Make Three Wishes

Hi all,

It’s that time of the year again. Time to write a post to reflect on my journey so far.

Obviously, a lot of things have happened since I celebrated my birthday last year. It feels like it was just yesterday that I wrote this “my 10220th day on earth is coming”.

Birthday is a time to celebrate, relax and reminisce. For this post, I’m going to put milestone markings in each month that has passed, the five elements that I always hold dear to my heart;

health, home, love, dreams, friendships

so here we go,

Sep 2014 [dreams]

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Blew these candles on the day itself. It’s a yummy durian cake from my dear sister and her boyfriend. It’s also the beginning of a year-long work and play, building up a hectic but enjoyable schedule of working, teaching, volleyball games, date nights, movie nights and everything else in between. It was the start of a slow transformation and meaningful baby steps towards a better work & life balance.

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Oct – Nov 2014 [health  & dreams]

These 2 months were filled with teaching schedule and volleyball games. Beside the classroom teaching job for Indonesian language, I started accepting some private tuition jobs teaching English to Primary school kids living near my place.

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Dec 2014 [home & friendships]

Organized and attended several gatherings with friends and colleagues every week. They were fun and dine activities. At the end of the month, I flew back home and celebrated the new year surrounded by my beloved parents and siblings.

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Jan 2015 [home & health]

Time to face the  real deal together as a family, we burnt a hole in our pockets but it was for the greater good. Health is always number 1 in my book. Every year, I’d wish for the health of all my family members and loved ones (friends and romantic partner), and for them to be protected from any harm, be safe and  sound wherever they are.

Feb 2015 [home & love & friendships]

It was the peak of uncertain moment in my love life. We were not together yet, I’ve almost given up any hope of ever being together.  It’s been almost a year of dating with no next-level commitment. The situation inspired me to write this post and also made the decision to join my friend on her trip this September.

After an additional confusion on Valentine’s day, I went home for the annual CNY celebration, had fun, met old friends and forgot about it for a while. Several girls’ talks & heart-to-heart later, I returned to SG and determined to (somehow) solve this uncertainty. I was afraid of rejection but still hopeful.

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Mar – Apr 2015 [love]

One fateful night after a usual movie date night, I decided to throw a “bait” at him and he caught it *and subsequently ate ‘it’. Hooray!*. We started talking about us, instead of some other random things. Several questions and phone calls in the next few days, we were finally together as a couple. I still remember that awkward conversation while slurping our noodles. It was one of my fondest memories from our date nights.

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May 2015 [home & love]

We were going steady and got better at discussing the relationship whenever it’s needed. Treating each other with respect, showing our love in various ways (we have the same love language *yay*), being honest to each other and committed to this relationship despite our busy schedules. It’s that kind of relationship that I described in “Respect, Love, Loyalty, Commitment”.

Two months on, inspiration came and I wrote this post,

In between those dates and my busy schedule, you were always around. Hike or bike on Sunday afternoons, little gifts every time we met or after your trips abroad, movie nights spent watching animations, had fun and laugh together on dates, just you and me. There were a lot of those small things that were impossible to ignore. I obviously noticed how you treated me differently. There were “something” more than we care to admit. We were probably afraid of being “friend-zoned” by each other. In those months, we’d talk about anything under the sky, except about love and relationship, EXCEPT about us. Anyway, long story short, you and I have finally overcome that barrier. (l5t, 15 May 2015, Connecting the Dots)

In between all that new-love-fluttering-heart syndrome, I got the notification to move out from my then-room. I searched for new rooms on the web, arranged some viewings and signed a tenancy agreement within 3 days. I was super-efficient. My parents were also in town at the end of May, so I was rushing to close a deal immediately. It was a fun and busy month.

Jun 2015 [home & love & health]

Moved to new place with the help of my sister and the boyfriends. Luckily, my new place was just a few blocks away. Moving my stuff and re-arranging them were a lot easier than expected. Watched some volleyball matches during SEA Games and cycled together with friends.

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Jul – Aug 2015 [home, love, dreams, friendships]

Working and teaching during weekdays; singing, dining and relaxing during weekends. Life went back to its normal pace, no hustle and bustle of finding new place or the crazy jitters of new love *though I believe in giving some surprises once in a while to spice things up* There were plenty of holidays in these two months and I spent my time dipping in and out of holiday and/or working mood; preparing for the long-awaited trip in September versus. re-arranging my teaching schedule for the rest of the year.

Anyway, as I typed this I looked back at what I wrote before and found the same wisdom as before, so I quote,

Life is too short to be spent on worries and regrets and forever going with the flow with no specific purpose in life. I believe in finding my purpose, making plans, executing them and then I’ll go with the flow after I’ve done my part. We should always strive to be a better person and choose what’s best for ourselves and our loved ones. For me, I want to live healthily and happily doing whatever I want in life with integrity. (l5t, 13 Aug 2014)

Now the difference is, I get to share my life with that special someone.

Most importantly, I know that I want to have this kind of relationship one day, with respect, love, loyalty, commitment; and put my heart on the sleeve more frequently, instead of hiding behind a huge wall. When I’ve chosen to be in a committed relationship, I’ll do the same as the 3 points above: be curious about my life (and his life too), re-arrange my priority and be a good person. Hopefully, we could also grow better as a person, walk towards a better future together, hand-in-hand (l5t, 11 Feb 2015, Is what I want the same as what I need?)

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As cliché as it might sound, I just have these simple wishes on my coming birthday:

Birthday wishes (H-5)

1. Stay healthy and away from danger/harm (also applicable to my family, lover & friends)

2. Be happy (refer here: connect the dots and here: prevent boredom)

3. Live life to the fullest (refer here: do what you love)

 

Cheers,

Sien

*Babe, the first time posting our ‘wefie’ publicly. It looks awesome:)

Teaching Bahasa Indonesia to Adult Foreign Learners

Hi Folks,

This post is about the new ‘project’ that I started back in May 2014. It’s been more than a year and I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m still very much into it. The first half of this post is in English and the second half is in Indonesian.

Remember that I mentioned about CELTA and what I want to do after the 1-month solo trip back in 2013? Since 2009, I’ve been looking for another type of extra income gig that I’ll enjoy on top of my full-time job and to also maintain my financial health despite living in the most expensive city in the world (according to 2014 EIU Survey). After dipping my toes into some industries for several years, I finally found that teaching languages is the (current) answer to my restlessness. Beside teaching English to some Primary kids privately, I’ve started teaching Bahasa Indonesia to Adult Learners, both in classroom and 1-to-1 settings. Who would’ve thought that I’d teach my mother-tongue to the locals, Europeans and other nationalities in Singapore? It certainly didn’t cross my mind until early last year.

In January 2014, I chanced upon an opening for both part-time Indonesian and English language teacher at a language school. I immediately applied for both positions, as I was then qualified to teach them. One is my native language, and another one was my strongest 2nd language (not good enough to teach Mandarin yet, maybe one day *wishful thinking*). In the end, because I’m Indonesian and my results for language subjects were good, I joined the school as a part-time Indonesian language teacher. It was tough at first, since I didn’t have any experience in teaching my mother-tongue. After more than 1 year, I can finally write a summary of the challenges I’ve encountered so far. I’ll write this section in Bahasa Indonesia (for the English version, please use Google translate;P)

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Catatan: Saya jarang sekali menulis dalam Bahasa Indonesia, bahkan cenderung tidak pernah. Kalau soal menulis, saya lebih suka mengekspresikan pikiran saya dalam Bahasa Inggris. Tapi mungkin kali ini, saya akan coba menjelaskan dalam Bahasa Indonesia, segala macam tantangan yang saya hadapi selama setahun belakangan ini. Saya periksa pemakaian kata disini –> http://kbbi.web.id/ dan suka membaca penjelasan dari web ini –> http://www.bahasakita.com/

Tantangan yang saya hadapi:

1) Mengajar Bahasa Indonesia formal (baku/resmi) atau informal (bahasa gaul).

Dalam percakapan sehari-hari, orang Indonesia sendiri jarang sekali memakai bahasa formal. Lebih sering memakai bahasa gaul/informal/slang dan kadang-kadang mencampurkan elemen bahasa Inggris ke dalam kalimat. Jadi pada saat saya mengajar, saya selalu kesusahan. Di satu sisi, saya harus mengikuti silabus yang sangat kuno dan penuh dengan bahasa formal yang jarang dipakai sehari-hari. Di sisi lain, saya ingin murid-murid saya latihan bicara Bahasa Indonesia yang sering dipakai. Bahasa sehari-hari akan lebih berguna pada saat mereka berkunjung ke Indonesia untuk bekerja atau liburan. Mereka bisa langsung menerapkan apa yang sudah dipelajari.

Jadi sekarang, saya tetap berusaha memperkenalkan versi formalnya di awal, sebelum kemudian mengajarkan versi sehari-harinya di akhir sesi.

2) Silabus yang perlu diperbaharui. Tapi belum ada waktu untuk merombaknya.

Silabus selalu menjadi bahan diskusi dan pertentangan. Tapi sejauh ini, kami, para guru, hanya bisa mengikuti apa yang sudah tersedia sambil menambahkan sendiri bahan yang sekiranya berguna untuk murid. Kami juga kadang harus mengubah materi menjadi lebih menarik untuk dipelajari dan menyesuaikan materi dengan kebutuhan murid. Baru-baru ini, saya meminta dukungan manajemen untuk mengubah silabus dan mereka sudah setuju. Tapi sekarang masalahnya, saya belum punya waktu untuk eksekusi. Setiap hari saya mengajar sampai malam, sulit sekali mencari waktu untuk mengubah silabus. Saya akan minta bantuan guru lain. Mereka juga sama sibuknya dengan saya. Bagaimana ini? *mumet*

3. Susunan kata dan pengaruh bahasa asing.

Saya selalu mengajarkan konsep “ayam goreng” kepada murid saya, Bahasa Indonesia dan Bahasa Inggris itu terbalik. “Fried chicken” akan menjadi “ayam goreng” dalam bahasa Indonesia, bukan “goreng ayam”. Konsep ini dan masih banyak lagi konsep tata bahasa yang lain akan selalu saya ulangi di kelas. Murid-murid biasanya sering salah menyusun kata, terbalik-balik dan terlalu banyak memakai terjemahan langsung ke Bahasa Inggris. Biasanya saya akan menjadi “badut” di kelas dan berusaha untuk tidak memakai terjemahan. Mereka harus berusaha berpikir dalam Bahasa Indonesia. Terkadang saya hanya meminta mereka menerjemahkan kata untuk memeriksa pemahaman kosakata yang sulit. Selebihnya, saya lebih suka memakai bahasa isyarat. Diusahakan 70-80% Bahasa Indonesia dan bahasa isyarat yang dipakai di kelas, sisanya Bahasa Inggris untuk menjelaskan tata bahasa yang susah.

Pada akhirnya, saya berharap proyek yang satu ini dapat saya kembangkan lagi di kemudian hari. Mungkin suatu hari nanti, saya bisa buka sekolah bahasa sendiri? Amin. Sekarang, (slang/colloquial) gue mau enjoy dulu aja deh, mau ngajar Bahasa Inggris atau Bahasa Indonesia, privat atau kelas, sama aja. Yang penting senang ^_^

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That’s all folks. I just used the formal version of Indonesian in this post.

Maybe I should practice more and write more posts in Indonesian? Using slang/colloquial version?

Oh well, Happy August everyone!

Time really flies…

Cheers,

Sien

*in early holiday mood. 33 more days to turning 2-9 on 2-9. 42 more days to a long vacation. Woohooo!! ^_^

Life with braces (after 1 year and 6 months)

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It’s been 1 year and 6 months. Time flies. Let’s look back to the reason why I decided to fix my teeth and began my braces journey, the checkpoints after 6 months and after 1 year.

Since then, I’ve become so used to the routine of flossing and brushing my teeth for at least 30 minutes each night, that it doesn’t feel like a chore anymore. Hopefully, this good habit will continue even after I’m done with this wire.

For now, let’s endure and keep up the cleaning routine. Here’s how my teeth look today. After 72 weeks.

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Cheers,

Sien

*feeling awesome after realizing her teeth have really transformed for the better. A little bit more…fighting!

Connecting the Dots – You, Me and Us

Hey Folks,

How are you? It’s been a month. I’m doing great, busy like a bee and as happy as a clam.

Here’s my monthly reflection and update post.

But first, let me direct you to a post I wrote in March last year, “Connecting the dots – why you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be”. In that post, I elaborated on how certain life events were connected to each other and what I’ve learned from connecting all those dots. There was one thing that was not explained yet…so here I am, finally connecting the dots in this department:)

As for my love life, I haven’t found the way to connect the dots yet. I wish I could. Anyway, life must go on and it’s up to me, whether I choose to live it to the fullest or regret all those distant events and wrong people in the past.

In 1998, we were in the same school for 6 years. You’re in the class next door and we were in the same choir team. We were young and busy with school work. Besides, back then, my taste of boys had been restricted to only those with sporty-charm-part-of-school’s-team kind. I especially had a penchant for boys who play volleyball. I started playing this sport since Primary 5, so yeah…puppy crush. This trend continued throughout my first 2 years in junior high. You and I were probably not inside each other’s radar.

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From 1998 to 2001, we were classmates. Still nothing happened. Instead, I had this silly crushes on 2 volleyball seniors and then the longest one-sided crush on your best friend. You told me recently, that you knew about this back then, a long time ago. Nonetheless, I still have a very fond memory of this distant event and have even described it here, this post.

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In 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, I’ve had a few one-sided crushes and some suitors who came along but they didn’t come close to what we have now. Apparently, they were there to teach me some invaluable lessons on: how to respect and love myself, how to be comfortable and happy being on my own, how to be loyal and committed to my own self-improvement. I need to be happy alone before I’m able to share my happiness and love with someone else.

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In 2014, we met again on that fateful day. We were in the same city for the past 4 years but we’ve not seen each other for 2-3 years. The last time we met were at a mutual friend’s wedding, a reunion dinner gathering afterwards and that’s all. We’ve never talked to one another for long. We were still normal old school friends….until not so long ago *not in friend zone…phew, what a relief*

When I met you again early last year, I was a different person. Beside having my braces fixed in January, I was also more relaxed and happier after completing that one thing that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also set new exciting career goals for myself by then. Building a relationship was not my main priority. Of course, the thought of having someone special whom I can share my life with, would hover in my mind once in a while, but I didn’t actively looking. I’ve tried dipping my toes into the online dating world and it was an eye-opening experience. Found out a few months later that it’s not for me and have since deleted all my profiles.

In between those dates and my busy schedule, you were always around. Hike or bike on Sunday afternoons, little gifts every time we met or after your trips abroad, movie nights spent watching animations, had fun and laugh together on dates, just you and me. There were a lot of those small things that were impossible to ignore. I obviously noticed how you treated me differently. There were “something” more than we care to admit. We were probably afraid of being “friend-zoned” by each other. In those months, we’d talk about anything under the sky, except about love and relationship, EXCEPT about us. Anyway, long story short, you and I have finally overcome that barrier.

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I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve now and having the courage and kindness to finally commit to this. I’m new, you’re new. We’re in this together. The dots are CONNECTED. We really shouldn’t be with each other back in those school years, 16 years ago. We were still too young, lack of self-identity, lack of direction, still finding our own ways.

Now that our paths have crossed, let’s enjoy every single step, be kind and generous! ^_^

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XOXO,

Sien

*I should change my topic next month:)*

Reading list:

Why People Who Feel Complete on Their Own Have Stronger Relationships

How to Love without Losing Yourself

7 Vital Choices for Happy Relationships

Where is home?

Unlike a concrete house that you live in, it’s a lot harder to define a “home”.

This post is my first attempt to define it, but I was still very confused then.

Now, after the long wait and reflection, here’s my second take.

When I was just a little girl…

Home is where my parents live, where I spent my wonderful childhood filled with comic books, video games, language lessons and lots of books. The good old days.

When I was in my high school years…

Home is (still) where my parents live, with all those years of awkward teenager’s crushes, overwhelming hormonal imbalance filled with zits, self-esteem issues and weird fashion sense. The not-so-good nerdy days.

When I was in my university years, in a new country, all by myself…

Home is a whole new world in this clean and orderly city with new friends from different cities and backgrounds. It’s filled with activities: sports, organizations, lectures, tutorials, industrial attachment, summer study in France, endless assignments and projects, failed one-sided crushes. It’s a journey of self-discovery. Nevertheless, home is still inside this pretty safe bubble, University Life. The great old days.

When I was out of the education system and into the jungle working world….

Home is where I earn my income. It’s also where my exhausted body and mind were recharged every single night. No matter where it is *I’ve moved to 3 different houses in the past 7 years*, home is where I’m surrounded by the books I love and having the unlimited access to my laptop and internet. The awesome years.

When I’m single, unmarried or not in a relationship with anyone yet…

Home is when I’m in a volleyball court or the gym or the park; sweating my ass off playing volleyball with my buddies or running on treadmill or cycling non-stop for 3 hours. Home is when I’m in other countries for vacation with friends; climbing mountains, tasting some local food, taking thousands of pictures. Home is when I’m abroad, in yet another foreign country, all by myself, just to complete a course that I’ve always wanted to do.  The wonderful years.

When I’m attached or married and maybe have my own family one day…

Probably, home will have a very simple definition.

I think HOME is gonna be just…WHEREVER I’M WITH YOU :):)

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Cheers,

Sien

*I don’t know what got into me, I keep on writing these cheesy lines…oh my…

Filling the Blank Space

Dear      (blank space)       ,

I may not be the fairest of them all

I may not be the smartest and most elegant of all

I may not even show or talk about how I feel

I may be broken for too many times

But I have learned my love lessons and rest assure…

I am learning to let my heart lead the way

I am tearing down the protective wall, brick by brick

Eventually,

I will start giving my whole heart and trust that you won’t break it

So, please be patient

I am still a work-in-progress

But because you are around,

I might just jump over the wall and find you

Have courage and be kind, right? *and I quote:)*

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by C.S. Lewis

 

Is “what I want” the same as “what I need”?

Hey folks,

Fabulous February is here. Time for another post.

As we’re nearing the end of Horse Year and my 2015’s plans are beginning to shape up, let me share with you the upcoming projects that have been brewing in my over-active brain. I will share this in the form of my answers on the classic question: WANT versus NEED, including some examples of the things that I want and elaborate excuses/justifications to convince myself and finally take ACTIONS.

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2015-2017 Master Plan. Had to write them down, can’t help it:)

The results of a never-ending battle in my restless mind. Here we go!!!

I WANT

to live happily and peacefully everyday doing what I need to do to pay the bills, doing what I love to do after work and during weekends. While at the same time, I still have the time to relax and enjoy some me-time, be totally unproductive once in a while, e.g.: watching YouTube videos or Japanese & Korean dramas the whole night.

Do I NEED to live like this?

ABSOLUTELY YES. Perhaps for now until maybe the end of 2016.

I got really bored and felt unproductive if I just watch dramas/videos, read random articles day in and day out. My brain needs much more stimulation and I finally found it in the form of teaching:). My aim for this year is to arrange at least 3-4 times teaching session, either in classroom or private setting, weekdays night or weekend afternoon. I’ll take my own teaching assignment or replace other teacher whenever I can, as long as it fits into my schedule. I get to meet new students whenever I accept a new assignment. Good for my network expansion and my brain, 1 stone kills 2 birds.

As for the exercise I need, whenever I’m not teaching, I’ll squeeze in a gym session or Saturday morning hiking or Sunday afternoon cycling and have a weekly volleyball game with my regular buddies. Hopefully, if one day I get to be in a committed relationship with someone I like, I could still allocate 1-2 times a week to meet him. It’s all about priority and scheduling. Anyway, you’re never too busy to be with your loved one, aren’t you?

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I WANT

to go on vacation at least once a year.

Do I NEED to have this vacation?

YES and NO.

Yes, because for me, vacation is needed to refresh my mind, get away from the routine for a while, and experience new places. You might be ‘poorer’ in the wallet after the trip but you’ll be ‘richer’ in experience afterwards. It’s about one’s own priority/mindset and choosing a lifestyle that suits you.

No, if I don’t have the resources to do so. If I didn’t set my budget to include any expensive trip, then there won’t be any traveling this year. I thought that’s the case in 2015. But I saw the light at the end of the tunnel near the end of last month. As I looked at my budget again, after clearing the expected-and-necessary expenses incurred last month and including my future recurring expenses for the rest of the year, I feel safe to include just one trip this year, 18 days, still unknown total expenses. I join a friend for this trip. She’s super excited about this one and invited me to join in the fun. So I thought about it for a few weeks and decided to postpone my other trip and joined her instead. Ticket’s booked. Hope we get to see all the beautiful sceneries in September!! Yay ^_^

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I WANT

to teach full time and own a business related to language/travel one day. It’s so bloody hard to decide between turning my hobby into a full-fledged source of income and keeping both jobs to enjoy half the benefit of both worlds (Engineering and Education field).

but do I NEED to make this decision now?

Am I prepared for the decrease of income during the switch? lifestyle difference? change of habit? change of monthly budget? being out of my familiar zone? How long can I maintain this slash career? Do I need more free time for myself and for me to build a relationship? When can I take the leap of faith? All these questions bring me back to my earlier post about doing what you love to do as a profession.  At the end of the post, I refer to myself as the member of this group;

3. Still doing slash career (definition – having a full time day job: it pays the bills but not necessarily the thing that you want to do long-term & after work/weekends: doing what you love to do but not really a $-making venture yet) and waiting to make the switch. Meanwhile, becoming a reliable and excellent support system to everyone and live a full life. Good luck and you’re so awesome! (~ goes to myself + my future self + some other friends)

Right now, I’ve found the 3 hobbies described in one of the quotes below. They’ve made my life more meaningful and brighter. First hobby to make money: teach languages, second hobby to keep me in shape: play volleyball, third hobby to be creative: write a blog post or sing in karaoke:).

I have a road map and currently doing baby steps to make this ‘WANT’ comes true. It includes some further study and courses I want to take, some financial goals to be achieved and lots of other things. Remember the snapshot of my 2015-2017 master plan above? Yeah, I wrote them there.

Even in the end, if my life doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, I’d be pretty happy and satisfied with the current arrangement. All is well. By then, this fickle-minded brain should know how to make peace with it and just continue enjoying the ride.

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I WANT

to share my life with another person, to finally be in a committed relationship.

but do I really NEED one?

No. Not really. If I haven’t found the right one for me yet, I won’t settle.

In general, I’m looking for this kind of guy, someone who:

(1) knows what he wants in life or at least be curious about it. He looks for ways to improve his life, takes on new challenges and becomes wiser each time.

(2) knows how to set his priority. Sometimes, he could be the right person, but our timeline and priority in life at that period of time was so out of sync, that it won’t work anyway. Is his priority right now on his career or love/relationship?

