I Am Who I Am

This letter shook me up: A Daddy’s Letter to His Little Girl (About Her Future Husband)

In fact, it made me cry. When I haven’t cried in months. Even at some of the lowest, and I dare say, most pathetic points in my life, I choked on tears that never formed, yet here I was, reading something that had no direct relation to me, and getting overly emotional about it.

Well, I shouldn’t say that it doesn’t relate to me. I am my Daddy’s daughter after all. And though he’s never said that many words to me in my lifetime, I know deep inside he’s probably thinking all that but in more convoluted sentence structure. Every Daddy wants the best for his little girl. Even if Dad never knows where I am or remembers how old I am each year, I know he wants the best for me. He’ll even check out reviews of all the tablets there are on the market and send me an entire email of links to check out before I make my purchase – after I only casually mention I might buy an iPad. Yeah, that’s the kind of thing my Daddy does. That’s the way he shows he loves me.

And now I feel like I’m completely letting him down somehow.

I’ve let people bully me, walk all over me, treat me like shit, treat me like I’m not good enough, use me, walk in and out of my life like it doesn’t matter, and just generally abuse me, and somehow I’ve managed to, thanks to my innate faith in humanity and ability to keep giving people the benefit of the doubt, actually give excuses for all their behaviour. And in the process, acknowledging that maybe I AM not good enough, that I AM not worthy, that I DON’T deserve any better.

But that’s bullshit. I’m not a haphazard project put together by fate. I am the product of a loving family, of years of education – education not only of a secular nature, but of a spiritual one too; not only of knowledge, but also of values. That makes me good enough. That makes me worthy. That makes me deserve better. That makes me worth it.

Yeah, nobody might discover that. Life isn’t made of fairytales. You really could spend your entire life kissing a lot of slimy frogs and never actually finding your prince. That’s a risk you’ll just have to take. But no one should have to settle for any of these toads.

Because that’s what they are. They’re toads. They don’t magically sprout wings, or smell like fields of lavender just because you start making up excuses on their behalf. They’re icky, yucky (sorry toads, you’re being blasted in my unfortunate analogy), and we should all run a mile when we spot one. (Technically, that means we should run 1.60934 kilometers since we follow the Metric system, but it’s just much smoother to say a mile.)

And if these prince-wannabes can’t adore me for me, why should I try to be anybody else for them? Why should I feel like I should be the one apologising that I don’t exactly “measure up” with the rest of the world? Why should I feel sorry that I don’t act or behave or think or function like other people?

Why did I want to start off this paragraph saying “I’m sorry I… (insert embarrassing little-known fact about me here)”?? Why is it that every time somebody rejects me, I reject a little part of myself as well? If I don’t love all of me, who will?

Yes I’m willing to admit I don’t like loud, crazy music all the time. There are nights I prefer a good live band, heck, even some jazz, or some 50’s to 70’s classics.

Yes I’m willing to admit I don’t always enjoy drinking alcohol; then again, there will be nights of whisky mixers and there will be nights of sangria and there will be nights of wine, depending on my mood.

Yes I’m willing to admit the reason why I paint my nails is so I won’t nibble on them, and not really because I think it makes me more attractive.

Yes I’m willing to admit that I don’t shave my legs and don’t think men should make women shave anything they don’t want to.

Yes I’m willing to admit I do exotic dance or dance sensually in a club because I enjoy dancing, and not so much because I’m trying to seduce anyone.

Yes I’m willing to admit that I am drawn to handsome or pretty people, but that perception changes when I get to know their personality and character – they stop being attractive the moment I realise they have an ugly soul.

Yes I’m willing to admit that I do like dancing in the rain, it’s not just some cliche that sounds romantic because I’ve watched one too many soppy Hollywood romance films (probably a Nicholas Sparks film at that), and whatever you say, no I will not find it silly.

Yes I’m willing to admit that sometimes I actually do talk to myself, have conversations with myself, and interview myself, just to keep myself in check; I don’t do it to appear cool like I’m dysfunctional or a little weird so people think I’m interesting.

Yes I’m willing to admit that as much as I try to be the life of the party and keep my energy high (for the most part of the party at least), I am prone to just snapping and stoning in a corner.

