This is the second year where my birthday gets ‘lost in time’. I fly out on the 10th, and reach Singapore on the 12th, and at no point do I ever experience the ’11th of June’. Now, I know it’s all about frame of reference, but I think it’s a great practical joke that’s played on me every year. Regardless though, my favorite birthday present is being able to see my family and be reunited with them after a whole year once I walk out of the Customs point. In some way, the practical joke redeems itself.
When I was young, birthdays were all about me. It was about celebrating my existence, and who I am. I’m glad I’ve moved on from that. Loving yourself is different from indulging in yourself, and I think I’m coming to that distinction in a clearer way as I grow up. Being 23 now, it’s interesting how much of the world makes more sense, and how much issues that seemed frustrating as a youth appear more realistic and clearer as a young adult.
So as a 23 year old, let me share some of the lessons I’ve learnt. This is a combination of lessons I’ve learnt from traveling the world, starting my own company, mixing with celebrities, serving in the military, being in a fraternity and going to college in Chicago. These lessons are in no way final and ultimate – in fact there may be more nuances that I have to discover but I feel like I’ve reached some form of an opinion on all of them.
- You cannot disregard a person’s experience. Someone’s experience is deeply personal and tied to their identity, and to attack any aspect of their identity means to reduce their lives, which goes against any aspect of equality. Physics follows laws, but social laws and rules are constructs that serve the purpose of their society, and we all know societies change and evolve, and so must the laws and rules.
- Rape Culture is a thing. Laughing at the use of the word ‘rape’ and being an apologist for rapists is all too common in communities I’ve been around, and it makes me sick that laws do not recognize the violence that is rape in completely scarring a person’s version of reality and taking away the agency of a person over their body. Getting drunk is not the same as raping someone. Blacking out is not the same as raping someone.
- Humanity has immense potential to move forward. We have made amazing strides since our primitive societies, and can continue to move forward, but we must believe that every life is important and that there is a need to believe in causes beyond ourselves. Yes, we must take care of our careers, our families, our health. But we exist in an ecosystem that gives and takes, and if we want change, we must be the agents of it.
- Money solves 90% of all problems. So be smart, make money smartly, and use it well. Invest, show value by spending your money on the right people and right priorities, and using it to challenge the norm. Everything ca be tied back to how the money flows, but if you control the money, you have a say in how the future is shaped.
- Develop people. People are absolutely amazing in what they can do with a little bit of investment. Build leadership, and they will bring back cities. Train them in skills, and they will carry your work further. Appreciate and affirm, and they will surprise you with their effect on the world.
- Privilege is real. In all societies. In forms of patriarchy or the dominant race, we have an obligation to recognize the systems we benefit from and ensure that it is not at the expense of someone else, especially if its without reason other than systemic control. Challenging one’s privilege is difficult, it means recognizing aspects of your life have essentially been handed to you on a platter, but it doesn’t necessarily mean taking away the platter from you – it means making sure the platter gets to everyone.
There’s so much more fundamental lessons I’ve learnt and I’ve been grateful for constantly being challenged by the situations I’ve been in. Keep throwing yourself into difficult situations and wrestle with the pains, and you will come out flexing with new perspectives and stories.
Because what is life, but a grand story. A story of how we seek to find utopia – the perfect state of being – and fail so much along the way. But we must keep believing, because if not, we cannot move forward.