defragment.me

Why I do my best for the elections

I admit I do have a mildly obsessive nature. I don't know if you can put mildly and obsessive in the same sentence. This sort of nature has served me well when I am in any learning process. Whether was it learning Photoshop, building my first PC or trying to build my first website. When I really want to do something, I have to do it, or I can't let it rest.

So I'm not afraid to admit I'm slightly obsessed with the elections in Singapore. Perhaps there's a thin line between obsession and passion. Not to the point that I go to rallies physically (I'm crowd phobic actually) but I monitor my twitter stream and Facebook feed like every 5 minutes. I retweet links, share my own thoughts, selecting quotes to display and basically disseminate as much information I can.

Someone told me I shouldn't be obsessed. Hmm. After feeling suppressed my entire life, I don't think I can oppress myself any further. I feel that this may be the same case for many people. Having to put up with threats and fear all our lives, from every single level you can imagine – the government, the authorities, our teachers, parents, etc – now that we can actually have some self-expression, of course there's tons of noise being generated!

I felt a little guilty, because I am like ignoring all other aspects of my life. I do whatever I can for my work, but other than that, I've stopped watching tv, stopped doing pretty much everything else. I paused for a while and questioned myself if what I was doing was right.

Then I realised, hey, I'm just taking 10 days out of 4 years to do my best as a Singaporean. I don't think that's too much to ask for. Sorry if you've been a neglected friend, or irritated friends and followers on my social media accounts. Please feel free to block me or whatever, but I cannot stop expressing my views freely.

I've been writing the same in several blog posts, I want to be the change I want. So if I cannot stand for elections myself, I will do everything in my capacity to disseminate information. I will speak, loud and clear. I want to preserve my own voice. I want to set an example for our future generations, that they too, can and should have their own voices.

I am proud to be a human being with a lot of heart, so by natural extension, I want to be part of a country with heart as well. I want to have a leader who inspires me. I mean, if you safe and secure types like having those kind of leaders, I respect your choice. But please don't try and tell me that I should be happy being safe and secure. I like living on the edges. I may be considered radical, I do not know, it really depends on which school of thought you belong to. Perhaps Singapore would eventually prove to be economically unviable to have that sort of leadership that possesses empathy with the commonfolk, but I would like to try.

It is like choosing a lifetime partner, a career route. People keep telling me what I should choose. I am genuinely sick of that. I just want to make choices based on my own preferences, can I? I don't care if I am naive or idealistic because this is the way I have been living and this is the way I like myself best. With lots of heart. With ideals. With passion. With a genuine desire to push for change. Not only for myself but for the kids of future generations. They need love, nurturing and ideals, not 16 hour school days with school bags that weigh 5kg. They should walk around with fire in the eyes, not with a glazed look and detachment from everything.

They can choose to fall down themselves, make a few mistakes, but we shouldn't sabotage them.

You know, sometimes I ask myself. Why do I bother? I mean, I'll just work hard, save up a considerable sum, find a country that suits my ideals, and live there for the rest of my life. Why do I bother myself with what happens to the future generations?

I have no concrete answer. All I can say is, that it pains me to see clones of me walking around. Thinking there's no hope to be doing what you love.

Can I live with myself not doing anything for these kids even though I know there's could be some light at the end of the tunnel?

No, I can't. I can't bear the thought of just one more person who was on the same self-destructive and self-loathing pathway that I was taking. Because I've now had the benefit of hindsight and now I know that it is possible to live authentically and do what you love. It is possible to be a little bit more human. It is possible to have crappy O level results, with no tertiary degree and still be happy.

I wished I had someone tell me that 15 years ago.

I saw a rally speech by Mr Chiam See Tong, he said, that our MM Lee had taken a particular interest in his O level results. He only had five credits. Our MM was asking, if this is the person you want to be holding office. The guy with 5 O level credits, or the one with straight As (*ahem* Mah Bow Tan)?

So this is what we tell our kids. Hey, judge people on the number of As okay?

Mr Chiam said, not in his exact words as I can't remember – 'if your mother scold you for your O level results, you can quote me as an example. I had 5 credits but now I am a lawyer. When there is life, there is hope. When there is hope, there is change.'

These are the kind of words our leaders should be telling us. But maybe they can't. Else we'll stop being GDP machines.