Yes I’m willing to admit that I talk a good game about everything I want to do, whether it’s with my life, my time, in this year, whatever, and then fail to fulfill half of them because I’m too busy, too engrossed with something else, or just procrastinating too much. But hey, I’m still trying.

Yes I’m willing to admit that deep down inside, I’m still a good little girl with good old Christian values. That I try to be kind on every other day (every day is too tiring), that I watch my P’s and Q’s and try not to curse unless the situation or the statement or storytelling calls for it (for impact, usually), that I do treat older folk with respect, that I do care about what the other person is feeling, that I do try and smile and make people laugh when I can.

And yes, I’m finally willing to admit that as much as I tell myself I don’t, and will myself not to, I do want to own a life that comes with the adoring husband, mischievous kids, white picket fence, and the dog – or cat, I think I prefer cats, hmmm, not sure.

Nobody knows when it’ll happen, or if at all. But I shouldn’t deny myself from admitting that it’s alright and legitimate to want these things or feel or be a certain way. And that I shouldn’t be pressured into feeling like I shouldn’t, can’t, or might possibly have a higher chance at happiness if I didn’t set too high or unrealistic expectations. They’re not unrealistic. They’re just not yet reality.

I am who I am. I of all people should never deny myself that. And nobody should have the right to tell me that’s wrong. In any case, if you don’t like it, you can just f*** off. (OOPS. I did say I do *try* not to curse. You didn’t hear that, Dad. Tee hee.)


10 Things I Subconsciously Discovered That Changed My Life

Somewhere down the line, in the past couple of years, my life started to change. In a good way. The world didn’t change, but the way I viewed it, and the way I appreciated everything in it, did. I’d like to be able to say, yeah, I read some inspirational shit, or hit rock bottom, and knew I had to turn my life around, so I started doing this and that, and all those things that people advised about, and hey, look where it got me. But I can’t. Cuz it never happened like that.

I’ve heard so many stories just like that over the past two weeks, interviewing students who have overcome multiple challenges in their lives to come out tops, get almost perfect grades, get awarded scholarships, and know exactly where their lives are headed. They’re like, 21. They’re standing at the welcoming threshold of an exciting decade that’s gonna see them go crazy with all the wondrous opportunities that they’ll have waiting for them or that they’ll bravely create for themselves after throwing caution to the wind.

I don’t have that luxury. I’m living on borrowed time. Maybe in some sense, we all are. But I personally know for a fact that I squandered my youth away, and now I’m just trying to compensate myself for all that lost time. Maybe I matured later than everyone else. Maybe it took me longer to learn the lessons everyone else had already learnt way earlier. Maybe I was too stubborn to see the bigger picture, the light at the end of the tunnel, the error of my ways, the (drop another few cliches here while I’m at it).

But enough of saying I don’t know why my life changed. Even if it happened subconsciously, now that I’m more aware of myself and the place I’m at in my life, now’s the time I should be able to put all these things down in words. So that perhaps, just perhaps, this could be the inspiration shit someone else reads and decides to turn their life around. Who knows?

(By the way these aren’t in any order. Just as I think of them. Sorry for my lack of organisational skills haha.)

1. If you only write what you know, get out there and know more things. Believe it or not, that was a loosely quoted line from an episode of Gossip Girl, when I still bothered to watch that series. (Actually, it really is quite interesting to watch the profoundly crazy/shitty/unbelievable things people will do out of desperation.) In that ep, Dan’s writing was too close to home, because he was just writing what he knew. A professor/mentor/author he admired said the above to him. And that got me thinking, because I’m a writer, and I don’t have a very good imagination either, so it would do well for me to know more things in order to write about them. I think that was when I signed up for WaterFire, that crazy back-breaking manual labour of a project that left me half dead but fully satisfied. Since then, I’ve always had this simple motto: Almost never say No. (Almost never, because I had to leave myself some room to say No to things that are kinda really stupid or that will harm me in some way.) It hasn’t (yet) left me waking up on the dirty floor of a stranger’s home in the rural parts of a foreign country – but I do hope to change that.

