Forgiving Our Fathers

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My father has big, warm hands. He gives the best bear hugs against his belly and beneath the stern appearance is a soft heart with his family at the centre of it. His narrow eyes are bordered by dark circles testament of his tireless working and wrinkles have amplified them. Miles away from home, some nights when I close my eyes, I can still hear his voice, trace the features of his tired face and feel the firmness of his forearm. I can still hear his heartbeat against his chest and I can still see the single teardrop shed as we hugged at the airport bidding farewell. This piece is a dedication to my father along with millions of others around the world, who find themselves frantically trying to fill the shoes of a father from the time his first child is born.

My father has taught me some of the most valuable lessons in life. Amongst which, is the lesson to love one’s family deeply. Etched in my heart by countless conversations we’ve had, I can almost hear the exact cadence with which he says “always do your humanly best” and “start from home first”. My father has dedicated his whole life to protecting his children and loving his wife: an ordinary man with an extraordinary heart for his family. The nights he would stay over at his workplace instead of returning home and the weekends he was absent were mysterious patterns that once caused confusion, sometimes anger. Even in his presence, most days he was too tired to ask about my day. I had questions with no answers, “Why work so hard?”, “Are you really listening?”, “Why do I barely see you?”, “How come you don’t say ‘I love you’?” Growing up, more and more answers are found and the confusion has been replaced by clarity. The answer is love.

The alluring adventure of the world beyond my father’s embrace distracted me over and over again from the relentless love of my father, who still, always, had his concerned gaze fixated on me and his tired arms stretched out to welcome me home every time. His love that awaits patiently for me to understand, awaits patiently for me to get over my tantrums, for me to find the words I am looking for. His love waits. His love that pursues endlessly even if I am always ten steps ahead stumbling and tripping – from my baby steps as a child to the ones I take now, as a young adult venturing into the wilderness. The answer has always been love.

Our imperfect relationship falls short often – our temperaments are match-made for combustion, manifesting themselves in heated conversations where we both forget to breathe. We have unintentionally hurt each other numerous times in the process and I live with these memories I cannot seem to forget. The fallibility of our fathers are often mistaken for the absence of love but I am learning that the fallibility is inherent to our nature, and if anything, the times we fall short are evidence of effort. The failures are there because of the trying, and we try because we love. Sometimes, those who love you most can also hurt you most (unintentionally). I have been trying to forget for a long time now, but I cannot.

This father’s day, I have a new proposal – to forgive. There are things we never forget, but forgiveness offers another way out. To forgive is to absorb all the debt and wrongs, to forgo the consolation of plotting revenge and it is a form of suffering. Forgiveness is mistakenly associated with weakness because it feels like we are ‘letting it slide’, we are ‘not holding people accountable’ or ‘not standing up for ourselves’; but truly, forgiveness is a tall order that we find challenging. Forgiveness is not forgetting, forgiveness is saying, “what happened was real, the hurt was real, but our relationship is more important”. It is choosing love in spite of our sense of injustice, our memories of hurt and anger, our reflexive defensiveness. In spite of it all, because of love. It is choosing love: to love and be loved. Here’s the challenge for us sons and daughters – to confront the hurt you have preserved over time, forgive yourselves and forgive those who’ve inflicted the hurt. And to all Singaporean fathers, Happy Father’s Day!

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. [Colossians 3:13, NLT]

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Right Here, Right Now

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“Is it not bemusing the way we go through our lives, as though we were going to live forever? It was as though we had no concept of death. Or perhaps the notion of a permanent end to our existence were so abstract, it could not possibly hold true. So we go on with our seemingly interminable lives, filling the bulk of our days with an incessant busyness. The writing of letters to our beloved ones is then forgotten, or left to one of the endless tomorrows that would patiently await us.”

–  The Desire for Elsewhere by Agnes Chew

I am right here, right now – this leather seat cool from the night’s wind and this white table no wider than my forearm. Morning sounds accompany me as I wake. Birds take different parts of the choir, the murmurs of conversation in dialect from within the house and the occasional drive-by of cars or planes passing by in the cloudless sky. All these are real. The sound and touch from every key that I press; then, the alphabets that surface on the laptop screen of moderate brightness.

