Turning 21 was great – I’m a big fan of birthdays because you give yourself the opportunity to celebrate life. It can get easily abused into a day to celebrate “self” and “narcissism” but I’ve made it a particular focus to enjoy the people, events and moments around me.
From various meals and getaways , I had an amazing birthday week. I won’t bore you with the details of how I celebrated it although I thought it’s interesting how the older you get, the more displaced the notion of a birthday gets from the original day itself , but rather a certain milestone in life that can be celebrated over a longer period. We’re either too busy , or as I prefer to accept, more involved in the spirit of the birthday itself.
But the reason for this blogpost is very simple. I’ve discovered that there are indeed fears that I’m facing moving forward with life – in Singapore and in 2014. With my humble experience as well , I’ve learnt that there are a few discoveries about life that I’m making. So I decided to write a bit about them – in hopes that I can revisit them sometime when I’m older and see how far I’ve fared.
3 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT LIFE
1. There are only decisions
I used to be afraid that the decisions I would make in life would turn out to bite me in the ass. Worse still were those supposedly moral decisions – those that if you chose the wrong option you would end up damned for life. I’ve learnt that decisions don’t tend to be supremely right over others. Yes, there are inherently better decisions than others. But every decision has it’s complications , it’s own nuances and it’s own consequences to deal with.
Suppose that you were to choose between starting a business when you’re young or working at a reputable firm as an intern. Now to different personalities, each decision seems inherently better. To the risk takers and independant personalities – starting a business seems the mark of a true wayfarer. But to the ladder climber and career seeker , working at a reputable firm definitely makes sense. But to each, there it’s own difficulties.
Working at a reputable firm ,you tend to lose a lot of freedom working for someone else , and you’re working to make someone else’s dreams. Having said that, starting a business you also tend to be on new strange ground and the amount of uncertainty can tend to be overwhelming. There is no “better” decision. There are simply decisions . The question has to be then – which risks are you willing to take, and which joys are worth fighting for.
2. Characters evolve, principles don’t
It’s not surprising to me that I’ve been getting a lot of feedback about my newfound constant presence on media. It’s true – The Hidden Good is doing well and as a result I’ve become more prominent online. I’ve also become bolder with my statements – wanting to encourage others to truly champion the causes they believe in by seeing what we’ve achieved. It’s only because I’ve become positively reinforced with the successes we’ve achieved as a bunch of under 30s that I’ve been shouting it out. I’ve always believed in empowerment of the community and allowing for collaborative models. That’s a principle that I’ve always kept to – even internally for The Hidden Good.
But my character has changed. I’m a lot more plugged into what’s happening in society and I’ve become a lot more aware of how society operates. There’s exuberance which I have unabashedly indulged in – and I’m severely trying to reign in. I’ve become a lot more aware of society’s pain points and am trying to find ways I can apply myself to them. From a silent fighter, I’ve become a prominent advocate. My strengths are flexed, but I am also very aware my flaws are exacerbated.
My ego has always been my biggest stumbling block, and with the friends I have around me , I’m able to regularly keep it in check. Ambition and ego are character traits that tend to be associated with one another – and it’s a constant battle to grow the former while keeping the other to a healthy level. I’ve been very honest about my struggles though. As a youth, it’s important to get the right steps forward. Where my character is allowed to change, my principles cannot. Those of collaborative models, those of loyalty and compatriotism, those of risk-taking – I won’t let go.
3. Anything’s possible – if you put your mind to it
The most remarkable thing a person can discover for himself is that his own limitations were just that – his own limitations. Having surpassed them , he discovers a new version of himself ; one that is able to achieve more and seeks to discover whether other misconceptions he previously had still hold true.
I started out loving YouTube , and more importantly wanting to be a part of society. The various projects I’ve embarked on thrashed any fears I had of being able to positively influence people , as well as making a mark. With the support of an amazing team , without which The Hidden Good can never be what it is today, we managed to make a space in the online content-sphere for our experiments.
We managed to build an organisation that empowers youths. We managed to champion messages that organisations don’t have the courage or expertise to champion themselves sometimes. We partnered with amazing brands , agencies and organisations to produce meaningful content. It’s amazing how much we’ve achieved and I still remain humbled at the distance we have to go before we can properly make deep impact in society. I keep asking myself – what else do I not know about myself yet? What can I grow in? That drive helps me stay on the edge – and it’s why I’m looking forward to college. I want to unlock the next treasure chest in life.
2 THINGS I’M FEARFUL ABOUT
The thing that worries me about current policy stances is that they tend to encourage Singaporeans to reach high , to innovate, to compete and succeed – but when it comes to our needs we’re encouraged to keep them low. I can appreciate the need to be frugal and careful with expenses and desires – but I honestly think the minimum I would need as a working adult is a house, the ability to have a beautiful marriage and family, a mode of transportation and safety/security. These costs are costs that I have to consider as I grow up, because I need to save up for them – and the honest truth is that I don’t think our generation has been educated enough on how the systems and processes work in Singapore. Some of the PSAs that I see throw numbers so magically that they fly past me – and I’m an A Level Graduate.
I’m honestly a bit cautious on how I move forward because I have to take care of so many financial needs – and the last thing I want to do is to fall into debt. I want to have a good quality of life as well – and I don’t think that’s a privilege – I think that’s a basic human need. To live without fear or unwarranted worry.
I’m probably not the best person to talk about this but I’m learning the need to appreciate the shades of gray we exist in. Relativity is probably one of the biggest obstacles we’ll face as we grow up, because relativity is the greatest escape to accepting that there are struggles in this world we need to be concerned about.
I just found out that one of my Secondary School teachers lost the battle to cancer today and passed on. However as I saw as a bunch of students wrote memorial posts to him, myself included, I imagined how proud his family must be of the soft impact he created and left behind. He cared, beyond his need to, and that made the difference. We can be remembered for many things – principles included. But our moral decisions define our lives a lot more. And in this changing society, where morals are constantly being debated and redefined , I as a youth have to truly figure out what my morals mean and what I stand for.
My faith is a good indicator, but I have to ensure I practice my faith because I first believe in it – and not take it as simple rule of law. It’s definitely a struggle.
1 THING I WILL ALWAYS APPRECIATE
From family to friends, I’ve realised the value of deep and meaningful relationships. As I’ve always believed, there’s no point scaling the tallest mountain if you don’t have someone by your side to share the sights with.
To abandon the people in your life for anything else would be a dangerous and unwise move – unless it contravenes your principles or morals. People make mistakes – it’s a empirical fact – but we never should let that affect the value we have in the relationships we’ve built. We’re able to build emotional and intellectual connections that cannot be replaced.
I’ve loved the people that have made my past 21 years truly remarkable. I’m indeed grateful to so many people for loving me back.
Here’s to many great years ahead.