archived fragments

imported from fragmented.posterous.com

Month: August, 2011

One month on

So I am in Hawaii now for almost a week, out of Singapore for a month. I am a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to partake in the Presidential Elections, but well. I honestly don’t think the candidate would eventually make much of a difference, but having four candidates to choose from is a huge step in the right direction.

I have very mixed feelings for Singapore. On one hand it is difficult not to feel negativity towards her, on the other hand when I recall moments like Chiam See Tong’s speech during the last elections, my heart just breaks. Then again, I think I’ll get emotional over anyone who fights for a worthy cause in the face of adversity. I see people like Sylvia Lim and I wonder what is it exactly that makes her want to do all that work. How come we all go through the same brainwashing, same system and some of us manage to keep the fighting spirit alive?

I don’t know. I remain very appreciative of what I’ve been through for the past 30 years. For if I didn’t go through all that shit, I wouldn’t feel so happy with every single thing now. 

If I didn’t get so sick a couple of months ago, I wouldn’t make that step to be here. For all my perceived gung-ho-ness, I do like staying in my comfort zone like everyone else. You have no idea how grateful I am now for my poor health back then. 

There is a silver lining in every cloud. There is a door opening for every single one that closes. We just don’t make that leap because of all that fear. I’m living the best time of my life now because I had to let go of everything comfortable and familar to me. Having no expectations of what comes next is letting me be entirely open to surprises. It doesn’t even bother me much if I stumble and fall. Because I know that I’ll just pick myself up again. The beauty of falling downwards, is you get to go upwards eventually. 

It is so easy to get used to all these, to take things for granted. To forget how it used to feel like to be perpetually gray, or to be unable to sleep, or to hope and pray that I wouldn’t get a migraine when I wake up everyday. 

I go all out the way to make sure I remember though. Every morning I wake up I am thankful for sleeping well the previous night. Sometimes I catch myself in the middle of doing something and I feel no pain in my head and I give thanks. If things go well at work, I’ll remember all those times of frustration and I’ll be totally grateful. 

I don’t ever want to lose that sense of groundedness. To never take things for granted. I don’t want to lose that sense of wonder when I see strangers smile at each other. Or see turtles right before me.

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It is like if you see this everyday, you wouldn’t think it is special. Or if you live in Hawaii everyday, you don’t realise how great is the weather. Or how green are the trees. I never thought that toilet paper was a big deal until I lived without it for a few days. Now, each time I see toilet paper, I almost kowtow to it. 

I think what I am trying to say is, I have learnt to appreciate lack. 

I went to boogieboard this morning, caught a couple of waves, got washed by a huge wave and I had to paddle like forever back to the shore. I wasn’t scared, because I was thrown onto the sandbed a couple of times during the monsoon season in Thailand last year. That trip in Thailand, I’ve learnt how to dive into the wave when it is coming right at me, have faith and put my trust in the ocean. So now, even if I see a huge wave coming at me, I just dive into it and just believe that it is all going to be okay. I only got to this stage because I loved the ocean and I wasn’t going to let my fear deter me from being surrounded by water when I was in Thailand. 

You know that Steve Jobs grad speech where he said that you can only connect the dots backwards? That is how I feel now. If I didn’t go on that trip to Thailand last year, I’ll be entirely scared of the ocean in Hawaii right now. And over here it is scarier because there’s sharp reefs at the bottom everywhere compared to the sandbeds in Thailand. I am not sure if I would even try to over come my fear here. 

I think we all go through bad times and sometimes it seems like it is going to kill us. But I have the benefit of hindsight now and I feel that I just have to trust that everything is eventually going to be okay. Maybe the ‘eventually’ will take some time longer than expected, but it will come. It is like doing all the hard work paddling hundreds of feet out to catch a wave, you’ll get so tired while doing it, but when you eventually catch the wave, it will all be worth it.

I am in this emotional cum mental state right now that everything still seems surreal to me on month on. I go into this mode whereby I just start looking at my surroundings and I am totally amazed by what I have now. I almost still don’t believe I am here doing I am doing now. It feels like it is too good to be true. 

