The year I broke up with myself: a review of 2015 with year-long data
This document is published as an experiment, and perhaps it is not meant to be consumed linearly or in its entirety. I went for realism instead of restraint. I thought it would be interesting to publish it publicly, and see if there’s anybody out there who would spend an hour or so consuming the play-by-play of my consciousness. It is like being a voyeur to potential voyeurs.
2015 was a year I got tired of being myself, so I broke up with myself to become the person I truly wanted to be. It was deeply painful, breaking the foundations of everything that was familiar and comfortable to me, and yet immensely rewarding.
Typical year-in-reviews are about the best moments, but I wanted to honor the full spectrum of them, exposing the reality of life. I thought that it would be fitting to make an epic post about it by including year-long data, and I could kill three birds with one stone:
- Complete my yearly ritual.
- Experiment with what would be a precursor to a larger experiment
- Reflect with self-honesty on real-time data, not from my imagined narrative of what happened.
It feels vulnerable to share this much detail, but yet time and time again, my vulnerability has rewarded me with the life I want: deep and rich.
What I learned from working on this
- Just mere months of distance is enough to distort reality. This review would have been flawed if I didn’t have the data.
- There was definitely a repetition of important themes throughout, and I wouldn’t have been aware of them if not for this exercise.
- I had no idea who I was going to become.
- It made my skin crawl reacquainting myself with some of these memories, especially how deeply some of the books impacted me.
- I didn’t expect to have so much fun working on this. I smiled, I felt, I nursed, I healed.
- It has reaffirmed the value of analyzing the past, as well as my desire to create an interactive version of this for my entire life. Imagine how it would be like to visualize and interact with the connected points in time or explore the long-running themes with an interface that is able to express complex dimensional depth or multiple planes.
Table of contents
- January: The first signs
- February: Contemplating burnout
- March: No more deferment of life plans
- April: Birthday reflections
- May: The beginning of a journey
- May 8-11: Back to Singapore • 11-18: Finding space in Bali • 18–22: Nostalgia hits in Singapore • 22-24: Writing down the core in Hong Kong
Soul searching in Europe
- June 20 — July 5: Seed planted in Paris
- July 5-12: Memories, dreams & reflections in Barcelona • 12-19: Emptiness in Amsterdam • 19-24: Breaking up with myself in Berlin
- July 24 — Aug 8: Reaffirmation in Ljubljana & Rovinj
- Aug 8-12: Finding grace in Venice & Florence
Breaking up with the United States
- Aug 13 — Sep 8: Packing up my former existence in San Francisco
- Sep 8 — Sep 15: Final goodbye in New York
Unraveling in Bali
Building a new self
How to read this
It was definitely an information and design challenge trying to organize the chaos of information, but in the spirit of experimentation and constraints I had to make do with what was available to me:
I broke the year down by months, then locations, followed by dates. Each month has a set of standard metadata.
I prepended the date to normal body text for running commentary like this, occasionally bolding text for importance emphasis. Dates with multiple events will have their own line break,
with this header style for important turning points.
In general, content from data is italicized and the source is appended:
- tweets are in italicized bullet points #hashtagsforrecurringthemes: no. of appearances
this quotation-style for Dayone and Facebook statuses
and this quotation style for haikus (yes, haikus started appearing later in the year), posts from Medium and my public journal
Author, book title[any comment goes here] I am using such code blocks for book quotes, so this can be skipped easily. (Marcin please don't unfriend me.)
I went through an entire year’s archive of data, including (sorted by insertion order):
- twitter highlights
- all my essay-like public Facebook statuses
- snippets from all my Medium posts and public journal
- selection of Instagram and Facebook photos
- books I read from Goodreads, and a selection of quotes from them
- significant meta data
- a curated selection of DayOne entries and texts to friends
I inserted commentary to give additional context, and tried to weave a narrative throughout these bits — it is not really linear, because several themes are happening at the same time. I found myself having to revise this whenever I decide to introduce new data.
I didn’t include book quotes at first because they seem like an overkill, but once I went through my kindle highlights, I knew they played a huge role in shifting my mindset.
Timezones may be screwed up.
It begins here or skip to the end
January: The first signs
Check-ins: 42 • Instagram: 5 • DayOne: 14 • 750words: 1.5• Photos 22 • Walked: 116km
I started January with a sense of purpose and optimism, before getting a serious migraine, followed by an extended bout of flu. I started visiting an acupuncturist when I didn’t seem to be getting better. I was also experimenting with vegetarianism (with minimal carbs), which concluded successfully, but I think due to the timing of events it inflicted additional stress on my body.
1 Jan I started the year off with heavy reading material, but still I managed to have a sense of optimism. I wrote my yearly looking forward post, but I didn’t know how literal it was going to become:
I want to spend the year slowly growing into myself, the person I want to become…Life I learned, is not about metrics, despite my apparent obsession with self-quantifying. It is not about scale, or the absolute impact we can make. It is about making that choice again and again, to be fully alive, whatever that may mean. — Looking forward to 2015, Medium
4 Jan I wanted to build a community with the people who have been with me on twitter or my writing, so I started a tinyletter:
- So I just sent my first tinyletter to 22 special people. Welcome to my dark thoughts! ;) — twitter
5th Jan This is the first sign of my impending long-stretch of ill-health, something I am still recovering from now, at the tail end of 2015:
- my body has this way of telling me to stop. with a migraine. no food, no thinking, nothing. — twitter
6 Jan No matter where or how I am, I constantly think about:
- Always happy to see amazing people doing amazing things; always thinking about how to empower more amazing people to do more amazing things. — twitter
11 Jan At this point I was sufficiently alarmed:
I’ve been unwell for the past two weekends. — finding balance, journal
13-15 Jan I had a bout of flu and flew into Seattle for a work meeting. But from the status below I started to reflect on my past:
- journaling is one of my favorite things to do. looking at the past makes me understand the present. — twitter, 15 Jan #journal:1
18 Jan Somehow I managed to pull up the capacity to write this post, very much influenced by the books I read, the conversations I had, and the meeting I had in Seattle. I deeply cared about the work I was doing:
The capacity to solve problems should not be a privilege. It should not be determined by the virtue of our birth. Not everybody wants to change the world, but billions of people in this world do not even have the liberty to make that choice. We are depriving ourselves of our own potential. We have to do better. — Finding the next Einstein, Medium
24 Jan A long-running realization that I cannot live my life guided by absolute numbers:
- If I wrote based on absolute metrics I would never write again. It is worth it even if it makes a connection to just one person’s mind. — twitter #work: 1
26 Jan I reminded myself to slow down:
- Sometimes, just slow down and observe. There are pockets of love everywhere. — twitter
February: contemplating burnout
Check-ins: 62 • Instagram: 12 • DayOne: 9 • 750words: 10 • Photos 51 • Walked: 131km
I started this month with a visit to Seattle again, this time I had the privilege of having Jessica join me as my new co-worker. It would be one of the best work partnerships I ever had. Provoked by my continuing spate of ill health and the intensity of work, I started to ask myself uncomfortable questions.
7 Feb I will always have survivors’ and privilege guilt:
I think about all the people who have suffered in order for me to be comfortably typing this piece in my chair today. — keep on trying, journal
9 Feb This is probably where it all starts:
- Being true to oneself is easy until there’s a lot at stake, but having more at stake makes it more important to know who we truly are. — twitter #self: 1
10 Feb There was a growing sense of frustration that I was incapable of presenting as my true self to the world:
- I feel like I spend a lot of my life trying to moderate myself. — twitter #self: 2
14 Feb Here I question my honesty to myself, aware that I may in denial, in order to stay in my comfort zone:
- Sometimes I get suspicious about my own capacity to be honest with myself. — twitter
I started writing a series of posts trying to examine my feelings, and coming to a realization I might be burnt out, after being in denial. Somewhen in this period I was attempting to recover by remote-working in the East Bay. The conflict between the love for my work and my own well-being will keep coming into play:
I am exhausted, and I am finding it more difficult to recover to a full charge. I am experiencing signs of burn out, and I am terrified. They say you don’t experience burn out if you love your work, I think I am experiencing burn out because I love my work too much. — pace, journal, 15 Feb
I had another realization that I will never be able to get away from my thoughts, ever. — taking a break from myself, journal, 18 Feb
This wouldn’t be the first time I would write about the relationship between seeking validation and my lack of self-love:
Sometimes, it becomes worse as I realize I am not seeking validation from other people, but from myself, because I just do not love myself, enough.– on self-love and working hard, journal, 20 Feb
and this is the second time out of many more times I would mention the journaling theme:
- Writing @750words for today and getting really mad at myself. “omg, not this issue again…been writing abt this since the beginning of time” — twitter #journal:2
Prompted by the sentiment around Oliver Sack’s passing, I wrote about my sense of mortality:
I don’t wish to wait till death is truly imminent, for me to realize I should have loved deeper, traveled further, written more. — Feel alive, Medium
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Last Interview:And I write my books so that I can read them.Power is a substitute for love.Hurriedness in creative expression is immediately noticed.
28 Feb I would be seeking a lot of solace from books:
- Reading a book sometimes is like finding tiny pieces of yourself, in between the lines. — twitter
March: No more deferment of life plans
Check-ins: 64• Instagram: 12 • DayOne: 21 • 750words: 5.5 • Photos 38• Walked: 140km
I continued my attempts of trying to recover from burnout by heading to the woods during the weekend. I was still in denial that there could be something seriously wrong with myself, afraid to think of the consequences. I did come to decide that I would stop deferring my life plans.
1 Mar I spent the beginning of March house-sitting Jean’s house in Berkeley. My thoughts were still turbulent, and it showed in my writing:
How do you try to build a world capable of re-distributing power more effectively (knowledge, capital, resources), without breaking down existing power structures? We can’t break down existing power structures by not recognizing our own power to do so. — The story we tell ourselves, Medium
3 Mar I didn’t know it at this point, but reading Carl Jung later on was an affirmation of my intuition that I had to accept my shadow instead of running from it.
- The way to cope with my darkness is to keep on shining light on it. — twitter #self: 3
6–8 Mar I spent a couple days at Bonny Doon. There I had enough space to think. It was the beginning of my journey to acknowledge myself, and
my unwillingness to fit-in henceforth:
- I’m also making less effort to shield my words. — twitter, 7 Mar #work: 2
But we are continually building a world that other people live in, that means at every step of the road, we need to continually ask ourselves, what kind of world do we want our kids to live in? Do we want a world where they have to disown their beautiful personalities just to fit in our idea of what it takes to succeed? — The courage to be ourselves, Medium, 8 Mar
“You don’t have to be accountable to anybody but yourself.” — DayOne (I know, sometimes I address myself in the third person)
14 Mar On Ender’s Game
“surprised by the velocity of my tears and the depth of my grief” — DayOne
- okay just finished Ender’s Game. I’m kinda traumatized and heartbroken, but strangely comforted and hopeful at the same time. — twitter #stories
20 Mar I would be thinking about linearity vs non-linearity for a long time:
- Sometimes I find the linearity of words on a page insufficient to express the chaos of the multiple streams of thoughts I have in my head. — twitter #work: 3
The same questions, over and over again:
- when do we actually start living? — twitter #self: 4
21 Mar I half-answered the question by booking a flight. I had been wanting to visit Europe for the first time ever, but I kept delaying it due to “practical” reasons: money and time. I couldn’t justify a trip to Europe without feeling like I had to visit family first, so I decided to head back to Singapore instead. This was the first time since moving I wanted to be back in Singapore in less than six months.