(3) is a good person with integrity (preferably well-traveled and a non-smoker).

Everything else is negotiable. We don’t need to have the same hobbies. Sharing one/two interests is nice, but it’s not necessary. And yeah, I think that initial attraction (or sparks or chemistry or whatever you call it) when you go out on the first few dates are also important. How’s the vibe and feel that this guy is giving out when he’s around me? Is he attentive? Is he a caring person in general? Is he a curious person and someone who can hold a conversation well?

Then afterwards, I’ll ask myself these questions: Am I attracted to him? Am I feeling comfortable around him? Am I willing to follow his lead and see how it goes? How long does it take for a man to court a woman and be committed? love confession or declaration or whatever? 3 months, 6 months? Am I willing to wait? I’ll usually think about these in the back of my mind and force myself not to over-analyze his words or actions, as I believe that for the matters of heart, only time will tell. If he’s interested, he’ll show it. No confusion. No drama. If the first guy approaches and has been around for some time, maybe I’ll meet 1-2 other suitors along the way and ended up with another guy or none of them or maybe I’ll never meet anyone. Who knows?

I want a relationship, that doesn’t mean I need it to have a happy life on my own. Any relationship status you hold right now; be it single, attached, married, divorced and whatever; has its own challenges, embrace it and be happy anyway.

Most importantly, I know that I want to have this kind of relationship one day, with respect, love, loyalty, commitment; and put my heart on the sleeve more frequently, instead of hiding behind a huge wall. When I’ve chosen to be in a committed relationship, I’ll do the same as the 3 points above: be curious about my life (and his life too), re-arrange my priority and be a good person. Hopefully, we could also grow better as a person, walk towards a better future together, hand-in-hand.

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In the end, is “what you want” the same as “what you need”?

There’s no exact answer to this. Depends on what it is that you want and in what phase of life you are in right now.

Just remember to always ask yourself this question before indulging on what you want, “Have I covered all my basic needs?”

If the answer is a resounding YES: you’ve got food on your table, roof over your head (rental or mortgage, doesn’t matter), decent clothing, life/health insurance to protect the wealth you’ve accumulated so far and a generally happy positive attitude towards life.

If all of them are there right now, I’d say go ahead!! Plan, prioritize, take actions, GO and PAMPER yourself with what you want: the things that you’ve always wanted to experience, the places that you’ve always wanted to visit, that further education/courses that you’ve always wanted to enroll in.

Even if you can’t always have whatever you want, don’t forget to be grateful with what you already have!

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Cheers,

Sien

Happy early Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year everyone! 

Be healthy, joyful and prosperous in the coming year!喜气洋洋!

Life with braces (after 1 year)

First post of the year and it’s time to write an update of my braces journey.

Tuesday, 21 Jan 2014 was the first day of my braces experience. I decided to go for the Damon method. Click here for more info. No teeth extracted.

Here’s a quick look of how my teeth used to look like.

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From that day, I took a weekly photo of the amazing transformation.

Fast forward 6 months, here’s what they look like and I wrote about it here.
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After half a year, my lower teeth were straighter and the three-way junction teeth had shifted to their correct positions.

The upper tooth that was up there was becoming more aligned with the rest. But the tooth next to it was slightly pushed backward because of this. I had a transparent (yellowish) rubber to bring that tooth out. It was a lot more difficult to floss that area when it was there. Thank goodness my Ortho took it off during my visit last November.

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And after another 6 months, they look like this now:)
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Still need more space for the lower left tooth to shift forward and align itself with the rest. I have no idea how he’s going to do it but I hope I can get this braces off in another 6 months to 1 year *fingers crossed*.

I had my latest cleaning and polishing yesterday. My dentist told me that I had to floss even more thoroughly, especially on the gaps between my molars that are fully enclosed with metal brackets. I have a few crack lines on the inner side of my lower teeth but she said they won’t crack if I stick to eating soft food: no peanuts/fish crackers/any other hard stuff.

Almost everyone whom I met recently told me that I’m slimmer (or skinnier or thinner *i don’t like these words*) now, maybe it’s because I don’t want to take too much time brushing and flossing my teeth after every meal, so I eat less and tend to choose soft non-sticky food, which are easier to chew, and hence affecting my figure and weight?

Do you see any difference here?

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Left: when I arrived back in SG after 1 month in Auckland, New Zealand. Right: on a friend’s birthday dinner celebration

Anyway, as long as I feel healthy and still have the time to hit the gym or play volleyball every week, all is well. I’m getting used to this wire and the cleaning regime that comes with it.

Wish me luck with the rest of the journey!

(to be replaced with a retainer….SOON^_^)

Cheers,

Sien

*2015, the year of slow transformation in every aspect of my life. 加油吧! *

Wearing my heart on my sleeve – good or bad idea?

Hey folks,

Right about this time last year, I wrote this love story of a dear friend, “Crossing Oceans Just to Find You“, as my last post in 2013 and before that I was making a statement and arguing with myself on  “3 reasons why I stop making new year’s resolution“. This year, I think I want to set one resolution for 2015, something that has long been overdue.

By definition, resolution is a promise you make to yourself and once you stick to it daily, it will introduce a permanent change in your life. Eventually, a new habit or lifestyle will be created. It’s different from goals. Goals are short-lived. Once you achieved them, you’ll move on to the next. Resolution is to be achieved in a longer time frame, sometimes undefined, and it’s best to keep it daily.

In 2015, I need to step out of the half-opened cage, be courageous and push that door, be more open and honest about my own feelings and emotions, be it good or bad. Wear my heart more on my sleeve, instead of keeping it tightly guarded behind a huge wall. I will have to be the one who break it down, instead of waiting around for some random anonymous guy from the unknown future.

Oh well, I’m not entirely sure if wearing my heart on my sleeve is a great idea yet, so I’ll just have to give it a shot. I’m not used to showing my emotions to everyone, only to some selected inner circle of friends whenever I feel like it. And it seldom happens. How to wear your heart on your sleeve and be authentic?

Here are the definitions of “wearing your heart on your sleeve” from around the web:

Display one’s emotions openly.

People who wear their heart on their sleeve do not hold back their emotions, for good or for bad. It is clear how they feel in each moment. Example: “She’s a shy person. She’s never been one to wear her heart on her sleeve.”

People who wear their heart on their sleeve express their emotions freely and openly, for all to see. They do not hold back their emotions, for good or for bad. They let things get to them too easily. They don’t know how to let go of negative feelings and unhappiness.

Also, pin one’s heart on one’s sleeve. Openly show one’s feelings, especially amorous ones. For example, You can’t help but see how he feels about her; he wears his heart on his sleeve. Shakespeare had it in Othello (1:1): “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at.”

Someone who wears their heart on their sleeve shows their emotions and feelings publicly.

To make your feelings and opinions obvious to other people.

“John’s always worn his heart on his sleeve, so there’s no doubt who he’ll be supporting.”

To show your feelings, esp. your love for someone.

” You always know where John stands because he wears his heart on his sleeve.”

Cheers to another awesome year in 2015! Count down starts today, H-9 before the new year!!! Yaaaay…^_^

Cheers,

Sien

Another good read: overcoming fear of vulnerability.

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The Curious Case of Smart Phone and Social Media Addiction

Hey All,

Are you familiar with these?

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I bet you encounter these situations everyday. Everyone seems to have a smart phone nowadays and we’re so glued to it that I think it’s bordering on unhealthy addiction for some. I’m a recovering addict myself.  But well…I finally saw the light last year so this is a follow-up post on what I’ve written in 2013  To Text or Not to Text – Whatever Happened to Direct Human Connection?”. I’ve been observing the current situation in my daily life. The glaring evidence in the society right now is that we have become TOO attached to our devices. In a social gathering or meeting with friends & loved ones, we seem to pay more attention to our devices, checking unimportant emails, updating status, uploading photos and spying on other people’s lives via social media apps rather than focusing on having a great conversation with the person(s) you’re with, at that very moment. 

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Thankfully, since last year, I’ve gradually decreased the amount of time I spend staring at my phone or scrolling mindlessly on my social media apps. Now, the things I do using a smart phone have been reduced to these followings:

1) Whatsapp/LINE/normal SMS to send short messages. Usually when I need to confirm meeting time and place or organize group events.

2) Social media updates to share some useful/interesting articles or videos once in a while and to promote my latest blog post. Remember, Sharing is Caring! 🙂

3) When I’m by myself: editing pictures, listening to music, checking emails, reading e-book.

4) To dial and receive phone calls (of course, the original function of a phone *duh*).

5) To read news/articles and keep myself updated on the latest happenings in the world.

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So after identifying more-productive things that I can do using my phone, I went out on a mission to prevent further phone/social media addiction. In the past few months, I’ve been banishing several bad habits by:

1) Not indulging on lengthy conversation via text/chat messages – prefer doing it face-to-face (quality time)

2) Not tapping on any social media apps on my smart phone 30 minutes before or after sleep.

3) Not uploading any gathering or events or holiday photos immediately. Enjoy the moment!

4) Not checking-in or reporting my whereabouts to everyone or updating status every day.

5) Resisting the urge of taking out my phone when I’m with anyone in any setting; in a group or 1-to-1, from a restaurant to a public transportation –> but when I do take it out, it’s a cue for “please walk away, I’m not gonna have a conversation with you. I need my alone time now”

6) Cutting down the mindless scrolling or tapping on my smart phone apps/social media apps when I’m in the company of others (family, friends, colleagues)

7) Scrolling only when I’m by myself or extremely bored or have nothing better to do (idle mode). Otherwise, I’d prefer to listen to music while observing people (when on the train, yes…people-watch) or read an e-book or sleep.

8) Sharing photos privately in a group chat with relevant people. Not publicly in social medias or whatever platform available for showing off. Read this article on how people are constantly showcasing the best aspects of their life onto social media, “Why We Compare Ourselves to Others on Social Media and How to Stop”

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I feel sad upon realizing that we are slowly losing our touch for creating real human connections.

I hope I’m wrong.

I hope NOT all genuine human-interaction, eye contact and warm smiles can be replaced with chat screen, “like” button and emoticons/stickers.

So folks, the next time you’re out for lunch/dinner or any kind of activity with anyone, leave your devices in the bag/pocket and do pay attention to the person(s) in front of you, not just stare at your phone the whole time.

Finding the balance? It’s an on-going journey.

Cheers,

Sien

enjoying my well-deserved day off, pouring my thoughts into words:)

This is a reminder and a wake-up call for myself and for you, my friends.

There are so many similar articles written on this topic, these are my favorite ones:

1) A love letter from my phone by Jason Smith (Thought Catalog)

2) Smart Phones – Dumb People — >a video

[TED Talk] Vulnerability in Life (reminder for myself)

Brené Brown:
The power of vulnerability
TEDxHouston · 20:19 · Filmed Jun 2010

Transcript

0:11 So, I’ll start with this: a couple years ago, an event planner called me because I was going to do a speaking event. And she called, and she said, “I’m really struggling with how to write about you on the little flyer.” And I thought, “Well, what’s the struggle?” And she said, “Well, I saw you speak, and I’m going to call you a researcher, I think, but I’m afraid if I call you a researcher, no one will come, because they’ll think you’re boring and irrelevant.” (Laughter) And I was like, “Okay.” And she said, “But the thing I liked about your talk is you’re a storyteller. So I think what I’ll do is just call you a storyteller.” And of course, the academic, insecure part of me was like, “You’re going to call me a what?” And she said, “I’m going to call you a storyteller.” And I was like, “Why not magic pixie?” (Laughter) I was like, “Let me think about this for a second.” I tried to call deep on my courage. And I thought, you know, I am a storyteller. I’m a qualitative researcher. I collect stories; that’s what I do. And maybe stories are just data with a soul. And maybe I’m just a storyteller. And so I said, “You know what? Why don’t you just say I’m a researcher-storyteller.” And she went, “Haha. There’s no such thing.” (Laughter) So I’m a researcher-storyteller, and I’m going to talk to you today — we’re talking about expanding perception — and so I want to talk to you and tell some stories about a piece of my research that fundamentally expanded my perception and really actually changed the way that I live and love and work and parent.

1:46 And this is where my story starts. When I was a young researcher, doctoral student, my first year I had a research professor who said to us, “Here’s the thing, if you cannot measure it, it does not exist.” And I thought he was just sweet-talking me. I was like, “Really?” and he was like, “Absolutely.” And so you have to understand that I have a bachelor’s in social work, a master’s in social work, and I was getting my Ph.D. in social work, so my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed in the “life’s messy, love it.” And I’m more of the, “life’s messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box.” (Laughter) And so to think that I had found my way, to found a career that takes me — really, one of the big sayings in social work is, “Lean into the discomfort of the work.” And I’m like, knock discomfort upside the head and move it over and get all A’s. That was my mantra. So I was very excited about this. And so I thought, you know what, this is the career for me, because I am interested in some messy topics. But I want to be able to make them not messy. I want to understand them. I want to hack into these things I know are important and lay the code out for everyone to see.

3:08 So where I started was with connection. Because, by the time you’re a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice and mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is — neurobiologically that’s how we’re wired — it’s why we’re here. So I thought, you know what, I’m going to start with connection. Well, you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things you do really awesome, and one thing — an “opportunity for growth?” (Laughter) And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right? Well, apparently this is the way my work went as well, because, when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

4:18 So very quickly — really about six weeks into this research — I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn’t understand or had never seen. And so I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it: it’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” — which we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.

5:31 And you know how I feel about vulnerability. I hate vulnerability. And so I thought, this is my chance to beat it back with my measuring stick. I’m going in, I’m going to figure this stuff out, I’m going to spend a year, I’m going to totally deconstruct shame, I’m going to understand how vulnerability works, and I’m going to outsmart it. So I was ready, and I was really excited. As you know, it’s not going to turn out well. (Laughter) You know this. So, I could tell you a lot about shame, but I’d have to borrow everyone else’s time. But here’s what I can tell you that it boils down to — and this may be one of the most important things that I’ve ever learned in the decade of doing this research. My one year turned into six years: thousands of stories, hundreds of long interviews, focus groups. At one point, people were sending me journal pages and sending me their stories — thousands of pieces of data in six years. And I kind of got a handle on it.

6:34 I kind of understood, this is what shame is, this is how it works. I wrote a book, I published a theory, but something was not okay — and what it was is that, if I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness — that’s what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness — they have a strong sense of love and belonging — and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if they’re good enough. There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those.

7:51 What do these people have in common? I have a slight office supply addiction, but that’s another talk. So I had a manila folder, and I had a Sharpie, and I was like, what am I going to call this research? And the first words that came to my mind were whole-hearted. These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. So I wrote at the top of the manila folder, and I started looking at the data. In fact, I did it first in a four-day very intensive data analysis, where I went back, pulled these interviews, pulled the stories, pulled the incidents. What’s the theme? What’s the pattern? My husband left town with the kids because I always go into this Jackson Pollock crazy thing, where I’m just like writing and in my researcher mode. And so here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

9:39 The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

10:43 I personally thought it was betrayal. I could not believe I had pledged allegiance to research, where our job — you know, the definition of research is to control and predict, to study phenomena, for the explicit reason to control and predict. And now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting. This led to a little breakdown — (Laughter) — which actually looked more like this. (Laughter) And it did. I call it a breakdown; my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening sounds better than breakdown, but I assure you it was a breakdown. And I had to put my data away and go find a therapist. Let me tell you something: you know who you are when you call your friends and say, “I think I need to see somebody. Do you have any recommendations?” Because about five of my friends were like, “Wooo. I wouldn’t want to be your therapist.” (Laughter) I was like, “What does that mean?” And they’re like, “I’m just saying, you know. Don’t bring your measuring stick.” I was like, “Okay.”

12:02 So I found a therapist. My first meeting with her, Diana — I brought in my list of the way the whole-hearted live, and I sat down. And she said, “How are you?” And I said, “I’m great. I’m okay.” She said, “What’s going on?” And this is a therapist who sees therapists, because we have to go to those, because their B.S. meters are good. (Laughter) And so I said, “Here’s the thing, I’m struggling.” And she said, “What’s the struggle?” And I said, “Well, I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help.” And I said, “But here’s the thing: no family stuff, no childhood shit.” (Laughter) “I just need some strategies.” (Laughter) (Applause) Thank you. So she goes like this. (Laughter) And then I said, “It’s bad, right?” And she said, “It’s neither good nor bad.” (Laughter) “It just is what it is.” And I said, “Oh my God, this is going to suck.”

13:38 (Laughter)

13:41 And it did, and it didn’t. And it took about a year. And you know how there are people that, when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they surrender and walk into it. A: that’s not me, and B: I don’t even hang out with people like that. (Laughter) For me, it was a yearlong street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.

14:14 And so then I went back into the research and spent the next couple of years really trying to understand what they, the whole-hearted, what choices they were making, and what are we doing with vulnerability. Why do we struggle with it so much? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No. So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability — when we’re waiting for the call. It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?” And within an hour and a half, I had 150 responses. Because I wanted to know what’s out there. Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid off; laying off people — this is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.

15:23 And I think there’s evidence — and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause — we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. (Laughter) I don’t want to feel these. And I know that’s knowing laughter. I hack into your lives for a living. God. (Laughter) You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

16:47 One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn’t just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is we make everything that’s uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. I’m right, you’re wrong. Shut up. That’s it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today. There’s no discourse anymore. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame. You know how blame is described in the research? A way to discharge pain and discomfort. We perfect. If there’s anyone who wants their life to look like this, it would be me, but it doesn’t work. Because what we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks. (Laughter) Which just, I hope in 100 years, people will look back and go, “Wow.”

17:50 (Laughter)

17:52 And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, “Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade.” That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems I think that we see today. We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate — whether it’s a bailout, an oil spill, a recall — we pretend like what we’re doing doesn’t have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo, people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say, “We’re sorry. We’ll fix it.”

19:01 But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

20:05 That’s all I have. Thank you.

20:07 (Applause)

Throwback November

Hey there, it’s been a while since I last wrote a post here. Just feeling nostalgic now, particularly this November, hence the title “Throwback November”. Right about this time last year, I still remember vividly, how excited I was, preparing for my departure to do the CELTA at Auckland, New Zealand. It was an exciting, meaningful, freeing month for me. See the full post on how I decided to take the course, here and my experience, here. Fast forward 1 year later, up to TODAY, here are what happened afterwards:

1) Decided to pursue a part-time gig that’s more of my cup of tea, instead of property and other stuff I’ve got going on since 2009. So $$ factor is not the most important consideration anymore. I could trade my time and knowledge with a decent amount of $ (not tonnes of money, just decent) as long as I enjoy doing it.

2) As early as December last year, beside being busy going for my orthodontist appointment and started my braces journey (click here and here for stories and some ugly braces pictures;p), I applied for part-time classroom language teaching jobs.

3) Ended up with a 1-month in-house teacher training with one of the well-established language schools here. I submitted my application in hope that I could get a part-time English and/or Indonesian teaching job. That was in March.

4) One full month training and one class observation later, I got the job. Yay! Knew about it right after my ultimate adventure trip this year, click here for details of the adventure. After the trip, I was focusing more on building up my teaching experience. I just want to teach languages. And the cool thing is, I can attend other language lessons for free, as long as it doesn’t clash with my own teaching schedule.

5) And guess what, (un)fortunately, they’re more in need of an Indonesian teacher than a part-time English teacher.  I’m a native speaker of Indonesian and wasn’t ready to let go of my full time job yet. So twist and turn, somehow, I ended up teaching Bahasa Indonesia in a classroom. They asked me if I would be keen to switch to full time as an English and Indonesian language teacher after some time. That’s an option in the future. I’m seriously considering this. For now, the current arrangement is the best that I can get from both worlds (my full time to pay the bill, part-time as a hobby, for fun and keeping my brain active; beside that I found that playing volleyball regularly also makes me a happier person. Nothing beats a good afternoon sweat and release of endorphin after a great game)

So after 4 classes of module 1 for beginners, 1 private student and currently teaching a class of module 2 beginners, I found myself enjoying it so much. My brain is constantly challenged. I got to know some grammar points of my own native language that I didn’t even know how to explain to my students at first. I guess, because I grew up speaking it, just like the English native speakers I met during CELTA, the sentences come out so naturally that we don’t even think in terms of structure and grammar points. We just use the language. Apparently, it’s always the same problem for natives who teach their own language to other speakers, GRAMMAR problem. Students need those structures when learning a new language at the beginning and then they can practice speaking in a more natural way when the basic knowledge is acquired.

I start to appreciate Bahasa Indonesia even more now. I think it’s time for the language to shine and for us, native speakers, to speak better Bahasa Indonesia and be proud of it. I appreciate how flexible the language is and how the formal and conversational Bahasa Indonesia can be very different. It’s challenging to teach it…but it’s FUN at the same time. I never know that there are quite a number of Westerners (the Bules) and locals here who are interested in learning Bahasa Indonesia. It’s fascinating!!

Now, I’m finding my way to brush up my Mandarin and English to native level (all skills: writing, speaking, reading, listening) so that one day, I could teach them too, be amazed by how much my students have improved over time and hopefully, have my own language center/school one day!!

Okay, enough daydreaming…one project at a time. Slow down, wake up and let’s float back from Wonderland, shall we?

With love,

Sien

–  no urge to share my life lately, mentally occupied by lesson plans, physically occupied by weekly volleyball game and some outings here and there. At least 1 blog post a month will do:) Keep it rolling girl! 

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The whole shelf of Indonesian language textbooks that I found in Kinokuniya. When looking for inspiration, I’ll go there and browse the books. I’ve been recommending these books to management and hopefully they’re in the library soon!

PS: Kayaknya aku harus post pake Bahasa Indonesia deh dalam waktu dekat ini. Bakal ngerasa aneh gak ya, nulis dalam Bahasa Indonesia? Mending formal atau pake bahasa gaul ya? heemmm…ejaannya aja dah gak bener nih!!

Wake Me Up Before September Ends

It’s still September. The 26th day. And it’s my dear sister’s 21st birthday today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIS!!! LOVE YOU ^_^.

September is the month in which there seems to be a lot of birthdays going on. Never ending celebration. (Un)fortunately, this year, I have waken up from my celebratory mood long before the month ends. Way too early compared to the last few years. My over-active mind accepted new assignment in a whim and that results in a hectic week starting from the middle of this month. It’s been nothing but working and teaching and serving as a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding and going on occasional outings with friends and entertaining some random dates/chats with various people. And suddenly today, I feel the urge to update my blog.

Just several days ago, I was contemplating on writing about the term “friend-zone” or another relationship/love-related topic. While I was doing my usual research before diving deep into the issue, I found so many articles related to this term. There are so many different perspectives that I couldn’t decide on how to write about it without being heavily influenced by those writings. So for now, I’m gonna temporarily forget about the relationship issue, go with the flow, enjoy it for what it is, not what I hope it will lead to *very important*.

