Monday, November 18, 2013

The 300th Blog Post: Between Passion and Profession.

So Blogpost is telling me that I am now writing my 300th blogpost since migrating from my previous blog.

To all of you who have read, liked, commented or felt anything I have written quietly resonate with you, thank you so much for reading.

It bends my mind and broadens my heart that anyone would continue reading beyond one blog post, but I am told I apparently have 'faithful readers', so thank you from the bottom of my ever widening heart.

That Defining Moment 

I remember I had just received my not-so-glorious A Level results and I was walking around my college in Singapore thanking all my teachers for their contribution in my life over the past eighteen months.

One of my favourite teachers was Mr L, my maths teacher. Not only did he excel as a tutor, what we really appreciated was that he always treated us all like adults despite our adolescence. He was firm but friendly, with an ever ready smile docked under the round glasses framing his pale moon face.

'So, what do you want to do when you grow up?' he probed. He always gave you the kind of non-judgmental look which made you want to tell him everything.

'I want to write,' came an instinctive, almost defiant response from somewhere deep inside me.

'Oh, okay...' he grinned, not unkindly.

'...and how are you going to put food on the table?'

There was no malice at all in his question, and I laughed out loud with a shrug.

'With much difficulty I guess!'

'Well, you know, writing doesn't have to be your main thing, you know. You can always write on the side. Many great writers have held different day jobs while writing in their spare time - they were mathematicians, teachers, government servants...'

Fifteen years later, and his words still remain with me, and I wish I could go back to thank him for opening my mind up to the possibility of earning a keep and pursuing my passion, and I'd like to believe I'm lucky enough to have struck a happy balance between the two.

Are Your Dreams Enough?

Oh damn you, Disney.

Growing up, we have always been confused by these two messages - our Asian parents convinced us that the only path to true happiness lies in the security of being an engineer, accountant, lawyer or doctor - and the other voice, the ones in Hollywood movies and Disney films - to Dream the Impossible Dream, that real happiness lay Somewhere Over The Rainbow, that we just needed to Follow The Yellow Brick Road, and that You Are Truly Special (Just Like Everyone Else).

We grew up believing we could be anything - kick-ass reporters, world class fashion designers, rock stars,
bestselling authors, Academy Award winners, sexy homemakers, performing dancers and award-winning photojournalists.

If only we believed hard enough.

Forget the requisite hard work - the months and years people spend perfecting their craft, making the right connections, patiently working their way up into opportunities for success and making their own luck, because you know, hard work is for losers.

And really, whose life ambition is it to be a stuffed-shirt accountant, a university lecturer, a middle manager, a boring engineer, a sordid lawyer, a mind-numbing waiter or a real estate agent anyway?

And then we grow up, and we realise that all is not so rosy.

Suddenly we find ourselves in the very real position that we are highly unemployable, that the world runs on money and connections and is carried on the back of ordinary 'uninspiring' jobs; that passion itself is not enough to pay the bills, repay mortgages or put food on the table.

Suddenly the Rainbows are revealed to be illusions, the Yellow Brick Road terminates in a Yellow Dead End, and we realise that we aren't actually all that special. In fact, we are Decidedly Average.

This life pivots around one truth for a majority of us - most of the time, the things that make us come alive, no one wants to pay money for.

Some of us are lucky enough to have the perfect intersection of our passion and our profession. We do what we love and we are paid well for it. We remain interested and motivated because of our natural inclinations towards the subject and people view it as valuable and will pay money for it.

But what about those of us who are passionate about things that people do not place a monetary value on? Who is going to pay us to pursue what is perceived to be a hobby, a dalliance. Herein lies the problem of the struggling artist, the starving musician, the unsustainable charities, that guy with all the latest gear who does not a professional photographer make.

Sure, there are a select few of us who get it - those who are able to marry our passions with our professions. We try and see if our passion is truly marketable and sustainable, and we pursue it for as long as it is. We get that discipline and determination are more important than raw talent and inspiration. We get that relationships matter, we slowly build our following and our brand, we recognise that luck is opportunity disguised as hard work.