I am right here, right now; just as you are there – eyes on the screen, wondering where these words are going. Right there, you’ve probably lost notice of your breath until now. If you sat or stood with your back just slightly erect, took notice of the in and out of every breath, perhaps then you would also notice the fatigue hanging at the corner of your eyes or the tightness in your chest. Allow it to diffuse with every in and out; slow down. You are right there, right now.

Our everyday gradually take familiar forms that we practice into habit. We know the first thing we do when we emerge from the snuggly comfort of the bed, the sequence of small actions that begins our every day – only one of the many routines we have built into our muscle memories. Soon enough, we are no longer experiencing this sequence of tasks but only thinking about it. It is our mind’s clever way (evolutionarily) of freeing up headspace for the other challenging tasks that we may have to perform that day, like doing that difficult assignment, or going to that unfamiliar place.

With the recent leap of faith in committing to Self-Compassion with Kristin Neff and Brene Brown, I am learning that we think about events, circumstances and moments far more often than we experience them. We draw patterns to past experiences, search through the beliefs we have formulated slowly from every stumble and fall; we so quickly think about how to respond rather than allowing the experience to settle. The extraordinary complexity that life has to offer compromised by our defenses so quickly build up to protect the illusion of perfection.

Thoughts are not fluid as the reality is. We can think about the morning routine that we commit to to begin our days and it will be exactly the same every day, but it is never the same – the toothbrush always facing a different direction and the water from washing our hands always splattering a different way on the mirror; or the coolness of the tiles against our feet and the directions in which our hair decides to take shape. Every detail characteristic for the day.

The exact nuances of every experience are only truly embraced when we allow it to be felt. When you are ready, lift this understanding from the morning routine and apply it to the interactions, struggles and activities of your every day. How familiar are we with the pre-empting of what happens next: we know how this person will respond and we know what the day is going to be like. Our lives, like palettes of blended colour, are reduced to commercial shades of red, blue and green because we think we know. 

There is no need to think constantly, about what happens later or tomorrow, about where we were yesterday or about what others could be thinking. There is no need to contemplate in an experience that can be felt with the touch of our skin, wonders of our hearing or smell and the physiological ability that we innately possess to feel. May we allow not the thoughts to cloud the reality nor the impulse of our emotions to formulate a reaction; and instead respond with the knowing that there is no place we could be but here and no other time it could be but now.

And for we will die, we must live right here, right now.

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Diversity of Selves

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Sunshine through full-length glass windows, iced latte on a makeshift coaster out of recycled paper, wooden furniture and warm yellow lights; the kind of afternoon your breaths are slow and time passes without you realizing. Three weeks before I am Sydney-bound, where a whole new chapter awaits, I am incredibly thankful to be celebrating this Chinese New Year season of reunions for one more time. The red packets, oranges in pairs and dress-up aside, isn’t it intriguing how our paths can diverge so vastly from those within the same generation? This piece is about the prominent differences that contribute to our diversity.

I am an aspiring Occupational Therapist. My love story with public healthcare was the result of countless service opportunities. I recall vividly, the first time I stepped into a Dementia Daycare Centre – healthcare professionals assisting patients with every functional task; bringing food from the table to one’s mouth, supporting them by the elbow as they take slow steps to get from one side of the room to the other. Slowly, as they put one foot after the other, taking sharp, short breaths in between. Having the same conversation with a single patient over and over again for the first time, I was heartbroken. I left the Centre that day, promising never to return so that I never have to be in such a helpless position again. With the support of peers from Interact Club in Junior College, I continued visiting every week for 2 years. In about 3 days, I am bound for Sydney to pursue Occupational Therapy in the University of Sydney.

I am, also, a daughter to my parents. My first part-time job was at McDonald’s, at the age of 14. Cleaning tables then scooping fries, the ultimate promotion was to eventually stand before the cashier. I was obsessed with the idea of pulling weight at home financially so working part-time did not stop until the year I took ‘A’ Levels. In the day, I was a student; in the nights or weekends, a student care teacher, an administrative assistant or a waitress. In hindsight, I think they were my desperate attempts to feel worthy of my parents’ unconditional love and a relief to the powerlessness in face of their late nights and exhaustion. Today, though, I have learned that the people who love us, love us just the way we are.