Why can't we look at the bigger picture? I can't help but feel, they don't want to look at that picture. They know about the poor but they only want to do the minimum effort. They're not doing a good job of trying to convince us that they make all these decisions because they truly care about the people instead of lining their own pockets.

I saw another quote from SM Goh (youtube video), referring to JBJ, saying that JBJ had fought for welfare, and 'we were dead against it'. (In this context he must have meant social payouts - perhaps we can't have payouts but I definitely believe we can do more for the poor since we are so f*cking rich.)

Now I see. Rich people live happily ever after and it is okay to leave the poor behind.

I as an individual, rather not have the glamour of YOG and rather spend that 400 million trying to help our poor. Where are our priorities?

Yeah okay, if Singapore wants to be an efficient country with strong GDP, casinos and children with glazed eyes.....and if like some of my friends seem very uncomfortable that the stability of our country is now being threatened by democracy, that you tell them about the poor, the injustice of the ISA, but it doesn't matter to them as long as their pockets are full....

Then maybe it is really just me. I can't be part of this place. If one day, I've tried my best and the country takes a turn for the worse in terms of human spirit, I'll not hesitate to pack up and leave. At least I have given my all.

p.s. dedicating this to the people who has been telling me I should be grateful that Singapore is safe, secure and stable. Please be grateful all you want, I have spent my life hating myself because I was trying to be safe, secure and stable. I want to have more heart, and if that comes at the price of my safety, stability and security, I'll gladly exchange my life for it. I, just want to be myself and express my own preferences.

Inner reflections: Self-esteem

I have low self-esteem. I am not afraid to admit it. In fact I think I over-emphasise on it.

I hesitated writing this post because I wasn't sure if I really wanted to share my confused, intimate thoughts publicly, but eventually I've decided that I do feel like I want to share my growth (or the lack of it) with you.

Prior to my Tokyo trip I promised myself I will start from a clean slate when I return. Now that I am back, I'll not be afraid to admit that I am still in the process of clearing my thoughts. I shall attempt to type them down here – but I should pre-warn anyone that whatever that follows will probably be like a tangled ball of uncertain, confused thoughts.

Issues arising

I am not sure when did the transition actually take place, since when did I morph from an over-confident, vocal kid, to someone who is painfully shy and who is coping with the lack of a self-esteem? This is the root of many of my issues. My poor self-image probably contributed most of me:

  • being afraid to speak out
  • being extremely shy
  • having no proper boundaries because I am afraid to upset people – not being able to say 'no' when I should (which in turn is causing many more issues)
  • under-charging for my work that I am seriously proud of
  • letting people step all over me
  • disliking confrontations
  • getting upset very easily because I take people's words too personally, or letting criticisms upset me too much because I am too sensitive of my own flaws
  • letting my moods fluctuate easily because I am easily affected by outer conditions
  • expecting too much out of myself because I don't give myself much credit
  • not being motivated to work because I am paranoid that I'll start to regress in terms of quality of work

Basically I am constantly swimming in vicious cycles. Poor self image leads to tons of issues described above which translates to poor quality of life. It is already a huge improvement from a couple years back, when I would find it difficult to believe that I would ever be happy. I used to think that my life is destined to be ridden with 'bad luck' because I tend to encounter negative situations repeatedly.

Blaming it all on the world

It seemed like all I wanted to do was to be happy and work for my passion, but all I ended up with was plenty of people who seemed to take advantage of my idealism. I would negotiate a low-pay package because I wanted to learn, thinking that since I was green, it would be sensible to exchange money in return for experience. However, being a fast learner, I would usually excel on the job, but the pay package would never be revised.

I sincerely believed that my employers would recognise my effort. Yes, it doesn't make business sense for them to revise my pay package voluntarily right?

At this point, many people, especially those who believe in their capabilities, would hold reasonable talks with their employers to change the situation, but fearing confrontations, I would simply be silent, until I would gradually lose the love for my job because of the lack of appreciation – monetary or not.

I would proclaim proudly – that I am not taken by money the way most people do and I would rather choose to be a poor artist who would at least be working for a job I love. Ah, that poor artist mentality. That set the pattern I would encounter for many years of my life. I gave up money for the freedom to choose (I still will).