And even then, there are times when even that is not enough. We encounter many false starts and heartbreak along the way. We realise we are lost in an ocean of people who are more talented, better looking and far more competitive than us. Our clients are demanding and draining, our industry contacts fail us.

The way I see it, we can do one of three things:

1) Deaden Our Hearts. We give up on our dreams, we let life and its practicalities swallow us, we harden our hearts. We go to a job that provides a valuable service to the world, and come home drained from the politics of work, the mind-numbing routine, the endless meetings, the difficult customers. We escape momentarily in weekend getaways, the next fancy electronic gadget, the emotional eating.

We will live vicariously through our children and one day die in comfort, perhaps with regret.

2) Live Our Passion. We do the things that make us come alive.  We work hard and get good at it, we get out there and build a network of the people who share the same passion as us, we find our unique selling point and we try our hardest to make it sustainable. We devote all our time and energy to it, losing sleep, friends and our sense of security along the way. And with any (self-made) luck, we will make it one day.

3) Balance The Two. This was the revelation from my Maths teacher. Although not always possible, this may be the best intermediate solution for some of us.

I think about the example of the apostle Paul from the Bible, who while travelling around the region to spread the Good News, never took it upon himself to expect the kindness of others but earned a living making tents.

We can work at a day job and bring home an income that will sustain what we really want to do. This way, we balance both the practicalities of earning a keep while pursuing what we are truly passionate about - we find enough hours left in the day or the weekends to sing, dance, shoot, write, perform, create and help others.

This is where I find myself most fortunate - to be able to bring home a wage in my daily work (which I secretly love) and still be able to write for an audience of family and friends (which I openly love).

So thank you once again for reading, and for sharing my experiences, thought processes and my stories. May you find what you truly love and what you were put here for, and may you make a way of keeping it sustainable enough to make a difference in this world.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Art of Procrastination Again

One of the reasons for my writing silence of late is that I am trying to psych myself up to prepare for my fellowship exams come next August. In all that time of psyching myself up, I have:

1) Bought the required books, which are serving as very useful paperweights at the moment
2) Colour coordinated my wardrobe according to the rainbow (including underwear and socks)
3) Rearranged all the files and folders on my laptop in alphabetical order
4) Baked up a storm (oh wait, that's Karen)
5) Decided to write this blog instead

Now August might seem like months away, but these are major exams and they require consistent hard work and discipline, both of which I haven't really trained myself for growing up.

I used to be that annoying kid in primary school and high school who would do well academically by cramming for exams a few days before. Yes I would complete my homework daily, but school was so filled with extra-curricular activities and distractions that I barely got any studying done.

All the requisite studying would be saved for the few days before the exams, where the midnight oil was so consumed I had to source for an alternative fuel. Couple that with the fervent prayer that can only precede public school exams (and stapling fifty dollar notes to exam papers *winkwinknudgenudge*), somehow I managed to do well enough both in primary and high school.

Those who know me know that I do not say this boastfully, but rather to reflect on where my habits today have come from.

My ease of passage through primary school and high school soon unraveled when I went to do my college years in Singapore. Suddenly the bright hope of Methodist Boys' School KL became evidently quite dim and mediocre amongst the ocean of academic talent and sheer hard work that is Singapore.

It was a remarkably humbling time for me and one would have thought that it would have spurred me on to a life of discipline and concentration.

Instead, some habits die hard, and once again, I find myself procrastinating whenever I have to prepare for an exam.

I sometimes look at Karen with envy when she studies. She has the ability to sit down at a table for hours and focus on the subject at hand intently. Yes, she can break for the occasional bout of silly madness which I impose on her, but then it's straight back to the task at hand.

On the other hand, I am as distractable as a puppy with ADHD that has just been let loose into an open field and I don't know which butterfly to chase first. Everything else will take priority - the garden is suddenly trimmed, the laundry done, the wardrobe rearranged, the dishes washed, the house cleaned, and then I can sit at the table to start studying.

And then I open the laptop.

Suddenly I have all these e-mails to reply and spam to clear, and an entire cyberspace filled with soccer news, funny pictures of cute animals to be ogled at, random videos to be watched, motivational articles to be read (ie. 10 Steps to Quit Procrastinating Now), Facebook status updates to be liked and commented on, and it needs to be all done first.

