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Tuesdays with Granny

Inspired by Mitch Albom’s popular memoir “Tuesdays with Morrie”, I made sure I visited granny on Tuesdays, just so that I could write this entry.

Just kidding. *insert monkey emoticon*

The truth of the matter is, I coincidentally spend my Tuesdays with my granny. You see, I love her to bits and have a regular routine of seeing her now that I am back in Singapore for a while. Because of my blessed lifestyle (unfortunately not for much longer), I have been having the privilege of spending random Tuesday afternoons with her. Being able to spend quality time together while the rest of the world busy themselves with weekday errands is a true blessing.

I usually make my way to granny’s at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. We spend around 2 hours together, until it’s time for her dinner in the evening.

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Granny on a typical day. She’s often sitting quietly with her eyes perpetually closed

Granny is almost 95 years old now (her birthday is coming up in 2 weeks’ time). She has a waifish figure, skinny and shrunken, only that she has an abundance of semi-grey hair. With her oversized pyjamas drooping over her petite frame, and skin drooping over her bones, you can hardly see any muscles left in her well-weathered physical body. It’s no wonder that she now sleeps in an assisted living bed, needs a wheelchair to bring her to places and relies on diapers to manage her daily defecation.

Granny also has dementia. She was first diagnosed with it 2.5 years back, when a freak accident she encountered had us sending her to the hospital for an operation. Doctors saw signs of her brain deterioration, something that was hard for me to initially swallow. It’s ironic that a lady who never used to forget any of her grandchildren and children’s names and birthdays would suffer from the mysterious gradual loss of consciousness. But I’ve now come to accept that our bodies have timelines and such is the journey of life.

On most days, granny is taking her afternoon nap when I arrive at hers. She will be lying horizontally in bed, face up, eyes closed, often with one palm stacked on top of the other on her tummy. She always looks like a metaphor for silence and stillness, as if the world around her stopped and everything has slowed down for a while. That is if she’s not having one of her extremely tired days – on those days, whizzing snores will be escaping through her half agape mouth, a sight that always gives me the unexplainable tickles.

It’s often hard to tell if granny is aware of what’s happening around her. We inform her that we are here to visit and she always acknowledges. We ask if she’ll like to sit up and have a cup of water in the living room and she always says yes. We transfer her to the wheelchair and bring her out to the living room. She sits quietly with her eyes closed, sometimes with her head drooping forward like she’s asleep. We ask her a few questions, sometimes she answers and sometimes she doesn’t. No one is entirely sure if she is registering anything at all. We are aware that she has difficulty hearing now, but many things remain an enigma.

I spend the next couple of hours reading a book, watching TV (but it’s just me watching since her eyes aren’t open), holding her arm, or just doing nothing by her side.

It’s a bittersweet feeling. Words often fail me when I attempt to articulate my sensations.

On some days, I feel sad. My eyes become watery whenever I witness my once highly energetic and spirited granny barely having an ounce of energy left in her body. I sentimentally recall the days we had random conversations about everything and nothing, how she was always trying her mighty best to make sense of my world and being supportive of everything I do. She was my rock. But now, she is just drifting in and out of her own world.

On other days, I am at peace. I am happy that I get to spend another afternoon with her. I accept the frailty of our bodies and how life is truly a cycle.

However, there are certain unique days we call her “hyperactive days”. These days are far and few – they come unexpectedly without any forecasts and you have no idea how long each period will last. They can range from a few hours to a few days.

I relish these hyperactive days. They are magical for me because the granny I miss and know will be back.

Just last Tuesday, granny had an incredibly hyperactive day.

On these days, granny will be as strong as an ox. I often wonder where she finds all that strength in that tiny, feeble body of hers. When I first saw her that Tuesday, she was using her arm and body strength to sit herself up on her bed while proclaiming to the world that she wanted to get up and do some exercises because it’s better for the body. While that created much distress for her caregiver because falling out of bed was a very possible immediate consequence, I couldn’t help but watch my granny in awe. Because wow, granny is back.

Before granny had her first grievous fall 10 years back that left her unable to do many physical activities, she was as fit as a fiddle and made it a point to exercise every morning. I remembered jogging around the living room, doing morning stretches and back bends with her as a child. She was also extremely active, often moving from place to place, visiting people and family members to stay in touch with them. Granny always advocated a healthy lifestyle. She always told us that morning exercises are important. Sometimes, I suspect I got my monkeyish and sporadically hyperactive genes from her.

On that particular hyperactive Tuesday, I told her I was here to visit and she responded, “Have you been obedient? You must be an obedient child and listen to your mummy and papa.”

Hearing that statement triggered a wave of emotions in me. Next thing I knew, my body flooded with that old sense of familiarity and nostalgia. Wow, granny is back.

Those were the exact same words my grandmamma had been telling me for countless years, whether I was a child or a woman. Having brought me up, she was well acquainted with my character and knew of my stubborn and rebellious streak, an unfortunate horror to my parents.

For the rest of the day, I watched my granny operate in fascination.

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Granny dishing out words of wisdom on a chatty day

Granny talked and talked. She has always been a conversationalist, and on her hyperactive days she will be back talking in her full prowess. Miraculously, she was also fully aware of what was happening around her and spoke like she never had this weird condition called Dementia.

She spoke of people, places and things. She recalled every single one of them as if time never passed in her dimension. She asked how specific people were doing, how their jobs were treating them, if they were doing fine. She spoke about the quirks of people whose names I had never heard of, and I later learnt from my mother that those were old family friends from the Strathmore Road neighbourhood my family used to live in before I was born. It is interesting as her memory seemed to have ended somewhere earlier in timeline – she still thinks that I am working as a flight attendant, a job I held more than a decade ago.

She laughed, chatted and sometimes her eyes lit up as if she saw wondrous things. It is riveting to watch because according to the doctors, granny can hardly see a thing now because of advance corneal degeneration.

Sometimes she frowned and got peeved, complaining that the room was too dark and she could hardly see a thing. She kept asking us to switch the lights on. At one point, she thought that perhaps there was a power failure and the lights were not working, so she asked us to light candles instead. Even at the most unanticipated instances, granny is painfully adorable.

I was carefully observing granny throughout the whole time, witnessing the myriad change of emotions through her cataract-filled eyes. From moments of annoyance because she wanted to see but couldn’t, to moments where her eyes welled up with tears, possibly because she was upset she couldn’t get what she wanted and it must have felt miserable to be living in darkness. And then to moments she softened her gaze, as if she had accepted things as they were. She has done her best, and this is the best for now.

There were other moments she saw breathtaking sights that none of us did. Once granny excitedly exclaimed to me, “Look at those beautiful flowers on the tree!” and pointed her finger up in the air (I have to admit that I was initially spooked out). I entered her world and asked her what the colours of the flowers were. She enthusiastically replied like a 5-year-old, “White!” Her eyes lit up like fairy lights, her facial muscles lifted and she was beaming from ear to ear.

Granny looked so beautiful, precious and childlike. My heart melted into a pile of goo.

We “ohhh-ed” and “ahhh-ed” together as we admired those flowers, and it lasted for as long as it was meant to be. Then the moment suddenly departed without any signals, and granny was back to her detached self. We are off to a new chapter and page, as if those flowers never existed before.