I can tell more stories than one, and many more than just these two for sure, about the person I have become today. This is so for each of us in this space: every one of us have multiple stories that give reason to our being and do justice to the complexities of our identities. This phenomenon is one I refer to as the “Diversity of Selves”, where we each accumulate incredible stories across time. In a reality where we have immense opportunities like never before, our everyday choices have compounded and resulted in each of us living in a similar time while experiencing this time in vastly different ways. Think: Polytechnic, ITE or Junior College? Local universities or overseas? Doctor, lawyer, businessmen, engineer or a job not created yet? The privilege of these choices we get to make today contributes to the library of stories we build in our lives and to the increasing diversity of selves.

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What I Now Know

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Three weeks back in Singapore and three weeks left to Sydney, we are at the midpoint. This morning is characterized by warm sunlight, slow traffic and glistening waters of the Singapore River; the aftertaste of an early coffee fix and comfort of my go-to outfit on days where self-care tops my priorities spell joy. Five-stars. What a privilege it is to have had mornings like this, where I stop doing and just be. The intentions for the month was to tie up the loose ends in this beautiful place I call ‘home’ – to bid temporary goodbyes to sights and sounds, place a comma on the stories of friendships and bask in the company of those who love me as dearly as I love them. This piece, inspired by the recent bedtime read What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey and ventures into the learning space of students younger than myself, is written with the benefit of hindsight.

Days ago, I had the opportunity to stand before the January Induction Programme (JIP) ladies in Raffles Institution. JIP invites Rafflesians from the secondary counterparts, together with the Direct School Admission (DSA) students, to enroll into Junior College weeks earlier than the remaining one-third of their batch. Majority of whom from the alma mater close to my heart, this sharing was one that reminded me of the incredible growth I have experienced in the past years with the blessing of some inspiring educators and my family. I vividly recall the confusion with which we brought ourselves through the school gates every morning of JIP, asking in our heads why must we start school earlier than the others? What I now know is that JIP is largely a relief to the administrative weight of enrolling hundreds of students at once, and importantly, a subtle touch of sensitivity to the transition of expectations.

On the way, I asked myself what do I now know that I wish to share with them. “Shame was once at least a two-person game – it took one to shame the other. As we grow up though, we’ve learned to do it all by ourselves. We learn to, on our own, transform ‘I failed Mathematics’ into just ‘I failed’ and ‘I made a mistake’ into ‘I am a mistake’.” The Lecture Theatre fell silent. What I now know is that no one is ever a mistake or a failure, including ourselves, and it takes compassion to slowly forgive ourselves and one another. Those who will stay in our lives and embrace us for our authentic selves, will stay; you tell that with time. What I now know is that boy who dismissed my convictions or the girl who made fun of my hair, were not going to stay anyway.

Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture, refer to these people who earn the rights to our greatest vulnerabilities and truest selves as Dutch Uncles. What I now know is that they are plenty and the key to finding them is to first be true to who we are. It takes courage.

Last night, the first Strong Mind Fit Body Student Champion Development Programme (SCDP) team gathered for our first session proper together. SCDP is designed to benefit students aged 15-17 in self-development capabilities while equipping them with project management skills necessary for serving community needs with greater effectiveness. The first session together saw self-discovery exercises based on Bozyati’s Theory of Self-Directed Learning – the honesty to self, critical; bravery in sharing, commendable. What I now know is that in finding the courage to share one’s thoughts and one’s being with authenticity, we get better at being whoever we want to be (instead of who we think others want us to be). May we be bravely ourselves and find the ones who truly love us.

Remember Singapore

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Turkey, ham and egg white sandwiched between wheat bread accompanied by a tumbler of white chocolate mocha; starting the day with breakfast in the comfort of Delfi Orchard Starbucks. Incessant traffic of vehicles, an abundance of sunshine through the full-length glass and background chattering in French, hello again. A little less than two weeks back in Singapore (after a month in America), the characteristics of this place I call home are more stark than ever. The pace of our footsteps, the daily choices that have become routine and the majority who look like me – these sights and sounds have become more pronounced given the wealth of time I have to slow down and immerse in the familiarity. This piece, written as I commence the one-month countdown in Singapore, hopes to capture the fleeting picture memories that would count more than I can imagine when I am living in Sydney. It is in my deepest hopes, that it inspires you to appreciate the subtle parts of our being we are not so mindful of.

