a letter to my friends

what is the purpose of living? is it to have a beautiful death? is it to earn as much money as possible? is to celebrate our existence with a religious focus ? sure, some of these are valid choices for any individual.

but i am of the opinion that the purpose of living is to create stories; bounty upon bounty of elaborate adventures ; crafted from will and wit, laced with strife and success and always ending with some sort of segue into the next story.

let’s take a few steps back. back when i was a young child, around 14 years of age , i remember striving for the trophies to fill up my cabinet. i would feel happy only  if i could see my smile reflected in cast gold. some people debate whether that was even happiness – i would argue it was. the joy i felt was real , but it was fleeting. almost as if it existed as a breath in the winter. beautiful and then gone.

it took me a huge fall when i was 15. you know that feeling when you feel the world collapsing on top of you, and yet everyone around don’t even know what’s happening inside. they’re oblivious to the fact that your world has probably catastrophically shifted. i had any opportunity for traditional definitions of success pulled away from me – i felt as if i was meant to have them ; as if i deserved them. leadership positions i had put myself up for were taken by others, awards i wanted were given to others, opportunities i thought i needed were awarded to others. and i hit rock bottom.

yet something else happened. when all that you thought was your world was deconstructed before your eyes, you realise what was never there before. there were other people, other communities and cultures, even other opinions. i was forced to start building, to start making my own story and definition of success.

and so i started rejecting traditional models and questioning the reasons behind everything. i started building, and that evolved to creating and that evolved to dreaming.

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there a few key milestones in everyone’s life – milestones in which your world is completely shifted to ensure you are where you are now. i had a few – the experience as a 15 year old, the award of my scholarship, the phonecall to Leon about starting The Hidden Good. and i still keep these stories close to my heart. and then i became fascinated with others – what stories did others have? i was hungry – i wanted the world , but i was only human and so i could consume stories to satiate myself.

but as i went around asking others or their stories, i faced a dismal response. people weren’t making stories – sure they were existing, but what happened to the opportunities they had missed to truly realise what life has to offer.

“it’s up to the individual.” i’ve heard the response before. my answer is “do you know what you don’t have if you don’t know it exists?”

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so i’m deciding here, right now, to make a personal mission to help people find their stories. to discover adventures in their lives that don’t have to leave their backyards. i don’t know how that’s going to evolve, but i’ll let it flow.i do have five pointers below though for people who are looking to find their stories – simple yet probably impactful if used well.

1) find something that makes you hurt and find out how to deal with it

the biggest story we can give ourself is that of redemption from our own pains. we love to feel happy but our sorrow is what makes us truly human. yet, as much as we can’t get rid of sorrow and the pain that it brings with it, we can definitely find ways to process it better. that’s a journey in itself

2) find something that makes you uncomfortable and encounter it.

we’re all scared of something – LGBT issues, foreign countries, a new skill – confront that fear. find out more about it. travel if you must, or pick up a hobby. enrich yourself.

3) indulge in others

the best investment that can be made in this day and age, is in the goodwill of others. in a world, where true friendships are scarce, the value of unconditional unmerited love will only be returned with it . discover more stories by living vicariously , and see things you probably won’t be able to see by yourself by seeing them through the eyes of your new friends.

4) think about thinking

metacognition is relatively new in the main populace. and yet, when you think about how you process information and feelings, you find some sort of peace in knowing yourself better. you are more in control of yourself and your surroundings , and can truly take on the world.

5) make beautiful things

everyone appreciates beauty , in whatever forms they’re presented in. and to discover what beauty means for you, and to find someway to bring it into your life and others is the most fulfilling process one can put his or herself through. the capacity for humankind to create beautiful things is probably one of the undervalued assets we posses.

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there’s always more to be discovered, more to encounter.

geronimo.

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sign language

story below. disclaimer first: i’ve decided to stop publishing the #77breaths on my blog mainly because I feel like I’m double-typing what I post on my instagram. You can follow the challenge on my instagram and facebook and even my snapchat!

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it was one of those days for him. one of those lazy uneventful days in which all he had to focus on was the feelings in his heart and the tempo of his soul. he was in the University library – just browsing through the multitude of books that just sat around with no one actually going through them.

” the library is now just a destination of quietness , nothing more than the epitome of all things peaceful” the librarian had shared over a casual conversation. it’s ironic though, she had mentioned , because most of these books portray the largest wars of ideas ever seen.

mink was in the non-fiction section; browsing through books on philosophy and psychology ;hoping to find something to explain the irritating itch he felt in his brain. it felt similar to a literal itch and yet the doctors thought he was just imagining things.

his leg all of a sudden, felt something blocking its way. right inbetween of two shelves , on the carpeted floor sat an aged archaic book, calling for mink to open it. he lifted the book up to his chest level and laid it open to the mid-section.

