I’ve written customary year-long reviews around New Year’s for every year from 2008 onwards except for 2011. I don’t exactly remember why, but I suppose I was in a state of disappointment around this time last year, so I probably wasn’t sure if I could write a review post objectively.
I don’t want to look at my archives 3 decades later and wonder why is one year missing, so instead of one year, I am going to recap two years in this post.
In summary, 2011 and 2012 are two incredible years for me. I am sure in my twilight years, I’ll look back fondly at these two years and see them as a pivotal turning point in my life.
The first part of 2011 went by in a blur. There were two distinct events, the first was the decision to seek professional help for my dysthymia, and the second was participating actively in Singapore’s elections, when I got to witness the first time an opposition party was voted into a GRC. I have always been intrigued with politics, but it was really then that I discovered how much it has seeped into my life and my identity.
For the first time in my life, I took medication to manage my dysthymia for a whole three months before making a very personal decision that I would rather feel despair than to feel numb all the time. Actually, that’s what I thought, but the truth is, I made a whirlwind decision to visit San Francisco in July last year and I was so enthralled the first few days I was there, I completely forgot about my medication. Again, that was the first time in my life I truly felt alive. Alive in a way that I can feel every cell in my body bursting with life and joy.
My adventure in SF took an extreme turn when a series of serendipitous events led me to meeting Joyce and Eric. I fell in professional love with them at first sight and decided to cut short my SF trip to be in Hawaii with them to suss out whether we could really build our dreams together. I spent two months in HI, learned how to surf for the first time, experienced my first wipe-out, discovered the deliciousness of seared tuna ahi while marveling at how it was possible for me to spend 2 months with four other strangers every single day and not feel claustrophobic.
In the middle of all that I also had the opportunity to meetup and potentially join a startup of my professional dreams, that had another huge impact on me in another way, because it made me feel validated at a level I could not have imagined. Meeting the founders of that startup was my inner-geek’s dream come true and I discovered through our conversations that I do not feel nervous or afraid at all if I truly believed in what i was sharing. I was passionate about making communication for humanity better, till today I believed it wasn’t exactly my work that led me to them, it was the way I was both obsessed and emotional with the idea of perpetuating change.
But I was already in love with simplehoney, and the secret to me is, I tire of things very easily all the time, but once I find something/someone to be in love with, it is very difficult to tear me away from that entity/object. And so I returned to Singapore late Oct last year, decided to process my paperwork to be in the US for me to join Joyce’s and Eric’s startup, simplehoney, officially and full-time.
Life, I learned, never really goes the way you want. Or I want. It goes the way I am meant to go. For my highest good. In what seemed like a negative turn of events, my paperwork ran into issues, I escaped to Vietnam, discovered the beauty of Hoi An and fell on my face, Vietnam in general is not a place for me, but falling on my face and still smiling thereafter made me realise how much I want to still want to be a person who consciously chooses to smile, in spite of and despite of everything.
With Vietnam I ended 2011, emotionally, the disappointment of not being able to return to SF took a toll on me. I was not sure whether I would ever return or if I could still be with simplehoney, I felt like it was ultimately cruel to hand someone her dreams and take it away after all that she had been through in order to even catch a glimpse of those dreams.
But life, again, always has its own trajectory. Once I knew that, I found out it is much easier to go with the flow of that trajectory even though it seems unpleasant instead of resisting it.
The turn of events had shaken me so hard that I started to wonder if I was persisting in the wrong direction. Maybe I was just not meant to do this. Maybe I should just be contented with a mundane life. A comfortable routine. Not set myself up for hopes and dreams, only to be crushed with disappointment. Perhaps I should not even try to scale greater heights, because falling down is so painful. People go through their darkest doubts when they try to do something difficult, and usually the good news is, if your mind tries to trick you repeatedly into settling for the easy way out and you still persist, albeit barely, you will then find the inner strength to carry on.
And that was what I repeatedly found in Vancouver. I decided to fly there in Feb 2012, again, on a whirlwind. Emotionally, being there was very difficult for me. For the first time again, I felt homesick. I had never, ever, felt homesick. But it was so difficult for me that all I want to do is to return to the hot humid comfort of Singapore and watch tv.
I also ended my six-year relationship while I was there and with that I felt a acute sense of loneliness. As if no one really understood me and what I was trying to do. At the darkest times of my hurricane of thoughts, there was no one I could think of who would understand what I was going through. I could not find anyone I could talk to.