Our cerebrums work in the strangest of ways. Ever since granny was diagnosed with dementia, I had been reading and loading up on whatever I could find in an attempt to better understand what my granny is going through. But the more I read, the deeper I dove into the unknown. I have now come to accept that the brain is one strange organ that perhaps even neuroscientists cannot comprehend completely. And until we are in that stage of deterioration ourselves, we will never fully empathise what the patients are going through.

Granny has always been a wonderful teacher in my life. Even moments like these with her made me learn so much about who she is, about life and about embracing moments.

On her talkative days, granny is always asking how others are. Her heart is always in the well beings of people around her. Other than occasionally complaining that the room is too dark, she never once placed emphasis on herself or her discomfort. Instead, she is always concerned about the people she loved. Just last Tuesday, she said, “If everyone is peaceful and happy, all is good”. No matter what granny is going through, her only desire is for us to be comfortable and contented.

My granny is the ultimate giver, the giver with a feisty temper and spirit, the giver who will roar if her boundaries are crossed. She is the delicate balance of love and strength. She epitomises passionate love. She is my superheroine. 

Being with granny these days have also taught me a lot about embracing living in the now, and being grateful that the moments were there. I will never know when my granny is lucid or when she will be in her sleeping beauty mode. It taught me to love and live without expectations, and keep committing to visit her regardless of how the visits might turn out to be. I do it because I love her, simple as that. And I am grateful to have another moment with her.

I always imagine it must be difficult to be in granny’s shoes. When I went home last Tuesday, I kept thinking how annoyed granny was because she couldn’t see. As silly as it may sound, I attempted to do things with my eyes closed for a while. Unfortunately, I don’t think I lasted beyond 15 seconds. It was horrifying, the loss of a primary sense that helps us make sense of the world. I admire how granny learnt to silence her inner demons that could potentially make her sad by accepting things as they are and letting the moment pass. She never allowed these circumstances to derail her. She always trusted the universe, thus maintaining her inner sense of peace. 

In the last few months, a series of roller coaster events had me desperately grasping the handrails, many a time to no avail. There were many days I felt I was drowning, and on really bad days I didn’t see why I needed to find the oxygen to breathe anymore. It had been exceptionally painful to watch people depart from my life, both physically and metaphorically. It had been defeating to face health conditions that I never imagined I’ll have to deal with. It had been excruciating to rebuild things from scratch again. It had been draining to revisit issues that I didn’t want to face up to. I was desperately trying to make sense of it all. Until at some point, I realised that maybe I was trying too hard.

Watching granny in action taught me so much about trust. Although irritated by the lack of light, she never once let that environment rob her of her good nature.  She trusted that this is the best for now and accepted the situation for what it is. She might have desired, she asked, perhaps at times she got disappointed. But she always accepted whatever the outcomes are and moved on.

She taught me to trust myself. Trust the universe. Trust to let things go. Trust to accept situations for what they are. Trust to allow new things to come. Trust to keep going for what I want.

Grandmama, you remind me how we can always choose how we feel. When certain emotions come, we can choose to let them go and replace them with something else that will serve us better. Not every day may be a Sunday. But we can choose to accept these days, acknowledge our emotions and let them go. Then we are on a clean slate again.

You remind me that Strength doesn’t roar. It whispers, and you have to listen intently to hear its message.

The quieter we are in our inner world, the more focussed and grounded we get.

Thank you grandmamma. No matter what, you’ll always be my rock.

And I love you, very very much.

ah ma2

When we were still young 😉

 

 

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Uncategorized

28 days, 26 jabs, 8 plane rides, 2 hotel stays later

This is a post I’ve written in early Nov 2017, and it has been sitting on my desktop till now because I was, well, apprehensive about sharing it . But deep in me, I know we are all more inter-connected than we believe, and vulnerability brings the world together. So here goes, sharing another slice of my (vulnerable) life with you 🙂

Friends closest to me will know how much I love children, and having my own family has always been a dream of mine. Kids, my pets (that hugeee doggie and a couple of silly kitties), a trusted partner and a cosy abode – nothing fancy, just heartfelt, warm, supportive and loving.

But truth be told, it’s tough being a woman today. Not discrediting the men; I’m sure it’s hard being a man too. Just that from a woman’s point of view, times and expectations are changing so much for a female. They are all great stuff and it is wonderful to be emancipated. But it sometimes makes winging a life hard.

Get a great education, work your smarts, go on and achieve even more in life. Go build a thriving career, be a super over-achiever. Explore both your inner and outer worlds, find what makes your heart sing. Oh and whilst doing all that, don’t forget your biological clock is ticking, remember to make time for babies while you’re still fertile. Nevermind the 9 months of discomfort, you still have to learn to be an awesome mom and maintain your big dreams.

How much time do we have? Around 2 decades, assuming you are really on point. Sounds pretty stressful, isn’t it?

Last month, I made a big decision and went through an experience that was honestly life changing for me – life changing not because I nearly died or something, but life changing because it made me think about life and start seeing it in a more honest and profound manner.

As an insurance for my family dreams to come true, I voluntarily travelled to another country to freeze my eggs. Why another country? Because the country I’m citizen of deem it illegal for unmarried ladies to freeze their eggs. Retarded? Totally. It’s appalling how narrow minded a supposedly modern nation is.

The journeys were tiring as hell, so it does take a fair amount of determination to do it.

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Up and down and up and down we go

It may not be understandable to many but women in their 30s who love children and don’t foresee themselves having one soon will comprehend why some of us are willing to pay huge amounts of money to have such an unnatural procedure done to sort of, stall time.

Regardless of whether it’s a false sense of security, no one wants to live with regrets later. And it certainly puts a lot less pressure on relationships and life in general.

As life came and went, time went fleeting by much quicker than we imagined. Before you know it, decades of our lives have passed and we have hit the mark where mother nature plays no mercy.

October unexpectedly became a massive month for me. I thought a lot about the passing of time, my stand for what it means to be a woman of our time (my mom didn’t name me Jane for nothing, hello Jane Austen LOL), my vision of the world I want to create, my purpose translated through the work I do, married with my dreams to have a family, pets and kids. Mortality, dreams, expectations, reality.

I know it’s uncharacteristic of me to have short and open ended entries. But maybe that’s what it’s still meant to be – I’m always a work in progress, as life is always flowing as it comes.

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What I spent most of my in-between time doing while waiting for the next plane ride

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is there is no need to force answers if they aren’t there now – trust your body, yourself, the universe and let the answers find you. I just have to be me and I keep moving forward towards what I want to create.

Nevertheless, I urge all women in their 30s, have (a good amount of) spare cash on hand and have desires of having biological kids of their own to consider this possibility – modern science has given us lots of options, and we live in an age that I’ve thankful for. I know this option may not be viable for everyone, so I’m grateful it’s something I, and many of you, can explore. Even though it’s not foolproof, having taken steps because we can and not having to regret it later makes life a whole lot easier.

And men, do support the women in your lives to go for it if this is what they want. I can’t comment on the religious aspect as I’m more spiritual than religious. But to me, there is no sin, stigma or taboo. It’s quick, pretty fuss-free and not as scary as it sounds.