Now, let’s look at the latest happenings and progress of my birthday wishes for the past one month. I talked about my three birthday wishes here.

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Wish #1 ~ Stay healthy and fit

Progress?

I’ve been drinking smoothies for breakfast and dinner for the past 2 months. Eating normal food for lunch and with no special restriction. I’m feeling fine most of the time and I hope to keep it this way. Managed to squeeze in some indoor or beach volleyball games every other Saturday despite my hectic schedule.

Wish #2 ~ Be happier with where I am in life: career, finance and personal development. Never stop learning and trying new stuff.

Progress?

I’m mostly grateful with my current working arrangement. Using my free time after my day job to do something I like. Testing the waters before I decide on taking the leap of faith. Mustering the courage to confront my own greatest fear. Building up my personal savings to the financial goals that I’ve set. In general, just be happier and more content with what I have right now.

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Wish #3 ~ When I’m happy and ready to open my heart, I wish that I could be blessed with a best-friend and lover who will accept me for who I am.

Progress?

Nothing much. Just dating and looking around at this point. At least I’m putting myself out there and finally on the verge of being ready to open up my heart again. As much as I love having a relaxing me-time on a Friday night, I realized that I need to allocate more time to be active, go out there and meet more new people. It’s all about priorities, isn’t it? So, bring it on!

Anyway, I finally fulfilled my 2nd bridesmaid’s duty last week. The wedding was small but intimate. Only a handful of very close friends and relatives were invited. It was an awesome delightful day for all of us.

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Well, it’s just the beginning of another awesome year ahead.

I hope I’m off to a good start with my birthday wishes.

Cheers,

Sien

*Here’s the speech I delivered on my friend’s (3rd) wedding celebration this month.

H and I met 10 years ago during our university days. We instantly clicked and have become best friends ever since. We would go shopping, swimming, exercising and do all kinds of activities together. The first thing that I noticed from her was her laughter. Her spontaneous laughter can really light up any room. She’s this tough funny lady who’s very cheerful and determined. Once she sets her mind into what she wants, she’ll get it. So H, being who she is, went to Paris in 2010 for her Master study and met ID there. It was a pleasant surprise. Long story short, from Paris to Singapore, they moved back here in 2012 and I finally met my bestfriend’s boyfriend. He’s this tall quirky brainy Dutchman who can always trigger a deep discussion on any topic under the sky; from politics, economics to history.  The two of them together, I think they are a very intellectual and humorous couple. H will be the serious and responsible one while ID is the one who lightens up the mood. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. I think they’re perfect for each other. So when early this year, they became engaged and H asked me to become her bridesmaid, I wasn’t surprised. I knew it was coming. Thank you for having me here. I’m truly honored.

L, ID, life is not always filled with beds of roses. Sometimes fights and arguments are inevitable. But I do hope and believe that with the respect, love, kindness and commitment you have for each other, you will be strong enough to bounce back and move forward. I wish you guys a happy married life, blessed with good health and beautiful babies. To the bride and groom……Cheers!

The Third Metric of Success – Well-being, Wonder, Wisdom, Willingness to give back

An inspirational commencement speech on redefining your success by Arianna Huffington.

It’s NOT just about money and power anymore.

Full article here.

But it’s time for a third metric, beyond money and power — one founded on well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back. Money and power by themselves are a two legged stool — you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over. And more and more people, very successful people, are toppling over. Basically, success the way we’ve defined it is no longer sustainable. It’s no longer sustainable for human beings or for societies. To live the lives we want, and not just the ones we settle for, the ones society defines as successful, we need to include the third metric.

What adding well-being to our definition of success means is that, in addition to looking after our financial capital, we need to do everything we can to protect and nurture our human capital. My mother was an expert at that. I still remember, when I was twelve years old, a very successful Greek businessman coming for dinner. He looked rundown and exhausted. But when we sat down to dinner, he told us how well things were going for him. He was thrilled about a new contract he had just won to build a new museum. My mother was not impressed. “I don’t care how well your business is doing,” she told him bluntly,” you’re not taking care of you. Your business might have a great bottom line, but you are your most important capital. There are only so many withdrawals you can make from your health bank account, but you just keep on withdrawing. You could go bankrupt if you don’t make some deposits soon.” And indeed, not long after that, the man had to be admitted for an angioplasty.

The last time she got angry with me before she died was when she saw me reading my email and talking to my children at the same time. “I abhor multitasking,” she said, in a Greek accent that puts mine to shame. In other words, being connected in a shallow way to the entire world can prevent us from being deeply connected to those closest to us — including ourselves. And that is where wisdom lies. Don’t worry — you don’t have the head of a digital news operation telling you to disconnect from technology altogether. What I’m saying is: learn to regularly disconnect from technology in order to connect with yourself. Learn to unplug in order to recharge. I’m convinced about two fundamental truths about human beings. The first truth is that we all have within us a centered place of wisdom, harmony, and strength. This is a truth that all the world’s religions — whether Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Buddhism — and many of its philosophies, hold true in one form or another: “The Kingdom of God is Within.”

And remember that while there will be plenty of signposts along your path directing you to make money and climb up the ladder, there will be almost no signposts reminding you to stay connected to the essence of who you are, to take care of yourself along the way, to reach out to others, to pause to wonder, and to connect to that place from which everything is possible. “Give me a place to stand,” my Greek compatriot Archimedes said, “and I will move the world.”

So find your place to stand — your place of wisdom and peace and strength. And from that place, lead the third women’s revolution and remake the world in your own image, according to your own definition of success, so that all of us — women and men — can live our lives with more grace, more joy, more empathy, more gratitude, and yes, more love.

By Arianna Huffington – excerpts from her speech “Redefining Success: The Third Metric”

The Hard-Won Lessons of the Solitary Years & Being Single at Weddings by Sara Eckel

Well, suddenly feel the need to put up the links to these awesome articles by Sara Eckel before they get lost in the cyber space.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/05/fashion/Modern-love-The-Hard-Won-Lessons-of-a-Solitary-Life.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Most important, I’ve realized I never needed a long boyfriend résumé for the experience. In the 20 years before I met Mark, I learned a lot of hard lessons: how to be a self-respecting adult in a world that often treats single people like feckless teenagers; how to stand at cocktail parties while my friends’ in-laws asked me if I had a boyfriend; how to have warm, friendly dinners with strangers I had met online as we delicately tried to determine whether we could possibly share our lives together; and how to come home to an empty apartment after a rotten day at work.

I realize these less-than-giddy examples may conjure up those deadly words: “desperate” and “pathetic.” But I wasn’t desperate. If I had been desperate, I would have settled for a relationship I felt ambivalent about because I was afraid to be alone. Instead, I learned to relax into the open space of my quiet home and unknown future. I also learned there is a difference between feeling something unpleasant (loneliness, longing) and being something shameful.

Being a single person searching for love teaches you that not everything is under your control. You can’t control whether the person you’ve fallen for will call. You can’t force yourself to have feelings for the nice guy your best friend fixed you up with. You have no way to know whether attending this or that event — a co-worker’s art opening, a neighbor’s housewarming — will lead to the chance encounter that will forever alter your life. You simply learn to do your best, and leave it at that.

Relationships are work, but so is being single, and I became pretty good at it.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/06/26/being-single-weddings/HUrIuquqJ1bRPXrrpC8YAP/story.html

I wish the perplexed bridesmaid I was had understood that wisdom about love is not limited to those blessed with partners.

Cheers,

Sien

My 10220th Day on Earth is Coming

It’s been an AWESOME and EVENTFUL year for me. Right around this time of the year, I’ll usually have an annual self-reflection. I’m looking back on my amazing year so far and planning for a better one ahead. My birthday is coming. 27 going on 28. And I feel that I have accomplished so much this year. It’s now the time to sit back, relax, enjoy the routine, define my goals, plan for the next baby steps and prepare for a-whole-month celebration in September!! ^_^

I’ve been keeping a daily log of my activities and expenses since 2010. So if I ever need to look back on what I did this time last year or figure out what my weekend activities were, I’ll just retrieve the information in my wonderful excel file (I talked about it here).

While referring to the file, let’s reminisce the moments month by month….

Sep 2013

Started my 27th with a short getaway to Bintan with my younger brother and sister. Had a belated birthday dinner and BBQ with close friends.

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Oct 2013

Prepared for CELTA (here’s how I decided to take CELTA) and kicked start my blogging journey again (the 1st post here).

Nov 2013

One of the best moments in my life (summary of my CELTA experience here). After this whole experience, there’s one thing that I needed so badly. That is the extra COURAGE to make a choice, move forward and never look back. I was still in a limbo at this point of time and even until today (9 months later), I’m still testing the waters. Don’t have the courage to let go of my current status quo yet. What should I do?

group photo @mission bay

Dec 2013

After a month away, I returned home to endless orthodontist appointments, wisdom teeth surgery & extraction to prepare for my braces journey. I talked about it extensively here. Beauty is still in the eyes of the beholder.

Jan 2014

The new year means new hair color, new accessories on my teeth, new journey to get new part-time gig. I was asked to deliver a toast at my close friend’s wedding and was asked to become a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding this coming September.

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Feb 2014

Attended 2 weddings in a week, was slowly getting used to my new ritual of brushing my teeth after every meal and started taking pictures of my teeth every Tuesday just to monitor the progress. I was doing my usual hiking and cycling activities every other weekend in this month.

Mar 2014

Started the 1-month training for part-time and made a huge financial commitment together as a family. Two major financial commitments this year will certainly tie me down until around Dec 2015 and Sept 2016. I wish it could be shorter than that, especially for my braces. Another 1 year to go? Hopefully? I know it’s for the best. Perseverance is the key. Meanwhile, continue to take care of my health and physical fitness while saving up the $ for short getaways and adventure trips.

Apr 2014

Prepared for my ultimate adventure trip to Lombok at the end of April: hiking Mount Rinjani and diving at Gili Islands (full summary of this travel log can be found here). I was climbing the staircase at my workplace everyday for 1 month (equivalent to 10 floors of an HDB flat) in addition to my hiking routes at Macritchie Reservoir during the weekends. It was a last-minute kind of preparation. Luckily, I survived the grueling climb to the mountain top.

May 2014

End of adventure trip, eventually conquered Mount Rinjani and went scuba diving for the first time in my life. Awesome experiences in a short 8D7N trip. After that, my part-time officially started and I only have free me-time for 2 weeknights. Weekends are usually for other activities (how NOT to become a boring person). Monday, Wednesday and Thursday were for my part-time. It’s totally fun and a good way for me to learn new things while doing what I like: languages, analyzing and dissecting the language. Teaching a language really reminds me of how much I love learning foreign languages. It’s challenging my over-active brain.

Jun 2014

My full-time and part-time are on-going. Learning and having fun at the same time. Attended a friend’s beautiful wedding in Bandung (a short getaway with my girlfriends), back to volleyball and cycling after a 2-month hiatus.

Jul 2014

The 6th month of my braces journey (21 July), parents visit for my sister’s convocation and another visit from a distant friend. Reached new milestones and had so much fun. I started following the Beginner’s workout calendar in Blogilates and eating more regular healthy home-cooked meals (especially breakfast & dinner).  For the past 3 months, I was so busy living my life that I hardly had the time to sit down and write a blog post. Is that good or bad? Whenever my mind goes for an overdrive, I can’t resist the urge to write anyway (like what I’m doing now)…so I guess it’s fine to have writer’s block once in a while.

July was also an eventful month for my home country, Indonesia. Presidential election month and we’ve voted for the first non-related-to-Soeharto-and-his-gang President-elect, Mr Jokowi. My fb wall feed was filled with the election news and hot debates on politics. Five years ago, I didn’t care. This year, I’ve exercised my right to vote and hoping for a better Indonesia in the next five years. I’m doing my small part for the country now, serving as a part-time Bahasa Indonesia teacher to all the foreigners who want to learn. Getting the hang of it and having fun in the classroom. I’ll slowly move on to teaching English in a classroom one day (still thinking of a way to improve my skill and put it to practice).

Aug 2014

Off to Penang for another short getaway (probably the last one for this year. But I might have a short family getaway at the end of this year! Brother is coming to TOWN!! Yaaaay^__^) and also here I am, offloading my mind from this ridiculous amount of ideas and thoughts to this blog post. I’ve got this sudden burst of ideas this morning and just decided to write them all as my self-reflection post. How lovely it feels looking back on what I’ve done this year. Just needed an assurance from myself that I’ve done my best in life so far.

 

Ironically, on my 10220th day on earth, I’ve got no plan yet. It’s probably going to be just another weekday. Fortunately, I’ve got plans for the rest of the year up my sleeve and they’re currently brewing excitedly inside my restless mind.

In summary, LIFE IS TOO SHORT to be spent on worries and regrets and forever going with the flow with no specific purpose in life. I believe in finding my purpose, making plans, executing them and THEN I’ll go with the flow after I’ve done my part. We should always strive to be a better person and choose what’s best for ourselves and our loved ones. For me, I want to live healthily and happily doing whatever I want in life with integrity.

Birthday wishes (H-20):

1) Stay healthy and fit (applicable to myself, my family members and my close friends).

2) Be happier with where I am in life: career, finance and personal development. Never stop learning and trying new stuff.

3) When I’m happy and ready to open my heart, I wish that I could be blessed with a best-friend and lover who will accept me for who I am and is willing to let me into his life. Sharing dreams, goals and a bright future together. As of now, I’m happy being single.  Do refer to my previous thoughts on love and marriage.

After a long-winded flashback, let’s go back to living the real life!

Ciao!! ^___^

Bisous,

Sien

[SHARING OTHERS’ POST] Disconnect to be more connected and mindful

Disconnect to Get More Connected: Lessons from a Phone-Free Month

By Jessica Wretlind

1. I would give myself time to get lost, and enjoyed taking notice of my perhaps wayward route.

2. My friends were always there to meet me at the time we’d planned in advance.

3. I didn’t update Instagram nor Facebook for a month.

4. I started being present at events in the true sense of the word.

5. I became more spontaneous.

6. I became unreachable at times.

7. I became acutely aware when my company was dividing his/her attention between their phone and me, and I hated it.

8. I realized I wasn’t really staying in touch.

 

Are You Missing Out on Life While Checking Your Smartphone?

By Alex Busson

Question 1: What’s the emotion behind this decision?

Question 2: What value do I place on this present moment?

Question 3: Can my smartphone really add value to the present moment?

Life with braces (after 6 months)

Hi All,

Just a quick update of my braces journey.

Wrote about it in this post back in Jan 2014.

Time really flies and it’s been 6 MONTHS…wooohoooo!!

Do you notice any difference? Improvement?

DAY 1 

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AFTER 6 MONTHS (from all angles)

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Approximately 18 more months to go!

Hope I can persevere until the end.

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Cheers,

Sien

*recently I’m not in the mood to write long story about my life or any other general topics. I’ve got several draft posts without content, just the title. Hopefully ideas will start flowing back SOON *writer’s block. Too many updates and happenings, not sure where to start^_^*

My Travel Log – Above the Cloud, By the Beach, Under the Sea

Helloooooo people,

It’s been quite a while since I last published a post, been busy with my routine activities and additional part time gig right after my trip. As I’ve promised to write about my recent mountain climbing (2nd climb!! –> read about the 1st climb here) and first scuba diving experience, here I am, finally having the time to sit down and reconnect with my own mind. While I was there, I kept a journal of my 8D7N adventure. Now that I’ve finally compiled all the photos together, here’s the elaborate version of my travel log. Enjoy!!

ABOVE THE CLOUD

Arrival – Monday 28 April 2014

Five of us touched down at Lombok Airport at around 8pm local time (same time as Singapore). Met another climbing buddy at the airport and the six of us were off in a 2.5-hour-car-journey to our first accommodation in Lombok, Pondok Senaru. The cottage is just opposite of RudyTrekker’s office and we just went in there for a quick briefing of what to pack and what to expect for the climb the next morning.

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The first thing that I noticed when I was at Rudy’s base was this huge Rinjani climbing route and the list of things to bring. Very useful.

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The full itinerary can be found in the website here.

Day 1 – Tuesday, 29 April 2014

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We woke up at 6am the following day and was greeted by this lovely sunrise peeking behind the mountains. By around 6:30 we were out having our breakfast at Rudy’s. I had a banana pancake and hot tea. This meal was just a start of the many “culinary” experience that I didn’t know I could have while climbing a mountain. They fed us so well up there. I put on my new Hi-Tec trekking shoes, broke into it once a few weeks before the climb and wore 2 layers of socks inside. Yet, I still have blisters all over my feet at the end of the climb. Not sure why. But I didn’t regret buying the shoes, it helped me a lot during the summit climb, through the gravels.

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I brought my small backpack filled with necessities for 3 days and left the rest of the stuff for our porters to carry. There were a total of 7 super-powered porters helping us carry our tents, sleeping bags, food and personal items.  After breakfast, we headed to the registration place at Rinjani Information Center (RIC) @1051 m along the way to Sembalun Village @1,150 m and got our entrance tickets to Mount Rinjani National Park. Notice the price difference between locals and foreigners? What a rip-off!

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We reached Sembalun village at about 8.45am and saw a lot of other trekkers from different countries gathered there. Started walking through the savannah grass land and encountered a few ‘obstacles’ along the way. The COW dungs! I was busy dodging them along the way and was wondering where the cows are after around 30 minutes trekking. Eventually, I saw the herd grazing on the grass and took a few pictures of them.

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the easiest part of the climb (the savannah grass land) and see our local porters carrying the load for 3 days.

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just in case you haven’t seen any cow dung before…here you go:p

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they’re staring back at me

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Stewart (or is it Stuart?) the hedgehog with his owner

After 2 snack breaks along the way and 4 hours later, we reached the 3rd post, Pada Balong @1800m and we had our first very-festive-for-a-mountain-climbing-trip lunch here. Started with salad first, followed by a huge portion of traditional rice meal (fried tofu, tempe, fried egg, chicken, a bit of veggies), ended with fruits. Look at all the porters who were busy preparing for our meals.

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After the hearty lunch break, we charged up to Sembalun Crater Rim (Plawangan Sembalun) @2639m and reached there after a 3-hour climb, just in time to change clothes and wait for the sunset view while having our dinner (yummy Soto with rice).

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By this time, I’ve learned that:

1)  There’s no way to shower or brush and floss my teeth properly here. Just have to live with it:)

2) During the trekking, sometimes you have to choose from 2-3 different paths and watch your steps carefully. Some paths will be easier for you, some will be too challenging. And that’s the time you need a helping hand to guide you along the way. In my case, the mountain guide has helped me a lot and showed me the way throughout this experience.

3) It’s important to glance a bit on your destination up there and know your goal, but remember to always stay focus on what’s right in front of you, the 3-5 few steps in front. Don’t get too fixated on the destination. If you do, you’ll either be discouraged after looking at how still-so-far-away-and-out-of-reach the destination looks like OR be extremely motivated that you choose to focus on those important small steps in front of you and keep on walking despite the nasty blisters, weaker knees and shortness of breath along the way. Don’t give up when you think you can make it! No matter how long it takes for you to get there.

4) Sometimes, in the journey, you’re just alone. Only you, yourself, your great mind and your last drop of will power. Just charge forward. You know your own body and if you can still walk with no serious injuries involved, keep on walking! Ignore the negative thoughts that said,“That’s it Sien! You can’t do it, you’re too exhausted, your fitness level sucks. Maybe just stay at the crater rim and don’t even attempt for the summit climb the next morning. You’ll never make it!” *yeah, I seriously had those silly thoughts and doubts once I reached the Sembalun campsite*

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Magnificent sunset view while enjoying our yummy Soto dinner. Followed by amazing star-gazing experience at the crater rim before we headed to the tent and rest.

Day 2 – Wednesday, 30 April 2014

I decided to ignore those useless thoughts I had the previous day. Woke up at 3am and geared up. I treated myself with yoko-yoko and tiger balm the whole night and was feeling better. The blister on my left toe was still very small at this point. I braced myself against the cold wind, occasionally looked at the twinkling stars along the way, walked tirelessly through the gravels, paused to enjoy the view of Segara Anak Lake from the top and finally at around 7.40am I reached the Rinjani summit @3726m!!! What a relief. I was the last to reach there. The sun has already risen. Only 4 of us went for the summit climb. Along the way, I was accompanied by the stunning views of the sunrise and lake.

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Other lessons learned from this summit climb:

  • Don’t get knocked down by how far ahead the others are.
  • The biggest enemy is yourself.
  • Accept the fact that in this climb and in our life in general, we just have to walk, ALONE, most of the time. Learn to love ourselves and be alone with our own mind.

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Me. Stopping to catch my breath and relying on my will power to get to the top. It took way too much time to reach the summit because of all those tiny gravels. 3 steps forward, 1 step backward.

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After a long grueling blisterful summit climb, I finally made it to the top *no kidding. I had the biggest blister that I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Disgusting picture below:p*

Location: summit of Mount Rinjani, Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia @3726m above sea level.

Date and time: 30 April 2014 at 7:48am.

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The savannah grassland, the tent and sleeping bag, the movable toilet, the sunrise, the lake, me on the difficult trail to the top that’s filled with slippery gravels, and of course, when I took off my socks at the end of the 3D2N climb up and down the mighty Rinjani, I was shocked to see that huge red blister staring back at me. Grossed out!

After the summit, I went down the gravels again with an utmost mindful care of not sliding too fast. If you’re too fast, you might roll down the cliff and game over. So I needed another slow 3.5 hours to go down to the base camp at Plawangan Sembalun. I and my friend were the last two to reach the camp. We quickly had our late breakfast, changed to new socks and geared up again to our next destination, Segara Anak Lake and the hot spring @2008m.

When we started the descend to the lake, it was drizzling and I forgot to put my poncho in the backpack, so I just went ahead without it and we were all drenched by the time we reached the lake 2 hours later. This time around, I was among the 3 people who reached there first. I guess I wanted to make it up for the loss of time in the morning. I was too slow. We were supposed to stop here only for a while and continue for a climb to Senaru Crater Rim (Plawangan Senaru) @2,641m. But then, we were told that there was a large group of 70++ people who would have probably occupied most of the camp site by then. So we decided to stay over night at the lake. The rain and my lateness were a blessing in disguise?  Thank goodness. Our tent was setup on the grass land right beside the lake. We put our stuff there and headed to the hot spring just 100m away to soak and relax there after a long morning. I just couldn’t wait to wash my damp smelly hair there.

It was an awesome hot spring experience and we stayed there for around 2 hours. After that, we headed back to the camp and had our dinner by the lake, a plate of fried rice and we’re ready to call it a day. A challenging yet satisfying day that I’d never forget.

