Thursday, 22 December 2016

On being judgmental: a note on understanding oneself

I started drafting this a while back. It started out being a list of observations that I made recently from the stories that I’ve been told, and this list has been growing. None of these concerns me other than the mere fact that the people who are closest and dearest to me are affected by these, in one way or another. 

This list, summarised, would read: why people are so mean.

Like seriously.

This is the kind of mean-ness that spans beyond the type that's done borderlining sarcasms and jovial teasing, you know the kind that makes you wonder like, did you really just say that. but you don't really want to say it out loud because you wonder if it is you who's being overly sensitive. occasionally, you get to the point of saying 'why are you so mean' and call it a day because holy fuck, you just cannot stand to stay quiet any longer. not because the said person hurts you, but because the said person is coming across as one mean, nasty individual.

and then something that's truly nasty happens, or rather, you heard of a story of something real nasty, and you're reminded of what the true meaning of the word is. Some people are mean and nasty beyond words. I am talking about the people who derive feeling good out of making other feel shit. You know, the kind that engages in levelling - either they set themselves as persons of equal stature to a person in authority, and/or they try to equate their own character and values with someone else's who is more mature and/or superior in character. 

I get that this life is hard and everyone is struggling one way or another. I get that everyone is trying their best. But does that really grant them the excuse to make other people feel like shit when they feel like shit? Does it really grant them the licence to manipulate others to get what they want? I mean really, that's an excuse at best, a childish emotional response in truth. Maybe I shouldn't have said that last bit because I am not a trained psychologist. (That said, I do have an issue with those who regularly diagnose people from a distance, and yes, that includes you people who are reading this blog and then making assertions about knowing me and psychological well being. thank you for your concern; I guess you are so concerned about me that you forget to be polite.)

So, why are people so mean?

There is no easy answer to this question. And I am not going to attempt to answer this. Because I think this answer carries different meanings to the person who tries to answer. Something along the lines of what's true from one's perspective does not make it the ultimate truth. We can only deduce base on our own experiences. I am guilty of a lot of inherent biases. I realise this. Often times, I know that I am being biased as it happens. I also don't think I will ever be bias free. And sometimes, I think I am way to opinionated for my own good. But that's another story altogether.

It is common to regard the judgments we make are actually a reflection of our own struggles. They are our battles that are hiding the lessons that we are yet to learn. And these hidden lessons are frightening because they are yet to be known, they are the lies that you told yourself, if you were to be completely honest with yourself. I am a major proponent for honesty, but being honest with myself is a completely different ball game altogether. Because it's fucking hard. I lost so many times. I started with the best of intentions and it almost always peaked into one of the harshest outbursts that are blown out of proportion. These moments used to make me feel human. These days, they make me feel small. Really small.

If there's anything I learn in the past two years, then that would be to speak my truth with more grace and kindness. And to keep it as simple as I possibly can. I learn that to successfully focus on the important things requires me to firstly work out what those important things are. And I realise that most of the things that I thought were important turn out to be not as important as they used to be. Either I imagined their importance in my life, or I perceived them to be more important than they actually are for all the wrong reasons. I learn to be more intimate with my thoughts, particularly my judgments, because I think these judgments are really directed towards aspects of myself that I have been unhappy about for the longest time (and deny this fact all throughout).

Like for example. I have loved and lost like a million times in this life (exaggeration). I still quite vividly remember what it felt like to have my heart shattered into pieces. Not because it's not resilient but because there were certain people who had the ability to do so at that point in time. In every relationship, we tried to do the best we can. We tried to love the best we can. We tried to be the best partner we can be, we try to do the right thing all the time. And truth is that we don't do the right things all the time. We are not the best partners all the time. We get tired. We get irritable. We get impatient. We get insecure. We get jealous. We get angry. We have all the best intentions in the world and we don't always get to execute them the way we'd like to. We are not perfect. We are still human after all.

A dear friend and I got to swap notes on relationships recently. It was a blunt discussion of what we thought about anything and everything and we were absolutely judgmental in that conversation. We discovered that we were more willing to be kind when it came to the struggles of our closest friends, but we might not exercise the same degree of kindness when someone else not close to us experienced similar issues. We were quick to judge. And we were quick to deny that we were quick to judge. We like to think that we exercise the same degree of kindness to everyone we encounter, yet truth is that most of the time, despite the best of intentions, things just haven't turned out the exact way we wanted. It took sometime for us to come to the realisation that all of our judgments are actually directed at ourselves, and that we are better off using these as our mirrors to understand what's truly bothering us on a subconscious level.

