poetry and words

Never, never underestimate the power of desire. If you want to live badly enough, you can live. The great question, at least for me, was: How do I decide I want to live?

-Marya Hornbacher

I was perpetually grief-stricken when I finished a book, and would slide down from my sitting position on the bed, put my cheek on the pillow and sigh for a long time. It seemed there would never be another book. It was all over, the book was dead. It lay in its bent cover by my hand. What was the use? Why bother dragging the weight of my small body down to dinner? Why move? Why breathe? The book had left me, and there was no reason to go on.

-Marya Hornbacher


Each life unfulfilled, you see;

It hangs still, patchy and scrappy:

We have not sighed deep, laughed free,

Starved, feasted, despaired,—been happy.

-Robert Browning

On the MBTI and humans

INTJ weaknesses: arrogance, unemotional (or unable to process emotions well), judgmental, overly-analytical, loathe highly structured environments.

And on top of those: not meticulous, bad with social skills, dislikes crowded environments, eats too much, works out too little, overall an awkward turtle with an ultra-fast growing fringe.

Spending some time in bed thinking about how idealistic I was in the past. When I was younger I had a lot of ideals about how and what the world should be like. How to structure the teaching of religions, profit and non-profit organizations, how to teach skill sets, how to improve operations and become more profitable. I figured that people who couldn’t see the most effective methods were dumb and they were getting in the way of progress. Being idealistic meant that I could not be happy with the way things are but I also did not have enough energy or power to change things on my own. I felt that humans were a weakness of mine because I did not want to understand them but knew that I had to, in order to function in adult society. So a way to work on that was to study HR (and now I want to study counselling and the art of guidance).

It wasn’t until year two of university when I went on my first official HR internship that I realised that humans were a part of the ‘life’ equation. They aren’t this tangled ball of string or problem to be solved, although there is change management involved if you want to create lasting change in companies. The way humans act, how they process information, their flaws, their inconsequential rudeness and looking out for themselves-ness, just doing the bare minimum, or overdoing things and then burning out, everything messy and difficult to predict, with a large helping of emotions, is the motivating reason why the world even functions today. Because humans have desires and fears and that is how companies and schools and religious structures exist. Humans created them. The creations and the makers both aren’t perfect, but they are what we have to work with. We are not robots, we make mistakes. And learning to live and work with those mistakes are what creates progress.

They want to understand how systems work, and how events proceed: the INTJ often has a unique ability to foresee logical outcomes. They enjoy applying themselves to a project or idea in depth, and putting in concentrated effort to achieve their goals.

The thing is- you can build perfect systems the way you can build a perfectly square house, with beautiful tiles and nice cement floors and paintings on the walls. It can be a work of art. But for it to benefit humanity, for the work of art to have any practical use, it has to be appreciated and used by human beings. In other words, for newly-improved systems to work, people have to use them, and that means that you have to first work with humans to understand them. Only then will they accept you not just as a HR practitioner wanting to change things, or as a picky customer who is ranting about service standards, but as someone who is a part of their lives, someone who can relate to what they go through daily. It took me a year to learn that- the hectic startup life to the uber slow government life. And then now, in between, still learning.

I think I enjoy sincere and meaningful conversations, but leadership in times of hardship and sacrifice for my colleagues, I still need to learn those. But at least I am waving to people and initiating his and byes, because some people like those. I can’t grow without new experiences and new experiences often involve humans. Learning to fight fairly and cleanly, learning to interact and care even when the person reminds me of a soggy and boring piece of lumpy toast. Yeah.

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark.”

I think the quality of my thought processes is really going down. I still think in full sentences, but my attention span is getting shorter and shorter, even though I am drinking more coffee. Anyway, tomorrow is Monday, but officially I’ve already charged time on Monday to a project so I am considering myself to be done with the first month of work. Wow. The first month has been tiring, although not extremely so. I still have to hand in two pieces of research tomorrow morning and some draft skeletons to be validated, so that’s at least six hours of work later. And I’m currently on my period (feeling like a fat beluga whale right now), but I’m looking forward to the…five friends in the next two weeks! Grateful for my friends, no I’m not talking about the ones aged 17 months to 3 years old.