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Day 3 – Thursday, 1 May 2014

We woke up at 4am the next morning to our next destination, Plawangan Senaru @2641m. We had burger and chips as our early breakfast. It wasn’t a very good night sleep because my whole body ached like mad. No amount of tiger balm or yoko-yoko could help me relieve the pain this time. But I just have to endure.  The path to Senaru crater rim was very steep and rocky. I had to do a lot of 45-to-60-degree rock climbing along the way and was accompanied by this close-up view of Segara Anak Lake. I would look back and see this view to motivate myself. After 3 hours, we reached the camp site and true enough, you could see the porters gathering there, the big group has left the site and they’ve begun their descend. The decision to stay back at the lake was a good one. We took a 30-min break for photo-taking and enjoying the view of Mount Agung in Bali from faraway as well as our next destination after the climb, the Gili islands. We could see the 3 Gilis from the rim and it was cloudy and surreal.

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view along the way to Senaru Crater Rim (Plawangan Senaru)

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view of our path to Senaru village (the first painful 3 hours)

After the break, we started the descend at 9:30am downhill through the rocky steps and forest filled with huge stepping stones and tree roots. I was extremely slow and needed 3 hours to reach the next checkpoint. By this time, I couldn’t feel my knees at all and bending them was very painful. I felt each move and 1 tiny step down was an extreme pain. I was too aware and mindful of the pain. The 4 of us were behind and the other 2 had reached an hour earlier than us. During lunch (Spaghetti Carbonara with egg. Yummy!!!), I asked for tips on how to step on the stones and tree roots without going too slow or too cautious. The key is “don’t feel or think too much about the pain. Just move my legs and maintain the pace”. So right after lunch at 12:30pm, I picked up my pace and managed to reach Senaru village @601m at around 2:30pm. I couldn’t feel my knees and could feel my blister popping out on both feet, but I kept on walking. Just like my previous climb at Kinabalu, it’s always the descend that’s killing me. The mountain guide gave me a ride on his motorbike when there’s another 600m left and I happily joined my friend at the car ten minutes later.

The car was ready to transfer us back to Rudy’s base. We picked up our stuff and had a quick wash-up. They drove us to our resort hotel stay at Senggigi. We could finally had a shower and a good rest on a comfortable bed. By this time, there were only 5 of us left, Stewart and his owner had left earlier to continue with his diving trips at Gili islands. Awesome fitness! Unlike me. I couldn’t walk or go up and down the staircase properly for 3 days.

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Holiday Resort at Senggigi (a cozy 2-bedroom apartment)

Once we reached the hotel after a 2-hour car ride from Senaru, the first thing that my friends looked for was, guess what, INTERNET CONNECTION!!! Oh my…talking about re-connecting back to the nature and truly enjoying our vacation. But apparently, old habit dies hard. This remind me of my previous post -> To text or not to text – whatever happened to direct human connection. So throughout our dinner at Papa Besar café in Senggigi, we were busy eating our dinner and updating our family & social media groups on our successful climb. Despite all the craving for attention and constant need to exist in virtual world, I think it’ll be better if we could all go back to those good old days where there’s not so many gadgets in our life, where people still call each other just to say hello, where there’s minimum distraction when eating our meal and we could have a good meaningful conversation with whomever we’re with. Do refer back to my previous post here –> Look up!

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Right after the dinner, once I’ve finished washing all my dirty clothes and shoes, floss and brush my high-maintenance teeth, it was time to deal with this annoying little red bubble on my toe. Armed with an alcohol swab and pointy object (such as: my earring), I poked a tiny hole on the nasty fella, pressed lightly and pinkish fluid burst out, drained it and applied the antiseptic cream. Then I went to sleep. Problem was partially solved. Though it would come back again the next day because I walked on sand and was relaxing by the beach. I would repeat the whole process again the next day before I went to sleep.

BY THE BEACH

Day 4 – Friday, 2 May 2014

Somehow, my morning body clock was adjusted to the early hour because of the first three days waking up at 6am, 3am, 4am respectively. I woke up at 6.30am that day. Then, we spent the whole morning enjoying the hotel breakfast and walked around the pool and beach. At around 10am, the guy who arranged for our snorkeling trip had arrived at the hotel lobby to pick us up. I didn’t plan to snorkel that day. My body still ached and walking on steps was a difficult chore. So I didn’t wear my contact lens and just waited on the boat while chatting with our guide. After the first snorkeling session in the morning, we went to Gili Trawangan, the most crowded out of the 3 Gilis, and had our lunch at The Beach House resort. I had a bowl of beef soto with rice and juice. It was definitely a different experience, eating lunch while facing the clear blue sea. That’s what a relaxing holiday should feel like, especially after an exhausting climb.

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After lunch, the 2nd snorkeling session was at Gili Air. While I waited for the guys, I just lazed around at one of the cafés there and ordered a glass of strawberry milkshake while enjoying this stunning view. Gili Air is a lot less crowded than Gili T, but the crowd is mostly the same, a lot of Caucasian tourists from Europe/America (or we call them “Bule”) in Gili islands. I supposed this place is like a paradise for all of them, you can sunbathe by the beach and get the awesome uniform tan afterwards; snorkel or dive at the many spots here; or simply relax and sip your drinks while reading a book. What a vacation!!!

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At around 4pm, as we were heading back to the main island, it started to rain a little bit. Then halfway, it stopped and I saw the most beautiful full rainbow that I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not exaggerating here. It was really pretty. I’ve seen rainbows in other countries: like in Geelong, Australia last year. But I’ve never seen such a full rainbow from one end to another end. They said there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Maybe there was, if I looked hard enough. Anyway, after I captured the rainbow below using my camera phone, not long after that, I saw double rainbow coming out from another end. I didn’t capture it and decided to just enjoy the moment with my eyes.

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Once we reached the harbour, I captured the sunset view as the backdrop of all the boats that were parked there. The silhouette of those boats created a mysterious dramatic view like the one above, don’t you think? We had our lovely dinner by the beach side while watching the sunset at de Quake (see review here). The staff, service and food were excellent. After that, I went to the Senggigi Art Market just beside the restaurant and buy some souvenirs for friends, family and colleagues. A wonderful and relaxing day, indeed.

Day 5 – Saturday, 3 May 2014

Initially, we had no plan for this day. I just followed my friend’s recommendation after he read some articles in Lombok Guide magazine. Our other 2 friends went back to Singapore earlier and only 3 people left in the 2-BR apartment unit. We had our breakfast and went off to grab a taxi to go to Mataram mall, almost a 2-hour ride from Senggigi. It’s a tough business if you’re a taxi driver in Lombok, it’s usually hard to find customers. So when we reached the Mataram Mall, this uncle offered to drive us around to wherever we wanted to go. He would stop the meter and waited for us in the parking lot.

There was nothing much in Mataram Mall, we ended up eating at KFC and had a light meal at around 11:30am. Then we shopped for local snacks, chips, coffee powder at Hero supermarket. Within less than 2 hours, we were back in the taxi and uncle drove us to Dua-Em restaurant (see review here). I ordered the spiciest Ayam Taliwang called Ayam Julat and it was really spicy that I couldn’t finish it. The plecing kangkung was also wasted in the end. My tolerance level for spicy food had apparently become lower over the years. Too bad!

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After the spicy lunch, we hopped back into the taxi and headed to Kuta Beach.  After about 1-hour ride from Mataram, the taxi uncle suggested to stop by at the Sasak Sade Village to look at the traditional houses and how the Sasak tribe live. We said “Yes, why not?” and a guide appeared immediately after we alighted from the taxi. He explained to us the function of the different houses in the village and gave us a brief tour. There’s a write-up on this Sade Village and their history & traditions here. In the end, we were guided to a souvenir shop where we were asked (politely) to buy some of their hand-made crafts/shirts/bags. Please don’t fall for this tourist trap. You should always bargain or don’t buy anything at all. And one random interesting fact about their house is that each floor of their houses was built using a mixture of soil and cow dung.

“Their houses are still traditional. The roof made from alang-alang and the wall made from combinations of clay and cow faeces. For them, cow faeces have many functions for their live such as for cleaning the floor, washing and bathing.”

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After the Sasak Village visit, we continued our journey to the faraway Kuta beach. There’s only one big hotel around the area and the rest is just small cheap homestay place. When we reached the Novotel at Kuta Beach Lombok, it seems like the only people at this beach were the hotel guests, except for the three of us and some small kids selling souvenirs to tourists at the beach side. We checked out the lobby and outdoor facilities. I was thrilled to see a well-maintained BEACH volleyball court and the ball readily available on the sand. But there was nobody playing yet, as it was still around 3pm and the sun was scorching hot. So we just went ahead and sat at one of the gazebo by the beach. When we’re about to order our drinks, one of the hotel employees came by and asked for our room number. We said, “Errrr…we were just visiting. Not hotel guests”. Luckily, he was kind enough not to kick us out there and then. He politely asked us to pay Rp 50,000 (around 6 SGD) per person per entry for free use of any outside hotel facilities and gave us 1 towel each.  So we hopelessly paid for it while ordering our drinks. It was quite an ‘expensive’ trip from Senggigi to Kuta so we decided to chill out longer there. Coincidentally, after drinking my lime squash and enjoying the serene view, I went back to check out the vball court and found that there were 2 guys (call them: Mas or Abang) manning the court now. So I asked if we could play a game or two. They happily welcomed me and gathered more hotel guests to play along. I ended up playing with French hotel guests and their kids. All of a sudden, I forgot that I had sore muscles and knees. Such an awesome experience!   

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After chilling out at Kuta beach and played my favorite game, it was time for us to head back to Senggigi. Along the way, we stopped at a souvenir shop (Gandrung Lombok) and bought more Lombok shirts. Then midway at Batu Layar beach, we had our seafood dinner at Warung Menega (see review here). The food was decent and the place was crowded. We chose to sit inside as the ones by the beach were all occupied. Apparently, this place was quite a popular eating place for both tourists and locals. The taxi uncle who drove us around the whole day was paid Rp 500,000++  for his service and made this restaurant his last stop. After the dinner, we hailed another taxi and went back to the hotel.

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UNDER THE SEA

Day 6 – Sunday, 4 May 2014

Sunday’s here and it’s DIVING time. I booked the PADI dive programs the previous day: Discover Scuba Diving at Rp 600,000 per person with Blue Marlin Dive. It was my first scuba diving experience and I was nervous throughout the first ocean dive session in the morning. The first session was at Halik, just off the coast of Gili T. I was so focused on how the BCD (buoyancy control device) works and how to equalize my ear pressure underwater that I didn’t really pay much attention to my beautiful surroundings. I was constantly grabbing my instructor’s hands too. What a shame!

However, after our lunch break, I was more relaxed and confident. They took us to the second diving spot near Gili Meno, Meno Slope. This is the spot where we could see more varieties of fish and green turtles. It was mesmerizing. Well, there is always a first time for everything, isn’t it?

In this case, my first time diving may not be the last? Well, I’m not sure yet. What I know is that conquering the mighty Rinjani at 3726m height and going underwater 15m depth in one ultimate adventure trip was a GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT in its own right. So I pat myself on the back and proudly said WELL DONE! (this applies to my travel buddies too!! Well done for reaching the summit!).

Who knows that I might go back underwater again one day? or I might decide to conquer another mountain/(proverbial) mountain? like some kind of brain/mind challenge?

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When you travel to new places, you’ll meet a lot of new people. I met a new friend while I was on my first diving experience. It was a pleasure knowing you WX! Let’s keep in touch and hope one day I can visit you in HK! 🙂

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The diving trip lasted until around 2.30pm and we traveled back to the hotel via fast boat and car. We reached the resort at 3pm and immediately received our diving certificate of recognition. I spent the rest of the afternoon booking my massage and meni-pedi session for Monday and chilling out by the hotel’s pool and beach while waiting for the sunset. We had dinner at a Korean restaurant nearby. It’s called Ye Jeon restaurant and it was just a 5-7 minute walk from the hotel. The food was decent and we were their only customer for that night. Another exciting day at Lombok had come to an end. I was busy packing my stuff that night to prepare for the flight the following day.

Day 7 – Monday, 5 May 2014

It’s the day I did NOTHING and just pampered myself. I went for my last hotel breakfast in Lombok, did last-minute packing and went for my Ayurveda massage and meni-pedi treatment. By this time, I’ve used up all the Rupiahs that I brought. I had instant noodle as my lunch and dinner was served in-flight.

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I might return home with a darker skin shade and an empty wallet, but I’ve become a stronger person, both mentally and physically, as a result of this challenging above-the-cloud-and-underwater experience.

Overall,  I LOVE LOMBOK!!! 

And I’d love to go back there again to just relax by the beach…with my loved one…one day… *wishful thinking*

 

Cheers,

Sien

*who’s loving her new busy-yet-fun-and-more-purposeful schedule….yay!!! ^_^

**ticking off my bucket list: scuba dive (checked), reach 2 summits (Kinabalu checked, Rinjani checked)

Smart Phones, Dumb People – Let’s LOOK UP!

I feel that it’s important to re-share this video through my blog. It’s a reminder for me and everyone!

It’s also related to my post in December last year, To Text or Not to Text – Whatever Happened To Direct Human Connection.

Watch the video, start living our real life and make eye contact:)

Cheers,

Sien

Why do you get married?

Disclaimer: Do let me know if you have other opinion after reading this. Would love to hear your point of view. It’s such a touchy subject. I’m sure married or single people will have different opinions on this matter. I’m writing this based on what I’ve heard and read, not from my own experience. I‘d fill you in with some of the quotes I extracted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed. She used to be a skeptic of the marriage institution and refer to the book as her way to convince herself otherwise. I’ve read the book and found it quite a revelation, with all her thorough research on how marriage has evolved throughout the different eras and how it is defined by various religious views.

“Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

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First, before we get to the answer of why people get married, here’s my take on all the WRONG reasons to get married.

You get married…

NOT because everyone else is getting married. Life is filled with uncertainties, and that includes single life, married life, any kind of life you choose to live in. So the same goes for marriage and having your own kids. I believe that everyone has different timeline. You can’t be waiting for the day when you feel 100% sure that you want to tie the knot and bring new life to this world. That day will never come. If I could just pick a random %, I’d say if you’re at least 80% sure that your current romantic partner is the one that you should marry based on how you feel throughout your relationship (the length of relationship is not the most important factor), then go ahead and marry the love of your life. The 80% that consist of what you’ve built so far: respect, love, trust, intimacy, loyalty; from practical point of view, readiness to merge your assets and finances with a binding contract. If both of you don’t feel that 80% yet, it’s wiser to not blindly follow the crowd or succumb to parent & peer pressure. You shouldn’t marry whomever available by your side either. That’s a recipe for disaster and suffering. Eventually, after the marriage, both husband and wife still need to cultivate the remaining 20% every single day. It’ll be discussed below. So keep on reading!

“It’s the same with relationships, I think. People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of that.’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

You get married…

NOT because you WANT to have an easier time-saving money for your first house, aiming for public housing (BTO/resale flats) just because you can’t afford the private ones with your income alone (read here for the difference of public and private housing in Singapore)

“The Buddha referred to married people as “householders.” He even gave clear instructions as to how one should be a good householder: Be nice to your spouse, be honest, be faithful, give alms to the poor, buy some insurance against fire and flood . . . I’m dead serious: The Buddha literally advised married couples to buy property insurance.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

You get married…

(if you’re a lady) NOT because your biological clock is ticking and you love children so much that you want to have your own. If you’re too old, your eggs may not be of a good quality to pro-create and produce healthy babies. Hence, you NEED to go through a common route with the society’s approval, that’s called Marriage. By following the social norm, you’ll be able to pro-create as many as you want without people sneering and jeering at you. No cohabitation, casual sex and children born out-of-wedlock. That’s the society’s unwritten rule (especially in Asian culture). Nowadays, with various fertility treatment, you can still get pregnant and give birth to healthy children even in your 40s. And even without getting married or having a sex partner, you can still have kids (read about a guy who fathered 34 children through sperm donation here). Despite all these, there are bigger questions you need to ask yourself:

Are you ready to bear the huge responsibility of bringing a new life out to this big messy world? (at least 80% ready)

Are you ready to embark on the new journey of bringing up the little-being to a mature adult? (at least 80% ready)

“Every healthy marriage is composed of walls and windows. The windows are the aspects of your relationship that are open to the world—that is, the necessary gaps through which you interact with family and friends; the walls are the barriers of trust behind which you guard the most intimate secrets of your marriage.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

You get married…

NOT because you WANT someone to accompany you when you’re old. Your spouse may die before you and you’ll be left alone anyway. Your kids may be too busy with their own life that you’ll probably be left alone in an elderly home most of the time. You can play with your grand kids once in a while but they will eventually drift away when they get older. You’ll be too old and weak to play with them. We will all die in the end. But maybe those who are dying while being surrounded by their family, children and grandchildren, will have less regrets than those who chose to live their life unmarried? Well, who knows? Maybe those single unmarried spinsters/bachelors might have done something great in their life, be so inspirational and have lived their life to the fullest that they will ALSO be surrounded by their beloved friends, nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, neighbors and the community when they’re dying. They would ALSO die with no regrets. So if marriage is not about having a life-time companion, what is it for?

“This is intimacy: the trading of stories in the dark.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

I used to think that the last point above is the reason why people get married. But one day, when I attended my good friend’s wedding, I heard these 3 reasons and they kind of stuck with me this whole time. So I decided to share it here:

Why do you get married? The 3 simple reasons.

1) Because of your permanent COMMITMENT to each other. Marriage should be “the point of no return”. You don’t marry each other with a divorce as your exit plan when things go bad. You fix it. Because marriage is not only the union between man and wife but also a union between two families. It’s about the commitment to cultivate the remaining 20%: making compromises, not taking anything for granted, being loyal to each other and many other little things.

“Marriage is what happens “between the memorable.” He said that we often look back on our marriages years later, perhaps after one spouse has died, and all we can recall are “the vacations, and emergencies” – the high points and low points. The rest of it blends into a blurry sort of daily sameness. But it is that very blurred sameness, the poet argues, that comprises marriage. Marriage is those two thousand indistinguishable conversations, chatted over two thousand indistinguishable breakfasts, where intimacy turns like a slow wheel. How do you measure the worth of becoming that familiar to somebody so utterly well-known and so thoroughly ever-present, that you become an almost invisible necessity, like air?” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

2) Because of LOVE. And in marriage, it’s the mature kind of love. It’s not about looking at each other, but it’s about looking at your future life together.

“What all couples have ever wanted, a little bit of privacy in which to practice all manners of love.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

3) Because you want to SHARE your WHOLE LIFE with him/her. Both of you are focused on giving care and attention to each other until the day death do you apart.

“Real, sane, mature love—the kind that pays the mortgage year after year and picks up the kids after school—is not based on infatuation but on affection and respect.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

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I will end this post (that looks more like Liz Gilbert’s book synopsis:p) with another quote.

It’s the last piece of food for thought, especially for all the single women out there.

Choose wisely and we shall not suffer. If you haven’t found a good one yet, don’t settle for less!  

“The cold ugly fact is that marriage does not benefit women as much as it benefits men. From studies, married men perform dazzlingly better in life, live longer, accumulate more, excel at careers, report to be happier, less likely to die from a violent death, suffer less from alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression than single man…The reverse is not true. In fact, every fact is reverse, single women fare much better than married women. On average, married women take a 7% pay cut. All of this adds up to what Sociologists called the “Marriage Benefit Imbalance”…It is important to pause here and inspect why so many women long for it (marriage) so deeply.” ― Elizabeth GilbertCommitted: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

Cheers,

Sien

*Some articles as a reminder:

for husband – 7 keys to a happy wife

for wife – 10 marriage tips every wife needs to hear

Do’s and Don’ts When Learning a Foreign Language

One of the many hobbies I indulge in is learning foreign language. As a native speaker of Bahasa Indonesia, I’ve been learning English and Mandarin since 7 years old and have been using both of them in my daily life ever since. I’ve learned French, Japanese and Korean in my University years. Now, I have varying degree of proficiency for these languages and have visited the countries that speak them (except for Korea).

Language learning is a life-long learning experience. Feeling that I should continue brushing up all the foreign languages I’ve learned to a new level, I decided to make a summary of the Do’s and Don’ts when learning a foreign language.

DO’s

1) Get the basic right –> attend a proper language class. Work on all grammar and pronunciation aspects from the very beginning. Increase your vocabulary bank steadily as you learn the language and know how to look for new words and its meanings. Nowadays, everything is made easy with online translator, but there’s a limit to how accurate the translator is. So we still need to know the basics.

2) Practice listening –> my method: watching movies or dramas or listening to songs (take note of the lyrics) in the language that you’re learning as much as possible. When attending a class, just listen carefully to what and how the teacher speaks it. I recently watched this Korean drama, You From Another Star. Very entertaining and hilarious. Highly recommended. One of my favorites so far. Other than that, I used to watch many Japanese (still with English subtitles) and Taiwanese drama (with Mandarin subtitle) and of course all the English movies or TV series without any subtitle.

3) Start small with the aim to visit the country and if possible, start learning foreign languages as early as possible (when you’re still 5 or 6 y.o.)  –> the brain will absorb more when language learning starts from a very young age. It’s easier to acquire near-native pronunciation too.

4) Participate in language exchange with native speakers, practice speaking –> here. I’ve done some exchanges in Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese before. Just meet fellow foreign language learners from this website.

5) Teach the language –> teaching is also a form of learning. When you’re an advanced learner of the language, you’ll know how to dissect and analyze the language because that’s what you’re used to do. So when it comes to teaching it, you can help your students on the basic knowledge. For the pronunciation, you’ll need to encourage them to listen more to native speakers to get the tone right. Of course, if you’ve used your 2nd language for most of your life, lived in the country where it’s spoken and have developed a neutral accent and the right tone, you can always be the role model for your students.

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DON’Ts

1) Give up -> persevere, persevere, persevere. Be patient. Don’t expect yourself to master the language in 1 year or more. The best way to master a language is to be exposed to it day in and day out, by living in the country where it’s spoken. But not all of us can move to the target language country as soon as we develop an interest in its language and culture. So we have to learn it for the sake of the future possibility or just out of pure interest (for fun) in our own native country. I learned English and Mandarin when I’m still back at home in Indonesia. The perseverance paid off. I’m using them daily now. French and Japanese, I’ve used them when I traveled there. Korean, I’ve yet to use it real-time, it was still basic Korean with words that I pickup from watching dramas.

2) Be too hard on yourself –> go slowly and try not to learn more than 2 languages at the same time. You’ll get confused when trying to switch language and doing review.

3) Be afraid to make mistakes –> always practice out loud in the classroom. Make mistakes. Talk to your teacher. Talk to strangers while you’re traveling in the target language country.

4) Focus too much on direct translation –> at one point of time, once you’ve passed the beginner level of one foreign language, it’s important to start THINKING in that language, rather than just translating them words by words from your native language. I know it’s easier said than done. But if we make a conscious effort to stop translating in our head, we’ll be more fluent eventually.