First, on architecture. Remember the width of the roads – just enough for the cars to drive parallel to one another, with almost no room for careless shifting of the steering wheel. Remember the buildings: rectangles are popular because it is space efficient but they also make odd-shaped buildings representing an architect’s statement stand out. Remember the curves of Star Vista and the sculpted works of art in Raffles Place, the indentations of the walls in Outram Park MRT Station and the way the natural lighting brings life to Bras Basah MRT Station. I learned from a conversation with a friend doing architecture in university that the proximity of amenities in Singapore contributes to the livability of our community spaces. There is convenience and joy in everything you need in your living space being within walking distance along with an important by-product, the interactions with neighbours whom we live amongst.

Second, on nature. The fraction of our views that is the sky is usually no more than one-fifth, unless you stay in the East or go by the sea. Then, the days where you chance upon the view of the sky being anything besides one shade of blue dotted with white, remember the joy of basking in nature’s beauty and inadvertently, smiling. Remember the assortment of trees and bushes that line our streets, representative of our pioneers’ dreams of making Singapore a beautiful green space all over. Of which, approximately 95% of the greenery is imported from elsewhere, symbolic of the efforts we have made to be a hub of synergy and diversity. Remember the park connectors and the good memories associated with cycling adventures made on these trails. Some say Singaporeans too often, forget to slow down to ‘smell the roses’ and embrace nature. What little know is that our furrowing of eyebrows while we are heading to work or heading out for lunch, is not an indication of our unhappy selves but merely a response to nature shining brightly in our faces (literally). We are constantly in touch with nature, alright.

Third, on people. Remember the chapalang of languages and expressions that have become so uniquely Singaporean: our own version of English. An exquisite beauty, we rarely realise the poetic device applied when rojak is both edible and an adjective. Singaporeans are poets. There is, too, an adaptability we give ourselves little credit for, that shows in our code-switching based on fellow Singaporeans’ age and race. We know the lehs and lahs that help us connect in an instant and the jiak ba bui (‘Have you eaten?’ in Hokkien, a dialect), characteristic of a nation that appreciates food as an experience and privilege. When all else fails, we point at pictures and get creative (or impatient). Remember the conversations and what was often talked about – amongst peers, school and grades; amongst youths, the change we wanted to see and be; amongst working adults, various indications of purpose. The most precious, though, the conversations over the dining table where family is present. Remember that home is a feeling.

Days ago, on an UberPOOL towards the airport to meet a friend stopping over in Singapore, the vehicle passed by the Bugis area and then Orchard in the wee hours of the morning. Slightly before daylight and while the fluorescent street lamps accentuated the sky line, I noticed numerous new buildings that had still been surrounded by white hoardings (as they were under construction) before I had left for America. These changes taking place gradually every day, put together in a short span of a month, can be testament of our astounding pace of development and evolving landscapes. This leaves the possibilities of this space in the time from my departure almost unimaginable.

Remember the way you know how to get around and where to get the best foods; the perfect conversation starters and the deep connection with Singaporeans that you have practiced in all the years of your life. These are the days you walk a little slower, breathe more deeply and enjoy coffee at coffeehouses that give your panoramic views; here are the moments you close your eyes and take picture memories you can refer back to once more and the times you accommodate the schedules of all whom you love, to hold comfortable space with them. Remember these, and come what may.

Celebrate 2016

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Culture Espresso sits at the junction of 38th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. Seated at a high stool before a marble table facing the full-length glass panels that surround this café, I’d like to think I’ve found the New York equivalent to the Delfi Orchard Starbucks where I have incredible memories I hold dear – the pace of footsteps has significantly decreased at this junction, population density even more so. The fireplace exits of the residential bricked-buildings create uncanny symmetry across the street and most of the remaining stores remain closed. This is the street that awakens naturally; as opposed to the ever-awake Broadway Avenue where lights and sounds are no less than a sensory overload. This is the morning of the last day of 2016 for me, there is a playful sense of victory as if I’ve ‘bought an extra day’ by spending countdown in America. That aside, this piece is in reflection and celebration of the year that has come and gone.

