Friday, April 17, 2009

Fate :: Destiny :: Our choices make us who we are.. ::

When I was little, my grandmother used to cajole me out of my sulks by telling me that the weather will reflect my moods and turn grey and rainy as well. This always worked, not because I felt that I had any control over the weather, but rather, curiosity will get the better of me and I would wonder if it was true and how it can be so. We all know that rationally, this does not make sense, but somehow we don't always operate rationally, do we?

The same applies to the incident when an ex's dad took a particular liking to me because one of his HK business friends saw a picture we took at a family gathering and mentioned that from my features, I will bring luck to my in-laws', esp since they run their own business but that I would beget a lot of unwanted attention to myself from the opp gender which may thwart the relationship/marriage. Again, a non-rational basis but it made it easier for me to get along with the parents so I can hardly fault the logic yea? I read my horoscope everyday when I access my email but I do not think that I can place my destiny in the hands of destiny alone, can I? Maybe fate/destiny has plans in store for us, but I do believe in free will and that our choices make us who we are, not just destiny alone.

Someone wise once mentioned that our choices make us who we are and I totally agree with this. After my last post, I received a lot of feedback, from concerned friends, ex students, extended family members, even ex colleagues. One mentioned that sharing my problems halves the burden and all offered help in some form or another. It made me very touched to know that people whom I did not expect to are still keeping in touch in their own way. It was also a little disturbing to know that someone was waiting below my apartment that very night as well.

The past two weeks have been very eventful for me, both at work and with friends. There were times when I felt that history had caught up with me again and that we maybe can't escape our past. A highlight in the last two weeks came in form of the Edelman talk on Trust: The sixth sense. It was such a great and insightful talk that I shall dedicate a post to it once I'm done with my work stuff. Including it in this post does not do it enough justice. But it was great seeing Stephanie and Bob deliver an engaging talk to the class, which emphasised on the need to build/rebuild trust between organisations and their publics, especially with the on-going debacles by established institutions. I wish I could have caught up with them but I had student consults lined up for the day.

With the end of the semester in sight, a sense of wistfulness comes about. Retrospection makes its rounds again. I think a perk in my job is that I get to interact with 140 people up close every week; while this has made me crave for more private time, it is also something I look forward to every week, because I learn so much through these interactions.This semester has been a roller-coaster, lots of ups and downs. And it ended with a bang. Even now, some colleagues and close friends have expressed concern that something like this could have been handled in this manner. But then again, a close friend had a senior colleague threatened her face to face today, so such things do happen at work. Maybe this came as a shock to some colleagues because they had thought that it would have been handled differently. But I honestly wasn't too shocked/surprised when it happened or the way it was handled. Maybe a part of me had expected something like this to happen. Though getting emails with caps and exclamation marks wasn't what I expected, I know that handling it professionally on my part and not emotionally was the way to go. Another reason why the breakup was for the better: I could not have someone who was unable to comprehend the system I was working in, even with my best interests at heart, goad me to handle it in a drastic manner which would not have been beneficial to anyone. Not for me, not for the reputation of the module and definitely not for the students.

When the issue blew up and became out of control, I knew that I had to remain cool and professional under pressure and I was glad I had people whom I looked up to in the course of my short career thus far. G, whom I had worked with for a year, was brilliant in handling difficult situations in a firm yet cooperative manner. R as well, he was really patient in helping and more than that, he was genuinely interested in helping students. And I'm glad that I learnt from the best. There were times when I was wondering what all the ruckus was for and most importantly, whether the blasts I was getting via emails were worth it. If it was worth sticking to my point and my principles - that I had to be accountable to the students.

But our choices make us who we are, I feel. Even in the face of irrationality. Which was why during the meeting, I addressed only the issue and not the other stuff. Partly because the colleague handling the case, though she handled it with aplomb, was not in a position to address the other issues. The best decisions may well be the most difficult. I'm no longer seeking redress, but rather, I think some colleagues have witnessed how this was handled and see this incident as an example. There was a running joke about setting up a union and this helped to ease some of the discomfort some of them felt. Despite all of this, I think that most of my colleagues are fine, and some of them are really helpful and brilliant people whom I look up to and learn a lot from. And honestly, I would rather focus on producing good work and my research than engage in such politics. I believe in choosing my battles and choosing them wisely.

