaknesses, no matter how keen their perception. What's more important, however, is the turning one one's gaze outwards, away from the self, beyond each other."

"...there is no peace without war. And peace is but the temporary respite before a war."

– Quoted from Man and Woman, War and Peace's programme guide.

The play tried to incorporate lots of ideals and messaging, to me, it was rather successful despite the complexity it was trying to accomplish, coupled with many moments of comedic relief. I don't think it is everyone's cup of tea. Regardless, I could fully appreciate the effort and ideals, and I was particularly impressed with the change of parts of the script in an attempt to localize the play to a certain extent. They even brought up "Little Nonya"! The play would still be accessible whether the script was changed or not but it is really all the small details that count because it would definitely make the local audience relate to the play more.

I was suffering from a lack of sleep and was feeling rather down when I went to watch the play (yes I know, I have a pattern). I marvel at the timing of how these events seem to co-incide. Once again, both the play and Denise Ho seemed to remind me of where my priorities lie – that I should stay true to my path. It is just so difficult to find that intricate balance between survival and purpose and I don't deny I have veered off the path countless times. Sucked into a comfort-zone and and selling my soul to maintain that status-quo.

Once again, a grateful, subtle, reminder in the best way possible. I mean, how can you find fault with a reminder that consists of entertainment and an outstanding performer?

Doing what that matters

All in all, I was extremely appreciative of the performance, regardless of whatever connotations or meaning it had to me. I wanted to show how much the play meant to me, to tell her (and the cast) that hey, you've touched my heart. I very much wanted to give a standing ovation but I knew it would be very embarrassing if I was the only one who stood up. There I was, having this internal battle within me, but I eventually came to realise that my embarrassment was nothing compared to the appreciation they deserve from me. Even if it was just from that one, lonely me.

So I stood up when the director and the main leads took the stage to give thanks. As I've expected, I seemed to be the only one who was standing up (I think the local audience is generally either very shy or very hard to please ;p). I felt really awkward but I kept telling myself that it is not important. Thankfully, when it was her turn to take the mic, there were a few other fans in the front rows who stood up together, at least I felt a little less silly lol.

This act of mine is rather significant to me, because people who know me will know I am extremely shy and have issues with being in public. It is like I finally had enough and I really just want to do what that really matters. If I want to stand up and applaud, just go ahead and do it right? Why does it matter if people think I am some crazy fan or not? It doesn't matter what people think or if they really understand – as long as I know what I am doing and why I am doing it, and that I really want to do it.

Hi, to a fellow alien

Some time last year after her series of concerts, she left this blog entry that says something along the lines of, "I am an alien. I do not belong here".

I don't think most people took her literally. I don't think people take me literally either when I tell them that. And I've been telling people this all my life. And the discovery that it may just be quite literal. (I don't care if you're rolling your eyes now lol)

So, Denise, if you're reading this: please know you're definitely not alone on this. :) And please know that I admire and applaud your efforts to continue doing what you believe in.

Thank you for your persistence in your beliefs and purpose.

Why I wrote this post

I really wanted to share my after-thoughts and significance of her concert to me last year, actually right after the concert. But there was just too much I wanted to express and I never had the time and space to put them all down in words. The words have sort of taken a life of their own in my head ever since I watched the play and I think that they want to be published.

I really want to share these thoughts for various reasons. I think you can see it as a personal tribute or dedication to her, or an ambitious attempt to summarise her and her efforts in a few thousand words.

It is again, my attempt to show and share my appreciation.

Additional links (yup she's a social network's dream as well):

Living life without limits

"Now is the time to integrate with kindred spirits while continuing to leave internal and external limiting factors behind."

Quoted from The Aquarius-Leo Full Moon of January 2010 - Creativity Crystallizing in Forms of Power by Robert Wilkinson.

Astrology works in funny ways (No it is really not the monthly column you read in newspapers). I was just having this whole thought process about the limiting beliefs I have in my life for the past few days, and this article cropped up in my feed. Regardless of whether the astrological transits influenced me or not, I thought the above quote aptly summed up what I feel now, and will probably be the theme for my 2010.