About children’s church. I’m just going to call it kiddy class from now on, because ‘church’ just sounds so serious. Today was just like last week, a whole bunch of kids gathered around the teacher when she was telling her story and one or two ‘supervisors’ will start meandering to the back of the class and have to be gently pulled forward. But today was also kind of in a shambles, because the teacher has five kids who help out (three help out, one is a eight month old baby who basically sits at the corner, and the other is a two year old, one of my favourites, but very temperamental) and three of them got scolded for different reasons after class today. I was trying very hard to eat my nasi lemak and be inconspicuous. And for some reason, the baby is really scared of me. The other kids are fine with me, but Lucas just doesn’t like me. Oh well. I don’t particularly fancy him either, he’s not chubby enough and he doesn’t have fluffy hair. And he is too young to communicate so he just makes noises like a small and desperate penguin.


I really admire people who stay in the church community for a long time- being a Christian can be tiring when work gets stressful and we lose sight of why we do some things at all. The road is narrow, there are high standards of behaviour, and we not only have to do good and speak well of others (something I am struggling with because I like to call Black cows as ‘Black cows!!’, and not gloss over things or be very compassionate towards others), but we also have to combine everything we say and do with faith.

Today’s sermon ended with a song about how if we want to find rest, we have to ask ourselves- are we really trusting and obeying God. For me I guess no, I am still skeptical. Especially with my anxiety getting worse- it is not ‘thinking’ about anxiety, anxiety and its symptoms is basically a whole body reaction. Internally and also to my surroundings. It is difficult for me to feel any love or work at building my faith when I just want to hug a pillow and ball into a protective hedgehog stance. How can I possibly give an account of what I did, when all I can know is “she woke up, felt horrible, ended the day with some chocolate.” All the things in-between, the long laps in the pool, the client deliverables, the walks with friends, making connections, all these are tiresome. God promised rest to those who trust in Him, he did not promise a partner or a good marriage or an abundance of talents. But sometimes I don’t even feel like I can stay on this path long enough to get to that rest. I’ll probably belong to those who stand petrified like stone when judgement does come.

Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of.

– Charles Spurgeon


A review of July :)

Going to do a brain dump of the things I am grateful for, and the things I am still struggling with right now. This also counts as a review of July. July and I think February are the two turning points in my year so far- February because I returned to church, July because I started work and the first month at work sets the tone for how engaged you are and how other people see you.


Lots of learning. From the formatting, to the admin management, to the research, to the client presentations, here and there. I have a fear of public speaking still but it has gotten better. I think if you have to do a different presentation every day, then you stop wanting to prepare and learn to just go with the flow. I find my attention slipping during long meetings, partly because I haven’t been drinking my usual coffees.

And there is this spirit of volunteering in my team (a lot of them have a HR background, lol), so we are doing this pro bono consulting project, plus I’m going to help out in the rec club planning for the upcoming department trip. Work-life integration, no longer a demarcation when work is work and everything that is enjoyable belongs outside of work. Sometimes I still wonder what would have happened if I had applied to a different consulting firm, or maybe even internal HR. But all these thoughts are parallel lives, and I am happy with the life I have now. I am still learning to not look at the successful lives of other people and take their path as my own, after all, life is how I respond to my own set of circumstances.


Mental health was bad this week. I sat for one hour on I think Wednesday and Thursday morning, just feeling my chest pains- like golf balls stuck between my heart and my ribcage- the pressure makes it hard to breathe. But otherwise, everything was normal. Six months ago I wanted people to like me but I didn’t like people, now I like most people (or at least, can form a meaningful connection to them) and don’t need them to like me.

Physical health also bad, two weeks ago I needed to change my TCM medication because of stomach pains. But I can swim for longer now, although I still get irritated when people just stand at the ends of the pool because I can’t go all the way.


