Review of September, can you tell that I’m losing track of things.

  • Kelong trip- I get nolstagic whenever I hear the ‘pass it on’ song.
  • Toddlers church + Happy Teacher’s Day!
  • Pro bono consulting started. I hope it changes lives HAHAHA am I putting too much hope on one non chargeable project.
  • Go live at a client site started. Will be busy these two weeks. I hope cupcakes taste good!
  • Planning for Phuket trip is over, trip went well 🙂 Thank god for atrociously good and sunny weather on the second day, I would have been really sad if all our plans went down the drain just because it flooded.
  • Took over some admin duties- I share a bit of what I read/watch every week with my colleagues in my team, kind of like tagging it on that that admin update weekly. So far I’ve covered failure and the growth mindset 🙂 next week will be a learned optimism update.
  • Planning for the upcoming BBGB camp is starting this week. Hope everything goes well, I’m managing the budget (I think, have been MIA recently).
  • YX booked hotel for HK trip.

I am still not sure about solo travel. I can recognise directions, but I have a tendency to get lost in my own thoughts and then end up somewhere I don’t know. It’s like when I am talking to people, I only think about the moment and I don’t have a plan for things beyond the moment. Which often ends a bit miserably when I realise that people think that I have other intentions.

Upcoming things

  • CC Leaders retreat
  • CC Church camp
  • Get a tattoo?

Bought a kindle paperwhite just now. When I was feeling reaallllly frazzled. My mind just went “fuck it I’m going to buy it now.” I’ll pack food to work for the next year if I have to.

Sigh. Ok no more posts until I get my mind back on track. I think I’m either going to drink later or I’m going to go for a run. Probably drink, haven’t been running in a while.

On impression management

I think I already did a review of August, but in the last week of August I got officially transferred to CBP. Things have changed hahaha.

Grateful for:

  • The opportunities I have now to learn from the client’s perspective, how IT systems are rolled out and what is involved in the end to end procurement processes.
  • The people- because of the nature of project work in my company, I would say that I only see about 30% of the team on a regular basis, and that is purely for project work. I think C and A have been at CBP for the past six months, and talking to them- finding out about their motivations, their past projects, how they approach problems and their own life experiences- has been very motivating. Because I am reminded that the work might be tough but I have one thing that a lot of other associates in another big 4 don’t have- great people. I don’t know how the company managed to hire so many nice and genuine people. Of course, not all are like that, some can be quite competitive, but the ones I’ve clicked with so far are really good people.
  • I was thinking about my happiest moments in the past two months. I like the team meetings where we actually solve problems (and not give people updates on what has been happening in my life etc), I like the feeling of singing “if I am a fuzzy wuzzy bear, then I thank God for my fuzzy wuzzy hair” and doing the accompanying actions during toddlers’ class.
  • I like the volunteering opportunities so far, and I really like the food in the CBD area, although pricey. And I love the writing- I get to write emails and draft newsletters. I also like the fact that I have a salary and I can pay for my own bills. To ask myself questions like “what is true for you, what makes your heart smile, when do you feel most yourself?” made me realise that it is not consulting work that I want to dedicate my life to. It is just impact. And the complexity of work that doesn’t bore me, because each project is new.

With regards to impression management, I am over it. On the Thursday before I left for Indonesia, the bible passage that the company’s cell group (God’s grace, we couldn’t get into the smaller room that we originally booked and were allocated a room that was just vacated, which could fit everyone in nicely- if we were in the smaller room we would probably have to squeeze and stand at the door) was about how we should not exalt ourselves and how we should be humble, because we should not be seeking the validation of other people. It does not matter if we have all the money and prestigious awards in the world if we do not have God’s grace in us.

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

-Luke 14, ESV

I admit that I was worried until I spoke to A (met him at DBS), he told me that I just need to do well on my current projects, even if I’m only on 30-40% utilisation. And J, met him at the cell group last week, he told me that he charged the first six months to BD (which is 0% utilisation for 6 months) and he still got promoted and is travelling frequently. As I am writing this, he is in Myanmar. As A and C puts it, fifty percent of impression management is luck. There will always be people who don’t like you, and some of them might even tell you that directly. It doesn’t mean that you should change your behaviour just because someone said something about you.

But this isn’t a blanket statement to say that I can ignore all consequence and do whatever I want- I still need to work hard, and be respectful towards others. But if anyone (who is at an associate level) tells me that I have to “get on paid work because it is how the company measures revenue”, and I know that the projects that I’m working on does not have a budget for my time, and that resourcing is currently an issue within the unit- I am not going to justify myself or be concerned that other people are viewing me as a consultant who does not have a 100% utilization rate. You can be utilised fully, but still not get promoted. You can be charging 20% for a month, and work 70-80 hour weeks.

For me, not liking a person and not liking what a person is doing at a particular moment or a particular action, is very different. I will always try to love people- that feeling that we are all in the same boat-

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

It doesn’t matter if they are Christians or non-Christians, it only matters that we are humans and as humans we come with our own set of idiosyncrasies, our mess-ups, our troubles, the dreams that die over time. Our sacrifices that we keep to ourselves and those blips in an otherwise uneventful day. Good times and bad times for all of us, none of us are immune to sickness or relationships that break down. As my friend reminds me, it is just work. It is nothing much to worry about, work is a rubber ball that will bounce back after every sabbatical and it will be as if I never left. So what do I want to do in the meantime? What do I want to do with my life? How can I not let time slip away.

