How I walked out of my own darkness (part i)

On hindsight, I was very blessed and lucky, because despite all those dark thoughts and feelings I had, there was this very tiny part of me that seemed to be holding on to something. That somehow there is more to life than what I have experienced – all that pain and helplessness – that there is a greater, deeper meaning and purpose to life.

The beginnings of my spiritual awakening

I was 16, heartbroken after ending my first, ever relationship. Yes, the age whereby people assume all relationships are just made up of puppy-love. Looking back, it was the first time in my life when I truly felt loved and appreciated by someone, judged not by my success or results, but by the person I was. It was the first time I knew what it means to be happy, I actually looked forward to every day just to be with the person I loved. So, when the relationship fell apart, it felt like my whole world came crashing down. I thought that I had lost my newfound meaning and purpose to life. Crying intensely day after day for two years wondering how was I going to survive losing what was my entire world, I stumbled upon The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama.

I was never particularly religious, but something compelled me to read that book. I was probably tired of all that crying, and if there was a step-by-step guide of finding happiness, I would gladly try. One particular part of the book propelled a whole string of thought processes in my head, I cannot exactly remember the quote, but it was along the lines of:

“Imagine life like a swinging pendulum. It does not swing up or down, it swings left and right. Happiness and suffering should not be perceived as up and down, but rather as left or right…”

I was struck by that thought. That we like to attach a negativity connotation to suffering. What if we think of pain from a neutral standpoint, that it is an alternative experience to happiness, and not a negative one?

I did not know it then, but that planted the first seeds of my spiritual awakening.

There are no co-incidences

If you have watched Kungfu Panda, you might remember the tortoise master telling the panda that there are no accidents in this world. The first time I came across this concept was when someone passed me her copy of The Celestine Prophecy. It was a fictional story but it used the story to communicate several spiritual concepts. I would not say much of the quality of the writing, but back then, at the age of 19, my hair stood while reading the book because of the many epiphanies I had during the reading process. It introduced me the concept of synchronicity, whereby there are no co-incidences, everything happens for a reason, and that everyone has a purpose in your life.

The book compelled me to review my past, the roles people have played in my life, the seemingly unfortunate events that turned out to be blessings in disguise. Most importantly, I recognised that every time something negative happens to me, I seem to gain something positive out of it, eventually. This major epiphany created a re-processing of my thought patterns.

Most importantly, I recognised that every time something negative happens to me, I seem to gain something positive out of it, eventually.

Previously I would think that life had been unfair and meaningless, I allowed myself to be in the victim-mode and wallowed in self-pity. I pondered to myself, if everything happens for a reason, I can no longer have delusions about the unjust state of my life. I made myself think backwards, and the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced of its truth.

One example of a blessing in disguise

The combination of the above heart-break and my addiction to computers when I was 16 turned out to be too much to handle for me, as I did very badly for my GCE O’ Levels. The child prodigy had turned into the utter failure. My self-esteem plunged, as I blamed myself for being unable to separate my emotions from practicalities, and of course, my parents never ceased to remind me of their disappointment. For many years I could not live with the failure, I desperately wanted to prove myself, subconsciously I wanted my parents to feel like I deserved their love.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, I realised, if I had not done badly for my papers, if I had been a straight-As student as I was in elementary/primary school, I would probably gone on to complete my A levels, and then to University which I had intended to complete a liberal arts degree and step into teaching, in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of my cousins I grew up with, or rather, in a foolish attempt to gain mass approval.

I might have gotten out of that in the middle of it all, but I would probably be much more unhappier, and the fear of disappointment would have been greater, as the expectations would naturally become higher. I might have chosen a career I hated (shudder), and I might not ever get out of it.

I like the route I have chosen, even though it brought me a lot of doubt and pain, but if I had to choose all over again, to be that perceived utter failure or the child prodigy, I would gladly choose the utter failure anytime. At the very least, I can be proud to say that I had fought for what I love to do.

At the very least, I can be proud to say that I had fought for what I love to do.

Matter of perception

If, I had never read The Celestine Prophecy, if it never came to my mind the wonders of synchronicity, I might not have had the benefit of hindsight and the life-changing epiphanies. I would probably have focused very negatively on my past failures and unhappy events, and continued to perceive myself as the victim.

It is intriguing and yet powerful – the power of perception. One can choose to look at the silver-linings, or to think of oneself as the unluckiest person ever.

