Heart-less?

Heart-less?

Businesses are made up of people, function for people, are all about people. That’s why businesses need heart too. Because without heart, well, what’s left but a cold money-sucking machine out for your blood? Not really riled up, but more like disappointed, you know, with a mediumly-heavy heart kind. Just sad to see things this way, when there’s so much opportunity for good to be done. So much opportunity. Wasted.

Here’s my letter to SingTel:

Dear Sirs,

I received an announcement in the mail that Singtel’s Mio TV was going to get not 1, not 2, but 40 new channels. I thus called to enquire how I could enjoy the new Family+ package, with the Nat Geo channels I’m sure I would enjoy. The customer service lady told me it would cost, per month, $14.90 plus $1.90 for the rental of the set-top box. I also asked about signing up for the Mix and Match Season Pass. She said I could sign up for both at the same time and gave me the number of the telesales department.

Apparently not. Upon calling the Telesales department, I learnt that – apparently – because I’m on the 50mbps Fibre plan which is now defunct, I cannot sign up for the Family+ package without first upgrading to the now-lowest 100mbps Fibre plan at some additional $15 at month. What’s more, it costs, not $1.90, but $4.90 every month to rent the set-top box. Also, after being put on hold countless times, I was finally told that the Mix and Match Season Pass package was no longer offered and now I would have to purchase them at a la carte price, which meant getting 4 programmes for the price of 5.

I’m sorry? Getting 4 for the price of 5? In what world is that a good marketing strategy? I wasn’t even asking for new programmes – just the new seasons of programmes I was already subscribed to. What is this called? INFLATION??

At the end of the day, yes, for sure, I was upset. Not so much that I had spent a total of 3 hours of my Saturday on the line (I’m thankful one of them was a rather apologetic and helpful officer called Jennifer from the Telesales department) without getting anything out of it.

I was disappointed and upset with SingTel for showing themselves to be so blantantly looking after their bottom line, by capitalising on the helplessness of existing customers. Nevermind the fact that I’ve been a SingTel customer for as long as I remember – and have not once been offered a mobile handset discount voucher or any loyalty perks. Now on top of all that, they add insult to injury by raising prices all over the shop and demanding I pay higher monthly bills?

Oh you have to upgrade to another plan, otherwise you can’t upgrade your Mio TV plan in any way; please pay $. Oh now you have to pay a lot more for the set-top box; please pay $. Oh now you have to get the Family+ pack PLUS add on the movies that you previously had in your Entertainment pack, because they are separate now; please pay $. Oh we don’t offer the Mix and Match package anymore, so it’s now $33 per Season Pass, doesn’t matter if it’s the same shows you were already subscribed to, or the fact that you’re intending to purchase a lot of Season Passes; please pay $.

Doesn’t it sound like I’m playing a very sucky losing game of Monopoly? At least with Monopoly when you pass go you get $200 reward. What reward have I ever gotten from SingTel? And now to have to put up with this kind of treatment of their loyal, regular customers? Come on. Surely the largest, most competitive – so I’m sure they’d like to think themselves to be – telco in Singapore would have more sense than to toss their existing customers to one corner, in this small market which is Singapore. Yes I may not be willing to pay the penalty to break my contract – hence aptly pegged the helpless customer – but surely losing existing customers isn’t in the marketing game plan?

I’d like to know just what made you so uncaring, so ugly, and if there’s any hope left for you yet.

Choice

Choice

When it comes to contentment, choice is a dirty, evil word. If you think you have other options, the hope of something better, a chance at that ever-elusive thing called happiness, you’ll never realise what you already have and be grateful for it. If, however, you tell yourself, you will never ever be able to find another job/car/love/gadget/bag/LIFE like this one you have now which (insert positive aspect), everything will suddenly seem that much more appealing, beautiful, and precious. Don’t lose sight of that. Don’t be ruined by choice.

Passion.

Passion.

