133: Help

I was thinking of the videos I’ve seen in hoping people open their eyes bigger and take note of the things around us. One video that went viral had this guy carrying a sign saying “fuck the poor” and people are filmed dissing him. Yet, when the sign is per usual “help the poor”, nobody really bothers. Then, as usual, an idea came to me. 

Many times we see old men and women with handmade signs sitting along pathways, some selling tissue paper while others begging. What if one day I were to be decently dressed, carrying a sign that says “help”, albeit through a tablet? 

Would people immediately judge and presume I’m asking for help financially? Or would some people actually take notice that maybe, just maybe, help may not best be in the form of financials, but just company?

One day, when I find someone willing enough to help, be it taking the video or being the subject.

131: Superpowers

“If you had a superpower, what would it be?”

I’m sure all of us kept wondering what would our own special abilities be, if we had one as depicted in cartoons and movies. I don’t know about kids these days, but the 90s would usually pick one from the gauntlet of DC and Marvel superheroes, from Superman’s flight to Wolverine’s regeneration. Then there are the more ‘modern’ superheroes, it’s no surprise one of my favourite series was Heroes, depicting everyday people finding themselves blessed with extraordinary powers. I’ve always thought Sylar’s intuitive aptitude was the best, the ability to learn anything instantly was an allusion to humanity’s constant thirst for knowledge. We can only dream of having superpowers, but I would like to believe we all already have secret powers within us.

I was asked that same question twice for camp interviews, and someone recently randomly asked me the same question again, and I would like to share my honest answer. Many people would choose those extraordinary abilities many would consider “normal” - flight, regeneration, teleportation, etc. I was pleasantly surprised that those I’ve answered have yet to hear the one superpower that I would like to have. While I usually answer in its simple term “I want to make others feel better”, the proper term would be empathic healing.

If I may, I would like to go into the ‘technicalities’ of it. I feel what makes us human isn’t the ability to feel, many would argue animals feel too, but empathy - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empaths are people with the power to fully interpret and replicate emotions, moods and temperaments of others. However, holding this power opens us to the possibility of emotion manipulation. This is a dangerous power to have, we could basically control how people feel and use it in the most despicable of ways. I would never allow myself to be exposed to such power, especially after being accused of it many times over. Instead, empathic healing would enable one to feel better, simply because I believe that nobody should ever feel unhappy, not around me at least.

We all know what sadness could do to us, especially if we can’t get out of it. I believe that as friends, we should do whatever we can to make our friends feel better, as long as we guide them away from a destructive path after. Personally, I strongly feel that if I can’t make myself happy, I might as well do what I can to help others feel happy. Of course, this is where the downside of empathic healing comes in.

The emotional pain one feels doesn’t simply disappear. Instead, it’s being transferred to the one with the superpower. While I do believe that nobody around me should feel sad, I also do believe that I can never be destroyed emotionally. Yes, I may fall, (this time I have fallen a little too far), but if there is anyone who could find hope in the darkest of times, it would be me. To know how to deal with suffering we have to experience it, and while everyone’s threshold is subjective, I’m learning in a lot of ways to live, and in fact, thrive in this.

My wish for empathic healing also comes from the fact that I no longer see interdependence the way I used to. I’m starting to feel that I must be independent, and I will learn how to be independent again, all the while balancing my openness to ensure I would never numb or hide myself again. It is a tall order, I am still finding the balance I admit, but the moment I do I can learn to love freely once again. I made a grave mistake numbing myself, and wrongly believed that interdependence could keep a relationship alive, completely disregarding independence.

I’m striving to be strong enough for another person, such that I could be relied upon all the time, while keeping myself open enough to allow them into where my demons hide. I have to learn to keep them under control, so they would never scare anyone away ever again if they ever visit. It’s not easy, we grew in a world where demons should be vanquished rather than kept, but I have faith I would eventually be able to do it and perhaps one day learn to love again.