Tiring. Because DG takes place on a Friday night, when I really don’t want to be doing anything else other than sleep. I sort of meander slowly to the place like an untrained sloth, and sit in a corner with the dinner that someone else buys (dinner service is much appreciated), and then realise how fast the week has passed and I should really pay attention to what the bible study leader is saying. The leaders change every week so sometimes my attention wanders off. At least I got the main point yesterday, which is that it is not just acts and words of obedience, one has to really search her heart.


Lots of friends, I like. I have been spending a lot of money eating out with people ): Daily cut is fabulous, although expensive. Adding in Starbucks it’s like…well. I see it as settling in for the first few months. Reason because I don’t know what I like to eat, plus in the past few years I always had to watch my diet because of food allergies. So now I am just allowing my poor soul to roam free for a while. So far I’ve tried to reach out to different people for lunch (within reasonable limits, it’s people I’ve to work with or just those who talk to me first, I don’t randomly talk to colleagues). Which means that lunch is usually interesting! It usually ends up being 1.5 hr lunches haha. Everyone at work is really nice so far, which is great.


Working out: I have slightly more toned arms, and a very bad tan line.

Writing: Kind of non-existent now. I maybe journal once a week, but it is such an unstructured activity. Sigh.

Reading: Thanks to K for giving me all the new books. I missed Marya Hornbacher, I remember I used to love her writing (Wasted: A memoir of anorexia and bulimia) and Portia deRossi’s writing too. I have been trying to read on the train rides but when I was reading the line in The Centre of Winter by Hornbacher, there was something about how you can sit in a room and be completely yourself, yet fail utterly in the eyes of someone you love. Her writing revolves around this family, the dad struggled with mental illness, didn’t go to work, the mom worked and the son was staying in a mental hospital. The dad finally shot himself one night and everything sort of went to pieces overnight. I was sniffling on the train, bad idea.

Painting: No time ):

Prayer requests

  • That my anxiety will ease up. I would rather have physical pains for two days than low-grade anxiety for five days, even though the pains are literally, it feels like an impending heart attack. That plus TCM stomach pains means that it is difficult for me to concentrate on my work. However, the fact that I am a work-life integrator and not a work-life balancer in the past (the willingness to do work at home and to have hobbies and a social life on weekdays and basically see my career as an expression of my strengths and interests in life) means that it is easier for me to manage. Maybe not my workload, but the feeling of going to work. I like going to work, especially now that I have a huge desktop monitor
  • That we will be able to find a partner (only partners can book larger rooms) who will be able to provide the small group with a room during meet ups. I really like that bunch of people, they are kind and I don’t think standing at the carpark is very comfortable for the guys because they are dressed in long-sleeved shirts, and for me I usually wear sleeveless dresses to work so I’m fine.
  • That my trips in September will go fine- Indonesia, Thailand, and St John’s again. My application to be a three day server at the Vipassana meditation course was accepted. I am looking forward to food preparation and quiet meditation. I will bring a lot of mosquito repellent this time. If I am not wrong, I am serving in the first half of the retreat. Chances are people will be teary and they will want to drop out haha. For the first two countries, please let us be safe.
  • That the toddlers at the 9am class will settle in. The 9am class is so crowded that sometimes when kids (about 1.5-2 years old), they are a bit confused and when they sit down, they can end up sitting on another kid’s foot. Or fall over an unsuspecting parent/helper. And then sometimes they go nuts and start chasing each other around the room like mini-satellites, and I’m just like “what?” They have unlimited reserves of energy. The craft last week was really difficult too, it involved pasting paper characters and two magnets on a long string and I had three kids to myself. Two got bored and wandered off when I was helping the first one.
  • That the air-conditioning at work will get better, because I am so cold that I use two jackets and one shawl to keep myself warm and sometimes even that fails.
  • Cute people in the office, all taken. All. I feel like I am the only single one in my batch.

Love is patient, love is kind. 

(Disclaimer: All my posts have been rambles, this one is no exception. It is midnight now, and I have been not been sleeping too well. Hopefully I will be able to finish this within half an hour. Before waking up for work in seven hours.)

