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Sunday, 20 October 2019

Of depression, loneliness and death


‘Funny when you're dead how people start listening.’
-       The Band Perry

She was born in 1994. The same year that I was born. I don’t know much about her, apart from the fact that she was part of a K-pop girl group that I used to follow, that she had the beauty of an angel and that she struggled with depression (like many of her fellow colleagues in the same industry) before finally giving in – no – having the courage to put an end to it.

Her name was Sulli. Sul for snow and Li for flower. I don’t know when she fell into depression but perhaps it was when she started receiving waves of criticisms for dating a significantly older man – a complete no-go in the K-pop industry, considering that dating itself was equivalent to sabotaging your own career. Or perhaps it was when people who knew her about as little as I did started leaving nasty comments on her Instagram page about how attention-seeking she was. She probably tried to take those comments with a pinch of salt initially; tried to be who they wanted her to be. But she soon realised that she was not being true to herself.

She was found dead on 14 October 2019 in her apartment. The cause of death has yet to be confirmed but everyone knows it was suicide.

Nobody speaks up about issues of depression, loneliness and death but I’m sure that in some way or another, we all can empathise with Sulli – some more than the others. We work hard to earn our keep; we eat, drink and be merry, but we are all so damn lonely on the inside. We constantly feel that no one understands us but the fact is that everyone has to carry their own bags of shit. A part of us wants to be true to ourselves, wants to do whatever the hell we want without being judged, but society is so messed up that we have to either deny that ‘too loud’, ‘too shy’, ‘too confident’, ‘too insecure’, ‘too uptight’ or ‘too free-spirited’ parts of ourselves, or live with constant judgement. But you know what?

Society is not just a noun or a matter-of-fact that has nothing to do with us. Society constitutes each and every individual one of us; and it has a heart, whether warm or cold. So why don’t, why don’t we for once stop putting up our fences and judging each other according to standards that none of us can uphold? Why don’t we stop isolating ourselves and breeding loneliness with our superficial conversations? Why don’t we stop contributing to the brutal murder of one another?

I hope that poor girl is finally out of her misery, and somehow – just somehow – know that we are all sorry.

Friday, 11 October 2019

The paradox of life


You mean the world to someone but you mean nothing to the world.
You climb the corporate ladder by drowning in a pile of work.
Your spouse is your closest ally but also your greatest enemy.
Freedom of speech is great as long as it doesn't offend him, her, and all of them.
True freedom can only be achieved when everyone puts aside a little bit of their own freedom.
The earth is dying but it will outlive every one of us.
We fight wars to keep peace.
Our stomachs are full but our hearts are empty.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Recalibrating life's purpose


It has been a year since I came back from the UK. A year since I got back to work, a year since I reunited with my family and friends, and a year since I snapped back into the brutal reality of life.

In the UK, I had the luxury of time to pause, pause and pause; to savour the moment, appreciate the little things in life and distill the lessons from every up and down. Coming back home was like hopping on a bullet train that was headed nowhere. Tasking after tasking, meeting after meeting, getaways after getaways. I didn't have the time to reflect on my mistakes - yes, periodic after-action-reviews are not genuine reflections (in my opinion). As soon as I dealt with an issue, something new that called for my attention popped up. I didn't have the energy to ask myself what I truly wanted - how could I, when all I was doing was to survive each day?

Most of us are working towards a destination that we have in mind. And this destination is likely to be what society has constructed for us as 'the ideal life'; be it getting a degree, getting married, owning a house or having kids. We work our butts off to arrive at this destination without ever thinking if that is what we, as individuals, truly want for ourselves. And we don't leave room for hiccups. This makes every wrong decision, every 'unproductive year', every careless mistake a 'setback' - it postpones the day that we arrive at our destination.

At the start of this year, I made a decision that set my our lives back for (possibly) years. Over time, I started to question if I made the right decision. I threw away something that we have building for many years now. We were so close to arriving at our destination. But. I. threw. it. away.