Another dear friend, who is stunningly gorgeous btw, discussed, amongst many things, why people are so quick to give 'advice' as to what we should do when faced with uncomfortable circumstances. I am all in for asking for advice and giving advice where appropriate. The key words are "where appropriate" because that's exactly the point: what is appropriate given the circumstances, given the particular point in time? And to add to the confusion, despite the similarities in circumstances, what I deem appropriate for me might not be appropriate for someone else. It is, after all, a point of view at best. A single fucking opinion. Yet why do we often regard this as the ultimate truth? 

When it comes to other people's advice, we have no choice but to be discerning. Being responsible in decision-making means considering all viable options and considering the different point of views, in particular those that are entirely different from yours. This is crucially important if your decision is going to have implications for people who have no final say on the matter. The onus is on us, the ultimate decision maker, to ask this one vital question: what are the net, net consequences of my decision?

I take the ultimate responsibility for making the decision and implementing the said decision in my life. This is because i am the one who gets to live my life. I cannot (and will not) blindly follow everyone's advice, even when they are done in good faith. If I am not emotional comfortable with something, I bet this emotional vibration will somehow manifest within my behaviour and through my lens of judgment. So really, I am better off doing giving it its rightful space the first time. No pressure ;)

Most of the time though, people mean well. They are only concerned about you, and they often want the best for you. They want you to be the best version of yourself. They won't put you into awkward positions, or subject you to emotional manipulation because they are genuinely concerned about your well-being. Most of the time, people will empathise with you sans judgments. They will sit with you and offer a listening heart and as much time as they can possible afford to give. Because these people believe in preserving humanity.





Wednesday, 7 December 2016

the art of being old: a note on a beautiful life

in a few days, i am going to be officially in my mid-thirties. and yep, i am officially mortified. they say that age is just a number, and that how old you are really is about how you feel inside. problem is that i feel old inside. and yes, i put it out to the universe every single day that i am glad to be alive. but age, as my friend put it, is the one inescapable thing that time gives to you for free.

we are all getting older every single minute, every single second of every single day.

(thank you Gary for that very insightful observation.)

i don't want to sound all depressed (or rather, depressing) because (a) i am not depressed and (b) this is not a depressing topic - there are a lot of good things about getting older (and this is a fact), and (c) yeah, okay, it is all a matter of perspective. and (d), no, this is not another bout of quarter life crisis (been there, done that), and this is way, waaaayyy too early to qualify as the onset of a midlife crisis. (but if i can like buy that audi-tt in black matte, then yeah, i will totally go for it. i am a total sucker for shit like that. and then my other friend was like, that's the car of a drug dealers, and i was like (silently), yeah ok, that's like the shit, bro.)

there is something about being in your mid-thirties though. you can no longer use the i am still young excuse because you really are not that young, and you have to invent new excuses for doing the silliest, most impulsive things in your life out of fomo. it's like once upon a time, you legitimately use the excuse of 'lack of liquidity' because you know, there really was no liquid. these days, your use of the same excuse denote something more purposeful: the liquid has been used up for other things, you konw, the things that actually matter to you. so, in short, you are expected to get your shit together. you are expected to know what you want to be, or at the very minimal, to know what you don't want to be. you are expected to know who you  are and who you want to be and somehow be actively pursuing that goal whenever you can.

and this expectation doesn't come from society anymore, it comes from you. it comes from deep within. it comes from this one little voice deep inside your veins who is persistently ever so patient when you deliberately ignore it day in day out. and then it pops up at the most unexpected moment as if to say, see, i told you so. and you're like, okay, alright, you're right. i stand corrected. i promise to listen to you a little bit more. just a tiny little bit more because i want to appear like i am learning, but i am still keen on experimenting. after all, isn't life about making mistakes while creating beautiful memories? if you were to plan everything down to the smallest details and make no room for serendipity, would that not make life sterile? i mean, can one even plan to have fun, or does fun just, you know, happen?

or is it just me, over-analysing everything again, as usual.

