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Month: December, 2011

dreams, reality, failure, strength.

When I didn’t do well in my O levels, my form teacher gave me a look of disdain while passing me my result slip. I was told I was doomed because of my 20-over aggregate.

When I decided to drop out of my polytechnic studies in order to pursue design, I was told I wouldn’t have a future.

When I decided to go independent as a designer, I was told I would fail. My odds were doubled when I told people that I wasn’t going to allow phone calls if they wanted my design services.

In between and all around these events, my entire life has been filled up with people trying to step on me and my dreams. 

I have a perception of myself, that I am weak. I cry at the slightest trigger, I really don’t like confrontations even if I was being bullied, I hate to ask for help, I am a perpetual worrier about everything and of course, it didn’t help me that I was constantly told that I would fail.

I frequently hide at home and I ask myself, “why am I so weak?”

Last week, there were two small but defining incidents in Vietnam.

1. I passed by a street stall selling Banh Mi and I sympathized with her because it was cold and she looked tired. I went over to buy a sandwich and a coffee she persuaded me to drink, but when I was paying the bill, she charged 120,000 dong for them. Typically the cost for a sandwich or a coffee is about 20,000 dong each, even in restaurants, so I was overcharged by 300%.

I went back to my hotel room and I cried my heart out. No, not because of the money, of course, but it was an accumulated, overwhelming sense of injustice. I’ve always tried to be kind, gracious and empathetic, but people seem to like taking advantage of that.

2. I had dinner at one of the restaurants at Hoi An, and I gave this young waitress a considerable tip. Her eyes lighted up and that made me happy. While getting out of the restaurant I was thinking to myself, how nice it would be if I could have enough money to be giving some to everyone that needs some light in their eyes. And in the next split second, I stepped on a small slippery slope and fell right on my face. 

I honestly wondered what did the Universe have against me. Is it wrong to think of giving people money just to see some light in their tired eyes?

I could have said, to hell with being kind and I think most people would have understood. For it is not only these small events but an entire chain of events in my life that makes me wonder repeatedly why do I even bother.

But ironically, these two small events made me rediscover faith in myself, and to a certain extent, humanity.

Because even after I have this fat bruise on my face, right hip and hand, even after I felt stupid after the expensive street sandwich, I continued to smile and be nice to everybody who interacted with me or would give some some eye contact.

I am grateful, because of the way I fell, I know very well I could have half of my face ripped off, I could have had a broken right wrist and maybe a broken hip as well. 

I somehow felt that the street-stall owner probably needed the money more than me, and it is her burden to live with, not mine.

I realised that, in spite of all the discouraging events that happened in my life, I have never stopped believing in my ideals.

When the going gets tough, I mope, I cry, I feel depressed, I hide, but never once have I come out of it thinking, to hell with my ideals.

I have had people telling me I was ridiculous, delusional, naive, stupid, but never once have I wanted to be who I am not. 

I *could* technically accept status quo in everything, including perceived reality, make smart work-arounds, learn to harden my heart and be detached. I could continue as a travelling designer, earning the rates a good designer would command, live in luxury resorts, save up some money and live happily ever after. The world’s problems are not mine.

Why on earth should I bother with trying to make my dreams and goals come true? Why should I continue believing in a humanity that can be better? 

Why would people like Aung San Suu Kyi or many others before her, chase a seemingly lost cause? Why didn’t these people take the easy way out? 

Why don’t I take the easy way out?

I didn’t, I don’t and I can’t because I truly cannot understand what is the meaning of life if I allowed myself to cruise through it. Is life making our own existence feel comfortable and that’s it? Like just to survive, try not to allow ourselves to slide into any poverty or pain and that’s it? 

The logic behind that line of thinking doesn’t make any sense to me. And if I cannot make myself believe that simply surviving makes life precious, then I can only feel very sorry for myself and my parents – that having to endure all the pain, suffering and tears is the only way I could live my life.

I feel really sorry for my parents most of all, because I wish they could have a daughter who would just be happy with a comfortable job and let them enjoy their old age comfortably. Instead of making them worry for me when I suddenly go off travelling to find myself, or when I have to endure tough times and end up being sick and poor, or when I genuinely think I can make a difference to the world (which means most of the time getting perceived as delusional).