I don’t know if any of you have ever felt like you’re completely part of something. Or to be understood at a really intimate level. To feel like you’re part of a wonderful natural flow. To be feeling a perpetual natural high. To smile at everything that comes your way or to feel moved by everything you experience.

I am grateful, and it cannot be described by words – that finally at 30, I finally know what it means to live.

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Three weeks ??? we are all inherently social

So I’ve been here for 3 weeks. Nope, I haven’t fallen out of love with this place, I’ve also not discovered any part of the city that is unbearable. I have to go Hawaii in four days and I guess I’ll have to leave the discovery for another time. Soon.

I’m still very infatuated. Still happy. Still feeling great even though I’ve been off my medications for 3 weeks now. Still half wondering if I have needed it in the first place.

One of the biggest realisations for me when I came here – is that we are all inherently social creatures. I used to roll my eyes when I see statements like these, because I used to believe that I will be perfectly happy being antisocial. Like you know, find a mountain to stay on and be a hermit there for the rest of my life. 

That notion sounded incredibly appealing to me. 

Till I came here. The vibes here are so different that I love being out. I love that because diversity is so accepted here, even if there are people whom I may not neccessarily like hanging out, I accept them as part of the organic population here. 

It made a whole lot of difference to my psyche. From being the black sheep in my birth country to being in a place that feels like home. I have never felt that I belonged anywhere in my entire life. This is the first time and I feel like I’m some new-born finding her feet again, seeing things in an entirely new light. 

I had never realised how important it was to be understood. I had never realised how much energy it took out of me to try to be understood back in Singapore. I had dangerously gotten used to it. We do all get used to being a victim, so much that it takes a lot of effort to reclaim your individual power again.

Now, I no longer spend time trying to make people understand me, or avoid people who wouldn’t understand me anyway. So what’s the big deal of being understood. Well, imagine if you spend most of your life trying to explain to people why you’re not like the rest. It is tiring. Why I quit school. Why I am affected by the energy I feel in my environment. Why I don’t like money. Why I see no point in chasing material goals. Why I hate climbing the corporate ladder. Why I don’t like putting on a false front. Why I don’t live with my parents. Why I have to do what I love. Why I can’t just work in a job for like 30 years. Why can’t I be safe and stable like all my peers who now own cars and property.

I guess it is draining not only to have to explain myself to people, it is draining to even convincing myself that I am okay not being in the mainstream. Well, if you’re thinking again, why do I have to do all that convincing?

Because it is painful when you see the hurt in your loved ones’ eyes. That they don’t understand why you’re being so disruptive, why can’t you just be ‘normal’, why you have to be the eternal disappointment when you’ve displayed so much potential in your early childhood.

My relatioship with Singapore is like a relationship with an ex. A relationship that I have tried so desperately to save for so much of my life, now it is too late even if it is getting better. I don’t feel like saving it anymore. It carries too much baggage, too much hurt. Each time I think of the country I just associate it with so much pain. You know, just like how some of you have had bad experiences during your childhood and now you develop certain phobias because of it? 

Yup, for me it is like that – just that mine was multiple bad experiences which made me feel like I didn’t want to live anymore.

So, please go ahead and be happy with what you’re doing and wherever you are. If some of you love Singapore regardless, I applaud you. It would have been much easier for me if I could have stayed in that relationship. It was so comforting yet so abusive. 

All I ask of you, is not to make judgment of my choices. Not to try and convince me otherwise. I have spent my whole life convincing myself that it is okay – I am tired of it. It is not okay. 

Now, I don’t have to experience the ‘social friction’ I’ve experienced all my life. I’m just me and everything feels so smooth. I can spend my energy doing other things. I don’t have to try to be ‘normal’ anymore. Or to be plagued with all that self-doubt – why am I hurting my loved ones so much by being myself? 

I meet all sorts of people, have all sorts of conversations and it feels really, really great. It is like finally I am useful. You may think it is ridiculous but yes, I spent my life thinking I was a waste of space. Until now. That I can finally socialise with my kind of people and the feeling of having a common invisible social bond with people of similar visions is incredible. 

