(Have) courage, dear heart


As some of you may know, I have a penchant for pretty typography and watercolours… but today I do want to talk about courage and what it means to me.

‘Just say yes’ has always been a kind of personal mantra for me. To some extent, it speaks to the shy and timid me of the past who, for some reason or another, sometimes lacked the confidence and courage to really go out and do things, and achieve the goals I wanted to achieve. My experience has been that something so seemingly simple – like reminding yourself to ‘just say yes’ – can be really powerful in helping you get out of your comfort zone. And this can be for anything – meeting new friends, living in a different country, going to a party where you barely know a soul, applying for a job that seems a little out of reach… it’s all about saying ‘yes!’ to new experiences, new ideas, and new people.

I still try to remind myself to ‘just say yes’ every now and again… and to be more open-minded, and be a little more adventurous. However, one thing that I have never really thought about in relation to this little mantra until quite recently is that it’s not only important to ‘just say yes’ to new opportunities that come your way… but it is also equally, if not more important to make opportunities happen – they don’t just appear out of nowhere! Perhaps being a little older (and perhaps a teeny weeny bit wiser?) has really led me to believe that opportunities are rarely presented to us, but rather, are out there for us to pursue – and it is up to us to really change our mindset, let go of whatever it is in our present that we are unhappy, unsatisfied, or uncertain about, and actively seek new opportunities. Seek, and you shall find – right?

So to me, it’s one thing to be receptive to new opportunities, and to say yes to new opportunities when they materialise… but it’s actually another to start to take active steps and create your own opportunities. And creating new opportunities for yourself and actively pursuing something different is both a thrilling and scary experience – it is exhilarating when you are doing something new and something unknown… and all you feel is the utmost sense of freedom and adrenalin (and, depending on what it is – joy, passion, and love too), but it is also something that takes a lot of courage. Courage to cope with foreseen and unforeseen risks, courage to be able to “let go”, and courage to simply have faith that things will work out.

And I am, generally, an optimistic person – I truly do believe that things will work out in life. But the important caveat to this is that while I believe that all things will work out eventually, things may not “work out” in the way they were originally envisioned. Some things are meant to be… and other things are simply not meant to be. And it is hard to grapple with this mentality – this sense of “not knowing”. All we can do is acknowledge our fears, understand where they originate from, and do our very best to address them head-on.

What do you think? What does courage mean to you and what does it entail? 



This blog has been sorely neglected for 10 months. 10 months! I published one post in 2015, and one post in 2014… and it’s been even longer since my last ‘long’ post.  It’s been a sad state of affairs here.

That’s not to say that I haven’t wanted or tried to write though. I have tried many times… but there was always some kind of excuse – I was too busy working, too busy meeting up with friends, too busy travelling, and the list goes on… just too busy to sit down for a few hours to write. And when I did have time, I often felt that I wasn’t in the right mindset… That’s the thing about creative endeavours, no matter how big or small right? It’s far too easy to let them slip from your list of priorities when you have limited time and limited energy to devote to different things.

But I want to make my blog one of priorities again. Obviously it would be too ambitious to set a target number of posts on a weekly or month basis – because hey, quality over quantity, right? – but I do want to write more and invest more time in this little space of mine on the internet. Over the last 18 months, I feel that I have learnt so much about the world, about people, and most of all, about myself… and the various topics I have discussed with others, contemplated in solitude, as well as the philosophical musings that have emerged along this journey called life (HEHE) are things I want to think more about, write more about, and share with you all.

So… until my next post!

2014: A Year in Review

heck yes

SourceDesign Love Fest

Despite the fact that we’re over a quarter of the way through 2015, I still feel that this post is important and relevant. It’s important not only because it represents my ‘return’ to blogging after a long nine months, but also, because I feel that 2014 was a pretty significant year.

I really like doing these ‘Year in Review’ posts. It’s obviously impossible to summarise an entire year’s worth of experiences in one post, but in musing over everything that happened, from highs to lows, you really do walk away with a sense of perspective that otherwise, can be difficult to gain. (Of course, Hollywood would tell you that spending some time with a guru at a spiritual retreat in Asia would give you the same ‘(re)finding yourself’ experience – but I digress.)

At the close of 2013, when I was reflecting over everything that had happened over the past year, there was one quote that really struck out to me.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

2013 was a year that asked questions. There were a number of question marks in my life – there was uncertainty, apprehensiveness, self-doubt, and perhaps a little fear too.