No there’s no guarantee. Will I ever have biological children of my own? I have no idea and I can’t control things out of my scope. But at least, I get some peace in my heart, restore some faith and have 8 little eggies sitting in the freezer for now 🙂

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Right before the egg retrieval ops. There’s always time for a selfie 😉  But I had to tuck my ears into the shower cap after the nurses saw me shortly. No photos because I looked like an absolute alien 😦

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life, love, Uncategorized

An open letter to my Lover

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Hello to this (super overdue) first post of 2017! I swear I had the intention of writing sometime early in January, but I guess the intention wasn’t strong enough (hah) and I ended up delaying this entry till now, when a quarter of the year is nearly gone… where did all our time go?

For a quick location update, greetings from Birmingham, the UK! It’s Spring here. But in all honesty, it feels more like perpetual Winter if not for the occasional sightings of yellow Daffodils and hearing the sweet songs of birds every morning. The local shops have started selling gardening essentials for the upcoming planting period – strawberry (which we intend to buy this weekend), blueberry, raspberry and cherry tomato plants are out in full force. Clearly, it’s a beautiful time of rebirth and growth – the season for creation and beginnings has come.

A few months back, I was back in Asia but I was hardly stationary anywhere.

Out of the 6 months I was there, I was only back in my homeland, Singapore, for less than half the time. I spent close to a month in Bali, before travelling frequently to various cities in China doing my personal development training and coaching work. As the year ended, I spent my last day of 2016 counting down to the New Year in Birmingham, the UK. Upon my return to Singapore end January, I busied myself conducting leadership seminars for SIM University, revamping my business and creating new ideas.

As you can tell, it was all action and no rest back in Asia. And I loved it – it’s a privilege to be doing what I love doing the most and getting paid for it. It makes me feel alive, it leaves me wanting more. I could do this forever.

Now I am back in Birmingham, a place I never imagined spending parts of my 2017 in. Other than spending all April in California next month, it seems like I will be spending most of my Spring and Summer here. Ask me a few months back, and I would have absolutely no idea that this was in the plans.

Whatever made me leave the sunny tropical weather (which I obviously love) to spend time in the (not enticing at all) chilly cold must have been very, very compelling.

To cut to the chase and spare everyone the mushy details, I fell in love. Totally cheesy, but yes! This is what it is 🙂

You guys know me by now – whatever I do is always driven by Love. The Love for life, the Love to be free, the Love to be who I choose to be, the Love for my dreams. But moving to a new city for romantic Love is something new altogether. Foreign, exciting, but at the same time, very scary.

Just like many other things, there is no security blanket in taking this leap of faith. There is no guarantee because things and people are always fluid and changing. Thus, pressing the restart button to find a possible partnership with someone else is nothing less than daunting.

It stirs my heart with a weird concoction of joy and trepidation. Being vulnerable has always been a scary thing to me, and this time it’s no different.

For a start, let me introduce you to the protagonist of this story. His name is Balint 🙂

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too cold brrrrrrrrrrrr

The beginning of this union sounds unbelievably like a scripted romantic movie plot (think Before Sunrise, since there was a train involved and we sorta only spent 24 hours together). I was on a train from Serbia to Hungary one afternoon. Halfway through the journey while engrossed in my Kindle reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a towering, handsome bloke broke my concentration when he asked if the seat opposite mine was taken. We started chatting for the rest of the remaining 3 hours journey, about everything and nothing (topics I remembered were feminism, something we both are passionate about, the galaxies, parallel universe(s) and a handful of other whimsical topics). We arrived in Budapest and he invited me to dinner. I declined, since I was rushing to meet some friends from the Nomad Cruise at a bar. Instead, I invited him to my gathering. We ended up hanging out for the next 20 hours (despite being severely sleep deprived and hungover at some point) before he took off to Birmingham where he is residing now and I left for Milan the day after. Truth be told, I never had any expectations of meeting this man again, nor was I looking for more as I was going through the phase of learning to love myself (as opposed to someone else). But he wrote me every single day even after I came back to Asia, we started talking regularly, and I eventually flew to Birmingham to visit him over the New Year. The rest is history.

I guess there is only one word to describe this entire episode and it is Serendipity. We don’t decide when Love comes and we can’t look for Love. Love looks for us.

These days, I haven’t felt a day less blessed. I am truly grateful and thankful for having this wonderful man in my life, someone who is incredibly patient with me, makes me laugh (when he’s not annoying me), and most importantly, makes everything feel like this is meant to be the way it is.

However, I’m not going to sugar-coat my words and say that everything has been a walk in the park. Funnily, relationships always bring the best and worst out of us. In fact, this union reminds me time and again how relationships take an incredible amount of effort to grow as a unit. I had spent the last few years learning to love and live with myself and the idea of being in a partnership and living with someone else again has become a distant concept. It’s no longer just about my existence, but our existence.

Things get a little more complicated when two strong-headed (aka stubborn) people meet – we both stand firm by our beliefs and don’t back down easily.

But day after day, I am learning.

To start, I’m learning a great deal about what respect and compromises are. To really see and understand another’s viewpoints and stands, even though I may personally disagree with them. To not get personal with things. To learn about agreeing to disagree. To learn about cultural differences and ways of doing things. To learn about fighting fair. To learn to constantly open my heart and trust that we both have our best intentions at heart. I learn his ways. He learns mine. We learn to be rock solid, strong and unshakable.

Moving to another city for another is no easy feat (Felicia, your courage still awes me day after day). On the superficial level, it looks like you simply choose to pack your bags and go. Yay to new adventures! However on a more realistic level, it also means the willingness to forego whatever that was working for you back where you were residing and going somewhere to create something new all over again. Opportunities, family, friends, work, a life. Yes, pressing the restart button all over again, but this time around without entertaining the thought of leaving on a whim, unlike how I could in the past since I was globetrotting all by myself. Someone else’s feelings, life and dreams are parts of the stakes now.

If we think learning how to love ourselves is magical, wait until we learn how to love someone else. There’s so much humility, grace and gentleness in it. It’s beautiful, really beautiful.

To my hunny bunny, thank you for teaching me so much about Love. That Love is patient and Love is kind. Love is compromise. Love is letting the small things go. Love is forgiving each other. Love is watching each other’s back. Love is picking battles. Love is having absolute faith and trust in each other. Love is letting go of control. Love is thinking not just for me, but us. Love is treating each other as equals. Love is unconditional. Love is supporting each other to our wildest dreams. Love is always choosing to believe in each other. Love is giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Love is always encouraging each other despite calling each other’s bluff. Love is being honest without the intention to hurt. Love is hugs and kisses. Love is the vulnerable intimacy that some of us have forgotten about. Love is being free with each other. Love is adventures. Love is conquering our joint worlds together. Love is creating the space for each of us to be the best individual we can be. Love is being independent. Love is unleashing our own powers so that we can support each other. Love is flying high and free in each other’s arms.