I got tired of planning my life according to work deadlines and visa timelines:
- I made a pact with myself to not have anymore deferred life plans. Gonna be tricky, but we’ll see how it goes. — twitter #self: 5
I tried to explain the conflicts between my priorities using games as a metaphor:
My life right now is like trying to serve one table really well and being in denial that the dishes accumulating at other tables do not exist. — My life explained, Medium
22–23 Mar Here I started writing about pain and my emotional intensity:
- sometimes we just need to let the pain rise up to the surface. — twitter, 22 Mar #pain:1
- emotional honesty is so freeing and tiring at the same time. — twitter, 23 Mar #pain:2
25 Mar The realization that I have to start picking my battles or I’ll always be overwhelmed:
- I think the secret to life is to be very picky about what we care about and ignore everything else. — twitter, 25 Mar #self: 6
26–28 Mar I started reading Invisibles and related a lot. I was tired of the expectation that we all have to seek visibility:
- Not everybody wants to be recognized. Some of us just wants to be left alone to do our work. — twitter, 26 Mar #work: 4
My thoughts and feelings cumulated into this post:
I do not want to advocate for a world where people have to grab any attention they can or chase popularity just to prove the merit of their work, or the value of their existence. — On visibility, Medium, 28 Mar
29 Mar This was something I had been struggling with as I sought to gain ownership over myself:
- Don’t let people guilt-trip you into doing things that are not part of who you are. They are not the ones bearing the weight of your soul. — twitter #self: 7
30 Mar Again, feeling sadness about my emotional sensitivity:
- I’m so sensitive, sometimes I think I should lock myself in a room and not expose myself to the world. For both the world’s and my own sake. — twitter #pain:3
Check-ins: 70• Instagram: 18• DayOne: 6 • 750words:2 • Photos 46• Walked: 131km
April has always been a special month for me because it is my birthday month, I don’t actually care about birthdays per se, but I take it as a time for self-reflection. I was still trying to reconcile my sense of responsibility towards my work and team, with my growing sense of disconnect towards myself. True to the promise to myself of not deferring anymore life plans, I booked my flight to Paris as a birthday gift to myself.
1 Apr I often retweet tweets that reflect my sentiment at that time:
- “I didn’t want to be recognized because of where I worked; I wanted my work to speak for me.” — @maxvoltar https://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/tim-van-damme … — twitter #work: 5
3 Apr And here I am starting to confront my existentialist tendencies again:
- I mostly think it is a gift, it drives me to ask questions and I can’t choose to exist out of a survival instinct because I have none. — twitter #pain:4
4 Apr I finally booked my flight to Paris.
5 Apr Yes, I make weird observations like this one:
- Sometimes it gets really weird trying to observe myself. — twitter
6 Apr I spent my birthday in the woods near Santa Cruz, trying to find some space to just breathe and reflect. As part of a yearly ritual, I wrote my birthday post. It seems uncanny how I am predicting my own future:
I no longer have any long-term dreams or ambitions out of the awareness that I don’t even know who I’ll become tomorrow, much less the next decade. The only ask I have for myself is to live brilliantly through as many diverse experiences as I can possibly accumulate in this lifetime, on my own terms. — To more of breaking apart, Medium
And of course I had to spend my birthday reading about David Foster Wallace. I find it tremendously sad and yet uplifting how much I can relate to him:
Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace“We kept telling him we were so glad he was alive,” his mother said. “But my feeling is that, even then, he was leaving the planet. He just couldn’t take it.”John Updike — once wrote that temporariness, the nature of things being provisional, shouldn’t disqualify them.That I just — and that pain, that pain, I fear that pain more than I want the money.The more exposure I as a person get, the more it hurts me as a writer.That kind of — there’s good self-consciousness. And then there’s this toxic, paralyzing, raped-by-psychic-Bedouins self-consciousness.I don’t mind appearing in Rolling Stone, but I don’t want to appear in Rolling Stone as somebody who wants to be in Rolling Stone.The way to finish the book is to turn down the volume on the stuff that’s all about how other people react. You know?Does your life approach anything like a linear narrative? My life and my self doesn’t feel like anything like a unified developed character in a linear narrative to me.If your life makes linear sense to you, then you’re either very strange, or you might be just a neurologically healthy person — who’s automatically able to decoct, organize, do triage on the amount of stuff that’s coming at you all the time.[on depression] It’s like worse than anything — I don’t know if you’ve had any experience with this. It’s worse than any kind of physical injury, or any kind of — if I depend on this, then I’m gonna be miserable except for once every five years? You know what I mean?Roth writes for two years, but mostly to get voice. Throws away all for eighteen months, writes book in last six.I always fear that when I really impose my will on something, the universe is gonna punish me.No one can look after me long term — I’ve learned — except me. I’ve learned no one can look after me long term better than I can. The only way we really learn things is the hard way.I mean I was really just scared of people in college.I’m talking about the number of privileged, highly intelligent, motivated career-track people that I know, from my high school or college, who are, if you look into their eyes, empty and miserable.That our survival depends on an ability to look past ourselves and our own self-interest.if you as a writer think that your job is to get as many people to like your stuff and think well of you as possible … And I could, we could both, name writers that it’s pretty obvious that’s their motivation? It kills the work. Each time. That that’s maybe 50 percent of it, but it misses all the magic. And it misses, it doesn’t let you be afraid. Or it doesn’t, like, let you like make yourself be, be vulnerable.I’m thirty-four. And I’ve finally discovered I really love to write this stuff. I really love to work hard. And I’m so terrified that this — that this is going to somehow twist me. Or turn me into somebody whose hunger for approval keeps it from being fun, you know?I really need to find a few things that I believe in, in order to stay alive. And one of them is that this is — that I’m extraordinarily lucky to be able to do this kind of work. And that along with that luck comes a tremendous obligation to do the best, to do the very best I can.it doesn’t make me a great person. It just makes me a person that’s really exhausted a couple other ways to live, you know?
7 Apr The time in the woods restored my sense of vitality, if only for a little while:
“I need to find what centers and grounds me: trees, ocean, connections, books, writing” — DayOne
8 Apr Upon getting back to San Francisco, we launched something at work, complete with a graphic novel explaining distributed consensus, which captured the hearts of many. It was such an intense, satisfying experience with the entire collaboration:
- We had to work so hard to make something so complex, accessible: https://www.stellar.org/galaxy/ Proud to work with @verbagetruck & @rominadesigner! — twitter
9- 12 Apr But soon I was back to my existential crisis:
I feel incredibly fragile and unable to withstand shocks, I feel like the world is too harsh for people like me (don’t even want to start on how unjust it is for a whole lot of people) and it makes me not want to be here. — in times of darkness, journal, 9 Apr
and yet I wanted very much to keep what was slowly killing me:
- I like having a thin skin, I love feeling everything deeply, I want to feel brilliantly alive, even at the cost of terrible pain. — twitter, 11 Apr #pain:5
Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster WallaceYou know, it may be that those ambitions are what get you to do the work, to get the exposure, to realize that the original ambitions were misguided.if you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself.
I would not be able to do the work I do, write the way I write, love the world so profoundly — which still trips me up, why do I love so much of what tries to kill me — without that pain and the precise sensitivity to it. — on existential pain, journal, 12 Apr
13 Apr I was finding it a challenge to find a consistent source of intellectual fuel in my conversations:
- sometimes all I want is to be exhausted by an exquisite conversation. — twitter
Again, the journal theme had popped up, with a awareness that it is not just a habit to me, but a serious study into myself:
- all my journaling + public content + photos + self-quantifying is like a longitudinal study on myself. — twitter #journal: 3
Something happened here, which I honestly don’t remember, but it will be another consistent theme throughout my year:
- love, and the lack of, changes people profoundly. and I don’t mean love in the romantic context. — twitter #love: 1
This is something I think a lot about:
- I hope that one day it’ll be part of the public education system that kids will be taught to manage their neurological health. — twitter #mental: 1
19 Apr Continuing the theme on my emotional sensitivity and existential pain, yet again I wouldn’t trade it for anything else:
Strength to me is not cultivating a personality that feels less pain, but it is one who is willing to feel more pain. — why I still write when I do not feel like writing, journal
20 Apr Watched the Imitation Game, and I realized once something is set in motion, there will be a constant stream of reminders for me, it is like a weird source of strength infused from the Universe:
“Sometimes we can’t do what feels good. We have to do what is logical…Sometimes it’s the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” — The Imitation Game, posted on Facebook, 20 Apr
21 Apr By now it becomes obvious that my mind very much wanders around a few macro areas:
- The more I learn about neuroscience and poverty economics separately, the more I’m skeptical about the concept of free will. — twitter, 21 Apr #mental: 2
22 Apr Continuing the theme of having the courage to be myself:
- “The bravest people are the ones who don’t mind looking like cowards.” — T.H. White — twitter #self: 8
24 Apr Here it is again, the necessity to understand the distance and proximity of the past to the present:
- sometimes I look at @timehop and I get very amused how little my past self knew who I was going to be. — twitter, 24 Apr #journal: 4
27 Apr I attended the wedding of my two dearest friends in Berkeley, and I cried while they took their vows:
They possess an innate understanding that their being together is not only for themselves, but for their shared purpose towards humanity. It is one thing to listen to them talk about it, and a whole other level to hear them etch that into a sacred formalization through their marriage vows. — a love that inspires, journal
29 Apr And I’m back to my existentialism:
- It is often through the depths of my own darkness that I rediscover an unbreakable love for the world. — twitter #pain:6
I have been thinking about art and how it relates to my thought processes. It would change the way I think about my work, that I wanted to be less of a designer and more of an artist:
- “Great art can communicate before it is understood.” — T. S. Eliot, twitter #work: 6
Leonardo’s BrainIt is better to die than to lose one’s freedom.
Check-ins: 78• Instagram:15 • DayOne: 17 • 750words:1.5 • Photos: 70 • Walked: 125.5km
I spent most of May traveling, and it was significant that being back in Singapore didn’t trigger the same feelings I used to have. This time it became hard for me to feel like I am leaving my family behind.
2–3 May Two of my dearest friends from Singapore co-incidentally popped into San Francisco together, and I wrote about it. I didn’t know it back then, but somehow that time spent with them stuck into my consciousness — that I missed being with people who could understand me fundamentally, because we grew up with a shared history:
Somewhere out there, tears are flowing for the same reasons, footsteps are taken towards a common destination, dreams are weaved together for a shared vision. — the story that binds us, 3 May
4 May I still do this even till today:
- I sort of feel bad for my friends because I keep telling them I make my decisions as though I’m not going to live to see tomorrow. — twitter, 4 May
5 May I am actually surprised how much I am thinking about this at this point:
- people don’t understand my obsession with accumulating personal data but life before the cloud seemed to disappear into a blackhole for me — twitter #journal:5
May 8–11: Back to Singapore
9 May I tweeted this after an amazing conversation with a taxi driver, and it is still one of the main driving forces within me today:
- It is one of humanity’s greatest privileges to listen to somebody tell their stories. — twitter, 9 May #stories
11 May By now, after all that reflection, I am starting to realize I have no idea who I am:
At age 34, I am beginning to realize how much I still do not understand myself or my psyche, how many assumptions I had about myself are turning out to be wrong. — what it means to be present, journal, 11 May
May 11-18: Bali
Read: Leonardo’s Brain
Once in a while I angry tweet about the world, because I cannot help it:
- Each time I’m on a flight I’m like omg we are intelligent enough to make these flying machines, why are we still fighting wars? — twitter
Here I am trying to reconcile my deep sense of fatigue and the work I wish to do:
Perhaps the only way to make that weight more bearable, is to try to maximize that privilege I have, in exchange for the hope that one day the freedom to choose, will be more accessible to the rest of humanity. — The privilege & weight of choice, Medium
Leonardo's Brain Leonardo, like Cézanne, Picasso, and Braque, felt constrained by the monocular view demanded by perspective. He sought a way to show multiple points of view of the same object, simultaneously. He needed a better way to envision the relationships of parts to the whole, and to each other.When the two sides of the brain are truly integrated, Janusian thinking occurs. It is of a kind whereby a person will examine two opposing viewpoints or observe something from two entirely different directions. F. Scott Fitzgerald encapsulated Janusian thinking when he opined, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
13 May I started an on-going text conversation that lasted for months with a really old, good friend, and it would be my source of strength till I was capable of being on my feet again.
