This post is inspired by @lucian, who took precious time off to offer writing me a letter of recommendation. My tears have rolled down on my face countless times before for Lucian's writing,writing for the love of God, his country, his wife, his kids. This time, it was handcrafted for me and I could feel his myriad of emotions in every word of the letter.
It is ironic to me, because I have never loved nor believed in myself very much – in fact, the love for myself was so low that I contemplated my life multiple times.
But for some reason I am always blessed. Blessed because there were always people who may not have the chance to know me very well personally, but they've looked into my work and writing – perhaps that is the best form of getting to know me, because all of me is really there to see. Whether on this blog, my work, Facebook or Twitter. I loved being able to express myself in words even if people see it as a passing social media fad.
So, almost coming in a full circle, I seek not to express gratitude in person or a phone call to people like Lucian, but rather in a lengthy blog post like this one. For this is where I can pour my truest emotions forward. In words. He and some others, would appreciate that this is the finest expression of my feelings I can ever give as a person.
Most of you would know that I had been rather introverted in the early part of my independent design career. I have had full clients and projects without even meeting them once. I was not convinced I could express myself the way I wanted to in person, I was not convinced people would understand me if they saw me in person. Thus the hermithood went on for two years. I would not even go out for a casual coffee. @andycroll and @skinnylatte can attest to that, having sent me countless emails trying to get me out of my carefully constructed shell.
It took a life-changing event. It was the AWARE saga in 2009 and being part of that flicked a switch on in me. There are people who care about the world, they're just scattered in different places. I cannot never advocate a cause on my own, I realised. I needed to find more people who care.
Even if that means I have to start opening myself up to meeting everyone, and in life, almost everything exists in duality. If you want to find value in social connections, you will have to put up with the noise surrounding it as well.
I don't know how I found the courage, I was served by my burning desire to find people who care. Care about what, you may ask. You will know what I am describing if you've met one of these people. The people with the same burning desire in their eyes to find other people who care. It sounds like a multi-level-network lol but it is true. Strength in numbers, exponential results when you put a group of people with the same vision together.
It was at that Barcamp where I met one guy who would almost singlehandedly change the course of my life. I was trying to get a mini cream puff on a huge paper plate – and this voice appeared behind my years, "You sure that is enough?"
That guy was Steven Goh, whom within minutes of us meeting, would be the person handing me tons of support, encouragement, self-belief to me in the course of the next two years. Before meeting Steven I was more of a visual designer, I never thought interaction design was my core strength or that I would be really interested in it, but he made me rethink that.
Working with Steven made me realise what I really wanted to do, was to design user interfaces. I truly loved graphic design, I loved grids and typography, I loved the feel of paper. But nothing is actually quite the same as being able to touch people with an interface. To potentially be able to see a smile coming out of a user's face after an interaction.
As I came out of my shell I got more involved with the web community in Singapore. I had frequent exchanges with the web community on Twitter, we all came to somewhat love each other. It is actually through Twitter whom I've met some of my best connections. People like Lucian, whom I was a follower of his blog since pre-blogger days but only really had the chance to interact with, on Twitter.
Through Twitter I've also met @jasonong, we have shared several intense conversations on how we would like to improve the community. He walks the talk, as he tirelessly organized several key tech events in Singapore.
It was during this period that I've also gotten to know significant people in my life like Danny Tan, for it was with his encouragement and advice that I made several key decisions. Through him I've met Min Xuan, whom upon meeting up we both knew we've found a kindred spirit, and she was the first person who said to me, "Winnie, you *have* to go to SF. You would love it there." There have been tons of people who would sell me the Valley dream, but none of them were as insistent nor as convincing as her. lol. I am sure she would seek to differ on my version of events.
These people, along with many others, believed in me at a time when I wouldn't even believe in myself.
There are a few things I really, really want to do.
- 1. Within this life time, to do whatever I can to advocate education reform. I see bright young minds being carelessly mistreated by the system and this never fails to break my heart.
- 2. Closely tied to no.1, I want to raise awareness for mental illnesses. To reduce the social stigma faced by mental illness sufferers and to make non-sufferers understand this is not something you can simply 'choose'. Or 'pull yourself up'. You have no idea why people want to be suicidal unless you've been there yourself.
- 3. Tied to no.1 again, I wish to create a network of outliers in Singapore (first), who will be sharing their personal stories. I want people to know, it is really okay to be different. To be yourself. To pursue dreams. That there are many of us who went ahead to pursue ours and we're not suffering as predicted by the mainstream. In fact, it is the opposite.
- 4. To raise awareness for animal advocacy groups in Singapore, but this is something I realised is an issue that cannot be truly fixed unless we go through a social reform, because the respect of other living animals is not something that can be instilled by a few campaigns.
- 5. This is more general but I would hope to personally be able to reduce discrimination towards any minority in every way possible.
So here I am, telling you what truly drives me forward. Why I am leaving this country temporarily. Not for a chance of a better life as some of you may thank, but a chance of a better me. Someone who would possess the inner will, strength and belief to carry out her causes. I am far from being that person. But as some of you have already known, spending 3 months away has already contributed a tremendous positive change in me. Not externally, but internally.
I wrote back in my email to Lucian, while thanking him for the beautiful letter he has written for me, I also said – that I have no idea how to repay this debt of gratitude to all of you who had given me so much support for the past few years.
But one thing I can and I will do. To try to be strong and be the person some of you have envisioned me to be. To be that person I think I can be. To be crazy enough to attempt to do all those things I have listed above. To be relentless in my pursuit for a better humanity.
I have an ironic love for the world. Most of it makes me wonder why I bother to be alive and part of it. There's a tiny, tiny portion of it, which I hold on very tightly to. That one tiny spark which I believe, lives in all of us. That connects us together.
That one single tiny spark, most of the time very fleeting, but it is what that keeps me alive. Keeps me in love with humanity. Keeps me wanting to be a better person.
For all the debate about Ayn Rand, I have come to believe that the greatest gift to humanity one can ever give, is to be truly yourself. To realise your fullest potential as a human being. Everyone has special innate gifts. As I keep on telling people about Steve Jobs, anybody is capable of giving money. But he gave us tools to empower ourselves. Those who have worked with strays will know. The answer to the issue is never to build more shelters, but to change how people perceive animals so we wouldn't even need shelters.
I know I am incredibly blessed. And if you're still here reading this blog post, thank you. For you have been patient with all 1600 words of incoherence. But I hope you'll get my gist.
This is my way of saying thank you for now and I hold this little hope in the future, that I will be capable of saying thank you in the ways that will make this world a better place.
P.S. Special thanks goes out to startups in Singapore which defined my early work: fabrikade, comiqs, jamiq, zopim, e27. Please pardon me if you didn't get a mention in my rush to get this post published. Email me! I'll buy you coffee!