I love how you always make your stands and never give in to mine without a good fight. I love how you give us space for things to tide over by themselves. I love how you teach me how to fight fair. I love how you embrace the strong, ambitious and independent woman I am, always supporting me to be the best I can be. I love how you handle my occasional idiosyncrasies by making fun of me (in a dangerously skilful way…). I love how you are always so giving and thoughtful, and how your little gestures always make me joyfully teary. I love how you always make me feel like I’m yours. I love how you always stand by my side. I love how you always crack me up. Geez, I love hanging out with you so much because it can be SO, SO FUN (when you’re…I mean we’re not grumpy hahaha).

Like I’ve mentioned, there is really no guarantee to anything in the world, and I’ll be lying to you if I told you I haven’t asked myself if all that we are doing is worth it at all. But I had a moment, a defining one that made me comprehend that this is well worth my gamble and risk. Ironically, it came when we had a squabble. After the hurricane passed, I remembered lamenting to you about our differences. But you looked at me and simply said, “well, we will learn the ways of each other then”. And that’s it. We kissed and made up (out). And then made dinner or something. We moved up and on.

That incident reminded me that I have so much to learn about compromising, respecting and listening better. Also, instead of seeking differences, we should be seeking commonalities – it’s all a matter of perspectives. It’s not that hard if we choose to see them, and your statement reminded me that we will be doing that together. Just like many things in life, if we keep focusing on the scarcity between us, we will never see the abundance and magic we can create.

That was monumental to me.

I am writing this open letter to you because I am, in a way, fighting my own fears of being vulnerable. Baring my heart to another person has always been an inner tug-of-war but I’ve also learnt that we should always walk towards what scares us the most and take risks in life. I cannot think of a better way to express my gratitude of having you in my life now, and it is something that I do want the whole wide world to know 🙂

So thank you, my hunny bunny, for the amazing times we are having. We learn, discover, grow and play together. I am learning to love both you and myself wholly and fully, because the only way to unconditionally love someone else is to first love ourselves unconditionally and knowing we will always be in abundance to give. I know I have been guilty of focusing on the things I have missed out by being here, but it is really my own perspective and I should be celebrating this opportunity (hello London?!) more than anything else. You have always been patient with me and I can’t be more thankful of your love and affections.

Thank you for being you, I love you so much for you being you. I looked back on this entry I had written while still living in Argentina and it makes me all teary eyed sensing that you are part of the reason I am on this journey. Here’s to our many more adventures to come. All my love, hugs and kisses ❤

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inspiration, life, love, motivation, travel, Uncategorized

The long journey back home

 

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Nothing is closer to my heart than dancing Tango. This is my favourite milonga I’ve gone to so far – the open air milonga right in the middle of the mountains in Kolasin, Montenegro during the Montenegro Summer Tango Camp. We danced in the rain and then in the setting sun, perhaps the most romantic and beautiful experience anyone could ask for

Hello there my dear,

Has it been almost 5 months since I’ve written here? Wow, time flies. It’s almost half a year since I left Buenos Aires to continue trotting around the globe in my sporadic, nomadic fashion. And the paths of fate have brought me to Milan, the city I am in now. It’s so funny I tell you; yesterday, I was still living in Budapest, nestled in a wonderful loft apartment which I would love to call my own. And the next moment, I feel like I’ve been teleported to another place altogether. That’s essentially how my life in the last 20 months has been – unpredictable, a teeny weeny bit crazy and nothing really fixed at all. If there’s one thing that can disarm the super planner in me to be more embracing of uncertainties, this journey of fluidity has been nothing short of exhilarating and rewarding.

At this moment, my brain is bursting with loads of radical, new and intriguing thoughts. At the same time, my heart is filled with a zillion and one emotions, because it seems like I am going to be heading back to Asian soil soon for a bit.

It has been almost 2 years since I embarked on this journey, driven by dreams of freedom, creation and euphoria. Metaphorically speaking, I am going to be home soon. To be in the continent where my roots and cultures are, to be near my family, to be close in physical distance to my supposed nearest and dearest.

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Sharing some of my favourite European Tango moments captured in stills. Dancing in Lisbon, Portugal

It is also funny how we tend to be contemplative when we head back to somewhere familiar after being away from it for a bit. How we place the idea of home in our heads, how we wonder if we can fit into a place we used to live in again.

Am I excited to be on home ground again? Oh hell yeahhh. I can’t wait to see my hunny bunnies, to be engulfed in familiar, heartfelt conversations and laughter. Where I can sprout the infamous Singaporean English aka Singlish flawlessly, and be understood everywhere I go. And the GLORIOUS (OMG) FOOD!! Damn, I’m all prepared to put on a few kilos with all the feasting that will surely ensue *giggles*

However, the interesting thing I’ve realised in this journey is that home is really not home.

Home is not a place, because the latter is merely an illusion of comfort and stability. On the contrary, home can be anywhere. Home to me at this point is the world, simply because the world has become my playground.

It doesn’t matter where I am, as long as I feel secured within me. It doesn’t matter if the environments are unfamiliar, as long as I feel connections. And connections are not as rare as I initially thought them to be – I’ve met incredible people, some whom I’ve formed unexpected bonds with, others whom have deeply enriched my life. Almost each and every person I’ve met has taught me a lesson or two about life, lessons that I am deeply appreciative for. To all the wanderers, lovers, friends, acquaintances and naysayers I’ve met, I only have gratitude that our paths have crossed at some point in our lives.

I’ve learnt that home has always been with me, inside of me. Home has always been about accepting and loving people for who they are. Home has always been about loving and trusting myself enough to know that I know the best for myself. Home is not about unnecessary fretting, but taking things easy, trusting that it will all turn out good and having fun on the ride. Home is realising that I don’t need to seek anything else to complete me.

Home is realising that I am complete.

I have always had the travelling bug in me since forever. After completing university barely a couple of years after teenhood, I took all my money in my bank account, had a backpack and headed off to Europe with no return ticket, coming home only when I was penniless, scrawny like crazy but way happier. I continued exploring the world as a flight attendant for almost half a decade. After flirting with the corporate world for a number of years, I left again and continue my journey of exploration, combing new places and finding new inspirations.

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I had the privilege to have my first Tango performance on the Nomad Cruise right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!! A truly unconventional venue indeed 😉

As much as I didn’t want to admit, perhaps, a large part of me travelled so much because I was looking for a place to fit in. A place where I feel complete. A place where I could be me. A place I could call home.

After trotting 50 countries, I realise such a place does not exist.

I should be devastated, but I am not. Because I’ve finally learnt that home has always been with me.

Before that, I looked for places where I felt accepted and not judged. But the thing is, I probably judged others to feel that. Home is how I accept the present, people and things for who and what they are.

I looked for places where people could love the true me. But people can only love the true me when I embrace all of myself – the good, the bad, the happy and sad. Home is where I love me for all that I am.

I looked for places where people and societies fit my expectations – but expectations are ironically there to make this conquest impossible to achieve. The more I have expectations, the more nothing fits. Home is loving people, places and things for all that they are.

I searched for cities where my opinions were valued and heard, that I could be the strong woman I am and not feel guilty about it. That place doesn’t exist. Home is accepting and making choices for myself to be this woman I am, to be true and authentic in my own skin, regardless of what everything else tells me. Home is being comfortable and happy being me.