There was a particular job where most of the employees were just trying to bide their time, whereas I was winning pitches and new accounts with my work. Six months into a job, no word of any recognition, which didn't particularly disturb me, until I found out by accident that I was the lowest paid employee by a four-figure mile.

I am only but human. I felt let down, not only by my employer, but by the world. Why was it that no matter how hard I tried, how much I excelled, how not materialistic I was, I never seemed to be appreciated?

It is only a recent discovery that perhaps I didn't value myself enough for people to value me. I couldn't see that being paid adequately and being materialistic are separate issues.

And it seeps into my current work

After going into self-employment, the same pattern ensued. I kept my rates low when I first started out to build a portfolio, which was justifiable. Just that I continued to keep my rates low because I probably didn't think people would hire me if I raised my rates. Apart from that, I kept accepting work because I was paranoid that work would dry up. So, I was working long hours, getting not a lot of money, feeling really stressed out because I was very particular about the quality I output, with deadlines looming over me every day.

It wasn't a pretty sight. Do I have anyone to blame for burning out, falling sick, and losing the passion for my work?

I remember telling a client that I was flexible over rates as long as I get to do good work. Now, I am not sure what kind of message I was sending out to the world. Though I must maintain, I am very blessed because there have been a couple of clients who not only refrained from taking advantage of my idealism, they actually took care to reward me more than I asked for. If I had to go through all that again just to know that there are such kind souls that exist, I would gladly do it all over again. People like them give me hope in this world.

It is extremely frustrating, because all I wanted to do is to be nice, help companies who are starting out (which means they do not have much of a budget), because I truly want to invest in their dreams. I want to help execute someone else's vision, because I know how it is like for someone to help when everyone else just want to know about the figures.

I have not changed my stand, I would still consider helping someone if it was worth it, but there has to be a balance. I find it difficult to reconcile that being one of the better designers (not the best, but I would say above average, that much credit I would give to my work), I have to think really hard if I wanted to purchase a new laptop for my work.

The creative conflict

I think this is an inner-conflict that many passion-motivated people face. Trying to get rid of the 'poor artist' mentality or stop thinking that money corrupts (my beliefs about money will warrant another long post).

And how do we draw the line between genuinely wanting to be 'nice' and yet not allow people to step all over?

I have a fear. That I will not meet expectations if I start to raise my rates. Then again, the value of money is relative. Even I charge really low, there will still be people who will deem it too high.

Overcoming it

I am not sure how long it will take me to overcome my low self-esteem – it has been rooted deeply in me since childhood. I take comfort in a quote (originally discovered on Evelyn Lim's blog) from Warrior of the light by obviously enlightened Paulo Coelho (author of The Alchemist):

You can recognize a Warrior of the Light by the look in his eye. Warriors of the Light are in the world, they form part of the world and they were sent into the world without saddlebags or sandals. They are often cowardly. They do not always act correctly. Warriors of the Light are wounded by the most foolish things, they worry about trivialities, they believe themselves incapable of growing. Warriors of the Light sometimes believe themselves unworthy of any blessing or miracle. Warriors of the Light often ask themselves what they are doing here. Often they find their lives meaningless. That is why they are Warriors of Light. Because they fail. Because they ask questions. Because they keep looking for a meaning. And, in the end, they will find it.

Stop feeding the fear mongers

They are not worth our precious time and energy.

Perhaps I was naive to think that things will settle down after the AWARE EGM – it has opened a can of worms that probably most of us would wish that it had remained closed, the Singapore government included.

I grew increasingly disturbed and worried as I chanced upon comment after comment that reeked of homophobia and narrow-mindedness. The news of MOE (Ministry of Education) suspending the sex education program made me start to seriously wonder what is going to come next. A witch-hunt?

Just when we think that the media censorship laws have gradually relaxed and the society seemed to be progressing, now it just seems like we are almost back to square one.

Many thoughts went through my mind as I came up with retort after retort, full of logic and reasoning, why people should stop being so near-sighted and judgmental. I was prepared to write a long post, making a clear argument on why all this paranoia is just plain ridiculous.

'The other side'

Until I came across a few blog entries and comments from 'the other side' – the side that believes that homosexuals are just headed for hell and that raising kids with 'the right values' is the apparent right thing to do. There were other people like me, who tried to reason their way through by making comments, and looking at the written exchange, I came to a realisation.