The best motivation I have going for me at the moment is that what I am studying for is extremely relevant to my line of work, and that has kept me going. Passing the exams is less of an incentive to me than becoming a better doctor.

Perhaps that is the true cure for procrastination - having the right motivation.

All right, I am going to take my own advice now and head back to my books.

After some relaxing Youtube videos first, of course.

The Art of Procrastination

On second thoughts, I'll write this tomorrow.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Down Under Where?

I hate packing for trips. I hate that you have to go through a mental checklist of things that you should bring, and inevitably, you will always forget something important - your shaver, hair products, your phone charger, socks, your Hello Kitty bolster. (What? Don't judge me.)

One of the worst packing experiences I have ever had was when I was going for a church camp in my first few years here in Melbourne. I had gone through my mental checklist methodically - 'Towels, underwear, toiletries, shirts for wearing out, shirts for sleeping in...' and packed my suitcase initially, but just realised that it wasn't big enough so I transported everything over to a bigger knapsack.

We took a bus to the campsite about two hours away from civilisation, and laughed and joked along the way. Soon, we poured out of the bus and dropped our luggages off at our respective cabins and got changed for the first event of the day - icebreakers and games. We had a great time, and I was in my element - getting everyone laughing, taunting the opposition, playing the fool.

I had worked up quite a sweat and felt really good about being there as I returned to my cabin with my other bunkmates to shower and change before dinner. I sat astride my backpack, mocking my friends good-naturedly as I rummaged around and pulled out my toiletries, my towel, my shirt, my trackpants, my underwear....*grunt*... my underw....

It was then I broke out in a cold sweat. I went through my knapsack with the fervency of a United States customs officer, frisking it up and down, looking in every pouch and orifice possible before the truth hit me squarely in the groin.

I had forgotten to transfer my underwear from the small suitcase to the bigger knapsack.

Now how shall I put into words how I feel?

It was a mixture of when Frodo witnessed Gandalf falling to his death, when Luke found out who his father was, when Manchester United fans found out Sir Alex Ferguson was retiring, when you've poured out that bowl of cereal, and then open the fridge to find that there is no milk.

No. Milk.

If I could have sunk to my knees and cried out a dramatic protracted 'NOOOOOOO!' I would have. Or maybe I did, because my bunkmates had to lift me up again, slap me a few times and ask me what was wrong before I sheepishly replied 'Urm, nothing. Nothing what. Everything's okay.'

And so I went to the shower, my shuffling feet betraying my ruminating mind. This church camp had suddenly turned into the Worst. Camp. Ever.

I was going through the motions of showering myself and looking up at my solitary (slightly used) underwear hanging woefully up on the shower door next to my towel when I tried to come up with a plan of how to maximise my single underwear use.

Now, I have four days of the camp to last, so if I wore it normally on the first day, back-to-front on the second day, inside out on the third day, inside out and back-to-front on the fourth day, I should just be able to manage, I thought to myself, as I pulled my towel down to dry myself....

And that's when my only underwear dropped to the wet shower floor.

*sinks to his knees* NOOOOOOOO!

Now, it was the really the Worst. Camp. Ever.

I almost dived into the shower floor tiles trying to rescue my precious briefs (or in this case, brief). I picked it up as quickly as I could, but not quick enough, apparently - a wet patch had developed around half the underwear. At this point, I despaired even for life itself and wondered how long I could stay hidden in the showers before someone noticed I was missing.

I dried my underwear as best as I could by swinging it around for a few minutes and I *eew* slowly *yuck* put *urrgh* it *oh, man* back *gross* on.

Urrgh, I still shudder at the thought of wet underwear against my skin.

Anyway, I noisily squelched my way back to my cabin, and into the arms of my understanding bunkmates, who I confided to with the earnestness of a inconsolable child who had just lost his puppy.

They looked at me with great kindness in their eyes - and proceeded to laugh their asses off at me while rubbing their own stock of clean underwear mockingly against their faces (Ooh, can you feel that Heng Khuen? Feels so... clean. And dry.)

Okay, so they weren't that bad, but they certainly did laugh really hard at me before offering to help me out with my predicament.