But what about 2014? Many of the questions of 2013 were answered in 2014, some in ways I had never imagined. At the same time though, I came to understand the value of being asked these kind of questions. Your life isn’t and shouldn’t be dictated by the expectations others have towards themselves, or the expectations others have for you. You don’t have to have everything ‘figured out’ before you finish university and step into the ‘real’ world. You don’t need to give an interesting, convincing yet realistic answer to the much dreaded ‘where do you see yourself in five years time’ question.

For me, 2014 was such an exciting and fulfilling year. It was a year where I really challenged myself both mentally and physically, stepped outside of my comfort zone, and wholeheartedly embraced new ideas, experiences and opportunities. I can’t emphasise how important it is to simply say ‘YES!’ sometimes. Say yes to opportunities that will broaden your mind. Say yes to applying for jobs that you (for some reason or another) feel that you’re not good enough for. Say yes to meeting new people. Say yes to coffee/dinner/drinks with people who are different – people who are outside your immediate social circle. Say yes to listening to different perspectives on life and ideas about the world. Say yes to travelling. And say yes even when a little voice in your head is saying ‘maybe’… or asking ‘what if’.

Here’s to the rest of 2015!


Lemony Snicket

Source: Flickr

Sometimes, this quote really resonates with me. We spend so much time telling ourselves that we’ll make a commitment or decision about something important when we’re ‘ready’. But who knows… what separates us from being who or where we want to be could just be a leap of faith…  

Life is like riding a bicycle

Life is like riding a bicycle

Source: Tumblr

Ironically, I don’t know how to ride a bicycle. But you get the gist, right? (Don’t worry, it’s on my bucket list – I hope I have the opportunity to tick it off in the very near future!) 

I can’t believe that we’re already about to wrap up week 3 of uni – which is, if you think about it, almost a quarter of the way through the semester. I can hear the resounding WHAT?! in the room. Yes. Time sure flies by very quickly. #statingtheobvious

This week has been a very busy week for me, and I think it’s only going to get busier from next week onwards. I’ve been spending a lot of my time and energy refining resumes, writing cover letters, researching, and answering application questions for a number of graduate programs. Deadlines are approaching and (as usual), I’ve fallen prey to the wicked temptation of Procrastination. But it’s time to face reality, and right now, the reality is that I have to keep moving forward. Luckily, now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling, it’s definitely starting to feel easier and less stressful. That first step is never easy!

This one is going to be a short one – but I wish all my fellow final year students the best of luck!:)

Mid-week inspiration

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for

Source: Tumblr

I love this quote. And not just because of the pretty typography and watercolour details – though admittedly, that definitely played a role in piquing my attention during one of my Pinterest browsing sessions.

There are so, so many quotes out there. Quotes from writers, poets, celebrities, philanthropists, business people, world leaders… to your average Tumblr teenager. But there are only a handful that seem to speak to you directly. And for me, this is one of them. These are the right words, at the right time…

What are some of your favourite quotes?

We run this town

Sydney Tower

One of my New Year Resolutions for 2014 was to incorporate running into my week. However, the problem was (and always has been) that I’ve never particularly enjoyed running. How can I describe my antipathy towards running? Well, at best, running feels like a pesky chore that admittedly, gives me a sense of accomplishment when I’m finished.  At worst, it feels like some kind of self-imposed hell and, running through my mind on loop is why-am-I-doing-this-what-am-I-doing-I-can’t-breathe-maybe-I-have-asthma-no-my-legs-are-about-to-collapse-beneath-me. Back in Year 7, when my P.E. teacher asked me if I was a ‘runner’, I responded with a look of mild shock. Me, a runner? Are you kidding? Later on in high school, I did go through a running phase though. I went for a run every morning before school. But no, I never found it fun or relaxing. It was a chore. Now, the running I do is mainly on the treadmill at the gym and I spend the time either glued on the display, anticipating the end of my short (but sweet – or at least I tell myself) obligatory run, or praying that no one steps on the treadmill next to me, because we all know that really means. Race time.