perhaps so. i don't know. i guess this side of me probably won't change that much, if at all. yes, i have been told that it's not a good habit to sustain for fear that my brain might actually overheat - literally. but i like thinking and i find it rather enjoyable even when most of the time i come up with way more questions than i do answers. and what's the fun in life if you don't take the time to examine it? to get up close and personal with yourself. to be intimate with yourself in the truest sense of the word that goes beyond doing a solo horizontal dance between the sheets.

truth is that i haven't thought much about being older other than lamenting to my closest and dearest that i think i am still too young to be in my mid thirties. or that really in my mind, i am like, you know, still twenty-eight. why i pick that age i have absolutely no idea, because it's not like that was the age of breakthrough or anything along those lines. i mean, i am a small moments person, so i like celebrating the little moments of everyday that makes up the big picture. so if you were to look back, you can see the little things weaved together to make this beautiful picture, but it was never as if anyone set out to draw it a particular way. in fact, part of the art is actually going with the flow, to move with the motion without really knowing what the end result is going to be, nor having any idea of what it was supposed to be, other than one thing: it's gonna be awesome. because i am going to make it so. watch me.

i want to say that i mindfully sorted my life and conscientiously change the things that i don't like about it. or that i have a running theme that spans over different areas that i need to tackle and that each action is targeted towards achieving a particular goal over a particular time period. like i organise it all into compartments, into folders, label them and draft indexes for them. these are like, you know, the aspiration. the reality is that i am mentally and physically too exhausted these days for anything other than life itself, such that all of my efforts have been concentrated on living itself; examining it becomes a luxury, an icing in the cake, the cake that you know you want to eat, but you try to abstain from because you are supposed to be on a high protein diet, and you literally cannot afford to put anything in your mouth that doesn't have some sort of protein packed in it.

i mean, really, struggling on the health front is surely something that is experienced by the living, right? as in, if you are not living (i.e. you are not alive) then you have no struggle left on this department. and you know when people say that you have to find the positives underneath all the negatives? i say to them, do some maths. two negatives multiplied together make a positive. go and try figuring that one out. and once you do, throw in some imaginative numbers into the mix, and spin everything into trigs and logs and see what you make out of the equation.

the most important person in my life recently told me that his favourite method of falling asleep is to devise some mathematical equation in his head until he exhausted his ability to do the mental calculations and falling asleep becomes easier by comparison. and just like any other conversation we had, he concluded with 'try it when you can't sleep' and i hate to admit that he is right because i tried that the other night and fell asleep so promptly because deep down i dislike maths very very much and i can't do calculations in my head to save my life. this is why i like spreadsheets.

when there is something that is there to make your life easier, the only logical thing to do is to adopt it and embrace it and make it a part of your life. i admit that it takes me quite a long time to stop apologising for simply being ... myself. yes, this sounds really self-absorbed and everything along those lines, and yet it is also very true. one of the most liberating thing in this world is to hear someone thanking you for simply being you. when you are not pretending to be something that you are not (let alone someone else) - when the things that come out of your mouth are the things that you actually mean, both literally and figuratively.  when you actually follow them up with actions. yes, people will always talk, criticise and comment - and no matter. because the person who says that she is going to do something and actually backs it up with action is the person making progress, moulding herself into something better, weaving the stories, learning by doing and gaining experience while deepening the quality of her life. because it is only you can accept that hard work is crucially necessary, planning is equally as important, as is settling goals and having visions and purpose, but it does not mean that life will go according to plan, and that is actually ok. because there are so many beautiful possibilities out there that we have not yet thought about nor imagined. and these things exist, waiting for us to open our minds and our hearts to bigger and better things than what we dare to dream about.

all the while all these are happening, you come to understand more about the world that we live in, and you come to realise that everyone is just doing the best that they can. and because of this, you learn to pick your battles, because you sincerely believe that not every battle is worth winning. this forms the basis of your value system that becomes a driving force in your life, and an understanding that the issues revolving around this value system gives you the courage to speak up and stand up for what you hold dear to your hearts. you probably would not use the word brave to describe yourself, but other people will. this becomes a great reward that you never anticipated but have learned to accept that such rewards involve great risks, the kind of projects that do not come with a safety hatch, but are promising in terms of personal growth, progress, and more importantly, development of character: it is imperative that you step forward when the path hasn't been laid out before you, let alone previously walked. there is no expectation that life will be fair, storms are meant to be weathered and courage to move forward comes from deep within. throughout this journey, you develop a deep understanding that not everything is meant to last forever, and that is okay, because letting go is about having the strength to move forward with grace and integrity.

