It’s my birthday in 4 days. I’m turning 22. There’s a lot of meaning to the number, most of them defined by ourselves. Someone told me it’s a year to think of second chances, to decide to make the decisions you never had the courage to make before. Someone else told me it’s the year to start cherishing your youth even more, because the road ahead is one that demands losing your youth. Honestly,I’m ambivalent about turning 22.
To a lot of my friends, they’ve hit the point where birthdays are just more days in their lives. Sure they’ll throw a party or invite friends over, but they care less about turning older, and just are happy to have an occasion to get drunk or spend time with friends.
Contrastingly, I love birthdays. Maybe it’s a product of my fear of mortality, but I cherish every year I’m alive – I use every birthday as a milestone to check where I am in my life, and to celebrate my friends’ and family’s importance in my life. I look back on the year between my birthdays and attempt to distinguish if I’ve truly ‘grown up’. Have I made progress towards my goals in life? I also start deciding how I want to grow in the year ahead.
Perhaps it’s fitting then that I’m spending my 22nd birthday up in the air, on a plane between Chicago and Singapore. I gave myself the goal of seeing more of this world , of loving and getting hurt, and of creating beautiful things. I did all that and more probably, and have been reciprocatively cherished by many others. I have seen romance dance its way into my life, and terrorise me with its powers. I have had doors opened to me that remind me of how incredibly lucky and privileged I am in life. I am then presented with the fact that the world needs me and others to act, because it’s suffering – pain extinguishes any flame that it desires to light. It was on accident that I discovered this hurt. I was looking for beauty, and instead I found that beauty lays with despair.
The rose must come with its thorns, and the silver lining appears only on the dark clouds. Understanding this duality has brought to me to my goal for the year ahead. I mentioned this in my New Year Resolution post, but it took me a while longer to solidify what I wanted to do.
The truth this world is hurting. When I was in San Francisco recently, I saw so many people living in boom, but also so many homeless and drug addicts. It scared me to think that some of these people would die without the dignity of having lived a healthy life. In Sabah, Singaporeans died following the tragic earthquake. Some of these were Primary School kids. It killed me that these kids lost their future , a promise so full with potential and yet something so easily gone. These are just recent observations. There’s so much more – so many problems that need people to put their heads to it and act.
I’ve become a much firmer believer in the idea of disruptive processes. The system doesn’t work. Open your eyes, look and observe. To play within the rules is to accept defeat before you even make your first move. Change the rules, and make power moves that will benefit society. Businesses are the best vehicles for these, but I’m starting to looking even beyond businesses to see what other mediums can help me make impact on the societies that exist.
I’m spending my 23rd year learning how to heal this world. I’ll start with smaller case studies, learn what approaches work, develop my own methodology and export that to hopefully mobilise others to devote their lives to solving the needs of this world.
I spent my 22nd year looking for beauty and find hurt along the way. I’m spending my 23rd birthday looking for hurt, and hope to find romance along the way. The kind of romance that makes you fall in love with people, that kind of romance that makes you feel alive, the kind of romance that inspires.
Because what it does it mean to live, if you don’t love.