5) Stop learning – your language ability will boost your confidence. You’ll become more open-minded and culturally sensitive. Ultimately, you’ll be a better person and who knows how far your language ability can take you.

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So folks, I fell in love with languages when I was 7 years old. I’m still in love right now.

How about you? How many languages do you know? Have you learned any foreign language recently?

Cheers,

Sien

*Here’s my previous juvenile post on how I fell in love with foreign languages.

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My Travel Log – First Climb (Mt. Kinabalu Aug 2012)

It suddenly dawned on me a few days ago. I have this impending SECOND mountain climbing trip. In three weeks! Oh gosh, I haven’t really prepared for anything, let alone exercising to increase my physical fitness. So last Saturday, I started out the exercise regime, bought a new pair of hiking shoes and some other essentials.

While I’m gathering all the stuff that I need to bring along, I can’t help but reminisce that 4-days-3-nights trip two years ago. My first climb at Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. 

Ideally, a travel log should be written right after the trip, while the experiences are still fresh in mind. However, back in August 2012, I haven’t kicked start my blogging habit yet and was still caught in the social media bug, posting photos of my holidays and outdoor trips. I didn’t bother to re-tell the journey I had in a travel log like this.

So here I am, trying to make amends with my blogger self. I start gathering all the photos from the first climb and pouring out the memories into writing. Hopefully, this will get me in the mood to start preparing for my next one:)

Where? MOUNT KINABALU, SABAH, MALAYSIA 

Height? 4095.2 m

When? 17-20 Aug 2012

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It all started at a casual dinner after volleyball game back in the end of 2011. Suddenly, one friend said that she’s going to climb Mount Kinabalu with her colleagues and other friends. She asked for more people to join because “the more the merrier”. At that time, there were 12 people who showed interest including me and the other volleyball buddies. Then as expected, by around June or July the next year, with various excuses, there were only 8 of us left. At the last minute, only 5 people ended up climbing the mountain as planned and we reached the Low’s Peak after a 2-days-1-night grueling first climb!!! Yaaaay to survivors:)

Pictures above are my stash of energy bars during the climb and my climbing buddies. Took a picture before we went to the start-point at Timpohon gate (height: 1866-m). Notice the grey rubber shoes that we wore in the picture? We bought it there at only 7.5 RM. Kampung Adidas. Non-slippery. Good cheap shoes for hiking. I threw it away once I finished the climb. Who knows that I’ll be doing another one soon? I should’ve kept it back then *sigh*. Anyway, I just bought my first hiking shoes last Saturday, I’ll be going for a test-hike soon:)

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We were also given a name tag for identification purpose.

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Once we reached the starting point, we took another picture while we’re still fresh and have the energy to smile for the camera. We rented a hiking stick at the gate and it was a life savior! Really useful for my descent the next day. They also displayed the names of record holder for International Climbathon in 2011. Super human!!!

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Through the first 6-8 hours, we could still take several group pictures. We were also accompanied by real-life super human, our mountain guide cum porter. They helped us carry our heavy backpacks filled with water supply. We couldn’t have had the energy to climb without their help.

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Between KM5 to KM7 and a few rest stops, the weather went from sunny to cloudy and then to a slight drizzle verging on pouring. Luckily, we’ve packed a poncho for this kind of weather and we’re still excited to take picture in the middle of the rain.

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After 7 hours, we reached the Laban Rata rest house for our early dinner and briefing for summit climb the next day. Because of the rain, there’s a small water flow coming down from the top. It was foggy and surreal. Felt like I was floating up to the rest house. After dinner, we managed to catch the view of sun set behind the mountain.

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We stayed over night at the Pendant Hut. Slept in a bunk bed with a sleeping bag. The water there was freezing cold. I shivered while showering and brushing my teeth. For breakfast and tea break, they provided us with some bread, peanut/butter/strawberry jam, hard-boiled eggs and ham. The guys were arguing whether we should continue with the summit climb or not. We had to wake up at 2am the next morning to catch the sun rise at the peak. Amazingly, all of us woke up just in time for the summit climb. Since we were already half-way there, why give up now? So we got ready with our gears; head torch and extra jackets to brace the wind, and took a group picture before the climb.

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It was still 3am, chilly and dark. We couldn’t see anything apart from the person in front of us. So we had no idea how the trail looks like when we climbed up. Later on, during our descent, we realized that we’ve passed through a very steep slope earlier. If we had put 1 foot wrong, we might have fallen down the cliff. Thank goodness we were fine. So another 3 hours passed by, with a few rest stops spent eating energy bars and checking pictures in my camera, we could finally see the peak and charge forward with excitement. At this time, the sun is about to rise and we could see blue purplish color peeking behind, surrounding the white fluffy cloud. It was breath-taking.

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The summit climb was very rocky. We had to climb up slowly and watch our steps. We took longer time to reach the Low’s Peak and spent too much time taking photos that we couldn’t make it in time for the descent via ferrata.

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Here are some of the stunning sunrise views from the top. We also saw another mountain peak that looks like a gorilla’s face.

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Since we missed the descent via Ferrata, we just followed the mountain guide down the same slope. We could then see those views that we didn’t get to see during the summit climb.  It was a bright sunny morning. We were equally fascinated by the view and took many rest stops.

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It took around 3 hours to descend and once we reached the hut, we had to leave immediately if we wanted to reach Timpohon gate before sunset. I was exhausted and stopped taking pictures after we reached the Pendant Hut. We just packed our bags and had our hard-boiled eggs and toast for lunch (again). Kinda sick of it by this time. We started imagining all the good food we could eat after we reached the city center.

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In the next 6 hours, with the help of my rented hiking stick, we reached the gate in one piece, safe and sound. The organizer gave us a certificate of accomplishment with our name written on it. That night, we ate dinner like a pig. 12 bowls of rice with several seafood dishes later,  we walked back to the lodge and spent the entire night playing monopoly. The next day, we caught our flight back to Singapore and reached in the afternoon.

I walked like a penguin and had sore muscles for the whole WEEK!!! What an experience!

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Despite the pain, the climb was totally worth it. The breath-taking views and feeling of accomplishment afterwards were incredible.

I couldn’t wait to conquer another mountain.

Next? MOUNT RINJANI, LOMBOK, INDONESIA

Height? 3727m

When? 29 April – 1 May 2014

I did a quick google check and there are tons of reviews for the Mount Rinjani climb.

Like this one –> Mount Rinjani: tips and review and this one Trekking Mount Rinjani.

So folks…that’s all for my first travel log. I’ll find some time to record more travel stories from the past few years before all of the memories fade away. Until then, take care and wish me luck 🙂

Cheers,

Sien

*hit the gym and eat right!! 21 days left…

Connecting the Dots – Why You Are Exactly Where You’re Supposed To Be

Do you believe in fate and destiny?

Have you ever had any regrets?

Decisions that you wish you could undo?

Words that you wish you could take back?

Life is made up of the little decisions we took and influenced by those people we met along the way. They are all leading up to the path we’re in right NOW. It is OUR own responsibility to make the most of our life. We decide what’s the best for ourselves and for people we care the most. So when a friend asked me if I had any regrets in my life, I struggled for a while. I can’t think of anything!

A few years ago, when I was still in my crazy unrealistic planning-for-my-next-10-years mode, I used to think of a lot of plan B and what-if scenarios in my head. Lots of pessimism and uncertainties. Nowadays, I don’t like to think about regrets and ‘what if’ scenarios anymore, I’ll just do it. Whenever I feel nostalgic and start reminiscing the past events, I tend to think of my life as connecting those random dots and finding the reason why one thing has led to another in a totally random sequence of events. Most of the time, I could always find the connection and start seeing them in different light. Life will always remain filled with uncertainties. Now, I’d rather choose to see the bright side of every bad ugly things I experienced. Hence, no regrets.

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There are many examples of connected dots in my life. I’ll share some of them in chronological order.

Remember to keep your hope up, dream big, learn, grow and charge forward with no regrets. Your fate is in your own hands.

In 1996,  I had a car accident. 18 year later, what’s left is my vague memory of that incident and a hardly-recognizable scar on my forehead (because I always cover it with my fringe). I still don’t know the purpose of that incident other than wasting a considerable amount of $ for laser treatments and having a split eyebrow (that can easily be fixed with some eyebrow embroidery). But then again, hey, I’m still alive, right? After that incident, I learn to be more relaxed and whenever a long-distance traveling by car or bus is inevitable, I won’t rush the driver to drive faster to get to my destination. I’ll always be alert throughout the journey. Maybe that’s why I could never sleep in moving land vehicles when I travel. I can have a quick nap in a ship or plane, but not in a car or tour bus.

In 2004, I almost lost hope of ever be admitted to my alma mater for my undergraduate study. After the entrance test, I was so convinced that I couldn’t get in, so I started looking for another university. I was considering a major in tourism and hospitality in one of the private universities back in Indonesia. It’s an expensive school and I don’t think they offer any scholarship or study loan. I was interested in languages (and I still am, until today) and I thought hospitality industry could help me make full use of my language ability. It turned out that there’s another plan in store for me. I was given the opportunity to attend an interview for admission, on the merit of my outstanding results at school. While my other bright friends were interviewing for scholarship, there I was, sitting nervously in my first important interview that will determine the course of my life for the next 4 years and in fact, for the next 10 years. I’ve been studying and making a living here ever since. Who knows what would happen if I wasn’t enrolled for that Engineering degree? I might become a hotelier or tour guide? I might be married with 2 kids by now? I might be…..yadda yadda yadda…  That wasn’t my path before and I’m not sure if I still want to go down that path now. I’m right here, RIGHT WHERE I’M SUPPOSED TO BE. Anyway, I still have a dream to open my own language center some day. So for now, I’m keeping the dream at the back of my mind while I’m doing my best threading my own unique path. I’m not in a rush. I’ll enjoy the journey towards my destination.

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In 2008, I had to be in the wrong job for two months before I could fully appreciate my current job. Time flies and it’s been 5 years and 5 months since I started working in company X. I wrote about my first 30 days here. I’ve learned a lot more since then. More about myself, my priorities, my personalities and preferences, my interests. All of them led me to this post here, “Do what you love….and then what?”. Making a living is important, but actually living your life is even more important. We just need to find the balance.

In 2013, I had to finally take a small leap of faith and just do what I’ve always wanted to do. I went solo to study in a foreign country for a month and was living one of the best moments in my life. I could’ve chosen to do it in December 2013, but I went for November course instead. If I hadn’t changed my mind, I wouldn’t have met all my wonderful classmates. We’re all living our separate lives now, but I believe that the memories I had will last forever.

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No matter how small the dots are, they are always connected. One more case, just this morning, I had to choose which slippers I should wear. At first, I was going for my brown slipper that I bought in Sydney. But then I changed my mind at the last second and chose the blue slippers that I bought in Bali instead. On the way to my Sunday duty at office, I missed a step and it just snapped. I had to carry it all the way up, half barefooted. If I’m a pessimistic person, I’d say: “Dammit, I regretted my choice. I should’ve just chosen the brown one.” But if I want to look at the bright side and connect the dots, I’d say that, “It’s OKAY, the slipper is quite old anyway and I just bought 3 pairs of new sandals last week in Batam.” So all is well. I managed to glue the slipper together for emergency but as soon as I reach home later, I’ll just throw it away.

As for my love life, I haven’t found the way to connect the dots yet. I wish I could. Anyway, life must go on and it’s up to me, whether I choose to live it to the fullest or regret all those distant events and wrong people in the past.

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Based on the above assessments, I have to conclude that so far, all my random dots have been connected. I’m grateful for all the good and bad things that have ever happened to me.

How about you?

Are you connecting the dots?

Are you currently living a life with no regrets?

Cheers,

Sien

A Reason, A Season, or A Lifetime

“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty; to provide you with guidance and support; to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant”.

— Unknown

2014 Survival Guide to Living in Singapore (My Version)

It’s official. Singapore is #1 Most Expensive City based on 2014 EIU Survey.

When I first heard it, I thought, “What? Are they sure? What is the criteria? What are they comparing?

As I was looking for more explanation, I found these 2 articles. Do read them first before you continue reading my version of 2014 survival guide to living in Singapore.

1) Keep calm. Singapore is the most expensive city in the world…for expats

2) You now have the right to complain – Singapore ranked the world’s most expensive city

The first one argues that Singapore is only expensive for expats. But, how do you define expats?

According to Wikipedia,

An expatriate (sometimes shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).

In common usage, the term is often used in the context of professionals or skilled workers sent abroad by their companies,[1] rather than for all ‘immigrants‘ or ‘migrant workers‘. The differentiation found in common usage usually comes down to socio-economic factors, so skilled professionals working in another country are described as expatriates, whereas a manual labour who has moved to another country to earn more money might be labelled an ‘immigrant‘ or ‘migrant worker‘.

There is no set definition and usage varies with context, for example the same person may be seen as an “expatriate” by his home country and a “migrant worker” where he works. Retirement abroad, in contrast, usually makes one an “expatriate”.

In this case, am I an expat? I grew up in Indonesia (upbringing) and spent most of my 20s in Singapore (not residing in my birth-country). I was not sent abroad by any company but willingly applied for a job upon my graduation from the University here. It looks like I’m neither an expat nor a local. Regardless of which category I belong to, I think I have lived here long enough and have been to some major cities like Tokyo, Sydney and Paris to get a glimpse of how it feels like to live in expensive cities. I can assure you that it really boils down to your OWN LIFESTYLE. If your lifestyle is EXPENSIVE, then no matter which country you live in, it will ALWAYS remain costly. If you always try to keep up with the Joneses and you need to have big car, big house, all branded goods in order to feel accepted in the society, then YES, Singapore is the most expensive country in the world.

The second article pointed out the 4 factors that have contributed to Singapore’s rise to the top of the list, mainly because of: stronger SGD, price inflation, expensive transportation and few natural resources.

Now let’s take this situation as an example.

Scenario for: single, unmarried, no credit card debt, no student loan, no mortgage, no car, no kids. 
Primary goals: live a decent life, maintain relationships and save for the future

How do we  survive living in Singapore? Always live within your means.

Step 1 – Choose Your Work

Disclaimer: for some people, step 2 can become step 1. They’ll look for a place to stay first and then look for job anywhere (hopefully near their home or with reasonable commuting time)

For me, it was a serendipity. The place that I chose to stay upon my graduation was coincidentally near my current workplace. I had previous experience working in CBD and I hated the long commute to and fro every single day. Not to mention the overtime hours that I clocked in. So when I landed a job just-opposite-my-place, I wholeheartedly said YES. Turned out, it was the right decision. I had my ups and downs. But as time goes by, I realized that personal fulfillment can be found not only at work but also in the quality of your relationship with others, how well you’ve lived your life. As long as you are contented, life is good.  I’ve talked about this in my previous post, here.

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Step 2 – Choose Your Place

The 2 big ticket items that are more expensive here than any other countries are house and car. With such a well-connected public transportation system, a car in Singapore is a luxury. In my case, owning a car is unnecessary and it’ll only incur more costs: parking tickets, petrol, ERP, maintenance, etc. Land is scarce, thus housing is very expensive here. If you don’t have the lump sum to pay for down payment of house, then the only other option is to burn the $ you have now into renting a single room or a whole-unit with friends/siblings. Traditionally, public housing near train stations and the area near CBD (Central Business District) will fetch a higher price. Even more so for private properties.

So if you’re like me, who hates the long commute to work, after finding your work, go and find a nearby place to stay. Your time and sanity sometimes worth the extra hundred dollars you spent on housing.  But to some other people who don’t mind the extra dollars on transportation and long commuting time everyday, then choosing less convenient and farther away places like in the North, North East, or extreme East and West side of Singapore is a more feasible option. It’s all about compromise. Balancing your needs and wants.

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Step 3. Define Your Expectations

I’ve just read this article from May 2012, “Why average Singaporeans are hurt by inflation?”. Assuming that you are the average Singaporean, single, who doesn’t have a large sum of inheritance from your parents and you have to work your own way up, the 4 effects of inflation that the writer highlighted in it: devalued savings, decreased wages, can’t avoid the cost of private transport, can’t afford a home, could really shatter your dream of  owning a house or a car. Inflation is the real bitch. However, you won’t really feel the effect if you learn to manage your OWN EXPECTATIONS. If you expect to be able to afford buying a house here by, say, 30 years old, what are you doing to increase your income? Do you explore other ways to leverage the money you have now? (instead of just putting them in regular savings account in banks, and earned a pathetic 0.125% interest)

For the average person, debt is a mortgage, car loan or credit card balance. For the wealthiest, debt can be money borrowed to increase investment returns, and it goes by the fancier name of leverage. The goal is to get a return higher than it costs to borrow the money (taken from NY Times, “Some Dos and Don’ts about Leverage”)

So if you expect to earn more, work more on personal development, upgrade your skills, aim for that promotion or change to higher-paid job. If you dream of becoming an entrepreneur, becoming your own boss and willing to put the extra effort now, then yes, go ahead and do it! It’s all about managing your own expectations. On the other hand, you may be content with your current lifestyle now; no mortgage and no car, and you are not willing to put the extra hours to earn more $. That’s okay. People have different preferences. Just think of what’s best for you now. It’s NOT about what your parents, your friends or other people expect from you.

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Step 4 – Choose Your Lifestyle

If you spend every weekends eating out at fancy restaurants, shopping for clothes and bags that you don’t need, going out drinking in bars every Friday, indulging in expensive hobbies and traveling first class to expensive countries, and yet you still have the guts to complain that living in Singapore is expensive. Time to have a reality check. Living frugally in Singapore is not that difficult, let’s see an article “How to live frugally in Singapore” and the breakdown below as an example:

Average monthly expenses for basic needs (all in SGD):

Meals per day (not working in CBD, breakfast-lunch-dinner, not cooking):  $10 x 30 = $300
Transportation (house to workplace: 7-minute walk, transport only for weekends by train & bus): $60
Weekend activities and entertainment (sports/outdoor activities/dinner/movies): $200
Phone, internet and utilities (shared utilities and basic phone & internet package): $100
Room rental (North area): $600
Total expenses on basic needs – $1260

For basic needs, there’s a limit to how much you can stretch the dollars. Once you take care of them and protected your wealth (through insurance policies), you can choose to fulfill your ‘WANT’ items, like: pampering yourself to a facial treatment, buying new clothes/shoes/bags/books, traveling abroad 1-3x a year OR just putting all the excess into more savings and different portfolios.

Learn to put your priority on your ‘NEED ‘ list rather than your ‘WANT’ list. By choosing this lifestyle, hopefully all of us can live a decent life and maintain our most important relationships NOW and in the FUTURE.

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Step 5 – Trust Your Choices

The last most important step is about maintaining your lifestyleStick to your chosen lifestyle, trust your choices and ignore society or peer pressure. When you know what you’re doing, you don’t need other people’s approval. Ignore their judging views and do your own thing. If you feel like staying at home and read a book rather than going outside and party, please do so. If you don’t want to eat at the expensive restaurant your friend asked you to because it’ll blow your budget, then don’t. It’s your life and you choose to live it on your own terms.

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So folks, after following these 5 steps based on the scenario for: single, unmarried, no credit card debt, no student loan, no mortgage, no car, no kids, the next time your new phase of life begins, you’ll have no problem adjusting your lifestyle accordingly.  Just repeat the steps. No matter which situation you are in: single, married, married with kids, divorced, etc; and which city you choose to live in, rest assure that you will always survive.

C’est la vie!

Cheers,

Sien

*gonna have less time to blog for the rest of this month, but hopefully I can still squeeze some time to write when inspiration comes:)

5 Tips to Prevent Boredom (or Becoming a Boring Person)

Nobody wants to think of themselves as a boring person, but if you do, probably you are.

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Recently, upon realizing that I’ve got symptoms #7 super predictable and never spontaneous and #10 (slowly becoming) a hermit (full article here: 10 signs you are a boring person), I decided to do something to prevent boredom from settling in (when it suddenly strikes) and also to avoid becoming a boring person.

The kind of lifestyle you choose is entirely up to you. So here’s the lifestyle I choose NOW and the five useful tips to help myself (and perhaps YOU..) get out of rut.

1. Pick up different interests

I have many different interests and activities to fill up my days. Weekdays will be filled with work, and some after-work activities like: random browsing in YouTube, home karaoke/cinema/drama, hitting the gym, blogging, teaching English tuition, reading various articles and news just to keep myself updated with current trend, budget planning, and many many more. Weekends will usually be filled with volleyball game, hiking, cycling, karaoke with friends, outing to various attractions when friends or family come to visit, occasional movie night and dinner at restaurants for friends’ birthday or casual catch-up.

Life is not just about work and work and work. Having many hobbies and activities that suit my budget (outdoor activities are great, better than aimlessly wandering around shopping malls), give me opportunity to grow as a person (teaching *adding more teaching assignments soon, work in progress:)*, reading a book, blogging to reconnect with my own mind) while still keeping a healthy lifestyle (gym/swim when I feel like it, hiking, volleyball, cycling) is my best antidote to boredom. It certainly won’t make you a boring person. If you don’t like going to the club, loud music with people drinking excessive alcohol. Then DON’T! You’re not a boring person if you choose to stay at home on a Friday night and just chill in your room while reading a book. It’s your personal preference. Don’t give in to peer pressure!:)

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2. Have various repeatable schedule and change-up my routine

Just to keep myself from becoming too predictable and feeling bored too frequently, I had to learn how to mix things up instead of sticking to the same routine every week. So for example: if last weekend I organized a cycling activity at East Coast Park, were out the whole day on Saturday visiting a friend, pampered myself with monthly facial treatment and spent the weekdays browsing random stuff on the net, this week, I’m back to blogging and probably just laze around during the weekend and keeping my schedule loose, will probably hit the gym in the weekend or just go out hiking somewhere or out for tea break with a friend. Not sure yet. Sometimes, I have the tendency to fill up my schedule way in advance and piling up all activities in one weekend just in order to be efficient. Purposely arrange to run errands and meet friends all in one day. Cheers to a fruitful day out!

At the end of a busy weekend, the moment I cherish the most is my own private ME time alone in my room on that Monday night and just hibernating. No schedule. No plan. Nothing. Yes folks, my weekend is usually busier than my weekdays. That’s the way it is and I’m loving it.