“and when Life had departed him, it had nowhere else to go, and so became its own paradigm” he read out loud.

and there was nothing but a whisper.

___

the surroundings had changed drastically. what used to be a library was now a desolate forest. there were no signs of wildlife and all that mink saw were two stumps across from each other in a clearing . he walked towards them, and in a natural pull took a seat on one of them.

“welcome” the voice said. “don’t bother trying to look for me, i’m seated right across from you”

mink looked across and saw the faintest impression of a body on the stump. “how do i get back?” he asked hurriedly.

“that’s funny – it’s always the same question. you’re brought to this world, somewhere foreign and you talk to something you can’t comprehend; and all you want to do is travel back” the voice retorted.

“alright who are you then”

“you opened my book – so make your wildest guess”

“it said “The Book of Life” – but you can’t be Life…”

“and why not?

___

“so tell me, why am i here?” mink asked, while fiddling with his fingers. he noticed the forest had gotten smaller, almost fitting snugly around them.

“to talk. i do get lonely. tell me, how have you enjoyed your life?” the voice answered back.

“hold on, i don’t get how you can be life. do i become you when i die?”

“you don’t . your soul disappears – and i know not what happens to it. but life, the karmic essence that flows through you – all that energy ; that is what i am. i am an accumulation of the life energies of the world, from the dawn of time till the end of life.”

“and yet you can’t be seen? shouldn’t that much energy be too strong for me to behold?”

“ah that’s where you’re wrong, mr mink. you see, we’re all gifted with life in the form you enjoy right now. but my energy is only truly maximised when people choose to LIVE. to move past their current dreariness and completely exist. till then, i am just this echo. people haven’t truly lived.”

” what does it mean to live then? to have a family and travel, to see the world?”

“you can do that, but it’s not so much the what as much as it is the why and how that’s important. live with purpose, each day as a challenge to truly feel involved with everything around you. write, play music, exercise – but do these to enable all that you’re provided with. love, because that is the heart of living – let your heart be broken many times over, but let them be broken by people and issues that are important. never ever let the mundane be your comfort – give yourself to the whims of the heart.”

“and why are you telling me this? why of people me?” mink asked, overwhelmed at this point.

“because you have an itch in your head. because you think too much and sometimes love too little. and because you’re not the first. we spend too much time learning things that we’ll never use like partial differentiation and organic chemistry – but where do you learn lessons like humanity and empathy. these are the lessons that your world needs”

____

First I was dying to finish high school and start college. And then I was dying to finish college and start working. And then I was dying to marry and have children. And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work. And then I was dying to retire.

And now I am dying…

And suddenly I realize I forgot to live.

 

geronimo

#breath3 – the night the burger stole the show

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It was definitely an interesting turn of events for Breath 3. Let’s backtrack before the burger. I had planned to go to a club downtown in Chicago as part of the social activity planned by one of the Frats on campus. The night was supposed to be about good music, friends and having a blast again. That was supposed to be my breath.

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We even had wristbands and stuff – it was meant to be a blast.

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We took schoolbuses (the irony right) downtown – this is me here with my boy Jimmy. Unfortunately, the ride was almost 30 minutes long – which meant by the time we got there , we had kinda gotten tired already. But nonetheless we went in looking for a good time. Through a series of unfortunate events, which I don’t have the privilege of sharing on my blog, I left the club with Igor and decided to take a walk around Chicago. And that’s when we saw it – Umami Burger. Now, I have really bad short term memory. But the name Umami Burger was something I had heard a long time ago. And so I insisted that we go in and have late night supper (I hadn’t eaten a full dinner anyway) – IT WAS THE BEST BURGER I HAD.

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Maybe it was the Truffle fries we had before it, or the beer I washed the burger down with, or even the series of events before the burger – but this burger was absolutely amazing. It was like walking on clouds. Igor and I agreed absolutely that tonight would not have been the same without the turn of events. We managed to get back in after some persuasion but by then our friends had left and so we head back to campus to close the night.

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I had an extreme amount of fun – ask me in person if you want the full details of the night but this challenge has definitely put me out there a lot more – and that’s coming from me. I can’t go back to a quiet life after this.

 

geronimo.