I was trying to fall asleep but the key word being ‘trying’ to. I was just lying there, thinking about the books I read today. The nth time of deathly hallows, Joseph Heller’s ‘god knows’ that has been sitting in my storeroom since I was 15, and a Chinese book published by a weibo author. I was thinking about the lunches I had this week. On Monday, I met with a fellow associate who joined six months earlier, to eat the nasi lemak burger. It is really good by the way, the chicken patty is delicious and I love the sauce. On Tuesday, I met with a senior from my unit, we had subway. I could relate to how she can’t sleep during the week but crashes on the weekends, and how she works on government projects and has to follow all sorts of compliance rules. Today, I went out with my new friends from a different department, we all joined three weeks ago so everyone was still getting to know each other and asking simple questions to start the conversation ball rolling. Beef pepper rice bowl was good! Tomorrow, I have lunch with people I sat with on the very first day of work, then pork ribs with tonkatsu and on Friday I have anopheles and DG! Shaping up to be a good week.

I love meeting ENFPs and ENFJs because I always get along very well with both groups, but not everyone fall into those categories. But sometimes, I really just can’t talk to a stranger. You know in the initial conversation, by the sort of questions a person asks and how fast he talks or his body language, it is usually possible to get a sense of what kind of personality he has, what his priorities in life are. Occasionally I will wonder about why is his opinion so confined and unaccepting, why does he not see that he has an unpleasant personality, and can he stop whatsapp-ing me because I have to keep archiving his chat. Or when the person says A and I am eating my sandwich and I say B and the topic moves on to C as if none of us mentioned A or B. Or when I do something unintentionally to him or he does something unintentionally to me, that little bit of annoyance and whatever happened to love is patient, love is kind? Is there any value or joy in those unremembered moments, when the relationship isn’t progressing fantastically?

I want to talk about the people whom we meet for the first time, or the friends whom we have been around for a long time, and conversation for some reason, on that day or that morning, does not flow well, idiosyncrasies are really glaring and everyone is just not blending in together. It rarely happens in groups but sometimes I just meet one or two people that I cannot click with. And I realised in that past three weeks that people are no longer one of my KPIs. If I go out to lunch with them, it is because I want to. It is because I genuinely enjoy being around people for lunch, it is not because I have to report to my boss about their job satisfaction levels. One of the key reasons why I didn’t want to do internal HR is because it would mean that I would be separated from all my colleagues, because I am privy to policies that can change the nature of their work. 

It is the ability to love someone else that I’m honing. A capability. Of loving a stranger, or a friend who has changed from his or her original personality. I am not perfect, sometimes I say weird things and I interact in weird ways, and sometimes I overthink things. The feeling that every human being is worthy of respect and should be treated with love and kindness was foreign to me. I only realised it this month when I started intentionally interacting with people, trying to get to know them, and to see them as they see themselves, and more. I finally understand a little bit of what it means to love the unloveable, the people whom we would not naturally gravitate to, and not just see them as an interesting specimen that I can analyse and then write about.

Learning to love might take a lifetime, I am just scratching the surface with many of my colleagues, I see their flaws and their hobbies and what they enjoy talking about, I see their smiles and sometimes their insecurities when they talk about their job search. I can let go of things much more easily now, in the past I used to not remember grudges because I couldn’t be bothered to, now I see  that such things are unimportant. Truly unimportant. There are many parts of love that I have no idea how to describe. I still don’t know how to commit to someone else. But perhaps I have it in me to love others.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8  (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

My work is proceeding smoothly, I understand a lot more of what we deliver to clients now. My relationships are proceeding smoothly, I say hi to almost everyone, although there are definitely pockets of time when I don’t know what to do and feel snubbed by people, or snub people accidentally. It’s all in my head, literally. I can see that others are struggling too. And I thank God for my hr research experience, which is really useful when reading a tonne of materials online. And for my current company allowing me to practice the growth mindset, trying out so many new things this year. Especially for my food allergies and rashes having recovered just before I started work. This week is a week of just one symptom, a highly upset stomach. Not a single hive has appeared. But the stomach was highly upset.

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.