The stories we tell others about ourselves might not be the stories that we tell ourselves. For example, I have been telling myself to get a writing portfolio together for the past…I think, year? But I have never done so. I only upload my rambles sometimes, or send emails to friends about the new fat cat on my estate. I have never tried writing a series of essays on some illuminating thought, like how the rain falls on the ground and how it reminds me of the orange-purple sunset. Or something equally poetic, like vegetarian pot stickers and fried hot dogs.

As each day goes by, when I dump my belongings on the floor of my room after work, when I am reminded of how tired I am, I can feel my thoughts getting sanded down by life. If that even makes sense. They are just less deep and a lot more practical. Like “how am I going to reply him” and “what am I going to eat for lunch later”. And I sit next to one of the floor-to-ceiling glass windows at the staff canteen, looking at the beautiful view of the neighbouring carpark, and looking at how the cars play tetris with one another. Wondering to myself if there will be rain later and if the rain will be heavy enough to wash away the dust and ill-humour of the people here.

Friday-Sunday

Don’t know if I can stay awake for the whole post because I’m absolutely knackered haha. I reached home at 5pm and I slept for 3.5 hours, initially thinking it would just be a twenty-minute nap. Anyway, this post is about giving thanks for things in the office finally wrapping up and how I spent my past three days.

Friday and Saturday

Finalizing the proposal, 4am to late nights and panicking, lack of communication (working with my colleagues but they are all new to me), being really fearful whenever I made mistakes. Small mistakes are fine but there were medium-sized mistakes too. I was terrified that we wouldn’t be able to get the proposal out in time because of a certain political situation but thankfully, it has passed. Now I can finally turn off my phone without worrying that a certain thing is pending or “the director hates my work”. I cried on Saturday because I felt so constrained by things and I felt that I was doing shitty work, work that even I wouldn’t approve on hindsight. You know that cold feeling you get when you realised that you really f-ked up a certain thing, and then it feels like someone cracked a cold egg down your head and your mind goes blank. I got that a lot because I was dealing with many different things the past two weeks, and the more work you do, the more difficult it is to get everything done well. In my defense, everything was new, I was slow because I had to first understand what I was doing before I could even start. Whereas everyone else on the team had 6-10 years of experience and so they work really fast. I have 7 weeks HAHA.

I had lunch with the director today, she treated me to cupcakes afterwards too and we clarified a lot of things that could have been done better. And she also apologised for her moods and how she was a bit unapproachable- which she honestly didn’t have to apologise for, so I appreciate that a lot. I mean, for someone so experienced, teaching someone who has no idea what consulting work looks like, must have been a pain in the ass LOL. Learning points: I need to communicate better, I need to follow-up even when I am scared, I need to be a lot more careful about the quality of my work and I really need to pay more attention in the meetings and not let my emotions affect who I work with. Am still afraid to approach one team member- she’s lovely in normal interactions, but when on projects she becomes really curt and slightly unfriendly, especially when stressed.

Sunday (today)



I spent the morning volunteering at Jalan Kukoh. It is with the same director whom I worked with on the above-mentioned proposal, she has a friend who is part of the volunteering team and they plan to go full-time so they roped us in for consulting services. At 9am we were packing eggs from larger trays into smaller cardboard trays that we cut from the larger ones. Then we packed the household things like detergent and perishables (Apollo cake, coffee, biscuits etc) and finally the heaviest items like soy milk. I didn’t think of actually volunteering with them at first because I have a strong interest in children, and tend to avoid the elderly when it comes to volunteering because I always feel that I can’t communicate with them and can’t really make them feel happier. But the idea is that we will be involved on the ground so that we can see the issues and the perspectives that the ground team has. I had the mindset that it was going to be a work meeting so I went with my laptop and dressed in a shirt-dress thingy, but I adapted and just started queuing up.


The organizing team really put thought into the project- they use recyclable bags so that the volunteers have to enter the house to put away the things, and then take back the bags. Ideally, we would also introduce each of the items to the elderly because the packaging and food items change sometimes, they told us a story of how an old man ate soap by mistake because he thought it was a dessert. Still have no idea what kind of soap packaging that is, but it looks similar I guess. It would be much faster to just pass over plastic bags but the concept is that the team should spend at least ten minutes with the uncle or aunty living there, because they are alone and need social interaction. We were told to look out for the people who seemed lonelier and wanted to talk, and that would possibly be the next phase of the project where they can send buddies down. Sort of like lion befrienders, but it’s linked to the current tech system which provides real-time collaboration with volunteers who log in their comments about the needs of the families they have visited.

There are 120 families on the list, it was recently reviewed so initially there were a lot more elderly but some of them moved on or moved away, or thankfully, found ways to increase their income. One team consists of a resident volunteer and the new volunteers- resident volunteers are residents who also stay in the rental flats but help us as tour guides, so they do not feel that they are just taking handouts- they are working for it. And it is very useful to have them on the ground with us because they not only know the place, they also know the residents, they know the RC people, they understand the lives of people who live in the area. They can give tips on how to deal with residents, and they share really interesting stories. On my team, there was a man who used to be abrasive and didn’t get along with anyone, but after two years of doing this with the volunteering ground up movement, he is now, well, not a lovely person, but a lot more talkative. His experiences are also really interesting- he is eloquent and really direct, just that he tires easily.