I guess you can say this was my gap year. If you’ve heard this story before, please skip this paragraph completely and go to the compartmentalized lessons I have attempted to draw from the countless, precious experiences and people from the year. Awaiting to read Occupational Therapy in the University Sydney, I only commence studies in March 2017 (departing for Australia in February). A vastly different new normal from the one I have imagined while I was studying for ‘A’ Levels, I never expected to take anything more than an 8-month break nor leave this country that I feel deeply connected with. In my family, we don’t call this a gap year, the word is almost taboo – it comes with connotation of too much uncertainty, even a ‘waste of time’. There is a slippery slope projection into the future that comes with the idea of a gap year that ends with my retirement alone and failing in my career. Of course, I respond to the ridiculous ‘timeline of life’ that we too often subject ourselves to with more laughter than pressure. (For now, at least.)

There is immense importance in the stories we tell ourselves: they reflect certain principles and beliefs we hold dear and sometimes act as reinforcements to our character; other times they can mislead us or contribute to a narrow-minded conviction that it’s ‘our way or the highway’. The only antidote is non-stop learning. My WordPress pieces have often attempted to achieve that balance in separate pieces, but for my series of ‘Celebrate (insert year)’ pieces (see Celebrate 2013Celebrate 2014 and Celebrate 2015), they have more often been about the former.

Uncertainty and Learning

slide01slide02slide03The ‘A’ Levels, in theory, is a series of exams that lasts no more than a month and a half. It is widely accepted that the implications are felt even before the month of exams commences – they say ‘It is not about the outcome, it’s the process.’ Now though, I can vouch for the anxiety that persists even after the series of examinations. Like a knot in our hearts, the tendency to place the worth of the years of hard work in a single result transcript is tempting; the social construct has it so. The first important lesson from the beginning of the year, then, was to forgive ourselves and unlearn what we have learnt about self-worth growing up in education characterized by paper chase and portfolio-driven assessments.

More than ever, I miss dearly the structured environment for learning that I have been blessed with. The unchartered terrains of internships in Raffles Hospital then in Early Childhood Development Authority have been space for self-discovery and continued learning, a legacy left behind by being in the Raffles Programme for 6 years. Persisting from July, is the space of Healthcare Scholarship and a Giving Week Stint raising funds for the Room to Read Global Organisation at the end of this year was very much dedicated to the appreciation for quality education that was an immense privilege. As I exit through the Rafflesian gates, I find myself in spaces where learning opportunities are abundant but must be actively sought after. I continue to craft the questions and revisit them out of habit but answers are no longer found in a single conversation with an inspired educator and knowledge-hungry peers, they are found in the processing of numerous sources and days of research. A newfound appreciation for the community of learning and excellence has found me visiting my alma mater and Junior College countless times across the year, each time rejuvenated by the unconditional love and desire to inspire of the teaching and non-teaching staff.

In face of the uncertainty post-Junior College that people don’t talk about enough, there has been necessary reading and reflection on solitude and being my own person, an idea not unfamiliar but necessitated only in this year.

Gratitude and Giving Back

slide10slide11In Junior College, I was always reminded that grades matter, but who you are matters more. The privilege of crossing paths with Halogen Foundation Singapore and Youth Corps Singapore was the constant source of this important reminder. Built on a foundation of educators and of family, who believed that I was worth a whole lot more than my achievements and that my achievements were simply reflections of more important values that I possessed, I owe my resilience today to these people. I used to negotiate for a gap year to devote time to not only the abovementioned learning, but also to the service I hoped to give back to these people and communities.

I am incredibly thankful for these spaces that have continued to embrace me in spite of my formal departure and regardless of my absence while I was a full-time student. The opportunities I’ve had to represent teams or causes larger than myself have continued to reaffirm my belief that nothing important gets done alone, and together, we can do great things.

In one of my favourite reads in the world, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, I have learned of the ‘culture of scarcity’ that has plagued us. We never find anything or anyone enough, including ourselves. The time never enough to accomplish our tasks, the resources never enough to go around (so we ‘must compete’), the recognition never enough to feel worthy. In the past, shame was a two-person affair, at least. Today, we learn to do it all by ourselves – we convince ourselves we are not enough (not skinny enough, not smart enough, not capable enough). In a lifestyle of service, I have learned to be more empathetic, mindful and compassionate – these practices central to the person I want to be. This keeps me focused on personal development and being thankful. This is the antidote I have found for scarcity. Remember this: the opposite of ‘scarcity’ is not abundance (because abundance suggests excess); the opposite of ‘scarcity’ is enough.

