Alone and loving it

Watching movies alone isn’t something to be embarrassed about nor is it taboo. Nor is eating alone or having tea alone.

I have been given the quizzical eye when I told others what I have been up to. They obviously don’t understand the joys of solitude.

Don’t get me wrong- I don’t shun people. It’s just that I get energized this way. And sometimes, being with certain humans is a real pain.

I watched Dumbo today by myself and I got in early so I had the whole cinema to myself for awhile. Pretty nice 🙂

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Navigating the Second Peak

So I am an FB follower of an ex-editor of our national papers – her posts (and insight as well as hilarious commentary) keep me updated on the important things happening around Singapore that are worth reading about.

She posted this recently in her FB – I am not sure how she can reproduce the article that is in the premium section online in full; I reckon perhaps she has prior permission.

At the risk of breaking some copyright code, I am going to paste the article and provide the link here just because it is worth reading. Also because it reflects what I have been talking about for awhile about career change.

Not many come to my blog, so I am not too worried about being a conduit for its spread.

https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/the-moral-peril-in-the-meritocratic-race

The article talks about people who have two peaks in their lives – the first is guided by a want for success and happiness that require acquisition, whilst the second is a need for spiritual fulfillment and joy that come from contribution. Most stay with the first because that is the concept of meritocracy so learnt early in our lives. The second peak, if ever triggered, is typically due to some awakening caused by unfortunate circumstances.

My second peak wasn’t triggered in the typical manner unless one considers abject disappointment to be it.

I already know that the basement of my soul is much deeper it seems – I just finding out how deep. I am glad someone wrote about it but I am certain few will care to really understand.

Success vs Mediocrity

Credit to owner

The survival of the fittest- it’s not a phrase unfamiliar to us, certainly not in Singapore. We have been raised to think that mediocrity is for the lesser people and that success, only for the fittest, is indicated by a gain in status and material wealth. A very passé view to say the least.

There was an article that emerged in response to the discovery that an undeserving group has bought their way into the Ivy League colleges. A sentence within, while made sense if read in context, particularly irked me: “ The qualities you exhibit in college- ambition or laziness; attention to detail or sloppiness; being success-oriented or content with mediocrity – will likely be the qualities you bring to your life after college.”

It all sounds very absolute. One’s perspective in life will change with growth, experiences and priorities. How one performs in life is relative to that. While there is no excuses for malaise but if you measure a person’s success by such absolute terms, they are going to end up thinking like the fish who was told that it can walk.

Instead of qualities, what is more important to have are values that can guide you as you manoeuvre around the trials and tribulations of life. Learn to stand if you fall. Learn to dance in the rain. Learn to be kind. To me, that is also success – something that seems to have been pushed to the sidelines and forgotten.

People, for survival or vanity, vie to be the most successful, the strongest and the most powerful. I hope in their chase for those, they do not forget that the strongest who has the ability wield power like an Inquisitorious Lightsabre can bring both joy and grief to others.

The Entry into my Second Sabbatical

Credit to owner

It took me some time to admit that I had been a prickly hedgehog around people recently ; I’ve been in the fight or flight mode since I had announced my second sabbatical, a ‘mere’ 5 years from the first one.

I have only told the inner circle of family and friends and the responses resulting from that have been less than encouraging. Envy and judgement were the first things to hit. While it is possible to have both turning out positive vibes at the end, very few people are able to say ‘I think you know what you are doing and I am happy for you.’ .

Some are careful about what they say and ask about my plans for the break I am taking. I appreciate that because it makes me consider how I should wisely spend that time and think twice about the possibility of malaise setting in. Some even went as far as thinking about the economics of the situation for me, concerned about the affordability of the break. I found that a little intrusive but I appreciated it all the same.

However, other comments and sometimes pointed remarks casually slipped in under the guise of concern raise my hackles.

People are usually quick to judge, criticize and denounce based on perceived socially and culturally acceptable norms. I have had my fair share of that in my younger days but didn’t expect to be up in arms in my 40s. I thought I had heard enough to be sufficiently immune to unsolicited opinions. I couldn’t be more wrong.

People have what they deem as gold standards and any deviation is seen as a lack in some way. I’ve been viewed as weak, lazy, incompetent – really negative terms none of which would’ve been used to describe me if not for my being a misfit according to the saints that be. I could probably swallow if all that about me were true. But it is not. It cannot be further from the truth.

People also use ‘lucky’ a lot to describe my second sabbatical. It is a word associated with being given opportunities to do certain things otherwise difficult to do. If that is where the term is coming from, I would happily accept. But the term is, more often than not, said with some reference to chance and coincidence usually accompanied with sarcastic undertones. I think I know where that might come from, but it is not becoming to respond in jealousy.

Luck surely has something to do with opportunity but being able to grasp it when it is presented is the other aspect people often forget to take into account.

My life choices that are perceived to be different from the norm have sometimes made me feel like I have become mediocre. People around me are not helping with their narrow worldview. For one who used to be at the top of the game, it’s a pill that is hard to swallow. Five years on, it hasn’t gotten any easier.

But I know the only reason why I am feeling this way is that I have allowed myself to be affected – the shame is on me. But that people think they can impose views and judge others on repeat is juvenile – the shame has become theirs to bear.

I journeyed on my first sabbatical with scant support. I am quite sure I can do the same for the one upcoming.

Pieces of Peranakan

Peranakans or Straits Chinese or Baba-Nonya – they all refer to the descendants of Chinese immigrants (mostly Hokkien) who married local women when they arrived in the Malay Archipelago in the 19th century.

What resulted was a culturally rich rojak (i.e. mix) of traditions, food, language, beliefs, clothing right down to furniture and homeware.

I had the opportunity to see an impressive array of Peranakan porcelain this afternoon that made my day. These precious pieces hail from Jingdezhen, a famous pottery town in southeast China that once bore royal kilns, contrary to popular myths that such pieces come from Malacca or Penang. But antique pieces of these are found in Malacca and Penang since a larger number of Peranakan communities exist there.

I am particularly fond of kamchengs (i.e. covered jars). The brightly coloured porcelain pots with auspicious motifs painted in familia rose as well as in hues of yellow and blue, are most commonly found in Peranakan households. They come in various sizes and are used as storage pots (e.g. to keep achar, a type of pickled salad) or to serve food. They most often appear during weddings as they are one of three must-have traditional pieces since colours and motifs on them typically symbolize marital bliss and fidelity.

I wish I had one handed down to me but, alas, I am not Peranakan.

Writing to Vent

I found this while cleaning up the crap known to accumulate in my phone.

I wrote this last year at the peak of my school year stress curve – my first time preparing a class for the National Exams.

The class did very well but, boy, the expectations, pressure and worry prior were quite incredible.

Monday. Dreading

Wednesday. Grinding

Friday. Barely breathing.

Are we coping?

Exams. Coming.

Homework. Overloading.

Marking. Terrifying.

When is it ending?

Pain. Throbbing

Heat. Scorching

Fatigue. Unrelenting

Is it not improving?

Head. Splitting

Skin. Burning

Body. Weakening

Final reckoning.