I keep trying to disown my gifts — text
For the longest time I refrained from being critical of the design industry, but with a growing sense of who I am, how I felt and what I thought, coupled with a sense of responsibility and mortality:
- do you want to look back at your career and be proud of all those amazing animations or help people solve their real-world problems? — twitter #design
Leonardo’s BrainThere is a common saying in science that the bed, the bath, and the bus are the three most inspirational locations to have major insights. Ideas emerge into consciousness as if from out of nowhere. Illumination occurs in the most mundane places, and when we are going about the most ordinary tasks.For creativity to manifest itself, the right brain must free itself from the deadening hand of the inhibitory left brain and do its work, unimpeded and in private Like radicals plotting a revolution, they must work in secret out of the range of the left hemisphere’s conservatives.When art metaphorically “bears” us “across and above,” there are no transitions. It is an all-at-once quantum jump. When this happens, we somehow know we are in the presence of great art.Abstract thinking is the ability to process information without resorting to images; it is the opposite of metaphorical thinking.It takes sixty years of incredible suffering and effort to make a unique self-conscious individual, and then he is good only for dying. — André MalrauxReading how contemporary writers assessed the future, one thing becomes clear: Not a single chronicler, historian, courtier, nobleman, philosopher, or artist understood that the Renaissance was just beginning to blossom. Or that it would transform society.The misconception which has haunted philosophic literature throughout centuries is the notion of independent existence. There is no such mode of existence. Every entity is only to be understood in terms of the way in which it is interwoven with the rest of the universe.God begins by chiding Abraham, “If it wasn’t for Me, you wouldn’t exist.” After a moment of reflection, Abraham respectfully replies, “Yes, Lord, and for that I am very appreciative and grateful. However, if it wasn’t for me, You wouldn’t be known.”When we get down to the atomic level, the objective world in space and time no longer exists.an elementary school program narrowly restricted to reading, writing, and arithmetic will educate mainly one hemisphere, leaving half of an individual’s high-level potential unschooled.
The questioning of how I want to live continues with the sense of space I felt in Bali:
What does life mean when we can’t see the intricate magic that allows us to not only breathe, but also facilitate our capacity to create breathtaking forms of expression? — the space to be, journal
17 May I started to experience a calmness within me, and suddenly I had this awareness of the anxiety I have been feeling for the longest time:
- when you’ve not felt peace or calm before, you may not even be aware that constant anxiety has been accepted as your norm. — twitter
18 May This did eventually become inevitable. Sometimes hindsight is scary:
The right choice is the one that becomes inevitable. — DayOne
May 18–22: Back to Singapore
20 May I continue angry-tweeting about the world:
- Sometimes I think power is a poor substitute for the desire to feel connected. — twitter, 20 May
I didn’t realize how many times I was asking this question:
- do you stop to ask yourself, what do you actually live for? — twitter #self: 9
Trying to make myself believe this:
May 22–24: Hong Kong
Having had time in Bali to reflect, it made me determined to make a persistent change, instead of repeating unconscious patterns:
- Writing an evolving document that will serve as my life’s playbook. I tend to forget who I am sometimes. Society’s pressure is immense. — twitter #self: 11
It feels like at this point I am starting to seek a sense of freedom:
My fear of losing my independence causes me to be dependent, ironically. It is always a constant battle between wanting security and wanting to be free. I don’t think it is possible to have both. One may come as an effect of the other, but they cannot co-exist as a pursuit. — preserving fragments, journal
May 24 — June 20: San Francisco
31 May I finally understood why I kept burning out:
I made these poor decisions, because I wanted to be equal to the privilege and love I was given. Yet I failed to realize that there is no doing, no work, no love, no presence for people I care about, no future — nothing but a void if I didn’t learn to preserve, pace, sustain and love myself. — Piecing myself together after burnout, Medium
Check-ins: 78• Instagram: 18 • DayOne: 9• 750words: 3 • Photos 78• Walked: 162.38km
A personal event happened, and it brought out an anger I had not felt for a long time. I typically feel sadness, not anger. I was mostly angry with myself for essentially allowing myself to be a lifelong doormat. I kept ceding my own power. On hindsight, I am grateful for that anger, because it made me decide that it was time to contemplate what it really means to live . With that, I went to Europe for the first time.
Ursula K. Le Guin, Lao Tzu: Tao Te ChingTo bear and not to own; to act and not lay claim; to do the work and let it go: for just letting it go is what makes it stay.To give birth, to nourish, to bear and not to own, to act and not lay claim, to lead and not to rule: this is mysterious power.True leaders are hardly known to their followers.This invisible leader, who gets things done in such a way that people think they did it all themselves, isn’t one who manipulates others from behind the scenes; just the opposite.Be broken to be whole. Twist to be straight. Be empty to be full. Wear out to be renewed. Have little and gain much. Have much and get confused.Heavy is the root of light. Still is the master of moving.Those who think to win the world by doing something to it, I see them come to grief. For the world is a sacred object. Nothing is to be done to it. To do anything to it is to damage it. To seize it is to lose it.Knowing other people is intelligence, knowing yourself is wisdom. Overcoming others takes strength, overcoming yourself takes greatness.What seeks to shrink must first have grown; what seeks weakness surely was strong. What seeks its ruin must first have risen; what seeks to take has surely given. This is called the small dark light: the soft, the weak prevail over the hard, the strong.What’s softest in the world rushes and runs over what’s hardest in the world.
6 Jun Here is my first mention of conflict:
- I am really, really adverse to conflict. I think it literally makes me sick. — twitter
7 Jun After months of self-reflection, I made the intellectual realization what I needed to do with my life. And it was a premonition of what was to come:
Overall, it has become increasingly clear to me that the way forward is to take responsibility over how I truly want to architect my life. If that means I have to give up everything I have now, I will. — building a core, journal
Launched something at work again, and even though I was burnt out and depressed, I still loved what we were trying to do:
- I’m really proud of this effort. I think it is the first tiny step in trying to forward the convo on what it means to design for inclusion. — twitter
Found a moment to take care of myself, I find it surreal now, but back then it was rare:
- pretty nice not to crawl up in chronic pain and anxiety for once or numb myself with unhealthy food and TV. — twitter
10–12 Jun Something happened here which broke me into a thousand pieces. I coped with it by feeling terrible about myself, but gradually,
I started to experience an anger that I had never felt before:
Life is too short for enduring other people’s bullshit. — becoming myself, journal, 11 Jun
I don’t have to put up with anybody’s bullshit, including my own. — 750words
An awareness of magnitude for the world’s accumulative history and wisdom, and a sadness that we seem to have lost our way:
- Sometimes I think life’s entire wisdom has already been recorded in books throughout history, we just don’t know which or have time to read. — twitter, 14 Jun
Feeling a deep sense of breakage, I started reading:
Thomas Moore, Care for the SoulBut in care of the soul there is trust that nature heals, that much can be accomplished by not-doing.This is the great mystery of the soul: whenever something is being accomplished, it is also in some way being undone.It is in the nature of things to be drawn to the very experiences that will spoil our innocence, transform our lives, and give us necessary complexity and depth.Putting oneself down is narcissism in reverse.
15 Jun At this point I started getting anxiety attacks for the first time in my life and felt like crap, but this time around I allowed someone to take care of me:
- So @rebeccagoldman surrounded me with pillows & put a hot water bottle on me today because I was feeling unwell. Grateful for such a friend. — twitter, 15 Jun
16 Jun Again for the first time ever, I gave myself permission to just be a mess. I was in pain not only because of the recent events, but because of
all the hurt I have been doing to myself, my entire life:
I have found the past few days to be profoundly painful and yet empowering. I realized that I have grown strong enough to allow myself to truly bear this pain in its full spectrum without apologies, guilt, or haste. I gave myself permission to just be in whatever state I needed to be. — giving myself permission to heal, journal, 16 Jun
17 Jun Thomas Moore’s consistent reference to Jung would lead me to reading Jung later. Meanwhile I derive more solace from the book:
Thomas Moore, Care for the SoulJung’s constant attempt in both his theory and in his own life to discover the “transcendent function,” as he called it, a point of view that embraces the mysterious depths of the soul as well as conscious understanding and intention.It comes first of all from living close to the heart, and not at odds with it. Therefore, paradoxically, soul power may emerge from failure, depression, and loss. The general rule is that soul appears in the gaps and holes of experience. It is usually tempting to find some subtle way of denying these holes or distancing ourselves from them.Many of us spend time and energy trying to be something that we are not. But this is a move against soul, because individuality rises out of the soul as water rises out of the depths of the earth.tolerance of weakness, you might say, is a prerequisite for the discovery of power, for any exercise of strength motivated by an avoidance of weakness is not genuine power.In general, we keep our power when we protect the power of others.
18 Jun I now realized I was officially lost and I needed to find myself somewhere:
Some time ago — which probably coincided with my entries here getting darker — I realized I was losing myself. In favor of “professional growth”, I have lost sight of who I am. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. — reconstructing myself, 18 Jun
19 Jun Another premonition of what is to come. Even though now it seems obvious, at this point I still didn’t think I would make any drastic decisions. I loved my life in San Francisco, and the work I was doing, the people:
I need to do what is right for myself, even if it means breaking people’s hearts, including my own. — DayOne
20 Jun Again, that sense of mortality being a huge motivator:
Assuming I am relatively able till I am 70 (very conservative estimate — I don’t actually want to live till that long), I have approximately 13,000 days left. That doesn’t feel very long. It is not dying I am concerned about, but how many opportunities I have left to create all the things I want to create, and how much longer can I be in awe of the world’s blinding myriad of interconnecting stories. — the beginning of an adventure, journal, 20 Jun
June 20— July 5: Paris
I visited Europe for the first time, with my entry point being Paris. I was trying to balance remote working, exploring Paris and also having recurring migraines and anxiety attacks. Europe was my way of satisfying some deep need to wander and yet not give up my existing life. However, there would be two major turning points.
Thomas Moore, Care for the SoulTo care for the soul, we must observe the full range of all its colorings, and resist the temptation to approve only of white, red, and orange — the brilliant colors.Melancholy gives the soul an opportunity to express a side of its nature that is as valid as any other, but is hidden out of our distaste for its darkness and bitterness.What if “depression” were simply a state of being, neither good nor bad, something the soul does in its own good time and for its own good reasons?In our melancholy, inner construction may be taking place, clearing out the old and putting up the new.
“I think I am done romancing the US” — text
- I lost my rose-tinted lenses some time along the way last year.– twitter, 26 Jun
27 Jun I was just blind to who I was, and that was a major handicap:
But my point of view has shifted — I am doubtful people can be capable of reaching the their greatest potential and maximizing their impact if they are not capable of love — for themselves and for the world. — blind to the mirror, journal
28 Jun The sense that there’s only so much control I have with my trajectory, and yet wanting to bet on it with the best intentions:
I cannot see the significance of the present moment, but the present would not have occurred without the seemingly innocuous or disastrous decisions I have made along the way. All I can do is to do my best, accept that I will make mistakes along the way, and yet hold the faith that if I truly believe I will be better, the sum of my entire life will still be a net positive to myself and on the world — on being part of a long-running story, journal
30 Jun I woke up with a lot of tension and anxiety, and I texted:
nothing should make me feel like this…my nervous system is basically broken so everything is flight or fright response for me. — text
This tweet was significant because it started to grow the seed I had in my head. People don’t realize how much impact they have on others with their actions or courage:
- “I’m going to sit at this desk and I’m going to work on whatever the hell I feel like working on.” http://eev.ee/blog/2015/06/09/i-quit-the-tech-industry/ … — twitter #work: 7
Check-ins: 155• Instagram: 48• DayOne: 11 • 750words: 0.5• Photos 176• Walked: 235km
Thomas Moore, Care for the Soul:Imagine a trust in yourself, or another person, or in life itself, that doesn’t need to be proved and demonstrated, that is able to contain uncertainty.[This was basically how I felt]She was then led deep inside herself, to the very edge of the person she knew herself to be, emptied of all spiritual ambition and all satisfaction in what she had accomplished. She had no guides, no hints at where to go next. She had no life in front of her and no one to talk to. She had read about the Eastern concept of emptiness, but she didn’t know it could feel so barren. But, she told me, eventually she discovered a new kind of faith that rose directly out of her depressive thoughts and emotions. She was shocked to feel it stir in that deep, empty pit.