My pastor was informed, and he rang some guys who were driving up to the camp later that night to bring in some disposable underwears.

After having laughed until he held his sides for a good five minutes, of course.

And so salvation came in the form of some Made in China disposable underwears that night from my friends (amidst a bit more chuckling and ribbing) and I could finally heave a sigh of relief and enjoy the church camp properly once more.

In case you needed a visual aid
to go with this story.
It goes without saying that I am
far better looking, of course.

The disposable underwears were like, how shall we say, really sheer. It was made of a gossamer thin paper material with two holes in it to put your feet through. It was like wearing a shower cap around your ass instead of on your head. I was worried every time that I ran in it, that I would somehow spark off a fire in my pants from my thighs rubbing against this potentially flammable material.

But I was grateful, nonetheless. At least I didn't have to survive on one semi-wet underwear for the whole camp.

Or no underwear for that matter.

Now that would have made me really popular and potentially made it the Best. Church. Camp. Ever.


Did I mention I hate packing?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Where Is Your Accent From Again?

When we were still in primary school, we had a slightly eccentric schoolmate return from a holiday to Australia. Somehow in that one week where he was away, he caught something while he was overseas which he brought back home to Malaysia - the Australian accent.

He would walk past us, smile brightly, and greet us with his slight lisp - G'day!. None of us, having ever been to Singapore, much less Australia stared at him weirdly and walked quickly away, before he finally explained to us that it was a customary greeting there, replacing our well known Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening greetings.

We did what all caring, considerate, thoughtful twelve-year-olds would do - we teased him no end. From that day forth, he was Sir G'day to us.

'Oi, G'day lei le! Fai tit chao ah!' (G'day's walking this way! Let's run away!) or 'G'day, G'day, hei sei le lei!' (G'day, G'day. Go and die lah you!)

It was almost this tribal cry of twelve-year-olds who could no longer identify the scent of one of their own - he looked like one of us but no longer sounded like one of us, and we quickly distanced him from the pack.

Not until he came off his high Westernised horse and joined us again in the Malaysian-English world of lahs, where gots, dowans and How I knows would we be his friend once more.


I absolutely love this video from dmingthing, a popular Malaysian Youtuber who, together with the team from Wah Banana in Singapore, collaborated to show us that this is a problem common to both our countries. This video eloquently captures with wit what I am trying to explain here better than my words will ever do. 


How many Tiffanys do we know? How many people who are seemingly ashamed of our own localised versions of English (Manglish or Malaysian English or Singlish, Singaporean English) have resorted to coming up with some indistinguishable version of Westernised English (American, British or Australian) just to sound more sophisticated and impress others?

There are some who handle it quite well, and perhaps have spent a significant amount of time overseas in a Western country (ie. longer than four days) and then I have met some who have never really been overseas, whose accents are so put on and jarring, and would even dissociate themselves from being Singaporean or Malaysian completely. These people make me sad, and wonder what traumatic experience would have happened to make them want to so badly be identified with a whole different country altogether.

This phenomenon is unique, as far as I know, to Malaysians and Singaporeans but I am certain that it is true of any country that has been previously colonised before.

My friend refers to this phenomenon as the Pinkerton syndrome - a reference to Lieutenant Pinkerton in Puccini's Madame Butterfly where it describes the tendency of some Asians to consider the Caucasians to be superior in every aspect, and to be biased towards them and to despise our own.

Blame it on our post-colonial masters heritage, or blame it on all the American cartoons and sitcoms that stream through our television and Hollywood dominating our silver screens - there was a distinct group among us who thought the world of the white person, and wanted to join that group, sometimes to the exclusion of our own local friends.

We were affectionately (or derogatorily) known as bananas (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) or Oreos (the Indian version) while the Singaporean version - 'ciak kantang one' [Hokkien for 'one who eats potatoes' because obviously all Westerners are Irish. :)].

Interestingly enough, this phenomenon is quite rare among my Malay friends, as far as I know. Their sense of community and identity is so strong, and their ties to their religion so deep-rooted that there are fewer of them who I know belong to this group, although times are changing that as well.