If you think about it, maybe love is a superpower we all already have. Some of us have been blessed to experience a glimpse of how love could empower us, others have been unfortunate to be on the wrong side by its immense capability for destruction. I think I had a little bit of both. Perhaps after reading this you’ll reconsider the notion of superpowers, and now it’s my turn to ask:

“What’s your superpower?”

130: The Simple Truth

Please don’t say I never tried.

When I told you, before our parents, that I’m transferring to ntu, I have already, like how I always do, predicted a particular response. I knew you wouldn’t understand, or even try to, and attempt to impose your values upon me. “Y wld ntu be any different? Its a shame”

Yeah, that’s what it has always been about for our family isn’t it? Face. I don’t even get who we are trying to impress, really. Somehow we have this skewed notion that people must think we are normal when obviously, after everything that has happened, we’re not. Not that people have to know, but why do we have to attempt to portray that outwardly?

And yes, you suffered worse than me, yet each time came out strong enough. I still remember how you completed a degree while juggling a full time job, sure many people have done that but to do so in the face of the shit at home is something extraordinary. You suffered much hardship, especially this year, and have a strong enough faith to pull yourself through. I’m always proud of you, even if I rarely agreed with your choices in life. Nevertheless, I respect that it is your life and as a brother I can only guide you in accordance to what I believe in, and whatever your choice I have always supported you and hope you would end up happier than yesterday.

Maybe ntu wouldn’t be different, and I am already realising what I’m giving up to simply give myself a whole new beginning. But I need, more than anything today, a whole new hope. To get away from places that trigger the hurt and give myself the chance to find happiness again. 

I’m not looking for understanding, sympathy or even empathy from you. All I’m doing is what you hope a brother, or any person, would always do – tell the truth to those who love him.

If you can’t even handle this simple truth, how could I start to share even bigger things? 

129: The Girl In the Bus

You know that moment you could look through a crowd, and the gap opens up just nice for you to observe a particular someone?

I don’t know you, but I wish you would stop adjusting your hair. It’s so distracting, and I wish I could tell you that you looked fine after the second time you adjusted it, but I’m three seats away and there’s 6 people in between us. It is just too troublesome I suppose..

No. You look beautiful just that way – I hope you didn’t hear me, you’re staring right at me. Time to look at my phone for a few seconds and out to the window, people naturally do that don’t they? Oh, god, stop adjusting your hair, really, it was just perfect then. I bet nowbet you’re gonna… yep you did it again.

There’s nothing in your eye, gosh, who are you trying to impress? You looked kinda cute anyway trying to get something out of your eye, when obviously you’re just impatient about something. I suppose something’s on your mind, the way you fidget in a crowded bus, constantly turning to the front hoping the bus moves faster than it is. I hope you realise it has been at a red light for the past few seconds. Evidently, your fingers rhythmically tapping the pole, from your pinkie to your forefinger, suggests you can’t wait for something. Is it meeting your boyfriend? Or perhaps he isn’t your boyfriend yet. Maybe, you’re having an affair and you’re afraid someone might spot you. Aha, I did, I think.

Maybe you’re just late for an appointment with friends, not everyone’s life is as exciting I suppose… though you do look kinda exciting. I like what you’re wearing, that pink top really complements the colour of your tanned skin. I guess I’m still a sucker for beautiful eyes, they were what that caught my attention after the initial distraction of you adjusting… you just had to do it again.

I’m reaching my stop soon, it’s such a waste you’re not looking here again. I would take my chances and just smile at you, but I guess from where we come from it’s more creepy than friendly. I gotta get up my seat in a few seconds, I guess this is where it ends huh. Once the auntie next to me gets her ass up, I’m almost obligated to move and squeeze my way past this man and this couple.

We were only inches apart then, but unfortunately the card reader on the left was free and you were standing on the right. It was only natural for me to tap my card out there, rather than face to your side, using it as an excuse to drop a smile or a laugh and “excuse me”.

I’m sure someone else would be blessed to know you.