Thomas Moore, Care for the Soul:But if you can tolerate the full weight of human possibility as the raw material for an alchemical, soulful life, then at the end of the path you may have a vision within yourself of the lapis and sense the stone idols of Easter Island standing nobly in your soul and the dolmen of Stone-henge marking eons of time in your own lifespan.Living artfully, therefore, might require something as simple as pausing. Some people are incapable of being arrested by things because they are always on the move.Go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows.
I think this is the first time I am seriously contemplating this, because the thought was just too scary, but I was slowly dying inside:
- What if I simply leave my existing life behind like right now? — twitter #self: 12
I don't think my nervous system is worth risking...even for the right to stay in the US — text
The d’Orsay was a turning point.
I had the opportunity to reflect on Van Gogh’s life in relation to mine, and it made me really afraid of losing my capacity to create:
I wonder of all the things I was able to survive from, if I could survive my own inability to have prolonged periods of thought and creation. — van Gogh, anxiety, and me, journal
3 Jul I met a person whom I’ll call an industry elder, and after a very intriguing conversation with him about media and publishing, I showed him some of the experimental prototypes I had on my phone. He told me there was a light in my eyes when I talked about them, and
I started to think seriously about furthering those ideas.
unfinished thought: perhaps a person without dreams or hope is the most free, for there’s nothing that can be held hostage. to be present in a state of curiosity, gratitude and wonderment, without any attachment to an outcome. — Facebook
July 5-12: Memories, dreams & reflections in Barcelona
2–6 Jul Reading Memories, Dreams, Reflections had a huge impact on me. I started to wonder if all my chronic symptoms were a result of
not allowing the fullest expression of myself:
C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.Myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science. Science works with concepts of averages which are far too general to do justice to the subjective variety of an individual life.I hated all competition, and if someone played a game too competitively I turned my back on the game.(Carl Jung talking about his two distinct personalities) No. 1 wanted to free himself from the pressure or melancholy of No. 2. It was not No. 2 who was depressed, but No. 1 when he remembered No. 2.Now I knew that No. 1 was the bearer of the light, and that No. 2 followed him like a shadow.My old wound, the feeling of being an outsider and of alienating others, began to ache again.[This was a key realization for me, that metaphorically, San Francisco was like a mother to me] Separated from his mother, his own personality was able to unfold.I realized that his normality was a compensation.If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears. For that reason the idea of development was always of the highest importance to me.We refuse to recognize that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is canceled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us. The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity.This was just as it should be, for I had accustomed myself to living always on two planes simultaneously, one conscious, which attempted to understand and could not, and one unconscious, which wanted to express something and could not formulate it any better than by a dream.There the cosmic meaning of consciousness became overwhelmingly clear to me. “What nature leaves imperfect, the art perfects,” say the alchemists. Man, I, in an invisible act of creation put the stamp of perfection on the world by giving it objective existence.In reality, a good three weeks were still to pass before I could truly make up my mind to live again.It was only after the illness that I understood how important it is to affirm one’s own destiny. In this way we forge an ego that does not break down when incomprehensible things happen; an ego that endures, that endures the truth, and that is capable of coping with the world and with fate. Then, to experience defeat is also to experience victory. Nothing is disturbed — neither inwardly nor outwardly, for one’s own continuity has withstood the current of life and of time.nowadays most people identify themselves almost exclusively with their consciousness, and imagine that they are only what they know about themselves. Yet anyone with even a smattering of psychology can see how limited this knowledge is.[this tripped me out completely] Still half in the dream, the thought passed through my head: “We always think that the UFOs are projections of ours. Now it turns out that we are their projections. I am projected by the magic lantern as C. G. Jung. But who manipulates the apparatus?”the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious.the individual is so unconscious that he altogether fails to see his own potentialities for decision. Instead he is constantly and anxiously looking around for external rules and regulations which can guide him in his perplexity. Aside from general human inadequacy, a good deal of the blame for this rests with education, which promulgates the old generalizations and says nothing about the secrets of private experience.The individual is still relying on a collective organization to effect his differentiation for him; that is, he has not yet recognized that it is really the individual’s task to differentiate himself from all the others and stand on his own feet.Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon. This lack of freedom has been a great sorrow to me.I need people to a higher degree than others, and at the same time much less.The older I have become, the less I have understood or had insight into or known about myself.[synchronicity appearing here, having read the Tao Te Ching prior] Lao-tzu is the example of a man with superior insight who has seen and experienced worth and worthlessness, and who at the end of his life desires to return into his own being, into the eternal unknowable meaning.The more uncertain I have felt about myself, the more there has grown up in me a feeling of kinship with all things.
Again, trying to seek courage in wanting to be who I really am:
- how much courage do we need to be ourselves? — twitter #self: 13
I am not sure who I am now or who will I become, except that I am tired of adhering to society’s conventions or popular opinion. — existential thoughts while traveling, journal
I met up with Mark Hendrickson who’s based in Barcelona, and he said something to me that would stick in my mind for a long time, “To change the world, know the world.” He also convinced me that the Sagrada Família was a must-do, and he was right.
Yes, perhaps there will be some regret but maybe the way to think is not to think of having no regrets, but less regrets. I don’t think it is possible to ever make a big decision cleanly — DayOne
9 Jul I am also confronted by the paradox of my love and resentment of life, something that will pop up again later:
- some days I’m like: omg I’m alive, what new experiences will I have today? other days I’m like: tell me why do I have to live again? — twitter #pain:7
10 Jul I visited the Sagrada Família and I was blown away by the dedication to the vision, and the time it took to be realized. It isn’t just about building something, but building something with such an audacious, groundbreaking design, and dedicating an entire life to that level of craft. I mean it will take a century to complete, and think of our haste in everything we do now? It really provoked the way I think about one’s life’s work. Being there was like having my soul lighted up. Isn’t it amazing to create a space (or anything) that will alter the psyches of your fellow human beings?
11 Jul They say the universe conspires to help you , and at this point I keep saying examples of people taking time off to do they want to do:
- Fascinated with @sindresorhus’s radical transparency and way of life: https://github.com/sindresorhus/ama/issues/89 … — twitter #work:8
12 Jul Being in Europe for a bit has given me the space to experience the value of slowing down:
Maybe it is time to stop seeing life or myself as a series of problems to solve, but to develop the capacity to let it unfold on its own, with conscious, mindful participation. Speed gives the illusion of progress, without considerations for sustainability or macro-implications. — traveling and living consciously, journal
The desire to stop seeing everything as problems would appear later in a seemingly unconnected DayOne entry. It fascinates me how thoughts pop in and out without the conscious realization that they are repeating themselves.
July 12-19: Emptiness in Amsterdam
14 Jul Still angry-tweeting about the world:
- we’re still embroiled in petty power struggles over a planet that may not sustain us in a few decades. Short-sightedness. — twitter,
At this point I have finally acknowledged I was effectively trying to run away from myself in the past couple of years, if not longer:
- “It isn’t a bad idea to pause occasionally for an inward look.By midlife most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.”-John Gardner — twitter #self: 14
I don’t actually remember what prompted this:
Thankfully I have people who remind me every now and then that my existence means something to them. — Facebook
I visited the Anne Frank House, and I was haunted by this quote. It is sobering to think that some people never had the chance to explore their possibilities, whereas I could, yet I was still so trapped in fear:
“all her would haves are all our possibilities” — Emma Thompson, DayOne
I was feeling really empty and drained:
- there’s nothing to give if we’re empty inside us. — twitter, 16 Jul #self: 15
An epiphany I had, while trying to reconcile all I’ve accomplished and not:
- as I get older I realize it’s not the peaks and valleys that matter but what lies and happens in between. — twitter #self: 16
This is how I emotionally blackmail myself:
how can I tell people to have courage to be themselves when I don’t have the courage to be myself? — DayOne
Texting a friend about my anxiety attacks:
you know that feeling when you are scared then your heart lurches…I’ve been having that on and off before I sleep and now in the day also…for no apparent reason — text
I see, I feel, I express. Over and over again. I spot stories everywhere, in unexpected corners and folds. I am constantly on the edge, a very uncomfortable edge, but I cannot help looking over at it. Should I leap? The question hovers. — Storytelling in Motion, Medium
Pushed by the desire to be more of myself, for the first time ever, I published two Medium posts in a day, and this piece was just a representation of all that I was feeling, including the form I chose:
Why do we ask of people to be the same
when we are makers of our own narrative
there cannot be a carbon copy
because each of us are a million stories
– the different edges of a puzzle piece, Medium
July 19-24: Breaking up with myself in Berlin
I had the joy of reuniting with Jessica and seeing Berlin with her. On the other extreme end, I went through several soul-searching, heart-breaking moments, resulting in the decision to start breaking up with myself, to throw away everything I had in order to start rebuilding.
- Why do people forget time is priceless? — twitter, 23 Jul #life
I decided I had enough of myself:
all the validation and achievements I can possibly have will not buy me my youth, more time with the people I’ve lost and loved, and more tellingly, the love and respect I want to have for myself.
And nothing can earn self-respect like simply having the courage to lead the life I want. — Facebook, 24 Jul
July 25 — August 8: Reaffirmation in Ljubljana & Rovinj
We met up with our team mate Romina in Ljubljana, and this period I continued to gather momentum towards breaking up with my existence. It was an extremely trying time for me, as I had to sort out the relationships and logistics, and to let down people I deeply care about (being with two teammates I dearly loved didn’t make it easier), now that I have made my decision. I had felt like I didn’t have a choice, because I was drowning.