-Soren Kierkegaard

Some thoughts on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer


It is impossible to not cry towards the end of the book. When I finally realised how much Oskar’s mom and grandmother loved him, how Oskar was carrying this huge burden on himself (not picking up the phone when his dad called on 9/11), how the grandmother loved the grandfather but he chose to leave, how the grandfather couldn’t speak, how he kept remembering the past and the woman he loved, how, if only, we could make each other’s burdens lighter.

I wrote, “they are letters to my son. I wasn’t able to send them to him while he was alive. Now he’s dead. I don’t speak, I am sorry.” The guard looked at the other guard and they shared a smile. I don’t mind if smiles come at my expense, I’m a small price to pay, they let me through, not because they believed me but because they didn’t want to try to understand me (…)”

And on the legacies we leave behind when we die. The weight of unfulfilled expectations. This quote is about how a father had died and he wrote letters to all the people he could before his death. But to his own son, he wrote a business-like letter. His son went around asking to look at all the letters of others. Some refused to show them to him, others complied. And through all the letters, he got to know his father better.

Some of his letters were funny. I mean, really, really funny. I didn’t know he could be so funny. And some were philosophical. He wrote about how happy he was, and how sad he was, and all the things he wanted to do but never did, and all the things he did but didn’t want to do.

When I understood Oskar, and what he was going through, from his point of view.

Mom was still on the sofa. She wasn’t reading, or listening to music, or doing anything.

She said, “You’re awake.”

I started crying.

She opened her arms and said, “What is it?”

I ran to her and said, “I don’t want to be hospitalized.”

She pulled me into her so my head was against the soft part of her shoulder, and she squeezed me. “You’re not going to be hospitalized.”

I told her, “I promise I’m going to be better soon.”

She said, “There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“I’ll be happy and normal.”

She put her fingers around the back of my neck.

I told her, “I tried incredibly hard. I don’t know how I could have tried harder.”

She said, “Dad would have been very proud of you.”


And war. It was a recording that Oskar played for his class. He was bullied in school.

TOMOYASU: I apologized to her. I told her, “I came as fast as I could.”

It was just the two of us. I didn’t know what to do. I was not a nurse. There were maggots in her wounds and a sticky yellow liquid. I tried to clean her up. But her skin was peeling off. The maggots were coming out all over. I couldn’t wipe them off, or I would wipe off her skin and muscle. I had to pick them out. She asked me what I was doing. I told her, “Oh, Masako. It’s nothing.” She nodded. Nine hours later, she died.

INTERVIEWER: You were holding her in your arms all that time?

TOMOYASU: Yes, I held her in my arms. She said, “I don’t want to die.” I told her, “You’re not going to die.” She said, “I promise I won’t die before we get home.” But she was in pain and she kept crying, “Mother.”

INTERVIEWER: It must be hard to talk about these things.

TOMOYASU: When I heard that your organization was recording testimonies, I knew I had to come. She died in my arms, saying “I don’t want to die.” That’s what death is like. It doesn’t matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn’t matter how good the weapons are. I thought if everyone could see what I saw, we would never have war anymore.

Death is the final stage that we all pass through. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, ugly or beautiful, well-educated or not. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what are your fears, how unfinished or fulfilled you felt before that second arrived. It just comes, and we cannot control it. Death and suffering means incredible vulnerability. We have no idea what will happen next, and we can’t predict anything. The more we try to hold on, the more difficult it is for us to be at ease. And yet what has thinking and controlling ever brought me, but the delaying of happiness?

During the sermon earlier, Pastor E. was talking about death. He spoke about how we should not turn away from the word that gave us our being. How we are bereft of the knowledge of God and the knowledge of being a true human being, because we are self-reliant and weak at resisting temptation. Not humans as we know ourselves now, people preoccupied with power and money and worries, but humans in the sense of Christ- his compassion, his grace, his beauty. How he was brought to be a little lower than angels, and how he trusted God in all his sufferings. And then the crowning with glory and honour, while calling us brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’d have said nothing backward.

He’d had said ‘Yeah, buddy?’ backward.

I’d have said “Dad?” backward, which would have sounded the same as “Dad” forward.

He would have told me the story of the Sixth Borough, from the voice in the can at the end to the beginning, from “I love you” to “Once upon a time…”

We would have been safe.