2. Changing doesn’t mean betraying myself. That was something that took a long time to discover. For over two decades of my life, I felt I was a certain someone. Whatever I was at that point – that was me. And trying to make any changes to who I was would in other words be a betrayal against everything that I was or believed in. This was particularly true when bosses would try to teach me the art of manipulation. Apparently, in the working world, you need to be able to portray different characters at different times to get the job done. But that, to the younger me, was also known as “being fake”, and that was clearly not something I was willing to do. Yes, I started off being defensive and saying (what I think we’ve all heard before), “I’m just like that, so everyone can just accept me for who I am, or suck it.”

It took years, but I finally discovered a new way of conducting myself to please my supervisors and myself at the same time. Funnily enough, it incorporates both schools of thought. I can’t be fake, but I have to be nice to people sometimes to get them to do what I want, but I don’t want to use strategies to manipulate them. Conundrum? I found the solution. Be genuinely nice. Genuinely care about others. Really think about their feelings. Be true to yourself about how you feel about others (it’s not always good, trust me) and then correct yourself. Oh believe me, there are some nasty people I still can’t do this on. But I’ve still got the L sign on this one, so be patient with me. But ah, what a relief to be able to be nice. I never knew.

3. I can let go of what’s not beneficial to me. This probably surprised me the most. If you know me (and if you’ve been to my place), you would know that I’m a hoarder. I collect and keep and store away every article from my past, sentimental trinkets, clothes I can no longer fit into but continue dreaming I one day will anyway, books I haven’t touched in a decade, magazines I subscribed to but never read, and every possible carton or container that I think I will reuse one day and will hate myself if I ever threw it away and then one day realised would have come in handy if only I still had it. Well, I started doing flea markets, so I’d throw stuff in boxes and just sell them to strangers at ridiculous prices like $2.50 for a pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans. Whether they were sold off, or still stayed in those boxes, one thing was true though – I never missed them.

It was the same thing in my life. I hoarded – friends I no longer even spoke to, feelings that had no place in my heart or head, dreams that took up way too much space on the shelf and only collected dust, and relationships that simply made no sense. And then one day I just let it all go. I went on Facebook and cut out all the friends I don’t even bother keeping in contact anymore. It reduced my friends list to 150. And even then it felt a bit excessive. Do we really need so my “friends”? I quit the job I was so comfortable in, and went to a totally new environment, and even though it made me completely miserable for a period, it set me on course for a totally new life. And I suppose the biggest change ever was letting go of one half of who I was, the cornerstone in my life, the reason for my previous existence, and an entire identity. It was the hardest, but it was the most liberating.

4. I can do what I’m passionate about it. All of it. These were perhaps the dreams on the dusty shelf, waiting to be picked up and chased. But note I say dreams. I’ve always had a lot of dreams, never quite one particular dream that threatens to consume and overwhelm you and swallow you whole. And so too I’ve also discovered this: I can allow myself to be a Jill of all trades, and mistress of none. I don’t have to pursue one dream to the ends of the earth. I can dabble in a million things and get absolutely nowhere with them – as long as each of them make me happy. I can go back to school and study and do absolutely nothing with those certificates except be satisfied that I have acquired new skills. I can do music without dreaming of becoming a famous star. I can write without wishing that I’ll become a published author. I can dance without running away and joining the Russian ballet troupe. I can put up a video on the net and not hope that I’ll get one million and one likes. Just one will do. If I could touch just one friend, made them smile, that’s enough.

5. I have to do what I’m passionate about. At some point in my “career” – I use this term very loosely because I don’t ever like to think that I have a career, the word in itself is so corporate-sounding and makes it sound as if I actually need to have ambitions with regard to advancing it, yuck – I decided that I couldn’t do anything I didn’t believe in. Yes, that means working for any organisation or selling any product or telling people a message that I didn’t personally believe in. Considering I’m in the marketing/advertising line, which is basically all about creating fluff and spinning negatives into positives, you can imagine that does present somewhat of a challenge. Thankfully, I’ve spent the last decade doing exactly what I set out to do – share with others about what I personally believe in with my heart and soul.