It amused and comforted me to see this from Timehop:
- Four years later, still apt: “no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself” — Nietzsche, twitter #self: 17
I started questioning my entire existence, wondering why I had wanted what I wanted:
Most of us are just growing, without even realizing where we’re growing towards, or why are our dreams, even came to be ours in the first place. — on questioning our dreams, journal
I had to reaffirm to myself, and to the people whom I cared about, why I had to make this difficult decision:
- Life is always about choosing what to tradeoff, even if it means trading off what we love. — twitter #life
Check-ins: 93• Instagram: 23• DayOne: 33• 750words: 0.5• Photos 69• Walked: 156km
I had finally found some space to grieve for my grandmother. It was a major contributing factor to my decision, because
I was unwilling to lose someone this way again, to have to bear the pain of being absent:
When our loved ones pass, it is not just about grieving over the absence, it is about grieving over the love we could have given. Over the time and presence we should have cherished. I grieve over the self that wasn’t able to actualize in time. The self that could have been more present. — Ah Ma, Medium
Again, reminding myself:
I don’t want to live an existence driven by fear, I want to live an existence driven by love and possibilities. — DayOne
This is the sixth time I have mentioned a desire for something which would allow me to discover patterns of my life:
- I want a piece of journal software that allows us to identify patterns and link them together in some manner. — twitter #journal: 6
I decided to publicly write for the first time that I had suffered a relapse of my depression, something that was difficult for me to admit, because I had thought it was gone. This would be the first in many Facebook statuses I would post in great length, as I found solace in my closer network of people during this difficult time:
The past few months have been difficult for me as I’ve had a relapse of the depression that has plagued me my entire life, with an additional dose of anxiety. I was still relatively functional, but lost the capacity to see light, feel love and notice colors. As an added bonus, my body reacts as though I’m in danger all the time. I can’t even sleep without waking up in fright. The brain marvels me…– Facebook
There was a particular night I was feeling so lost, so pained
by what I was doing to people I had to disappoint, I called a friend very dear to me. This was the first time I called someone to seek comfort, and the resulting conversation gave me so much strength, because I made the decision to reach out, and there was someone there to catch me:
- magic exists based on the premise that it should not and cannot exist. — twitter #love: 2
August 8-13: Finding grace in Venice & Florence
Read: The Power of Myth
8 Aug: My co-workers left me to resume the tail-end of my Europe journey, and it was time to face my darkest shadows and my deepest wounds:
I will attempt to return to the sources of my breakage, and find healing from within. I want to choose love, and by loving what had hurt me, I let go of the power they had over me. — returning, journal
This is key:
until I lay the foundations to myself, I will always find myself reacting to the world, not living with it. — DayOne
I knew that reading The Power of Myth was instrumental for me, but I forgotten how, until I started excavating the highlights. This is such a good book:
Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth:Joseph Campbell affirmed life as adventure. “To hell with it,” he said, after his university adviser tried to hold him to a narrow academic curriculum. He gave up on the pursuit of a doctorate and went instead into the woods to read. He continued all his life to read books about the world: anthropology, biology, philosophy, art, history, religion.What’s the meaning of a flea? It’s just there. That’s it. And your own meaning is that you’re there. We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it’s all about.Man should not be in the service of society, society should be in the service of man. When man is in the service of society, you have a monster state, and that’s what is threatening the world at this minute.To study Buddhism, for instance, you have to be able to handle not only all the European languages in which the discussions of the Oriental come, particularly French, German, English, and Italian, but also Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, and several other languages. Now, this is a tremendous task. Such a specialist can’t also be wondering about the difference between the Iroquois and Algonquin.We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.aren’t many visionaries and even leaders and heroes close to the edge of neuroticism?The best things can’t be told because they transcend thought.Now, God must have known very well that man was going to eat the forbidden fruit. But it was by doing that that man became the initiator of his own life. Life really began with that act of disobedience.Our thinking is largely discursive, verbal, linear. There is more reality in an image than in a word.James Joyce has a memorable line: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” And the way to awake from it is not to be afraid, and to recognize that all of this, as it is, is a manifestation of the horrendous power that is of all creation. The ends of things are always painful. But pain is part of there being a world at all.When a spider makes a beautiful web, the beauty comes out of the spider’s nature. It’s instinctive beauty. How much of the beauty of our own lives is about the beauty of being alive? How much of it is conscious and intentional? That is a big question.Yes, but what is unfortunate for us is that a lot of the people who write these stories do not have the sense of their responsibility. These stories are making and breaking lives. But the movies are made simply to make money.But our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you.Do you think it is true that he who loses his life gains his life? CAMPBELL: That is what Jesus says.Schopenhauer’s answer is that such a psychological crisis represents the breakthrough of a metaphysical realization, which is that you and that other are one, that you are two aspects of the one life, and that your apparent separateness is but an effect of the way we experience forms under the conditions of space and time. Life is pain, but compassion is what gives it the possibility of continuing.In thinking, of course, the majority is always wrong.That’s the man who never followed his bliss. You may have a success in life, but then just think of it — what kind of life was it? What good was it — you’ve never done the thing you wanted to do in all your life.You might also say that the founder of a life — your life or mine, if we live our own lives, instead of imitating everybody else’s life — comes from a quest as well.Like all heroes, the Buddha doesn’t show you the truth itself, he shows you the way to truth. CAMPBELL: But it’s got to be your way, not his.if they follow their bliss, if they take chances with their lives, if they do what they want to, the adventure is its own reward?There is an important idea in Nietzsche, of Amor fati, the “love of your fate,” which is in fact your life.It is the state you find when you are no longer driven to live by compelling desires, fears, and social commitments, when you have found your center of freedom and can act by choice out of that. Voluntary action out of this center is the action of the bodhisattvas — joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.The real artist is the one who has learned to recognize and to render what Joyce has called the “radiance” of all things, as an epiphany or showing forth of their truth.
12 Aug Life has become less binary and more about making one difficult choice over another, as I penned down my thoughts on what it means to leave something I so deeply loved, and yet have the grace to love from a distance:
For me it has never been about choosing what I love over what I don’t, but rather out of everything I love, what I can bear to give up, if I can live with that decision, and understand that sometimes loving something doesn’t mean having to be with it. Love transcends time and space.
When we are with something we love, sometimes it is so powerful that we cannot imagine separating from it, but only from a distance, can we observe it in its full magnificence. — Facebook, August 12th 2015
August 13 — September 8: Packing up my former existence in San Francisco
I spent the first few days back in San Francisco just recovering from jet lag and two months of traveling. I was afraid I’ll change my mind once I felt the familiarity of the city. After all, I have called it home. But I did not.
12 Aug I was going through a phase where I was sharing a lot of my struggles publicly, and I wanted to write why. With being broken and suicidal, coupled with the courage to give everything up,
I began to feel a sense of freedom, that I could express anything I wanted:
The cliché goes, be the change you want. This is one of the ways I am being the change I want. I am sick of a society that prides people on maintaining appearances and alienates people who are not afraid to show their flaws. — Sharing myself like an open book, Medium
16 Aug Why do I keep feeling that I’m not enough?
I’m letting go of many things I love in order to heal, because I recognize that I really do need as much time and space as possible. I am not only attempting to heal from this phase, but to address my issues at the root: why do I keep feeling that I’m not enough? Why do I give so much of myself to everyone and everything else but I am just such a miser to myself? — sort of broken
24 Aug And I am still angry-tweeting about the world:
- funny that humans are going nuts over a stock market crash of perceived value when the planet is virtually over-heating us to our deaths. — twitter
This is the second time I have tweeted how much I dislike conflict, and it some ways, this pervasive sense of dislike is a underlying subtle motivator in wanting to be solitary:
- I think my problem with my existing in this world is that I really, really, dislike conflict. — twitter
Reinforcing the gratitude I have towards San Francisco, and the acknowledgement it was time to leave the safe nest:
San Francisco gave me the space to learn how to love myself, and let myself be loved. I have been blessed with incredible friendships here, and I will truly miss them. Thank you for seeing me, for letting me be me, for making me believe I am capable of being me. Cocoons eventually are meant to be emerged from, not stubbornly held on. — Facebook
26 Aug Reading all that Carl Jung has given me an understanding how stressful it is for the psyche to be unable to express or realize itself. I started to think deeply about all the ideas I have and how not doing them is impacting me:
- You know there’s the stress of doing something and there’s also the stress of not doing something you really want to do. — twitter #work: 9
27 Aug Because I have started to give less shit about what people think about me, I tweeted a series of tweets on why designers should learn to code:
- Designers should know how to code. They don’t have to be great at it, but being good at something requires understanding of the form/medium. — twitter
28 Aug At this point I am just nudging myself along as I say those difficult goodbyes:
the packing never seems to end and I’m in perpetual about-to-move anxiety while still being horribly burnt out. I wake up everyday feeling like I can’t move, think, or be but seeing people I love in between the packing, fatigue and anxiety makes everything a lot more bearable. I wish I didn’t have to say goodbye, yet endings facilitate a certain authenticity in our short-lived moments. there’s no time to do or say bullshit, but an outright, “I love you”. — Facebook
Sandwiched between moments when I just curl up in bed and let my sadness overwhelm me:
- Sometimes, all I needed was the space to feel really, really sad. It is like wounds don’t heal until you rip off the plaster. — twitter #pain:8
I tried to put in words how I feel: the sadness of rippling apart something I so lovingly and carefully built, the desire to look for something that doesn’t exist:
It is like I have been painting all my life, and it is so comfortable, so familiar, kept me feeling so safe, rewarded me so much and yet I have this irrepressible urge to tear it into shreds and go searching for a piece of marble I have no idea where to find, much less carve it into something that resembles anything like a sculpture. — until I start breathing normally again, journal
Brene Brown, Rising Strong:There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others.We need more people who are willing to demonstrate what it looks like to risk and endure failure, disappointment, and regret — people willing to feel their own hurt instead of working it out on other people, people willing to own their stories, live their values, and keep showing up.Courage is contagious. Rising strong changes not just you, but also the people around you. To bear witness to the human potential for transformation through vulnerability, courage, and tenacity can be either a clarion call for more daring or a painful mirror for those of us stuck in the aftermath of the fall, unwilling or unable to own our stories.[another synchronicity] When I was growing up, my mom’s bookshelves were stacked high with books by Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung.Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? Choosing to write our own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.But no matter what we use, we can’t selectively numb emotions — when we numb the dark, we also numb the light.[tell me about it] Depression and anxiety are two of the body’s first reactions to stockpiles of hurt.Integration is key. Being all light is as dangerous as being all dark, simply because denial of emotion is what feeds the dark.Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs. — Joan DidionI now recognize that people learn how to treat us based on how they see us treating ourselves. If I don’t put value on my work or my time, neither will the person I am helping. Boundaries are a function of self-respect and self-love.The brokenhearted are the bravest among us — they dared to love.I had to bury my idealized version of my parents and see them instead as people with struggles and limitations, with their own difficult histories and heartbreaks.We’ll do anything to avoid the lowest of the low — self-examination.Many of us have a negative, almost stomach-clenching reaction to the word power. I think this is because we automatically conflate power and power over.Integration is the soul of rising strong. We have to be whole to be wholehearted. To embrace and love who we are, we have to reclaim and reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve orphaned over the years. We have to call back home all of those parts of ourselves that we have abandoned. Carl Jung called this individuation.Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people — including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time…brave, afraid, and very, very alive.
Check-ins: 66• Instagram: 17 • DayOne: 35• 750words: 2• Photos 49• Walked: 150km
2 Sep There was also this ongoing fatigue of feeling I have to moderate or censor myself, so it was just consoling to find that I am not alone:
- He could be my cosmic twin: “I will no longer edit my thoughts, my words, writing, photography, whatever.” http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2015/09/01/dont-be-a-slave/ … — twitter #work: 11
4 Sep Re-reading my kindle highlights again, I cannot emphasize how true this is for me:
- I think nothing has changed my life more than my love for reading. Traveling comes a close second. — twitter, 4 Sep #stories
6 Sep I sent a cathartic tinyletter to 66 people:
- done. happy reading my 2000+ words, my tinyletter subscribers. There’s no archive, which makes it special, along with the long-windedness. — twitter
7 Sep I may not go back to a typical job again:
- As an extreme introvert, synchronous communication drains me. I realized I’ll be a lot more productive working independently in solitude. — twitter #work
Some of the people I said goodbye to (there were more I didn’t have the opportunity to take pictures of, I love you all!):
Sep 8-16: Final goodbye in New York
Read: Owning Your Own Shadow
It was symbolic and poignant for me to return to New York before leaving the US. New York was the city that kickstarted this entire process of trying to find my identity. I also really wanted to say goodbye to some very important people in my life, and I knew I had to see Starry Night, because it was the painting that inspired me to start seeing art.
10 Sep It was World Suicide Prevention day, with my newfound desire to be completely who I am, I wrote on Facebook:
All I’ll say is that there’s never a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. My existence has become a paradox, where I really understand why people do it (and envy them a little in all perverse honesty), and yet my heart breaks for each and every time someone is driven to take their own life… — Facebook
A friend messaged me, distressed by my status above, so I wrote more about why it was important for me to be public about my suicidal tendencies:
But it is precisely the silence that causes people to actually act on their thoughts. That they cannot confide in anybody, that they will not be taken seriously, that they will be judged. I have made a conscious decision that I want to be part of an effort to reduce this stigma…– Facebook, 12 Sep
Again, the newfound desire to acknowledge my shadow:
Writing is my way of acknowledging my shadow. — Dayone
Singapore had her elections, so I posted my thoughts:
…I will not pretend to have a good grasp of socio-economics, but for now, I personally believe in the pursuit of more sustainable growth, that GDP should not be the sole measure of progress, that we need to have the long-term view of the future, the audacity to make investments in our youth, the belief that we, as a nation are capable of better than the fishing village narrative that has been fed to us for the past few decades.
We need to get better, to grow up as a nation. We need people who are willing to shoulder the massive weight on behalf of the nation, who are not opposing just for the sake of opposing, or following just out of blind loyalty, but rather, people who genuinely loves the country *and* her people — leaders who are able to lead with both pragmatism and imagination, someone who can inspire in us, that we are all capable of more, not just stick to the status quo out of fear…
13 Sep I got reminded of this tweet by Jack Cheng, and perhaps the idea to make this leap was set in motion longer than I thought it was:
- Each time I get scared about what I’m doing, I remember this tweet:— twitter, 13 Sep #work: 12
Of course, the Universe seems to be helping me everywhere:
This was probably one of the hardest posts I had to write, how am I supposed to do justice to the complexity of my feelings and the magnitude of my decision?
