30-Day Writing Challenge : Day 15 – One Thing You Never Learned

15. One Thing You Never Learned 

I’ve never learned how to swim properly.

I can ‘move’ from one end of the pool to another (or more like half the pool), but I never learned how to float. So if I was in a place where my feet don’t touch the ground, I’d probably drown. When I was a little girl, my dad attempted to teach me how to swim, but he was terrible at instructions and our visits to the pool were so sporadic his ‘lessons’ never bore fruit.

Sometimes I wonder if they had just thrown me into a pool, would I have been able to learn how to swim? Perhaps it was because I knew my dad was there to hold me that I didn’t try as hard. My dad did not have formal lessons on swimming. He basically learned how to swim at the river (public swimming pools were not a big thing back in the day – or only the rich could afford entry to the ones at posh clubs) – it was literally a case of sink or swim.

Kind of like life, innit? While I still don’t know how to swim (and have made peace that I probably never will), the takeaway from this is that we can rage against the world and its injustices and how it doesn’t fit around us, but ultimately, only the strong and the adaptable survive.

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge Day 13 : A Memorable Stranger

13. A Memorable Stranger

stranger
/ˈstreɪn(d)ʒə/
noun
  1. a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar.

It was many years ago when I first watched Wong Fu Production’s Youtube short, Strangers Again which chronicles the stages of a relationship. From being strangers gradually trying to get to know each other, getting into a relationship, going through a honeymoon phase where everything is sweet and lovey-dovey, misunderstandings, fights and the inability to compromise or reconcile differences, and finally breaking up – becoming strangers, again.

I spent the better part of five years with someone from high school. We had been friends since we were 16, and got together when we were 17.  We even went to the same college for awhile, and I recall fondly times where we’d ride the train to college, sometimes waiting for hours at the mall for the other to finish their classes, just so we could ride home together. Things were sweet for awhile, but as it goes, things played out just like in Strangers, Again. It wasn’t any one person’s fault – it was just that we were young, naive and had idealistic notions about love.

Perhaps the idea is best encapsulated by this nugget of wisdom from Zendaya (young but very talented and mature, unlike many of her contemporaries in Hollywood):

“I’m so anti being in a committed relationship when you’re young and people are learning and growing, because when people are young, they make bad decisions sometimes because they don’t know any better. It doesn’t mean they don’t know the difference between right and wrong—it just means that they’re still in the experimental phase in their life where they haven’t made the right decisions yet…it’s very hard to be in a relationship when the both of you are still figuring out life. You cannot change anybody. You cannot make someone grow up faster than they’re supposed to.”

 

We were both at a phase where we were just discovering the world and the best people and environments to surround ourselves with  – and our ideals and visions for the future were just too different at the time. While we broke up on relatively good terms, it felt awkward. How do you become friends again with someone whom you have been so intimate with and who knows almost every facet of your life, for five years? Friends who knew us were pretty appalled, saying it was a shame and that I wasted five years of my life and youth. That’s just the thing though – did I want to waste another five? I’ve always been of the belief that if things don’t work out even when you’ve already exhausted all avenues, perhaps it’s time to move on.

These days, we’re still ‘friends’ on social media, although I haven’t seen him for the good part of six years, nor have we spoken much other than sporadically. Of course, having spent so much time together in our developmental years, it’s hard not to recall things from the past. All things considered, we had a good run, and our experiences together helped shaped me into the person I am today. Strangers? Yes. Memorable? Definitely.

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 12 – Friendships

12. Friendships 

Friendships come easy to some people. It’s fascinating how some people just have the gift of the gab for approaching complete strangers and somehow leaving with numbers, smiles and promises to catch up over drinks someday.

I, on the other hand, have struggled with this since high school. Being bullied, ostracised and made to feel like I never belonged, I am now somewhat guarded and reserved in person, and it takes time for me to warm up to people. In an extrovert’s world where everything is about whom you know and how well you know ’em, this can be a disadvantage (especially in a field like lifestyle journalism!).

As we get older and our time is occupied by things like family and commitments, it is natural for some friends to simply … drift apart. I’ve never been a social butterfly with a big group of friends, but the few I have kept, I treasure. I have also learnt that time is not always a determinant for good friendships, and that relationships can be fluid. I met one of my closest friends at my last workplace, where we were colleagues. Another close friend I have known since I was 13, but only became really close after high school, and one I was close to in high school but has since drifted apart. There’s also my ‘bro’ who migrated to the States (have not seen him for a decade), but still calls to wish me Happy Birthday every year. We don’t talk much, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off – it’s as if nothing has changed.

There was a time where I expected my friends to be perfect friends, which they are, of course, not. Nobody is. Even lovers fight and disagree, what more friends? One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to let go of the hurt and betrayal I’ve carried and not project it onto my friendships. If all else fails, live, let go and wish them all the best.

Life’s too short for regrets.

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30 Day Writing Challenge Day 4 – Someone Inspiring

I don’t usually call my bosses friends, but my ex-editor was an exception.