You could tell these people by a few features:

1. Speaks English only, or mainly English
2. Speaks little to completely decimated Cantonese, Mandarin or Tamil and are in no rush to rectify that
3. Grew up listening to English radio stations mainly, secretly loves boybands
4. Devoured Enid Blyton books and all other form of English literature growing up
5. Were more likely to be Christian or Catholic (the 'Western' religions)
6. Tended to have friends who did 1-5.

Oops, guilty on all six counts as charged.

I speak in some kind of indistinguishable accent of English myself, but I believe I am a product of my upbringing. My family spoke mainly English at home, I went to a school that used to be run by religious brothers, listened to Radio 4, the only English radio station in my time, watched He-Man and Friends on TV, went to church, and read all of The Secret Seven, The Famous Five and The Magic Faraway Tree. And I secretly loved boybands. (Okay, love, not loved.)

It's not like I thought the world of the Western society necessarily - it's just what I was exposed to. I know I am Malaysian through and through still - I love food so much I want to marry it, eat at hawker centres and mamak stalls, I am easygoing and friendly, I turn up late to almost everything, everyone older than me is my 'uncle' or 'auntie' and all my Indian friends are my 'macha's and I support an English Premier League soccer team.

Having been in Australia for nearly a decade now (has it been that long already?) I find that I still gravitate towards Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian friends as we share somewhat similar values and culture. (We all take Instagram pictures of our food).

Being away from home has made us even more acutely aware of what we really miss from home and we seek solace in familiar faces all these miles away from our tanahair (motherland).

What I do find myself and friends like me doing is what Karen describes as code-switching - our grammar and accents change depending on whether we are at work with a mostly Australian group or at a Malaysian restaurant with our friends. I think we do this chameleon-like transition not necessarily to be accepted but because we care for who we talk to and want to communicate as effectively as possible.

As the world becomes more and more globalised, I wonder what our children's futures would look like one day, and who would they truly identify with, and whether we can really pick from their accents where they come from.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Boy Bands, I Hate You.

Wow - kids nowadays! What's up with all this One Direction madness! I can't look anywhere without seeing some kind of product tie-in with 1D! And what kind of lame-ass music are they churning out anyway? Why, back in my day...

.... erm, well, erm... back in my day... we had... erm...

New Kids on the Block
Take That
Backstreet Boys

... okay, screaming girls (and some screaming boys). Here you go. Enjoy your One Direction. I'll be sitting here sulking in the Corner of Hypocrisy.

God must have spent a little more time on  you,
I mean them.
Ah yes, boy bands. Oh, how I used to hate them.

I hated their schmaltzy love songs, I hated their perfect hair, hated their million-dollar smiles, despised their clear skin and well-trimmed beards.

I hated the fact that they were rich, hated that they were popular, and hated that girls tripped over themselves trying to get to them. I hated that there was the Cute One, the Shy One, the Silent One, the Bad Boy and the Only One With the Actual Singing Talent.

But most of all, I loathed the way that girls my age were talking about them. 'Oh, I'm in love with Robbie, he's such a bad boy!' or 'Nick's floppy hair, oh my God!' or 'I'm going to marry Justin!' or 'I want to pour Ronan's voice all over my body' (okay, maybe not this last one).

Love me for a reason, let the reason be...
my immensely good looks and stylish clothes
And then we would take a look at our woeful teenage selves - the scrawny average Malaysian male student with the

acne-ravaged face from too much spicy food and too little facial wash

centre-parting hair

wearing the short-sleeved used-to-be-white school shirt and

the baggy olive green pants that looked like we had been prancing around in mud

waving our stick thin muscle-less arms used only for computer gaming and shoving food into our mouths

singing with our puberty-afflicted voices which always broke, making us sound like donkeys in heat

splurging the daily RM 1.50 we got for our allowance, which just got us above the poverty line.
Oh hai baybeh. 
We weren't anyone's fire, or the one desire, if you know what I'm saying. It ain't no lie, the girls our age were looking at us and going Bye, Bye, Bye. (Hands up, 80s kids!)

We were more Friendzone than Boyzone.

Weren't they supposed to be singing songs that made us fall in love with each other instead of in love with them? Damn it! How were we ever supposed to live up to that kind of perfection? Talk about girls being pressured to look a certain way, it's not like we boys had it easy either!

