Each time I feel lazy, tired, disillusioned or jaded, when I feel like giving up all my bold dreams and naive passions, I remind myself of the story I want to tell.
There can be two vast extremes:
“Winnie worked for 40 years, she climbed the corporate ladder well enough, saved enough to buy a house, was able to buy whatever she needed and go on a holiday twice a year”.
“Winnie tried to do a thousand things in her lifetime, failing miserably at some, was moderately successful with the others, she spent half her life covered in grime, pain and tears, the other half full of joy and laughter. She was never able to fulfil some of her outrageous plans but she was happy to have given it her all while trying. Not many people knew who she is, but those who truly knew her cherished their temporal but significant connections. She was always enthusiastic about sharing her stories, some deeply personal, some belonging to other people who inspired her. She didn’t leave behind one big legacy but she felt passionately alive with everything she tried to do.”
Ultimately, if I can leave this world with story B, I’ll be a very happy person. Instinctively I want to be a part of some big thing and save the world, but it is okay even if I don’t end up doing so, I will not end up dying a bitter person with regrets as long as whatever I choose to do, I do it with all my heart and soul.
Despite being deeply entwined with tech and startup dreams, would I be equally happy being a poor hobo travelling on a minimal budget to different countries trying to lend a hand to various different causes? I would. I appreciate forming deep connections to whatever I do, the medium doesn’t really matter.
What if I become old, sick and penniless? If I had spent my youth vigorously pursuing what I feel for and believe in, then so be it. I’ll take the tradeoff.
If trying to ensure I will not be sick and penniless when I am old, I give up my heart and liberty for three quarters of my life, the math doesn’t even compute.
The only thing I feel bad for is that I may not be able to take care of my poor parents in their old age, but I can only hope that everything will work out that it is exactly meant to be, or that they can at least proud that I am brave enough to truly be alive.
Would they have preferred me to be well to do but bitterly angry with myself, feeling like my life might as well not matter? I believe the best way to deliver my gratitude to them and those who love me is to learn how to love myself and my life.
So here it is. This is my secret for having the courage to live an unconventional life, at least in Singaporean/Asian standards. The darker secret is I do not have the strength to live a conventional life. It is not that I didn’t try, I did, and each time I have only ended up physically sick. I have gotten sick enough to realize I would take my health over money/stability/comfort anytime. If I end up forgetting because it is so easy to get caught up in material comfort, I get a prolonged bout of sickness – isn’t my body awesome?
These days, especially the past year, I no longer need my body to remind me of the need to feel alive. It has been wired deeply into my conscious mind – there have been times when I get so caught up in the perceived busyness of life that I forget that my priority is to truly live life.
Everyone has different means to feel alive, I always remember Christina Lamb’s story which was told to the world by Paulo Coelho:
“As long as I’m in a war zone, my life has meaning. I go for days without having a bath, I eat whatever the soldiers eat, I sleep three hours a night and wake up to the sound of gunfire. I know that at any moment someone could lob a grenade into the place where we’re sitting, and that makes me live, do you see? Really live, I mean, loving every minute, every second. There’s no room for sadness, doubts, nothing; there’s just a great love for life.”
Reading such stories make me realize I am not that crazy after all for trying to seek growth, discomfort and the feeling of being alive. And I ask myself what is my one thing to do to keep myself feeling alive?
It took me a while but I came to terms that I may or may not find that one thing to do, and that is okay, because whatever I do from now on will always carry its own meaning to me. And that to me is what matters to myself, the desire to lead a meaningful life. It would be a bonus if it can be impactful, but if I can make my own heart sing half the time for the rest of my life, that to me will be the greatest achievement I can take to my grave.