Some of my friends are more upset about this than myself and some have asked if I was going to do anything drastic. My simple answer: no. Because such stuff happen all the time. And as long as my conscience is clear, I handled this incident professionally and I help students get the most of their experience in the module, I have done my job and served my purpose.

Moving on to happier stuff: I spent my long Good Friday weekend with friends at big farewell parties and intimate gatherings and it was good to meet friends I've not met up for some time. I've also taken up swimming as well - having the private pool all to myself, just floating and looking at the sky, trying out new strokes and getting a good cardio workout. Which is just as well as friends have been indulging me in my food cravings. Maybe it's the stress at work... or my thesis which I've been working on in sporadic spurts, making me frustrated at times. I'm so totally gonna balloon soon. Argh. But I overdid the past weekend, with a baptism and celebratory lunches, and swimming when it's chilly have also resulted in my coming down with a cold. Making my last week with the students q bleah. I can't take my cold meds these days so I have to hydrate and get more rest. Meanwhile, my doc still can't figure out what's wrong with me, except that I have an extra sensitive respiratory system, a condition akin to asthma.

As of now, I shall focus on my grading of the presentations and settling of the grades for both the presentations and one page summaries for my 25 teams, handling the deluge of last minute emails from students and the final project grading which I shall begin next Monday. I'm glad I work with responsible fellow TAs, E last sem and C this sem, who are ready to help out whenever they can and how we all share the same vision, to help students get the most out of the module.

A movie which I missed because I was down with a cold and G said that it was depressing. And if he feels it's depressing, I'm gona take a raincheck... coz I think I need more positivity these days. A very poignant song indeed.



Gran Torino - Jamie Cullum
Realign all the stars above my head
Warning signs travel far
I drink instead on my own Oh! how I've known
the battle scars and worn out beds

gentle now a tender breeze blows
whispers through a Gran Torino
whistling another tired song

engines humm and bitter dreams grow
heart locked in a Gran Torino
it beats a lonely rhythm all night long

these streets are old they shine
with the things I've known
and breaks through the trees
their sparkling

your world is nothing more than all the tiny things you've left behind

So tenderly your story is
nothing more than what you see
or what you've done or will become
standing strong do you belong
in your skin; just wondering

gentle now a tender breeze blows
whispers through the Gran Torino
whistling another tired song
engines humm and bitter dreams grow
a heart locked in a Gran Torino
it beats a lonely rhythm all night long

may I be so bold and stay
I need someone to hold
that shudders my skin
their sparkling

your world is nothing more than all the tiny things you've left behind

so realign all the stars above my head
warning signs travel far
i drink instead on my own oh how ive known
the battle scars and worn out beds

gentle now a tender breeze blows
whispers through the Gran Torino
whistling another tired song
engines humm and better dreams grow
heart locked in a Gran Torino
it beats a lonely rhythm all night long
it beats a lonely rhythm all night long
it beats a lonely rhythm all night long

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Responsibilities and being true to myself

I've often been asked this question: What scares you the most? While most answers range from being afraid of the unknown and supernatural to public speaking, my answer to that question is simply "I'm terrified of being a burden to my loved ones."

2009 has been a challenging ride for me thus far, with a series of unfortunate events taking place one after the other: most of my pets dying inexplicably since late last year and some of the stronger ones lasting till last month, my grandmother having another fall, my mother's condition worsening, the very real possibility of me being the sole breadwinner of my family soon, my botched PhD applications, offer without financial assistance because of the US recession. Other stuff along the way as well but these were some of the major ones. It came to a point where as one of my closer friends pointed out "You know, this might actually be good material for a tear-jerker drama if it did not occur in real life?".

A cumulation of these factors as well as other issues contributed to my decision to end my relationship as well. It is never an easy decision to end a relationship which made so much progress in such a short period, but at some point I decided that if this was what I was going to have to face for the next couple of months, even years, no point dragging someone with me as well. I know that I would have to focus my energy on taking care of my family who needs me more, plan my next step in a couple of areas as well as focus on finishing my thesis and doing a good job of it.

At some point in our lives, we have to put to practice what we have learnt about being cruel to be kind. It's not easy to be cruel to someone whom you like, but what kept me going on for "How to lose a guy in 10 days" was to make the letting go easier, esp if he was hanging on to the possibility of getting back together in the future. I never really understand why the guys in my life seem to develop a propensity for that - to want to get back after months of non communication after a breakup. I prefer a clean and definite break, no loose ends lying around. Might make the coping difficult at the beginning, but in the end, it's the best for everyone. For me, it's better to not hang on to false hopes and move on with my life.