and when you look back, you have a deeper respect for the power of self-discipline and control and the importance of avoiding your emotions dictating your actions. you actively take the time to strengthen your understanding of yourself in attempt to navigate your emotions and your mind and how to optimise the two to make your life better, easier, more fulfilling. then you realise that you have the power to live the life you have always dreamed of.

is there anything more beautiful than that?

a very happy birthday to me.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Some topics are tough to talk about: a note on starting over

I haven't written in this space for over a year. I have missed pouring my thoughts in this corner of the world wide web. A lot has changed in the months that passed. It is really weird for me to write this, but I feel like I am a changed person. I think I am doing ok, but from time to time, I miss the person that I used to be: she, with the nonchalant confidence, cruised through life as if there was no tomorrow, but planned as if she was going to live forever.

Truth is that we are all going to die at some point in time; it is just a question of when. In my most recent conversation about this topic, I was met with a tired audience: I am tired of talking about death and dying, they said. I don't blame them. Personally, I know that I don't talk about this often enough. We all like to take life for granted. We like to believe that we are going to live for a long, long time. Only when we are faced with the impending possibility of death, be it ours personally, or that of someone we love, then we start talking about it. The tiredness, I imagine, is not from the discussion itself, but rather, the emotional burden. The imminent pain that rears its presence uninvited, crippling the strongest of us, while we are left clueless, unable to deal with this clump in our chest and the tendency to burst into tears for a very good reason that is difficult to articulate.

Whenever I think about death, I realise that I don't celebrate life often enough. Birthdays aside, life is something that we ought to be grateful for, something to cherish, something to look forward to, something to enjoy. Yet, isn't funny that we tend to wait to enjoy life, as if it is something that we can only enjoy after we've done certain things. Then again, blessed are those who can actually enjoy life after they've been working all of their lives. Blessed are those who are still strong enough to travel, and can afford to do so, and are still enthusiastic enough to explore the wonders of the world. Blessed are those who look forward to discovering new things, and establishing new connections, and perhaps, rekindling old flames. Blessed are those who are able to say that they are finally happy, not because they were previously unhappy, but because they now know that life can be this good.

Clearly, life is not about immediate gratification. In the past year, I am grateful for the connections that have been revived, the people that I vibed with once upon a time are making a comeback, reminding me that whilst they know the person that I was, they like the person that I am much much better. This has brought a lot of comfort, because love of this kind is rare, but possible. I don't know what I did to deserve the kindness of this tribe, and I am so very very grateful. Believe me when I say that this isn't about the length of time that you know each other, but about the quality of the connection that you had once upon a time.

Yes, there are certain things that we can do that are independent of time, and this does not negate the value of time itself. Especially when time is what we have, or perhaps more accurately, what we yearn for. Because there is no substitute for time. Because a deep connection built over time is much stronger than one that has not stood the test of time. Because at the end of the day, what we really want is someone to turn to and say, do you remember that time when we did so and so? Not because we are fixated on the past, rather because at that point in time, our connection was strengthened.

Being this 'new' person is like building a new identity while at the same time maintaining an enthusiastic dance in life. Deep inside you are incredibly confused and lost, and despite all these, you move on anyway, leading your path where you thought you wanted to travel. You notice things that you previously didn't, not so much because they were absent, but because you were, and you didn't know that previously. When you are changing, you actually have to look at yourself; you actually have to get sober. Only then you have the ability to turn some negative experience into a positive one.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Supporting gay marriage: a note on acceptance

I posted a link on my Facebook wall to an article by Amanda Vanstone on the debate on gay marriage.

Gay marriage, I am excited about. Perhaps it is because I got married and then realise that hey, it can actually be pretty good, despite the bad rap that it has received over the years, you know, divorce ugliness and all that. This marriage, to me, is like an act of faith that there is still goodness in this one person that I have decided to spend the rest of my life with. That, plus the legal recognition of our relationship. Yes, you may laugh all you want, but this is nothing to sneeze about. Prior to this, I have been largely nonchalant about marriage. I did not grow up to be one of those girls who fantasized about what their weddings are going to be. Then again, I took it for granted that it would be an option that would be available to me should I decide to walk down that path.