Moving forward

I wanted to write my customary New Year's resolutions post quite a while ago, but I did not really have any specific resolutions. Not because there wasn't anything to improve on, quite the opposite actually. I think I am on the brink of a crucial transition phase in my life, and mere words will not be enough to express how I feel.

The great fear of moving backwards always seem to stop me from moving forward. I cannot help but feeling that the best solution is not to move, stay in limbo, until I know the best way to move forward. But there's no "best way to move forward".  How do we determine what is the "best"? By basing on experiences of others?

I've always believed, from a young tender age, that the best way to live life is to live it spontaneously. Yet how many of us can truly be spontaneous? Not worry about bills? Even if we don't care about our own survival, what about our loved ones and whether we would be able to afford medical care for them if necessary?

Bad news can be catalysts for growth

A while ago I had some news which threatened my financial stability. All the plans that I've made for this coming year either has to be shelved, or I have to find some miraculous way of pulling it all together. Perhaps if it was in the past, I would have been crippled by the news. Devastated, and think that nothing in my life goes according to plan. The reality is, even the best laid plans can be thwarted. A dip in the economy, a war in some country, a natural disaster, tons of things can happen. We can only try our best.

I could have continued moping about my situation, which I did, for a short while – I think sometimes we have to reach the bottom in order to rise up. Problems can be solved by money are not problems. I sound frivolous by saying this, but look at little Charmaine, whose banner I put up on the right sidebar of this blog. We can garner all the donations for her expensive treatments, but her life is still in the hands of fate. We can only hope and pray for the best. Money cannot solve her problem, neither can money really solve Haiti's problems. Can money bring peace and stability to a nation? But that doesn't mean we stop giving or trying, because trying our best is better than not trying at all, isn't it?

We all have choices

Some of us are trying their best to deny this, but we all have choices. I used to hold a deterministic view of life, I believed that everything was pre-destined and we don't have a choice if we're destined to suffer. Somehow I was blessed because a series of events changed my views. I can choose to mope, or I can choose to be hopeful. If someone without limbs can lead such an inspiring life, why the rest of us who can walk, talk and eat, feel so aggrieved?

I have realised it is all about being able to exert control over your mind. Most of us allow the mind to rule us, to tell us we have to be richer, to do better, to be slimmer, whatever. I am blessed to know a few people who are not bounded by the restrictions of the mind or society, and these people are truly exceptional. They take risks, live life to the max, and are truly happy. You don't even need to know them to know they are happy. They exude happiness from their very core.

Wiring & beliefs

Being raised in a materialistic society in Singapore, (and it didn't help having a very critical mother), add my natural melancholic self to the equation, I seem to be wired to believe that I was destined to fail. I worry about anything and everything, and I worry what will happen in 50 years time. I worry about the future and problems that doesn't even exist. I think of the worst case scenario in every situation. It can be a good trait. It is always good to be prepared for the worst consequences, but not when you actually believe that the worst consequences are likely to happen all the time. Sometimes I think I actually will my problems into existence. Isn't this what they call a self-fulfilling prophecy?

So when I received the news that could threaten my financial stability, I went through the entire process of 'shit, I am never going to make it'.

This time, a switched flipped in my mind. If there's a 50/50 chance of failure and success, why do I seem to think that failure is the higher possibility? Why do I subscribe to the notion that I was not capable of rising up to the new occasion, that my situation will improve instead?

As I allowed myself to conjure hundreds of solutions to my problem, I realised that a solution was not impossible. It was just how much I was willing to do it. A difficult solution does not mean impossible.

Removing limits

Now, I am in the process of removing all my limiting beliefs. Whatever that held me back in the past. It is not easy, and some mornings I still wake up with slight panic attacks over what I am going to do about my problem, some nights I still get dreams of being late for exams. I seem to dream a lot of the past and it gives an accurate picture of my whole psyche. I am still wired to the past, still haunted by it. In reality my life is getting better every day but there is still this part of me that thinks that this is all too good to be true, and that it will end soon. I am like ending my own happiness even before even any sign of trouble. I am already planning for doomsday.