I also reached the point where I found it difficult to have a company’s bottom line even indirectly linked with my KPIs. I don’t want to put in my heart and soul only to earn money for the company. I want what I do to make a difference, to be of some kind of benefit to people. I’d like to think that I am, now. Maybe not in the most charitable of ways, but still, it’s what I believe in. And then I reached the point where it wasn’t about the money anymore. Yes, I’d like to earn a lot more, but I’m not willing to give up the ability to do what I love and what I’m passionate about, in order to earn more money. That’s just not worth the sacrifice for me. I had to come to accept the fact that I probably will never earn what all my peers are or have been earning, but well, that’s a whole other point about not comparing with others, isn’t it? See #10 later. Haha.

6. My happiness matters more. Well, not in a selfish sense that I don’t care about the happinesses of others, and only fight for my own interests. But I never realised how important it was to do the things that make us happy. How often do we do that, really? Thing is, sometimes what makes us happy gets judged by others. That’s lame, that’s stupid, that’s crazy, that’s boring, that’s nonsense… What else have you heard? Yes, I admit it. I like the colour pink, even if it makes me girly. I do like rainbows and unicorns, even if it makes me idealistic. AND YEAH I LIKE SPONGEBOB, OKAY? Yes so I suck at painting and dancing and singing and everything else I try to do – but what does it matter as long as I enjoy doing it? Being good at something, and enjoying doing something are two very, very different things.

Some time last year I read or was told of this theory, that if you don’t have a natural talent for something, forget it, because you can train until the cows come home, and you’re never going to be good at it. Drop it, and look for something else you can be good at, that’s the only way you’ll succeed. But that’s just one way of viewing success, isn’t it? As long as I’m happy doing whatever it is I like doing, isn’t that my own personal success? It’s clear most people don’t think this way. Else would parents be sending their children to classes to train them to become amazing at things they may not necessarily enjoy, and why they take them out of classes they “do poorly” in, even if it made them happy. *rolls eyes*

7. Feeling good really does come from within. Maybe it was old age catching up with me, but I realised a lot of my habits had to change. I stopped drinking coffee every morning and whisky every night, and drank more water. I started eating less processed food and more salads. Fish became a staple in my life, and I only thanked the cow that died for that piece of juicy steak in front of me every once in a while. I discovered new balance and new refreshment through yoga, new movement and new rhythm through dance, new expression and new enlightenment through blogging again. Ok fine, if there’s one thing I’ve yet to do, it’s sleep early. Sigh.

And more importantly, I became more aware of my feelings, my thoughts. And that opened a whole new world to me. I discovered things I never knew before about myself. And I still constantly surprise myself even now haha.

8. Experiencing every moment for that very moment. I think too much. My friends tell me that, and I believe them. But how do you not worry? About everything that has led to that moment, or how that moment is going to affect tomorrow or the rest of your life? Gawd. You can’t, you really can’t. I try to worry a lot less now, even though I still have a really long way to go in this area. But at least I’m very aware that I have to experience every moment for what it is. Especially when it comes to relationships and dating and friendships and all that. People are going to walk in and out of your life, and frankly, there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do about it. So welcome them when they walk in, and move on when they walk out. There’s nothing else to do, so enjoy it while it lasts. Or it’ll happen anyway and you would have wasted a good experience.

9. Using my friends wisely. Okay, I’m sure that didn’t come out right. But what I mean is, we’ve all got friends that we do different things with. Maybe a friend we go to dance classes with, a friend we confide in when things are feeling shitty, a friend we look to when we need advice (notice it might be different from the confidant), a friend we have dinners and suppers with, a friend we just hang out with or party with… Yeah maybe our closest friends are somewhat versatile and we can do a million things with them. But there will always be some who are only good for one purpose. And we really shouldn’t make the mistake of trying to get them to crossover into another role. Like say, trying to get advice from a friend whom you know only cares about themselves, or who will expect you to follow every word she says, or who believes her way is righter than whatever you said. No, just have supper with her, or go clubbing with her. When I learnt to “use” my friends wisely, I got a much better experience because they weren’t expected to perform outside of their roles, and therefore there were lesser chances of conflict, and more opportunity to enjoy each other’s company.

10. Stop measuring myself by others’ yardsticks. It’s probably something we all know and yet find it very hard to do – not compare ourselves with others. People advertise their accomplishments, whether professionally or personally, through Facebook and everywhere else, and it’s hard to look away. Well, I literally did. I cut all those out of my newsfeed (I still want my news and pages I subscribe to and stuff) and have never been happier. If you’ve done something and I wanna do it too, I will go and make it happen. Other than that, however happy you are in whatever your situation right now, has no bearing on me. Because I am happy in my own situation. I think it’s only when you’re not happy, when you feel big gaps in your life which you don’t know how to fill, that you’ll look at others and wish you had what they had, hoping that it’ll come with the happiness you think they have.