I did a couple of presentations to clients over the past couple of weeks and I have never felt so energised by work before. The look in their eyes when I have managed to translate their requirements successfully. They get what makes a good experience. Instead of having to make so much effort to explain why a good experience is crucial – now I get people who demanding good experience. So you see, here, I skip the convincing and I do the real work. There is a lot of synergy with collaborations because people make decisions out of courage and not out of fear.

Ultimately I want to say – humanity can be really great. Because tons of good things can happen when people with good intentions come together to make things happen. The joy and advancement derived out of that can be exponential. But as human beings we make decisions out of fear. Just look at all that struggle for power. That selfishness. 

I have experienced the spirit of sharing without agenda over here in San Francisco. It never fails to make me smile when I hear quirky muni/bart annoucements. How can these people with boring jobs (imagine driving a train up and down everyday) still bother to make this effort? That’s the thing, little things like these rub off each other. I walk out of the train with a smile and I’ll feel a lot more inclined to be nicer. The next person who sees me smiling ridiculously or hearing me getting very excited over BART annoucements will probably smile at my enthusiasm. This chain of effect go on and on.

So why am I still so in love with this city? Because living here makes me have hope in humanity again – not only that, it makes me proud of being human, and being part of the human society.

The significance of National Day

So National Day is meaningful to me in different ways, ironically not in the patriotic sense because I’ll rather be honest and confess that I’m not patriotic. 

But it is the day I met my partner 5 years ago – knowing that she was the one once she walked into the pub I was in, only because I was trying to avoid a stalker. Things can be really funny, because I wasn’t even planning on being there, we had the same common friends for a number of years but we’ve never met each other till that fateful day. But I’ll leave this story for another day.

It is also on National Day when we first met our dog. She had to find a foster home urgently because the farm she was living on was going to close down, and our dear government authorities like to kill stray dogs. Somehow I thought I wanted to help every bit, especially if I was in a position to, so we offered to foster her and the rest was history. 

Last year on National Day I wrote this post (http://defragment.me/thoughts/happy-birthday-singapore-with-gratitude-but-not… expressing my gratitude for my country but not love.

In a way I hoped that my position would shift slightly, if only because there is a sense of romaticism to be in love with your country. I can only say I like my countrymen better now, because I was part of the historic elections of 2011. It made me feel that change was possible, that no matter how much I disliked the majority of the country, there is still this group of people who are unselfish in pursuing progress for the collective. 

I quote here my favourite quote from Sylvia Lim who is now elected MP after being a NMP for years:

“the true purpose of being involved in politics – to listen to every person, whose vision of a better life is ipso facto valid.”

What a beautiful statement, that is. 

The elections also cruelly exposed the brutal truth that the majority of Singaporeans are still not ready for change, or that many people still remain selfish to seeking progress. 

I remain in hope. Not only for Singapore because I don’t feel particularly tied to it, but rather for the whole world. I hope to see the day whereby we realise we’re all intricately connected and it makes absolute sense, economic or whatever, to be unselfish.

I believe that the right collective of like-minded people can make wonders – if one day I find this collective here in SF instead of Singapore, I will choose to be here. Because I am in love with the world and not just one country. I don’t see logical sense of trying to be a martyr for my birth country when I can be more effectiive elsewhere. Maybe this elsewhere eventually wouldn’t be in SF or even the states – I remain entirely open.

I don’t love my country and I mean it honestly. Being in SF only serves to expose to raw wounds I’ve hidden for years. How I’ve chosen to believe I was less than human because my most of my countrymen, my elders, my loved ones made me feel so. How authority figures like teachers who were supposed to nurture us, turned out to be people who inflicted the greatest hurt. How people whom you should be able to rely on for unconditional support ended up making you feel that your existence was essentially worthless.

I no longer feel that sort of bitterness that I held within my heart during the first 25 years of my life, but that doesn’t mean it hurt any less or that I’ll forget. Some new-age gurus only want to speak about the future, but I believe the past is part of our identity (Or that essentially time is not linear to me). The pain motivates – if only you choose to harness it the right way. 