Disclaimer: of course if you have a certain goal in mind, like: losing weight and toning up tummy for your special day or just to shape up and impress yourself, you might want to stick to routine for months and be discipline. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Varying the type of exercise you do everyday can also prevent boredom (treadmill run 30-45 mins, rest, swim, weight lift & a bit of cardio, rest, yoga, etc etc…) *next new project for myself*

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3. Go out and explore

After 2-3 months of working, staying in town, eating at the same place, getting take-aways at the same stall, doing all the normal routine and various activities around the clock, we all need an adventure out-of-town, out of the country or out of our usual pattern once in a while. Some mysteries and spontaneity are also good for our life. Just for example, this February, I had my share of break during CNY; coming April I’ll need to take on the challenge of climbing another mountain (definitely out of my comfort zone, updated story of my 2nd mountain climb here), in June is a really short break out-of-town to attend a wedding, in August another short trip just to eat to my heart’s content and many other unplanned trips. In due time, I’ll blog about these short trips once they were all accomplished. Notice that every 2-3 months, there will be something happening to spice my life up, out of the routine. So I guess, my life is not that boring after all. Who said so anyway? *blaming my twisted boring mind*

4. Learn new skills

If you’re feeling bored at work, because you have nothing to do or because you don’t feel challenged. Maybe, it’s time to look for challenges and fulfillment outside of your work. Again, life is not just about work and making money. We should all GET A LIFE that we had always imagined NOW, instead of waiting until we have the time and money to live our desired life. That time will never come. We may have high expectation for ourselves, big dreams and then do something to achieve them. Or we can just choose to live a calm life. Nothing wrong with either one. As long as you’re happy now, you know what you’re doing and is enjoying the journey, that’s all that matters.  *recently, the pace at work has picked up a little bit and I’ve been busier. So no time to feel bored:)*

So when you have that spare time after work, during an idle weekend, why not take a skill course? that certificate that you’ve always wanted to take? that hot yoga lesson that you’ve always wanted to try? that photography classes that you’ve always wanted to join? so many activities out there. I recently came across some of my juniors’ photos on their pole dancing class…looks like it really requires some dedication and hard practice to master it. I was in awe while looking at how amazing and difficult their poses are. It’s very challenging, indeed. That IS a new skill. It’s something extra to put in your life portfolio, enhance your skills, boost up your confidence and if you’re dedicated enough, it will someday become your other source of income. Who knows?

5. Expand my circle of friends and help out friends/family in need (giving advice, help people who need your expertise, sharing experience, sharing worth-reading articles, sharing job opportunities available at your workplace)

After university, it’s generally harder to meet new people. We’re usually stuck at work, seeing the same people day in and day out; hanging out with old friends that we’ve known for ages and doing the same activities every year. Realizing this since a few years ago, I started to organize more activities in which my friends can bring their friends for Saturday morning hike at MacRitchie or Sunday afternoon cycle at East Coast Park or Saturday night volleyball games. In fact, I just organized an afternoon cycle from ECP area C to Changi Beach Park last Sunday. The cycling outing this time was more relaxed than usual because of the 3-hour rental time. We cycled a little bit further than usual and saw the view off the coast of Changi Beach with people doing what I believe is called kitesurfing (picture below). After the tiring bike ride, we went on a quest for food and ended up eating at a Vietnamese restaurant (JooChiat Rd). First time eating there, yummy Pho!

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So the next time you feel like rejecting your friend’s invitation for a gathering or hesitating to join that new social or hobby clubs that involve mingling with strangers, THINK AGAIN. Think of how many new people, new potential friends/partner, new connections, new food, new opportunities that you’re going to miss just because you said NO, because you’re afraid to explore and go out of your comfortable circle of friends and daily routine, you’re afraid of rejection, you have fear of being in unfamiliar places or just because you’re simply not in the mood for socializing *advice for myself too*

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If you ever feel bored and uninspired, just ACKNOWLEDGE the feeling and DON’T let it settle in for too long. Get into actions and spice things up using the 5 tips above and hopefully, you’ll recover your enthusiasm and start seeing everything in new positive light:  your work, relationship, daily routine, hobbies, etc. It’s normal to temporarily feel bored in your calm life. But becoming a boring person…is NOT an option!

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And as usual, below are some recommended articles that you can read to help yourself get out of rut.

Folks, get out there and live an interesting LIFE!!

Cheers,

Sien

*feeling bored? not anymore:)

Happy reading!! ^_^

7 signs that your life is boring

10 differences between interesting and boring people

6 signs that your life got boring

changing daily routine – solution to your problems

adventure cure for a common life

eight tips to know if you’re being boring

10 ways to conquer boredom and feeling too busy

My Personality Type: The Independent Thinker

My Personality Type: The Independent Thinker.

Just took this test for FUN!

It’s kinda accurate.

Independent Thinkers are analytical and witty persons. They are normally self-confident and do not let themselves get worked up by conflicts and criticism. They are very much aware of their own strengths and have no doubts about their abilities.

People of this personality type are often very successful in their career as they have both competence and purposefulness. Independent Thinkers are excellent strategists; logic, systematics and theoretical considerations are their world. They are eager for knowledge and always endeavor to expand and perfect their knowledge in any area which is interesting for them. Abstract thinking comes naturally to them; scientists and computer specialists are often of this type.

Independent Thinkers are specialists in their area. The development of their ideas and visions is important to them; they love being as flexible as possible and, ideally, of being able to work alone because they often find it a strain having to make their complex trains of thought understandable to other people. Independent Thinkers cannot stand routine. Once they consider an idea to be good it is difficult to make them give it up; they pursue the implementation of that idea obstinately and persistently, also in the face of external opposition.

» Get career advice for your type

Independent Thinkers are not the type who easily comes out of his shell. Speaking about their emotional life is also not one of their strong points. Anyway, social relationships are not particularly important to them; they are happy with just a few, close friends who find it easy to share their intellectual world. They find it difficult to establish new ties. In love, they need a lot of space and independence but this does not mean that their partner is not important to them. Independent Thinkers often make a cool and reserved impression on others; but this impression is deceptive: they can hardly bear it if people close to them should reject them. They prefer a harmonious, balanced relationship with a partner who shares their interests and with whom they can realize their visions.

Adjectives that describe your type
introverted, theoretical, logical, planning, rational, independent, intellectual, self-confident, analytical, structured, dogged, witty, resolute, self-critical, visionary, inventive, independent, unsociable, reserved, nonconformist, quiet, visionary, honest, demanding, hardworking

CAREER ADVICE

Like all Thinker types you tend to lean towards perfectionism and in the work place you are always striving for as much knowledge and expertise as possible. You are rarely or never satisfied with your accomplishments and that applies to yours as well as the achievements of others. Sometimes that makes it pretty difficult for your colleagues and subordinates to please you. Once you have privately tagged somebody with the label of incompetent, they will not have an easy time in your working environment. However, for those who manage to gain your respect with ability and intellect, you are an equally quick-witted as well as sagacious colleague who is ready to solve even the most difficult problems without apparent effort.

Hardly any other type is as interested in wielding power. However, the Thinker is less interested in wielding power over other people but rather considers controlling nature and his environment to be much more interesting. This is the main motivation for your continuous hunger – almost an obsession – for more information. Improving your capabilities and expanding the store of your knowledge and experience is your life’s main objective.

You are as hard on yourself and your own achievements as on others, and you put great pressure on yourself in your work environment. Sometimes you agonize over self-doubt thinking that you may not accomplish anything after all. Occasionally you stand in your own way obstructing your superior capabilities instead of being able to utilize them. In case it actually happens that you make a mistake, you mercilessly exercise self-criticism and double your efforts for perfection. Your coolness may occasionally appear to be arrogance, and that often deceives people around you about what really moves you.

Being a Bridesmaid

I’ve been asked to become a bridesmaid (or in other words: maid of honor, since I was the only one accompanying my friend) once in January 2011. However, until today, I still don’t quite get what a bridesmaid is supposed to do other than helping the bride on the big day itself and just be her emotional support. Isn’t that enough? I did some research before writing this and I was overwhelmed by the fact that in Western cultures, a maid of honor is supposed to lead a group of bridesmaid and do all these following things, as mentioned here.

This partial list will give you an idea of some helpful ways you may be pressed into service:

  • Scout wedding locations.
  • Select invitations and help with invitation prep.
  • Explore floral options and other decorative choices.
  • Help the bride shop for her wedding dress and choose bridesmaids’ dresses.
  • Oversee delivery of the dresses, monitor fittings and assist with other wardrobe functions.
  • Encourage the bride to register for gifts, spread the word about where the bride is registered and answer any gift questions that may arise.
  • Help with honeymoon planning (seriously?)
  • Help with seating chart details.
  • Attend the cake tasting and make recommendations.
  • Attend the catering meetings or tastings and make recommendations.
  • Host the bridal shower.
  • Host the bachelorette party.
  • Maintain timetables and be of general assistance to keep things moving forward.
  • Attend the rehearsal dinner.
  • Keep a list of gifts received.
  • Help the bride dress and deal with her hair, jewelry and the unavoidable wedding day jitters.
  • Check the last minute details, like instructions for the photographer and deliveries to the hall.
  • Act as a messenger between the bride and groom (and various and sundry family members).
  • Handle dress and veil issues. Maneuverability could be important here, even in the restroom, so this is an important and sometimes unexpected duty involving lifting, fluffing, arranging and rearranging.
  • Hold and protect the groom’s ring.
  • Hold the bride’s bouquet for the duration of the wedding ceremony.
  • Witness the marriage license signing.
  • Be part of the receiving line at the reception or act as a greeter.
  • Toast the bride and groom.
  • Participate in the first dance at a formal reception (partnered with the best man).

What a ridiculous long list of duties!! And I thought most of them can be done by the bride and groom alone, together as a team. From what I remember, 3 years ago during my 1st bridesmaid duty, I didn’t have to do all these things. Most of the time, the bride, groom and family members will settle all the details. I just flew over to Jakarta for both bride and bridesmaid dress fitting once (around 4 months before the big day) and then went there again to be with the bride since the morning of her big day, helping her move around with her huge dress and cracking some jokes to lighten her mood. That’s all.

When I told my Mom that I was going to serve as a bridesmaid in so-and-so wedding, she was less than excited to hear that. That’s because there’s this ridiculous myth and superstition surrounding it. According to this website,

5. As the friend of bride, do not be a bridesmaid more than three times. Doing so creates a negative effect on your own marital luck, causing you to have difficulties finding someone to settle down with. Obstacles will manifest. They never said anything about the best man? Why is it always the bridesmaid who will have a negative effect on her marital luck? Very hard to believe this. Anyone can debunk this myth?

6. Persons born under horoscopes that clash on the wedding day are not invited as bridesmaids and bestmen, or invited to the wedding day activities. However, they can attend the wedding banquet. Oh really?

7. It is unfortunate when a person is born under a star sign that clashes with the wedding date. They are not allowed to attend the wedding ceremony or be a part of the wedding party. The Chinese people pay close attention to the horoscope when they are picking auspicious wedding days so they do not want a sign that would clash. How to identify every guest’s star sign?

Another source here, mentioned these,

Third time lucky? Not according to superstition, which decrees that “Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride”. It is believed that if a woman is exposed three times to the evil spirits from which she is intended to protect the bride, she herself will not be pure enough to marry.

There is an antidote though being a bridesmaid seven times will apparently reverse the effect and this valued friend will once again be as likely to marry as other single women.

Well, all the myths and superstitions aside, when my other close friend asked me to become her bridesmaid last two weeks, I still said a BIG YES on the spot. She’s my closest friend since my University days and is my current housemate. How could I say no? Besides, I’m happy that she’s going to tie the knot and feel honored that she considers me to be the best person to accompany her on the big day, giving emotional support and cracking some jokes along the way. I might not need to do the long list of duties that they said a bridesmaid must do *thankfully*.

So, when I serve as a bridesmaid for the 2nd time, I’ll make sure that I’m there with my sincerest heart, enjoy my best friend’s big day, help her out when she needs me, be happy for her and just be her friend, as I always do.

Cheers,

Sien

To: H and I, good luck for your wedding preparation! I can’t wait to read your love story and be a witness on your big day:)

Bonus pics –>  me as a bridesmaid in my friend cum big ‘sis’ wedding (3 years ago, 30 Jan 2011)

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Here are some recommended readings:

Maid of Honor: What are her wedding duties?

Quiz: Should I say “Yes” to Being a Bridesmaid?

Myths & Truths about Bridesmaid

All about Bridesmaids: Facts & Myths

I Said NO to Being a Bridesmaid

Old Habits Die Hard – Can we stay true to who we are?

Hey everyone,

It took a long time for me to write this one. Partly because it’s personal and it largely involves self-criticism and evaluation on some of my old habits and how all of them have changed over the years as I grow older and ‘supposedly’ wiser 🙂

At each stage of life, people change and evolve into either a worse or better version of themselves. All we need is a cold hard look of what’s inside our soul and some piercing truths spoken by other people who truly care about us. Along the way, some events, some encounters, some experiences (good, bad, heartbreaking, thrilling, etc), some shared stories will miraculously give us the nudge to change and re-evaluate who we are as a person.  Any huge changes must come from within. The inner motivation and resolution to change are crystal clear in every thought that crossed our mind and in every action we take. 

Here are some of my obsessive old habits that have been toned down to a moderate level.

1. Planning 

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Yes, I’m guilty of the mistake mentioned above. I used to have a life plan that span around 10-15 years and read so many books on career and life planning that at one point of time, I was trapped in analysis paralysis. Having too many options at once and couldn’t decide on my focus in life.

Here’s one of TED videos on this matter by Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice. People have too many choices nowadays that it’s becoming more and more difficult to make a choice. Fear of making the wrong move also hinders our ability to stick to whatever that we’ve decided early on. In the end, we stop making choices at all and choose to feel contented with the status quo.

Anyway, these past four years, I’ve gradually toned down the tendency to become too far ahead of myself, reduced excessive and detailed planning down to monthly (instead of 5-10 years plan) and learned to contain my restless thought by writing about it (example here). I started doing real baby steps and achieving goals that I set for myself, no matter how small they are.

Even with a much better perspective on the downside of detail planning to predict the future, I’m still a planner at heart and understand completely that we can plan as much as we can but things won’t go as planned at times. In fact, most of the time, life will just randomly throw us a curve ball and we have to dodge it as best as we can and re-adjust our path.

My planning habit leads me to some major events that have already been scheduled until September this year. In the finance department, I’ve talked about how I have an annual excel spreadsheet just to monitor my daily cash flow in this post.

Here’s what this year will look like:

  1. Jan 2014: braces time (I’m getting this type, Damon braces, wiring will start in 5 days), CNY celebration at home for 9 days.
  2. Feb 2014: CNY at home. Attend 2 weddings. Then nothing much, will probably have busier weekends, need to start hiking and boost my fitness.
  3. Mar 2014: Mom/Dad in SG for 2 weeks
  4. Apr 2014: 8-day climbing mountain and diving/snorkeling trip (flight booked)
  5. May 2014: continue on the mountain trip and nothing much.
  6. Jun 2014: attending wedding in Indo.
  7. Jul 2014: nothing much, still pondering on whether I can afford the time and $ to attend a wedding in Europe. Hemm…
  8. Aug 2014: makan trip to Penang
  9. Sep 2014: my birthday and bridesmaid duty (for the 2nd time in my life, what I heard is maximum of 3 times and then I shouldn’t accept anymore request to become a bridesmaid, otherwise my love life won’t progress? Or is it just Chinese superstition?)
  10. Oct-Dec 2014 – nothing yet…:)

There you go, old habit dies hard. As much as I want to keep going with the flow, I can’t help to plan my schedule as such that I’ll have a full awesome life and add some new adventures on top of my normal routines.

2. Organizing

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I love organizing gatherings or outdoor activities with friends and family. In the past, I’d easily become extremely upset and disappointed if the attendance of the activities I organized is poor or most of them came late by 30 minutes or more. But over the years, I’ve learned to manage my expectation and be more relaxed on this matter, because I realized that what I need to do is just to focus on my own feelings and don’t let other people’s disrespectful behavior affect my mood. When my friends are late or decide to flake at the last minute, I’d tell myself that maybe they’re not so respectful of my time or they have the tendency to break promises easily, with no valid reason; but I will certainly NOT do the same thing and let people wait for me. I’m a lady of my word and will do my best at keeping my promises. I’ll set a better example and live up to my own expectations. I’d sometimes mentally blacklist the person for any further activities if he/she is always consistently late or flake at the last minute. I won’t take that person seriously and I definitely won’t think of them as a reliable person. If people can’t be on time, it’s not my problem and I shouldn’t let their bad behavior ruin my mood for the whole day.

I’ve organized activities like: hiking, cycling, dinner gathering, volleyball games. But recently, it’s harder to gather everyone together and I got a little bit tired of personally contacting everyone and arranging multiple gatherings in one weekend. So for now, I’ll stick to more intimate gatherings with maximum 4-5 people, spontaneous outdoor activities or 1-to-1 interaction which are definitely easier to organize and require less time to alert everyone involved (3 days to 1 week notification will do just fine).

As for organizing my stuff, I’m very far from a perfectionist. I’ve got too many things at home and as long as I know where to locate them, I’m happy:) My office desk is not very tidy too but I couldn’t care less. Maybe my Virgo traits are not that evident anymore. Check out a quite accurate explanation of Virgo traits here.

3. Criticizing & judging mind

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Naturally, I’m a critical person who tends to secretly discriminate and judge people based on their lifestyle and appearance. For example: I can’t help but judge people who wear wrinkled dress or shirt, a guy or a girl. They look messy in my eyes, they should at least iron them before they go out? For me, I iron all my clothes including my PJs and home clothes, so I’ll catch myself staring at those people with wrinkles shirts with a disapproving look. There you go. My worst OCD symptom. There were so many other things in the past that couldn’t escape my critical mind. Nowadays, although I’m still equally hard on myself, I’ve managed to give second chances for other people. I also allow myself to make mistakes and learn from them, instead of beating myself too hard, like for example: scrutinizing why I fail to get a PASS A for my CELTA course. If I were the under-develop version of me (probably back in primary/high school years), I’d probably beat myself up and make a big fuss on why I couldn’t get an A. But now, I don’t really care. As long as I give my best effort, any result will do just fine.

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Even though I hardly criticize people right in front of them, I used to judge them in my mind and choose whether I want (or don’t want) to be associated with him/her. That’s why I don’t have that many friends, I pick and choose my friends with my fastidious judging mind. I tend to avoid these kind of people:

  • people who are overly pessimistic and gloomy
  • people who love to complain endlessly about EVERYTHING, ex: the government, the traffic, the food, the maid, the house, the work that he hates, etc
  • people who can’t keep their promises
  • people who brag all the time and who like to show off their wealth and knowledge with no concern or respect of other people’s opinion (basically a narcissistic and selfish person)
  • people who won’t listen and talk all the time
  • people who use power to control and manipulate others
  • people who beat around the bush and display confusing behavior
  • the list goes on and on…

Due to this judging nature, I also struggle with giving out compliments to people. Sometimes, it just feel so unnatural for me to praise people for ‘a job well done’ or ‘for being such a talented person’. I still have to consciously train myself to do that. Nevertheless, I think I’ve successfully transformed my judging and criticizing mind to a moderate level. And then be happier along the way!

4. Vulnerability issue

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I HATE being vulnerable. I do. When I’m vulnerable, I feel weak and dependent on other people. However, that’s also usually the moment when I receive the most love from everybody. At that point, vulnerability doesn’t feel so bad after all. I remember a few months back, I was having this low blood pressure that caused me to vomit and feel dizzy in office. I couldn’t stand up straight and I could only see dark shadows and a few flying birds in front of me. I was about to faint. But luckily, my colleagues noticed this and came to a rescue. Instead of vomiting all over the office floor, I’m still sober enough to grab a dustbin and vomit there. All my breakfast just flew out. I felt so sick and vulnerable at that time. Everyone knows that I’m usually this cheerful and energetic girl who doesn’t really depend on anyone. But that day, I needed someone else to take care of me and buy me porridge for lunch. I was so grateful and overwhelmed by their kindness and at that moment, I truly realized that as human-beings, we can’t really live alone. Some days, we have to be vulnerable in order to receive love.

So friends, old habits die hard. Everyday, I have to consciously put the effort to improve and become a better version of myself. Get rid or tone down some of the bad habits and nurture the good ones. How about you?

Are you still the same person you were 10-15 years ago?

or

Are you constantly evolving into a better version of yourself?

Cheers,

Sien

*Here are some other links I want to share with everybody! Enjoy!!

being vulnerable

Here’s another TED video by Brené Brown. In this video, she talks about being vulnerable as her spiritual awakening.

“They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.They thought this was fundamental.”

I totally love this comic by ZenPencils.com –> click here.

Inspired by a quote from C.S. Lewis:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

Generalized characteristics of a Virgo.

http://allaboutvirgo.blogspot.sg/

Virgo FACTS

VIRGO is the sixth sign of the zodiac and is ruled by the planet Mercury. VIRGOS constantly search for knowledge. VIRGOS are very detail conscious and do well in any line of work that requires exactness. VIRGOS are practical and efficient. The single greatest defect of VIRGO is that they are very critical of others… even judgmental of others. If they overcome this negative trait they can attain the highest of spiritual achievement in life. VIRGOS are intelligent, patient, and humble.

With a Mercury as the ruling planet, people born under this sign are quick thinking and observant. VIRGOS define pure modesty; they can’t bear to be taken care of, they prefer to take care of others. Though VIRGOS are often quiet and thoughtful, they are rarely shy about expressing a personal point of view. Mercury in VIRGO means mental organization, and inclines its subjects toward constant activity. VIRGOS as an Earth sign uses Mercury to do meticulous, careful mind work, an analytical thinker.

VIRGOS Mutable style takes the alternate routes, unpredictable, versatile travelers. VIRGOS are known for either sneaking off on a bicycle, taking the bus, hitchhiking, or blowing their savings on a souped-up sports car. VIRGOS may spend part of their lives heading off on detours and then suddenly emerge as someone with a remarkable sense of direction. They can adjust easily to change once they find a way of fitting the new situation into their routine. Mercury rules the conscious, reasoning mind, which gives the VIRGO the ability to learn quickly, resourcefulness, brilliance, eloquence, dexterity, and great awareness.

VIRGOS personality is interior, to the world they may give an impression of calm authority, but they are totally aware of their own nervous, restless, controlled intensity, the desire to be up and doing, rearranging, improving. VIRGOS idea of taking it easy would seem like hard work to most people. VIRGOS are not a daydreamer; they’re a day-doer. VIRGOS emotional life is a constant striving to bring order out of chaos.VIRGOS have an excellent memory, an analytical mind, and are known for crystal-clear thinking. VIRGOS superb logic cuts through muddled thinking like a laser beam. Until they have the facts before them, they are reluctant to make a decision.

VIRGOS prefer one-on-one encounters, in which they can offer the full benefit of their sharp insights and discerning opinions. That’s also when people discover how well read, perceptive, charming and witty they are. At times VIRGOS finely tuned sensibilities can even make them unhappy, for it gives them a heightened awareness of the world’s imperfections. However, VIRGOS resist criticism of their faults from others. It’s rare, a VIRGO who takes criticism well or who can admit to being in the wrong.

