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Saturday, 16 November 2019

It doesn't have to be a snowman


Why do lovers come and go? Why do empires rise and fall?

I say, humans are wired for change. We cannot stay at one place indefinitely. We cannot do the same task without feeling restless. We cannot eat the same dish every day (well, except for Mala).

It’s basic economics. It’s the basis of our market economy; of consumerism. Humans will never be satisfied because of our ever-increasing wants.

Yet, in spite of our need for change, every human being, in one way or another, seeks for some sort of permanence. Be it in religion, which tells us that there is an eternity awaiting us, in family, which we believe is built upon an unbreakable bond that will withstand the turbulences of life, or in knowledge, which is something that once acquired, (in most cases) cannot be stolen.

The inevitable conclusion, then, is that we will never be fully contented in life; and hence the phrase “the grass is greener on the other side.” Where there is any semblance of permanence, we will seek for change. Where there is change, our insecurity compels us to seek for permanence. What follows is that we would probably be happier less depressed coming to terms with this and striving for 70 per cent (just an arbitrary figure for illustration sake) of life satisfaction instead of the full hundred per cent. I’m not saying that we should lose our fighting spirit and stop living an earnest life; but perhaps, what I mean is that we should learn to manage our expectations and not beat ourselves and the people around us up too much when things don’t go according to plan.

In short, in the words of our favourite Frozen character, Princess Anna from Arendelle, who is full of optimism and zest for life, “Do you want to build a snowman? It doesn’t have to be a snowman.”

Monday, 28 October 2019

I'm in San Francisco, baby!


We strolled along Golden Gate Bridge – yes, the one that you see on postcards. The three of us girls who marched along the coast of East Coast Park six years ago for our Passing Out Parade from Basic Military Training. This time round, we walked for a total of 17 kilometres – not quite the 24 kilometre route march that we did six years ago with 15 kilograms on our backs but it sure felt almost as tiring.

We started off with a hike along Land’s End, which was absolutely awe-inspiring – just imagine the waves crashing against the shores with the Bridge standing firm against the currents in a distance, as vessels of all sizes came and go. After the hike, we took a break at one of the highly recommended Seafood restaurants along Fisherman’s Wharf and pampered ourselves with succulent scallops and fresh shellfish. The impressive display by the Blue Angels right after lunch was a bonus – a blessing (as it was not planned for) in fact. After that, we took a ferry to Sausalito, a picturesque island North of San Francisco, and decided to embark on a long, long walk back to San Francisco.

7pm. We were walking along the Bridge with our legs completely sore from the day’s hike, the wind brushing across our hair in all directions, sending shivers down our spines. The bridge didn’t seem so long from afar but now that we were walking across it, it seemed to be never-ending. I dragged my feet, one step at a time, wrapping myself tightly with my fleece jacket to keep myself warm. It was when we were about halfway through the Bridge that the sun started to set on San Francisco. I looked to the East and saw the lights come to live all along the coast. It was beautiful.

In that moment, I forgot all about the fatigue in my legs. I forgot about the piercing cold and exclaimed, ‘I’m in San Francisco, baby!’ There and then, it dawned upon me that in spite of how difficult the past year has been, and that no matter how hard life gets, it is still worth the living as there is still so much of the world that is left to see and explore.

It is in moments like these that I’m glad I’m still alive, glad that I slogged my way through the dreadful moments in life to be right where I’m supposed to be.

Till my next adventure!




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 clichéd 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.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

8 redundant words commonly used in the SAF


So, this is part 2 of my speak-good-English campaign for the SAF. ☺ (Find part 1 here.)

1. Double Confirm
Redundant word: Double
Reason: If you need to "double confirm", it means you haven't confirmed it the first time.

2. Spare Stockpile
Redundant word: Spare
Reason: Stockpile is already spare.

3. New Initiative/Innovation
Redundant word: New
Reason: An initiative/innovation is already new.

4. General Gist
Redundant word: General
Reason: Gists are meant to be general.

5. Comprises Of
Redundant word: Of
Reason: "Comprises of" is incorrect. Use either "comprises" or "consists of".

6. Fundamentally Revolutionise
Redundant word: Fundamentally
Reason: To revolutionise is to change something fundamentally.