Even if I am in a better place now, physically, mentally, spiritually or whatever, that doesn’t mean others have the luck or support that I have/had. There are still many gifted souls out there in pain and my previous suffering has only made me more resolute to be able to one day make a difference to these people. 

Me being here now, feeling this way, has only increased my belief that it can get better. For me, for them, for us. We shouldn’t accept that pain has to be the status quo. We shouldn’t accept that survival can only be the mode we’re in.

Many people has suggested that I shouldn’t be writing so openly about my previous struggles with depression. It’ll only affect my career. But why not? I don’t want to work with people who’ll not hire me because of my past. I want to tell people that it is okay to be open about being gay and previously depressed and still recieve opportunities. In fact, better opportunities because people who believe in you despite your damaged past, see your true potential.

If my work, despite being above average gets me nothing because I used to struggle with chronic depression, what about the rest of the people? Do they just go kill themselves because they’ll never be able to be honest or be accepted?

Sometimes I just don’t get it. We all have flaws. Probably secret ones that we try so hard to cover. Just because a person doesn’t write openly about his/her problems doesn’t make him/her ‘stable’ or better. 

And if me, who felt melancholic all my life can become this person full of happy bubbles now – perhaps that are people like me out there. We could be naturally the happiest people ever because we feel and care so much, that is the beauty of duality. The more pain you are capable of feeling, the more happiness you can recieve. Every single bit of emotion is so vivid. 

Maybe these people are not depressed by nature. They just happen to live in a world where it is just so difficult to be truly themselves and they need drugs to shield them from the pain of being different.

One day, we can all be loved for who we are.

Lyrics: I hope you dance

I just heard this on the radio, and I thought it was really apt. Am posting here to remind me later when I read through this blog (yes, I do fall back into insecure and fearful mode every now and then – and I’ll never want to lose my sense of wonder) & I am also sending this out to all of you out there:

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake but it’s worth making

Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance
(Where those years have gone)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

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And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance

 

unexpected turn

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So the above picture captures a gist of why I love San Francisco. I see things like this all the time and it makes me smile. Somehow it just reminds me of the unbridled creative spirit you feel in the air.

I haven’t been writing as much because the past few days have been crazy for me. Meeting after meeting….I didn’t have time to eat a single meal on Friday until like 7ish pm.

I am finally feeling the strain of running everywhere – but every single second of that was worth it. And I am still happier than ever.

So there has been a series of unexpected events which I cannot really talk about, but those whom are in one of my circles on G+ will know what is going on.

The summarized version is – I am flying out of SF to Hawaii in 10 days time for a month odd, then flying back to SF at the start of October.

I can’t write here what I’m going to be doing there, I’m just going to say that I’m going over to check things out just like how I am checking things out right here in SF. It is all part of this experience which I had no expectations for, and I am just going to go with the flow. 

But it is just very weird yet funny yet exciting because everything is just so unexpected yet so in a state of natural flow. I am really just letting go (not easy for me either okay ;p) and having blind faith that the Universe will feel my heart beat.

By the way, I spent the whole of yesterday being a tourist with a new friend (whom I got to know because I almost had an interview with him lol)

He brought me around,

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showed me Japan Town (kick ass by the way and there’s daiso!!)

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ate sushi floating on a boat,

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and we had a great conversation. 

This is all priceless.

I love the Mission

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Storytelling

A good story, whether in a book or in a movie, has lots of peaks and lows.

How many times have you read a book, watched a movie, or hear someone recount his/her experience, and you have felt your heart come alive?

I believe somewhat in Ayn Rand’s theory – that the greatest gift one can ever give to the human race, is to live life to the maximum and live to tell that story.

Imagine someone like Steve Jobs. Can you imagine him telling his story? How he would just take typography classes and that became the foundation of Apple’s core UI philosophy? How his upbringing was actually rather fragmented? How he survived pancreatic cancer?