If you wonder why it’s so easy for you to walk away, to let go, to gloss over, to put aside, to forget, and yet people seem to struggle so much with it, here’s a clue: Passion. It’s that little fire that bubbles within some people. Some people, because not everybody has it, and some people have more of it, some less, and some have it for more things than others. Passion dictates that you do not give up without a fight, that you must not have lived at all if you haven’t lived to the fullest. Passion is a fire that can consume – can create, or destroy. Passion is the life force that ensures that every day is different, every day is a challenge, every day is an opportunity. What are you passionate about? And the next time you have a conflict with somebody, ask yourself, what is it that they are passionate about? Is what you deem aggression merely their expression of passion? It might help you understand them better.

Vulnerable.

Vulnerable.

Just because a person chooses to share their vulnerabilities with you doesn’t mean they live every day with a negative mindset. And it certainly doesn’t mean you get to judge their life or actions, especially when you will never in this lifetime be able understand or know what it’s like for them, and especially since you refuse to see the bigger picture.

Projecting negativity.

Projecting negativity.

It’s human nature to point out the worse. Yet we don’t realise we are projecting negativity onto others.

For example, you give somebody a cup of fresh apple juice you just juiced. They say “Eh it’s oxidized already.”

You show your parents your grades and they’ll be sure to point out your one C and not notice your As and Bs.

You give a friend a present and they say “Eh how come it doesn’t come with the accessories one?”

You tell your friend you’re on a diet, and they say “Huh then you still eat salad with dressing??”

You tell your friend you’ve been sick and they say “Must be cuz you… (did something wrong.)”

You show a friend the new car you bought, and they immediately point out the littlest dent ever in your hood.

You tell your friend about the great deal you just purchased, and they tell you you’ve been conned cuz they got it elsewhere cheaper.

Everywhere. These people are everywhere. They are our family, our closest friends. They lurk in the shadows of friendship and familiarity and they may rear their ugly heads at any turn. They mean well, but it doesn’t always out well.

How about “Haha it’s oxidised already! But never mind, still good! Thanks for all the effort!”

How about “Wow good job! Don’t worry about the C, you already did your best!”

How about “Gee wow thanks for the present! Maybe I’ll get the accessories next month to complete it!”

How about “Haha nice to see you eating a salad now, what a change from all that fast food! Even with the dressing, the amount of calories is still lesser than a Big Mac for sure!!”

How about “Oh no, I’m sure you’re doing all you can for your health. How can I help? I hope you’ll feel better soon.”

How about “Wow, nice ride. Really love the colour. Tumpang me more often k!”

How about “Yeah it’s a really good product, I’ve been using it too. Though I think I previously got it cheaper, but it must have been some extra special promotion that’s over already. You got it at a good deal though, it’s normally more expensive.”

Yes it takes a lot of effort for us to think before we speak. Nobody said fighting human nature would be easy. That’s why we all excuse each other when we fall victim to the negative friend. After all, we know they have our best interests at heart. But at least, let’s try? It would make life that much better.

Shame on Me

Shame on Me

“In the meantime, the joy of spending time with friends is poisoned by my inability to reciprocate… My friends’ complaints are things like, ‘We’re so behind on saving for college/retirement,’ ‘I pass out when I pay the preschool bill,’ and ‘the one thing I won’t give up is my cleaning lady!’ When they say that, all I hear is: “We’re saving. We pay all our bills. We have a cleaning lady!” It’s like [being single and] hearing a romantically entangled friend complain about the sunburn she got on her weekend away with her sexy boyfriend… This isn’t about envy. My friends are fantastic, admirable people who earn their money working hard and appreciating everything they have. This is about shame.”

– Money Mic: My Money Shame, or Why Broke is the New Single, on LearnVest

I’d always thought that what I felt was envy, envious of and lusting after friends’ lives: the opportunities they got, the material things they could afford, the lifestyles I could only dream of, the children they’ve been blessed with. I think I’ve laid awake so many nights thinking, How can I possibly save up for future medical bills when my current medical bills are already sapping me dry? Why is the only lifestyle I can have one where every luxury or indulgence is tagged onto a Groupon? What is it like to travel without counting every penny and cramming into backpacker inns? Have I actually ever purchased anything that wasn’t on sale or promotion? Why do I always fall flat in my face chasing my dreams? And will I ever get to be a real woman? After reading this article, I now know better. It’s not so much envy as it is shame. I am ashamed of me. And I think that’s worse than envy. I need therapy. =(

Being “strong”

Being “strong”

Thought of the day:

There is no ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ when dealing with situations and problems. There is only whether you externalise it or internalise it. Ignoring something, not letting it “affect” you, or brushing it aside in order to “move on” isn’t being strong; you’re just lying to yourself.