I have been trying many ways to rebuild, from undoing my mistakes to setting new personal goals, that I realise I have been constantly unsatisfied. No matter what I accomplished, no matter how far I escaped travelled, I still felt empty, thinking that maybe, just maybe, when I get my own house, when I become an expert in my field, when I right my wrongs, I will finally be happy. And in that process, as clich├ęd as it sounds, I forgot that life is not a destination but a journey. That life is a journey and we have got to learn how to savour every moment of it, be it good or bad. I was guilty of thinking that the perfect life is out there, waiting to be realised - but it is not; it doesn't exist. Even the smartest of beings could lose their intellect, even the happiest of marriages could be broken, and even the richest of men and women could lose their wealth. Nothing is permanent, and especially not our ever-increasing wants. What does this mean? We will never be contented if life is all about striving towards our destinations.

To experience life to the fullest is to embrace every success and failure, every heart-warming and heart-wrenching moment, the most lovable and unlovable person, and the best and worst versions of ourselves. And in the process, learn, try to be better and always be kind.

I don't know where life is going to take me since my path is now a blank sheet, but I've got to learn to recalibrate how I look at it.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

9 commonly mispronounced words in the SAF (part two)


See Part 1 here.
1. Opportunity 
How it is mispronounced: a-paw-chew-nee-tee
How it should be pronounced: ore-per-chew-ner-tee
Click here to listen.

2. Rhetoric 
How it is mispronounced: re-tore-rik
How it should be pronounced: reh-ter-rik
Click here to listen.

3. Ascertain
How it is mispronounced: a-certain
How it should be pronounced: air-sir-tain
Click here to listen.

4. Signature
How it is mispronounced: sig-nature
How it should be pronounced: sig-nuh-ture
Click here to listen.

5. Perimeter
How it is mispronounced: pair-ruh-meter
How it should be pronounced: per-ree-meter
Click here to listen.

6. Reconcile
How it is mispronounced: re-concile
How it should be pronounced: reh-concile
Click here to listen.

7. Project (noun)
How it is mispronounced: pro (as in professional) -ject
How it should be pronounced: pro (as in prophet) - ject
Click here to listen.
(P.s. There is a difference in pronunciation between the noun and the verb.)

8. Calendar
How it is mispronounced: ker-land-der
How it should be pronounced: care-learn-duh
Click here to listen.

9. Entourage
How it is mispronounced: and-toe-rage
How it should be pronounced: on-toe-Raj
Click here to listen.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

7 minutes.


7 minutes.

I saw him at the corner of the cafeteria with his friends, our friends. Should I go up to say hi? No, I think I'll just walk away.

He walks over and taps me on the shoulder. He asks me how I've been doing. I said I'm alright - the words "I miss you" linger on my lips. I bite my lower lip and...

6 minutes.

He said he's been doing well, making new friends and finding time to pursue his hobby. I smile, delighted to hear that life has been treating him well. And then, my heart frowns, knowing that he is moving on just fine...

5 minutes.

He tells me about his work, his dog, the new book he's been reading... he goes on and on. He has always been quite the talker - was, and still is.

4 minutes.

The familiarity scares me. The way he talks, as though he has known me for ages - he has.  The way he looks at me, as though he knows all my fears and insecurities - he does. The way he smiles at me, as though I light up his entire world - I don't, at least not anymore.

3 minutes.

He doesn't stop talking. I observe his soft, ruffled hair moving towards the direction of the wind. I take a glimpse of his defined shoulders where my head used to lie. I watch his animated gestures, with the hands I used to hold.

2 minutes.

He finally stops talking. Silence, as we look at each other with an intense longing. (Or perhaps it was just one-sided). Five, four, three, two...

1 minute.

His friends call out for him. We say our goodbyes. I don't know when the next 7 minutes will be but till then, we are strangers again.
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