Turning 30

This is the year that I finally woke up from a deep slumber and remembered to be my self.

I have struggled with myself for the past 29 years. Just being myself. I tried to disown the person who was truly me and tried to live like everyone else. I failed. Miserably.

When we were kids, everyone said the key to happiness was having a good education, so I tried to do that for a while.

After we’re done with school, they said the key to happiness was to have a good job, so I tried to work towards that for a while.

Then I turned self-employed, they said the only way to be successful at business was to be mercenary like everyone else – I couldn’t do that and for years I allowed people to take advantage of that – that too, stuck for a while.

I wondered helplessly at the world. Is there not a place for someone like me? Full of ideals, unwilling to be mercenary, just wanting to be happy. It seemed wrong to want to be happy. It seemed ‘selfish’ to be pursuing your own dreams. I was labelled unrealistic, delusional, naive.

I couldn’t find my place, I couldn’t find myself, I struggled to cope with society’s demands. The expectations, the bills, the responsibilities. The guilt. The overwhelming guilt that I was not being filial to my parents because I have chosen an unconventional lifestyle and career. That they would have to live with their daughter never being able to ‘make it’. I tried to compensate them in my own ways, but I failed miserably.

The picture of my 29 years on earth seems to be summed up in one word. Failure.

I failed to get a good education, failed to hold a good job, failed to be the model daughter my parents wanted, failed in every conventional way possible. Looking back, it was of no surprise that I was suicidal. I wasn’t worth a place in society’s terms. I didn’t seem like I deserve anybody’s respect or love. I was nothing.

I am highly emotional and sensitive. I couldn’t will myself to do things I didn’t want to. I thought of myself weak for being emotional and sensitive. That it upsets me so greatly when I can’t work on stuff that I don’t enjoy. Or that I seem to feel too much. That my moods change like the wind.

It took my 29 years to realise that, everything that I detested about myself, were actually gifts.

That these gifts allowed me to be the person I truly am. To be very persistent at doing things that I love. To be determined to alleviate my own pain, and in turn, people’s pain. That being such a misfit gave me such intense empathy for other minorities. To want to be happy and not settle for anything else. I refuse to compromise. I refuse to think that it is ‘okay’ to settle for less.

I cannot be otherwise. I can only be me and live my life the way I want to live.

That took me 30 years, and am I blessed that I know this now. To be me and no one else. To have the beliefs I want to have, eat the way I want to, sleep with my own patterns, advocate my own causes, do the things that are meaningful to me.

Nobody can be me. You’re not me. Don’t tell me what gives my life meaning and purpose. Meaning and value, can only be derived internally. People can put a billion dollar value on me, but it wouldn’t matter if I perceive otherwise. Don’t tell me what is reality. I define my own reality. Don’t bind me to your perceived reality.

I have come a long way. I wouldn’t have survived if I didn’t believe that happiness is possible. My current lifestyle didn’t magically appear by itself. It happened because I believed in it and refused to buy other people’s version of reality.

The best decisions of my life, were irrational decisions. The ones that people call crazy or unrealistic.

The best years of my life, are ahead of me. I have tons to look forward to. It took me 30 years to be entirely comfortable in my skin but once it happens, there is no turning back. I have noticed something about myself lately. The more cynicism I face, the more idealistic I want to become.

The world didn’t progress because of the cynics, people. It progressed because of people who refused to accept the status quo/reality.

It is great, to be turning 30.

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.

Travelling solo, finally

Almost 3 years after I set out to fulfill my dreams of travelling around the world, I finally booked a one-way ticket to Phuket after procrastinating at the booking screen for a few days suffering from decision paralysis.

So Phuket is not ‘the world’, but it would be a start, and I am rather comfortable in Thailand. I hope to be starting off at Phuket but venturing to places I have never been to before, like Khao Lak & the Khao Sok National Park. Transportation around these places is not as straightforward as I’ll like it to be, but I’ll just see what happens along the way. I just hope I don’t cop out and stay the entire time in Phuket.