If one day someone’s gonna make a movie, that would be a really good movie.

And for me, I realised despite my constant whining throughout my life, I have tons of interesting stories to tell. And I really enjoy recounting them, or recounting people’s stories to some other people, and see something in their eyes change.

San Francisco/California is a place full of stories. This is the city where gay people come together and fight for their rights. It is the place where there were literal gold-diggers. This was home to the hippies. Now, it is HQ for the major tech companies in the world.

How can I not love a city like that? A place where people come to fight for their dreams. I came to fight for mine, and I feel like I’ve woken up from a 30yr-old slumber.

It occurred to me that perhaps plenty of people may not like it here. They may not like the very colourful culture, the ever-evolving landscape, that everyone seems to be moving constantly. There is no sense of stability here. Still, there is tons of space, lots of room to grow, a sense of community even though nobody seems to be permanent here. 

That is the thing you see. I tend to appreciate things that people typically don’t, and that is why I am feeling so alive now. I can finally be my self. You know how liberating that feels? I don’t think you would unless you’ve been stuck in a 30-yr slumber before, thinking that the identity you’ve fostered back then was you.

It is like having a Husky bred in Singapore and that poor dog is like wondering why is he feeling perpetually hot all his life? That dog would have thought something must be wrong with him, because other dogs seem to be so happy. He would have thought he is dysfunctional and damaged, not knowing that he was meant to be a magnificient animal among ice and snow.

This is how I feel right now. I don’t mean to insinuate that I am magnificient lol but I definitely feel a lot more human here. That there are tons of perceived-dysfunctional people like me here. Though over here, they’re not dysfunctional. They’re celebrated. Respected. Appreciated. Given there own space to be individuals. And I am not only talking about the tech scene. You see this everywhere. Even the BART drivers I encounter make quirky-sounding train announcements. You see young people trying to be farmers. People in wheelchairs zipping around. Then, there are the truly crazy people. But  they are given their space to be crazy too. It is almost like you’re expected to be somewhat off-the-balance around here. 

I don’t want to be back home. For now. I want to make this place my home. It doesn’t seem possible at this point, but back a few months ago, even being a tourist here didn’t seem possible.

I am really not kidding when I tell you – in my entire 30 years ++ of my life, I have never, ever felt this alive. Like I am finally living and breathing, back in the place I was meant to be.

blind faith. gratitude.

Many times in life, or at least in mine, you need to take a leap off some edge & hope that there will be somebody there to catch you. Else, you’ll only get to walk the well-travelled path everybody else walks upon.

I had no expectations when I came to SF. The thing is, I love travelling and till date I haven’t gone to a place and felt like I should have stayed home instead. So to me, whatever happens, at least I got to travel. And eat airline food. 

I am very glad that after months of procastination and fear, I did eventually make this leap. For this trip has gone a thousand times beyond my wildest expectations.

I am in a very grateful mood today. I did some work I feel good about, I met some people I feel good about, I got to meet @nimbupani who has been my twitter friend for eons. I thought I was going to meet her at Mission, but she had to be around SOMA, so I made the commute down to see her. 

It was so worth it.

Not only did I have a great convo with her – I wanted to visit the Apple store after that to continue salivating at the new MBAs. Somehow by some guidance, I went into Westfield. And somehow I noticed this tiny kiosk selling ipad cases. I have been wanting to buy a new ipad case. Mine’s SwitchEasy Canvas which I love, but it adds a lot of weight to the iPad II and makes it feel like the original iPad. So I browsed the kiosk, I ended up falling in love with one case and I saw a similar case for the iphone. My iphone case is over-stretched so I thought I wouldn’t mind getting a new one as well.

I took my iphone out of its over-stretched cover to put the new one on it….and guess what. It is not overstretched. The phone is overstretched. My iphone 4 somehow got pregnant and the case came apart.

I went into a state of panic. How can I possibly live without my iphone! Then I remembered that the Apple Store is nearby and this would be the perfect time to test their lengendary Genius Bar service. I wondered if it would be an issue that I was a tourist and my iphone was from Singapore. 