So here you go, new generation, here's a new batch of pretty boys for you to idolise and scream your lungs out to, and to throw your undergarments at - and leave you shaking your head at the substandard quality of men around you.

Don't bother going out with that boy who's got his eye on you all of last year - he's no Zayn Malik! And why date that dorky loser who sits next to you in class when you could be saving yourself for Liam, Harry, Niall or Louis?

But seriously, enjoy it while you can - every generation is entitled to their version of The Beatles (go ask your grandparents who they are) and one day, you will fall madly in love with that boy who waited patiently in the corner for you to sit out your imaginary crushes, and he will be far from perfect, but then again neither are you (and that's okay).

And if you're really lucky, you will be perfect for each other. Pock marks and braces and all. (...and that's what makes you beautiful, oh oh oh).

I am sure the Backstreet Boys would have wanted it that way.

Here's one for all the screaming fangirls who 
were in their teenage years in the 90s.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Between Stinginess and Sacrifice

A friend used to love telling this story of his schoolmate, who was the ultimate Scrooge - this particular friend was from a rich family, and yet lived like a pauper. He would go out to the movies with you and ask if you could pay for his ticket first, showing you his empty wallet (See? I never bluff you!) as proof, although you could be sure you would never see your money again.

My favourite story of his stinginess was the time when the both of them went out for lunch at a local kopitiam.

My friend had ordered his favourite chicken rice and taken a seat at the table when he saw his Scrooge friend (let's call him KS for now) arguing with the chicken rice stall owner. The owner was shaking his head and throwing his hands up in disbelief, and KS walked to join my friend at the round plastic table.

"Eh, why the uncle angry at you lah?" asked my curious friend.

"I don't want to tell you, afterwards you call me stingy," said KS defensively.

"Eh, no lah," he coaxed. "Tell me lah, I won't call you stingy. I promise."

After much reluctance and gentle insistence KS finally relented and said "I asked the uncle if I have the parts of the chicken that nobody wants - the neck ah, the butt ah - to go with my rice, can cheaper ah?!"

To which my friend burst out laughing and exclaimed, "Wah, KS, stingy lah you!"

"Oi, you promised!"


Hands up if the above picture is familiar to your household.  I know some family who have arguments over this. They feel it is wasteful if you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle - one should always start from the bottom, and milk whatever is in the bottom to the top, folding the bottom upwards once all possible available toothpaste has been massaged out from that section. Otherwise, you're being irresponsible, both financially, and towards the Earth.

It makes sense, I guess. Now if only you wouldn't be so smug and self-righteous about it, Captain Planet.

My new favourite trick is the one that Karen learnt from her Mum. All the ladies (and some well-groomed men *erhem* Not me. *cough* Really. *awkward whistle*) know how expensive facial cleansing products can be. But did you know that once you have squeezed the tube to within an inch of its life (you know, when it gives out the last blob of facial cleansing goodness and then lets out a dying gasp, deflating the tube?), and you thought that it had been a good and faithful servant and had nothing left to give?

Well, apparently, you can flog a dead horse.

If you cut that tube in half, you will find at least another week's worth of product within the tube which you can scoop out with your fingers, and then feel the double thrill of not only having a clean refreshed face but also the satisfaction of having gotten your money's worth out of this overpriced tube. Take that, beauty product company!


There is a fine line between stinginess and sensibility.

Growing up, I know that my world view with regards to money was one modeled after my parents - be stingy with yourself, and be generous to others (in this case, us children).

Mum and Dad would hardly see the value in buying new clothes for themselves, that new car would have to wait, they'd never been on a holiday in years.

Having come from fairly humble beginnings, they brought into their new middle-class existence what I will call the 'scarcity mentality', not so much with negative connotations, but with survivalist instincts.

We were never spoiled as children, but we were never wanting. Two things were valuable and you could throw money at - food (I was the poster boy for childhood obesity) and education (school and books, some of which I ate).

Everything else - clothes, accessories, new furniture, toys, movies, fast food restaurant trips - were rare luxuries.

Our parents always had one eye on our future.

All three of us have reaped the benefits of their foresight and future planning. I would like to believe that we would do the same for our own children one day as well.