So what’s the big deal

I’ve always been afraid of sleeping in the dark, I feel afraid even when there’s people in the room with me, but over the past couple of years I’ve slowly begun to overcome that. Still, it is a big step for me to actually try being alone in the dark in a foreign country or in the middle of the jungle (photo credit):

Khao Sok Accomodation

And this is the first time I’m truly travelling alone to a destination where I have no family or friends. Without my partner to fuss over me, without someone as a security blanket, without someone to discuss with when I suffer from decision paralysis.

Which is why I must do this.

I really believe people must get out of their comfort zones in order to grow and going on solo travel is definitely going to take me out of my comfort zone. I think I’ve been hiding too long, trying very hard to feel safe and secure, and relying on external circumstances or people to make decisions for me. Okay, that’s a bit harsh since I’ve worked very hard and gave up a lot in order to be a solo worker, but it still doesn’t take away the fact – I am afraid to be alone.

Not because I need company, but because I don’t trust myself.

Do I have lots of money stashed away

Nope I don’t. That’s why I’ve delayed doing this for ages, because I wanted to be financially secure before attempting to do something like this. However, this year has taught me that health is much more a priority than money and I realise I cannot take my life or health for granted.

I will be bringing some outstanding work to work on the go, but I will be hoping to tie up all of my projects within this month or the next, and spend another month or so work-free (and stress free).

I am not sure if I will have enough to last that long, but I am going to try anyway. Worst-case scenario is to come back and wait on tables. I can live with that. Though when the time calls for it, I’ll probably take on some small-scale projects to get by.

Why I want to travel

I’ve always wanted to travel. It is like a lifetime calling. I am not sure why, but I am sure there is a reason why I feel so strongly about it. Which I’ll probably find out on the way I guess.

I’ve also been feeling really drained and I am hoping that being closer to nature will recharge me. Spending time in solitude has never failed to bring me opportunities for new perspectives and ideas.

I actually like to travel with people (the right company, of course) because they would amplify the joys of travelling. New sights to share, delicious food to salivate over together. I’ve always thought I wanted to do this together with my partner, but circumstances made it impossible and on hindsight, perhaps I am meant to do this alone.

Additionally, I want to see if I actually feel different in a different geographical location. Eckhart Tolle packed up and moved across seas to write “The Power of Now” because his inner-voice told him he would have a much easier time writing the book at a different location. That was an interesting idea when I first came across it. I am not implying that moving locations *is* the solution, but no harm trying it out. I believe different locations have different energies and everybody will react differently to different places. Or maybe it is not so hard to believe that staying closer to nature will be more inspiring that living in a concrete jungle full of stressed out people.

I know many people love Singapore for all the comforts that it brings and perhaps I will learn that I prefer this side of the grass after being at other patches, but I’ll only truly get to know, only if I venture out of it. I definitely know of people who are really happier staying elsewhere (yes, I am looking at you, Adri ;p).

A start to something bigger

I chose Phuket because it is one of the cheapest destinations to fly to and I really want to be near an ocean (& anytime I can simply fly back if I chicken out lol). Hopefully the familiarity with ease me into getting used to the whole idea.

This is just for me to make a start and I want to be travelling further and doing some serious country-hopping before 2010 ends.

I have been to many different places but I never really had the chance to really settle down in one place and experience their local culture for what it truly is. Ideally, I will like to spend about 1-3 months in a single place, live there for a bit, work for a bit, get to know the locals and not so much of being a tourist.

Whatever happens, it will definitely be an interesting experience. Wish me luck. :)

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

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There are generally two types of people in this world. People who have innate self-confidence and people who needs others to deliver confidence.

I happen to be the extreme end of the latter.

The downfall of my confidence

I think I used to be self-confident as a child, maybe because I never needed to study much in primary (elementary) school and still managed to ace my papers. I was the child that my parents would literally be boastful of. My achievements year after year was trumpeted like a media press release. Perhaps I was never confident actually, more like complacent because of my environment.

The turning point came when I was 11 and having my primary 5 year-end exams. As the routine goes, I never put any effort into revision, I had never needed to. I stumbled horribly for my maths paper, because usually I would finish any paper an hour ahead of my peers – thus I took my own sweet time and I only managed to finish 60% of the paper before time was up. For the very first time in my life, I experienced failure. (And for my poor parents, the beginning of the end for their trumpeting.)