I admit that I have never given gay marriage a lot of thought other than this: it is just a matter of time before gay marriages are recognised in the eyes of the law. Until then, I hope that not too many people embarrass themselves in the process. My stance on the matter is neatly summarised as: we have no right to deny another human being the right to have a union that is recognised by law by the mere virtue of his/her sexual orientation, topped with a generous borrowing of this quote from Vanstone: "Society is built on relationships of mutual dependence. In this era of me, me and more me, the more that people are prepared to commit to one another, to be responsible for each other and dependent on each other, the better. High divorce rates tell us heterosexuals are more and more discarding this. But the gay community want it. Open the gates and cheer, is my response."

Except that I forget that I don’t keep a streamlined friends list on Facebook. Some of these people are people that I used to know once upon a time, because we used to go to church together.

That.

I have not been inside a church for a very long, long time. Yet to these people, to openly declare my support for gay marriage is like spitting on my religion. By their standards, I am a stray-er. I have forgotten God, or some even go as far as labeling me as forsaking God. No matter. I am used to a lot of labels in this life, so these just get added on the list. That said, these are no ordinary label. Plus once upon a time, these happened often enough that I have a strategy. To clarify, the contexts were different, but the labels were the same. The context was, well, my extended absence from the church. For those with an I am holier than thou attitude, for those who were involved in some form of activities, like the church band, or choir, or dancer, or whatever, for those who have taken no time to get to know me and are obviously not interested in my answers, but said the labels anyway for whatever reason, it goes something like this.

It starts with an invincible eye roll. Come on, you can’t deny me out of this pleasure. Then, a polite answer: Yes, I have been absent from church. And yes, I would like to go often. I’ll try to make the time.. By the time I am done being polite, I am exhausted, my interest of attending church has fizzled out, just in time for a quick exit. Moving on.

That people need to stop judging those of us who seemingly cannot make time for God, that attendance at church does not always correlate with kindness, and that holiness can be a valid goal, but is not something for human beings to judge, are a small part of the series of sentences that I often hold my tongue for. Just because you don’t see me or hear me praying does not need to be reconciled with my religious-ness, or lack thereof, because deep down, we all know that your views are a reflection of you more than they are a reflection of me.

For these people, I cannot be both a Christian and a supporter of gay marriage; I have to choose between them. I don’t need a counselling session with a pastor to pull out biblical verses that are frequently cited as condemnation of certain queerness. This is not to say that I have analysed all these verses, nor scrutinised all the explanations and interpretations of some renowned religious scholars. Out of the ones that I have had the pleasure of coming across, some are convincing, some, not so much; some feel like stretching the meaning through manipulation of the words. In one of the churches that I used to attend regularly, I was told that I should not rely on my own understanding, but that of God. This line I struggle with till this day because I find it difficult to believe that the God that has given us a functioning brain actually intended us to forgo their use. As Galileo Galilei put it, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them” .

But what this has highlighted for me, again and again, is that the Bible is essentially a collection of texts, written by some people, a very long time ago. Yes, it is possible that these people were enlightened, which subsequently, made the resultant text, a source of enlightenment. And it is also useful for us to be mindful of the fact that any piece of writing comes with contexts, and interpretations, and everything else in between. To take a piece of text out of context is to essentially, misquote, misinterpret, mislead.

So, now what? The Bible is not completely irrelevant and it is also should be utilised accordingly. The main themes inherent in the Bible, to me, are love, faith, mercy. These are the things that speak to me louder than anything else, and in turn, I rely on my faith, on God’s love and on mercy. And to extend these things to the world in general, independent of religion, race, or sexual orientation. To give others the freedom to choose and do what they see fit them best, namely, in this case, to get married, or not, and give recognition of these choices in the eyes of the law.