Rental flats are also interesting- from where you stand at the door, you can see almost everything in the flat because it’s really small. But at Jalan Kukoh, it is near Chinatown and more importantly, there is a fantastic view of the Singapore river in front of every window and staircase. I don’t know if this is the right term, but it is open air which means that the staircase isn’t blocked by a door like the one at my house, it is windy and surprisingly quiet. Although for the elderly who live in the houses, some of them might not even notice the river. Those who stay on the 12th floor have a really nice ambience, but there were families on the 3rd floor and the corridors were frankly dark and cramped, filled with old shelves and one hoverboard lol. There was a house which we went to, there was a bun (like a sandwich hot dog bun without the hot dog) that was literally just placed on the gate of the door, without any packaging. And the house had no sounds coming from within, so we were a bit worried about the aunty living inside. The bun looked fresh but it is just weird. But they should have followed up by now.

Post volunteering I ubered to church, we had a one hour bible study on Mark 2:1-12. I never really read that passage in detail, but today I did and I realised that it really spoke to me about my situation (humans have the ability to sense make everything). I am so worried about my physical and mental health that I never thought to place my spiritual health on the same level.

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

When I was younger I would think “of course it’s easier to say that sins are forgiven, you have to actually prove that the man can get up and walk if you told him to”. But now I realised that for Christ, it was more important that he should forgive the man for the very thing he came to earth for. To forgive us for our sins and transgressions against God, to make sure that we know how to repent, and to guide us when we are facing troubles like physical health and temptations of money and sex. Our earthly bodies are important to us- if I were paralysed, I would probably be deeply unhappy and angry that someone claims that my sins are forgiven, I would wonder what were my sins to be punished like this. In fact with health issues now, I feel tied to Singapore because I can’t travel without bringing my medication along. That feeling of having no freedom can really ruin a day, especially when I get stomach pains during meetings and I really need the toilet.

Now that I am older I see the importance of a Christ-like heart. I don’t quite know how to explain it, but after being in the church for seven months, I think I understand more about sin- how it causes us to turn away from God, and if we understood what God did for us and the beauty of his plan, and if we experienced the comfort of being a part of his family, then we would understand “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Never really got the gospel of Mark when I was younger, now I think I do. It is a sense of relief actually.

“maybe that’s what life’s all about: there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moments of beauty, where time is no longer the same”

Children help us to defer the painful task of confronting ourselves, and grandchildren take over from them. Television distracts us from the onerous necessity of finding projects to construct in the vacuity of our frivolous lives; by beguiling our eyes, television releases our mind from the great work of making meaning. Finally, God appeases our animal fears and the unbearable prospect that someday all our pleasures will cease.

I was in bed last night, at about 1am, reading this part from The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

I remember all that rain… The sound of it drumming on the roof, the paths running with water, the sea of mud at the gate to the farm, the black sky, the wind, the horrible feeling of endless damp weighing upon us as our life weighed upon us: neither consciousness nor revolt. We were sitting huddled together by the fire when suddenly my mother got to her feet, throwing the rest of us off balance; we watched in surprise as, driven by some obscure impulse, she headed to the door and flung it open.

All that rain, oh, all the rain… Framed in the door, motionless, her hair clinging to her face, her dress soaked through, her shoes caked with mud, staring lifelessly, stood Lisette. How did my mother know? How did this woman who, while never mistreating us, never showed us that she loved us, either by deed or word- how did this coarse women who brought her children into the world in the same way she turned over the soil or fed the hens, this illiterate woman, so exhausted by life that she never even called us by the names she had given us- to the point where I at times wondered if she even remembered them- how had she known that her daughter, half-dead, neither moving nor speaking, but merely staring at the door without even thinking of knocking, was just waiting in a relentless downpour for someone to open and bring her into the warm room?

Is this a mother’s love, this intuition of disaster in one’s heart, this spark of empathy that resists even when human beings have been reduced to living like animals? This is what Lucien said: a mother who loves her children always knows when they are in trouble. Personally, I do not care much for this interpretation. Nor do I feel any resentment toward that mother who was not a mother. Poverty is a reaper; it harvests everything inside us that might have made us capable of social intercourse with others, and leaves us empty, purged of feeling, so that we may endure all the darkness of the present day. Nor do I nurture any sturdy illusions, there was nothing of a mother’s love in my mother’s intuition, merely the translation into gesture of her certainty of misfortune. A sort of native consciousness rooted deep in the heart, which serves to remind poor wretches like us that, on a rainy night, there will always be a daughter who has lost her honour and who will come home to die.

Lisette lived just long enough to give birth to her child. The infant did what was expected of it: it died within three hours.

Reading the part about Lisette standing outside the door and then dying made me tear up. How alone she must have felt. There are many single mothers in the world, how many of them just function on survival mode hoping to give their kids a better future. Nationality, ethnicity, religion, such boundaries don’t matter when it is a bond between a mother and a child. How many people are alone in this world? Choosing to leave your family and identity behind is a difficult decision, until you have done it you will not be able to imagine what ‘never again’ means. Because you can’t return to the past. Other people will be affected.

