To all of you who have read, liked, commented or felt anything I have written quietly resonate with you, thank you so much for reading.
It bends my mind and broadens my heart that anyone would continue reading beyond one blog post, but I am told I apparently have 'faithful readers', so thank you from the bottom of my ever widening heart.
That Defining Moment
I remember I had just received my not-so-glorious A Level results and I was walking around my college in Singapore thanking all my teachers for their contribution in my life over the past eighteen months.
One of my favourite teachers was Mr L, my maths teacher. Not only did he excel as a tutor, what we really appreciated was that he always treated us all like adults despite our adolescence. He was firm but friendly, with an ever ready smile docked under the round glasses framing his pale moon face.
'So, what do you want to do when you grow up?' he probed. He always gave you the kind of non-judgmental look which made you want to tell him everything.
'I want to write,' came an instinctive, almost defiant response from somewhere deep inside me.
'Oh, okay...' he grinned, not unkindly.
'...and how are you going to put food on the table?'
There was no malice at all in his question, and I laughed out loud with a shrug.
'With much difficulty I guess!'
'Well, you know, writing doesn't have to be your main thing, you know. You can always write on the side. Many great writers have held different day jobs while writing in their spare time - they were mathematicians, teachers, government servants...'
Fifteen years later, and his words still remain with me, and I wish I could go back to thank him for opening my mind up to the possibility of earning a keep and pursuing my passion, and I'd like to believe I'm lucky enough to have struck a happy balance between the two.
Are Your Dreams Enough?
Oh damn you, Disney.
Growing up, we have always been confused by these two messages - our Asian parents convinced us that the only path to true happiness lies in the security of being an engineer, accountant, lawyer or doctor - and the other voice, the ones in Hollywood movies and Disney films - to Dream the Impossible Dream, that real happiness lay Somewhere Over The Rainbow, that we just needed to Follow The Yellow Brick Road, and that You Are Truly Special (Just Like Everyone Else).
We grew up believing we could be anything - kick-ass reporters, world class fashion designers, rock stars,
bestselling authors, Academy Award winners, sexy homemakers, performing dancers and award-winning photojournalists.
If only we believed hard enough.
Forget the requisite hard work - the months and years people spend perfecting their craft, making the right connections, patiently working their way up into opportunities for success and making their own luck, because you know, hard work is for losers.
And really, whose life ambition is it to be a stuffed-shirt accountant, a university lecturer, a middle manager, a boring engineer, a sordid lawyer, a mind-numbing waiter or a real estate agent anyway?
And then we grow up, and we realise that all is not so rosy.
Suddenly we find ourselves in the very real position that we are highly unemployable, that the world runs on money and connections and is carried on the back of ordinary 'uninspiring' jobs; that passion itself is not enough to pay the bills, repay mortgages or put food on the table.
Suddenly the Rainbows are revealed to be illusions, the Yellow Brick Road terminates in a Yellow Dead End, and we realise that we aren't actually all that special. In fact, we are Decidedly Average.
Some of us are lucky enough to have the perfect intersection of our passion and our profession. We do what we love and we are paid well for it. We remain interested and motivated because of our natural inclinations towards the subject and people view it as valuable and will pay money for it.
But what about those of us who are passionate about things that people do not place a monetary value on? Who is going to pay us to pursue what is perceived to be a hobby, a dalliance. Herein lies the problem of the struggling artist, the starving musician, the unsustainable charities, that guy with all the latest gear who does not a professional photographer make.
And even then, there are times when even that is not enough. We encounter many false starts and heartbreak along the way. We realise we are lost in an ocean of people who are more talented, better looking and far more competitive than us. Our clients are demanding and draining, our industry contacts fail us.
The way I see it, we can do one of three things:
1) Deaden Our Hearts. We give up on our dreams, we let life and its practicalities swallow us, we harden our hearts. We go to a job that provides a valuable service to the world, and come home drained from the politics of work, the mind-numbing routine, the endless meetings, the difficult customers. We escape momentarily in weekend getaways, the next fancy electronic gadget, the emotional eating.
We will live vicariously through our children and one day die in comfort, perhaps with regret.
2) Live Our Passion. We do the things that make us come alive. We work hard and get good at it, we get out there and build a network of the people who share the same passion as us, we find our unique selling point and we try our hardest to make it sustainable. We devote all our time and energy to it, losing sleep, friends and our sense of security along the way. And with any (self-made) luck, we will make it one day.
3) Balance The Two. This was the revelation from my Maths teacher. Although not always possible, this may be the best intermediate solution for some of us.
I think about the example of the apostle Paul from the Bible, who while travelling around the region to spread the Good News, never took it upon himself to expect the kindness of others but earned a living making tents.
This is where I find myself most fortunate - to be able to bring home a wage in my daily work (which I secretly love) and still be able to write for an audience of family and friends (which I openly love).
So thank you once again for reading, and for sharing my experiences, thought processes and my stories. May you find what you truly love and what you were put here for, and may you make a way of keeping it sustainable enough to make a difference in this world.