All those times when people tell me what I am aiming for is impossible, I could have listened to mass, experienced advice and accepted it. 

But because I have my own version and complicated calculation of probability – I have become the person I am and have built the career I had.

If I listened to these people, I would have chosen to lead an in-authentic life, been really unhappy and bitter and just add to the existing statistic of bitter people in this world.

I can be discouraged, disappointed and depressed, but I am never bitter.

There come the very late realisation, that despite me still being a crybaby and still afraid of any sort of confrontations, still having to hide under my sheets when things get tough but I have one strength that has passed the test of time and faith.

I refuse to sell out and I refuse to stop being kind. I have this suspicion I never would. Because a life like that, isn’t worth living.


saigon, ups and downs.

So I am sitting in a cafe at Saigon, munching on some delicious vietnamese beef salad and drinking really good vietnamese coffee. The people here really take their coffee pretty seriously. I haven’t had a bad cup so far.

I wish that I was writing this in SF instead, but my planned journey ran into some issues, so instead of moping around in Singapore, I’ve decided to make use of the privilege of being in Asia by traveling around it for now.

It seems like there is a misconception that I am having a kick-ass life because I’m actively posting awesome food pictures on my social networks – I wish this was actually the case but in truth it would actually be much easier for me if I could stay settled in Singapore instead.

I am travelling, because I feel like my soul was slowly dying back in Singapore. This was the reason why I went to SF originally and I was hoping it would be different this time when I went back home in mid-october. 

It was not. 

If you ask me why, I can tell you it is because I am sensitive to energy and it is difficult for me to be in place whereby everyone’s anxious, competitive and stressed out, but then you would probably give me this strange look. It doesn’t matter anyway, whether it is psychological or physical. I don’t really have to give a believable account to anyone because nobody else is responsible for my own happiness except me. 

I am not willing to settle for less, or a less than happy me, so I decided that even if things did not go according to plan, then I should start making alternative plans. 

So here I am now at Saigon, potentially travelling down to Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Hoi An, depending on how my work situation unfolds. I don’t really know how to feel about Saigon yet but it still held small pleasant surprises for me such as the discovery of a cafe in some narrow alley like this:


Okay, I didn’t actually discover it myself, it was through Foursquare. Yes, Foursquare is actually being used quite a bit by the Vietnamese and I managed to find some decent recommendations from there. This is actually the first time I’ve actually found Foursquare useful – no hurt intended.

I am confused by Saigon, because the city feels quite tired at times, but in the middle of nowhere pops up a bubble of creativity like the cafe above. I am also partially amused by how I needed to learn to cross the roads despite the non-stop traffic. Partially because there were times I thought I was going to die in the middle of the road. 😛

Travel is my therapy, for it gives me a constant stream of new experiences, inspiration and a sense of wonderment. It is not all fairy-tale-like though, for I still get entrenched in moments whereby I question my existence. But being on the move makes it easier to snap out of it.

Being emotional is a blessing and a curse. It allows me to feel pure joy but it is the same quality that surrounds me with darkness at times. I once read a research that shows creative people tend to have an unrestrained ability to subsconsciously absorb everything around them – everything is meaningful in an illogical manner. The same research tries to explain that the very same strength is what that makes these people have the potential to suffer mentally. You can’t just turn off the tap and choose what to absorb. It is either on or off.

Sometimes I feel weak because of my nature. There are times I wish I can turn it all off and just be a detached human being. Wouldn’t it be nice not to feel so much for once? But then, what is the point of my life then? To find ways to feel numb and cruise through life?

Ultimately (after long self-debate in my mind) I am grateful for my strong emotions. They make me the person I am. I don’t know what tomorrow or next week holds but I try to seek new ways to keep my soul alive. Whether is it moving, eating or writing posts like this to share. 

In my quest to be the best person I want to be, I have made choices which didn’t turn out right, but still I know I have tried my very best within my own capacity. But that is life. When things don’t turn out right, there is where we learn.

I haven’t been writing much because of the way I’ve been feeling. I don’t wish for people I care about to worry about me. But the reason why I started writing in the first place was because I wanted to be authentic about my ups and downs. There is very little honesty existing in this world and I don’t wish to be part of that statistic.  

I want to be real, that’s all. I guess it is better to be potentially alienated than to be who I am not.