I don’t like emotions because I always feel terrible when I have them. Shame, anger, guilt, loneliness. Sometimes, occasionally, true joy and comfort, but most a bland neutral outlook. But I have lived without the ability to feel for a long time, and I don’t want to go back to that situation when everything was the same, nothing mattered because there were no feelings involved. The same with dating- I am only comfortable going out with people I feel nothing for, because then whatever happens wouldn’t matter to me. Perhaps it is not a fear of commitment, having to stick to just one person and the feeling of novelty, but the fear of intense feelings and not knowing what to do about those feelings. How would I react, how would he feel, what can happen next, am I changing my life in a way that would matter?

“I’ll say it again to make myself perfectly clear,” says Kakuro, with the sort of infinite patience one exercises with children or, rather, the simple-minded. “Renee, you are not your sister.”

And as I go on sitting there like a moron, staring at him:

“I’ll repeat it one last time, in the hopes that this time you won’t choke on a piece of sushi that -I might mention- cost thirty euros apiece and normally require a bit more care in their consumption: you are not your sister, we can be friends. We can be anything we want to be.”

—–

Got an allergic reaction to the medication I’m on, and then intense sleepiness so I took a long nap again. I still have overdue work so I need to drink coffee and then get my shit together for a long night. I am just upset that nothing in life seems to be going right now all because of health reasons, that my panicky moments affect how I see my day. Did it go well, did it go badly, how many times did I feel like I was in a cage and couldn’t breathe? I know that I am in a good place compared to many other people, I also feel that I am in another low point in my life. No longer able to look at events retrospectively and think, “all these were my becoming”, now it’s like “fuck what the fucking fuck again??!” Sorry for vulgarities- they are necessary because that’s my mind right now.

That said, I’m pretty normal most of the day, my mood is only much lower when I am alone or when I have to take a long nap to stop the yawning and it’s really late when I wake up. There are client proposals to be done this week hence I can’t afford to continue this medication, I don’t know when the side effects will end but I would rather not risk more allergic reactions. Other parts of my life are good- children’s church went fine, it got kind of zoo-like during the story time when kids suddenly decided to stop listening, some were walking around, which is unusual because they are all quite quiet during story-telling. Then Andrew, the youngest, he always gets overshadowed by the older and louder ones, he just gave up and laid on the mat fully outstretched and I was like “what are you doing LOL”. Esther is quite sticky, I had to carry her a few times today because she wasn’t crying but she just doesn’t like to be with the other kids on her own. And Ethan and Calvin, they fight for the same things whenever they are together- will remember to separate them in the future. It’s like it doesn’t matter what toy Calvin has, Ethan wants it. Until Calvin gives up and walks away. Then depending on his mood, Ethan might follow Calvin.

Sermon was by Pastor C. Which reminded me of how I have to be careful to not make stupid choices. It’s really easy to go from friends to friends with benefits. Or maybe I am just really open to experiences, I really like to try new things. And cute guys are exciting, it can be quite fun. Like a spark of light during the rather boring day where work is impactful but not exciting all the time. Pastor C. reminded us that if we don’t call on Christ (not his surname, it means the ‘Messiah’) when we are facing temptation or while sinning, we are likely to be ‘finished’- did not clarify what finished meant, because our sins were taken away by Christ when he died for us, and also when we continually repent. I was seriously considering sinning in a rather obvious way and then repenting, and be like a life-stage Christian where I am sometimes a Christian and sometimes not, and continually tick-tocking between the two. The response is that, if that is so, salvation isn’t ensured because your repentance at the end of your life might not be genuine. And what kind of heart are you carrying to church on Sundays then. But I’m also really tired and I would like constant company.

Bible study was back to basics, we are covering Mark for the next 13 weeks. Likely to miss a few because of overseas trips but we learned basic tenets of faith today. Who is Christ, why did he come, and what are we supposed to do in response to him. It is not just to turn away from sin, but also to do good works, and learn the experience of faith- how to trust God and let God lead.

Prayer requests:

Please, that at least let one of the problems in my life become less burdensome- health, work, finances (due to health) or relationships (or the lack of feelings). I don’t think I can last the whole month if my issues don’t pick themselves up.

That people in the world will not be so lonely or troubled. That even if they don’t find meaning or God, at least let their troubles be alleviated temporarily. Suffering is useful for long-term growth, but too much of it over the years can force a person to do odd things that a rational person wouldn’t normally do.

And pray that I will learn to pray more, and worry less. Be less anxious about work, about how people see me at work, about whether or not I am liked, be less anxious about the impact I’m creating and trust that a combination of prayer and sufficient sleep will work. Prayer is not just about communicating with God, for me it is trusting God.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

-Hebrews 6, ESV

A mess of feelings

I wanted to write about anxiety and going back on to medication for the second time. It feels the same, I don’t remember any of the old side effects, and I only know that it is a different part of the anxiety family tree. Which means that I might not recover as quickly as before, or that my symptoms might not be as bad, they will not last as long, I will not lose as much as before. Then I started on work, took me five hours and now I am not in the mood to talk about my troubles. I’m still making mistakes with basic formatting. 103 slides for one proposal and going. I just hope that I won’t get fired within the first two months, even though they say that the company is really kind to juniors because the turnover rate is so high.