So after a few half-hearted attempts at running over the last couple of months, I finally decided to join a friend at the Nike+ Run Club on Monday and attempted the beginner’s 5k.  As we ran through the Royal Botanic Gardens and down Mrs. Macquarie’s Road, passing Lady Macquarie’s Chair, I savoured the fresh sea breeze and the scenic views of the harbour at dusk. Who thought running could be relaxing? The first 3, pushing to 4 kilometres were surprisingly comfortable. I could breathe! My legs weren’t complaining! Maybe I am a runner after all, I thought. But then came the last kilometre. Suddenly, everything felt uncomfortable. I was huffing and puffing as we ran up and down the small slopes along the shore. The soles of my feet were on fire. My whole body was heating up. My legs wanted to fold under. And the fact that the last stretch was down the length of Hyde Park and back along its diagonal made it extra painful. There was no hiding – I was completely exposed here. It started to sprinkle a little. I winced. Getting wet was not part of the plan. Then our run leader told us to sprint the last couple hundred of metres… and so I mustered the little energy I had left, picked up my jelly legs and ran for my life to the finishing point. And I completed my 5k run!  

I limped back to the meeting point with my friend and sister, feeling mighty proud of myself. I did it! This is the longest distance I have ever run before. In my life. And I have to thank my friend for providing moral support and reminding me to keep running, as slow as I need – as long as I don’t stop and walk.

We generally think of running as a solo activity, but it’s quite a different experience when you do it as a group, sans earphones and the playlist of workout-only, trashy tunes. There were close to a hundred of us on the beginner’s run I believe, and even though we did not know each other, a strange sense of camaraderie is formed when you participate in a group run like this.

And while I can’t say that I love running (yet)… I do love the feeling afterwards. Running really does give you a sense of empowerment. Every little challenge you conquer reaffirms the entire mind over body philosophy. That you are capable. You are stronger than you think.

Maybe, one day I will grow to enjoy running – who knows?

Recent Reads: Gone Girl and Dark Places


1. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

Gone Girl begins with the sudden disappearance of Amy Dunne on her fifth wedding anniversary. Her husband Nick becomes a prime suspect when the local detectives and the small community learn of his financial dependence on her and her well-off parents. Moreover, his stoic appearance and calm composure on camera is interpreted as a clear image of guilt. As the story unfolds, the narration alternates between Amy’s diary entries from the day she meets Nick to Nick’s present-day accounts after his wife’s mysterious disappearance. With each chapter, our sympathy and allegiance shifts between Nick and Amy. What is the truth? But it turns out that the truth is never quite so simple, and nor does it bring us any comfort. The characters are dangerous and deranged, and their behaviour is disturbingly narcissistic and sociopathic. Yet, Flynn manages to allow the reader to feel a strange sense of empathy towards them. Beneath their deep flaws, there is something about their behaviour as a couple that evokes a visceral response – there is an element of raw humanness about it.

I think that by setting the story in a small, dying Midwest town, Flynn appears to give another reason for the deep flaws of the characters. The economy is down and jobs have been lost. Everything has been ‘hollowed out: businesses and investment, the natural environment, and even morals. The ‘wasteland’ in which the characters live in is a place devoid of any real purpose or meaning.

Gone Girl was a very interesting read and even though I usually stay away from the mystery/crime/thriller genre (no, not for any particular reason), I found it very enjoyable. Definitely a page-turner and well worth the hype.

2. Dark Places (Gillian Flynn)

Libby Day, the sole survivor of a horrific family massacre during her childhood, has been playing the role of victim throughout her life. She has lived off the donations made by well-wishers over the years, but as her funds are beginning to dry up, Libby reluctantly accepts an invitation from The Kill Club, a hobbyist group who are obsessed with crimes. The members are convinced in the innocence of her elder brother Ben, and encourage her to gain emotional closure. Their fervent belief in Ben’s innocence leads Libby to question her own testimony – one that provided the damning evidence that sent Ben to prison. Slowly, with the support of the Club, Libby reconnects with people from the past to recreate the events of the night that would change her life forever.

Like Gone Girl, Dark Places relies on different voices, alternating between present-day Libby and the events of 1985 from the main characters. I think that this is probably Flynn’s strongest writing talent – the ability to weave multiple narratives and perspectives together to create multi-faceted characters and a sense of ongoing suspense. Also, in dealing deftly with complex themes such as class, poverty and grief in her writing, Flynn paints an incredibly sympathetic picture of a single-parent family struggling to get by.

Having read Gone Girl first, I must admit that it took me a while to get into Dark Places. I just couldn’t connect with the characters or the setting. Maybe because (if I recall correctly), the fourth wall isn’t broken in Dark Places. However, now that I have finished the two, I think that Dark Places is a little bit better. The social commentary that runs throughout the story and the ending (oh, such a surprise, but so touching) really did it for me.