There is no point reasoning or arguing out with people who are just not willing to listen in the first place. Reading most of the conversations between the pro-gay and the anti-gay are like trying to understand a conversation between a chicken and a duck. One party can make a perfect argument but if the other party is not willing to see beyond his/her own viewpoint, they can go on forever and nothing will be concluded.

Alienation

Being marginalized personally for most of my life, I was actually almost immune to it. However, the scale of the matter this time caught me by surprise and I could not help but worry about the homophobia surfacing into the mainstream society. It is like the AWARE issue has forced many to take a stand and have a say, especially when their precious kids are concerned.

Prior to the AWARE hijacking, everybody went about their own business, the very most, conservatives would sometimes stare and mutter words of disgust to themselves. Now, the publicity and scale are somehow making many of the 'traditional' family-oriented people jump on the anti-gay bandwagon.

Ironically being gay is the least of what I have been marginalized for. I was made to feel like an alien because of my academic success (or the lack of it), my career path, my choice of hairstyle, a whole long list actually, and more recently, my spiritual beliefs.

People give me strange looks all the time, and that includes my very own relatives. Like the uncle who snorted when I told him I was running my own business. Friends roll their eyes when I talk about astrological charts and reincarnation. Strangers stare because of my spiky short hair (yes, girls must keep their hair long and flowy).

All these made me stronger, but not without much pain and tears. I have grown to be proud of my individuality and identity. What I have learnt through all these experiences is, there is only so much you can do to change a person's mind.

There are people who will listen, these are the ones who are not judgmental in the first place. Those who judge, are typically people who do not have it in them to open their minds to another viewpoint. The third category, are people who believe very strongly in their own beliefs, so firmly that nothing will change their mind unless they personally experience otherwise.

I generally do not have a problem who stick to their own belief systems, the issue only comes when there is a lack of respect in the belief systems of others. The extreme end of this spectrum, are people who deliberately incite fear and hatred.

Playing into their hands

It suddenly dawned upon me, by reacting negatively to these fear-mongers, I am simply playing into their hands. Negative feelings drain our energy. These people get a kick out of seeing us getting upset. The best way to deal with them, is either react positively, or choose to not react at all. It is just like dealing with people who are (consciously) abusive. They continue their abuse because the fear shown by their victims gives them a sense of power. The only way to dis-empower them is to stop the fear.

Having not much of a sex education in school did not make me less or more gay. Having a rigid education system depressed me more than it made me 'equipped' for society. Facing nay-sayers all my life did not dilute my individuality.

My take on the sex-ed program and 'concerned parents'

They can do whatever they want with the sex education program. I believe the targeted age group (12-18) will form their own judgments (or non-judgments) with or without a sex-ed program. The 'impressionable' ones, I am sorry to say, will still be impressionable by other sources even if the sex-ed program preaches all the 'right' values. Food for thought, would a 'concerned parent' be happier if their kid leads a double life in order to upkeep the 'right values'? It does not have to be an extreme case like a married man having a boyfriend on the side (though there are plenty of these around), there are plenty of people out there who are so internally conflicted that they cannot even bear to face themselves. Kids who live the 'right' way but end up extremely unhappy will make these parents happy and proud indeed (can't help the sarcasm, sorry).

Good will eventually prevail

I personally believe that whatever goes around comes around. I also believe in the good old fashioned 'good will prevail over evil'. Just as they would like to believe 'evil' gay people like us will be damned, I believe people who deny the minorities their rights and respect will have to bear the consequences one day. The government, for being overly conservative, will one day have to face repercussions (please stop complaining when there is a mass exodus of talent).

Nobody has the power to change my beliefs if I carry a strong conviction towards them, thus I understand that I do not have the power to change anybody else's.

However, I have the freedom and the right to express myself, that includes leading a fulfilling life and contributing to the causes I support. There will be people, however few, who will honestly question themselves, if I deserve to be in hell, simply by being in love with another girl.

Do not play in their hands any longer by feeling any ounce of anger, instead, focus on doing our own part (whether by setting a positive example or by positive advocacy, we just need to answer to ourselves.

I am not afraid to be judged if judgment day comes because I hold nothing but truth and love. On the contrary, am not so sure about the ones who incite fear and hatred. I therefore hope that one day love can open their eyes to God's unconditional and non-judgmental love.