Nobody is threatening my happiness except myself. I cannot change external circumstances but I can learn how to cope with it positively. I wouldn't be in my 3rd year of my solo career now if I didn't choose to let go my fears. I would never have imagined having the life I have now when I was still working long hours under employment. Back then, I only wanted my life to improve slightly, to stop working nightmarish hours and I was even prepared to suffer and earn less money in exchange for having a life back. Now, I am almost living the life I have always dreamed of, I still have to work long hours and suffer the stress every now and then, but I have the freedom (to travel, to sleep in, to choose clients, etc), and that is most important to me.

Instead of fretting over the possible problems in the future, I rather spend my energy being the architect of my ideals. I want to dream of an improved life, not plan for the worse. Because even if unfortunate incidents do happen, there's usually nothing much you can do. Probably the very most, is to be properly insured and have some emergency funds. Even the deepest emergency fund you have in the world will not help much if life really decides to throw you a curveball.

Grateful for the unexpected

Now, looking back at the news I'd received, I am amazingly grateful for it. Like truly. I was in some form of a comfort zone and I needed it to push me out of it. If this did not happen, I would not have been spurred on to be creative about the ways I can change my lifestyle. Something that I thought that required a financial miracle is turning out to be seemingly possible – all because the situation called for extreme solutions, and one of the solutions do not seem so extreme after all...In fact, based on the current situation it is quite do-able within my means, and who is to say my means will not improve? At the very least, it is worth trying and hoping for.

If this did not happen, I would not even contemplate this particular solution (sorry for being ambiguous but it is too early to write about it), because my own limiting beliefs thought it was impossible.

Just trust

Some time last year, I was in a very bad shape and I let go. I let go of my worries, my fears, and any attachment to any outcomes. I told myself to trust the Universe and see what happens. It was very scary, but looking back now, whatever followed up actually turned out much, much, better than I could ever have imagined or expected.

This time, and for the rest of my life, I want to do the same. Just trust. Implicitly. As long as I can eat, talk and walk, whatever that comes along is a bonus and a blessing.

It will not be easy, but I really do want to stop being so affected by my past, whether is it memories, phobias, conditionings.

I want to re-wire myself.

I want to live my life without my self-imposed or society's limits.

"Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they would get. But if you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen." – Conan O'Brien

Looking back at 2009

2009 has been a tough year for me, personally. It wasn't because of the economy. Reading my previous year's 'looking back' post, I remember that I had ended the year with lots of optimism and hopes. It wasn't to be as I endured a difficult time mentally and emotionally as I struggled to balance all aspects of my life, but I remain grateful – for no matter how difficult it was, I am still able to remain relatively healthy and my loved ones are all well. That to me, is already a blessing I am happy to be able to count, because I know for a fact that many people are not aware of how blessed they are on an everyday basis.

What I could have done better

1. Managing self-expectations

I wanted to title this as time-management, but I have gradually grown to realise that the root of the problem is not that I don't know how to manage my time properly or that I am not disciplined enough. For almost all my life I have pointed the finger at myself for being a procrastinator and that led to feelings of self-guilt and undermining my own value. I had almost come to accept the fact that I simply cannot manage time.

The problem was never the management of time, but the expectations I have laid upon myself. It is ironic because I have a relatively low self-esteem but somehow I have sky-high expectations of myself. I have this super-woman mentality that I can manage a few major processes going on at the same time and come out fine. It is one thing to have a survivor's mentality but another thing to put myself through all the unnecessary stress. I had overestimated my ability to multi-task and the time it takes to accomplish things. I always seem to think that I can be fast (very Aries of me).

If I had set reasonable expectations for myself, I would have met them well and would not have put myself in the stressful situation of being in danger of not meeting deadlines, or trying to manage multiple timelines at one go. I have learnt time management is all about setting small, achievable targets – I mean, if I expect myself to be superwoman (which I am not, or else I wouldn't even be writing this), obviously I wouldn't be able to fulfill the tasks I have set up for myself.