This set the tone for the rest of my years until my mid-twenties. The vicious cycle of failure, disappointment, trying really hard not to fail again, even more disappointment. The bigger the disappointment I had grown into, the more pessimistic I became of life. And of course, the discovery of the fact that there are millions of people smarter than me, so much so that I was convinced that my primary school achievements were a fluke.

Letting go of past achievements

I remember looking my primary school report book wistfully for many years later, until when I was about 17 and I threw it away accidentally in the middle of a move. Perhaps that wasn’t an accident. I spent years mourning about it, thinking that I would never be able to look at it proudly again.

Till I realised that my ‘success’ as a kid was holding me back – what could the past for for me? Even if I were to ace my education till the tertiary level, that would not guarantee me success or happiness in my adulthood. I bore a grudge towards my parents because I felt that they were holding on to the past too much and thus I could never be the prodigy they envisioned me to be. Never did I realise, I was also holding myself back.

For the world can have so many plans and visions for me, ultimately it is my own destiny. (lol, pardon me for the cliche.)

Taking ownership

I think my life really transformed when I took ownership of my own life. It only happened after I had tried really hard to please my loved ones and realised all the attempts were futile. I could never be someone who would live a life someone had designed for me. It was a matter of time that I would break free – the choice was either breaking free or ending my life. Around this time I came across a book which the theme revolved around “You are what you believe” and it all became so clear to me.

All my life till then, I have been trying to get people to believe in me, but I never really believed in myself.

That was a start. I wouldn’t say I found my confidence overnight, but I think what started the process was that I desired to find my confidence back. Or my life back. To own my life and not have it owned by circumstances or the environment.

I think that was in 2005.

Still taking baby steps

Now, in 2010, I am still seeking confidence. It has been a slow but sure process. Baby steps. I still fear speaking to people, and I would not remotely consider speaking in public, and I still feel very nervous about my work, or go through countless sleepless nights when I question whether I am cut out to be a designer.

A huge difference is – the future looks bright to me. Quite bright actually from where I am standing. Whereas life used to be a pain looking forward, now I am slowly getting excited about what is in stall for me.  I had been truly blessed, for there have been a few good people who have shown the faith in me that I could not even find in myself. But I had to open my life up to even have the opportunity to meet these people in the first place. The desire to push myself out the comfort zone.


I am currently in a new set of circumstances whereby I would never imagine myself to be. In a place where I am given a huge vote of confidence and an incredible amount of validation by some exceptional people. I would not have met these people if I did not push myself out of hermit-dom. The experience I am having now can be all traced back to that single flip of that switch in my mind. (Aided by some strange dude from the UK named Andy who never gave up asking me out for coffee lol.)

For many people, making a change in their lives seem really difficult. Many a time, the results would not be visible until a long time after. We just need to have that desire and commitment to make changes, even how miniscule it seems to be. Who would have known that the casual coffee I had with two strange Caucasians would be the beginning of of a mini-revolution in my life?

Though I should include a standard disclaimer that says, there is a thin line between self-belief and insecurity-influenced arrogance.

Looking forward with confidence

I don’t know what is life going to bring me from now onwards, I just know that I am immensely grateful. It does not matter if the bright future I envisioned turned out to be not bright at all – it is really the process that matters. I think many of us are just fearful of losing what we have now – and if it helps I can remind all of us that it is not in our hands entirely whether what we have remains with us or not.

“Confidence, Sir Alex Ferguson once said, is the key to about 99% of what is achieved in any walk of life.”

I wouldn’t say it is 99%, but it is a major influence on how we perceive ourselves, and in turn, that determines how we perceive life. Having that bit of confidence has definitely made a huge difference for me – that confidence allows me to dictate many of my choices and not let it by dictated by my circumstances.

As long as I have that bit of confidence, the competition doesn’t matter, the economic conditions doesn’t matter, because if I believe that you have something to offer and you work really hard, there will always be something on that plate for you. And if it really turns out that the plate is empty, if I have the confidence in my own survival, then what is there to be afraid of?

There is only one self to be afraid of, because it is the one self that self-determines whether he/she can survive or be fearful of any circumstances or conditions given to him/her.