128: The Problem With Group Chats

I was a late entry into the world of WhatsApp and the like, when it was being picked up by people I was still stuck with a HTC Snap (windows mobile lol) and thus unable to join the bandwagon. Even when I got a blackberry, I resisted using it to communicate except necessary for work. I felt it wasn’t healthy that we can see one another’s “last seen” as it could potentially lead to misconceptions and a whole lot of paranoid thinking. We all know that feeling, when someone’s “last seen” is hours after we send an important message, made worse when it changes to “online” when we open the conversation. To me, it was not healthy for relationships at all.

Unfortunately, my plan for free sms expired and I began to use WhatsApp more as my friends pressured me to, replying my sms’ through WhatsApp. When sharing images and videos became rife, it was a necessity to use WhatsApp, and I’m added into countless group chats, and created a few others.

Initially, the idea appeared noble. It has been a nightmare getting friends together, and as we grow older and take different paths, naturally our once close-knit groups would be stretched and friendships tested. Group chats offered the opportunity to stay connected and contacted, and a much much more convenient way to recreate those good times we talked late into the night, perhaps at some 24h coffee shop or a random playground or someone’s house.

Regrettably, my experience has taught me otherwise.

Friends/people who are relatively sociable in real life may not express themselves similarly through mobile communication. I, for one, am an extrovert. For those who know me personally, I am the same person be it in chats or in real life. Someone once said he/she could imagine every word I say in a chat in real life, from the enunciation to the tone the accompanying body language. It just sucks when you come up with things to share or chat about and people don’t reply. Yet, if the same sentence/photo was shared in a real conversation, it would be responded with differently.

This is the main problem I find with group chats. People aren’t just being themselves.

Perhaps it’s the bystander apathy in effect. I did casually ask my many of my friends why didn’t they reply, and they usually say “someone else will reply”. That’s basically a diffusion of responsibility, where as the group size increases individuals are less likely to act in a situation. For some, they were concerned about being judged by others in the group that aren’t as close, preferring to not say anything to not offend or create a bad impression on others. That’s really sad and awful to hear. I don’t get why should we be overly concerned about how others perceive of us, and maybe this is linked to the aspect of conformity within group dynamics.

There’s a perceived need for conformity within groups, simply because we are all social creatures. We naturally desire to belong, and we have no qualms not acting if a particular person gets outcast from a group. You thought it could be worse, that it could be you instead. Maybe that’s why if you notice in group convos, all it takes are two people (not one), to start a convo, state they’re late, etc., before others join in. For every leader, there needs to be a follower. Get one person to dance in the middle of a crowd in Orchard road and people would simply whip out their phones to STOMP him. Get another person to join in the dance, you could probably get a few in the crowd to be dancing with you… and get STOMPed together, for probably being a public nuisance and all.

I insist that it is no fault of people to choose not to respond in group convos, individually they generally are nice people when you talk to them in real life. Even I find myself unwilling to respond in a group convo at times due to bystander apathy. Sometimes, you don’t feel there’s a need to respond as the subject may not pertain specifically to you or simply good-to-know information. Sadly, the problem is that we forget how we would be in real life if we find ourselves in a group sitting down and talking. Would we talk simply because everyone is talking and to simply keep the conversation going? Or is it that we are genuinely engaged in the group conversation, sharing our thoughts and feelings on issues out of sincerity?

Maybe group chats are never meant to complement real group interactions, but simply a way to facilitate the formalities of it, like deciding where/when to meet and the like. Of course there’s always THAT problem of people not replying to the point we have to contact them personally… but that’s a minor issue where someone would do it out of frustration. I still believe that a lively group chat is still possible, all it takes are a few to do their part in keeping the conversation alive.

I found this website which promotes everyday heroism. I would like to think it just helps remind us of our human touch. You may want to check it out.


126: Leaving What You Wanted

Leaving What You Wanted – Amber Pacific

Will we ever know
if falling backwards could save us?
Why not try it just once
and hope we’ll survive?
Even though we’re running away
from what once was behind us
We still stand a chance
to change our lives.

