I’ve been mulling this around in my head for a while now, digesting and making connections as I go along. The past few weeks have been intense, what with assignments due and the recent blog seminar (shall blog about this another time), and a whole lot of other things happening. I just couldn’t make time to write.
But I finally do and I’m ready to write. Here goes.
On the 18th of March, I attended a Passion Unleashed talk, titled Life Worth Living. Up until fairly recently, I’ve never heard of the Passion Unleashed talks. The only reason I found out about it was because Pamelo Ho, author of Adventures of 2 Girls, posted on it on her Instagram – she was the invited speaker for the night.
Credits: Christopher Tan Photography
You see, I have been following Pamela’s journey on Instagram (@pamela_ho) and WordPress for a while now, and I’ve got to say, she is one of my favourite local writers, for more reasons than her writing. When I found out she was going to give a talk, I knew I had to go. I had to.
The night didn’t quite go as planned. Asha couldn’t make it at the last minute, so I had to go alone. I took the bus to SMU Administration Building, but for some reason, I missed the stop and only realised it when I was at Suntec City. By then, I had every reason to just throw in the towel and go get myself a good cup of coffee and chill. I was going to be late anyway.
But I decided that it was something I needed to attend, so I walked all the way back.
I’m glad I did.
The things shared by both Pamela and Terence (CEO of Emergenetics International) were things I needed to hear at this point in my life. It was magic.
Pamela shared her journey with the audience, and it resonated so much with me – it was unbelievable.
She started out her career as a teacher, before going into counselling and then subsequently, journalism. Through that journey, she developed a passion for children and women’s issues. She got divorced after giving birth to twin boys, and at the age of 40, decided to quit her job and travel for 9 months around the world with her best friend. Now she’s living her best life, and loving it. And she’s still growing.
Y’know, there were so many times during the talk when I felt like I was being addressed personally.
Initially I thought I’d share wholesale what they shared that night but nahhh. These are what I’ve picked up during the talk, learnt and digested over the past two weeks. I hope they’ll speak to you in ways that you needed to hear.
1) Every journey is unique, and it’s going to be filled with ups and downs. Embrace it.
It is so, so, so easy to look at someone successful and only see the success. We don’t quite know, or want to find out even, the journey that led them to where they are. We then beat ourselves up for not meeting this ideal and erroneous standard. Let’s face it, there will be times when we fall, when we feel so stretched out, so torn and tattered – so broken that it seems impossible to move on.
But here’s the deal-breaker: that’s the beauty of it – every stretch and pull is preparing us for greater. Greater achievements, greater struggles, greater success. There is purpose in every hardship and pain.
Never compare your journey with another. Your journey is yours, and only yours, to take. Have faith in that, and know that you are being guided to where you are meant to be.
2) There are so many definitions of happiness and success. Create your own.
Happiness and success are social constructs – how we perceive it is largely influenced by what others and society tell us.
Make your own meaning. Do what you truly feel for, what makes your blood pump, what makes you eager to wake up and seize the day.
What is success? It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.
Manuscript found in Accra, Paulo Coelho
Do what makes you happy, what your soul sings out for and what makes your spirit feel purposeful.
Redefine your own happiness and success, and find people who celebrate it with you.
3) Embrace change and uncertainty – they are the catalysts for growth.
We are organic beings, constantly changing and evolving according to the demands and stresses placed upon us.
You might be in a position where something hasn’t gone according to plan, or hey, your entire life has changed. Trust me, I know how you feel. I went from being nearly-engaged to single while thousands of miles away from home (and not coming back anytime soon) – not exactly how I envisioned my life to turn out but truly, I’m glad it happened.
Cos like how J. K. Rowling so aptly put it, “rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
Change and uncertainty force us to reevaluate our lives and make (tough) decisions. It is exactly at these junctures when values are put to the test and our principles are given the chance to be acted upon.
Embrace these opportunities to realise who we are as individuals.
Life has thrown me way too many curveballs than I care to take count. I cannot express how scary it is to make decisions, which leads me to my next point.
4) Fear is real, and it’s okay.
One mantra I have grown to embrace is: Feel the fear, but do it anyway.
It’s going to be scary, by virtue that you have absolutely no idea what’s going to be happen next.
Here’s the secret: Nobody knows.
It’s a terrible thing in life to wait until you’re ready. No one is actually ever ready to do anything so you might as well do things in the moment. Do it. Especially when you’re scared – go out and do whatever you’re scared of.
Be smart. Understand, evaluate and know what matters to you and the leaps of faiths you have to take.
Then go do it.
5) You will doubt yourself, and people will criticize. Do it anyway.
Of course, when you’ve made the leap(s) of faith, there’ll be times you just want to hit yourself on the head and go “WHAT WAS I THINKING?”
This, especially when you’ve left something comfortable to do something completely unthinkable.
There will be times when you’ll hear nasty comments or the many “I-told-you-so(s)”.
At these junctures, I find it helpful, necessary even, to sit down and remind myself why I did what I did in the first place. I’ll go on long walks, read through my old journal entries and reevaluate my goals and values. Every time, I’ll find the certainty and faith again.
If you’re doing something based on personal convictions, values, beliefs and passions, know that you’ll get to where you need to be.
6) Build (and keep!) a good support system.
I cannot emphasise how important this is. Yes, we are ultimately our biggest cheerleaders, but there will be days when we’re just not okay. There will be days when we cannot do things on our own, when all we want to do is lay under the covers and rot.
The best way to build a good support system? Be a good source of support to others, and choose wisely. Know who has your best interests at heart and who will love you enough to cheer you on or give you a hard time when it’s necessary. Learn to listen and pick up non-verbal cues. You are a reflection of who you choose to surround yourself with.
Abu Musa reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“The parable of a good friend and a bad friend is that of a seller of musk and a blacksmith. The seller of musk will give you some, you will buy some, or you will notice a good smell. As for the blacksmith, he will burn your clothes or you will notice a bad smell.” [Sahih Muslim]
I have made some pretty bad decisions in my life, but I’ve got to say, I’ve been pretty spot on when it comes to having quality support.
7) Trust the process.
Have faith. Lots of it.
Know that what is meant for you will not miss you, and you are exactly where you are meant to be right now.
Steve Jobs said it nicely during his commencement speech:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.
It’s not going to be easy. If anything, you will be challenged, tried and tested constantly.
But if you’re doing what you’re meant to do, what you believe in, and what your soul sings for, know that you’re on the right track.
Live a life of no regrets.
Live a life where one day, you’ll look back and say, “I did what I needed to do. I have no regrets.”
I wish you well. I wish all of us well.
Lots of love,