Dear Dani: Be Yourself

“Be yourself” might be the most overused mantra of the 21st century yet I find it to be quite a practical modus operandi of living. Consider these examples:

1. I court a hypothetical girl and she politely decline because of my physique (my ear is larger than the other) Then all would be fine and dandy because first, I should respect her wishes; and second, my ears are part of who I am and I wouldn’t be able to change them anyway so if she couldn’t accept it (because facial symmetry is really important to her) I better off be with someone who could.

2. I court a hypothetical girl and she politely decline because I have a short… temper. Then all is good in the world because first, she’s her own person with her own baggage and old wounds; and second, my anger issues is something that I should improve anyway so if that’s a deal-breaker for her (because her late dad was an alcoholic) then it would be unfair for me to make her go through that for the remainder of our hypothetical relationship.

Even when I am rejected on both counts, there would be little hurt as long as I stay true to myself, because if I’m anything else then what’s the point of extending my hands in the first place. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t better myself as a human being, but I rather BE BETTER than PRETEND that I’m better because I don’t want our relationship to be based on lies.

Which is also why I don’t believe in playing games, when it comes to courtship.

Which is also why I’m still single…

Well that’s a lot opinions from someone who has never been in a serious relationship.

Dear Dani: Relationship that was, that could have been

Have you ever come across this image on the Internet?


Of course it’s oversimplifying things, but it resonates with a lot of people when talking about human relationships.

Parallel lines have a lot in common, but they never met.

How do people get close to each other in the first place? Proximity plays a very important factor. You and I, for example, would never have discovered our mutual coolness should either one of us weren’t in the agency in the first place.

Imagine then, the infinite possible relationships that we have missed with other people that could have so much in common but aren’t geographically close. They don’t even have to be in a different country or a different building – in fact, they could be in the very same vicinity with us every day yet we would still miss it because the opportunity doesn’t present itself.

Take the workplace, for example. For all we know, Cindy could be a cool person to hang out with, judging from her arm tattoo and vague Instagram captions. But since she sat two rows apart from me, it wasn’t as natural for the conversation to go beyond small talks and professional matters. There it goes then, a friendship that could have been.

(The above is hypothetical, of course. Realistically, I don’t really get Cindy’s taste of music nor her delayed wit – JK CINDY IF UR READING THIS BELIEVE ME U COOL.)

To counter this, I made efforts to have one-on-one lunches with selected individuals, so we could cut away the pleasantries and proceed to talk about things that matter. I made good friendships with some. Others, not so much. After a while, it got tiring because the ROI was too damn low.

It isn’t a terribly sad thing that some of these “parallel lines” never met. Some relationships are formed naturally, some others require conscious effort. Either way, a person wouldn’t be able to sustain too many relationships at one time anyway. So the concern should be more on how to surround ourselves with the best kind of people.

Every other pair of lines meets once and drifts apart forever.

I have friends from my past life that I don’t keep in touch any longer. Some of them did try to reach out, but it was mostly me who shut myself. Not out of any negative feelings, I just simply didn’t feel like it.

I wonder then, would I do the same to my current friends, in the future? These people that mean so much to me right now, that I profess my love for, would I leave them? It’s quite a poignant prospect, although technically in that future, I would feel the same way as I do now about my past relationships: moved on.

Until one of the person I treasure the most, Melanie, said something along these lines, “One day, we may fall out of friendship. Not out of a disagreement or drama, but just a slow fall out. We might have our different priorities and values, and we would slowly drift apart. But that doesn’t invalidate whatever that we have right now. It has already happened, and it is something to be cherished.”

That was powerful, and it completely shifted my perception. No more tears, screw them fears! Whatever that we have had, we have it. It is true, it is real, and it can’t be denied.

Time is mysteriously subjective anyway. Some people we might only meet once every decade, but the closeness feels like we’re never far. We pick up right where we left. Even if our “lines” cross only 10 times per lifetime, the significance of that ten times is as strong as anything else.

Even if we were to meet literally only once with a person that have tremendous amount of chemistry, it isn’t something to be regretted. Because for that one time, we had a spark, we infect each other with our positive energy, then we resume each other’s journey carrying that energy we’ve exchanged, for the rest of our lives. With you Dianne, Sofia, Flo.