 

#breath2 -kickstarting #thgus

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today i started on what people have always suggested me to embark on – an International Version of THG. Now full disclaimer – this is just a soft-test on whether it’ll work overseas – I  have to make sure it works coherently with the Singapore team that’s working incredibly hard on the next season of amazing videos. But it’s been fun getting back to hidden camera episodes. I have a great team with John, Igor and Ata – bros that have shared my vision and want to help me create this reality.

we started with a very light-hearted and casual episode ; and as always we had to reschedule a second filming session because we wanted to try variations in the conditions but it’s good to be back in the groove. doing what you love – it gave me a thrill as i overhead Jonathan (our actor) getting into the scene and really playing his part. oh man, to do what makes your heart burn – it’s a wonderful feeling.your dreams are your own limits.

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check out our fratboy – and stay tuned for our episode!

 

geronimo.

#breath1 – the bastille concert

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Breath 1 starts with this ticket of course. As a sort of spontaneous gesture, when I saw people on Facebook asking for people to accompany them to a Bastille concert , I jumped at the chance and bought myself a ticket to a proper Chicago concert.

You see, they’ve said that Chicago is a beautiful city – and most people miss out on truly embracing the culture of music and arts Chicago has to offer. While this is certainly not the end, it  certainly was a great beginning to my journey in discovering this city. Bastille has always had a place in my heart because of the fact that we used their song (shhh) in our first ever episode of The Hood Factory

It was definitely a thrilling moment when Pompeii came out as the final song and I joined the crowd in dancing to the chorus. Songs that hold special places in your heart because of their significance at a certain time in your life are the most meaningful things you can across – even the slightest semblance of the melody can rush the feelings to you.

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I love the concert atmosphere and its ability to bring you to a zone where you’re comfortable. I wish I could upload videos of some of the stuff they did, but Bastille is definitely a great band to see live. They’re really interactive with the crowd.

 

 

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I tried taking my signature selfie in the concert but it didn’t come across that well so I took another one with the concert venue in the background:PPic5

 

All in all, Breath 1 was amazing. I asked my buddy today – if I have this much fun for 77 days, would my body be able to take it? I actually look forward to finding out.

geronimo.

#77breaths – the challenge to lose your breath

 

inspiration

 

i was talking to a friend recently about my current state of mind. i was sharing how I was incredibly happy – my social, physical, mental and academic life were going really well and I felt comfortable. and i also shared how i remembered when feelings like these didn’t come too often – when i actually struggled to find any meaning in life and when i was confronted with depressing moments. moments like these , where you cherish what’s going well with your life ; when you’re grateful for what you have – help keep you going in the tougher times.

this may sound too meta for some – but you have to be willing to enjoy life to actually enjoy it. even moments of sadness then become completely integrated into the human experience – you become okay with disappointment and loss; not to  the point where you don’t feel anything but where you can grieve successfully and move on.

i know there’s a hashtag that has made its rounds called #100happydays that teaches the people who subscribe to it’s plan to cherish small  happy moments for a span of a 100 days. i love that- i didn’t subscribe to it merely because i felt i was doing it already and didn’t need to add another hashtag onto it. but i also pondered on how this affected people.

and then i pondered some more (and that’s probably where you realise my ideas get crazy) and i decided that being happy with what you have is good for most people , but definitely not enough for me. you see one of my core competencies (and struggles) is the ability to never be completely satisfied. it seems to contradict what i’ve said so far , but listen – one can be happy with the way things are but always ask himself , is this it? maybe i’m weird like that- but that sense of discovery has brought me to adventures only imaginable by most people.

so i’ve decided to start a new adventure for myself. being in a college setting away from any sense of irregularity doesn’t mean you can’t add adventure back into your life. i’ll admit i’ve gotten slightly bored especially in the past few days , but this series should put things back in perspective.

i call this series #77breaths . they say that there are moments in life where your breath is taken away – where you’re absolutely astounded by magnificence, beauty or ability. our goal, is to get our breaths taken away 77 days in a row

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a lot of those who follow me on instagram know my addiction to storytelling and adventuring. and i’ve been asked many times for advice on what to see, how to put yourself out there and how to chase dreams sustainably. i would provide the following three (cos three is always a good number) guidelines to #77breaths to give yourself the best possible experience.

1) Say YES

Yes Man has many lessons to teach , but the most evident is to say Yes more. Let me quickly qualify by saying don’t put yourself in evident danger (ie overdose on drugs, commit a blatant crime etc.) but yes, say YES to things more. If you’re faced between option A and B, choose the option that you’re less likely to be able to experience again. Say YES to things – put yourself out there. You’ll almost definitely get hurt, lose things, be disappointed – but you’ll also be greatly rewarded with the treasures of life : wisdom, friendships and love.