The past few months for me have been really difficult, being a person I was not, even a person I disliked at times, but if I have to be cruel to be kind, then so be it. Honestly, I was relieved when everything ended. I was so tired of having to be someone that I wasn't comfortable with and friends knew that it just wasn't me. I'm glad that he did not know me well enough to know that as well. My relationships tend to be private and I intend to keep it that way. Suffice to say that after a heart to heart session with my aunt, she only had this to say: "I think that you are brave to not abandon your family to pursue this relationship. I might not have been able to do that."

For me, once something is over, it's over. Which is why I tend to deliberate for a while before my decision is made and try to give the benefit of doubt, etc., but once my mind's made up, it stays made up. So to you reading this, no more smses in the middle of the night and no more calls as well. I've given up on you last year after all my advice and efforts and my decision remains unchanged. It doesn't matter to me if I've been proven right or that you are wrong. No amount of apologies or pleading will change my mind. I hope my non-response is a clear response to you.

For now, I will be kept busy with work - presentations, summaries and final reports to grade till next month. I hope to finish up my draft to my sup as well. In between all of that, I need to take care of my mum, try to accompany her for her appointments as well as take care of household chores which she is unable to do because of her condition. At the same time, try to get my driving license and plan my next step and get over this persistent cough and intermittent flu symptoms I've been having since last week, partly due to my lack of rest. I refuse to let my personal decisions interfere with my work life and I still intend to give my best as much as I can to all my responsibilities.

Some friends have asked me about my family taking up so much of my time, at an age where some of them are partying or traveling and making use of the best years of our lives. To me, it really bears down to my family being my main responsibility - my mum gave up the best years of her life taking care of me and my bro and my dad has worked very hard for most of his life. Maybe my time to repay them is a little premature than most of my friends but still I shall be here for them. To me it's not even a choice, it's just something I have to do to stay true to myself. If it means being tired even on weekends after cleaning my house after spending half the day accompanying my mum for her appointments, that I can't spend as much time or money partying, or if I fall asleep in front of my PC while trying to value add to my thesis, then so be it. If my family becomes a strike out for me when it comes to dating, I might regret it at some point in time, but meanwhile for now, I shall deal with my lot. I'm blessed to have an inner sanctum of friends who understand me, who support me with their hot baths and homecooked meals, who counsel me or just make my day when things are bad with a random sms. I am especially touched when some ex students did that as well, and they did not know what was going on at my end. This time round, I've been dealing with my stuff alone most of the time, to make sense of things and partly because I really did not know how to tell them what was going on but still, I know that when I'm weary, there are people out there who really care.

In any case, the semester's almost over, I can't wait for the hols to arrive so that I can focus on my thesis and get the most done. I might take a sojourn of my own as well, to take a trip to clear my mind of stuff. But I have to spend a lot of time with my mum to help her manage her condition as well and there's the finances as well to think about so let's see about that. Lots of changes in the pipeline for me, most of which I will not share here. But suffice to say that I'm looking forward to the changes with trepidation and some of them might surprise you but I think in the end, I need these changes. Some of you might not agree with me and my upcoming plans and decisions but I think that in the end, it's my life and somehow within the myriad of responsibilities, I need to be responsible to myself, be true to myself and live with my decisions.

Hopefully in the upcoming months, if the going gets tough, I shall refer back to this post to get affirmation and draw strength from it as well. Wish me luck.



Priscilla Ahn - Dream
I was a little girl alone in my little world who dreamed of a little home for me.
I played pretend between the trees, and fed my houseguests bark and leaves, and laughed in my pretty bed of green.

I had a dream
That I could fly from the highest swing.
I had a dream.

Long walks in the dark through woods grown behind the park, I asked God who I'm supposed to be.
The stars smiled down on me, God answered in silent reverie. I said a prayer and fell asleep.

I had a dream
That I could fly from the highest tree.
I had a dream.

Now I'm old and feeling grey. I don't know what's left to say about this life I'm willing to leave.
I lived it full and I lived it well, there's many tales I've lived to tell. I'm ready now, I'm ready now, I'm ready now to fly from the highest wing.

I had a dream