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More dancing photos! On the Nomad Cruise in the Atlantic Ocean

Home is accepting me for who I am. Home is bringing inner peace to every moment I spend. Home is feeling the raw excitement when I do something I am passionate about. Home is advocating causes true to my heart without feeling conflicted. Home is trusting that I know that I can trust myself.

We all have our demons in our closets, and they have been with us in our journeys of life for many years. And the demons will always be there. I know my demons will not disappear; they will always be a part of me. A lot of who I am today, my beliefs and my reactions are largely results of what I had experienced earlier in my years, and these demons are part of who I am.

But that doesn’t mean I give in to them all the time. Hell no. These days, I have firm conversations with them, telling them to stay where they are in the closet while I go out, have fun and pursue the life I want. Stay where you are hunnies, you aren’t gonna control me anymore.

When we choose not to focus on past pains and fears, we can truly live and experience the present. And suddenly we realise that life has so much to offer. In fact, there is abundance in every day. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing to lose, but only more love, compassion and connection to give.

These days, I have been writing lots of articles and embarking on projects revolving around the topic of facing fears. In fact, I’ve started my own life coaching and personal development training business (visit http://www.janetan.net !). And whilst I’m still waddling and figuring my way in this entrepreneurial journey, I have come to recognise how often I have allowed fear to drive me in my daily life.

Fear of getting hurt. Fear of being undervalued. Fear of abandonment. Fear of not being loved. Fear of being incomplete. Fear of not being accepted. Fear that I’m not good enough.

Such a shame to live life this way.

Home is when I let myself live life through the eyes of abundance – that I will always have love to give, always have love to receive, that I am complete in my being, that I do not need more.

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Another quiet moment dancing in Lisbon, Portugal

Home is coming home to me. And coming home to me, allows me to come home to so many people important in my life. My dearest family, my closest friends, the random strangers I meet.

Home is a place filled with love and comfort. And home is not an inch further from where I am now. I just keep practising going home to myself every day, and the journey is beautifully liberating and fulfilling.

I’ve met many people who have asked me the same questions, “Jane, when are you going to be done with travelling? Why are you travelling so much? When are you going to stop and settle?”

These days, I just smile and giggle, because I have nothing to reply. The thing is, I don’t have a destination. This is a continuous journey.

It all started when I was an idealistic (still am), bright-eyed 18 year-old girl who dreamt of creating a global village somewhere out there in the world. You see, I’ve always had this humongous dream of a world thriving on love, acceptance, mutual respect and freedom, where conflicts don’t exist (except for maybe the cute, harmless squabbles that are resolved in a moment or two) and people live together in collaborative and supportive systems, backing each other’s versions of their dreams. I remembered sharing this dream with some of my friends back then, and all I got was, “wow, you are way too idealistic, girl.”

But it is this vision that propels me to do what I do even till today. I travel to understand how universal human beings are. I explore to encourage, support, love and cheer others to do what resonate in their hearts. Sometimes I can be overly emotional and impatient, thus coming across as pushy and maybe, scary (heheheeheee). I can be overly direct and morph into an absolutely painful, stubborn mule. But I do it because I love deeply and fiercely. It can be very painful and hurtful to be misunderstood, but I keep letting my vision guide me towards my dreams of love.

We just let the negativities go, laugh over them and keep focusing on what we want to create. And trust that the good things will come.

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Dancing in the rain…it was such an amazing experience! In Montenegro

The truth is, the travelling is not actually my primary goal. It is a by-product of this bigger dream I have – to empower the people I’ve come into contact with know that they are accepted for who they are and are worthy of the dreams they have. And that’s why I do what I do. The travelling is just part of the process that brings me closer to my dream.

Will I stop travelling one day? Maybe, I’ve absolutely no idea. I am at the disposal of my vision. If my vision requires me to stop, then I will stop. I will go anywhere that my vision takes me to.

However, to all you dream seekers, soul searchers, freedom fighters and the works, keep your beautiful dreams going. And don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot get there. You are worthy of the best life possible, so don’t let anything or anyone bring it down for you.

This is just another pit-stop, just another location. Home is where the heart lives. The journey continues.

Meanwhile, watch me as I fatten myself up in the lovely South East Asia. Damn, I can’t wait to be back to my 2nd home soon 🙂

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all my love, hugs and kisses xoxooo

 

 

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love, travel

Mil gracias, mi Buenos Aires querido

 

Hola to the dear city that I’ve spent the last year with,

Wow, has it been a year since we have been together? Time flies, it really does. In the blink of an eye, I will be packing my bags and trotting to new territories, leaving you and a ton of great memories behind.

At this very moment, I feel like my heart is thrown into the washing machine that is spinning with a mixed bag of emotions. I’m a little sad, confused, nostalgic, hopeful, grateful, all rolled into one. In fact, I’m at a loss to how I should start writing you my message of love and gratitude since I have a zillion and one thoughts darting through my head now.

For a start, I’ve never liked penning farewell letters. In fact, I hate it. They always make me feel overtly sentimental and unnecessarily sad, because they make the imminent departures real. Although they always say that a farewell is never truly a farewell and endings are never truly endings, we all know that a moment can never be fully replicated or relived. To all extents, this chapter of our lives will have to close before new ones can open.

Then again, there is an indescribable beauty in writing heartfelt letters, especially ones that honour the time we have spent together and celebrate the experiences we have shared in unity. It’s no secret that I have always valued honesty despite the vulnerability, authenticity over pretenses. And because you have given and taught me so much more than I can ever imagine, I choose to spend this rainy afternoon plonking myself down at the kitchen table pouring my heart out to you. Just because I have so much to thank you for, just because I want you to know.

People always say that love is unexplainable and illogical. To that, I can definitely verify. Years ago as a young and impressionable 18-year-old teenage girl, my eyes landed specifically on you when I was curiously scanning the world map and daydreaming how the universe out there was like. I promptly read about your stories, your cultures, your myths and your ways of being. I even had friends who spoke to me about you (I know, what are the odds? I mean, you are so crazy far away from where I was living then).

For or against me, I had always held true to the spirit of pure, young and irrational love. I told myself then that I was going to make my way to you one day. I had no idea what you could bring to me, I had no idea why I felt the way I did. The thing is, I would probably never know until I actually make my way to you.

Of course, I took a big detour to reach you almost 2 decades later. I was distracted, lured by other lofty ideals and was experimenting with other things I had encountered along the way. But you know what they say about love? You can’t fight it. The universe sends it to us time and again, and we eventually accept what we are meant to embrace. Many moons later, I found myself finally in your arms.

When I first got here, I had no idea what you could or would give to me. I let things happen and quickly fell into your whirlpool of offerings. And you, indeed, gave me an unforgettable mishmash of experiences –  lessons of love, sorrow, joy, grief, etc, all intrinsically juxtaposed into one big bowl of rojak. You taught me to love, to laugh and of course to cry (buckets!!) In essence, you taught me what it is like to live life day after day, savouring what it is like to be human.

One of the biggest reasons why my stay with you for the last year has been so invaluable is because you taught me so much about people, love and relationships. You graced me with memorable chanced encounters, all of which have one way or the other helped me redefine what loving bravely means. In this journey, I am slowly beginning to understand how love can perhaps, truly exist with no expectations. How love can perhaps, truly be unconditional. How love can sometimes mean drawing boundaries. And how love can sometimes be painful now because it contributes to a bigger ideal down the road.

