A Beautiful Paradox

I grew up with this notion of life – that since life is hard, everyone would be equally nice to each other – but I learnt recently that not everyone is nice. We are all victims to our own experience, hurt and eventually we become more and more wary whom we give our uttermost human service aka kindness to.

Believe it or not, accept it or not, we are all money driven one way or the other. We rush to work every weekday or sometimes, on weekends because our work offers income. This income brings food to the table, allows us to spend and live the life we desire.

But what is exactly the kind of life we want? Is life about dwelling a contented, three-story bungalow, driving our dream car or being able to travel everywhere we could without worrying about how much we are going to spend? Or is it about everything listed and more?

Could we unconsciously be vying for power? We want the power to control and the power to make decisions because we are simply too tired listening to the higher-up.

Whatever they are, we thrive to reach those life goals. We take every step we can. We measure every risk we can possibly think of.

Our “dream” life then makes us a goal eccentric individual, which means we cannot be nice to everyone. We have our loved ones and dreams at stake. Selfishness then becomes a necessity.

I reflected on my experience with humans and my countless interaction with every one of them during my travel and coincidental bumps.

I now understand this sad yet powerful thing about humanity – that we can never be 100% kind to each other – yet at the same time, we have to be kind. I now understand this truth as a beautiful paradox.

We have to be kind. But we cannot be too kind.

So where do we draw the line?

Honestly, I still have no idea how. For multiple times I’ve crossed the line I drew and too many times I have retreated and moved two steps back from the same line.

But what I know for sure is the brutality of listening to your gut feelings – not necessarily following them. They somehow already know what you want, what you don’t want and potential catastrophes you might have brushed off.

I emphasized listening not necessarily following because we would never actually fully follow our gut feelings. We simply don’t have the guts too. It is too scary, risky and what if our feelings ended up being wrong? So I don’t coerce obedience towards my instinct anymore. Listening works much better.

In summary, I learn that the perception of life then is not about being right or wrong. It is also not about being rich or poor. Neither it is about living a balanced life. Rather, it is about being entirely certain that sometimes, life just happens to kick you in the butt and throw you up in the sky – we just have to enjoy this beautiful paradox one day at a time.

“My heart is at ease knowing what was meant for me will never miss me, and what misses me was never meant for me.”

Finding Certainty in Uncertainty

I am not much of a planner but in all my life, I have always visualized / created a simple life plan to myself to assure my existence on Earth means something.

I will graduate.

Get a job.

Earn money.

Meet my significant other.

Get married.

Travel.

Have two kids.

Monitor my kids.

Trick my kids into thinking vegetables are chocolates.

Plan other kind of tricks.

Journal those tricks.

Get old.

Etc. etc.

It was a simple plan that I thought will go pretty smoothly. After all, I have like years to accomplish the plan. Little did I know, life is actually much more than raising a family and getting a job – at least not for me. I recently realized I am a self-professed workaholic who sees no meaning in life if I were to be stuck at an 8 – 5 desk job with no results and continuous repetitive work (God forbids).

People say that sounds like an entrepreneur. But I disagree. It is more than being a businesswoman.

It is about finding meaning.

I just want my work to mean something. To achieve something.

Reflecting on this, I panicked. Because my life is in fact the total opposite. It is filled with uncertainties, risk and the unknown.

I panicked like a sweaty old hag who woke up late and ran for his life to catch a bus. Panicked because here I am reaching quarter years old and I thought by then I’d already have some sort of career, know what I want to be or achieve and most importantly, I thought I’d be very stable.

But I am not. I am still floating like a puffy white cloud in the sky. And I still act like a childish kid who gawks at chocolate and laughs at stupid jokes.

I have no idea when I am going to get married (I can’t even think of myself and marriage just yet). I am still trying to make sense of my love for marketing, content creation, coding and graphic design…and music. Like who on Earth touches everything beautiful and fell in love with everything? Me. Fml.

Then, I realized, what the heck.

It is actually okay. It is okay to be uncertain about myself.

I slowly embrace the fact that I know nothing about my life or in fact anything of my skills but guess what, vaguity is perfectly fine and it is OK.

It works much better than trying too hard into tricking my brain to think that I do have a plan and I do know what I want in life and all (Sorry brain). It works much better because I am finally honest, and the feeling is incredible.

For the first time ever, I feel like a free bird because hey you know what,

I don’t know where my life is taking me. Maybe I have two kids. Maybe I’ll have twins. And maybe, I will in near future work too much. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I am uncertain and I accept the fact that I am uncertain – and at least that’s one thing I know for sure. I have uncertainties and I accept them.

With that in mind, I stop being too harsh on myself for not adhering to “the life plan”. I fell in love with myself all over again.

Did it stop me from working hard? No. But it stops me from feeling like a complete shit.