What is it like to give love and support to myself, no matter who I become, what I produced, where I worked…Am I willing to give up all the privilege I had, to discover who I am capable of being? Could I give up the city I love, in exchange for myself? — I am leaving because I can, Medium
I met up with one of my dearest people in New York:
- one of the greatest gifts we can ever give a person is to truly see them, and to support their journey in whatever they choose to do. — twitter #love: 3
15 Sep Finally, I wrote this while at JFK, waiting for my flight back to Singapore. The last part is of the most significance:
I am sure the sadness of leaving permanently will catch up with me. However, I am not the first human being to leave a place of belonging and safety in pursuit of a different trajectory to one’s story. I will truly miss the generous, adventurous spirit of the US and her people. I am thankful for the love and privilege given to me during my short but very meaningful stay, and I will carry this memory with me for the rest of my life. True love transcends physical boundaries.
Thank you, and goodbye. I am leaving a place that has nurtured me into someone who believes I am capable of surviving without it — my external source of safety and strength.
Ultimately, I aspire to be a person who does not require external conditions to realize my existence — power is at its most powerful when it is not needed. — Facebook, 15 Sep
September 17-28: Returning to Singapore
20 Sep I was afraid returning back to Singapore would drive me into a panic, but it didn’t. Still surprising myself. I penned down my thoughts:
I thoroughly love the gift of life, but I resent it at the same time. I have become comfortable with a paradoxical existence, that I am sad yet peppered with moments of intense joy, scared and yet I’ve never felt stronger, so tired I’m hardly moving yet I’m feel so alive.— paradoxically living, journal, 20 Sep
I started to think about the work ahead of me:
- Where can I find examples of online interactive art? Something like praystation (u have to be old to know this) back in the day? — twitter, 22 Sep #work: 13
23–24 Sep Still feeling anxious and having all the self-doubt in the world, so again I seek solace in people I would never know:
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don’t bring forth what is within you, what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.” — Gospel of Thomas — Facebook, 24 Sept 2015
I want to make things, and it didn’t matter if people loved what I made, I just want to make them because I love making them. — on loving the process not the outcome, journal, 24 Sep
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic:[on Jack Gilbert, this deeply inspired me] This would be his pattern always: isolation, followed by the publication of something sublime, followed by more isolation… He seemed to live in a state of uninterrupted marvel, and he encouraged them to do the same. He didn’t so much teach them how to write poetry, they said, but why: because of delight. Because of stubborn gladness. He told them that they must live their most creative lives as a means of fighting back against the ruthless furnace of this world.You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.I wish somebody had told them all to go fill up a bunch of pages with blah-blah-blah and just publish it, for heaven’s sake, and ignore the outcome.The earliest evidence of recognizable human art is forty thousand years old. The earliest evidence of human agriculture, by contrast, is only ten thousand years old. Which means that somewhere in our collective evolutionary story, we decided it was way more important to make attractive, superfluous items than it was to learn how to regularly feed ourselves.I am going to spend as much time as I can creating delightful things out of my existence, because that’s what brings me awake and that’s what brings me alive.I told the universe (and anyone who would listen) that I was committed to living a creative life not in order to save the world, not as an act of protest, not to become famous, not to gain entrance to the canon, not to challenge the system, not to show the bastards, not to prove to my family that I was worthy, not as a form of deep therapeutic emotional catharsis . . . but simply because I liked it.Let other people pigeonhole you however they need to. And pigeonhole you they shall, because that’s what people like to do. Actually, pigeonholing is something people need to do in order to feel that they have set the chaos of existence into some kind of reassuring order.“Everything sucks, some of the time.” You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with.[inorite] Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble.Not expressing creativity turns people crazy.Your creative work is not your baby; if anything, you are its baby. Everything I have ever written has brought me into being.Einstein called this tactic “combinatory play” — the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another. This is why he would often play the violin when he was having difficulty solving a mathematical puzzle; after a few hours of sonatas, he could usually find the answer he needed.[And I did too]But as he did so, something was healing within him. Something was coming back to life.
25 Sep Begrudgingly I started to admit I loved being back:
- after 3 years away, I feel like a tourist in my own country and I am loving the experience. — twitter, 25 Sep
26 Sep This is worth mentioning because I would meet the founder randomly at an event later:
27 Sep My thinking began to clear, as I start to tap on the tiny growing well of strength within me:
That stubbornness, the insistence that I still walk on my own way, even as I deviated here and there, left and right, sulking and throwing tantrums along the way — the fact that I did it and now I am still doing it, has given me a newfound source of strength and peace that no external entity can ever take away. — forging my own way, journal
28 Sep I had an unexpected chance to spend some time with someone, and this was a reflection:
It is one of life’s greatest gifts to be truly and so utterly seen, and have the capacity to reflect back a perception of equal magnitude. — Facebook
September 28 — October 27: Sweeping up the pieces in Bali
After all the intensity of the decisions I had to make, the packing up and moving out, the goodbyes, the amount of traveling, I finally had some time to unwind in Bali. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.
My stubborn insistence that I want to remain who I am in spite of the world:
…Time and time again, I have chosen not to grow a shell, because I want to always be open to trust and love. I will rather keep on breaking, to keep the faith that the world will one day choose love. — Facebook
Gifts are always double-edged swords:
I have an obsessive mind, the same thing that makes and breaks me. — DayOne
I have to keep reminding myself why I effectively threw my life away:
I want to be a person who sees and loves the difference in myself, and does the same for other people. To understand the world does not need more examples of conventional success, but a way of life that is exemplary of courage and love. That, is a life I want to lead. — DayOne
30 Sep It is never easy, trying to find new ground to stand on:
- fear is dangerous because it is familiar, hope is far-fetched because it is always unknown. — twitter, 30 Sep #life
- Took me years to learn this: “Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.” — twitter, 30 Sep #work: 14
Check-ins: 68• Instagram: 10 • DayOne: 38• 750words: 19.5• Photos 35• Walked: 93km
1 Oct At this point I was still swimming in terror, anxiety and pain. It is important to make the distinction between sadness and pain, because I wasn’t really sad, but it was still a painful experience. Still, I managed to find a silver lining among the emptiness I was feeling:
To have nothing ahead of me is terrifying, but yet it is precious, because for once, I am able to focus on what is with me. — being with myself, journal
Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You:We could do ourselves the ultimate favor and finally get out of that nest. That this takes courage is obvious.“Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?”Without the ones who irritate us, we never have a chance to practice.Compassion, however, is more emotionally challenging than loving-kindness because it involves the willingness to feel pain.Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.A teacher once told me that if I wanted lasting happiness, the only way to get it was to step out of my cocoon.Staying with sorrow or pain is not necessarily an immediately gratifying process. But over time, we begin to feel lighter and more courageous.The essence of generosity is letting go. Pain is always a sign that we are holding on to something — usually ourselves.Trungpa Rinpoche said that awakening warriors would find themselves in a constant state of anxiety.Either the relationship with a teacher evolves to a place of unconditional trust and love, or it doesn’t. We have to trust the process.When I saw how unconditionally he loved other people, I began to trust that he could also love me. I saw for myself what it means to never give up on anybody.Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the inbetween state. It’s the kind of place we usually want to avoid. The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid. Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere only makes our hearts more tender. When we are brave enough to stay in the middle, compassion arises spontaneously. By not knowing, not hoping to know, and not acting like we know what’s happening, we begin to access our inner strength.
So many times in my life I have consciously chosen to be vulnerable, but it never gets easier, so it was very comforting to have someone else understand this:
- “All the uncomfortable things I have done in my life…have brought me the deepest connections with other humans.” http://lisacongdon.com/blog/2015/10/the-vulnerability-hangover/ … — twitter #love: 4
I decided to start a ritual to dump my thoughts again, in order to escape from the insane chaos of my mind, but it wouldn’t stick until much later:
- Attempting to start my streak of @750words again. I’m always finding out so much about myself if I make the time and effort to write it. — twitter #journal
Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy:There’s something about depression that allows you (or sometimes forces you) to explore depths of emotion that most “normal” people could never conceive of. Imagine having a disease so overwhelming that your mind causes you to want to murder yourself. Imagine having a malignant disorder that no one understands. Imagine having a dangerous affliction that even you can’t control or suppress.I know that I am crazy. And that has made all the difference.It struck me as a metaphor for my life. One side light and magical. Always seeing the good. Lucky. The other side bloodied, stumbling. Never quite able to keep up.I’m just broken. But in a way that makes me … me.And I remind myself that I’m lucky to be able to feel such great sorrow, and also such great happiness. I can grab on to each moment of joy and live in those moments because I have seen the bright contrast from dark to light and back again. I am privileged to be able to recognize that the sound of laughter is a blessing and a song, and to realize that the bright hours spent with my family and friends are extraordinary treasures to be saved, because those same moments are a medicine, a balm. Those moments are a promise that life is worth fighting for, and that promise is what pulls me through when depression distorts reality and tries to convince me otherwise.My rule is “Enjoy the non-shitty things now because shitty things are coming.”I think telling my stories helps to encourage putting other stories out there.[I have written about this multiple times]When we share our struggles we let others know it’s okay to share theirs.Recognizing that popularity is sometimes the equivalent of human mange sort of cured me from wanting it.That sounds mad, but it’s true. I can feel other people’s emotions. Their life force, maybe? Something. It’s uncomfortable but in a way that’s hard to define. Like a sweater you can’t appreciate because it’s itchy from an allergic reaction you can’t explain. I take pills to dull my overactive senses and it makes me able to love the sweaters, and people, and life.Make wonderful mistakes. Make the kind of mistakes that make people so shocked that they have no other choice but to be a little impressed.You don’t have to go to some special private school to be an artist. Just look at the intricate beauty of cobwebs. Spiders make them with their butts.Don’t sabotage yourself. There are plenty of other people willing to do that for free.I used to feel a lot of guilt about having depression but then I realized that’s a lot like feeling guilty for having brown hair.I try to be honest about the shame I feel because with honesty comes empowerment.
I started to get used to being uncomfortable in Bali and having nothing except myself:
Travel inevitably unravels the layers I unconsciously put on to face society. It grounds me to my core personality, before all that conditioning, all that expectations. — the magic of travelling, journal
Maybe sometimes in life, the most important thing is to like where you are, metaphorically or literally. — DayOne
I recalled a conversation I had with Matt Bors about his work, and how it actually remained in my consciousness:
- nuggets like this are imprinted on my consciousness as I derive strength to do my work too. You being you, are helping others to be them. — twitter #work: 15
I finally found some mental space to write about something that wasn’t about swimming in my own chaos, on how much I have learned from presence-giving space:
I was never truly present with people, because I didn’t know how to be present with myself. — Creating space, Medium
9 Oct Some world event must have triggered this:
…Every single moment, we are given a choice. Continue to be angry and helpless, resign to the shitty world that it is now, or aspire to be one of those who are trying to make a difference? Do we submit, assert, or what I believe is the answer — make the effort to have a genuine connection to the world? — Facebook, 9 Oct
10 Oct Endurance would gradually turn into a significant theme for me, as I no longer sought to escape or wish I had never experienced:
what can we do
when the weight of the world crushes us
except to silently endure
till strong enough our shoulders become
I was still in anxiety, the pain and discomfort of being alienated from what used to be familiar to me:
What is more terrifying to me now, is the realisation that to lead the life I truly want to lead, is that it will slowly diverge me from everything I am familiar with. — a lifetime of questioning, journal
I was intuitively guided to look back at my old journals, yet again:
- Sometimes I look back at my old journals and I realize I was a lot weirder than I remembered. — twitter #journal: 7
I wanted to make a resolution to commit to this, and it is still an on-going goal:
- my current life goal is to channel my inner IDGAF more. — twitter #self: 18
12 Oct Reading through my previous writing made me realize I was still basically the same person even from five years before, but I had forgotten:
In a period where I am going through so much change, I find tremendous comfort that the core of myself has been the same: that I believe true power comes from within, that I am still willing to make difficult choices, that I still cared deeply about the same issues. — at my core, journal
I woke up with very painful dry eyes:
I woke up this morning feeling like I was punched in my eyes and since I’ve already been limiting my screen time I was very confused… — Facebook
I plunged deeper into my own darkness, contemplating the questions I was afraid to contemplate:
how am I going to live if I can no longer do the things I love? — writing honestly about pain, journal
16 Oct …but I decided to surrender to the experience:
There’s still so much I want to do, so much of my imagination I want to bring to life, so many more people I want to love, and it feels really shitty to be incapacitated by chronic pain. I can only surrender to the experience and hope there’s time and space waiting for me to come alive again in some future. — Facebook
I was plagued by my existentialism again:
I’m feeling lot better today, but right now I’m plagued with existential questions like — if at this moment I am given a choice, that the world I love would wipe my existence off completely, that no one would remember me and I can leave without inflicting any pain or incurring any repercussions, would I?