I was thinking about my worries. You know the feeling when you are with a bunch of friends or colleagues but everyone doesn’t really know one another, and you start to feel out of place, or even wondering, “do they actually like me as a person”, or “would they talk to me if I weren’t in this company?” I would be hurt if they didn’t, although I do know that if I asked myself the same question, I can’t say that there are many people in the office I would claim as a close friend. They are all nice and good people, but I am not sure about the interest level. Like I said before, humans are still a preference. There are weeks when I’m really interested in getting to know people, and sometimes, just after getting scolded by a director, (inserts hangdog look), I just don’t want to see anyone. Not even the bus driver stopping right in front of me.

My emotions change very quickly- I was getting scolded because my buddy didn’t do the slides properly and because she was on annual leave and I had no idea what she did for that portion, so I couldn’t reply the director. I was just in a bit of shock. And then sadness, and then a little bit of anger- I wanted to say “hey, the work was done!” But that moment had passed. But my brain was in a fuddle the whole evening, I felt like I was inadequate and I also felt that I should have put in more effort, and then I started worrying about if they would fire me because we left out some slides. Now that I have bills to pay, things are looking a lot bleaker. I can understand why medical bills are a burden now, you literally cannot stop work because you have to pay your dues.

I am learning to handle my emotions by rationalizing them out, I don’t know how other people handle their emotions. The director was a bit loud (burdens of sitting at the open-space pantry, you will get judged by everyone) and quite angry, but then she switched to being nice again like five minutes afterwards, so I really don’t know how to deal with her personality. Other feelings in the past week include: meeting someone and realizing that Person A might have spoken to Person B, whom I’m not on speaking terms with, and hence Person A doesn’t like me as much anymore. Which made me feel sad, even though I only see A once every few months. It’s more of wanting to maintain that original relationship and not feel the shame of being unwanted, kind of like rejection- a hot flush, a cold chest. “Why do I bother with such pain, why can’t I just sell all my feelings away.” Sometimes I wonder if people think that I am too old for this- at the age of 23 I should have gotten all my emotions sorted out and all my reactive mechanisms sorted out, but nope. Still fumbling around in the dark.

Other feelings- that the person I like doesn’t like me anymore, conversations turning cold, no longer as enthusiastic in the mornings. I know that I’m doing the same to other people whenever I am tired but it was such a good game while it lasted. It is another odd feeling, not knowing if he cares for you, have things changed? If so, why? And feeling fulfilled when someone praises your work, but then getting scolded by someone else (my mind keeps returning to this, even though I am over it emotionally- just that I have to redo that work). Feeling slightly guilty when I am texting my colleague while she’s on her holiday and I know that she doesn’t quite like this place anymore, and she doesn’t want to answer work related enquiries, and yet I am texting her because I need the answers. Or the one that I have been struggling with, feeling lost in life and doing things that makes me …I don’t know, content? Peaceful? But not sure if I am on the right track. And feeling terrible when I make grammatical and vocabulary errors on a company-wide publication. And having to apologize when I am not really sure what I am apologizing for. It is part of growing up I guess- taking on people’s anger.

During DG last night I was wondering if it is possible for me to remain a Christian forever. The road is honestly so long I don’t know how to deal with it. During prayer session my DG leader was sharing the five ‘cannots’- you can’t smoke, pre-marital sex, alcoholism, marry a non-christian etc. Those are things that just can’t be done because they will bring you away from God. And I thought to myself, I am going to end up with the most boring person on earth, he’s going to grow a beard and we will live on fishes by the river. One step at a time I guess. I am trying to be kinder to myself because I have been really tired but unable to sleep recently.

Pats on the head for six weeks of work:

  • Being more comfortable with relationships and people at work.
  • Continuing kiddy class while having a full-time job (I honestly thought I would give up.)
  • Client deliverables and dealing with confusion, not running away and asking others to do it for me.

The slides that I got scolded on were meant to be done by my buddy, but since she’s going to Jakarta for six months I guess I’ll be handling those in the future.

I am still making mistakes, I am still tired, I am still trying. Don’t think I can say anything else that is valuable. I just need to deal with the first six weeks of medication, it’s day 3 today and I have really bad leg cramps.

 

“Actually that’s my secret — I can’t even talk about you to anybody because I don’t want any more people to know how wonderful you are.”

Hello I’m really tired. I just packed my room and cleared out all the debris that accumulated on the floor after a week of chionging work. This is a kind of collection of personal thoughts that I had over the past few days, because my brain is so scattered now it feels like I am holding on to a few strands of thoughts and a few pieces of chicken chop, and I am not sure how much longer I can hold on for. I can’t let go, if I just intentionally ‘forget’ things I know I will feel like that I have lost something. Which is why slotherious is a great platform, it is an eternal brain dump as long as I can afford the yearly domain fees. Somehow a non-personal domain just doesn’t feel right.

On DG and the church carnival:

I wrote this bit about DG two months ago. I think it was when they first announced the dates for the carnival, and I thought to myself- what did I learn about fellowship so far? Why are people so happy to stay on in the same cell group for years, and always contribute time and money to a cause that others do not understand?