Looking forward to the 2014 film adaptations for Gone Girl and Dark Places now!:)

Good bye, summer break


Source: Pinterest

I feel that this post, published at the start of the summer break, was written just yesterday. How did three months fly by so quickly? There are days when I realise I’ve forgotten to cross off any dates on my calendar for a week. 2014 has its foot firmly on the accelerator, and is zooming by, leaving me shrouded on the roadside in dust and smoke. And now that uni is starting in less than two weeks, I can’t help but focus on what I’ve achieved, or rather, failed to achieve over the break.

Maybe I wasn’t as productive or as innovative as I could be with my time. But does that make me a ‘loser’? Sometimes, it does feel that way. Partly because it’s far too easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves with other people. And even when we are completely aware that we are trying to live up to someone else’s expectations, live someone else’s life – rather than our own – nothing really changes. Because we have a tendency to focus on the bigger, ‘glitzier’ experiences. When someone asks us What did you get up to?, we automatically devalue and brush aside the day-to-day and more mundane life experiences. Instead, a little part of us wishes we could talk about something like travelling across three different continents, completing a much-coveted internship, or something bold like volunteering in a developing country. 

I am, by no means, trying to promote or condone a particular lifestyle or set of ambitions and goals. I simply think that a lot of the time, we have become so removed from the actual experiences themselves. Rather than focusing on the various opportunities for personal development and the valuable life lessons that entail these experiences, the emphasis is often wrongly placed on the presentation and packaging of these experiences. I talked about this in my earlier post on social media. We spend so much time thinking about how we can frame these experiences in a particular way and in a particular aesthetic. The direct corollary to this is that we have a broad platform for comparison. It’s no longer through the spread of gossip via a third party, like the way Mrs. Bates waxes lyrical about the virtues of Jane Fairfax in Emma (couldn’t help but include an Austen reference!) – it is direct and immediate, whether it be in the form of a Facebook check-in, an Instagram picture, or perhaps even a LinkedIn update. We have become more sensitive towards the way we are perceived by our peers. Alain de Botton terms this ‘status anxiety’ – giving shape and form to that often far-too-familiar feeling of personal inadequacy when we find ourselves envying (or questioning) the success achieved by someone. And not just anyone, but most importantly, someone who could just be us. Our peers. 

Comparison is the thief of joy

Source: Pinterest

This quote really succinctly describes how I feel at times. The more we compare ourselves to others, the more miserable we are likely to feel. We gradually lose our sense of self-worth because we become so obsessed with the value we believe others confer on us. But we can choose to lead our own lives. We can choose to be happy.:)

P.S. I’m not sure why my recent posts seem to be going down the ‘self-help’ direction. More variety in the weeks to come, I promise!

The Innovation of Loneliness

The title alone is interesting. When we think of innovation, we tend to think of progress – progress in science, medicine and technology. It’s a word with positive connotations. But loneliness? It’s a word hardly associated with anything positive. And how can loneliness innovate?

The video provides an interesting sociological analysis of social media, and attempts to answer a rather troubling question: What is the connection between social media and being lonely?

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic because it’s something I have some strong opinions about, and I guess when I came across this video last week (well after its viral phase in 2013), I felt sufficiently inspired to write a post on it.

Social media has become such a big part of our lives, and the strange thing for many 20-somethings is that we can lucidly remember a time without social media. A time where we didn’t need to make life announcements on Facebook, mundane comments and rants on Twitter, and pictures of our lunch on Instagram.

Social (Me?)dia 

So let me go into my own experiences with social media. For me, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram form the big 3 of social media.

Facebook is something I use daily, but compared to the other two, I am more of a passive user. I don’t think I’ve posted a Facebook status for probably two years, and I generally scroll down my News Feed to find out what everyone is up to. I rarely post anything on my friends’ walls, and I don’t upload any photos onto Facebook. I do wish my friends ‘Happy Birthday’, and I use Facebook Messaging a fair bit, though mainly because some friends don’t want to pick up their phone to text me. Jokes. It’s pretty good for sharing links and files. The MSN of 2014.

