The following is a personal account of my self discovery. I have no intention to hurt or malign anyone. More so to encourage you, the reader, to stand up for your beliefs and to stay true to yourself.
What do we do when we get well-meaning but not really what we are looking for advice? From your close friends, your husband or your own mom? Do you take it as the Gospel truth and follow it to a T? Granted, its dished out with well intentions. I mean they are from close friends and family who have known you for years and they know whats best for you. Or do they? You are the only person who knows what is best for you, trust me.
People around you will always have something to say especially when you are going through tough times. As I said earlier, they have your well being in their hearts. Good people yes , but you should reply 'With all due respect, thank you' and take their advice only if its applicable to you. To you. You cannot and I repeat you cannot just simply listen and act because your husband or your best friend told you so.
You have to take a step back and reflect on what has just been advised to you. Does it apply to me? No? Ditch that advice. Yes? Go on to the next question. Does it affect the people around me? No? There is no issue here. Yes? You better think twice before doing something which could affect the people around you. If what you do, because of what someone told you to do, affects even one individual, I'm sorry to say but its not good advice. Its terrible advice. You would then need to go back to the drawing board and check how else to fix this problem on your own, without anyone interfering in your decision-making.
Take me for example. I have morphed in the last year into a confident person because I took a step into the outside world. For the longest time, I had been a housewife. I loved bringing up and taking care of my amazing daughters for the last 16 years. I still do and I performed my usual household chores with a sense of responsibility.
But life took a 180 degrees turn when I enrolled as a trainee for the National Museum of Spore Docent programme. It changed my life completely. My self esteem has skyrocketed and I'm now confident to speak and hold conversations with CEOs and even Ministers in Singapore. If I had listened to my husband's advice who was against it because its just a volunteer job (ie you are not paid) and you even have to fork out money for the training, I can imagine where I would have been. I would have faced a mundane monotonous life ahead of me safely cacooned in the walls of my house. Let me share with you all something. At one point, I was so lonely and devoid of adult company, that I would intentionally set out to malls and supermarkets to strike up conversations with the promoters and the cashiers. It was a low point. We all have low points. Its how quickly we bounce back up that matters.
Now, after my self discovery, I have founded a charity and am a member in many Women's organisations (AWARE/UN Women) and am a Volunteer Storyteller at the libraries (because I rediscovered my love for reading to young kids) and if I may still blow my horn, I'm also an Associate Member of the Storytelling Assoc of Singapore. Just last week, I have signed up to train as a docent at the Malay Heritage Museum & Centre starting early next year. I simply miss my readings and research and finding out more about the history of Singapore. The museum bug has bitten me real hard :)
Would I have dreamed of all this of me a year ago? No. But I made my life happen because I didn't listen to my husband's advice (I'm sorry my husband. It just wasn't good advice). I simply listened to my gut feel and took the plunge into the outside world. I needed to get out. I was feeling stifled. I felt I'm capable of doing so much more. Hence, I took hold of my life and made it happen. It was in my hands all along. I just realised it now. That's what I am trying to say here.
We must always find our own way in life. Pave our own path. No matter what people say, the end decision on how we want to live our life, which friend we want in our life lies in our hands. We cannot leave it to others to decide for us. Stand up to others with your own beliefs. Don't lose sight of who you are. Stay true to yourself. Your identity as a person who can make your own decisions will determine whether your conscience is clear and whether you sleep peacefully at night, knowing what you did today was fully your responsibility. Not because someone told you to do so. It must never come to that.
I have just finished reading the book 'This is What Inequality Looks Like' by Teo You Yenn and one line stayed with me.
'Wants are Often Needs' (Page 184)
What the author was trying to convey to the reader is this. When your son asks for a pair of soccer boots or your daughter asks for the latest IPhone, they are not merely wants out of whim. Its because of the need to feel belonged to the society we live in. To fit in. To fulfill the need to feel love, respect and acceptance by the people who are in our social circle. What else would explain why one drives a luxury car ? A luxury car is a status symbol and driving it gives you power. People see you differently when they see you get out of a luxury car. They immediately put you in high status and you are treated with utmost respect and dignity.
The need to feel love, respect and acceptance, does it have to apply only to children? It applies to everyone. From the so called invisible cleaners we don't acknowledge and whom we walk around to the housewives in every household who toil day in and day out performing a myriad of jobs.