The start of something.

The start of something.

People always ask me if I blog. I wonder if they think it’s because I usually always have something to say about everything. It surprises them to find out I don’t. Granted, I did. I went from blogging about my day (hello, teenage years), to blogging about current affairs and what I had to say about the sentiments that swirled around us, to blogging about the more personal things in my life – my fears, my emotions, my heartaches. They say expressing our emotions is the first step to truly understanding ourselves better and being able to do wondrous things with the new information we now have discovered about ourselves.

And I suppose that brings me to this. I had no intention of ever blogging again. The world has moved on to shorter, crisper things – the world of micro-blogging introduced by Twitter was born to a society of individuals caught up in the never-ending race against time, and in the process, sacrificing depth and sometimes personal journeys to clarity and enlightenment.

Sometimes I wonder what this world of social media means. I suppose it started out as a way to stay connected with friends, yet many of the people we now ‘follow’ or ‘subscribe’ to, we don’t know personally. I have ‘friends’ I know purely online; some of whom I’ve never ever met in the flesh before. Can I consider our online transactions a ‘friendship’? I suppose in this digital age, we can no longer define ‘friendship’ on a personal, human, face-to-face level. We made that exception for the telephone; and now a phone conversation has become even more valued than a whatsapp conversation.

But is it ever the same? Call me old-fashioned, but I still enjoy meeting up with friends and hearing them tell their stories, complete with hand gestures, facial expressions, intonation, and the sound of good old laughter. Of course, over the years every friend has had their fair share of tears to accompany the laughter. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that confidence is the currency of friendship. Whomever we value as a friend, we dare to confide in them. Knowing full well it leaves us exposed, vulnerable – to judgement, to backlash, to sometimes inequitable or gratuitous opinions – and yet we do, confident that no matter what, they’ll still love us for who we are, want the best for us, do everything in their power to help us, and all because they want to see us happy.

“What you’ve gone through, all the sad and difficult bits, I was there when it happened, and I will never forget it. But I’m willing to overlook all that, all the pain you’ve been through, because you are happy now.” A friend once said that to me. It didn’t make sense to me. I had done so much to move on from my past, leaving my baggage behind, and yet here she was constantly reminding me of what I’d been through. It wasn’t helping in the process of my healing, my moving forward, my starting anew. She, however, was just trying to warn me that I shouldn’t just see what I wanted so desperately to be real, and ignore the reality of what’s really real. In other words, living in my own vision of happiness, but not truly reaching out to grab hold of real happiness.

I mentioned social media earlier because I always wonder if we project our true selves online. A friend of mine once told me that nobody likes to read dreary, depressing posts on Facebook.  He said I was always being too negative. At that point, I felt I was already being the most positive that I could be. But I felt that my true friends who were concerned about me might want to know how I was feeling, and since I had the rare ability of being able to be honest to myself about my feelings, that they might want to know it too. I didn’t realize that this was merely a part of the process. The long and winding road towards discovering more about ourself.

I took his advice and started to post only positive things for the public audience, and posting the more negative, depressing statuses for a more intimate group of friends whom I believed were truly concerned about me. Of course, he wasn’t in this latter group. But after a while I felt a chasm grow internally. I was becoming two split personalities. The person who would struggle with her negative emotions and present only her positive side to the world, and the person who would give in to her insecurities and frustrations and just wallow in self-pity. Needless to say, I soon realized this would not do. Who am I if I am two different people to two different groups of people? I am achieving absolutely nothing but lying to myself.