At one stage in 2009, I was in the middle of a huge residential move, taking on a new spiritual course, plus juggling about 5 major work projects, taking care of a dog with behavioral problems; all at the same time. It did not come as a surprise when I was on the verge of a breakdown, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If this was to happen a couple of years earlier, I would be blaming my luck or whatever else I could blame upon. However, I took this setback very personally, it took me a long time to stop blaming myself for it.

I fell out of love with my work, my work which I so preciously hold dear to my heart. I tie my self-identity to my work and the work I create, when things do not go well with my work, I crumble. It is hard not to fall out of love with it when I am just so burnt out. Not to mention my living quarters had more than 50 huge un-packed boxes. And a dog who refused to stop barking.

I was lost. But I took responsibility for it, I sent apologies to all parties involved and decided that the only thing I could do, is just to put in my best. I stopped accepting new work apart from those I was sure that I could manage. I took myself apart to rebuild my self again.

And I think I am still in the midst of rebuilding it. Right now, I am careful with every decision I make, especially with work. I cannot help but feel apprehensive because I have this phobia of repeating the same mistake. However, I know I cannot be over-protective or I will just miss out on plenty opportunities. I can only put in my best and hope for the best.

2. Loving myself

This past year, I've been putting in a lot of effort into loving myself more. I know this sounds egoistic, but I haven't been loving myself for most of my life. Like honestly. I don't give myself enough credit and I beat myself up hopelessly when things go wrong. This whole self-image thing is central to the many other issues that is going on in my life and to the previous point as well. When things did not go well, all I could do was to lament how incapable I was instead of encouraging myself to do better the next time.

If I had loved myself more, I would have allowed myself more time to play and rest instead of working all day long, I would have valued myself more and not under-charge for my work, which would allow me to take in less work. See how this self-image thing affects me in and out? It creates a whole vicious cycle:

Lack of self love -> Under-value self -> Under charge -> Takes in lots of work to survive -> Lots of stress generated -> Procrastinate because of stress -> Unable to manage timelines properly -> Creativity takes a hit -> Start blaming myself for being unable to create to my own expectations -> Self-hatred begins.

Sidenote: I have seldom missed a deadline in the past year regardless of all my issues. I would rather slave-drive myself than to disappoint my clients. Unless I fell physically sick, which I took full responsibility for.

3. Achieving balance

Work and other personal responsibilities took over my life for the past year, I think I could have read a bit more, played a bit more, watched a few more movies, relaxed a bit more, exercised a lot more.

I tend to swing from extreme to extreme so it is important for me to learn how to go in-between.

What I can be proud of

1. Bringing myself out of the hermit-hole

Being energetically sensitive (okay stop rolling your eyes now ;p), I sort of stopped going out to meet people since 2006. It makes me feel drained and I take quite a while to recover from it. It was a good and much needed break, but I forgone plenty of opportunities in doing that. Everything exists in duality, in avoiding negativity and I had to avoid positivity as well.

Plus, I had self-image issues so I have a phobia of meeting strangers.

It all started from the AWARE incident which made me realise that I need to know like-minded people to achieve any cause. That it can actually be empowering instead of disempowering.

From coming out of my self-created hermit hole, I managed to meet tons of great people who have in turned brought tons of great relationships and opportunities.

2. Going to Tokyo and Hongkong

Amidst all the mess going on, I am glad that I managed to squeeze the time and resources to visit Julia, my spiritual mother in Tokyo, which whetted my appetite for more. Each time I travel out of Singapore I feel a sense of liberation and joy I cannot simply explain in words. I am proud that I did not allow my financial insecurity to stop me from travelling. It was a priceless experience.