The VIRGO lover may not be the most romantic, but they offer their whole heart. To VIRGO love is not dramatic, emotional, or sentimental. A VIRGO’S love is devotion and will include love of family, friends, and those less fortunate than he or she. There is no pretense involved in how they act or what they say. They are loyal; VIRGOS are big on fidelity. They value more than the superficial aspects of a love relationship and they generally attract people with a similar belief system. Marriage is a major commitment; they value their union as both a love relationship and a working partnership. A warm loving relationship brings out the best in anyone born under this sign because basically VIRGOS are kind, devoted and very loyal.

The VIRGO friend as a rule is shy and self-effacing. VIRGOS have difficulty making friends, until they feel absolutely comfortable with them. Yet when they do make the effort, these people are capable of achieving extraordinary things. In general VIRGO likes a friend who is tidy, clean, and intelligent with a broad range of interests. They prefer people who are not given to big shows of emotion and are attracted to those who offer a sense of peace and serenity. VIRGOS are likely to keep the same friends for years. Often, VIRGOS befriends someone with the showy personality they themselves are uncomfortable assuming.

Where do you “settle down”?

Wherever you go, go with all your heart

Some people say that “HOME is where the HEART is”. I don’t really know how to relate to this. I’m not sure where my heart lies. Do you mean where my future imaginary life partner lives? *which I have no control over how, when and where I’ll meet him* or where my parents and siblings live? or a place I’m familiar with? It’s true that my parents are both back at hometown, my siblings and relatives are all scattered in different islands, cities and countries. However, this first HOME, that I only visit for at most 10-14 days every year, during the holidays, can I still call it HOME? is my heart still there?

I’ve been spending all of my adult life in Singapore and honestly, I can’t think of anything that I can do back at ‘home’ if I ever have to go back there one day. From practicality point of view, “Home is where my income is” sounds more realistic to me. Despite all the comfort and stability living in this city, now and then, I’ll have this nagging feeling that somehow I’m supposed to belong in some other place, doing some other work. Is it just me being restless? I’ve been living here for 9 years, isn’t it time to move on for my next adventure: work and live in another city or country?  I know that our neighbor’s grass is always greener and there are many pros and cons in any place you choose to live in. Here…I’m lucky that I don’t have a very stressful job with long working hours like some of my friends have. I’ve always been a loyal and stable person who doesn’t run around in life with no purpose. I feel contented most of the days. But is it wrong if I just can’t shake off this nagging feeling? Is it because of my job? my lifestyle?  How about this solution then: stay and earn my income here, then travel around 3-4 times a year just like this part-time traveler? I stumbled upon her website yesterday. Check it out, here!

Well, I guess there are so many options out there! I’ll carefully weigh everything one by one and take my own sweet time. But for now (and probably the next 1-2 years), I will need to stay in the little red dot for a little while. A lot of unfinished businesses here! Being happy and grateful is a choice. I choose to be happy now:).

Anyway, I also love how this other author described his situation and wrote this article on finding the right place to live. I’d recommend reading the whole article for any of you who has ever considered moving to another city or country for a change of environment or just because you’re bored. Some of us need to enter the state of being restless and then gradually having the desire to “settle down” at one place and call it home.  

We fear that with all the choices out there we’re spending our lives in the wrong town, or the wrong state, the wrong climate, or country. If you’ve ever lived in the correctly suited place for you at the right time in your life then you know the feeling you’re after. You know its resonance, the feeling of being perfectly fit for your environment. The place you’re in has everything you need. The place, as Philip Larkin says, “mashed you.” Like all good things, it will eventually end, either the place changes or you do, and then you spend the ensuing days, months, years chasing that feeling.

For awhile I swore by the mantra “we’re all exactly where we’re supposed to be.” It’s a comforting idea, and if you repeat it until you believe it you can use it to quiet down your restlessness. But it only really works when you’re actually satisfied. I don’t believe it consistently. We don’t always make the best choices for ourselves.

If you can find the right place for you it can make you whole in ways that nothing else can. People like to say a place is what you make of it.That has a lot of truth to it, and the people in whatever place you’re in matter as much as anything. It’s just that no matter how much you love the openness of Nebraska it will never have an ocean. No matter how easy life is in Korea it will always be crowded. No matter how much fun New York is it will always feel indifferent.

You have to know what you want, who you are before you can choose to build a life. I’m still looking for the right place to stay for a while. I’ve had plenty of trouble, done my share of living, and I’ve seen a few things. Now I’m looking for some peace. Does anyone know where I can find it? Is it even out there?

Cheers,

Sien

*struggled to connect her words, too complicated to share everything in one post. Hence, a short one, a little peek into my wired thought:p

Money-Life Balance for My Peace of Mind

Hi Everyone,

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014!!!! ^_^

Yeah, the first post of the year and I’m gonna talk about money $$ and creating a more peaceful life in 2014:)

Two weeks ago, I’ve mentioned in point number 3 of my previous post here, that I needed to continue on with my daily excel file, tracking expenses and re-adjusting along the way.

I’ve started out this habit of tracking my cash flow since 2010. Some of you would think that it’s a bit too much and a hassle to monitor every penny that goes out on a daily basis. It might not work for everyone, but it somehow worked for me and it has given me the psychological assurance that I’m gonna do just fine in the financial department. This habit gives me a peace of mind. At any given day, whenever I want to know the price of that plane ticket I bought in 2011 or the cost of a gathering I had in 2012, I would simply refer back to my elaborate excel file and found the information I need.

In the past, I would use the file to monitor my student loan payment and to check if I’m on track with my then-goal ‘pay off loan by Dec 2011’. Now that I’ve achieved that particular financial goal, I mainly use it as a practical tool to see if I’ve achieved my emergency fund goal, to foresee any other expenses necessary to do whatever I want and how I can re-allocate budget and focus on saving for those specific goals, ex: to take CELTA course last November, to travel to 2-3 new places last year, to save up for my future property purchase (slowly). It’s for (again) my peace of mind. I know where my hard-earned $ goes and for what purpose. I can pay all my bills on time and know the exact amount of any upcoming planned expenses by just looking at my file. Nowadays, I don’t really make a fuss over my expenses down to every cent anymore (which is better for my peace of mind) and just go by the monthly budget. As long as I’m more or less within the budget I set, I’m grateful.

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The template of my monthly excel worksheet looks something like the screen capture below. I would diligently input my daily expenses, re-allocate certain amount to another category along the way and include some expected future expenses or bonuses (in good times). Monitoring cash on hand, in the bank and in other financial institutions (including insurance and CPF) by using this detail excel file helps me to pay attention on how I spend my money, to keep myself away from sudden splurge on useless stuff and to eventually develop a better relationship with money. I’ve read countless books, blogs and websites on personal finance and here are my personal favorites: getrichslowly, dailyworth, and moneysmart.

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These past few years, being mindful with my own thought and perception on money has helped me gain better money-life balance and more freedom (not financial freedom yet, but at least I’m mostly free from the stress of not having enough $$ whenever I need them), ultimately living life on my own terms. I also realized early on that for anyone, man or woman, it’s important to be financially savvy, to know how to manage our own money (at different stage of our life) and to start cultivating good money habits (as young as possible). It will reduce all the worries and headache for this moment and in the future. When we don’t have to worry about money, we can focus more on other important things in life, like: our relationship, health and well-being, family and friends, self-improvement, etc.

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As I read through these 2 articles, from a male’s perspective: ‘a Perfect Life Balance? It’s about Time, not Money’ and female’s perspective here: ‘A Money-Savvy Daughter Looks Back on the Finance Lessons That Stuck With Her’, I’m pretty sure that I’m right on track in my own financial journey. Hopefully, I could have this peace of mind everyday without being haunted by any significant money worries.

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Ultimately, I want to have just enough $ for my peace of mind and have a simple peaceful life with plenty of time to cultivate other aspects of my life: relationships, body and soul, hobbies, health and well-being; and go on adventures once in a while:)

How about you? What’s your idea of a good money-life balance?

Cheers,

Sien

*who spent the new year with a swollen cheek after wisdom tooth surgery, extracted 3 at one go *bad idea*

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Crossing Oceans Just to Find You

Disclaimer: this is NOT my story. I’ve got my friend’s permission to share parts of her love stories to all of you, my random readers wherever you are. Moral of the story will be summarized at the end of this post. So keep on reading!! 🙂

The ideas for this post have been brewing in my mind for 2 weeks and finally I’ve managed to put them into words and got my friend’s consent to publish this. Before we start, let me share with you WHY I’m writing this as my last post of 2013:

1. Because I’m a sucker for romantic movies and touching love stories. I want my last post of the year to be an awesome inspirational story about someone’s journey to find love. Since I’ve talked about my own (lack of) love story in my previous post here, I started looking for inspiration from my friends’ love stories, those who have found the right one and have already begun their new journey together as a happily married couple. I wish that their marriages will last long until (hopefully) death do them apart and that the family they created will one day bring blessings to the world.

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2. Because I’m skeptical when it comes to getting to know someone and starting a relationship from a distance, I thought that writing this post can be one of my yet-another therapy or brain-wash session for my hyperactive mind *head vs. heart in love? my head wins most of the time, not sure whether it’s good or bad:p*. When I said ‘starting a relationship from a distance’, it means that a relationship that starts from a distance, guy meets girl online or through chat and they live in different city/country. 1800-minute chat time, 60-hour video call and 30 phone calls later, BOOM…they’re officially a couple. In those months, they hardly see each other face-to-face and no direct physical interaction. Due to the distance and logistic problems, they can only visit each other 1-2 times in a YEAR.

I’d sometimes wonder, is this scenario really possible? I’ve had some old friends from my childhood or school years who would suddenly appear out of the blue and start chatting with me (either via whatsapp/fb message) and somehow we just ‘click’ through those endless chat nights with very little face-to-face physical interaction during the weeks, how can romance blossom from there and eventually leads to a real relationship? I’m a skeptic but my view has been challenged so much these past few years (including by my friend’s story that I’m about to share with you) that I can’t help but question myself, “Should I open up to this possibility?” Sometimes I hit it off better with a guy I talk to from a distance but I’ll always cut it off after a while just because I see that there’s really no point in continuing the endless chats and virtual flirting with a distant ‘friend’, there’s no real future, you can’t get to know him properly and it’s a waste of time???

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3. Because usually a couple that starts organically from togetherness (in the same city of course) and direct contact with each other (traditional courtship) over a period of time can lead to a long-lasting loving relationship. So when one of them has to move to another country for a while, it might stand the test of distance. But if from the start, you are not even in the same city. Will it ever work out? Apparently, it CAN be done. I’ve had 2 examples for this. One was my junior high school friends who started out from a distance between Singapore (guy) and America (girl). Both of them were my classmates back then, I witnessed the constant bickering when the two of them were still young but somehow they are now married and living in Singapore. The second one also has the same distance and they were also old high school friends from the same hometown. They are now busy preparing for their wedding celebration next year.

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This is the story of my dear friend, who’s brave enough to risk her heart and cross the oceans just to find her love. Here we go.

She has never been without a boyfriend for a long period of time.

She’s my senior by one year and I’ve heard stories since I was still in the same junior/senior high school/university as her that she’s very popular and lots of boys (not yet a man) would line up to become her boyfriend. Even though she’s popular and smart, I found that she’s very down-to-earth and a fun girl to be with, so I started to know her better and we hit if off (as good friends) after our university years.

We’d often talk about boys during our time as housemates and roommates when we’re out in the working world. So I roughly know her history with all the ex-boyfriends she had. It was a very long painful journey to where she is now. But they were lessons for her. Without the experience, she wouldn’t have come this far (literally, she’s living in the US now, haha:p).

Her first boyfriend was from junior high school days. Back then, I didn’t know her at all. I only heard rumors about her being with this guy in her class, a kind of puppy love. She told me that her mother didn’t like this relationship and eventually asked them to split up. Still young and innocent, she just followed what her mom said. There really wasn’t much seriousness in those days. They were just 15 year-old teenagers. 

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Her second boyfriend was during her senior high school years. She seemed to have it all: a doting boyfriend, pretty face, loving family and good grades at school. This time, her mom was very supportive and ‘in love’ with her boyfriend. She would sometimes joke and told me that maybe her mom should just be with her boyfriend back then. She’s more enthusiastic than her daughter. Unfortunately, this relationship ended amicably when she came here to study. She was still very young and didn’t think that she could manage a long-distance relationship. So she just let him go and started off her new university life in Singapore. As soon as she’s back on the market, new breed of guys (now including Singaporeans, Indonesians and other nationalities. The competition was very tough!!) would just swarm around her, waiting to be picked.

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During university years, I remember vividly about the drama and intense stories surrounding her relationship with her third boyfriend. She fell head over heels in love with this guy and from the outside, it looked like they had a good steady relationship. Until one day I heard that they were having a fight and found out that apparently the ‘good’ boyfriend cheated on her. After that, a lot of our other friends witnessed the bf pleading for her forgiveness and she courageously took him back. I didn’t want to meddle too much in other people’s relationship so I never really asked her why she did that or told her why she shouldn’t have done it. We were not very close back then, just a friendly neighbour next door. Anyway, after the second chance, it went quiet for a while until after graduation and she started working at her first job. When I moved into her house, I was (not quite) surprised that she wasn’t with this bf anymore. Apparently, once you’ve broken someone’s trust, things will never be the same again. In due time, the relationship just crumbled to the point of no rescue. She was obviously heart-broken but decided to move on.

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Her next boyfriend was her coworker and a very sweet guy who treated my friend very well. In those 2 years that they’re together, as a bystander observing them, I honestly didn’t feel that she’s very into her bf. There’s this lack of passion and respect from her side. She later told me that maybe she was just too broken to ever love again (after the 3rd bf) and needed some time on her own to re-evaluate her priority, her needs and wants. So she went on to being single for the longest time ever, around 1-2 years.

In those reflection days, she would go back to exploring her faith and often say her prayers to God, asking Him to give her a life partner whom she can trust again, who loves Him and preferably someone she’s familiar with, maybe an old friend from the past. Incredibly, her wish did come in two forms. First, the wrong guy who came at the wrong timing and second was the right guy at the right timing, her current partner. Both of them were her old friend.

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With this wrong guy, the timing was just so wrong for him to barge in my friend’s single happier life (though sometimes lonely, she’s generally happier during that period). They started going out only a few months before this guy was going back home for good, which means a long-distance relationship if they ever made it official. But he didn’t say a word of that when he left. So after all those intense time together, he just got away with it and left my friend with the darkest, most devastating period of her whole life. Okay I’m exaggerating here, maybe not in her whole life, but dark enough to make her tear up every night for a few weeks and do some silly things just to get him to come around. But he never did. I moved with her to a common room across the street once she rented out her whole-unit in preparation to ‘go back home for good’ and supposedly ‘live happily with him back at home’. I listened to her late night talks, heart-to-heart, on how she felt about him and all other obstacles she faced just because she wanted to pursue this relationship and believed that he’s the right one. I watched all these dramas and couldn’t bear to see her get hurt even more and started to talk her out of this unhealthy obsession. I’ve been there too and I know how it felt. The difference between her and me is just that she’s braver than me and is more willing to risk her heart for love, I couldn’t do that (even until today, maybe not yet? or never? I don’t know. head rules over my heart, probably too much). After around 6 months of struggle, she eventually calmed down and started to let him go.

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Even so, she knew that she wanted to be in a relationship and was still open to it, but now she’s taking her time and got closer to God and wanted to meet someone who can guide her along with her faith. That’s when the miracle came (in her words, a miracle). She got in contact with an old friend who seems to be very religious and wanted to know how they could share their faith with each other. So despite the distance and time difference, they got to know each other and became closer everyday (by chat, international call, video call. Thanks to technology!). By middle of 2012, they were officially a couple. In the next 5 months, things escalated further and she decided to apply for a master study in the US and quit her job. I’m pretty sure 95% of this decision came from her desire to be closer with her boyfriend. She just jumped right into the relationship with both feet in. I was awestruck by her bold and brave move but supported her decision nonetheless. Earlier this year, we sent her off at the airport and wished her well.

Now, as I’m writing this, the both of them have been engaged for 10 months and later on the fiancé told her that actually he had had secret crush on her since they were still in school years, but somehow their paths didn’t cross until last year, 2012. He didn’t regret it though. If they had been together back then, they might not have ended up like the way they are today. He’s a much wiser man now and my friend also had to go through all her broken relationships first in order to finally take a leap of faith and cross the oceans just to be with him. The TIMING can’t be any better than this. 

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So folks, moral of the story (and also a reminder for myself):

1) Some of us would have a drama-free smooth-sailing love life, some would have to endure some incomprehensible heart-ache along the way before finally meeting the right one. Everyone has different timing, different path to take, different challenges to face in life. So all we need to do is just believe that everything will be beautiful in its own time.

2) Sometimes, we have to get over our fear of rejection, let go of our ego and unhealthy obsession, risk our heart a little bit and take that leap of faith. Only then, we’ll be able to find our life-partner, the love of our life, the right ONE.     

What do you think?

Will you cross the oceans for love?

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When I showed the first draft of this post to my friend and her fiancé, they have kindly shared with me their initial ups and downs and I’m quoting them here. *I hope it will be a good learning point for all of us*

We went through a moment of challenges as well, and we both believe it was a process of maturing our relationship. Until today, we still work on our differences. There were a lot of doubts at first from both of us. We were also not sure if this relationship can work out or not. If not because of our prayers, I believe it is not possible. But of course, it is not only the praying that we did. He always reminds me about working as a team in building this relationship, how we should trust and treat each other as the closest friend, be open towards each other. I believe those are the keys that I missed from all my previous relationships before. There was no teamwork, no prayer, no trust, no openness in the past. But now, I am grateful I have found my closest friend 🙂

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Cheers,

Sien

PS:

To: my dear friend. Consider this as my wedding gift to you. I hope he’s worth the wait and all the heart-ache that you’ve been through. So have a blissful marriage ahead and be together through thick and thin until death do you apart! XOXO *big hugs*

To: my dear friend’s fiancé. You’re a lucky guy. Always be good to her OK? or I will hunt you down *just kidding:p*

3 Reasons Why I Stop Making New Year’s Resolution

A friend asked me the other day,

X: So, what’s your resolution for this coming new year?

Me: “Oh, my resolution is NOT to make anymore resolutions. I’ll just do what I wanna do. No promises or declaration to myself to do this and that at the start of the year.”

X: “Hemm really? not at all? learning how to bake or something? no new travel plan? any other places to visit? next classes to take?”

Me: “Aaah I think you’re referring to my goals then…not my resolutions. I do have goals…still thinking about them and i’m gonna take baby steps next year. It’s officially my reflection time. 1 more week left”

X: “Huh, I thought they’re the same? resolution and goal?”

Me: *did a quick google search* “Apparently not, here you go, read this.”

Many popular new year resolutions such as “lose 25 lbs” or “run a marathon” are actually goals, not resolutions. If there is a specific achievement it’s a goal, but permanent changes to your life are resolutions since you keep doing them every day and not just until a specific achievement is reached. (lifehacker.com)

When I look back to 4 or 5 years ago, I used to be all crazy about making plans and goals that are either NOT FOCUS or TOO BROAD. like a one-liner resolution stuff, ex: “I want to have a toned tummy” or “I want to save more money this year” or I started making an exhaustive list of what I want to become in the next 2-3 years (they are all so apparent if you scan my old blog here). After a while, around 2010 onwards, I realized that what I needed to do is to JUST DO THEM. Be more specific and put some time/date/values to my plan and choose ONE or TWO items, instead of going for ALL at once. We can’t predict the future, so what’s the point of having such a detailed plan now? I learned to be more flexible throughout these years. I realized that I won’t accomplish anything if I don’t choose my priority for each year. So nowadays, I start the new year with fresh new goals (1 for each area of my life) or recycle the old ones that I haven’t achieved yet and bring them forward. As long as I feel that I’ve done something worthwhile each year, I’ll be happy and grateful for that. I don’t put too much pressure on myself anymore, not overwhelmed by too many goals at once.

I stop making new year’s resolutions and start defining my annual goals *will share my 2014 goals/new habits at the end of this post, so keep on reading guys:p* 

3 reasons why I stop making new year’s resolutions:

1. Because resolution is just a statement of motivation and intention, and (unfortunately) it usually doesn’t last very long for me due to lack of follow-up and real actions (for detail on why we should give resolutions a rest and just do our best, read here).

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In the past, after writing blog posts to motivate myself or reading inspirational articles, I’d feel energize for a few days and then the feeling would quickly fizzle into inaction. I would often write down a solid plan or daily schedule as a reminder to myself. But most of the time, I would break my own schedule and did something else instead *bunch of excuses*. I felt bad afterwards for not keeping it. That’s why I really admire people who can consciously remember and keep their resolution all year long. But for me, I think applying reverse psychology will be better.

When someone discourages you from doing something, you often feel that your freedom is being threatened, which motivates you to regain choice and control by doing exactly the opposite… When someone tells you not to think about something, your mind has a sneaky way of returning to that very thought… When a behavior is forbidden or discouraged, it’s hard not to become intrigued…(www.businessinsider.com)

In this case, that someone is myself. For example: instead of telling myself on Sunday to hit the gym on Monday, swim on Tuesday, jog on Wednesday and etc, I’ll tell myself to stop thinking about my schedule and check in with myself that exact day, whether I want to swim/hit the gym after work. If it’s a good weather outside, I’ll swim. If I don’t wanna wash my hair for too long that night, I’ll hit the gym and do cardio exercise. Stop doing something in order to do something else. Be more flexible. Does it make any sense?

2. Because I found a better way – by setting goals and defining systems (here’s an interesting article on this matter –> goals vs. systems).

Instead of discussing and daydreaming about getting into shape (goal), why don’t we start with a schedule and stick to it day by day (system)?

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For me, when thinking about the next things I want to achieve, I’ll first consider my priority for that year.

Example: in 2011, my priority was to pay off all my student loan, so my goals are all geared towards earning and saving more money (personal finance area) and less about traveling somewhere far and expensive (travel area). Then right after I achieved that main goal, in 2012, my priority shifted to saving enough for my personal emergency fund *gonna talk about it in my other post*. I started to relax a little bit with my expenses (no more scrimping and counting every pennies) and allow some budget for travel (to cheaper nearby places).  Then this year, my priority is to have fun and execute my long-term ambition and prove to my old self that I can do it despite major procrastination for about 2.5 years. So I went to more faraway countries like: Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, while also doing my CELTA.

For every season in life, we’ll have different priorities and different set of challenges to face. Each stage from being a student to becoming a working adult, from being single to in a relationship/stay single by choice/married and start a family. We’ll need to set different goals for each stage and continuously revise them once certain milestones are achieved. At the end of the year *just like now*, when doing my personal reflection, I’ll evaluate it by asking myself these questions: “Has it been a worthwhile year?” (check), “How did I feel in general? Did I feel happy and grateful (check) or bored and unchallenged in all areas?”, Have I done something new for the first time? Have I visited new places for the first time?” (check), “Have I become a better person this year?” (hopefully, check) ^_^

3. Because creating habit is more effective than a one-time new year’s resolution with no follow up (daily process, one day at a time).