I didn’t know how to express some of my emotions, so I decided to write haikus, and this is the first of many to come:
we can love something
just for a unchained moment
it takes to exist
I started getting a series of messages from unexpected sources:
Trying to find the right string of words to describe my gratitude towards the people who have shown up at my darkest moments, but I failed. Maybe I can just keep it simple. I love you, and thank you for seeing me. Love really does transcend all boundaries. — Facebook
One of them led me to realize I had a lot of shame about the intensity of my emotions, which I have mentioned several times in the course of the year, but somehow it was the final straw:
- today, I realized my emotional intensity was a source of both pride (consciously) and shame (subconsciously). — twitter #pain:9
And it crystalized to this:
why go against nature, the very way I am built? — DayOne
18 Oct I wrote about it, with a
resolved defiance to not give up who I am:
My emotional intensity, has shaped my entire life, it has not only made me who I am, but it is who I am. Subconsciously, I have been trying to kill the part of myself that is the most natural aspect of me. Why? — My emotional intensity, Medium
More haikus when there is too much to say:
we are two dancers
out of sync without a catch
when one is falling
Then, one day on the streets of Bali, I had a sudden awareness of joy, an emotion I haven’t had since I started this journey of chaos, and the realization that simple joys are not being acknowledged enough, but they are still very much precious:
For the past few months, I have been so used to writing depressing existential statuses that I have almost forgotten that joyful moments have to be cherished and honored too. Today, I was smiling to myself while walking on the streets. Because I don’t have a migraine, my eyes are hurting less, my friends have taken serendipitous turns to show up, I have very dear people in my life who makes me laugh, and I can write haikus whenever I wish to.
I am starting to experience what it means to have the fullest expression of my individuality — light, dark, intense, mundane, spontaneous, and that simply by being myself and acknowledging my darkness without shame has opened up the space for the people around me. I feel truly free with a sense of strength, because I have the defiance to be me.
Even if today is an anomaly, and tomorrow I could be back to being all morose and heavy, I still want to celebrate this moment, because moments like these are what people like me have to live for.
I can’t believe how long it took me to come to this:
- Do what is right for you. Some people need balance, some need extremity. Don’t make someone else, you. Don’t let someone else make you. — twitter #self: 19
I went to Sanur after three weeks in Ubud, and I didn’t realize how much I have missed the ocean. Sometimes I just love writing like this:
I didn’t know how much I’ve missed the ocean until I’m near it again, just like I have forgotten what it is like to be without you until I can be graced with your presence again. Time, has its own way of disrupting our memories and burying what we love to the deepest recesses of our soul. And we keep on living; unaware that the greatest weights of our souls are the very entities that will set us free.
Only if we can be reminded. – Facebook
This is probably where I was scrapping the bottom, but there’s nowhere but up after hitting the bottom:
It is a painful process, the attempt to murder one’s former existence. — the slow descent, journal
I love how much I love writing:
- I think writing is the only thing I’ve loved from the start of my consciousness and probably will last to the end. — twitter
I tried to pretend
you were an old book I read
shelved in a corner
When all integrity falls apart, the only place to find it is within yourself. – Madam Secretary, recorded in DayOne
25 Oct By this point I resigned to being in chronic pain all the time, and yet I was deeply inspired by Charles Darwin. I wouldn’t know it then, but this was the start of my upwards trajectory towards being somewhat functional again. Resignation. Acceptance:
October 28~: Growing roots in Singapore
I surprised myself by signing a year-long lease in Singapore. This is a huge leap for me as I’ve been telling everybody that I was going to travel around in Asia for the year, and I am just commitment phobic in general. But as I would write later, there is a difference between geographic freedom and mental freedom, something that took maturity for me to realize.
I also started to open myself up to new people and experiences, reconnecting myself back to Singapore again.
I met Clara Yee, who would inspire me to post this:
It brings me profound joy, each and every time I witness or connect to a fellow Singaporean make a very deliberate choice to take the path less trodden. — Facebook
Still on my mind:
- We can only try our best to facilitate conditions of change, true change has to take place at the consciousness of every individual. — twitter
Check-ins: 34• Instagram: 8• DayOne: 32• 750words: 10.5• Photos 33 • Walked: 115km
Trying to reconcile between c’est la vie and yet being patient, a theme I had written about in June:
- the secret to life is to be capable of taking a longitudinal view, and yet be present in the moment. — twitter #life
I never thought I would be capable of writing this, having imagined myself as a nomad my entire life:
A tree’s branches spread out wider when her roots grow deeper, and I want to experience how it is like to consciously choose to be grounded, out of my own free will, without any real forcing circumstances, without having anything to run away from. — growing roots, journal
Once again, trying to tell myself it is okay to be vulnerable:
- There is always risk in being vulnerable, but the potential reward of vulnerability is the experience of depth. — twitter #love: 5
This connects all the way back to an earlier moment when I chose to acknowledge my emotional intensity with pride:
My emotions have been the most stable for as long as I can remember in the past year. It is slightly ironic that I had so much catharsis writing a post on my emotional intensity that it released a lot of the anxiety I have been feeling. — great to be back, journal
9 Nov I started swimming daily, and tracking my habits again. It seems like a trivial detail, but this would go on to restore a sense of vitality in me, after suffering such terrible health for months.
10 Nov I had this metaphor appear in my head, in truth I am still trying convince myself that it is okay to be different:
There are a lot of powerful lessons in observing nature. We can’t make plants or trees grow faster or grow against their inherent nature, but to cultivate the patience so see them flourish at their own pace, with their own qualities. We can’t ask the hibiscus to act like the chrysanthemum. Too little water and they will not survive, too much and they will still die. Each evolves and serves its own function in the ecosystem. If only we see the same of people. — Facebook
11 Nov After all of that reflection, fatigue and anxiety, I finally had it in me to start working on the things I wanted to work on,
launching a mvp of connections.sg:
Seeding this list has been a joyful experience — there are many things to be proud of in Singapore, and I hope this tiny effort will give you a reason to feel so…That said, even as it is now, it has made me smile in wonder because of the diversity and the richness of what is actually available if we make the time and space to discover them. Singapore is not just full of malls and food. We have incredible people doing incredible things. We need to surface them, not for ourselves, but for the next generations to come.
How do we want to shape the future of this country?
13 Nov I wrote this out of nowhere, but upon reviewing my highlights as I worked on this, I realize I have probably been inspired by the books I have read, The Power of Myth and Furiously Happy, which both coincidentally mentioned the natural beauty of spider-web spinning.
when we require ourselves to only work on solving problems, we are dishonoring parts of the world and ourselves, that everything is a problem, without realizing there is inherent beauty in just being, expressing and creating. — DayOne
And then, Paris happened:
This makes me want to participate in more conscious acts of love and grace, for that is my act of rebellion against a world that wants us to live in fear and separation. — when the world hurts, journal
I went to an Unconference, something I would never have gone because I was always too exhausted, and it brought me intangible rewards (and I met the founder I mentioned here):
People who have known me for years know I used to have severe social anxiety. Today I made new connections, rekindled old ones, mustered the courage to plug connections.sg in front of a 50-strong audience and tell them why it is important to shift the perceived narrative of our country.
I am reminded yet again that sometimes the work is more important than the fear, that putting ourselves out there is also necessary to create spaces for others and let our tribes find us. (Thank you for finding me, people!)
I will need to hide under a rock for days after today, but it was very worthwhile to witness groups of people coming together to have a serious discourse on important issues, and getting to know the amazing things they are doing. I no longer feel alone in this country. It will be little acts of courage that will bring us forward.
The social anxiety still exists, but love always wins. — Facebook
16 Nov Still tweeting about the design industry once in a while, I think this is actually building up to an actual post (I have not written):
- Rdio: example of good design often being not enough. There’s a difference between users being delighted by UX vs wanting to pay for it. — twitter #design
17 Nov Honoring my grandmother’s death anniversary:
…My grandmother’s passing made me aware of the stories that had to exist and be endured before I could even exist. It tore my heart apart, but that tear has served as an opening to love… — Facebook
19 Nov I launched another tiny mvp, Light. I can’t describe how much fulfilment I feel, finally having the space to do the things I’ve always been wanting to do:
this time I am attempting to challenge the narrative about mental health. Over the years I’ve had people ask me for resources and this is still one of my most widely-read essays on Medium…People want to know more or feel less alone, but there is very little space in current society for such discourse *openly* — on Light, Facebook
20 Nov It was finally time to share what I was doing:
- I’ve been trying to write a post on why I’m taking a year off to experiment with my life and it is trying to turn into three separate posts. — twitter, 20 Nov
November 22~: Kicking off the experiment
22nd Nov I wasn’t kidding about writing three posts on experimenting with my life, and this would be the first:
I am attempting to be a living experiment to see what is the outcome of living a life that is as closely aligned to my philosophy, beliefs and values as possible. — Experimenting with my life, Medium
23 Nov The complexity of narratives had popped up and will keep popping up:
- “So why do we so often tell stories based on a single narrative, drained of complexity?” — @NaylorNikki https://medium.com/@NaylorNikki/the-power-of-story-telling-to-disrupt-inequality-b7b7002d8829 … — twitter #work: 16 #stories
This was the second post:
But knowing I had the courage to let go of everything I had worked so hard for — including stability, safety and security — is enough of a first step to get a glimpse of the self-love and respect I never really had and can possibly have. — Freedom does not come free, Medium
Art is an expression of the slice of the world at that time. — DayOne
29 Nov Followed by the third:
I am simply curious to see what is the result of making these experiments even if they all turn out terrible or unfinished. How much can I accomplish in one year? How will it change me? — A year of making anything I want, Medium
Check-ins: 59• Instagram: 15 • DayOne: 62• 750words: 25 • Photos 55• Walked: 134.1km
1 Dec This was an important epiphany to me, because I had struggled with trying to understand humanity my entire life, only to realize I am fundamentally disconnected because I lack the will to survive for the sake of pure surivival:
random epiphany of the day: because I lack most of the fundamental human instinct to survive (I put considerable effort everyday to convince myself otherwise), I’ll always be having a disconnect with most of the world, because I’ll never fully empathize with the need to survive at all costs, neither will I understand the incessant desire to compete in order to establish a hierarchy. What I’ve been thinking of as absurd, may just be the natural evolving order of the world. — Facebook
Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father:And that, I suppose, is what I’d been trying to tell my mother that day: that her faith in justice and rationality was misplaced, that we couldn’t overcome after all, that all the education and good intentions in the world couldn’t help plug up the holes in the universe or give you the power to change its blind, mindless course.Strange how a single conversation can change you.What was she asking of me, then? Determination, mostly. The determination to push against whatever power kept her stooped instead of standing straight. The determination to resist the easy or the expedient. You might be locked into a world not of your own making, her eyes said, but you still have a claim on how it is shaped. You still have responsibilities.Beneath the layers of hurt, beneath the ragged laughter, I heard a willingness to endure. Endure — and make music that wasn’t there before.How could we judge other men until we had stood in their shoes?For the first time in years, I applied myself to my studies and started keeping a journal of daily reflections and very bad poetry.Auma’s voice simply served to remind me that I still had wounds to heal, and could not heal myself.Every path to change was well trodden, every strategy exhausted. And with each defeat, even those with the best of intentions could end up further and further removed from the struggles of those they purported to serve.It was the sort of change that’s important not because it alters your concrete circumstances in some way (wealth, security, fame) but because it hints at what might be possible and therefore spurs you on, beyond the immediate exhilaration, beyond any subsequent disappointments, to retrieve that thing that you once, ever so briefly, held in your hand. That bus ride kept me going, I think. Maybe it still does.