An ex-client from Hongkong I worked remotely and briefly with, popped by Singapore and bought me tickets to watch Denise Ho's concert after I casually mentioned it to her. I haven't even met her prior to this and she graciously bought the tickets for me, and invited me over to stay at her place during my two-week trip. I could have burgled her house for god's sake but she trusted me unconditionally; I was almost a stranger to her. Thank you, Belle. I appreciate all of these from the bottom of my heart. This happened at a time when things was not going well for me and it re-affirmed my faith in people and the Universe. If not for my earlier decision to reverse my hermit-dom, I wouldn't have accepted the invitation to meet up and I would have missed this learning experience.

The Hongkong trip was significant to me because it was the first time I sort of travelled alone (my partner left for Singapore after one week). I am the sort of person who is afraid of being alone in the dark and this was a major step out for me. It gave me the confidence to do this traveling thing alone. Apart from that, I had the chance to catch one of the greatest concerts I've ever watched and the concert inspired me very much, both on a professional and personal level. Again, I put aside my financial insecurity to make this trip and it was very, very much worth it.

3. Finding my voice

This is again, tied to my self-image and I have been afraid to voice my true feelings and opinions because I was worried about how people would take them. Will they see me as some weirdo? Or will my clients get upset if I tell them what I truly feel? Can I stand up for myself against nasty clients?

As I grew in self-confidence after I re-valued myself (like some property, haha), I decided that it was very important to me that I find my voice back. I used to be totally self-confident and vocal when I was a kid and I lost that part of me when my life turned up-side down during my teenage years.

I needed to be true, true to myself, and to people. Finding my voice was triggered by the AWARE incident as I struggled whether to air my potentially radical views publicly or not. I finally came to the conclusion that I am my Self and I need to stay true to that self. I put my true self out there and it is up to people whether they want to accept me for me or not. Those who can't, will not be a good fit for me anyway. It will only be tiresome and will not be of any value to both parties if we all have to put on fake fronts and hypocritical smiles.

4. Realising my greatest enemy is – myself

This was a major epiphany for me.

For realising it was never about the luck, the environment, the people, the circumstances. It is all about how I choose to perceive and believe. Everything, everything can be good or bad, it is how one looks at it.

The difference between success and failure is the ability to control the mind. To train the mind and not let the mind train you. The mind is truly powerful, it can sabotage or it can empower. It just takes a flip of a mind-switch to make a radical difference but the difficulty is to convince oneself to flip that switch.

If I truly want something, I have to make that effort, no matter how great it is. It is entirely up to me whether I want to put in that extra inch or mile. Everyone has the power to will themselves into doing anything. "Cannot help it" is a bad excuse. The circumstances can be bad, people can be critical, but if you don't believe in yourself at the very least, or make the effort to go that extra mile, who's going to do it for you?

Nobody. So I have to do it for myself. And if I don't have the will to do it for myself, then who else but myself is the greatest enemy?

Nobody has the ability to create that negative situation or that bleak outlook apart from oneself. If there are people who can make the best out of crappy situations (Stephen Hawking, for example, has lost the use of his limbs but he is still contributing to the world, or Avram Grant's dad who had to bury his parents and siblings during world war II and still feel positive about life), then it is up to us to determine how negative or positive a situation can be. It is all relative.

Gratitude time for the ones who made a significant difference

  • Julia, as always. I do not know how would I have survived without you
  • My partner, for her unwavering support and love
  • Belle, for her invitation to Hong Kong
  • Andy & Jussi, for taking that effort to convince me that meeting strangers can be a pleasant experience
  • Adrianna, for being that inspiring example
  • Danny, for your moral support
  • All the great friends I have made during #barcamp
  • All my clients, especially Kevin, who has not only been a great client but a business mentor to me. The rest, I won't mention all the names because all of you have been great. Thank you for your support and understanding
  • All the Stevens (two, actually) that I know, for they see in me what I cannot seem to see for myself
  • Twitter and my twitter friends, for being my source of comfort when the going gets tough. Not sure what I'll do without the internet, seriously. I wouldn't even have a career! Can't imagine if I was born a century earlier.
  • Those of you who believe in the magic of the universe, thank you for making me feel sane.

Here's to a great 2010!