Owning a car, a home, an LV, a designer watch, new camera… is not something I will measure my “success” with. Neither is being proposed to on the Eiffel Tower nor going to the Maldives for my honeymoon. Neither is having children nor capturing their cute moments. And this isn’t about being sour grapes and all, and going, oh bah, I don’t need that, I can be equally happy. It’s more like going, that’s really nice, but I’m happy just the way I am right now. Maybe one day. But right now, I’m happy, and guess what, see #6. =)

Date A Girl Who Writes

Date A Girl Who Writes

Date a girl who writes.

Date her because she doesn’t usually indulge in expensive coffee, and when she does, she sips on it slowly just so she can sit at the cafe for an entire afternoon while she thinks. She will scrape the last morsels of any bowl and lick the plate clean, one slow lick at a time, because her mind has been wired to savour each experience.

Date her even if she’s goddamn messy. She’ll have things everywhere, you might not even recognise any floor space in her home, and you’ll have to step over stuff just to get to her couch – if there’s even a couch. And it might have been two months since she last did her laundry. Which isn’t a problem, she probably has a closet bursting with clothes – because she never has time to go through them and sort them out and throw them out – and even when she does, she still gets sentimental about individual pieces, knowing where each one came from, and remembers a moment or moments in her life when she had worn just that, and each moment special, cherished, important. And in fact, the more laundry the better, since the laundromat is her favourite place to hang out at because it offers just enough quiet and the lull of spinning machines to think, to dream, to write, to ponder, to question, to explore, unencumbered.

And her desk, oh my, her desk, piled high with books and magazines she pours over, but never can seem to finish, because she’s always distracted by an idea she read about in one of them. And empty pen cases everywhere, because, ever the faithful pen and paper girl, she scribbles far too much that the life span of pens evaporates in her hands.

Find a girl with too many tabs on her browser it’s always one tab away from crashing. Tabs of obscure soundcloud musicians, of provocative thought catalog articles, of TEDtalks loading in the background, of hippie health forums, of couchsurfing conversations and travel reviews, of idea prompts and design tutorials and that random video of Taylor Swift’s new song but that features the goat, just because everyone needs a laugh every now and then.

Kiss the girl who makes an effort to dress up when you’re going out but will never look well polished or put together because she never spends on expensive or branded clothes and almost always is in something she shouldn’t be in because she doesn’t understand trends or what suits her body type or skin tone or if things should or shouldn’t be worn a certain way. Kiss her anyway because she’s adorably cute that way.

She’s the one who will get excited when dark clouds loom overhead, who’ll be the first out the door when the first drops of rain start pelting when everyone else is heading indoors, the one who’ll be skipping and sloshing in puddles and yes, dancing and singing in the rain. And she’ll come back in, totally refreshed and wet and dripping and exuberant, with eyeliner running down the cheeks of her face, but she doesn’t care, all she could really use is a glass of chilled lemongrass tea. Give her a towel, but grab one for yourself too, because if you’re dating a girl like that, you’d better be out there in rain with her too.

Date the girl who tells you, “Hey can you give me a couple of minutes?” in the middle of a IM or whatsapp chat, because she just thought of something interesting and wants to write it immediately. Date the girl who can start talking about the weather and ends up talking about alligators in the wild because one topic just led to another which led to another and… you might want to forget about sleeping early, not when you’re out on a date with this one.

You’ll spot her easily on the train because she’s the only one reading a book, an actual book, the kind that has a cover and pages and words printed in ink. She’ll be hunched over a notebook or laptop at the cafe or in the park or in the middle of nowhere. Buy her a coffee. She’ll be completely grateful. Be careful not to bump into her when she’s walking in the crowd but suddenly stops and pulls out a tiny notebook in which she scribbles something. Something important that she didn’t want to lose. A thought, a line, a string of words, an expression.