To feel loved, respected and accepted gives us a reason to wake up in the mornings. A reason to power through a hectic day. A reason to pick up after your children, a reason to cook after a long day in the museum. When we are valued and when we are not taken for granted, it elevates us and gives us a sense of self worth. How we see ourselves is a very important feeling. Self-esteem refers to our own beliefs about our own worth and value. Having a good self esteem is important because it heavily influences our choices and decisions. It motivates us to take care of ourselves in terms of exercise and self grooming. It gives us greater confidence to face people and life's challenges and persistently strives us to personally fulfill our goals and aspirations.
Wanting to feel loved, accepted and respected for who we are which translates to better self worth, is a need. It is not a desire. And when one does not feel loved, accepted and respected, when one is made to feel small and insignificant, its time to reflect, let go and move on.
It was during our regular monthly Book Club meeting last month in September, when I was introduced to this motivational book. Finding my Voice was written by Emily Lim who at a young age of 28 when she was at the top of her career working in the hospitality industry and newly married, woke up one morning without her voice. Up till I came across this book, I was not aware that there is a serious condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia (SD). SD is a serious and rare voice disorder where people find it difficult to speak and it is rather difficult for others to understand them. This book she wrote is a personal account of the lowest point in Emily's life and the challenges she faced at work and in her married life. A small paperback with just over 100 pages, you can finish it reading in a few days.
It was in page 64 of this book I came across a beautiful heartwarming story.
An old Chinese lady approached a Jewish rabbi in grief and asked him for prayers and magical incantations to bring her only son who had died, back to life. The rabbi looked at her and told her to bring a mustard seed from a home that has never had failures or sorrows. He told her that he will then use it to drive the sorrow out of her life. So, the old woman set off in search of this magical mustard seed.
She goes first to splendid mansion and says that she is looking for a home that has never known sorrow. They told her that she has come to the wrong place and describes all the tragic events that has recently befallen them. She stayed to comfort them and again went in search of another house which had never seen sorrow. But wherever she went, she came across tale after tales of sadness, misfortune and grief. Eventually, she became so involved in the people's lives in comforting them that she forgot about her quest for that magical mustard seed, never realising that her sorrow had been driven out of her life.
I don't why but I love this story. It is a story that resonates with everyone. It reveals that everyone is battling something in their lives. Everyone is going through some form of misfortune - not so prefect exam results, debilitating disease, loss of a beloved member of their lives. As a friend, its how we are there to comfort them, to be kind to them which makes a difference in helping them overcome these challenges.
So, if you are reading this, a word of advice. Be kind to everyone. Don't let the exterior facade you see decide your judgement of that person. You don't know what they are facing inside.
I have put on weight recently. Lack of time to exercise has ballooned my usual 56 kg to 59kg! That was what I gained in the last 6 months. My pants are tight, my jean are super stretched and the bulges of fat around my waist...Oh its awful. My upper arms are so big I'm now conscious of wearing sleeveless tops and ending up wearing cardigans with them. I know I should do something about it. I have always been an exercise fan. I like walking or running outdoors as it clears my mind and I love listening to my favourite hits as I hit the roads.
Recently, I just don't seem to find the time. I have so many things on my plate right now. Sometimes, I wonder how the top people in organisations still stay in shape. I have tried cutting down calories. I reduced my rice to two small spoons per meal and when that didn't work I changed rice to Basmati Rice because it has low GI and it doesn't make me feel so full. Its lighter on the tummy. I start off the day with 2 tbsps of Apple Cider Vinegar (oh its awful!) with warm water because I read somewhere that it helps in keeping your belly in check.
So, with all those changes I should have at least lost 1 kg? Nope, I'm still hovering around 59kg. My friends and family say I look the same. But when I see myself in the mirror, I don't like what I see. So, I started running last Sunday. Jogged all around Temasek JC, passing by Kew Crescent, then Temasek Sec School and back to my home. IT was only 4km not a long distance. I took 45 mins!! See what has happened to my stamina?
Anyway, I came home, did the usual cooking, laundry etc but by evening, out of the blue, sharp sudden pains started shooting from my lower back to the front near my groin. It was debilitating, I couldn't even get up from the sofa. I took painkillers and tried to sleep it off hoping that it wold go away by next morning.
The next morning Monday 17th Sep, I woke up slowly. The pain was numb but it got bad as the day grew on. After my girls left for school, I sent out a long message to my Book Club members that I couldn't attend the meeting that morning. We are a nice cosy close group and we meet once a month on a Monday morning in a cafe nearby. The moment I sent out that message, a few surprises followed. They immediately postponed the meeting to next Monday (10am Coffeesmith Bedok Mall) citing that the book club meeting will not be the same without my warm lovely presence( so sweet of them)!! Then, Angie immediately started another chat group to see who is available to come and visit me. Two of them came over - Angie and Anu to see me at my house! Anu brought dosa, chutney and podi in case I couldn't make breakfast ! Then, Angie drove me to my GP Raffles Medical at Siglap Centre.