And I imagine, should there be a heaven and we would all be in it (because we’re cool people and cool people go to heaven), I would spot you from afar and shouted, “Oh-My-Actual-God, did you remember this ONE time where we met at that open mic/cell group/Tinder date and we had such a good laugh?”

Dear Dani: Quiet days

Taking a break and staying at home doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m spending less money, especially now that I live so far from any commodities. I always have to call Uber to even get a decent meal. I can only hope that this wouldn’t be much of a problem anymore once I start driving or I might have to move back to a more convenient apartment. However I’m rather reluctant to leave Nguyen because living with a friend (especially a very close one) has done wonders to my soul.

It has been almost two weeks since. When I’m not doing freelance work, I’ll be watching movies and reading books. I just finished the entire Harry Potter series, giggling and shedding tears along the way. Books are a little harder to follow, and I tend to fall asleep throughout. I just finished I Am Malala and just about to flip the last pages of Anne Frank.

I miss Pao. I miss people. Sometimes it gets bad, yet it’s still not as easy for me to text them as I hate rejection and wouldn’t want to bother them so much.

If I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and count to ten, perhaps the feeling would pass.

Dear Dani: On being kind

In your letter, you mentioned how I was one of the first go-to friendly faces when you entered the agency. This reminds me of my friend Saran who remembers me fondly as – in her words – “the first person who talked to me when I started my internship!”

Hard as it may to believe, I was actually a painfully shy guy, once. I might be extroverted, but I was painfully shy, which didn’t really make for a good combination. I know how it feels like to be a stranger in a new environment, being nervous to make the first contact with anyone because everybody seems to know everyone else while there I was, a lost child looking for a faintest chance of human interaction.

Hence why I always try to make freshmen feel comfortable whenever I see them by themselves, at least until they are familiar enough to start venturing out on their own (which by then I’ll be looking from afar, stroking my chin, smoking pipes, giving approving nod on how much they have grown).

Although, truth to be told, I haven’t been doing it that much these days. Unlike back then in the no-profit where everyone at least smile when they pass by each other, people in the agency are much more… clique-ish. Even I, who have always been a loner all my life, turned to be inclusive, only participating in my own little group that I’ve grown too comfortable with.

It’s quite a shame really, to think that some people never uttered a word to each other despite being in very close proximity, every single day. I’m guilty of it too. Not that I care too much, since interesting people are very hard to come by and I won’t tolerate any less.

I can be quite a mean person, Dani. Most of the time I am not very kind at all.

It’s fine though. I have let go of the concept of being a kind person, and instead, strive to do kind things in any way that I can, when I can. If I’m too lazy, too tired, or too cynical to do so today, I’ll try again tomorrow.

Dear Dani: Thanks for the letters!

I’m not one who scorns technology and gets nostalgic about doing things the traditional way such as reading paperbacks and writing on Rosetta stones. However, I do miss one thing: writing letters, which sounds weird because I never actually do it back then. I wasn’t born early enough for the culture nor did I have friends to send them to anyway.

So you can imagine my excitement when I got your scribbles on those two pieces of notebook-ripped papers. I was squealing with joy! I read it once and I read it twice. It felt so refreshing to read something heartfelt that were longer than the usual one-two liners on Whatsapp or Facebook message. It is the best Christmas gift that I could wish for.

So thank you, Dani. You made me blush again, like that one time where I said “Wadapp” on Facebook and you replied with “Yes MK my love!” and I went awwwww. I love terms of endearments, so thank you for putting me in that circle of trusted friends that you use terms of endearments with.

I wish more friendships were like ours, where we could just spot a cool person miles away, establish mutual admiration of each other, then proceed with the hard discussions.

Dear Dani: All or nothing

Often times I find myself caught between two extremes. Either I do it all, or nothing at all.

Either I try really hard to be a good person, or give up upon the first sin that I commit. Either I’m feeling at the top of the world for my independence, or I beat myself up upon the first sign of attachment. Either I deliver all of my work on time, or get very demotivated whenever I missed a deadline.

On a larger scale, this causes a lot of unhappiness because what I aspire to be is at the opposite end of the spectrum from what I currently am. And the gap would never be closed up as every time I fail, I feel like I have to start from scratch again.

I got to do away with this kind of perfectionist thinking.