I am not actively involved in any church, nor regularly attend one, yet I get the sense that when it comes to churches and Christianity, there exists a certain element of homophobia, and this is more prevalent in social circles that are largely homophobic, which still exist in a country that is so far removed from homophobia. I don’t want to defend my stance on gay marriage, I don’t need to. I don’t want to establish a distinction between how ‘forward thinking’ an individual can be. I do not want to marginalise these social circles. These imperfect communities, just like any other community embroiled with insecurities, struggle with foreign concepts and new ideas, and in all likelihood, are probably scared in losing their identities (or perhaps, just doing whatever they can to preserve their current identities). It is easier to say all the right things to preserve order than to actually believe them, let alone live according to them. It is easier to give up and pretend that the issue doesn’t exist and will never eventuate to reality and if it ever does, then you would revolt: get divorce just to make a point.

That aside, I believe, or at least, would like to believe, that it is also possible to find a happy medium: that of a revolutionary break through; that supporting gay marriage and be a Christian are not mutually exclusive, to let go of what we should be, and just simply be.  

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

When it ends: a note on relationships

I have not seen her nor spoke with her for months, years, and from time to time, I do miss her, or more likely, the version of her that I etched in my memory. Once upon a time, there was this one person that I loved so wholeheartedly. I believed that she would, and allowed her to, do whatever she saw fit for us. Yet the questions. What is love? What makes something love? What makes love, love? How do you know what someone loves you? How much devotion is involved? How much of a daily grind should we share? How much involvement should someone who claimed to love me have in my life? How much approval should we seek of each other? What if we disagree? Should we then strive to mend this ‘gap’?

These questions, I had never asked her openly; at least not with words anyway. But I asked them to myself on a very regular basis, and I began to use them as a framework of analysis of this mysterious thing called love. Because I felt ‘love’ was choking me. Why I had to be perpetually available whenever she called, or why could I just not say that this was not a good time to talk. She was always relentlessly insisting; it was as if I was filing not just a loneliness gap, but more like a crater in her life. She wanted involvement in every little thing. I just wanted space. I mean, really, if this was what love was all about, then I would rather pass, thanks.

She probably had never come across something similar, so it was somewhat understandable that she was ill-equipped to deal with the issue. While the battle was primarily mine, and struggle was perhaps largely in my mind, they were as real as they come, and ignoring them wouldn’t have made things easier. The sad thing was that instead of using this opportunity to engage with me on a different level, she chose to assert herself in a way that felt belittling me. To be fair, I probably deserved it since I was somewhat self-absorbed; I made it all about me (instead of us), and at the same time, there was also cluelessness in her part that she wasn’t willing to address. It is useful to remember that she is only a human being, who was, more likely than not, also experimenting with the relationship. I painfully came to the conclusion that it was not her fault that she didn’t know how to handle the situation. Equally painfully, I chose to believe that perhaps, she was trying her best.

At the end of the day, if I could put it into words, then this would be it: I have spent a very long time negotiating a relationship with her. She wasn’t exactly absent, she was simply mostly unavailable. She wanted a relationship with me, there was no doubt, but she wanted this relationship to exist in a particular way, a way that suited only her, with little regard for anyone else. She wanted me to play a certain role in her life, to fulfill a certain gap. It was this role that I was unwilling to play. In all honestly, the gap, I could probably fill, at least a little bit, but I refused to do so because I didn’t believe that it was my responsibility to fill that gap in her life. Furthermore, if having a relationship with her came with such unrealistic expectations, then it was better not to engage at all. I could never bear that burden of responsibility that was imposed on me so absent-mindedly, so selfishly. The irony is of course I ended up being the one who was labelled selfish because I refused to participate in this relationship. That also became the defining point, in my life at least, that every relationship is subject to its own terms and these terms are always open for negotiations. These negotiations are bound to happen throughout the course of the relationship because it is one way of asserting boundaries, and boundaries change with time. Without these, the relationship would be based on someone else’s terms. I think I am a little bit too independent to allow myself to participate in such an arrangement.

So, to put it bluntly, I got tired of negotiating this relationship.

She is loveable, and she definitely deserves to be loved, but maybe, not by me.

I still miss her. And I will forever miss her. I will have to live with that gap in my heart from where she used to be. 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Learning finance from Dad: a note on money management

Every so now and then, Dad and I got to talk about money. When I say talk, what I really mean is this: he talks, I listen. As such, most of these stories are not exactly mine to tell, they are his. This, coupled with the fact that talking about money is regarded as something taboo, result in me becoming uncomfortable writing about them. And no, we don't talk about the power of compounding interest or the like or which asset class represents the best investment given the current economic conditions. We talk about the real deal, money stuff.