We assemble every Friday at 8.20pm at Pine Grove, each of us with our individual burdens from work and our heavy hearts, minds that get progressively more solemn as the week passes. Different backgrounds, different hobbies, different habits. Some of us like to sit on the floor, some sit cross-legged on the chair, some like to stand throughout the bible study session. But we have the same belief- that regardless of how broken we are, God will find a way to mend us. No weakness or failure of character is too big for him, no flaw is too small to be overlooked. We know that to everything, the answer is Christ, and if only we can lean wholeheartedly on him, he will make our burdens lighter. If only we truly believed, steadfastly holding on to our understanding of him. Then at our last exhale, we need not be worried that we have come to the end and our lives were all for nothing. It will not just be a final goodbye.”

The carnival yesterday was held at Bishan, and after four hours of being in a crowd I was half-dead and ready to uber home. There was very good prata with chicken curry (made on the spot), curry puffs, ice cream, didn’t try my own DG’s bak kuh teh but I had chicken rice! There was a DG who sponsored $7000 worth of chicken rice, that works out to an average of 400-500 per person, assuming they had less people than us. Had to get work clothes so I hurriedly did my shopping at vivo. Only managed to find two outfits because I have this aversion towards colours and prints so it’s always pretty much black on black.

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/carnival-celebrates-the-spirit-of-giving

I am quite amazed at the carnival planning. The entry passes only cost $2, and it entitles you to all the games, two mains, three sides and three drinks if I’m not wrong. In other words, we did not sell tickets to raise funds, we sold tickets so that people could enjoy the carnival. The donations were done before the carnival even started.

I also went for something called Project Timothy, which made me realise that I’m not actually…I don’t know, constantly joyful in church? I feel like I should be. But I am not at the stage where I feel this joy and deep reassurance every day, it’s more like okay on most days I have this relaxed and neutral kungfu stance that borders on joy during quiet time, on other days I’m quite at peace about how things are going. Not being able to date a non-christian however, REALLY SUCKS. “Real change is possible,” said the pastor. I wrote down, “real change is possible painful.” It’s not that I am actively looking for someone, it’s just that I haven’t been so interested in a guy since bobcat circa 2013. That’s four years of “am I a lesbian?” that I dealt with. I still feel that I’m bisexual though. Or “are you going to be single forever”, said people who were my project mates. I am not intentionally going against what is being taught in the bible, which is that marriage should be a reflection of the covenant between God and his church. It’s just that I want to date casually, without people telling me that “it’s better to not date than date a non-christian or take dating lightly”.

On work:

Met old friends in the past three days, partly because it was my birthday and I didn’t want to spend my 23rd doing work. Aloha poke is nice!! Shall go there again. There’s a cheaper $9.90 salmon version somewhere too, asked a colleague out next week so I can try that. My favourite dishes in the CBD area are- beef pepper bowl from Amoy, chai tea latte from Dimbulah (I can drink enough in one day to make it a meal), fish soup from Amoy, chicken chop from Shenton House, Daily cut @RP, poke bowls in general, astons @ asia square, and this jap food place that has really good egg plant and salads but I forgot the name, it’s along Boon Tat. I budgeted 250 a month for food but with friends and all, it’s more like 400. I still miss the chendol from brickworks! It’s really good chendol.

Work has been good- things are picking up fast. It felt like we had no substantial training for one month other than basic skills (which might not be used, depending on your project team’s style), and you are left to make connections on your own. I volunteered to write for the upcoming trip and got pulled into my unit’s rec club, we are going to plan more events that won’t involve an army of tuktuks. Now the second month is here and lots of things are in the pipeline. Which is fine, but I don’t really know how to manage my bandwidth yet, so I am expecting myself to do work for the next three weeks using my weekend time. I think I am quite happy because I like my company and I really enjoy my work. I like knowing that whatever I do, it contributes towards an impact, no matter how small, on the client’s end. Which affects the lives of people in other developing countries. And I like knowing that I am a good support system to my colleagues. The only thing I dislike about working at home is that I don’t have a large desktop monitor at home, I shall get one soon to deal with calibri font 5.5 on slide decks.

On others:

I was asked this week by a well-meaning friend (not describing him as anything else, it’s difficult to pigeon-hole this person) “why are you so reserved”. To which I thought, yes I am, but how would I know why? That is like asking “why do you like being a straightforward and crazy coconut?” Hmm actually, do coconuts have genders?

I just am. I process a lot of things on the inside and I don’t reveal much unless I am asked, or if I’m in a hyper mood. Like when I had HK food with L. and then too much awfully chocolate cake, the salted caramel caused a sugar rush and I love salted caramel. Being an introvert is a different way of interacting with the world. I like books and furry animals, I like small kids who like to eat cheerios, I like to write about my feelings (so female of me HAHA), I like to hear the stories about people and their experiences. I like to touch people and I like hugs, unless the sun is really hot and I am turning into a roasted potato. I don’t care for crowds, the carnival really killed a bit of me. I didn’t realise how tired I was until I got home and I slept at 9pm, probably the first time in months. “Uncle black sauce and chilli, or plain?” “More soup?” “Consolidate ok ok.

If I had a choice I might not choose to be more extroverted, simply because I don’t know how to imagine what an extrovert’s life might feel like. I don’t know how to create value in noisy places, I don’t like to hang out with people all the time- hence I schedule lunches one to one because I don’t want my post-lunch work efficiency to go down to 20%. Perhaps to others it is a sort of half-life that I live, like how with makeup on I’m an enhanced goblin. Not experiencing what they see as fun? But to me I’m coping very well, especially with being on TCM and in a few weeks, anxiety medication again. I am just not a randomly-coughing ball of fireworks singing despacito on the highway.