7. IPPT Test
Redundant word: Test
Reason: IPPT = Individual Physical Proficiency TEST

Last but not least, my all time favourite...

8. Two Times Safety Vests
Redundant word: Times
Reason: Do I need to explain?

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Not alone

Have you ever woken up feeling as though someone punched you right in the chest?

Have you ever craved for sad tunes even though what you really need is something to cheer you up?

Have you reached the point in life when you realise that your happiest days are behind you?

Have you figured out that no matter what you do, you will never be fully contented?

Have you ever tried to hold back your tears till your head starts to really, really hurt?

Have you ever had to tell yourself to breathe in and out, in and out because of an overwhelming sense of despair?

Have you ever felt like this world is one cruel place but you deserve it anyway?

Have you ever wished for just a little bit more mercy, a little bit more grace, and a little bit more kindness?

Have you ever had to convince yourself that it's worth living another day so that mum won't be heartbroken?

Have you ever felt so alone in this world?

If you have,

You are not alone.
You are not alone.
You are not alone.



Wednesday, 29 May 2019

When my heart was full


Thursday, 23 May 2019

7 commonly mispronounced words in the SAF


It has been 10 months since I came back from the UK and resumed work in the SAF; and one thing that I have absolutely not gotten used to is how poor our pronunciation is. Not trying to be cocky but here's my endeavour to re-educate my fellow soldiers who have been in the SAF for way too long. ☺ #sorrynotsorry Please feel free to add on to the list.

1. Debris 
How it is mispronounced: debriS (with the S)
How it should be pronounced: de-bree (without the S)
Click here to listen.

2. Photographer 
How it is mispronounced: photograph-er (conveniently add 'er' to photograph)
How it should be pronounced: fuh-tore-gre-fer
Click here to listen.

3. Interoperable 
How it is mispronounced: inter-ROPE-perable
How it should be pronounced: inter-RAW-perable
Click here to listen.

4. Vis-à-vis 
How it is mispronounced: vis-a-viS (with the S)
How it should be pronounced: vis-a-vee (without the S)
Click here to listen.

5. Canopy 
How it is mispronounced: kuh-NO-pee
How it should be pronounced: keh-NER-pee
Click here to listen.

6. Narrative 
How it is mispronounced: neh-RAY-teeve
How it should be pronounced: neh-RUH-teeve
Click here to listen.

7. Route 
How it is mispronounced: rahwte
How it should be pronounced: root
Click here to listen.
(P.s. This one is slightly contentious since it is pronounced as 'rahwte' in some parts of the US BUT definitely not anywhere in the UK. And if you choose to pronounce it as 'rahwte', then practise some consistency man - rahwte march. ☺)

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Breaking the cycle of unkindness

Kindness Changes Everything

They say that kindness begets kindness. The same can be said for unkindness; that unkindness begets unkindness.

-

The boss of an SME wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Her employee submits a piece of work that he has spent the entire weekend working on; but has made a slight oversight on the calculations. She throws the stack of paper back to him and tells him not to bother submitting such "subpar work".

The employee goes back home in the evening. He is no longer an employee but a father. Sitting down at the dinner table with his wife and kids leaves a warm, comforting sensation in his chest, assuring him that the disappointment he faces at work is all worth it. But then, his twelve-year-old son starts complaining that dad is never there at his basketball games. Dad feels that he has failed as a father and yells at his son for being unappreciative of what is doing for the family, in spite of knowing that his son has no malicious intentions.

At school the next day, the son is no longer a son but a student, and a classmate. His fellow classmate cracks his usual (insensitive) jokes but today - somehow just today - he isn't amused. In fact, he is pissed off. He slams the table and spends recess alone, leaving his classmate puzzled and slightly hurt.

The fellow classmate returns home after school. He is no longer a student or classmate but a son. Mum gets home in the evening and asks the same question that she asks every day, "How was your day?"