My Dad is a good person, and I don’t just say this because I am his daughter, although it is very possible that my views are biased because of that. He is one of the most generous persons I’ve ever come across in my life, and he certainly has his heart in the right places. If one day I get the privilege to be in his position, I would be doing most of the things that he is doing.

The older I get, the more I realise that there are similarities between us in how we view the world. Generation gap be damned. We don’t always agree on everything, and I know this not just because I disagree with him (albeit not openly), but he would disagree with me openly, and at times, rather bluntly. I don’t mind this approach at all; in fact, I find it easier to know things upfront, although in the process, it was like ‘da fug?’ Despite having quite a few of these in a lifetime, the latest one was no easier than one prior.

Suffice to say that his life experience means he has plenty of stories to tell, plenty of views to express. Plus he is a parent, something which I probably will not experience in this lifetime, so I try to understand that he might come from a different angle than me. I have watched enough friends becoming parents, and I have noticed the change that happened in them. Most of them insist that they are not that much different, but deep down, they know they have changed in ways that even they didn’t think was possible.

Because of my Dad, I won the genetic lottery, through no effort of my own. I didn’t know what I did in my previous life to deserve such good fortune. If I were to pick a dad amongst all the dads in the world, I would pick mine – despite how rocky our relationship can be. I owe much of who I am to him, his love, his generosity, his impartation of knowledge.

The other day we got into a conversation of the difference between frugal and stingy. Why we ended up discussing this I am not at liberty to disclose, so I am trying to focus on the conversation itself. He said that when someone does not have enough money for himself, he has no choice but to be frugal. In this situation, he cannot be labeled stingy, because he has no money to spare. In contrast, a stingy person is someone who hoards his money, and does not want to share that with anyone, including people who have sacrificed for him in the past (e.g. his parents).

I pointed out the possibility that it was very possible that this person whose context we were discussing could earn a lot more money than what my Dad thought. After all, apparently, Dad did ask him how much he earned, not because Dad was nosy, but because he was concerned. The answer that he got was a typical Generation Y response: it is a secret. To be fair, if I were the recipient of the question, I would’ve done a similar thing, but worded nicely. What can I say, I like words. I can string them to convey a meaning that I want while simultaneously flatter the person asking the question. And why not? It’s nice to thank the people who care about you.

Typical of the money-related conversations that we usually have, Dad just brushed away the possibility that I presented. I don’t exactly care, to be honest, because whether this person is stingy or not doesn’t have any bearing on my life. I don’t see him on a regular basis, nor do I talk to him on a regular basis. In fact, I haven’t even seen him for a long, long time, and I don’t know if and when I will get to see him one day.

The important thing is that Dad and I agreed on the definitions of frugal and stingy, although now that we had this conversation, I can’t stop wondering what he thinks about me when it comes to my money. He doesn’t ask for much, and whatever he asks, I usually give him. I accidentally told a friend about this, and this friend promptly got irrationally pissed off, and I was like, chill dude, he wasn’t asking for an island. I am very careful in sharing stories like that from that point forward - at least with that friend.

When it comes to how other people spend their money, it is very easy for us to judge. It is even easier for us to judge when it comes to other people asking for other people’s money. When you are a parent, of course you want your children to be financially sufficient; but how exactly do you teach them about money?

Some eleven odd years ago, he told me that I shouldn’t save all of my money. I must remember to spend it too, in a way that would bring betterment towards my life. I remember this advice quite vividly because it happened first thing in the morning at the breakfast table, and it was the first holiday I spent with him after I started working full time. The irony is that about four years prior, he told me to save some of the money that I earned, don’t just spend it all. We never discuss savings and spending after that, or I should say, my savings and spending.

I may not be a millionaire just yet, Dad, but I am doing fine.

***

me: hey Dad, happy father's day!
Dad: thank you, no mention of father's day here!
me: oh. it must be just the internet then.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Labels, love and lies: a note on an important life lesson

I drafted something this morning, only to hit the delete button. I do that sometimes when I feel that the topic that I write is a little bit too "personal" for my liking, and I have one too many of those topics. It is also ironic that since I don't write about them, they are the ones that yearn to be written, stories that are begging to be told.