What do I do for fun? I don’t know. I think I am still finding out. I don’t think my brain processes ‘fun’ in the same way as others do. It is more of fulfilment and a sense that what I am doing, it is meaningful, and that if I die the next day, it would not have been in vain. I would not have lived a half-life just for myself. And if it was entirely for myself, I would have enjoyed it and not changed myself to fit others.

I don’t have much time left to write. Or read, now I find myself just zoning out on the train in the mornings. I do want to return to meditation/yoga, which I started for only a few days. The easiest thing to do now is just to swim after work. I was wondering about heart break, I think I felt emotions most intensely a few days ago when I was reminded to keep my distance from K, and my heart was like “I DON’T WANT TO KEEP MY DISTANCE.” I don’t feel a lot on most days, but when I do I usually don’t understand why I feel that way. I am able to rationalize anger out really well, but other softer emotions like affection or sadness, it’s difficult for me to say anything other that “ok I am feeling weird. Weird feels, soft cats.”

To find a small moment of joy in a blue sky,

A long walk an early morning in December

Or a handwritten letter to an old friend simply saying, “I thought of you, I hope you are well.”

I am trying, as I always will.

I read a helpful tip to deal with my emotions. “Take short little cries every time you feel overwhelmed”. I think I feel overwhelmed most on Friday nights, when I am done with DG and I just feel unhappy because I don’t want all that responsibility and commitment that comes with being a Christian. I can’t be unorthodox, I can’t go around having sex with everyone, I can’t turn up for DG drunk or smoke (not allowed to smoke because your body has to be an acceptable living sacrifice) or date a non-Christian, I have to tithe a portion of my salary every month which I would rather spend buying books, and I have to do bible study daily. I can’t be a stumbling block to other Christians and I basically cannot do a lot of things. Lie, steal, cheat, shout- yes I am a difficult person. I wouldn’t do those things even if church wasn’t in my life- okay maybe lies, I think white lies to clients are quite common in business- but it is more of a feeling that I only know the laws, I do not yet know joy. Can I say that I love God? I think I do, but it is a feeling borne out of admiration for his grace and his temperament and how loving he can be. But on a daily basis I feel like I will feel less cooped up if he did not exist. Because it means that I can do whatever I want.

There are flowers growing outside my window.

The coffee is warm, the air is pure.

Spending time with friends I am comfortable with, hoping for someone kind. I feel that so much of me is tied to being independent- travelling to Phuket a day earlier than others, doing whatever I want even if no one else wants to do it, serving in a meditation centre in September even though my DG leader told me to again, be careful of non-Christian teachings. I just don’t know if I will feel differently about what I do a few years from now? Maybe I will never find myself, maybe I will always be open to new experiences and I will never be settled as a Christian or even, as a human being. Maybe it will be a lifelong journey of searching and wanting more. Wanting someone gentle and kind.

If there was no chance of gaining any temporal reward for our piety, would we bother?

On mental illness; anxiety and depression. The good and the not-so-good.

I am not on anti-depressants now, but I think my anxiety has been back since November last year. I track my moods on a large calendar and the frequency of darkened boxes has been increasing. It used to be just one or two lines of ‘ribcage felt constricted today’, ‘heartbeat randomly increasing after dinner’, ‘not wanting to be in crowds’, but there are weeks with two or three days covered in washi tape. It’s kind of ironic, washi tape can be used to hold things together, to stick memorabilia onto the walls, but it can also be used to mark the loss of my mind.

There is this quote, “pay attention to what you pay attention to”. Right now I am just trying to not overstretch myself and concentrate on all the good things I have, like-

  • Being in groups and not cliques (Thai food, Burmese food, cycling tomorrow, trampoline on Monday, children’s church tomorrow too, my grandmother’s birthday lunch is this week)
  • Hand written letters, and post cards overseas.
  • Journaling, both art and random long essays
  • Mixing colours and using black ink to draw simple things, like the outline of mountains.
  • Spending time alone
  • Good food, I like bak chor mee and chendol and satay and chicken wings and pig organ soup.
  • Talking to strangers
  • Being present with friends
  • Emotional honesty
  • When people care for me.
  • Creating art, planning for tapestries and realising that I don’t have enough money to buy what I want ): FABRIC MARKERS. Fabric mediums!!
  • Nature
  • Swimming, but I now have an obvious swimsuit tan
  • Jam biscuits
  • Listening to live acoustics by the river
  • Long walks by the beach
  • Near dogs
  • Night cycles

Through my experiences in life, I narrate my life over and over again, sometimes to people who do not care, but sometimes, to people who love me, and are loved in return. We will not all play equal roles in the autobiographies of other people but we can all appreciate a warm gesture or a kind word, like being invited to a dinner even though I am not part of that clique, just so that I can get to know more people.

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Austin Kleon

During supper, it came up that a DG mate named D had depression since he was in secondary school. He only sought help recently (in his late twenties now) and he uses it as a testimony of how he came to know God. I am amazed that he is alive because if I had to go through black moods for more than a year, I would definitely not be alive right now. What more for a decade. How did he manage to cling on?

My mind went back to all the things I’ve experienced since J1. How have I changed, why is there still a stigma against mental illness, why is there little compassion even if you are deeply rooted in your own pain and everyone else can see the side effects of your life’s potential wasting away. Things and people were lost to me. They weren’t taken away, because it was my own body reacting. They were just lost.