I am still learning, but you have given me so much courage to bravely love in the manner I believe.

Not surprisingly, I have met people who have stirred my heart in one way or another. Some stayed and the relationships strengthened. Others came, lit up certain days in my life and departed for one reason or another. I used to feel really heartbroken when people I treasured had to go. But I’ve learnt that when we truly love someone, it’s not just about our journeys, but also about theirs too.

We might have had created an adventure together, but we were not ready for each other yet.  Love is not just about possessing. Love is also about letting you go.  

A lot of older relationships got redefined too. Similarly, some people stayed while others went. Beyond the pale aching heartache, I remind myself that their journeys are important as mine – it’s not just for me, but also for them.

However, the biggest relationship I’ve learnt to embrace and be in with is indisputably myself. I am finally beginning to learn what loving myself means, what taking good care of myself is, how drawing boundaries is not a sign of selfishness but self-love. How not to let historical pains of abandonment and doubts of self-worth dictate the choices I make today, how to keep risking and reminding myself to remain vulnerable going for what I want in life. Day after day, I remind myself to live fully in the present embracing all of the person I am at every single moment. It is a constant choice I make and having that choice is beautifully empowering.

Beyond all that, nothing, absolutely nothing, can replace the biggest gift you have bestowed me by far. Centuries ago, you created a beautiful dance through bleakness, poverty and hope in the ports of your city and promptly called it Tango. Today, I got the privilege to catch a peek and learn what it is like to live life dancing through the eyes and spirit of Tango. To embrace the sense of vulnerability, to connect with a complete stranger, to be open in our hearts and emotions, to keep dancing even if things aren’t going the way we intend for them to be.

Through Tango, you gave me a big slice of your heart and soul.

Through Tango, you taught me to live and love through life’s unavoidable ups and downs.

Through Tango, you taught me how to waltz through my days in the most dignified and elegant manner, regardless of circumstances and situations.

Through Tango, you have taught me about strength and vulnerability, about connecting and letting go.

You see, I have always been the quintessential (secret) romantic. I still love fairy tales and happy endings (Who doesn’t? And if you don’t, my dear, life doesn’t have to be so bleak. Why don’t you give yourself a chance and trust that happiness is your calling?)

Through dancing, you have taught me how to embrace my insecurities and to accept me for being me. Through dancing, you have also taught me how to respect people who are willing to display both their strengths and fragility – it takes so much courage to remain delicate in a sea of unpredictable conditions. Their willingness to show that they are human and aren’t omnipotent captivate me.

Oh, and you also taught me how to trust. Wow, I don’t even know where to start for this. You have taught me how to trust so much. Granted, you have taught me when to be careful but it’s never about losing trust. Trust is a choice. If we choose to trust, there is nothing else to fret.

I guess you have taught me that despite the trepidations we have met and will definitely still experience in time to come, embracing what we truly believe about the world we are in and people around us are all that matter.

To be fierce in my beliefs, to be grounded and rooted in my desires, to trust that my visions are worth living for. To love bravely and to be stubborn in my deliveries.

Buenos Aires, you have very unexpectedly taught me about faith, hope and the beauty of humanity. You reminded me how much stronger than we think we are, and how letting go of the fear of losing liberates us to fly.

One of my closest friend whom I affectionately call as Buddy (yes my dear Brenda, hi if you are reading this), has this quote from Mother Teresa as her favourite:

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

I think I am beginning to understand its essence. Vulnerability and strength can co-exist.

More importantly, we have made the choice that we will rather be vulnerable than be broken.

To the dear city who has nourished me to the woman I am today, trust that I will miss you very much. At the same time, you also know that I will be back to you one day; I just don’t know when yet. But we stay close in hearts and trust that the day will come.

Till the next time we meet, stay loving, resilient, fragile and classy. You will always have that special place in my heart, and I will always be saving my love for you.

Te doy mucho amor, abrazos y besos. Voy a extrañarte, muchissimo ❤

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inspiration, life

It’s time to make space for more creations

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Gorgeous sunset over El Calafate. I realised I haven’t had the habit of sharing my travel photos. Since I am going to be moving around again real soon, I thought I should get started on sharing some travel stories. Here’s presenting to you, La Patagonia in the south of Argentina.

Buenos Aires has been crazy humid these days. Yes lovelies, it’s summer here. In some sense, it reminds me of the familiar weather back in Singapore – the warm and comforting heat, the impossible humidity, the lazy afternoons perfect for napping like a cat. I’ve always preferred sunny days to the bitter cold, so I’ve been thankful, really thankful 🙂

This city is also beginning to feel like second home to me. I’m getting to know the streets better, moving around with more surety, learning more about how things and people work, and am getting increasingly comfortable with my still-limited-but-survivable linguistic abilities. I’ve found my little nook of comfort after being here for a year, and it feels nice to be in a routine of sorts. The sense of familiarity is assuring.

It will be great if I am looking to settle here, but the thing is, I’m not. I’m definitely happy that I’ve come so far in this journey and have found my space in this big city, but I also know that I’m not ready to call it home anytime soon.

The reason is simple – I have yet fulfilled what I had intended to do when I first set foot to this part of the world, 15872 km from home. Armed with the initial desire to explore new territories and embark on a journey of discoveries, I ended up staying primarily in Buenos Aires because I fell in love with the dance, Tango.

It has been wonderful so far. I’ve had amazing times, created beautiful memories and formed memorable connections. Truth be told, I really like my life here.

However I also know that I can’t be feeding off Tango day after day. Yes, Tango has become a big part of my life, but like I’ve said it, it’s a part, not all of my life. Things would have been very different if my life goal is to become a professional Tango dancer. But nope, it is not.

With that in mind, I recently gave myself a deadline to leave Buenos Aires and continue from where I had left off by March this year. Yup, that’s only a month away. The journey beckons and I should really keep going.

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The speechlessly impressive Perito Moreno. The glacier itself is already the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. Tons and tons of water out there.

I initially thought that this decision will excite and energize me no end. However, the inverse occurred and it very unexpectedly made me sad. That is weird, isn’t it? After all, I chose to go and no one influenced my decision to do so. So why do I feel such conflicting emotions? I was struggling to comprehend my mixed bag of emotions.

Over lunch the other day, I told my friend that it’s funny that I am already missing Buenos Aires so much even before leaving the city. I already miss dancing Tango into the wee hours of the night, walking out of the milongas with the first strands of sunlight brightening up the skies, the chanced magical connections from random dance invitations, the addictive artistic immersions, the Porteño way of life, the afternoons at charming cafes, the pockets of quietness I get to spend with myself, the support system I have built here.

These days, I have been forlornly counting down the number of days I have left here. Each day that passes fill me with a little more melancholia and nostalgia. I feel like I am painting a picture for the grand exit, one that is filled with poignance and I am not looking forward to it.

I have been hoping that time will stop so that I can extend this moment for as long as I can, trying to grasp time that is slipping through my fingers and desperately clasping on to it so that I don’t lose it further. Obviously, the results hadn’t been optimistic; no one in history has ever suspended time.

