There is something incredible about returning home: the comfort of safety and the newfound appreciation for beautiful details you have long forgotten the value of. Across the road from my place, there used to stand a grey and blue building that acted as a temporary space for schools – schools whose campuses were undergoing construction would take turns making use of this space for classes instead. Then, my morning alarm clock was always the school bell across the road. For months now, the compound has been demolished and a green grass patch takes its place. When I look out my window now, I enjoy the lush greenery in the distance and buildings I never knew existed just a stone’s throw away. This morning, I revisit the dream-like feeling of hopefulness that this scenery brings me.
The warmth from the sunlight is comfortable and the ceiling fan in my room whirls above me. Breakfast was Hazelnut coffee and toast, accompanied by conversations with my parents and brother. It is good to be back home. This one, today, is in light of my returning home and restarting the gears to move forward into 2016. It is on optimism:
Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It is the sort of cliché encouragement we hear at motivational talks that we attend at turning points in our lives. The paradox of cliché is that we brush it off without making sense of it because we hear it too often, but we hear if so often exactly because it makes sense to so many. I wrote earlier about the uncertainties of the year ahead, towards which I hope to embrace by riding the waves of change, but there is a gap between acknowledging the uncertainties and practicing embracing them – a gap only to be filled by optimism and hopefulness. It is about reframing. There are far too many preconceived ideas about what outcomes will follow our actions that become hindrances to our comfortable embrace of uncertainty. I admit to having convictions about outcomes shaped by past experiences. Allow me to tell you the story of “The $10 Charity Scam”:
This story is one about the teenagers who approach you on the streets or at bus stops and train stations. They introduce themselves, armed with a license that you gloss over with skepticism, and proceed to tell you their story of a broken family and low income. The introduction ends with them giving you the opportunity to ‘help’ them – a $10 purchase of a commodity that is usually of little practical use. My skepticism towards these programs by corporations meant to ‘help’ them was derived from my conviction that it was all part of the company’s ploy to earn ‘sympathy points’ with these youths’ stories and earn some cash for themselves. I also believed that these teenagers would earn more from taking a part-time job at an F&B outlet that paid fixed wages for the work that they did (the former only allows you to earn as much as you sell, offering a relatively less stable flow of income). I believed strongly in having these teenagers grow out of their own story, rather than using their stories of pain and sorrow to earn their income – something I felt took away dignity from them as people.
The conviction I once held so closely to my heart was one day wavered by a young boy to explained to me his attempts at various part-time work – he had settled for this $10-per-sale job because it allowed him to maximize his flair for convincing and earn more than what would be a fixed $5/hour. I was impressed by his determination and desire to maximize his potential, so the $10 I whipped out following that was an investment to his dreams rather than to the A4-sized gift card he sold. A single boy overturned a conviction I once believed would never sway and waver. This story, to today, reminds me that the convictions (or preconceived notions of outcome) that we may so strongly believe can change. Things can turn out differently from how our past experiences thought us to believe.
One of my holiday reads was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. In which, he says, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand”. In between the analysis of the cards and the playing of the hand, lies the important essence of optimism – the belief that playing the hand as best as we can might bring us somewhere better. In the popular myth of Pandora’s box, terrible things are unleashed by the curiosity of a single character. We are taught the importance of suppressing our desire to quench our thirst of curiosity (including curiosity towards how things might pan out different with a choice being made). But so often, we forget that at the very end of this story, the last to have been unleashed from Pandora’s box was the beautiful thing called “hope”.