I’m starting to feel the magnitude of my consideration to leave. I remember all the hopes and dreams I had in choosing SMU Social Sciences. Unfortunately, with them comes the choices I’ve made that were path dependent, and there was no way I could turn back when the bridges I’ve built crumbled.

Despite missing what I wanted, I managed to salvage what I could to make the most of living in SMU – for all the camps I missed, I joined various CCAs and learned many new things, exposing myself as much as possible. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to make me feel alive.

I was living, but I can’t feel alive.

Not when the place reminds me of what is dead, not when I go home and am reminded of how unhappy I am still. A dear friend said despite it all, there’s no excuses in not being able to do drag myself through. I completely agree. I wasn’t strong enough, and now I am collecting what is left of me and trying what I can to give myself new hope. Why stay in a place where you’re not happy?

With every new journey comes the fear of the unknown. Friends have expressed doubt I could find happiness elsewhere, yet deep down we all have internalised the phrase “if you never try, you’ll never know”. It is true I have done what I could to give myself a chance to stay, but it wasn’t enough. What I had enough was suffering to the point I lose focus on what matters most, and even find myself being unable to motivate myself to drag myself through all that I’ve found and learned.

Running away is never looked up upon. Success stories are built from facing adversity and fighting through it. But have we ever thought of those who failed, and never recovered? Perhaps why we rarely hear such stories is because people rather hear the good stuff than the sad, depressing story of how someone who stayed got nowhere and disappeared from everyone’s view.

Not me.

I have heard, and known personally, people who stayed and fought, only to end up in worse situations, madness and even death. I’m leaving what I want not to be a success story elsewhere. I’m leaving to save myself, to give myself a new direction, hope and faith. Faith that falling backwards into the abyss would grant me the freedom I need to focus and find the elusive inner peace. Faith that taking the path least travelled would grant me wisdom that I do not need the fear of failure to succeed. Faith that I could eventually stop this haunting that has engulfed me for the past year, and my memory would fail me without turning into madness.

Leaving what I wanted is the last choice I have to lose everything I had about myself, which was very much integrated into the “us” that no longer exists. Leaving what I wanted is to lose myself, hopefully, and faithfully, change into a better person.

I’ll pick up the pieces
from what’s gone
and broke now

I’m sorry
ou’re left with what
I’ve become

125: Slow Burn

“I have learned that
if you must leave a place
that you have lived in
and loved
and where all your yesteryears
are buried deep,
leave it any way
except a slow way,
leave it the fastest way you can.

Never turn back
and never believe
that an hour you remember
is a better hour
because it is dead.

Passed years
seem safe ones,
vanquished ones,
while the future lives in a cloud,
formidable from a distance.”

― West with the Night
Beryl Markham

124: Drunk Texts

Have you ever gotten texts from those supposedly presumed to be drunk?

I have, and I’m sure some of you have as well. Many people find it a turn off, that one is beyond his alcohol limit and is no longer in control of himself. 

But I would beg to differ. Drunk texts are the most sincere form of texts you could get from someone. Have you ever heard how our subconscious are released upon intoxication? I would like to think texts received from people late in the night aren’t a result of poor self control. I would like to believe that you are embedded so deep in their subconscious, that they still genuinely care about you even when they are in no state to care for themselves.

Receiving drunk texts should be an honour, rather than a liability, and one should be thankful that another person still thinks about them, regardless of the content be it depressing, abusive, threatening or weird. It is a manifestation of a person’s deepest desires, thus the most sincere and accurate form of expression one can give and you could ever receive.

I have received texts that threatened my life, texts that requested my presence and texts that yearned for my return. I could only respond the same way I have done all my life, entertaining them for the night, before confirming the truth of it the following day. Most times, I’m met with apologies for their lack of control. It is such a shame that people are still generally in denial about their deepest darkest desires.

Next time should you ever receive a late night text from someone presumably drunk (I prefer the word intoxicated), be thankful and honoured that someone out there still cares about you, even when they can barely care for themselves.