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My favourite photo of the series – the classic penguin pose 😉

It’s also eye-opening how this one specific example turns out to be a stark reflection of how I habitually always focus on the impeding loss of things.

I don’t want the good things to finish. I am obsessed with endings.

I fear letting go.

More often than not, we have a tendency to irrationally cling unto things even though they no long serve us. It doesn’t matter if we still truly want them or not, or if they are still creating values in our lives. We are too consumed by our fear of losing the sense of predictability these familiar things bring.

As a result, we hold on to them even tighter. We prevent new things from entering into our lives. In fact, the latter idea is discomforting.

It’s not that we fear new experiences. Rather, we fear the unknown outcomes these encounters might bring. We aren’t sure how they will affect and impact our lives. After all, we human beings are fundamentally creatures of comfort. We resist change more than we admit it.

I realised how often I have been operating from this mindset of scarcity. My focus has always been about losses rather than possible gains.

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With swag on the glacier *flips hair*

I first learnt about the concept of scarcity from the famed personal development guru, Stephen Covey. He mentioned in his popular book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, that operating from the mindset of scarcity means that people believe that there are only limited and finite experiences and resources in the world for everyone to have. Aptly described by him, these people “see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there.”

As a result, we hold on to things that we believe are the best we can get. Well, better to hold unto what we have now than risk getting nothing later.

For me, I know this belief is a result of how I was being brought up. Coming from a comfortable but risk-adverse society and a middle-class Asian family, the values I have been ingrained since young were about contentment and saving for rainy days. Radical dreams or making bold moves that could rock the stability for both my family and myself are often frowned upon. People like me are often regarded as naïve, immature and hopelessly idealistic.

I also came from a place where collecting material stuff is a representation of a successful life. The more we own, the more successful we are. Possessions become a validation of self-worth. And losing possessions is associated with failure and regression.

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Hiked up Cerro de Los Tres in El Chalten to catch a peek of the Fitz Roy mountain along the Andes!

I used to cling on to my possessions. I used to cling on to the money I had saved. I used to cling on to bad relationships that were no longer serving me. I had clung on to all of that not because I knew they were good for me, but more because I feared losing them.

But what exactly did I fear about letting them go?  How was not having those things or relationships making me less worthy as a person?

Looking at it critically now makes me realise that my belief was really, rather silly. Instead of exploring the vast space out there, I myopically chose to squeeze myself into such a tiny box that left little space for maneuvering.

Along with that, I had also lived my life assuming that contentment and settlement are the same things. Meaning that in order to feel contented, we should never ask for too much out of lives.

Not that it is wrong. But other than that being the perfect formula for mediocrity, it is also the perfect excuse for telling ourselves that we aren’t deserving of anything more than the regular average Joe.

For example, I always had a self-imposed imaginary ceiling and crossing that boundary made me feel embarrassed or even guilty. The conversation in my head often went like this, “C’mon Jane, you should know your limits and be content with what you have.”

I actively limited what I felt I was deserving of.

Now I’ve come to see that this mindset lacks integrity for personal growth and development. We deserve so much more out of our lives.

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I went on to Bariloche from El Calafate and caught this gorgeous sunset at Cerro Campanario one evening. It is reputed to be one of the top ten places with the most beautiful sunsets in the world.

I’m not advocating that we become ungrateful pricks who are constantly unhappy with what we have at any point in time. Instead, I feel that we can keep aiming for greater heights and still be content with what we have today. There is no direct co-relation between the two ideas.

In my years of career training my peers and ex-colleagues, and having conversations with close friends about dreams and aspirations, I’ve noticed a similar trait in almost all of us – we have this deep fear of having bigger things in life. In fact, we secretly feel that we aren’t worthy of these bigger things at all.

On the surface, we may look really confident and preach that a life well-lived is the most important.

But when push comes to shove, we abruptly lose our voices. For ourselves, and to ourselves.

We end up clasping on to what we have at the moment, convincing ourselves that this is the best that we can get. Or we keep postponing executing that grand plan of ours with a zillion and one excuses, eventually settling for the same life we dissed because “circumstances did not allow me to go for my dreams”.

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The impossibly crystal clear lakes. Water is also drinkable, au naturale

We get to be right about being unworthy of bigger things. We end up being victims of ourselves.

Moving away from the mindset of scarcity to one of abundance is a subtle but big step for me – it creates a huge shift to how I see, perceive and do things.

According to Stephen Covey, a mindset of abundance is the direct opposite to a mindset of scarcity. People who live in abundance believe that “there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.” There is no competition, only sharing.

I super love the idea. It totally resonates with my dream of a world built on love, compassion, generosity and acceptance.

In fact, it has given me the courage to believe that whatever that comes my way will eventually turn out to be good. I only need to keep trusting myself and believing in what the universe sends me.

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Bariloche is peppered with cute and charming artisanal microbreweries. I really love this one I went to on my last day, Cerveceria Blest.

With the imminent departure from Buenos Aires, I’m not sure what I will experience next but I definitely know what I am going to leave behind. And even though that thought is daunting, I am aware that if we constantly allow fear to hamper all the things we want out of our lives, we will never live out of the box of scarcity. We will just always settle for second bests.

The more we keep doing something, the more it becomes a new normality. The more I keep doing the things I fear, the more the fear dissipates.

Breaking boundaries is discomforting, but not unattainable.

And if our desires are greater than our fears, nothing is impossible to conquer.

Time to enjoy the ride and keep watching this space, my dears *kisses*

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Off to new territories!

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inspiration, life, motivation, Uncategorized

The beauty of a pause

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Starting a series of Tango-related photos with one at the opening night of the new milonga, La Veraniega. Nothing is more beautiful than dancing under the open sky with a generous amount of wind on an unpretentious basketball court, with familiar Tango melodies playing off vinyl records

Happy first post of 2016! I hope the first month of the year has been fantastic for you so far. Summer is getting really hot and humid here in Buenos Aires (hello mosquitoes, mehhhh) but I’m always more of a sunshine girl so I’m not complaining 🙂

Last year this time, I just arrived in Rosario, Argentina for barely a week. It has been a year since I embarked on this new journey and new way of living. It is surreal, thinking back to the courage and conviction I had then to drop everything for this gravity defying move.

One year down the road, I’m still in the same country, albeit a different city. I’m currently nestled in one of my favourite cafes here in Buenos Aires, writing this entry that I would have never imagined penning. I thought I would have visited and stayed in at least 3 countries as I had planned, have exhausted my entire travelling kitty fund and might have moved back to Singapore to embark on a new career. I might have gone back to my banking job. I might have started a new way of working given my normadic lifestyle. I might even have eloped with a man for love ;p I thought I would have gained endless amount of wisdom and happiness. I thought, and I thought, and I thought.

It had been a fanatical year, and a big, grand one indeed. When they say life always works in opposition, it’s absolutely true – we can never predict or control what life throws at us next. It is also true how powerful yet powerless we human beings are – there are so many great things we can do, but also so many things that we cannot control.