When someone gets to know me, they almost always uniformly come to the conclusion that I am an extrovert within 30 seconds of meeting me. But I did one of those online personality tests recently, and my result was the opposite. So I went, yeah right, and did another test, and got the same result. Or I should say, consistently the same result. I was ready to write off these tests as inaccurate, obviously, but when I looked at my friends who are true extroverts, I realised that those test results were correct. I am clearly not an extrovert, who obviously gives off the impression that I am. Either that or people are severely mistaken.

Not that I mind being mistakenly labelled as extroverts - there are far worse labels that one can be subjected to in this life. In fact, being labelled an extrovert is actually a nice label to have, if only for the mere fact that I give off the vibe that I enjoy people's companionship and eventually friendship, if I am lucky. This is why I think it is so easy for us to think that we are lovable because so many people love us, at least appear to love us. It is easy to regard this as the truth. It is easy to believe that love is easy, that it is a free commodity that is given ever so sincerely, just because you can give, and there's someone to receive.

I wish love were this easy: you give and someone else receives. When I was younger, I insisted that love was meant to be this thing that made you feel like you are ... flying; kind of a similar feeling that I experience when I run these days. I naively believed that love is the one thing that would lift the whatever heavy burden that I had on me at that point in time. And conversely, the person who put the heavy burden in the first place, well, that person surely hated me, even when they claimed to love me, publicly. I hate when people do things publicly like that and expect their audience to take it as truth. That's what politicians do and find me a politician who has a clean record of not lying about their publicised messages. It must be hard being a politician, because one must lie on a very regular basis, and at the same time, convince people that they are not lying. I wonder how many of them lie awake at night thinking about how many people's lives they've destroyed with their lies.

My husband has this theory on love that goes something like this: in life, you have to go through at least one really really really terrible relationship and survive coming out of that relationship so that you can truly appreciate what love really is. I dislike this theory very much, because it infers that a lot of people who have never experience a terrible relationship from appreciating what love really is. I refused to believe that in order to appreciate the good, you have to experience the bad. I insisted on believing that life does not have to be bad, albeit temporarily, so that one can start feeling grateful for one's blessings. I desperately clung to this belief because I wanted it to be true so badly.

Looking back, it is obvious that almost every single guy I was with would eventually ended up controlling every single thing that I did or didn't do. I thought that asking for their permission to go out was a normal thing to do in a relationship. Yet they claimed that I was the one who 'prohibited' them from doing certain things. But really, all I ever did was giving them a taste of their own behaviours. I hated them for having double standards and I hated myself even more for letting them get away with it. They wasted no chance in putting me down because they derived their sense of superiority by seeing me fail. I found myself constantly apologising for my achievements, apparently a crime that I didn't even know I had committed.

Needless to say, I struggled with this concept called love. I had difficulties understanding how these people who claimed to love me become the very people that I sought protection from. How could the same people say one thing in public, only to do the opposite in private. How could these people who said that they were rooting for my success be the same people who had been deliberately and discreetly plotting my downfall. One in particular was so apologetic publicly, but was continuously threatening in private; I have never had anyone wished that I were dead to my face, I guess now I can tick that off my bucket list.

I resisted the temptation to wish him dead; I knew that once I said it, I would mean every single word. The things that I say out loud have a tendency to come true somehow, so I refrain from having shitty thoughts like these blurted out to the universe. Although if I do end up saying it out loud, would that be a good enough retaliation? Hardly so; to wish someone dead because that person wished you were dead screams juvenile and not to mention, so un-creative. What would be more suitable and definitely more deserving, was a disproportionate response. But that takes too much effort; I abandoned the idea out of laziness. Plus I refused to accept some terrible person influenced my choices in life. I actively make the conscious decision every single day that my choices are mine to make, and my life is mine to live. I do not wish to relinquish this control to other people because I can't never control other people. I don't even want to begin trying.

The biggest mistake I have made in my life is letting people stay in my life far longer than they deserve. I don't regret the things that happened because they filtered out the bad from the good. I insist on being with the good. And no matter how many bad ones I've come across in life, people are mostly good. As inconveniently obvious as the bad ones are, they are the exceptions, never the norm. They exist because they are the ones that make good people good people. Or at least appear to be.

And because I have enough of these good people in my life, whose companionship has been invaluable, I happily go by the label extrovert.