Still learning from each volunteer I work with and still immersing with every partner in service, my perspective of the world is constantly recalibrated in a way that reminds me that we are all global citizens in a place so much larger (both physically and metaphorically) than ourselves. Only when we engage with the world around us from a place where we believe in enough, will we find joy.

Wholeheartedness

slide04slide05slide06slide07slide08slide09I mention in my earlier piece on Wholehearted Living about the concept’s principles. The idea, in a nutshell, has it that we find peace with the earlier mentioned culture of scarcity so that we can meaningfully engage with those around us. This has been a struggle that surfaced in this year relatively distant from the tight-knit communities I have found strength from. In having to actively reach out and be a part, there has been self-doubt and no short of self-assessment about the person that I am.

The challenge to living with wholeheartedness is that we often lack courage to be who we are bravely. It makes us vulnerable to a point of discomfort. In the month where I investigated the issue of suicide prevalence and the roots of depression, it was painful to find that we have created a society where so many cannot feel okay being the person that they are and even more so to have these thoughts of self-doubt find resonance within me. I am still practicing. On this road of self-compassion and mastering vulnerability, I owe thanks to the closest of friends who truly, truly love me not regardless of my flaws but because of them. It is because of the genuine company of people like you that I am slowly learning to believe that people, in general, are always trying their best (and so am I).

Daring Greatly

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If you’ve heard my quote the Man in the Arena Speech by Theodore Roosevelt before, you’re welcome to skip this paragraph. Here goes – it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Ever since I’ve fallen in love with this quote so telling of true bravery, I have newfound courage to pursue feats, tread untrodden paths and take calculated risks. If I played word association with the phrase ‘Daring Greatly’, the outcome would be: Strong Mind Fit Body, Empathy Taskforce, Dreamcatcher and newspapers.

  • Born from a dream to bring neighbours together for functional fitness, Strong Mind Fit Body is today, a budding social enterprise that works extremely hard to create meaningful experiences to impart strength training awareness and promote inter-generational bonding. We believe that together, we can build a nation that is unafraid to age. With Champions and Fit Elves, like those who helped us pull off the biggest event of the year hitting at headcount of more than 200 at SMFB Christmas Special, we believe so more than ever. If you’d like in on our better tomorrow that we commit time and energy to work towards, please let us know at SMFBgeneral@gmail.com or apply to be a Champion (regular volunteer) at bit.ly/SMFBchampapply
  • Before Youth Corps Singapore’s first Empathy Taskforce was formed, we pulled off a Human Library surrounding the theme of service and giving. Today, we explore various issues of concern by curating programmes that bring life to the Red Box and inculcate empathy in our fellow peers and Youth Corps members. There are immense opportunities that lie ahead in what we can do. This year, peppered with uncertainty and surprises for us, I am thankful for how whenever I look at these teammates that I’ve only gotten to know for less than a year, I always always know that we can do it.
  • Dreamcatcher, a camp for a Primary 6 cohort on imagination, creativity and problem-finding/solving was an opportunity that I stumbled upon. Setting the record for one of the most enjoyable camps I’ve experienced (along with the Youth Corps Induction Camp), being Camp Captain was no less than a privilege. Reflecting upon this experience, I owe immense thanks to the 56 strangers-turned-friends who earned my trust from giving their best to create an experience that we can today, call our collective masterpiece. Thank you for reigniting hope for me in a time that was trying. They say house is a building and home is a feeling; the way we lead the camp shoulder-to-shoulder felt like home.
  • Finally, newspapers. I started a record of social and traditional features of my face, story or reflection pieces I have once written – when you have your opinions and thoughts rewritten that many times or quoted (sometimes out of context), you start to learn the diverse standpoints that each site has and these features are about anything but you. As an individual, I have found to represent something other than myself in these media features. Still undecided about some of these articles, I am certain of the gratitude I have towards those who have stood by me and kept me grounded to the person that I am amidst razzle dazzle. Thank you, also, for appreciating my WordPress pieces as I articulate my thoughts and self in pursuit of clarity and authenticity.

