Over in my home country today, there will family and friends celebrating the Lunar New Year. I never really particularly enjoyed it because I found the yearly regime of visits painful, but living in a foreign country made me appreciate what it means for the Chinese. It is almost like Thanksgiving or Christmas, a deliberate opportunity for people to get together. I used to feel that I was being forced to participate in house-visiting, but I can see how it can actually be a good thing. When everyone grows up and live their lives in separate directions, perhaps getting together, no matter due to tradition or enforcement, reminds you of your connections and roots, I suppose.
I am still not very much into the tradition, I personally believe that reunion dinners or get-togethers should come spontaneously and be very much desired. We should not wait for a holiday to get together. If someone is important to you, then take the time to see this person, it is as simple as that. I also don’t think it is a good idea to wait for New Years to have a fresh start. Every day should be a fresh start. But I’ll stop being such a wet-blanket for now.
Since I don’t intend to participate in any celebratory activities even if I am given an opportunity to, I would take this time to write about gratitude instead.
I have never lived better in my entire life since I arrived in SF mid December last year. It has only been around two months and the cynic in me tells me it is still too early to tell, but one of the most transformative mindsets one can have is to celebrate small wins, and to live in the present. I can be that person who is expecting misery to find me even though I am perfectly happy right now, or I can be that person who is just indulging in every happy moment that passes me by.
The only thing that somehow affects me now and then is how my loved ones have to endure me being away. But I really believe love shouldn’t be limited by physical distance. Love is love, and to love someone is to be happy for the person even though she cannot be physically present because she’s off pursuing the dreams of her life. I can only hope my loved ones will find it in their hearts to understand. And it goes the other way round, by reciprocating the love showered on me, do I take the time to physically spend quality time with the people who love me, or do I make the best effort to live the best way I can?
I am confronted with this difficult question very often in my head, and it is tough for me to choose. But I still choose to try to make the best of my life. I still think that if I had been at home, I would be like a knife that doesn’t have an edge. And then, what is the point of my existence?
I am eating a lot better and I am very grateful that living in SF makes that a hell lot easier. Buying sustainable produce is within walking distance. Finding a restaurant that serves healthy fare is at the tip of my fingers. It is very easy to take this sort of convenience for granted once people live a long while here, but I don’t want to stop having that childlike sense of wonder when I walk through a farmer’s market. It is a lot easier for me to not take this for granted, because I only need to be mindful how difficult it is to eat local produce in Singapore. Or anything that has the label ‘organic’, much less from a real farm.
I have been running a mile twice a week, it is really nothing compared to friends who are running marathons every other day, but for someone like me who had hardly lifted my own butt off my chair in front of the computer, it is like a mini-miracle for me. I have also come to the conclusion that is not how fast or how far I run, but that I am consistently making the choice to run, even though all I want to do is not move.
Work has never been better. I say this in all seriousness, even though the bar has been set pretty low with what I had to endure while being an employee in Singapore. There are days when I leave my office building with a profound sense of gratitude and a spring in my step as I walk home (yes I get to walk home!). There is a certain sense of fulfillment and despite the crazy ups and downs we go through as a startup, I truly love my team. I love them as team mates and I love them even more as friends. Again, having had not-so-nice employers before has made me appreciate my current employers even more. I also had to spend a year apart from my team mates because of my paperwork limbo and thus having the opportunity to be in the same office with them every day now simply feels special, every single day.
Although I am glad I am over the paperwork limbo now, I have to say, it has been the best thing that ever happened to me. That one year had been so challenging for me that it is hard for me to take what I have now for granted. Everything I am experiencing now is extremely precious to me because I know fully well how close I came to missing out on all of it.
Sleep, oh wow, sleep. I was a chronic insomniac since I was a toddler. I proudly proclaimed myself to be severely nocturnal, if there is such a thing. I hated waking up in the mornings and thrived being awake at 3am in the morning. These days, I fall into deep sleep by midnight and I wake up at 8 without an alarm. I am convinced that being able to sleep is the one single thing I am most grateful for. Just being able to acquire deep rest is instrumental in improving other areas of my life, especially my moods. I am hardly ever in a bad mood now.
Being surrounded by lots of happy people is also something I am very grateful for. There are a lot of happy people here. Also, simply by not being moody all the time has lifted an invisible veil of my eyes. Since I am so sensitive to little moments of happiness now, just having the awareness to observe these moments has contributed to my level of happiness too.
I will always be grateful for the people who were there with me at key moments in my life. There are friends who had experienced the massively-bitter me and is still around to be with the happy me now. They will be people I will always keep in my heart because it is already rare enough for people to stick around for a lengthy time, much less stick around when I was such a pain in the ass. Being away has also made me very appreciative of people from my home community, tech or not. There seems to be a common thread of understanding between us – we are all fighting the same battles. It is very intriguing for me to feel a certain sense of connection to people that I didn’t have that many shared experiences with, but I feel connected to anyway because we were from the same country.
There is one special group of people I am exceptionally grateful for. People who are driven by the same values and motivation as me. They remind me constantly why I continue to believe and they keep me grounded. It is not easy to want to make a difference to this world. People go insane, fall into deep depression, lose their acquired assets or kill themselves trying to do so. It is hard to pursue meaning especially when one is being surrounded by people perfectly contented to remain in the status quo. I have it slightly easier here because there are arguably more people in the valley trying to make a difference, but I am also keenly aware that there are many here who is pursuing a difference with dissimilar values. I still feel insane for even having the ambition and dreams to contemplate that I can have a measurable impact on this world. If there is something I would want to seek self-improvement on, it would be my own comfort levels with my own insanity.
I will like to be more comfortable with having a distinct voice and to be less afraid to be proven wrong. That I would require less validation and approval to pave my own unique pathway. That I will dare to love in my own crazy way, even if most people would not understand. I am grateful to be able to feel this desire to be myself. That my days of conformity seem to be finally over.
All in, I am grateful that I am still intrinsically motivated to write a thousand word essay here, even though I am aware that there will be hardly anyone who reads these chunks of words, the ones that do will matter the most. And most of all, I really just want to write because I honor myself.
Thank you whoever you are, for being part of my journey.
p.s. I am ultimately grateful for not having it easy till recent years in my life because it has made me appreciate what I have now. So if any of you is having a tough time, keep faith that one day you may look back and appreciate having it tough because it will make you stronger and happier. There cannot be light without darkness, and one will not know what it means to be alive without coming close to death.