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Month: April, 2012

Finding the meaning of life, at 31

The past year of my life has been a major turning point for me. I can look back at myself as pre-30 and post-30 and there’s almost two distinct personalities. Some traits will always stay the same, I am still the same old emo self who writes long blog posts.

I have always felt like I don’t fit into this world, but the core difference was that before I turned 30 I was always trying to fit in and yet struggling to shut down my self-defined weird qualities, after turning 30 I feel like I’m starting to embrace myself for the person I am. Yes, it took me 30 years to even think that I could actually just be myself, but it is never too late, isn’t it?

It is one thing to know what I want, another thing altogether to put it into real life practice. For the past few years from my mid-twenties onwards I have been going on and on about trying to lead a life as authentically as possible but what really happened was that I tried to live it, but I was always secretly afraid.

You can say that I have an idealistic soul with a paranoid, practical mind, always fearful that I’ll end up letting the whole world down (and end up homeless).

I tried to keep the world happy while I pursued my ideals – that didn’t work out. I became physically sick trying to balance everything on my small shoulders and when I turned 30 last year, I said “enough” to myself.

And that single word triggered a roller-coaster ride which is still going on today.

I think I have never been happier. Along the way I have encountered ridiculous serendipitous moments you only read in fiction, I have met people who have changed my life permanently, I have seen a lot more of the world and experienced a lot more of life. I have had setbacks which threatened to destroy my ideals and of course there will always be a fair share of people whom we like to call ‘naysayers’.

But that’s fine. I can bet that most people would actually enjoy the view on top of the mountain more after an arduous climb. The point is that I actually tried climbing that mountain instead of playing it safe and staying at the foot, never able to have one shot at looking at the possible magnificent view. They always say that it is the journey/process that counts and previously I would always snort at that, but now I am learning to savor as much as possible, even the perceived bad moments.

It is through some tough times that I learned more about my own character, that contrary to my own belief, I am actually very persistent when it comes to something I really want. Tough times also give you the opportunity to re-affirm what you really want in life. Do I stick with it even though it is difficult, or do I give up? When I keep sticking with it even though it is really much easier to simply give up, I know I’ve found something special.

I’ve also had a wonderful opportunity to experience the meaning of loyalty. Seriously, it is easy to find people who would party and laugh with you, but rarely in your life you will meet people who would walk through shit with you. Or in some cases, clean the shit for you. Pardon my language.

There’s this part of “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand that got etched deeply in my memory. When faced with difficulties Howard Stark refused to sell-out, and his worried friend asked him what/who he’s waiting for, and he replied, “My kind of people”.

I thank my lucky stars that I’ve gotten to meet quite a few of “my kind of people” in the past year.

Being hugely commitment phobic, I’ve never thought I’ll stop being an independent designer – I didn’t think I would be okay with looking at the same product every day. That changed some time last year when I met a bunch of people with a product which till today still excites me at my core, even though I’ve been looking at it for a long, long while. I would love to write more about it and the people involved, when the time is right.

So much have changed in the past year. I think the most defining change is the gradual lack of fear. I can say that I’ve been lucky, but I had to take that leap of faith to receive that luck. That’s the thing. When you keep on taking leaps of faith, it becomes a habit.

I have searched for the meaning of life ever since I was five, and I think I’ve found it. The meaning of life for me is to give myself my own meaning of my life. That’s the beauty of it, you are actually free to give your own meaning of it. You don’t have to live under some entity’s meaning or anybody else’s meaning. It is entirely your own and up to you how you want to define it.

I have lived up to 30 years of my life thinking I had chains to my feet, and suddenly I realised they were never there at all.

I look forward to my birthday post next year, because I have this feeling in my gut that it will be even better than this year’s.


Be your own weird self

I have no desire to be the best designer in the world, neither do I want to be really rich. Knowing what I truly want in my life has made it easier for me to make important life decisions.

So what do I want in my life? Ultimately, I would like to be in a position whereby I am able to make a difference to how conventional society perceive. If that’s too much to ask for, then I’ll want to make a difference to how unconventional people perceive themselves.

Of course, there are some blessed with innate self confidence and they wear their unconventional selves proudly on their sleeves, but there are tons, especially the young, who hide in the closet and pretend to be conventional, because that’s what the society expects out of them.

People are afraid to be their true selves, because they don’t want to be negatively judged for it. For example, when people ask me what music I like, I used to feel very uncomfortable answering that question because I didn’t want people to think I was boring or worse, tasteless. I’m a professional designer after all and I need to keep my cool front. ;p

I read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts” some time ago, and I was grateful for someone like Susan Cain who made it her mission to change society’s perception that extroverts are “better value” or “more successful”. For what society perceives as desirable traits, people tend to try and mould themselves in a way to project themselves as desirable. I get caught in the same loop too.

But, I believe everyone has their innate natural gifts and we all should maximize our own gifts, not try to emulate other people. You may not be a good salesman and you can learn how to be one, but perhaps your time is better maximized doing what you do best. I mean, can you imagine scientists all try to be good salesmen?

I think people are so uncomfortable with being themselves because we all need validation and we all want to fit in, thus we end up being a repressed society chasing the wrong values. Worse still, we allow people to take power over us because we don’t trust ourselves. And we grow old and bitter. Once in a while, somebody somewhere breaks down and either destroy themselves or destroy other people.

Obviously this is a simplified way of looking at the issue but again am not trying to be politically correct writing my own thoughts. This is how I look at things now and one day I hope to be able to help in my own weird ways.

So that is why I don’t want to be a designer blogging about design. I want to be a designer who advocates change through technology + authenticity. That is why I’ve made a lot of decisions people cannot seem to understand, but deep in my heart I know what I’m doing now aligns with what I want to do in future.

I struggle a lot, because being in such a path could mean feeling lonely or un-appreciated by the mainstream or even my industry peers. However, I think this is a trade off I am willing to accept, if it means one day I’ll be able to make a difference in the way I specifically want to. My own, weird way.

A post like this will never get more than a thousand pageviews, but what matters is the metrics I hold dear in my heart – touching the ones that matter and would find value in these words.