Did it stop me from thinking that having no goals is okay? No. But I now learn that it is okay to have uncertainties. One day things will make sense. Uncertainties are part of life and I shouldn’t be too brutal with myself.

Sharing this because it feels like I’ve just found a gold hidden beneath dirts and soil so there is this urge to announce it.

And also because I want to share this with you who are perhaps experiencing the same thing.

Maybe you are feeling like wtf is wrong with your life. Maybe life hasn’t made sense to you but it makes sense to your peers. Maybe you are not sure what to be certain of anymore…

It’s okay. It’s okay to be uncertain and not have your future all planned out. We can be happy without having the answers to everything. No doubt we crave absolute certainties. But when they don’t come as easy and uncertainties overwhelm our safety net, we have to accept that because we can’t change it and that’s okay. Maybe this will one day teach us something and help us find the path that is destined for us. Maybe not. We don’t know but again, that’s okay. We have to learn to accept the shaky journey to our destined path.

Here’s a quote from Shivam to end all this wordy text:

The best way to live your life is by falling in love with it. All you need to do is savor every moment and trust the flow in your life. Be happy about uncertainty and unresolvedness for it could bring unexpected happiness. Get out of the story in your head and breathe where life happens. Right now. – Shivam.

 

Here’s to becoming a fearless life explorer!

My thoughts on Stephen King’s Finders Keepers

On January 1st, I sternly decided to start my day right by spending 10 – 15 minutes  either watching an inspiring TedTalk video or reading a motivational book. A week ago, I broke my vow and started my day delving into King’s thriller story, Finders Keepers. He is such an intrinsic storyteller so much so that it was really hard to keep myself off the book. Since the story is still fresh on my mind (just finished reading it two hours ago), I am compelled to share it because yayayaya, I am a nerd who dwell in theories.

Spoiler Alert! Stop here and close the page if you are intending to read the novel. Otherwise, if you are equally intrigued with my take on the book or if you are just bored…you may continue.

Summary 

The story is about a man named Morris Bellamy who is an avid fan of a character, Jimmy Gold, created by an iconic author in the 1970s, John Rothstein. Rothstein has stopped publishing Jimmy Gold but still continues to write for himself. Morris kills his idol because Gold eventually becomes a sellout. After the kill, Morris and his accomplices empty his safe of cash and a collection of Rothstein’s unpublished work. However, before Morris even has a chance to read them, he was jailed for another crime. 35 years later, Morris discovers teenager Pete Saubers has already found the stolen treasure. Morris’s hunger and desperation for Rothstein’s unpublished work of Jimmy Gold eventually leads to his thirst for vengeance against Pete and his family.

Somewhat the Gist of the story… (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. I warned you twice btw)

Pete discovers the treasure and uses the cash for his parents who are cash-strapped. He is equally into Jimmy Gold just as Morris. But he loves his sister, Tina more than Rothstein’s Jimmy Gold which is equivalent to Morris’s love for Jimmy Gold.

Morris kills his accomplices and eventually a bookseller, Andrew who he considers as his only friend.

Pete tries to sell the stories written in Moleskin books to this bookseller, Andrew and finds himself in a bargaining conflict with Andrew. Andrew blackmails Pete as he knows how and where Pete has found those books.

Morris hunts for Pete, kidnaps his sister and tries to kill Pete.

Pete and Morris meet in a rec room in their neighbourhood where Pete threatens to set Rothstein’s written work on fire.

Morris tries to shoot Pete and Pete, out of shock, let go of his lighter and eventually burns the books.

Hysteric Morris kneels and watches the books he’s been waiting for gone into ashes and burns himself to death.

Even after 35 years, Morris never gets to find out how the story of Jimmy Gold ends.

My thoughts:

Is Rothstein a hint for Stephen King’s fans? 

Finders Keepers is the second of his trilogy that began with Mr Mercedes and ends with End of Watch. I haven’t read End of Watch but similarly, Jimmy Gold is also a trilogy by Rothstein. Rothstein has stopped publishing but still continues to write. I wonder if this is a hint to his readers that one day he might just stop publishing but fret not, I will not stop writing… but wait… here’s the best thing you won’t get to read it because no matter how you badly want to, they are mine…Haha.

Morris’s attempt to read Rothstein’s unpublished book fails terribly despite him taking three lives.

Could it be that Jimmy Gold’s famous quote in the book,

SHIT DON’T MEAN SHIT? (As Jimmy Gold would say it)

is away for Stephen King to tell us that shit is just shit so let it go (whatever this shit is)?