I felt so blessed that just because I had back pains, two friends came over to see me. Riya looked at me said, 'Mama, you can never say again that you don't have close friends. You had back pain and immediately two friends dropped everything and came to see you! I doubt my friends would ever do that for me !!'
Then, it dawned on me, Yes I do have some nice close friends....I'm so blessed. Having friends who drop everything to come and see you when you are ill, one must be really lucky. I always thought I had a lot of casual friends and was devoid of close friends. God has shown me otherwise. Thank you ladies. You really made my day😘
We are in desperate need of donors. There are so many needy families who just need a little help with their groceries every month. Just the basics - rice, oil, Milo, cookies etc. Its not a lot for us - $50 every month. Like a fellow HEN member said, when we step out, we spend in hundreds! $50 every month is peanuts for many of us. So, if you can help or you know someone who can part with their $50 monthly, please contact me at email@example.com
Every month, you would need to prepare 2 Redmart boxes with dry groceries (we will give you a recommended list) and seal (see pic above). Sometimes, you can add toys or storybooks in the boxes for the children in the families. Then, get the boxes delivered to a collection point in the East or Central Singapore. Our drivers will pick them up the next week and deliver to the families you are supporting.
Its not too much on your part, money or time wise and its a great way to get the kids involved in community work. Its a small difference we make in the lives of the families.
I have been so so busy and sometimes so heavily exhausted that even sleep doesn't come to me. My mind was so overactive especially the last few nights of last week when I conducted an important HEN meeting on Friday morning at NMS. I was so stressed out that a migrane sprouted out of nowhere on Friday afternoon and continued all the way till now, Monday.
Just wanted to post a blog to say that no matter how busy I get, my close friends are never far from my mind. So, my dear friend, if I haven't met up with you or spoken to you at our usual times, please don't get thwarted. You will always be there in my mind, no matter what. How can I ever forget you? You hv been in my life so long I feel like you are in my blood and coursing through my veins every second of every day. Ok that's a little dramatic :) but seriously you are just way too important to ever be forgotten.
Who is Akhira? She is a 6 year old girl whom I had the privilege of being introduced to over the last 1 month. Akhira is not her real name. The Singapore government ensures strict confidentiality regarding the families receiving assistance from them. I only know the mother's name. So for the purpose of this blog post, let's call this little girl Akhira.
I first knew about Akhira when I attended a meeting at a Voluntary Welfare Organisation 4PM in Bedok Reservoir in July. A few of us from HEN Charity were there to introduce ourselves and our programmes. You know, I have been to many Family Service Centres and have had numerous meetings, but it was only in 4PM that we were offered cold drinks and brownies. Brownies, mind you. An example of true warm Malay hospitality :). During our conversation, we asked if there are any specific families that are really in dire need of assistance. The principal thought for a while and spoke about Akhira. That was when I got to know about her. That her parents were not working (they are actively looking for employment) and couldn't even afford the bus fare to send her to child care at 4PM. That there were elderly grandparents in her family as well. That she was the only child and was due to start Primary 1 next year.
Now, I had received $150 from a fellow French docent and donor who had moved back to France in June. With the 3 months pilot programme helping the families in Bedok coming to an end in Aug, I was wondering how can I use this cash in a worthy charitable manner. So, when the Principal mentioned Akhira, I decided to help her family for the next 3 months ie Aug, Sep and Oct. Last Friday 31st Aug I popped over to her house located in the eastern part of Singapore to hand over the food donation boxes to her family.
Having seen the interior of many rental flats of low income families, I wasn't very shocked at her housing situation. But I did have a chance to see Akhira for the very first time. A fun loving cute girl who was smiling a lot. I was glad the circumstances of her family hadn't affected her. But, something stopped me in my tracks when I left the entrance of her flat, after handing over the boxes to her father. Akhira was curious and excited to see what was in the food donation boxes. Her father was telling her to be patient. As all children her age, she couldn't wait and started throwing tantrums. And when I heard her speaking, i was taken aback when she sounded like a 3 or 4 year old.
Could she have slow development because of inadequate exposure to educational opportunities ? I felt a pang in my heart. Here is a young girl, her whole life waiting to unfold before her and she may not be able to fully grasp the opportunities because of her family's situation. She will be starting Primary 1 next year. She will definitely not be ready and her peers will already be be able to read. Does she even know basic phonics? What about Maths? Does she know addition and subtraction? I started wondering whether I could help her in any way. Something was telling me to reach out to her. It still is.