My original intention is to write one post on how I walked out of my own darkness, but I realised there’s too much to be written for one post. You might just fall asleep reading halfway. :P This will be followed up by a one or more parts. Thank you for your time and patience.

When people think pursuing your dreams is a waste.

My cousin made a decision to leave her stable job she had for a decade in one of the government’s ministries to pursue a five-year degree in Vet Science, which is a life-long dream of hers. This is a courageous decision, taking into consideration that she is already in her mid-thirties, and it is not easy for anyone to leave a comfort zone, not to mention she is a typical, pragmatic Capricorn. I applaud her. I seem to be the one of the very few in the family to be doing so, because the typical reaction was, “What a waste!”.

What is exactly a waste?

Apparently to my typical, conservative Singaporean family, leaving a comfortable, safe job that pays well, especially after being in it for a decade, is an absolute waste. It is sad for me, because these people do not know how to appreciate life beyond comfort and security.

How can pursuing one’s dream be ever deemed a waste?

I could not help but retort, which is more of a waste?

1. To lie on your deathbed with millions in the bank, but wondering what it could have been? To have lived a stable, safe existence but never knew how it felt to pursue your dreams?

2. Or to lie on your deathbed, penniless, but fully satisfied that you have given your all to make your own dreams come true?

The Singaporean mentality

I cannot fault them for having this mentality because this was what they were taught to believe. The safe, comfortable route. The moment one begins an education in Singapore, we were led to think that nothing else but grades matter, and once we left the system, we were then led to think that nothing else but career stability and prestige matter.

I was brought up to think that pursuing your dream is naive. That it only happens in books and movies, and we should never attempt to try. That one will be unable to survive in Singapore without a tertiary degree, and parents get worried when their child exhibits signs of being creative, because that would be the last thing they want their child to do, secretly wishing their child would love numbers instead.

People would enrol in the local universities for courses they had zero interest in, because only the top students got into the courses they wanted, and the rest have to settle for anything, anywhere in the Uni, because even if you voluntarily choose to study for a technical diploma instead, people would just assume that you were not good enough for the Uni, and not because there’s nothing at the Uni that interests you.

That was how it was like for us born in the 1970s and the early 1980s. The kids now have a different set of issues. Parents now are enrolling their kids in all kinds of ‘enrichment’ courses because the Government decided that they want to develop Singapore into a ‘creative hub’.

I do not want to judge the Government because Singapore, being a tiny dot on the map without any natural resources, might not have survived without having the herd mentality.

On hindsight, I am truly blessed and guided, because somehow even when it got really difficult for me, I did not opt for the safer route. I actually tried to, because it was just so tiring going against the flow, but I felt so sick that it was just impossible for me to carry on.


This post is dedicated to my dearest cousin, whom I spent most of my formative years with, because despite all the odds stacked against her, despite all the objection from the people she loves, she wants to pursue her dream.

She will leave her comfort zone, to learn how to live independently for the first time in her life in unfamiliar territory, and be away from the people whom she loves and who loves her, because she knows she has a greater purpose in her life and she needs to fulfil it.

Which is to do her part and her best for the animals she deeply loves.

Despite that I am proud of myself for following my heart as much as I can, I am not sure if I would have the same courage as she did. Thus, she deserves my deepest admiration, support, and love.

For those of you out there, if you have a dream, pursue it. You really would not want to be the rich, grumpy old person on your deathbed, never knowing how it feels to live the dream.

Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play it safers, the creatures of the common place, the slaves of the ordinary

Cecil Beaton, cited from To Dare, KR Connect

And so it begins…

I’ve been wanting to start a blog for the longest time. Not because I am the sort to like sharing my daily life with everyone online, but I have been once unhappy, without a sense of purpose in life, almost to the point of being suicidal, and reading the inspiring stories of happy, great people helped me a great deal.

Now that I’m a much happier person and I’ve somehow found meaning in life, the least I can do to give back, is to share my thoughts, experiences that I’ve accumulated and still accumulating in my constant evolution as a person.

I am pretty much an internet addict and I love to read, I have a innate curiosity, and all these propel me to keep a constant look out for books, articles, blogs that inspire me, provide a good source of information or shed some light on intriguing issues. I have benefited from those that I have read, and I thought it would be really great if I can share my discoveries with people who might benefit from them as well.

With these two intentions in mind, I’ve been feeling an urgency to start writing and sharing. I am not sure if this might be my calling, but I know from my heart and soul that this is something that I must do.

And so it begins.