I stumbled upon this article on how to stick to our goals by using identity-based habits. And the whole article really rings true for me. It’s about building an identity and becoming the type of person that we believe we are. For example: if I BELIEVE that I’m a person who works out a lot and who’s living a healthy lifestyle, my actions will reflect just that. I will make it a point to exercise regularly (e.g.: gym 2 days, break 1 day, swim 2 days, vball 1 day, jogging/cycling/hiking 1 day) and eat proper meal too *i tend to skip dinner and i know that’s bad for my metabolism:(*. Eventually, I’ll achieve whatever fitness goal I’ve set for myself by just getting into my new habits.  

What is your identity?

In my experience, when you want to become better at something, proving your identity to yourself is far more important than getting amazing results. This is especially true at first. If you want to get motivated and inspired, then feel free to watch a YouTube video, listen to your favorite song, and do P90X. But don’t be surprised if you burn out after a week. You can’t rely on being motivated. You have to become the type of person you want to be, and that starts with proving your new identity to yourself.P

Most people (myself included) will want to become better this year. Many of us, however, will set performance and appearance–based goals in hopes that they will drive us to do things differently. If you’re looking to make a change, then I say stop worrying about results and start worrying about your identity. Become the type of person who can achieve the things you want to achieve. Build the habit now. The results can come later. (lifehacker.com)

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Now after the long-winded excuses above, let’s get real with my own priority in 2014.

My 2014 new and recycled HABITS (NOT in order of importance):

1. Fitness & health

Habit –> Weekdays: maintain my weight by hitting the gym at least twice a week (min 30 mins/session) or swim at least twice a week. Weekend: volleyball (indoor/outdoor)/cycling/hiking/jogging (outdoor).

2. Beauty and well-being

Habit –> maintain daily dental hygiene, monthly facial, bi-monthly singing session:)

3. Personal finance and career

Habit –> continue on with my daily excel file, tracking expenses and re-adjusting along the way. Carry on with my full time Engineering job (doing my best) with English private tuition once a week and add-on classroom teaching weekdays night or weekend (to be confirmed soon^_^).

4. Relationship

Habit –> talk to 1 friend every week by chat or call or face-to-face (different person each time, direct human interaction); talk to Mom & Dad and/or my siblings at least twice a week.

5. Mind and soul

Habit –> read 1 book every month and  publish at least 1 blog post every week.

6. Travel

Habit –> habit??? maybe my habit of buying plane tickets 4-6 months in advance can only start again near the end of 2014:p. Meanwhile, flight back home for CNY 2014 (check), Rinjani (pending plane tix), Penang (check). Hopefully, that’s all for 2014. Saving my annual leave for another long trip in 2015, maybe? *wishful thinking*

So folks, it’s Christmas eve now and 7 more days to go before we welcome another year, have you set your priority for next year? 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! ^_^

Cheers,

Sien

*feeling grateful for an awesome 2013. Enjoying the moment now. Half-day work as usual…:)

To Text or Not to Text – Whatever Happened to Direct Human Connection?

Hello again everyone,

eca5895b3e7898193c8084d9ae71cf56How true? :p

Let’s start with these 3 simple questions.

  1. When was the last time you call someone you haven’t met for a while just to have a chat and catch up (either on the phone or call to arrange a meetup)?
  2. How often do you check your social media accounts, e.g.: facebook, twitter, path, instagram?
  3. If you have to decide the ratio (by %) of the way you keep in touch with your friends and family, what would it be? Normal sms/whatsapp/LINE/others VS. talking on the phone/video call/direct one-to-one or group meetup.

What are your answers?

If you were to ask me these questions 3 months ago, these would be my answers:

(FYI, I have Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, LINE, Whatsapp, Skype, 500 free local SMS & 200 mins free outgoing calls per month)

  1. Hemm…almost none. Oh wait a minute, 3 months ago, I think I called my mom and dad back at home once or twice a week, quite frequently. I’d usually use an international calling card, but nowadays my whole family has this LINE account and we have a group chat where we can discuss/update any random things we can think of during the day and even send some cute stickers without even typing a single word. Well…well…all at our own convenience! We’d previously have a video call (via Skype) but we sort of gave it up due to the lousy connection. Recently, I’ve been asking myself: Is it enough to just use a group chat to update on your daily life, especially with your family? Will the reason ‘it’s convenient’ be good enough to make up for the lost of direct personal human connection like hearing voice or seeing each other face-to-face?
  2. During my obsessive days, I’d conveniently tap on all the apps I have on my mobile when I wake up, while I’m in the train, during tea break, before I go to sleep, in every idle time that I could possibly have. Now that I think about it, it’s insane how much time I’ve wasted to check if my ‘friends’ shared any worth-reading news or articles.
  3. Three months ago, the ratio of the way I keep in touch with:
  • my close friends (here or overseas) would be 80/20: 80% chatting in WA, LINE, FB messenger, Gtalk; 20% meetup during the weekend for movies/lunch/dinner, gatherings, birthday celebration, volleyball games. I hardly skype with my friends overseas. We’d mostly chat using all modes available.
  • acquaintances/friends I haven’t talked to in ages would be (if I care enough) via FB profile, just to see what they’re up to (virtual stalker).
  • family would be 50/50: use international calling card, skype, LINE, free LINE call and obviously visit each other:).

With such advanced technology available around us, we can stay in touch everyday despite the distance. As long as both parties are willing to maintain the communication, there’s nothing impossible. Maybe the only drawback for any long distance relationships is the lack of physical touch. You can’t hug and kiss them all you want. Otherwise, all is well. Convenience and practicality are what we value most from using all these social medias, but how about the deeper and more meaningful human connection

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Amid all the convenience of peeking into everyone’s life through their social media profiles, I certainly don’t want to lose my ability to have verbal communication with anyone. However, due to the influence of my introverted traits, talking and telling stories are difficult chores for me. So everyday, I have to make conscious decision to speak up more and verbally share my stories, instead of posting status or blog post everyday:p. Although blogging about what I have in mind can be a very therapeutic activity, I still want to get the most out of my social life.

I used to have these limitations that I impose upon myself, stuff like: I’m not a very good story teller“, “I’d rather listen to what my friends have to say“, “I can relax and just respond with an ‘oh’ or ‘alright’, instead of thinking of the next interesting things to say or express my own opinion“, “I’m not good at talking about my feelings verballyand all other excuses to avoid speaking and be the center of attention. Anyway, I think I’ve changed a little bit from this version of me. Nowadays, I talked a lot more within my circle of close friends, with all the familiar faces. I hope I’ll find the balance between listening & talking and stay true to my ambivert self :p

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I’d like to believe that the social media craze will NOT totally replace all our traditional modes of communication any time soon. We still need to see each other and hear stories in person, don’t we? I was guilty of over sharing and obsessive mindless scrolling of fb wall feed in the past. I’d often catch myself looking at my phone and staring at the same wall posts that I’ve just read 20 minutes before. 

So one fine day, I had a sudden revelation and felt that enough is enough. I should do other useful things (like writing this blog) instead of looking at random posts from some ‘friends’ whom I hardly talk to. What a waste of time! So that day, I deleted fb app from my phone and deactivated my account  (yeah yeah, half-hearted attempt to disconnect. Apparently, deactivating and deleting account are two different things). I took a short break from fb just to re-arrange my mind and sort out my mindless scrolling obsession. Moderation is the key for my sanity.

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After a while, I realized that by deleting the fb mobile app from my phone alone, I could feel that my life is peaceful once more. I didn’t let my mind go to an overdrive by comparing my life with others’ at the convenience of a single tap *yeah I’m using one of the Android smart phones*.

Ironically, instead of simplifying the way we communicate, technology might actually affect the quality of our communication, over complicating our ways to stay in touch with everyone (due to the many options available) and create all sorts of misunderstandings. There are many different situations where we can really see how direct human connection is often interrupted by technology and relationship areas that are affected by social media addiction:

1) At social or group gathering

Some obvious symptoms:

  • Every gathering will have 1 dedicated group chat with all the members in the group.
  • When you reach the place where you agreed to meet, instead of calling (which is an obvious faster way to check on your friends’ whereabouts) you ask for their locations in the group chat.
  • Once you meet, you’ll say hi and start getting busy with your gadget again (this is the annoying part).
  • Chit chat over dinner and snap some pictures of the food before eating them (me, guilty of this too) –> I used to straight away post the photo on fb when I was still in my over-sharing syndrome. I don’t do it anymore nowadays and have tried to enjoy the food right in front of me instead of being busy uploading the photos.
  • At the dinner table, 1 or 2 of your friends will show signs of boredom and start taking out their gadget again: smiling at the phone while typing, playing some games, scrolling the wall feed. Not interested in listening or talking to the rest of the groups (most annoying part). What’s the point of having a dinner gathering then?

These symptoms are less obvious if you meet your friend one-to-one. It’s very disrespectful for the person if you just focus on your phone when he/she is right in front of you. I was guilty of doing this at some point and I’m now breaking away from that bad habit. Put aside my phone and focus on the person in front of me and just have a good conversation. No distraction. We could do that 5-10 years ago, how difficult can it be?

2) On holiday/vacation trips

Most of us go on a holiday to relax and release the stress we’ve accumulated daily in our busy life and work. It’s only natural that when we’re on our vacation, we don’t want to hear anything about work, obligations and responsibility.

Unfortunately, nowadays we’re so attached to our mobile phone and the social media apps in it, that we feel that we have this pseudo-obligation to give real-time updates on EVERYTHING. We exist online and are always connected. We shouldn’t have to be like this, right? We shouldn’t have to give real-time updates during our holiday. Isn’t the purpose of holiday to relax and unplug? Instead of relaxing and getting back in touch with nature, why are we so busy taking pictures and immediately look for wi-fi and upload them instantly? 

For me, taking loads of photos? definitely YES! It’s for my personal record for when I want to look back and see the places I visited or the food I ate. Keep it to myself? YES! I can always share them when I’m back from my vacation and sort out the pictures. What’s important is to ENJOY THE MOMENT! Don’t worry about immediately sharing your photos for the world to see! The world won’t miss it anyway.

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3) At workplace

If you want something to be done faster, you gotta approach someone in person and personally ask them either face-to-face or by phone. It’s not rocket science. Any method that utilizes direct human connection involving facial expression/voice is generally more effective. Email or IM chat or (worse) whatsapp group is not the best way. There will be a lot of misunderstandings. So just be safe and effective, use the direct human approach at your workplace. Most of them are just some cubicles away or a phone call away. So why complicate things? Just walk over and talk.

4) Boyfriend-Girlfriend Relationship (BGR)

How does boy meet girl? Here are 2 different scenarios.

Traditionally

Courtship boy attracted to girl. He tries to talk to her using many different excuses and pick up lines. They hit it off instantly and become friends. Talk over the phone everyday, sharing stories. Go out on a date every weekend (meetup). And they officially become a couple after 2-3 months.

Modern

Courtship (Dating phase – getting to know each other)boy saw girl’s online profile. Ask mutual friend to introduce to girl or directly send her online message. They become friends and JUST chat everyday. Or boy and girl were old school friends. Found each other through FB, exchange numbers and start chatting via whatsapp. Phone calls have been replaced with late night chats. Boy picks up the courage to ask girl out and finally they are officially a couple after 3-6 months dating.

Do you notice any difference? Well, we’re so spoilt for choice but yet we tend to use the one mode of communication that’s the most convenient without considering the depth of connection, especially during courtship. I’ll leave the answers for discussion and leave it to the experts to answer. I’m not sure which is the best way during courtship. Which generation do you belong to? Do you think traditional method is still the best way to get to know someone? Or the modern one?  just chat and no phone/video call?

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5)  Family

My 3 siblings and mom have this LINE group chat where we can just randomly update anything everyday. Because all of us live in different cities (only my little sister is in the same city as me), it makes this group chat option a very good way to keep in touch with one another, with very minimum obligation to reply promptly. Of course, I’ll still make some time to call or video call once in a while and go back home every year. No social media or chatting apps can beat communicating with your parents face-to-face. I can’t wait for my Chinese New Year trip back home!!! *humming Daniel Powter’s Next Plane Home*

6) Friends

Out of the 700++ friends you have in FB, how many of them do you actually talk to (in real life) on a regular basis? Probably around 40-50 people.

Before the social media era, there were only two types: friends or best friends. But nowadays, there are many different types of friends: close real-life friends, facebook friends, instagram friends, blogger friends, some old friends who stay in another country (whom we only know what they’re up to from occasional updates on their wall feed), high-schools friends, primary school friends (haven’t talked to them in ages), etc etc.

So seriously, can we even call this superficial interaction as ‘friendship’?

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For now, I’ll still keep my social media accounts for these following purposes:

– to keep my travel photos (when I feel like showing off:p)

to occasionally update the crowd with my new blog post or videos that I like (social medias help to increase blog traffic and what if my posts can someday become an inspiration for random readers out there? you wouldn’t want to miss out on those people, would you?)

to read some breaking news or inspiring articles that go viral (just to update myself with the latest trends around me)

Folks, despite the fact that social medias have drastically changed the way we communicate with each other. Some of us can’t part with it yet. So I salute you, whoever you are, who can just delete your accounts without feeling nostalgic at all.  I believe that we could always maintain the relationship with traditional modes of communication. The new ways are just there to enhance the old ones, to make it easier and cheaper for us to connect. So embrace them but don’t make them the ONLY mode of communication with your beloved ones. You’ll hinder the creation of deep and meaningful connections.

Moderation is the key!

Cheers,

Sien

*getting rid of bad habits (in progress)

Introvert vs. Extrovert debate – Am I an Ambivert instead?

Hi Folks,

Do you know yourself well? Are you an Extrovert or an Introvert?

Yes, I’m pretty sure most of you have read about this dichotomy: Extrovert vs. Introvert. There are so many personality type tests out there, including: the famous Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ typology, Keirsey Temperament Sorter and many others. Since I was around 13 or 14 yrs old, I have always felt this intriguing curiosity and fascination on people’s personality. All of us have fundamentally different characters and it’s useful if we can learn how to get along with one another. I believe that the better interaction and relationship you have with other people, the happier and more comfortable your life is. Those days (even ’til now), I would often spend hours researching, reading and taking the tests I mentioned above to determine my own personality group and preference. I could even dwell on less-scientifically proven methods like analyzing personality from the Chinese/Western horoscopes and palmistry *anyway, I’m a Virgo Fire Tiger*. I’d often buy and read self-help books about people’s personality and analyze them. Yeah, I’m a geek on this matter.

Well, for this post, I’ll only discuss the Introvert vs. Extrovert Personality type. First, you can scan the two background readings below to get the general idea of major differences between these 2 types.

Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert and What It Means for Your Career?

The Myth about Introverts/Extroverts – Could you be an Ambivert?

After reading so many articles, a few years ago I’ve realized that the main difference of an extrovert and an introvert is on “how we recharge our energy: is it by being with people and sharing stories? or is it by being alone with our own thought and reading or doing other solitary activities?

I’ve always thought of myself as the latter, by nature an introvert. If we put these two extremes in a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being an introvert and 10 being an extrovert, I used to consider myself a 2 or 3. However, as time goes by, the more life experiences I had, the more places I visited, the more people I met; I started to feel like I don’t belong to any of these 2 groups. So a few days ago, just when I was thinking of what to write for my next post, I conveniently came across this term ‘Ambivert’

Ambivert

As a fairly equanimous person, you display both introverted and extroverted characteristics. While on some days you like being surrounded by many people, on others you prefer to relax on your own and take some time out.  As such, you can easily relate to both extremes on the personality spectrum, and have an easier time delving in and out of the internal and external worlds.  This may lead to feelings of confusion as many times you feel like a “walking contradiction”, feeling one thing one moment, and another thing the next.  Your friendship circle tends to consist of 3, 4, or 5 people.  To summarize, these are some of your defining characteristics:

  • Equanimous
  • Enjoys socializing, but also being alone at times.
  • Behavioural decisions usually rely on “how one feels”, or the context of the situation.
  • Usually has a small group of friends.
  • Flexible.
  • Changeable.
  • Ability to appreciate both inner and outer worlds.
  • Easygoing.

Famous Ambiverts:  George Carlin, John Lennon, Celine Dion, Rowan Atkinson, Angelina Jolie, Marilyn Monroe, Julian Assange, Richard Dawkins, Princess Diana, Johnny Depp, William Shakespeare, Jesus of Nazareth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Stephen Spielberg.

Famous Fictional Ambiverts:  House, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Patrick Jane (The Mentalist), Gandalf, Superman, Alice in Wonderland, Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Sherlock Holmes, Bruce Wayne (Batman), Emily Thorne (Revenge).

I’m (probably) an Ambivert because of these 3 reasons:

1. I can go crazy on social sites and in person for one moment. I’ll be super ON the whole time, planning different activities with different circles of friends (cycling, hiking, dinner gatherings, etc) and totally be outgoing, cheerful and talkative in each event. Then the next moment, I’d suddenly need a 1-week to 1-month break from all interpersonal interactions. This weekend alone, I’ve had 3 gatherings with 3 groups of friends. They were all fun activities and filled with great people whom I’d like to surround myself with. But guess what? I could feel my energy being sapped out of me and now I need to recharge, retreat to my own cave and re-connect with my thought by writing:). Here are the photos I compiled from the awesome gatherings with my close friends.

PhotoGrid_1387104774629BBQ and gift exchange with colleagues and ex-colleagues

PhotoGrid_1387104348908Belated and early birthday dinner for Ms.H, Ms. S, Mr. E and Mr.W

PhotoGrid_1387103919954My friends’ son’s 1st Birthday. He’s such a cutie.

After all these fun gatherings, let me hibernate until before new year. Okay?

2. As I previously said here, I need time to warm up with strangers and new environment. I’m not naturally an extrovert who loves to meet new people, instantly click with them and be so upbeat around people the whole time. I also tend to express my thought and feeling better by writing instead of talking. But gradually, as I became more and more confident with myself, I could usually do unexpected things, be friendly with strangers, be adventurous & bold and be more talkative. All the traits of an extrovert. For example: 2 weeks ago when I was ziplining at Waiheke, I met this wonderful family and we got along well. Another example is when I was at a bus stop 3 days ago and met this lady with her 8-month-old baby boy. We ended up chatting all the way during our 1-hour bus ride. Sometimes, I’ll be so confused with my contradicting preference and attitude on different days that I seriously believe I’m somewhere in between the introvert and extrovert scale.

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I took this test eventually and confirmed my hypothesis.

Introvert or Extrovert Test

Source: http://lonerwolf.com/ambivert/ and http://lonerwolf.com/introvert-or-extrovert-test/

Results

You have reached 47 of 100 points, 47%

Personality Continuum Scale

Introvert or Extrovert: Test Yourself With Our Personality Quiz

If your score was between:

0 – 20 points          You’re predominantly an Introvert.

20 – 40 points       You’re an Introvert with some Ambivert functions.

40 – 60 points       You’re an Ambivert.

60 – 80 points       You’re an Extrovert with some Ambivert functions.

80 – 100 points    You’re predominantly an Extrovert.

3. I have no problem being ALONE with my own company, activities like: watching a movie alone at the cinema – I watched Harry Potter, The Deathly Hallows Part 2 alone. That time, I couldn’t fit my schedule with any of my friends but I wanted to watch it so badly. So I booked 1 seat right at the back, enjoyed the movie and zoomed out right after:); eating meals; traveling to another country alone – I did it once and it wasn’t so bad, just that some logistic issues like: who helps you take pictures of yourself with the nice background and who helps you read the map, are more apparent when you’re traveling alone. I’d sometimes forgo eating at a fancy restaurants too, just because I prefer to have someone to accompany me when eating anywhere that involves huge portion of food, grilling, gourmet or fine dining; wandering around a bookstore – I’d spend hours just randomly browsing books and drown myself in between those pages. I might occasionally buy 1-2 books home. Yesterday, I bought this at the BookFest, reading in progress:), sitting at a coffee shop while reading a book on a lazy Saturday afternoon – well while waiting for a friend or if I’m on a lazy-day out, I’ll usually prefer to do this than wandering around and window shopping, especially when the shopping malls are too crowded and packed with people. I’ll escape and sit somewhere quiet to read a book; watching tons of dramas and movies in my room and be totally disconnected from interpersonal interactions – in the past, I could even sacrifice my sleeping time and watched them non-stop. Nowadays, I hardly do that. I’ll carefully select what I want to watch and arrange a special time without sacrificing my sleeping hours. Sleep is more important!! ^_^

Luckily, I’m grateful that I’m NOT the extreme introvert who is super shy and pushes everyone out of her life. After a stretch of solitary activities, I’ll usually crave for some human interactions and start organizing/attending multiple gatherings. I love spending quality time with my close friends and family, example: dinner, movies, outdoor activities or just saying a simple ‘hi’ and catching up with them once in a while. I guess these following graphics have the best descriptions of my personality as a self-proclaimed ambivert with a 25% inclination to introversion.

introvert 1introvert 2

Folks, regardless of which type you lean toward, I think it’s best to have a well-informed self-awareness, to discover your own preference and character, and then eventually be confident with who you naturally are.  Just like this quote I took from one of the links I shared below.

As Cain writes in her book, we are exquisitely complex individuals. Your introversion or extroversion will interact with your other personality traits, personal history and the culture you grew up in, she says. So, again, there are many differences among introverts and among extroverts.The key message to take away when thinking about yourself is an insight Cain regularly comes back to in her book: Whatever type you lean toward, embrace it and feel entitled to be yourself [Susan Cain, author of ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’]

Susan Cain is the author of a book called ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’. I haven’t read the book yet but I’ve watched her TED talk video last year and found myself agreeing to most of her points on introversion.

I’ve also seen the below graphics going viral in various social medias and they are pretty accurate reminders on how to interact with introverts and extroverts.

how-to-care-for-extrovertshow-to-care-for-introverts

So folks, are you an extrovert, an introvert or an AMBIVERT?

No matter which type you are, you’re AWESOME!!

Cheers,

Sien

Do check out these other articles on Ambivert personality type (middle of the Introvert-Extrovert personality scale):

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/09/11/7-persistent-myths-about-introverts-extroverts/
http://blog.bufferapp.com/introverts-and-extroverts-what-they-are-and-how-to-get-along-with-everyone
http://brillianceinc.com/are-you-an-ambivert/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/04/10/move-over-extroverts-here-come-the-ambiverts/
http://www.diplateevo.com/2013/06/on-ambiverts-why-distinguishing-between-extroverts-and-introverts-is-inadequate/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-pritchard/introvert_b_1943734.html
http://amorerising.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/how-to-love-your-ambivert/
http://donaldmcallister.com/ambivert-advantage/