"Don't wanna talk about it," son replies.

"Why not?" mum asks, concerned.

"I said, I don't wanna talk about it!" son exclaims, leaving his dinner unfinished.

Mum feels frustrated, not knowing how she could better communicate with her son. She rests her head on her pillow and thinks about her busy schedule at work the next day. Tomorrow morning, she is no longer a mother but the boss of an SME. She feels relieved that at least, she has competent employees in her office.

The boss of an SME wakes up on the wrong side of the bed...

-

I believe that innately, most people have the capacity for kindness. Just that along the way, life throws us lemons and we become more and more sour with each nasty encounter. We then become nasty people ourselves. But sometimes, all it takes to break this cycle of unkindness is an unsung hero who decides to go against the grain and chooses to be kind in spite of the unkindness that has been showed to him or her.

History is littered with examples of such people. From Jesus, to Mother Theresa, to Buddha. I'm no Saint but I guess having a timely reminder to be kind can make the world a better place; and myself, a happier person.

Happy Vesak Day, to all my Buddhist friends.  

Sunday, 10 March 2019

This world is sick


I think this world is sick.

Everyone is swiping away, instead of talking to one another.

It's all about the Ones and Zeros, and it's not cool to talk about our feelings anymore. 

Love thy neighbour as thyself, as long as it's on thy terms. 

We work our asses off so that our children can work their asses off; so that their children can work their asses off.

You can't talk too much - you're loud; you can't talk too little - you're "introverted". Just the right amount will do.

We are obsessed with that one thing that we don't have and forget to smile over the million other things that the world has to offer.

Life is too short to contemplate about its meaning.

I think this world is sick.

Or maybe, I'm the one that is sick.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Done with living a counterfeit life


1 January 2019, 1.30p.m.

Here I am, sitting at the corner of my bed, feeling slightly dazed, with the residual effect of last night's jäger, Corona, and I don't remember what.

The past year, or the past few months (to put it more accurately) have radically and irrevocably changed my life. And this, I have barely told anyone - though those who see me almost every day may have started to notice; to notice the c r a c k s in my beautifully curated life.

I am an idealist. Throughout my entire life, the decisions I've made, the words I've said, and the things I've invested in have always been the cautious strokes of a delicate portrait that I've been painting (of course with occasional slip ups). My family, my religion, my relationship, my friendships, my education, my career... And this includes the subconscious choice to keep most people at a distance so that they do not see through the cracks.

But coming back home from four years of studies in the UK, to a reality that is antipodal to my four years of bliss, has made it almost impossible to plaster the cracks from the outside. Not with the overwhelming expectations to be the same person that I was before I left the country, and the never-ending emotional and physical demands. My loved ones may find it shocking that I have become a very different person in a matter of months but I don't think that I have; from my point of view, I am finally coming to terms who I really am - and it is not that person that I've always deceived myself (and others) to be. It is not that patient yes (wo)man that I've always tried to be to the people that I love. It is not that saintly church girl that I've always been, growing up. It is not that good listener that I've always promised to be. I am not any of those.

I think that it takes courage to admit that you are a messed up piece of garbage. And of course, it takes greater courage to fight against the grain and be the best version of yourself in spite of that. So here I am today, on the first day of 2019, first declaring that I am so damn tired of living like everything is perfect. I am done with living this counterfeit life. Truth is, I am struggling to get by every day, stifled by expectations and compromising on my own happiness to put on a facade that I've got everything under control.

This will.. No, this is already changing. 2019 will be a year that I will be true to myself. I will bare my struggles to the world. I will say no to things that I frankly just don't want to do. I will not give any explanation to those that I am not accountable to. I will not try to pretend to be any kinder or saintlier than I actually am. Of course, I still strive to be the best version of myself as I always have; but this time round, it is on my own terms.

In the past few months, as I gradually came to terms with this reality, I have learned to be happy in spite of the pile of shit that I step on every day, and to embrace this broken, messed up, happy piece of garbage that is me.

And it. is. so. liberating. 💩
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