I felt loss at every hand. The loss of self-esteem is a celebrated symptom, and my own sense of self had all but disappeared, along with any self-reliance. This loss can quickly degenerate into dependence, and from dependence into infantile dread. One dreads the loss of all things, all people close and dear. There is an acute fear of abandonment.
― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Too many depressive episodes have been recounted publicly and yet, not enough. With mental illness no one is sure of what they have become, and who they are, anymore, and how many people actually record their moods during their first episode? There is still a stigma against mental illness, even in this church community where a pastor has publicly spoken about his moods. Pastor John wrote a book titled ‘A Gentle Mind’. It is a very short read, but it reminds me that there are other people out there who have experienced what I did.

I remember telling my doctor that I didn’t know how to react when the medication finally started working and it took months, before I realised what was going on. The world wasn’t changing, even though it felt like there was more. More emotion, more experiences. More of life. Dr G told me that it is normal to feel that way, just be careful with how I am going about my daily life so that I will not overwhelm myself and shut down. It felt like- you know how you think the window is clean, until you wipe it down with a micro fibre cloth and then you realise that actually it was all dusty and grey? With medication, if it works, you start to see the sunlight clearly again. It is no longer being submerged in a mentally painful fog, constantly swinging between memories of what you used to experience, wanting it to be normal again, and not knowing if your fragile psyche can deal with anything more right now. All humans speak of life as if it is precious, if only we could see.

If there’s a medication that you have to be reliant on, or if there is a source of help- take it. Take whatever you can get, to where you need to be, even if where you need to be is what other ‘normal’ people take for granted on a daily basis and you feel almost childish for needing it. Take the medication to feel the sunshine and to connect to other humans, to feel happiness, however fleeting. To see the world in more than one shade of grey. Even when your natural faculties like your mind is not cooperating with you, when conversations just pass over your head and you can’t think deeply into anything, the words you read seem to be lost from your mind the moment you move on to the next sentence- take the medication. And then wait.

After three years with Dr G she told me it was a pleasure to see me going back to my old life, the happy and ambitious one, even though she did not know me before mental illness. She said I was growing up to be a young woman. I didn’t want to die anymore. And in a less melodramatic fashion, I didn’t want to cut myself anymore and go around with little coloured dinosaur plasters on my arm. I really like dinosaurs hahaha. Because it helped me feel, even for a little while. When there is physical pain the mind turns alert and you feel definitely alive. Not a cry for help, just to feel like your physical body exists.

It is stupid and irrational to a normal person, but going to that point made me understand that I had to throw away all ideas of who I used to be and all my mom’s scoldings about how I wouldn’t get a scholarship yada yada, because I had to save myself above all. Disregarding her nagging about how I just need to work harder, I went to see my first psychiatric doctor on my own. She only came around to the idea of mental illness after I was on medication from a public hospital for a while, and then she took me to private doctors.

Mental illness might leave you, at least temporarily, but the familiarity with it all- the old moods, old habits to cope- it is like an old glove. You stop trusting yourself. And lowered self-esteem. How could I be worth much, after all that I have seen and done, especially to my friends at that time. I wish I could trust my mind again. But I don’t know how to. It is a long journey- even till now when I hear about other people’s depressive episodes, I get this old fear. The fear that I will relapse. And there will be all this wasted potential again.

I didn’t recover in time to perform at my usual levels for the A levels, neither did I apply for any scholarships. My mind didn’t break, but it felt like any additional pressure could cause a relapse. I went to a local university on my parents’ dime and nothing happened, the world didn’t end, despite my mother telling me that it would. I did well in university, and she no longer cared, because it’s a local university anyway, who cares? It’s not Cambridge or Oxford. Comparison truly is the thief of joy, especially when I am comparing myself to people with much better socioeconomic backgrounds, better health, different talents, healthier parenting styles.

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Austin Kleon

I wanted to call this post ‘the lost years’ but looking back I think I gained more than I lost. In this past year, I think I have made my peace, especially having completed my bachelors and realising that there’s indeed a whole new world ahead. Of ugly watercolour dinosaurs and lots of books and friends who will feel the same way as I do. Yes I still have three ugly scars on my arm that won’t go away (the rest did) but they are small, and anyway I have a lot of scars so never mind. At least they aren’t purple like the ones on my knees ):

I am no longer in the rat race, I have found my identity, separate from others (I like groups but not cliques), I have many hobbies that I never had in JC/start of uni because these are things I could do alone and be engrossed in. I know that I am aware of my self. And because I am aware, I am able to relate to other people who have been through similar things. You know what’s rare and valuable? Going through periods of loneliness that teaches you to empathise with other people’s pain. Being able to say ‘I’ll be there for you’, because I know that I am not a judgey ass, and I can truly be there. Regardless of what it is. Even if my friends go to prison or have to go through chemotherapy, or transgender surgery, or gay marriages, I can be there.

If anything, I learned to grow into an adult human being in the past few years. Knowing that my pain and discomfort is universal, and that life is short, it helps me to curate my experiences- not huddling into a ball whenever I feel uncomfortable, because sensations are impermanent and therefore enjoyable. And spending more time on the things I enjoy. Not following the crowd.

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Austin Kleon