On the other hand, Twitter is pretty much where a lot of my verbal diarrhoea goes. And for me, that’s always been a key attraction. I remember explaining to a few friends what Twitter was back in 2010(?): ‘It’s a place for you to write Facebook statuses but without the ‘popularity’ factor –  you can be perfectly content not being retweeted/liked/replied’. I also use it to read articles on current affairs/news/opinion.

As for Instagram, it’s something I do check quite frequently. I post regularly (but not really frequently) pictures of food, coffee, scenery and life experiences/events that make the cut. Everything about Instagram is filtered. And not just our addiction to filters that promise to bring out our inner photographer. It’s a ‘filtered’ representation of our life; a facade that we present to our friends (and the world). And I openly admit this – Instagram can be a source of self-validation. I post to share snippets of my life and also, to get likes. (Does anyone else admit this?) It feels good! But to ‘earn’ (and I use this word very loosely) these likes, I am acutely aware that I often frame and package my experiences in a certain aesthetic, one that others (first and foremost) as well as myself find appealing. What’s worse, is that sometimes you can’t help but think that some experiences may be pursued for the sake of sharing. Will I enjoy my lunch at a cafe which has been the talk-of-the-month any less if I don’t post a picture of my lunch and the shabby chic (and sometimes, just shabby – admit it) decor? Probably not. But there’s something admittedly exciting about sharing that with your friends, letting everyone know that you are hip enough (and yes, by using that word, I’ve proven that I’m anything but that) to eat a cafe where you can’t actually pronounce the dish you are ordering (no, it’s not quinoa – I can pronounce that) and you’re not even sure whether the unknown ingredient is a vegetable, type of French cheese, or a spice. #thestruggleisreal

The video 

Well, let’s get back to the video. One of the key points raised is that social media has resulted in us sacrificing real conversation for an instant connection, and choosing quantity over quality when it comes to relationships with others. And this is in part due to the nature of social media – it facilitates instant ‘connections’ after two clicks, rather than meaningful relationships that are built over time. Another point is that social media provides a platform for us to present the best version of ourselves. We can labour over the correct working of a text or email (something we can’t do quite as well in real-time face-to-face conversation). We can deliberate over which photo is the most flattering and perhaps, the least self-conceited (you know, the selfie that doesn’t look like a selfie). And most importantly, social media promises us that we’ll never be alone. We’re prompted to share what’s on our mind and to upload our photos for our friends to see. We’re given a voice. Our philosophy becomes: “I share, therefore I am.” 

My thoughts 

I do agree with the general premise of the video. We are forever building our profiles, choosing on the most desirable facade of ourselves to present to others. And yes, we as human beings do have an innate need to be ‘heard’. Social media certainly recognises this vulnerability. Personally, I do have a tendency to overshare on Twitter. And sometimes I do want my Instagram feed to follow a certain aesthetic. But does social media make us somewhat less ‘real’? I disagree. We don’t live exclusively online. We may already have slightly different ‘personas’, depending on whether we are out with friends, or at work. Perhaps our online profile is simply another ‘persona’. At the end of the day, to the people who do matter to us, we are who we are. I don’t think social media is capable of changing that.

And as for the other question on loneliness, I’m not sure using social media will fast track us to Eric Carmen’s ‘All By Myself’. Social media definitely has its value in enabling us to keep in touch and stay connected with friends and family in real life. It doesn’t prevent us from forming meaningful relationships with others. The onus will always be on us, not social media, to take the initiative to build a relationship with another.

I do have some pet peeves about social media though. Sometimes, instead of simply asking someone how they are, we make reference to what they’ve shared online. Oh, I read your tweet the other day! I saw your Instagram post! Your snapchat last night was hilarious! Social media becomes a crucial dialogue filler. We expect others to be up-to-date with the details we share online.

Another one is when we start to compare ourselves to other people. We claim that we are ‘depressed’ when we see friends (in the Facebook definition of the word) checking in at airports around the world and Instagram posts of holidays in Europe. But are we really ‘depressed’? I think it’s envy. But we’re unwilling to admit it. The problem is that we don’t realise, or are unwilling to acknowledge that each and every one of us strives to present our lives in the best way possible online. That idyllic picture in Santorini may only a snapshot of their life. It’s by no means, a true portrayal of who and what they are. It’s a picture. That may have only become a thousand word fairytale through your ever-so jealousy-driven and far-too-vivid imagination.

I think we just need to take everything we see on social media with a grain of salt. We often choose to present the best version of ourselves online. Well, so do others.:)