2) If you’re not learning, you’re not doing it right

We are a collection of our experiences. Who we are today is a sum of the selves we used to be – a magnitude only achieved by accumulation of stories and ideas. the more we learn, the more we apply ourselves to our surroundings, and more importantly, open ourselves to be applied on. differences in cultures, upbringings and backgrounds teach us about humanity – they build empathy and also stretch our mind to accept new possibilities. always seek to learn from your adventures – it is one thing to be a thrill-seeker , it is something else to be an adventurer.

3) Remember to always love

it is a ruthless world out there. and we are given the option to be one with the world, or to be true to ourselves. in a world that rarely begets love in its closest form, we then have to bring love into the picture. love others, love stories, love quiet moments over drinks, love celebrations throughout the day, love music, art, theatre, film; even love yourself more. the true adventurer learns to love the unloveable – to appreciate that everything has a place in this world. that loss and suffering are part of the equation, but that same equations includes uncomparable joy and success.

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it’s day 0 so we’ll start #77breaths tomorrow. I’ll be using Snapchat (rovikthebear) for ultra-short snaps, Instagram (@rovikthedreamer) for short-form stories and my blog for long-form stories. i’m excited.

geronimo

the intangible truth about me

unsaid words have beautiful implications sometimes
but the words never said leave holes unplugged
and holes unplugged leave spaces for things unnecessary
like hurt and disappointment and excessive behaviour
and we could honestly do without all that

____

 

viola scrambled up the hill to meet Grandfather. it was the annual Turning of the Moon and it was her turn to get a chance to tap into the wisdom of Grandfather. all of her friends who had talked to Grandfather had their lives changed and she was excited to hear more.

“who’s there?” the voice bellowed as she knocked on the aged steel door. the house was a tincan, built by sticking metal plates together and piercing them together with recycled screws.

“it’s me, second daughter of the Alkans and saviour of the line” she recited the rehearsed lines her parents had taught her.

“what’s your name darling. i asked them to stop with this cultic nonsense, i’m too old for this ” he shouted back.

“viola, sir” she answered.

“ah yes, come on in.”

viola pushed open the door and looked straight up at Grandfather. he was a looming figure, with skin that glowed like a baby.

“you don’t look old at all” she said

“trust me , i am. now tell me how can i help you?” he asked back

“i’m not really sure how it goes from here. what do i need to know for life?” she questioned.

he pondered a bit. “give me your palm” he said.

she excitedly reached it out to him.

he scrubbed his finger across her palm. putting it back down, Grandfather closed his eyes . he stayed in the same position for a good five minutes before Viola felt awkward.

“Grandfather?” she asked.

his eyes jerked open. “oh you’re still here. well miss, i’m sorry but i have nothing for you”

she stared back at him hopelessly. “nothing , nothing at all? but you’re supposed to change my life. you’re supposed to tell me what i ought to do” she started to cry.

“who told you that? i’m here to help those who have problems with their lives. you have the weirdest problem of all, one that needs no solving” he said back monotonously. he got up and moved towards his teapot to pour himself a cup of hot jystern tea.

“jystern tea?” he asked her.

“i hate that old brew” she mumbled, her reservations put aside now.

“hate is a strong word miss.” he said and walked back with his tea.

“look, some people need a helping hand to push them where they need to go. you don’t. in fact, any advice at all on specifically how to live your life is a detriment to you – because you possess a spirit of willpower. ”

“spirit of willpower?”

“the rarest of its form. you move to action and ideation. anyone who tells you what to do negates the effect of your will – you must make your own way. your life is yours and yours alone – the decisions you make must be completely trusted by your inner soul. ”

” but there are definitely times where i won’t be sure about what to do”

“then be ready to make mistakes and lose some. but your mistakes will only build you up, and your losses will help you gain more. at the end of the day, you must own your life. you must be completely comfortable with it and your decisions”

“i am who i am. these feelings, these impulses – these are real, unchecked but natural. my desire to live the world, to see all that it has to offer – that is my drive. i get it now. ”

“and remember, do what you must when you must. ”

Viola looked back at grandfather. he didn’t look that old anymore.

“I’ll head out now” She said.

and with that Viola was ready to move on.

____

you close the curtains and just escape
i live this way you say

how about you try my way i ask back
and we try making our own way
we do what feels right. what feels nice

‘cos nice is a pretty nice way to feel.