But I developed friendships with a few Vancouverites and in particular, meeting Spencer I had found a kindred spirit. He blew my misconceptions about young people. Lol. He was a decade younger but he understood. The late night conversations we had throughout the months I was in Vancouver tided me through some tough times.
It is with hindsight that I am now able to tell everyone, I am ultimately very grateful for what transpired before, during and after Vancouver, even my paperwork drama, because it was during this period of time that allowed me to grow comfortable into myself. Who I am and what I stood for. Because I was alone and there was nobody and nowhere I could channel my thoughts to or be distracted with, I was forced to deal with myself. Alone.
And with that I discovered no matter how tough things can be, I still want to be who I am and pursue what I want to do and be steadfast to what I believe in.
I returned to Singapore, a whole new me. If after my first SF trip I was beginning to show traces of a different person I would become, Vancouver accelerated that. Sf gave me the hopes and dreams I could achieve, Vancouver gave me the inner strength I needed to try and fulfill them.
Had I gone directly to SF without the paperwork drama, I would still be consciously trying to hide myself in every situation. I was not comfortable with myself prior. Through the downs, I have discovered the capacity of my inner-strength which I didn’t know exist before.
I spent a month in Singapore after Vancouver, finally being able to be in my home country without feeling the need to escape every second. I guess once I came to peace with myself, the location didn’t matter that much anymore. And once I started to be who I am, I started to meet a lot more like-minded people.
I went to Hong Kong for a couple of months, had a lot of fun co-working at HKCocoon, started a routine of swimming, ate a lot and by the time I left, I still liked that city a lot. I held my first sharing session with 10+ people at Cocoon. I learned two things, 1. never assume people know what you know, 2. I don’t get stage fright if I truly believe in what I am trying to share. For someone who was so afraid of people, to be someone who is able to speak at a 10+ person gathering – achievement unlocked.
And with that I returned to Singapore for the final time in 2012, the paperwork came through, and I am now in SF. It took an entire year and more, but it was all very much worth it.
Other random eventful tidbits to remember:
- I started writing for webdesigntuts+, to be honest it was not fully out of my own free will, but though writing a post really takes up tons of effort and time, I am humbled yet proud of the feedback I had received.
- I started to make my bed every morning and I discovered how much I like tidying up my personal space. Love, former messy person.
- Started to meet a lot of people for coffee conversations.
- Before I left Singapore, I shared my story in front of a 20+ audience. Another achievement unlocked.
- I now identify as a storyteller, more than a designer.
- I started writing cheesy poetry again, triggered by a fateful meeting with a stranger.
- Because of the tough times I had in the past year, it actually brought back many key friendships which I had thought I lost.
- I am still learning, sometimes you just have to ask, and having people say 'No' in your face is no big deal.
- Being a good product designer is half the actual design process and the other half, debating and managing product priorities and tradeoffs.
- What I've learned for the past year as a designer has far exceeded what I've learned being an independent designer for four years.
- I realised I don't like working from home and I love co-working spaces.
- Managing my moods is all about removing stressful triggers around me. This is such a simple yet powerful revelation, I kid you not. I don't even remember the last time I was in a bad mood.
- I removed an infected cyst on the back of my neck. It is my first time going through surgery, albeit a small one. It was very, very painful lol, but it made me learn that it is really better to endure short-term acute pain than the chronic annoying pain everyday.
- I started wearing crystals frequently, yes, I can feel their energy and I like wearing them a lot.
- I have also begun to take frequent health supplements upon discovering our food these days have not much nutrients in them anymore, well, we're lucky if we don't get poisoned first.
- I am a lot more conscious about what I eat now, I avoid food that makes me feel tired. Namely, carbs. That is sad, because I really love Asian bakeries.
- I started having soy in my coffees instead of milk, because I had flu once and I was aware how milk would make me have a lot more mucus. Eugh.
- I removed a lot of sugar from my diet, namely from my coffees. I also don't eat my old-favourites, chocolates and candy anymore.
- I like eating most greens now. This is kinda extreme from a person who used to say raw vegetables induce nausea.
- I have also learned that any kind of relationships are only healthy if all parties have equal power. Any other way erodes them over time.
- I am loved by family and friends, I was just too self-deprecating to see it.
- I now say thank-yous to everybody doing me a service, whether they are obligated to or not. I am starting to observe the impact it has on people. For this, thank you, Vancouver.
- I smile at everyone who makes eye-contact with me. This is to Vancouver's credit too.
- I love being an employee and going to work, for the first time in my life.
All in, this had been an awesome two years for me. Both the ups and downs. I am grateful and I know I had been blessed.