What isn’t yours will never be yours no matter how hard you try

I don’t consider Pete lucky to have found the treasure of cash and “ancient” literature. Rather, I think the stolen treasure is meant to be discovered by and is for Pete. Morris has stolen the treasure but ends up spending 35 years in jail for a crime he can never remember committing (a woman has accused him of rape) and then eventually, he watches his books on fire. On the other hand, Pete has never had to try that hard to read Rothstein’s unpublished book. I mean Pete doesn’t have to kill to read.

The message: Don’t chase for things. Work hard, do your shit and let them come to you. When you want something badly, create positive thoughts and desire them with love. Morris’s hatred towards Rothstein eventually leads to his own downfall.

Morris and Pete are similar beings who take on a different path of life

Pete admires the writer for his writing. Morris on the other hand, is sucked into the man-made character Jimmy Gold who Morris believes is a lot like him.

You and Jimmy Gold will get along. He’s a sarcastic, self-hating little shit. A lot like you,” says Morris’s teacher.

Despite their differences, both Pete and Morris prefer the books to cash and both see immense value in these books. Pete is able to relate to Morris’s desire for Jimmy Gold. I actually think Morris might have grown up to be Pete if he actually learns to let go of his dissatisfaction towards Jimmy Gold’s life.

 

Life isn’t just about you

Life is about the people surround you. Eighteen year old Pete knows this very well, allowing him to read the unpublished book of Jimmy Gold. Morris however, is a negative old man with selfish goals that eventually leads him to an unhappy route to death.

Is the story more important that its writer?

Here’s my favourite quote from the book:

Tears actually came to his eyes. Such tears, Pete realizes – yes, even now, especially now, because their lives hang upon it – mark the core power of make-believe. It’s what caused thousands to weep when they learned that Charles Dickens had died of a stroke. It’s why, for years, a stranger put a rose on Edgar Allan Poe’s grave every January 19th, Poe’s Birthday.

A few years back, I was into an Irish Author, Maeve Binchy. Her book, “Circle of Friends” and “Glass Lake” were (still are) my ultimate favourites. Back in Singapore, she wasn’t as popular and I had to scour online to find her books. I’d plastic wrap these books and read a few chapters here and there repeatedly. Her books were books I find extremely hard to lend to. (It’s as if I’d never get it back).  Often, I felt like one of the characters in her book. But most of the time, it was her writing that I admire.

When she passed, I realized her stories did not matter as much as the news about her death. When Binchy died, I was sad not because she would no longer write. Rather because Binchy has touched my heart and it was hard to let that go.

So I guess it is the writer is more important than the story – and seeing the happy ending of Pete, King perhaps feels equally the same.

 

***

 

Last quote that I really like from this book…really long but worth the read and I think I’ll be dwelling on this quote for quite some time…

“At some point in this course, perhaps even tonight, you will read something difficult, something you only partially understand, and your verdict will be this is stupid. Will I argue when you advance that opinion in class the next day? Why would I do such a useless ting? My time with you in short, only thirty-four weeks of classes, and I will not waste it arguing about the merits of this short story or that poem. Why would I, when all such opinions are subjective, and no final resolution can ever be reached?’

Some of the kids – Gloria was one of them – now looked lost, but Pete understood exactly what Mr. Ricker, aka Ricky the Hippie, was talking about…

‘Time is the answer,” Mr Ricker said on the first day of Pete’s sophomore year. He strode back and forth, antique bellbottoms swishing, occasionally waving his arms. “Yes! Time mercilessly culls away the is-stupid from the not-stupid.”

“It will occur for you, young ladies and gentlemen, although I will be in your rear-view mirror by the time it happens. Shall I tell you how it happens? You will read something – perhaps ‘Dulce et Decorum Est,’ by Wilfred Owen. Shall we use that as an example? Why not?’

Then, in a deeper voice that sent chills up Pete’s back and tightened his throat, Mr. Ricker cried, ” ‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge…’ And son on. Cetra-cetra. Some of you will say, This is stupid.”

….
‘And yet!” Up went the finger.

“Time will pass! Tempus will fugit! Owen’s poem may fall away from your mind, in which case your verdict of is-stupid will have turned out to be correct. For you, at least. But for some of you, it will recur. And recur. Each time it does, the steady march of your maturity will deepen its resonance. Each time that poem sneaks back into your mind, it will seem a little less stupid and a little more vital. A little more important. Until it shines, young ladies and gentlemen. Until it shines.”

 

 

My Pursuit of Happiness…

A while ago, someone posed a question about my “all smiles” and “happy” behaviour. He asked me these three questions.

  1. Why am I always smiling?
  2. If the world is going to end will I still be grinning from ear to ear?
  3. If I knew that the majority of people in the world are not happy.

His questions further triggered my laughter and I ended up chuckling loudly – I think I found it amusing and somehow surprising that being happy has become a rarity and perhaps, you might say, an anomaly. This short conversation then probed me to question my own happiness Continue reading “My Pursuit of Happiness…”