2nd Dec I am starting to be aware of the calmness I have been feeling, a huge shift from all the anxiety:
I am grateful for those moments when it feels like I can breathe. Sometimes it is not about the length of time, but the observation that such moments do exist. — starting to breathe, journal
- We’re innate curators as human beings. We curate all the noise that goes on in and out of our heads and consciously choose what to express. — twitter #work: 17
Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father:No one here in Kenya would ask how to spell my name, or mangle it with an unfamiliar tongue. My name belonged and so I belonged, drawn into a web of relationships, alliances, and grudges that I did not yet understand.For a span of weeks or months, you could experience the freedom that comes from not feeling watched, the freedom of believing that your hair grows as it’s supposed to grow and that your rump sways the way a rump is supposed to sway.It occurred to me that in their utter lack of self-consciousness, they were expressing a freedom that neither Auma nor I could ever experience, a bedrock confidence in their own parochialism, a confidence reserved for those born into imperial cultures.I’d come to Kenya thinking that I could somehow force my many worlds into a single, harmonious whole. Instead, the divisions seemed only to have become more multiplied, popping up in the midst of even the simplest chores.Rather, it was a sense that everything I was doing, every touch and breath and word, carried the full weight of my life; that a circle was beginning to close, so that I might finally recognize myself as I was, here, now, in one place.I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America — the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago — all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain. My questions were my brothers’ questions. Their struggle, my birthright.I found myself suddenly remembering then my first meeting with the Old Man, the fear and discomfort that his presence had caused me, forcing me for the first time to consider the mystery of my own life.every Brown v. Board of Education I find a score of cases where conscience is sacrificed to expedience or greed…And yet, in the conversation itself, in the joining of voices, I find myself modestly encouraged, believing that so long as the questions are still being asked, what binds us together might somehow, ultimately, prevail.All too rarely do I hear people asking just what it is that we’ve done to make so many children’s hearts so hard, or what collectively we might do to right their moral compass — what values we must live by. Instead I see us doing what we’ve always done — pretending that these children are somehow not our own.
6 Dec After a year and some, I finally published a post on one of the many ideas that has been stewing slowly in my head. It was retweeted by Marc Andreessen, so it probably went a lot further than it would have. It was a nice little encouragement for me after all I have been though just to do this, but I didn’t think too much of it either, because I didn’t want to be motivated by external validation:
7 Dec I started an unbroken streak (till date of publishing this) to write 750words.
I love reading books that make me cry in public. I am not sure who I’ll be without them. They have given me so much strength, saving me, rebuilding me, again and over again. — Facebook
Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes:She stands face-to-face with the man she almost destroyed herself loving. She’d once lost herself in his orbit, revolving around him, desperately in need of his sun. She’d made herself smaller to accommodate his greatness. Now she has surpassed him. And he is paying his respects. He has come to praise her. The Chocolate Factory is hers if she wants it… And as I watch Sandra Oh’s face tell a whole story as she brilliantly gives nuance to the moment Cristina realizes Burke is handing her the keys to the kingdom, I realize why Cristina’s journey can end…Cristina has learned what she needs to know. Her toolbox is full. She has learned to not let go of the pieces of herself that she needs in order to be what someone else wants. She’s learned not to compromise. She’s learned not to settle. She’s learned, as difficult as it is, how to be her own sun.What I write is casual and a little raw and sometimes inappropriate. But it’s honest. And it sounds like me. It is me.You have a responsibility to become a person worthy of joining and contributing to society.But what I know now is that this downtime is helping to relight that little spark inside, it’s helping my creativity and in the long run helping me tell the stories my work needs me to tell. I give myself permission to view this downtime as essential.It irritated me to my core that we live in an era of ignorance great enough that it was still necessary for me to be a role model, but that didn’t change the fact that I was one.Losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one no at a time.How many cuts did they get, how many bruises? How hard did they have to hit the ceiling? How many women had to hit that glass to ripple it, to send out a thousand hairline fractures? How many women had to hit that glass before the pressure of their effort caused it to evolve from a thick pane of glass into just a thin sheet of splintered ice? So that when it was my turn to run, it didn’t even look like a ceiling anymore.I’ve started to think we are like mirrors. What you are gets reflected back to you. What you see in yourself, you may see in others, and what others see in you, they may see in themselves.People like being around whole, healthy, happy people.You know what happens when all of your dreams come true? Nothing. I realized a very simple truth: that success, fame, having all my dreams come true would not fix or improve me, it wasn’t an instant potion for personal growth. Having all my dreams come true only seemed to magnify whatever qualities I already possessed.Writing was . . . well, for me it was like sitting down at a piano for the first time and realizing that I always knew how to play. Writing was my melody. Writing was who I was. Writing was ME.Hate diminishes, love expands.I wanted us to watch and admire a woman who did not want the things we have all been told we are supposed to want… I wanted us to befriend a woman who was busy throwing out the fairy tale and writing her own story… During my darkest hours, my quietest saddest moments, my loneliest times, writing Cristina Yang fortified me.I have spent years having a totally fulfilling, completely awesome friendship with a person who is only a stand-in for a figment of my imagination.[at this point I am like I have to watch Grey’s Anatomy] Cristina Yang. I gave her my ambivalence about marriage. I gave her my passion for work. I gave her my love for something greater than any romance, something that draws her focus more than any guy — a creative genius floating forever out of reach that she will never stop trying to capture.I tell him that he would resent me and grow to hate me if we got married and I did not make him a priority above my work. And I have no ability to downgrade my creativity in my soul. I have no desire to do so either.Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.Don’t apologize. Don’t explain. Don’t ever feel less than.
9 Dec I don’t want to depend on external validation for my work, but personal messages feel a lot different to me. Perhaps external validation is the wrong way to think of it, but rather, it is an awareness of an interconnectedness, that in one way or another, what we do ultimately has an ripple effect on other people, whether conscious or not:
this morning I woke up to two separate messages from other ends of the world telling me that they have started to write because of my writing (which is a polite way of telling me that they appreciate the regurgitation of my emotions all over the internet)…— Facebook
This is the attitude I want to embody, be it work or my life:
- Life imitates art, and to create something new, there must be courage to rip up the existing canvas no matter how much time was spent on it. — twitter #self: 20
The awareness that our brain is faulty has helped me learn to cope with it instead of just succumbing to its lies:
- my brain lies to me, so I have to design systems around it. — twitter #mental: 3
After reading “Molecules of Emotion”, I have consciously decided it is terrible to repress any emotions:
- sometimes I just need to watch emo tv dramas and cry my heart out — twitter #pain:10
11 Dec I continued work on my experiments, and it just gives me so much joy:
- creating something just for the sake of creating something can be such a painful yet joyful, immersive experience. — twitter #work: 18
12 Dec Still existential:
why do I seek death so much, but I get so sad when people die — DayOne
Here it is, a cumulation of all the mentions of journaling and reflecting on data:
Can we leverage on data and technology to tell a more accurate, realistic story? — Designing an interactive story to examine life’s complex narratives, Medium
I was referring to this tinyletter — this is for me, evidence of the necessity of leaving artefacts from our lives, to reflect upon later:
- Read an old tinyletter I wrote, realized a different side of me manifests in that space. The space we create in, changes the work itself. — twitter
14 Dec: I continue to indulge in writing haikus to express a thousand words:
the sun lights up the
moon yet they stay apart for
their world in between
Not wanting to immerse myself in guilt when I find myself doing nothing because of thought-chaos-sorting:
- some days are just do nothing and think days. — twitter
Sometimes we just have to live with paradoxes and tradeoffs:
I will always be walking on the edges, and it will always hurt. — DayOne
Well, there is a theme running through all of them:
leaves fall from a tree
to renew a promise though
they were made as one
December 18~: Breakthrough
This point onwards. I am beginning to truly assimilate into who I am growing into. There is an awareness of well-being, little moments of bliss, a growing sense of freedom, and pride for the work I was doing. In short, I stopped being that neurotic. I was surprised at the momentum of my recovery. It feels like all the work on myself was paying off, and I am starting to operate from an internal foundation I never had.
18 Dec Somehow around this time, I decided to accept my insanity:
I’m convinced that if it is possible to peek into my brain, people will see that I’m actually a walking ball of insanity. It is actually a miracle I’m still alive and I contain myself enough to be perceived as sane. — Facebook
And that acceptance freed me up:
- Sometimes we take a leap into the darkness, only to find that’s where all the light is waiting for us. — twitter #love: 6
I was experiencing periods of bliss, but afraid:
- I am afraid to admit I am happy, as though I’ll jinx myself or it is just my brain fooling me. — twitter #mental: 4
20 Dec I wrote about what I was doing in order to build up a resilience, because I have discovered a desire to endure, instead of running away:
Resilience is not about preventing all of that, but the capacity to endure, observe, and learn from them, without losing the courage and spirit to keep on trying. — Building resilience through a sustainable self, Medium
21 Dec And I want to keep reminding myself over and over again, what truly matters:
I live by reminding myself of my mortality everyday. In some ways being chronically suicidal gifted me the knowing of what it feels like to be walking so close to death. Death strips us bare. We see light at its brightest at the darkest, and with the starkness of death there lies the magnitude of what it means to be truly alive… — Facebook
I was scrolling through some of my old photos, and I saw a self that was happy in ignorant bliss. I felt a deep sense of nostalgia, but I was aware that it was great while it lasted, it wasn’t real:
Sometimes I miss my innocence, a time when I was wrapped in a bubble and I was oblivious to reality; but then I remember I had exchanged that sort of sweet ignorant bliss for the painful depth of truth, in order to discover who I am capable of becoming. I still miss my innocence, but I can’t give up the search for truth, even if it burns through me. — Facebook
With everything I wanted to endure, I started to wonder what would it be like, if I just allowed pain to wash over me, instead of struggling with it:
- Latest epiphany while swimming: pain is only a struggle if I believe that it is. — twitter #pain:11
23 Dec This sums up my paradoxical relationship with life and love:
There is a certain profound joy that comes with growing the capacity to contain something so boundless and true, until it breaks me, over and over again. — enough, journal
Yes, I am still haiku-ing:
love touches the way
leaves fall with grace in autumn
snow melts in sunlight
I developed the idea for this post during one of my swims. This is very meta, but it sums up how I feel:
- I am writing an epic year in review post which probably nobody would care but I don’t give a shit and it makes me happy — theme of the year. — twitter #work: 19 #self: 21
25–31 Dec I spent a third of this time working on this post, another third being present with people or causes I care about, and the final third taking care of myself doing the solitary activities I love. And this is how I want my 2016 to be, if not for the rest of my life.
Because I am sort of bordering on insanity, I am working on a 20k++ word document for my year-in-review. It includes year-long data. It never fails to surprise me how suspect our memories are, even with just a little distance. I cannot wait to complete it, because it has been an immense learning experience as it is. — Facebook, 29 Dec
2015 in summary
Books: 64 • Medium posts: 26 • Public journal posts: 44 • Cities: 14
There were three main themes for 2015:
Honoring and choosing myself, the willingness to grow stronger to endure more, the path towards the fullest expression of myself.
Accepting my shadow through facing my past, deepest wounds and fears, towards the integration of a whole self.
The desire to learn from my history with a data-driven approach, and manifesting it into an experiment which encompasses a lot of what I think about — the complex non-linearity of life, reimagining the interactive experience of storytelling, and visualizing the connectedness of the world.
Thank you for sharing 2015 with me.