I take buses a lot. And I mean A LOT. The places I have to visit for my HEN charity meetings or my museum docent trainings are located mostly in the city center. Hence, to avoid huge taxi expenses, I take buses. I used to hate taking buses because the journey time was just too long. But I have now grown to love bus rides quite a bit.
I plan ahead so as to ensure I'm not late for my destination. You see, I'm a stickler for punctuality. I keep on drilling into my girls about being punctual. It is a virtue, don't you agree? It shows how serious you are about that meeting and how important that person you are about to meet is to you. So, anyway I use apps to ensure there is adequate time for me to reach the bus stop on time and that I don't wait too long practically melting in the sweltering heat of Singapore. Can you imagine if your makeup is ruined with your perspiration even before the day starts?
Though so very long, I have grown to enjoy the bus rides. Why? Firstly I like that I don't have to make small talk with the bus driver like I have to when I take a cab. You can't avoid talking to the cab drivers when they strike up a conversation. Then, through the long winding roads of Singapore, I weave through and get to see places I haven't seen for a while. Just the other day, I had a meeting in Ang Mo Kio, north of the island. To my utter surprise, I found out I have a straight bus 55 to my destination in Ang Mo Kio. It was a long ride, no doubt but I ended up seeing Jalan Eunos, Upper Serangoon and eventually Ang Mo Kio housing estate. Then, on another day, I got to visit my old neighbourhoods in Pasir Ris where my girls were born before we moved to my present home. I get a great view from the uper deck of most of the buses I take. See the pictures I took today.
What do I enjoy most? Plugging in my headphones and listening to my fav hits of my Apple Playlist. As I type this on my way to NMS for an appointment on Bus 14, I am now listening to an old melody You've Got A Way by Shania Twain. I also love Could I Have This Kiss Forever by Whitney Houston, More than Words by Extreme, Love Will Keep Us Alive by Eagles and also some recent pop hits Not above Love by Aluna George, Be The One by Dua Lipa, Sweet Ophelia by Zeila Day, the latter all courtesy of my two teenage girls. Sometimes, I engage in my other love, reading.
I am currently reading This is What Inequality Looks Like, a collection of essays by Teo You Yenn a NUS sociologist who did indepth research on the less fortunate families in Singapore. I could relate so much to what she was talking about being a Singaporean and also having had first hand experience helping these families. Please do read this very insightful book.
Next week marks the start of the docent training for the new batch of trainees for the next intake for 2018/2019. The trainees of the previous batch (ie like me) after all their hardwork of 6 months of intensive research and training, are now qualified docents guiding every month at the National Museum of Singapore (NMS). We gained so much from this training - the wealth of knowledge we unearthed. I was so surprised when I heard certain info or events even though I'm a Singaporean. The new friends we met and got to know each other by seeing each other twice a week for the ardous 6 months of training, many of whom are in our HEN Charity. The great opportunities for guiding at other museums and heritage sites have opened up as well. Most of all, I overcame my horror of speaking in front of a whole lot of people (I had 30 plus visitors one time!) and I have grown a lot more confident of myself and my self esteem has improved so much. I always tell myself that this is the best thing I have done for myself, in a long while, for my self growth.
So, shouldn't the next batch of trainees deserve the same quality of training to produce credible docents who can share our success story to the world? As training for the next batch begins next week, my Tuesdays will be jam packed with presentations, lectures and gallery talks and walkthroughs from 9am till 1.30pm at the National Museum. I’ll be ‘released’ at 1.30. I’ll be at the National Museum every Tuesday. The only exceptions will be during scheduled holiday breaks which coincide w the international school holidays. Weekends will be burnt vetting the trainees research papers. And I hv charity work, plus the usual housework and cooking. To the next 6 months of busy me!
Hen or Helping and Empowering our Neighbours has a programme where we donate dry food rations to the needy families monthy. We have just completed the Aug Delivery on Monday 20th Aug. Working in partnership with Trans FSC in Bedok, we have reached out and helped 10 families for the last 3 months. Yes only 10 families for a start but it turned out to be an eye opening experience and an incredible learning journey.
Never mind the sweltering sticky heat. Never mind the heavy load of 5kg rice and 3L of oil among other groceries. What mattered most was the warm beautiful smiles of the grateful families who greet us :)
My home is
usually in a mess and has dust settled on almost everything. But I believe laughter and love will win the day. In 20 years, my girls won't remember how messy the house was but will remember the time we spent together and the love they felt...