Here's the question though - at what point are we being sensible, or just being miserly?'

I mean, I carry the traits of my upbringing with me - money splashed on food would be done without raising an eyebrow, and yet, before I met Karen, I was driving a beat-up but serviceable 15 year old Honda Civic, wearing my shoes until they literally fell apart, and my work shirts were so old a friend at work had to tell me to go buy a new one.

Everyone and their grandmother had smartphones while I was still tinkering with my monochromatic Nokia 8510. Somehow I tended to wear this self-sacrifice as a badge of honour, often unnecessarily, and I see it in some of my friends too.

You could have all the money in the world, and still live like a pauper, if you know what I mean.

Karen has shown me that we could live well - within our means, of course - and I think my life has been richer because of that. We have strived to make our home a welcome refuge for friends and family, we have taken mind-broadening vacations together, we invest in things that enrich our lives and fill us.

I think my new paradigm is this - 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself'. I believe that this commandment is two-fold - Love your neighbours - be kind to them, be generous, offer forgiveness and love - as you love yourself - be kind to yourself, forgive yourself and be generous to yourself too.

I believe that we only give cheerfully out of fullness. It doesn't necessarily mean that we have to be rich, but it does mean that we give out of a place of happiness and contentment. No one should have to give out of a place of emptiness and reluctance, of obligation.  That really has to start by us being generous with ourselves.

So, taking my own advice, we are now living in a mansion with attached helipad, bathe in champagne-filled bathtubs, and have two yachts to ship friends to our private island.

Hahaha, just kidding! Only one of the yachts is functioning, the other one is in the dockyard having repairs at the moment.

No, the flipside of being too generous to yourself is of course, selfishness and extravagance. Being self-centered without the capacity for consideration for people around you just makes you an asshole. Vulgar, but accurate.

I think Ashton Kutcher said it best in his recent Teen Choice Award's acceptance speech - "The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart, and being thoughtful and being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you."

So yeah, be smart, be thoughtful, and be generous - both to yourself and others - and give from a healthy place.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

So, How Many Kids Do You Want?

Oh, the interrogation never ends!

First, when you're single, it's - 'Eh, when you gonna get a girlfriend lah?'

And then when you're finally with someone - 'Eh, so when you going to get married lah?' (aka 'When your turn ah?' at all the weddings you've ever attended)

And then when you're married, it's - 'Eh, so when are you going to have children lah? First one coming yet or not?'

And then when the first one arrives - 'Eh, when the second one coming lah? The first one needs someone to play with, you know!'

And then when you've had your seventh one - 'Eh, horny bugger, you need a vasectomy is it? I know someone!'



One of the wonderful conversations you get embroiled in as a couple is the question 'So, how many kids do you want?'

Even as primary schoolchildren, there was this meme spreading around school which made complete sense to our seven-year-old minds - if you clenched both your fists, and counted the bits of flesh sticking out of the side of your palm, the ones on your right hand would represent the number of sons you'd have while the ones on your left hand would represent the number of daughters.

In my case, a girl, and one and a half boys

It is as if you could control that aspect of things - as if, if you'd only wish hard enough and put a number down, that's exactly what you're going to get.

The reality is so much more different than that - falling pregnant in this day and age isn't as easy as the movies portray it to be (ie. first sexual encounter = pregnant), and we all know what happens on the other side of the spectrum (ie. he was our happy unexpected little 'accident').

People want a certain number of kids for a variety of reasons - some want two or three because they were the only child in their family, and always thought how nice it would be to have a brother or a sister.

Some people want only one or two for practical financial reasons - kids cost money. Some want three, because that will fit into the back seat of a sedan nicely. Other couples want, and I quote - 'as many as she can produce' - *cue look of horror on poor wifey's face* because they came from large loving families themselves and wanted the same experience for their yet-to-be-born children.

I had a good think today about this question today, and my view is this - the number of children I have will be a reflection of my faith in humanity, my faith in the future of this world and my faith that we are leaving them a worthwhile inheritance and not a mess to clean up.

Currently, that number stands at twelve. *cue look of horror on Karen's face* .
                                                 let's get a pet goldfish instead.