Wait, even that statement sounds perfectionist, darn it.

Dear Dani: Do you remember your first memory?

To me, it was that time where I was sitting on the kitchen table, with a book and a pencil in my hand. Mom was somewhere at the back doing her kitchen stuff. I remember feeling safe because she was always around. This was pretty much my entire childhood too, because I was painfully shy as a kid and would always stay inside the house.

I also remember that one time where dad bathed me. He only did it once or twice I think, but every evening I was kinda hoping that he would walk into the bathroom and bathe me again.

Dear Dani: I’m happy

This is pretty much a bimbotic and self-indulgent post (not like this blog has been anything else), but hey I just want to have some written evidence that I haven’t been all doom and gloom. And I want to tell you about some of the people that I love, cause that makes me happy.

I have a good friend called Yee Eng, and she mattered a great deal to me when I was in the non-profit. She was actually very Chinese-ed (not that that’s a bad thing), which is to say that I didn’t necessarily connect to her intellectually as much as I did with Diana. However, I still fell in love because of her kindness. Just being around her felt like a blessing.

Anyway, she just got legally married and this brought an immense wave of happiness flooding onto me. I couldn’t help smiling looking at her wedding ring photo.

Then there’s Pao, I’ve told you how important she is to me. Not only that she’s kind and she makes me feel comfortable being around her, but she also allows me to love her. She’s frank with what troubles her and what makes her happy, and I try to provide her with companion, assistance, and gifts in any way that I can. It means a lot to me, being able to do that to someone I love.

Then there are my housemates, Nguyen and Wafiq. They are… home, you know.

I had dinner with a friend the other day. We hardly met before, but we’ve known of each other for about 5 years. However, that night might have been the first time that I saw her really talked, really laughed, really made herself vulnerable.

Which got me thinking, I don’t think I’ll ever be alone. Even if I were to be a single, 70 year-old hippie, even if all of my friends would be married with kids, even if Marianne would be busy that particular week and couldn’t hang out – I would always be surrounded by an abundance of good people, and an abundance of love.

We’ll never be alone.

Dear Dani: I’m ready to let go

In case you didn’t know, Hex is the Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Queen of the Andals and of the First Men. Every year, ordinary citizens traveled in herds in order to see her and receive her blessings.

So did I, when Hex invited me for a little chit-chat after seeing how pissed my face might have looked in recent days. I told her everything, recited all the words I had been keeping in my head with tears rolling down my cheek.

And just like that, I felt a wave of relief.

This bitterness, this feeling of being unappreciated, and this feeling of being treated unfairly were all The Little Things. The Actual Main Thing is I need to extend my growth either by concentrating on the craft or by searching for an account that I could be passionate about which this place can provide me with neither. I guess it’s a good thing they are in deep shit too, so I don’t have to make the tough decision.

Still, when I leave, I would only have good memories of this place. I would remember how principal Hex and Sue Lin were to my early days; I would remember how I found home among Pao, Kay, Elaine, Beat, and all of them with kind hearts; I would remember how I came to love, love, love my suit, designers, and clients.

I am ready to let go, Dani.

With the girl, too. I made mistakes, but I also did my very best to do the right thing. I have asked for forgiveness from her, from God, and now I’m asking forgiveness from myself. I’m ready to let go, Dani.

And hopefully after this we could start talking about fun things, for a change.


Dear Dani: They are watching us

While I am always aware that this blog is a public personal space and literally everyone have access to my inner thoughts, I forgot that sometimes it could have an emo streak that might not be favourable to a prospective employer, friend, or romantic partner if they were to read it for the first time. I can only pray that they would withhold their judgement and realize that I can actually be an enjoyable person to have around as well… if they scroll down deep enough. Like, really deep.

There has always been a strong urge within me be as honest and transparent as possible – not just because it’s easier – but also in the hope that I could extend my hand to anyone who needs to relate to a mutual struggle, to tell them they’re not alone.

Not to mention that honesty makes for a strong friendship, especially when you meet a person who’s just like yourself. I experienced that with my friend Marianne, I experienced that with you too, Dani – all of us are a bunch of NFPs. And it was extremely exhilarating, each time, to connect with another human being.

Okay lah this post doesn’t really have a unifying theme, I’m going to go to bed. Talk to you soon.