My cup of latte is three-quarter full and the latte art on the surface is long gone, whatever remains is bittersweet. The espresso stronger than the milk, the aftertaste of caffeine lingers. Here’s to a beautiful last day of 2016; where we aren’t closing a chapter, and the adventures are truly only just beginning. Happy New Year, may this (actually arbitrary) time for celebration and rejuvenation also be one of reflection for us all; where we ask important questions like What have I learned about myself and the world around me in this year? How does that change who I want to be in 2017? and How do I get there, what kind of choices can I make? It is a pity if we live in constant inconsistency with who we hope to be and what we hope to be doing, where we “claim to believe in something but constantly act otherwise” – let’s live in a mindful way so we can never say this about ourselves. Carpe diem.

Stand Still

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There is something incredible about the public transport. It creates an illusion. As if time comes to a standstill, we are seated or leaning, resting or thinking; for once, we are moving in sync. No more shuffling past at different paces, for once, we are in agreement about speed. No one too fast nor too slow. Everyone, just right. Rid of the frustration from slow-paced sauntering strangers, gone are the days of shoulder brushing that cause discomfort. We slow down, others speed up so that now we move as one. There is a tinge of comfort from the knowledge that we can arrive at this consensus, albeit the compulsion by machinery (similar to the elevators we are familiar with). Stand still, I tell myself, and enjoy the standstill. 

October has been no less than hectic, in managing the hustle that persists with Strong Mind Fit Body and embracing the responsibilities in creating the Dreamcatcher experience. Exactly one year from the time ‘A’ Levels was the only reality I had and anxiety peppered my everyday, it is in the hopes of documenting the learning and reflection from recent weeks that this piece is written:

To Those Who Are Not Me

Compassion and empathy are values I deeply hope to practice and hone continuously, for the simple reason that it is with these conditions that genuine human connection thrives. The adventures of this break has seen me return to learning spaces – at the India’s Daughter Film Screening by Rebelhouse Asia, we revisited the violence against women that we are familiar with. The atrocity of the act that one human being can commit unto another was the reason for frustration, anger and almost contempt that surfaced in the theatre. Then, in Dukale’s Dream Film Screening by World Vision couple of months back, the crowd basked in overwhelming inspiration at the big heart that one man has for those around him.

The stark contrast amplifies the spectrum of the humankind. It reaffirms the necessity for learning and immersion that cultivate compassion and empathy in ourselves. Today, it reminds me of my earlier efforts in Room to Read Global Organisation – with every dollar I raised, I had hoped for it to be a reminder of our privilege and then the realization that our normal is barely the only one there is. Everyone is fighting their own battle.

For the Places I Call Home

I learned, recently, that there is a difference between a ‘space’ and a ‘place’. The former, just a blank canvas of land with little meaning and memory; the latter, an amalgamation of purpose and interaction. At Strong Mind Fit Body, we turn spaces into places. The constant transformation we do in our work finds me acutely aware of the other ‘spaces-turned-places’ I hold dear to me in Singapore. These places I know I will miss dearly in my departure to Australia – the Delfi Orchard Starbucks that holds memories of reflection and hard work, my alma mater that holds lessons of being, the Junior College that holds stories of infatuation, discipline and friendship. Every place with a story.

Immersing in local publication Mynah (my most recent read), though, I am reminded to be careful with the stories we tell ourselves. In the publication, readers are warned against “prescriptive storytelling” – the type of narrative to assure oneself of the perfection of our state, the kind that presents ourselves as “completed products” rid of fractures and flaws. With this timely reminder, an oscillating narrative emerges about how this one year has been for me since the graduation from Junior College. The story that mentions the hustle – the part where we are face down in the arena, marred in blood, sweat and tears.

Looking Forward, Always

Returning to the National Young Leaders’ Day event by Halogen Foundation Singapore is now an annual affair that keeps me grounded. The return is one that feels like home, bringing back memories of where the lessons of influence crystallized. This year, the 10,000 Ideas Campaign was shared: youths from Australia present their ideas in the form of completing 3 incomplete sentences: “I have always wondered why…”, “Then I realised…” and “So one little thing I’ll do is…” The thoughts relateable, issues prevalent and ideas insightful; I am once more assured that our future is in good hands.

The Singapore edition presents itself in the form of: “I have always wondered why…”, “Imagine if…” and “So one little thing I’ll do is…” As for me, I have always wondered why we talk about emotions so rarely when they are so important to us. Imagine if we all chose vulnerability together, so one little thing I’ll do is to be authentic in my everyday life. Looking forward, always.

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