I needed to blend both personas into one. Into me. Into who I am. Or – if that’s not possible because I am simply too broken and too shattered – then into who I want to be. I never realized how afraid we are of admitting that we are not the person we want to be – and how afraid we are of becoming the person we want to be. Because who are we without our stories? Without our problems? Without the drama? Who are we if we were actually to be happy? Oh heaven forbid, we want happiness so much, but we don’t know what to do with it when we have it. Oh, something’s up, I know it, I can feel it in my bones, something’s gonna happen and I will fall so hard; I better not let myself get used to feeling so happy, because that will make the pain only so much harder to bear when it happens. HUH?! It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but yet so many of us are guilty of it.

That sparked a radical change in my life. I started seeing things for what they were. In every situation, there are the facts, and then there is the truth. Sometimes we make up different truths because we don’t want to face the real ones – or don’t know how to uncover them, our own truths within us. Most often our reactions to situations is anger, which grows into contempt, rage, revenge even, but we ignore the fact that what’s really bugging us is because we were hurt. We could have been hurt because our expectations were not met. We could have been hurt because we allowed ourselves to be.

I had to take myself out of situations where I would end up feeling this way. It took a lot of effort to cut out people from my life who were a constant negative influence on me. It took a lot of acknowledging that sometimes we need to allow ourselves to be the victim, let ourselves have a good cry, blame the whole world, anyone and everyone except ourselves, rub our bruises, lick our wounds, by all means, wallow in self-pity, host a pity party – and then pick ourselves up. Because until we do that, we’ll never really heal. So often people say “You shouldn’t feel that way”, “You’ve got to be stronger than that”, “You shouldn’t be so negative about everything” – FUCK THAT. If I needed to feel a certain way, trying to resist it is going to get me nowhere. Instead I’ll just hole myself up with all the bad feelings I know I shouldn’t be having, while trying to be someone I’m not. Imagine building a future based on a shaky foundation. Certainly we’ve played Jenga before, what’s going to be the last block that crashes the entire tower?

Of course, once you’ve given yourself time to indulge in your own feelings, it’s time to take a look at the bigger picture. What’s the truth here? And oh, along the way, you’ll revisit those pity moments. The negative thoughts will creep back in. Come on, none of us are really that strong to ignore all that. If you think you are, you are fooling yourself, and you probably need a couple of counseling sessions to break you down to admit that you’ve built a wall around yourself when what you really need to do is drown in your moat and be born again.

I attended a workshop where this psychologist was saying that our brain picks up on things we want it to. It’s like we’ve already keyed in the keywords in the search engine, so naturally all the results are going to be related to whatever we input. It’s when we go through a break up and every song on the radio is a depressing love song, suddenly there are couples hugging and holding hands in the street – more than ever before – and every show on TV is some sapping Korean drama serial about unrequited love. Truth is, we can’t just let go of everything we’ve invested our emotions into and move on. We need that time to grieve. A loss love is nothing less than the death of a family member, sometimes it hurts even more. But the people around us don’t understand that, and so we look for socially-accepted means of expressing our hurt, because it’s alright to cry if it’s a sad show. We want to feel jealous about what other couples have because we need to feel the pain of losing it. Ignoring pain causes pain to grow, to evolve into other nasty things, and believe you me, it will come back to bite us in the ass.

Anyway. I tend to ramble, as you can tell. That, I’ve come to accept, is who I am and who I will always be, and every editor who has ever worked with me knows that succinct is not my middle name. I still scowl every time I am told I need to shorten something, but I’ve also come to embrace it as a life-long challenge. My views change every day, whenever I’m faced with a new situation, learn something new from somebody else, hear a friend’s story, watch an inspiring video, read a newspaper article or an opinion piece about current affairs, or just live life. I’m not coming from a place where I know everything and I’m better than everybody else, hell, no I’m just as much on this conflicting journey as everyone else I know is. Maybe this is my kind of travel blog. My experiences on this road called life. I’ve just only realized that I am not alone on this journey, and that everyone could use a spoonful of truth sometimes. Not sugar, not positivity, not advice, not help; no call-to-action here – and no conclusions. Just truth. Because hopefully, the truth will set us all free.