I didn’t know you have to book appointments with the Genius Bar, thankfully this very helpful lady helped me check on the appointment slots – one last slot left! *phew*. 

They looked at my iphone suspiciously – the case was coming apart – it was as though as I’ve dropped it. The guy told me that it would cost $29 to fix the backing, which was probably caused by a huge impact to the case – physical damage is not covered by the warranty. I looked at him and told him that the phone is not cracked. It is obviously swollen. 

Thankfully, he took a longer look and realised what I had meant. He got me an exchange, no questions asked. No proof of purchase needed. I love Apple. He even helped me to unlock my replacement phone because my original one wasn’t locked. Wow. 

So again, long story short, if @nimbupani didn’t ask me to meet her for coffee near SOMA, I would have blissfully gone unaware of my exploding iphone. It was put in a hazardous bag btw. I wanted it back for like a minute to back up some SMSes and he said it was dangerous.

Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t notice it today? 

It is times like these that I really feel there is an invisible force guiding me. I cannot describe it. Things have been in such a state of flow. It is as though someone is saying to me, as long as you’re willing to take the leap, I’ll be there to catch you. And time and time again, I’m getting reminded of it. 

I am very, very glad that I did not succumb to my circumstances and accept things as they were. I am grateful that I recognised that I was reaching a impasse with my life and decided to make a radical change. I actually wouldn’t consider coming to SF radical….going to the middle east would be radical. Everybody is telling me that it is all in my mind.

No, I am very certain to say now, it is not in my mind. You have to fight for what you want in life. You cannot be stuck somewhere and try to trick your mind into thinking that it is okay. That happiness is purely a state of mind.

And I am so grateful. Very very grateful for those who have encouraged me patiently and endlessly to make this leap. My twitter friends. Strangers I don’t know but have connected to me on twitter giving me consistent support. I don’t care what they say about twitter and whether it is making money. But it is definitely making a difference in people’s lives. A huge one in mine. I have met so many twiiter friends that became authentic, honest friendships. I connect better with my twitter friends better than facebook. 

Nevertheless, I would like to give thanks to the following people for making this trip possible:

@jasonong, @foounder, @minxuan, @mingyeow – They’re the key people who gave me this idea to come here in the first place and kept telling me I’ll be fine. Special props to @minxuan for telling me non-stop how much she loves the Bay Area. If they ever need an evangelist, she’s the person! 

Of course, special thanks to @andycroll for his very persistent emails to get me out for coffee. Else, I’ll not even be meeting people now. lol.

(of course I love a lot of other people but this is a SF special!)

I know I sound like I am giving an oscar speech or I am dying, but I think life is really transient and it is really important to show gratitude whenever you can. Else, you’ll never know when you’ll lose the chance to. Just like my iphone died for no apparent reason. Recently, a Singaporean passed away in New York due to some viral infection, leaving her husband behind. They were on holiday. Death is real and it is near. It is my best motivation for life, every single day.

You know, I met my partner five years ago and I knew immediately that she was the one. (Previously I never had a relationship that lasted more than 2 years) In fact, in 6 days, it will be exactly 5 years since we’ve first met. Our meeting was very serendipitous. A story for another day.

When I first arrived in SF 12 days ago, I knew I wanted to be here. It is an instant feeling of recognition, just like how I recognised my partner. How can you explain the instant evaporation of my perpetual commitment phobia even though I’ve barely known her for like 5 seconds?

So for the past few days something has been happening which I cannot share for now. It is serendipity at work again, and I recognise it when I see it.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know good or bad, it is going to be very exciting – and what more can I ask for? From walking dead to a walking bundle of joy in a matter of weeks.

If I were to die tomorrow, I will have no regrets. 

today was awesome

For reasons I cannot tell because of the other parties involved. I had a couple of meetings with different people and I’m just amazed at how serendipity works sometimes.

Another highlight was that I went to the Farmer’s Market at Inner Sunset, this woman was singing – I just felt like crying whe I heard her voice.

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And also I wanted to say that I think I am going to grow fat staying here:

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