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One of my favourite milongas, the unpretentious and hippie Cafe Vinilo, has re-opened its doors again! (credits to the person who took this lovely shot)

When I first got back to Buenos Aires from Singapore, I was desperately searching for my purpose of being here. I had no frigging idea, except knowing that I wasn’t ready to be back in Singapore. I felt the compelling need to define myself. It sucked feeling like a useless bum who was “floating around”, “wasting” money day after day instead of doing something constructive that was “value-adding” to a supposedly fruitful and productive life. Never mind that I was learning Spanish from zero, never mind that I was learning to dance Tango from scratch, never mind that I was learning new things about myself. I just could not see concrete contributions and it was pulling me down.

Perhaps, I saw how my friends were progressing materially when I was briefly back in Singapore and got terrified. They had achieved so much socially in less than a year, but time seemed to have stood still for me. Plus the guilt I felt towards my family. Then I met people whom I had held in high regards disagreeing with my way of life. In some sense, I was seeking for approval but didn’t get any. Truth be told, I felt unsupported. I felt alone. I felt inferior. I felt scared, small and stupid. Really stupid. And in a bid to protect myself, my defence mechanism was triggered and I desperately wanted control of the situation. I tried “forcing” a meaning to the path I was taking.

The need for security, albeit a false sense of it, was taking over me.

Obviously, anything that goes by force will never be sustainable. For the last couple of months, I subconsciously sold myself back to my fear of things. Fear of being useless. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being stupid. Fear of being judged. Fear of loneliness. Fear that I will never be loved. Fear of the other zillion and one things the universe threw at me. And the scariest part of it all was that I didn’t realise I was fearing so much because it was so easy to be eaten up by it.

Unconsciously, I got myself stuck in a pathetic, miserable rut. I probably had the label “Miss Grumpy” plastered all over my face and “Grouch” was definitely suitable as my middle name.

I got increasingly fed up with things and myself. My attempts at finding answers were really not working and the frustration escalated at an alarming rate.

It sucked. Really sucked.

I was desperate. And annoyed. AND PISSED LIKE HELL.

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Caught in action, looking *very* serious

But here’s the irony. A fiery and wild heart sometimes brings miracles. *sheepish grin*

It was the same frustration that ousted me out of my self-imposed prison. I remember waking up one morning severely in need of fresh air and new space in my head. And because I felt so trapped and sick in the guts, I recklessly stuck my head out of the rut and gasped my first breath of oxygen in a long time.

AND DAMN, IT FELT SO GOOD.

At that very same moment, I realised how thick-headed I had been. I didn’t want to torture myself anymore; I needed a break from all these heavy duty stuff. I wanted to go with my heart and have fun again.

Comedic as it may sound, the solutions presented themselves right up my alley the moment I stopped trying to find them. When I decided to embrace the uncertainty and let go. It was akin to a fog clearing since the paths had been there all along. I just never realised that they were there.

That’s when I learnt that a moment of stillness is not necessarily a bad thing after all.

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Dancing with a great lead at De Querusa

And of course, I found another teacher in the dance, Tango. It has also played a big part in teaching me appreciate the beauty of a pause, allowing me to learn that I do not need answers to everything. At least not now.

It is a paradox since I had earlier intentionally wanted to move away from Tango. I had a ton of sentiments associated with it that I wanted to erase from my memory. But as the old wise saying goes, what you resist always persists ;p

What can a girl do when the fight is futile? I decided to let go and let it be. I stopped resisting and controlling how I was supposed to feel, and faced the feelings that I had been avoiding squarely instead. I know it sounds scary, but guess what? I not only found the beauty of the dance again, but also got reminded of why I fell in love with it in the first place. Perhaps this is what Love is – to keep trusting what we believe about someone or something, and to keep letting the negative associations go.

I’ve allowed vulnerability to take over me again as I danced. I started going with the flow of things. I used to fear the suspense of a pause, the discomforting moment when I felt helpless because I had absolutely no clue to what the next move would be.

Now, I am learning to embrace the suspense. When my partner stops, I stop with him. When he pauses, I give him that extra second more to communicate with me. When he builds the suspense, I build it up with him. When he does something to surprise me, I create the space and allow him to deliver the magic.

It all happens in split seconds. And it has been incredibly funnn 🙂

I found myself enjoying the dance so much more. So playful, endearing, fluid and intensely exciting. I especially love it when the moves are firm yet gentle, definite yet light-hearted. Oh, and the magical embrace and connection. I feel like I am having an exclusive conversation with my partner, and that beauty is priceless.

La Bici

At La Bicicleta

Embracing the pause has also taught me to hold and occupy my space. In the course of it, I have inevitably learnt to trust myself, that I will know what to do when the next moment comes.

The idea of letting go, and of giving space to allow things to enter, are invaluable gems that I’ve gained these days.

It’s ironic, it really is. More often than not, we keep our hearts closed, especially when we are hurt to prevent ourselves from getting marred further. Letting go and being vulnerable sound like the dumbest things to do. But when I threw myself out into the open again, it has, on the contrary, given me a new sense of strength, courage, and liberation. And having new-found space has allowed me to create new things and to see unbiased, unadulterated answers. It has given me new energies.

Where did I find all that courage and strength? I have no idea. It just came.

Where did the hurt go?  I have no idea. It just disappeared. Maybe, I allowed myself to be open and started seeing people for who they are again. When we focus outwards to others and recognise that life doesn’t just revolve around ourselves, the negativities often melt away.

So many times, things happen to make us doubt our visions. We start questioning our beliefs and in ourselves. We wonder if trusting the good is stupid. If being open, vulnerable and loving are just naïve and foolish concepts that hopeless idealists believe. That goodness is overrated and we need to guard our possessions and our forts.

That we need to be selfish.

I probably lived the last couple of months in this manner. And I was absolutely miserable.

Because deep down, I know this is not what I wanted and believed. To me, a life and world filled with generosity, love, compassion and passion is so much more worth living.

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A world-renowned milonga that I have come to love, Salon Canning

In the last few months, I’ve learnt to live so much with myself, for myself and by myself. I’ve had miserable times with myself. I’ve had fights with myself. I’ve also had beautiful moments with myself. I’ve literally, been in a relationship with myself and the journey of accepting me for who I am has been a rocky road well-travelled. The good and the bad, the naughty and the nice.

And now that I have once again chosen to embrace my life and open my heart to everything again, I know that I’ve made this choice despite everything I’ve experienced. There’s no need for external validation, there’s no need for others to tell me whether it is right or wrong. Because it’s simple; nothing, absolutely nothing, can destroy my vision of how a beautiful life should be.

It has given me the excitement, motivation and desire to believe in all the things I had lost sight in for a while.

I couldn’t have seen all these if I hadn’t allowed myself that break and appreciate the beauty of a subtle pause. A moment to breath, a moment of respite, a moment of silence from the deafening crowd.

The same pause has allowed me to reconnect with the present and see the answers I have been seeking all along.

I now remember why I made my bold move to embark on this journey in my quest for autonomy and freedom – time to be back in action.

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My latest favourite workplace, Libros del Pasaje in Palermo. Plus a douse of gorgeous sun 

P.S. I love summer, I really do. It’s now 8pm and I’m still shrouded in sunlight. Life is good 🙂

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