It’s hard to date a girl who writes. Because the words you say have meaning. Every single word. Every thought, every action, every scene in your lives. It all will mean something, and sometimes quite strongly, to her. There are no such things are throwaway lines in writing. So why should there be throwaway anythings in life? Make everything count. And celebrate every second.

It’s easy to make a girl who writes happy though. Download Pages onto her iPad. Buy her a transformer laptop. Give her books, and pretty notebooks even if she already has a hundred. She will never have too many notebooks. Never ever. And pens. The best things that you can give her – give her great conversation, with witty words, jolly jokes, penultimate puns, good gossip, sad stories; give her experiences that she will never forget, take her to new and novel places, show her a different way of living, teach her something she never knew; and… inspire her. Always give her the gift of inspiration.

A girl who writes will always understand. She would know what it’s like to hear both sides of every story, see both sides of every coin. She would be able to see past words, even harsh, angry words uttered, to see reason, motivation, desperation, hurt. She will see more things than you will ever know how to show to her, and she will understand it all, and she will accept it all. Because she will understand that it’s all part of a journey, nobody opens a book and flips to the last page expecting a wondrous ending to a story they never even got to know.

She will always be there for you. Just like every book that she has put down because she was distracted by something else that fascinated her for a while, that gets picked up again when the festivity has died down and there is silence in the room once again, and again two years later when she needs to re-read it, or ten years later when she finds it tucked behind the dusty shelf. There is no such thing as being bored by a good book.

She might not always be there for you. She might be up at two AM, brows furrowed, staring motionlessly into the screen of her Mac. And suddenly a flurry of fingers as she types without stopping for an hour. Watch her quietly as you lean against the door frame from the bedroom. Resist the urge to tell her to come to bed. Turn on the fan if she is hot, make sure it’s pointing her way; put a jacket on her shoulders if she is cold; make her some tea if her cup is empty; but don’t tell her it’s late or remind her that she has to work tomorrow. You may lose her to her own crazy world for a while every now and then, but don’t worry, she will come back to you.

Date a girl who writes because she will bring colour to your world. She will be the sexy submissive, the proper princess, the vicious vixen, the teasing temptress, the selfish seductress, the wicked witch. She will be your Aphrodite and Athena and Hera and Eos and Nike.

You will fall madly in love with her. You will know what it’s like to be smitten. You will smile when she smiles, her bright, electrifying smile. You will get excited when she does, when her eyes light up and she bursts into giggles and hearty laughs. You will want to kiss her every time she does something silly without realising it, and then laughs at herself with abandon when she does. You will want to do nothing else but hug her and hold her close when she is saddened by something, when she hugs her knees close to her heart, and lets the tears fall silently. She will be on your mind, night and day, even when you least expect it, and annoyingly so, because as much as you will refuse to let her in, she will become an indispensable part of your life. And it will scare you. Inexplicably so.

She will be the one who will hold your hand when someone you love dies. She will be the one who will keep quiet and sigh along with you when you’re having problems at work – because she knows you don’t need solutions, just someone to know how much you’re going through and show support. She will be the one who makes you realise that every problem she faces, every tantrum she throws, every fight that you’ll ever have, are simply opportunities for you to show her you love her and to shower her with understanding and affection.

When you see candles, you will think of her. Because she will bathe you in candlelight, make love to you in candlelight, kiss your temples and nose in candlelight. She will be naughty, and deliciously so, and game for almost anything and everything. She will be everything to you.

And for the first time in your life, you will make wishes. You will make wishes on shooting stars, skipping stones, and every time she squeals “Happy magic time!” when the clock turns 11:11. You will think it silly, but you will indulge her. Your heart will skip a beat whenever she talks about anything about your future together. You will envision children, your children. You will see her telling them stories, stories she has written. You will see their completely ungeneric double-barrelled names on their birth certificates. Because even there, a girl who writes will want to write magic into those names, because they will be your legacy, yours and hers together.

If you find a girl who writes, marry her. You will adore her. There will never be a day in your life that doesn’t feel like an adventure. There will never be a night not filled with romance, humour, mystery… every damn category and genre of book you could find in a bookstore. You will never run out of things to say or do or be. She will always be curious, and you will always be intrigued. She will never stop imagining, and you will never stop being impressed.

Date a girl who writes. Because every page of the story you will write together will be amazing.