Although we no longer work together, she was someone whom I looked up to and greatly admired for her patience in mentoring me, not just professionally, but as a person in general. Although life had not been a bed of roses for her, she broke away from what society dictated a woman of her age and stature should do, and found her own happiness. We share a common love for travel, and I marvel that for a lady in her 40s, she is still brave enough to go on some pretty extreme adventures, like deep jungle hikes and mountain climbing. Perhaps it is because we both have similar personalities that we get along so well, and I hold the belief that someday, perhaps, I might be like this strong, courageous woman.

30 Day Writing Challenge Day 2: About Yourself

Day 2 prompt: “Write something that someone told you about yourself that you never forgot.”

An editor I worked under once told me that she and I had a similar personality:  we ‘mirror’ how others treat us. It struck a chord because it was an astute observation –  she just put it into words perfectly.

I know myself to be a person who gives an eye for an eye. Some might say its not a good trait to have, but I’m not a saint, and I don’t pretend to be.

This is especially true when it comes to people who are disrespectful or trying to get their opinions on me in a forceful manner: the more aggressive they are, the more I fight back. Kind of like a ‘fight fire with fire’ philosophy. If you are calm and rational, chances are, you’ll find I mirror the behaviour.

On the flip side, if I know a person to be kind to me, I will go out of my way to help them.

There are pros and cons to this, especially in the working world where people back stab each other to get ahead of the rat pack. If there’s one thing I need to learn, it’s the ability to camouflage my outward distaste for unsavoury characters, especially at a workplace. While I’m all for being real and honest, it’s always better to make friends, or at least not to make enemies, no matter how much you dislike them – you never know when you’d have to approach them for a favour. And that’s the way of life.

 

30 Day Writing Challenge Day 1 : On Happiness

“Happiness is a state of mind.” 

I often hear this phrase being thrown around, alongside, “money can’t buy happiness” and “money isn’t everything.”

And perhaps it isn’t. After all, we often hear about the rich and famous getting depressed, taking drugs, spiraling out of control, taking their own lives. If they had it all, why, then, would they still be unhappy?

Then there are those who subscribe to another ideology: “It’s better to cry in a Lamborghini than on a bicycle.” “Money isn’t everything, but everything needs money.”

It might be true to some extent – comfort and pleasures can be bought with money, and for some, this is their measure of happiness.

My point is, happiness is a fluid concept, which can mean different things to different people.

For me, happiness is about loving yourself

I used to let my happiness be dictated by loved ones. As the consummate Asian child, I was brought up to believe that happiness was to be filial to my parents, and that meant living up to their dreams and expectations. From a young age, my path had been laid out before me – all I had to do was follow, and for the longest time, I believed that it would make me happy.

But I wasn’t. 

Deep down inside, a part of me knew that if I walked down this road, I would end up resenting myself and my loved ones. Myself, for not having the courage to speak out. Them, for not understanding, because they do not know any better and genuinely think they are protecting and guiding me to a better life.

What hurt me the most, perhaps, is the fact that my idea of happiness – being able to do what I want and love – was in conflict with what my loved ones wanted me to do and become. Because at the end of the day, I do want their blessing. I do want them to be proud of me.

For the longest time, I struggled with depression and anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and crippling self-doubt, to the point where there were days that I could not function like a normal human being.

I still have such days, and I don’t know if it will ever go away completely. The ever elusive feelings of ‘happiness’ come and go like a breeze. And that’s okay.

Why? Because I’ve learned to love myself a little bit better. I understand that no person can go through life happy all the time, so I’ll take whatever happy days life gives me. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things more.The smile of a loved one. An outing with a friend. The beauty of the sky and the clouds, the golden hue of the sunset as I drive home from work. Travelling. Filling my head with new knowledge. Not letting negative people affect me as much as it used to. Managing expectations. Being content with things.

Life is short and fragile, and it can be gone in the blink of an eye. I think its wise to have as many happy days as possible. 

 

 

NaNoWriMo: The 30 Day Writing Challenge

Ah, November. Month of mustachios and unshaved beards. Also NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. 

I’ve never attempted to write a novel, because focus is not my strong suit – and having to pen down 1,667 words per day on a singular topic sounds intimidating. And while I’m still not ready to go at it (perhaps next year? Lol), I’ve decided to challenge myself in 2018 with a 30-Day-Writing-Challenge : so I still get the writing in, minus the commitment of a full-fledged novel.

As a writer by profession, I often come back from work mentally exhausted and out of creative juice. Even so, I try to find time to blog, even on days when I don’t feel like it. It’s a passion project of almost a decade, and I’m not about to give up on it despite the challenges (mostly finding free time, since I juggle two jobs and like 1,000 job roles within my jobs, lmao).

I think it’s important for writers to have a writing space of their own, where they are free to pen down whatever they want to. For me, at least, it’s essential to keep my creative sanity intact. As I get on in years, I feel the creativity and passion dying within me – most days at work, I’m doing it because it’s a job, rather than because I’m genuinely interested in it, which, for a writer, is an extremely sad place to be. When you’re so used to writing things or topics in a certain way, your creativity dies and you’re left churning out formulaic, soulless copy.

A long explanation of why I’m trying to do the 30 Day Challenge this month lol. Hopefully, it’ll inspire and get the spark going again.

For the brave souls out there attempting the NaNoWriMo, good luck and happy writing!