Overcoming setbacks

by wynlim

Having been through a rollercoaster ride for the past year, I have learnt to be grateful even for the downward spirals. Being in Vancouver alone was somewhat unexpected and it was really hard in the beginning – but even for this I have found tons to be grateful for. 

But one can only be so optimistic and positive, when setbacks occur again and again, your internal walls wear thin. At least mine was wearing thin. Even when I fell on my face in Hoi An last year I found the reason to smile – I smiled, because at least it was just a bruised face and I did not have any serious or even troublesome injuries. 

I’ve asked myself how many times do I have to pick myself up again and again. How many disappointments I have to endure. 

I looked above at the skies, I chose to take myself out of the comfort zone, I chose to fight for what I believe in, I don’t even ask for much except to be able to do what I love to do. I do not dream of buying fancy cars nor sprawling mansions. I own only one pair of shoes and one laptop bag which I carry around. 

So I really didn’t understand why things get so difficult sometimes. 

I even feel guilty for feeling down because I always tell myself, at least I am not starving in some war-torn country. If you’ve been somewhat in my shoes before, you’ll know that doesn’t work very well. 

People experience tunnel vision when they feel down. Everything is taken personally, everything seems bleak, everything seems to be going against you. If hurt was inflicted on you, the first instinct is to inflict it back. Thoughts of taking the easy way out become very tempting. I can assure you it is during these dark times when people cross the thin line between good and evil. 

I have found out a lot about myself. I learn that I am only human, that many times I would like to be zen-like about everything, but the reality is being in denial or dishonest about your feelings does not equate to being zen. Trying to sweep everything under the carpet isn’t being zen either. 

The only thing I could do for myself is to be really honest about how I feel. It is only human to feel anger when hurt is inflicted, when trust is being lost. Especially if it is from an unexpected source. 

However, it was interesting to put myself into observer mode and observe my own reactions. I guess that is part of being mindful. I allowed myself to feel the full spectrum of my emotions but I kept reminding myself who I want to be. 

More importantly, I have learnt that energy is precious and resentment takes a lot of energy. It is also not energy-efficient to let your thoughts churn repeatedly over the same issue. I had a thousand question marks in my head – why did it happen? When there are no answers, perhaps the only way to deal with it is to let – it – go.

They say time will heal and it is true. We just need to not dig deeper into our own wounds. Sometimes the best way to heal a wound is just to remove the bandaid and air the wound naturally. Don’t attempt to take pain killers, accept the pain and just let it be. Without paying too much attention to it, without noticing, one day you’ll realise the skin has healed. Perhaps it would leave a scar but it would have healed nonetheless. You can choose how you want to perceive the scar. As a badge of honour or as a source of pain. We get to choose.

The quicker way to heal is to pour salt over your wound. Or if you would like a gentler version, you can choose to swim in the sea. 

I was very tired but in acknowledging I was only human and I truly cannot be gandhi-like ironically allowed me to recover. At the core of this, I truly believe authenticity matters a lot in life, and being authentic means to be real even to yourself. 

Setback after setback, I still raise my eyebrows at the sky and I grouse a bit here and there. But you know in old kung-fu films the mentor will always be harsher with the best students. I believe it is the same in life, the challenges do not get easier, they become harder – because it means you have learnt whatever you needed to and hence you have to proceed to the next level of difficulty. 

Sure, I get thrown curveballs a lot. But it is a testament to my personal strength that I am still here writing this post with a twisted sense of humour. I can always take the easy way out, it was always available to me as a choice. I consistently choose to take the path less trodden because to me it is very simple – why would I choose to experience the same thing everyone else has experienced? There is no clear incentive for me. Here, I’ll admit it, I want to be special – I want to be myself and nobody else. 

I can look back at the past 30 years of my life and mourn about all the mistakes I’ve made, all the failures I’ve accumulated, all the hurt inflicted. Or I can look forward to tomorrow and wonder how I can make a difference. 

I can choose to write, I can choose to code, I can choose to push pixels, I can choose to send a simple tweet to make someone’s day, I can send emails to people I care about. The wonderful thing about the internet, once you send some bytes of data over, it sort of has a life of its own.

We live in a blessed era with the incredible power to create. I think those of us in tech, we take it for granted sometimes. We forget just years ago, how difficult it was to get published. How difficult it was to share, to be heard, to create. 

That is why I refuse, I really simply refuse to be discouraged. No matter how tough things get for me, I wield the power to be authentic, to be true to myself and to others, to be as kind as possible, to share as much enthusiasm as possible, to make those in despair believe – there can be hope for a better humanity. 

I am only human, I can’t be zen, but I can strive to be. All those scars I have, I wear them proudly as badges of honour. 

I am grateful.