Posts Tagged ‘duywrites’

Warning: This piece is entertaining, educational and inspiring. Allegedly. Read on at your own risk.

Alrighty folks. It has been a year since I relocated from Australia to Vietnam. Obviously, a lot of shit has happened and I won’t be able to cover them all. So I am only going to address a couple of things that took place in the past 12 months of my life.

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The State Parliament of Victoria does have a pretty nice front view.

First on the chopping block must be why I didn’t stay longer in Melbourne.

Let me just go ahead and clarify that when I left at the end of August 2016, I was in full confidence that I’d be back in February 2017. I’d submitted or planned to submit more than one scholarship applications (admissions were guaranteed considering my scores and the courses I applied to). I only needed one application to be successful. The odds seemed good enough.

So I left without arranging a graduation ceremony. Partly because I never liked those, partly because I believed it wouldn’t be my last stint at tertiary education. I stayed until the second last day of my visa, to take care of my businesses and make sure everything was in proper order. There were still people who needed my help, until the last minute. On a cold night, after some frantic last-minute packing (hey we’re all guilty, don’t pretend otherwise), I scuttered off with a couple of close friends to the airport, waved them goodbye and flew home.

At first, life was quite nice. Got to eat some nice (and more importantly, free) food. I was pretty burnt out already, so some months with my literal fam would do me good. And they did.

Then came November. That god-awful November.

All three scholarship applications I submitted were rejected, one shortly after the other.

Imagine you come into a restaurant and order steak. After waiting for 10 minutes, the waiter tells you that the restaurant has run out of steaks and asks if you could have pasta instead. Begrudgingly, you agree. Then another 15 minutes goes by and the same waiter comes again. Sorry we are out of pasta also, will you have a salad? Almost pulling your hairs out, you consent. And then 5 minutes later, the restaurant manager comes out from behind the counter and asks you to leave, because “Sorry, but seems like there is no place for you here anymore.”

That’s what it felt like at the time.

The nightmare of 2013 was coming back in full force. But by now, I was much more hardened in dealing with unexpected outcomes. To be honest, I was more surprised than disappointed. I thought the portfolio I built up made me a strong enough applicant. I spent a couple of days to absorb the fact that I wouldn’t make it back to Australia, not at least anytime soon.

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Not seeing this familiar sight anytime soon.

Once reality had set in, I set out (heheheh!) to consider my next move. That didn’t take very long because let’s face it, my options were limited.

So, the working world.

The prospects of a job didn’t look too good. When I started my Bachelor’s degree, finding employment was not really a top priority. To me, university was more about the intellectual pursuits (yeah I was young and foolish enough to believe that). So I delved into obscure and unemployable areas, like political philosophy, politics and philosophy (they are different, I swear!).

Now, Marx’s historical materialism or Hobbes’ theory of state or even knowledge of how Augustus maintained his reign wasn’t of much help in seeking a job. Nevertheless, I persisted. Polished up the CV, sent out a couple of job apps, reaching out to potential hirers. You know, usual things a fresh graduate might do to get a job.

A few offers came along the way, much to my surprise because frankly, I wasn’t in full force in my job hunting. Among them, one was particularly interesting. So I took the job in the non-profit sector and moved to Hanoi (side note: I had never been to Hanoi before).

The first day in the capital was fun. I remember going to the nearby supermarket to buy settling-in stuff. It was only until I stood in a tea aisle that I fully comprehended the profound implications of the choice I made.

I was alone.

I. WAS. ALONE.

Which means I now had something I have always craved (along with wine and gelato).

Freedom.

I had freedom. I was free.

The realisation was both exciting and terrifying.

Since I have (almost) perfect control of my life, I have nobody else to praise for my success. The flip side is, in failing, I have nobody but myself to blame.

(Side note: I summarised my experience living in Hanoi here. While you’re on Quora, sign up and follow me too.)

I have always prided myself on being a voracious reader and one thing I gathered through reading from various wonderful people is that all successful folks are excellent at discipline. They are in control of themselves and consequently of their own destiny. I wanted that. So I set out to learn some good ol’ discipline but boy was it tough. Living alone means only having only myself as both enforcer and motivator. Change must come from within.

What I have been trying to do is establish a routine, one that suits me and I will follow consistently. I understand no matter how trivial, habits can make or break me. I have made some headway with the morning part, being able to wake up early (on most days!) and work on myself. Because another thing I have come to understand is it is the hours outside of the regular job that will determine what I can become. I know I can be so much more, but it will only happen if I put in the work consistently. A war is not won overnight, but battle by battle. A marathon is run inch by inch.

I have also learned to be ruthless with myself in the process. If something does not make me a better person, I refuse to do it. If somebody takes up too much of my time in a non-meaningful way, I cut them off. Yes, I probably have pissed off quite a few people (including myself) but hey, it’s my life and I’ve only got one of those. So go figure. Of course, I don’t mean flipping people off, but you can actually turn down invitations politely and in advance. And you don’t have to explain yourself to other people. Nah, life is too short for that.

People ask how I have been. The truth is, I have been uncomfortable, and I mean that in a good way. How I see it is, comfort breeds content, content breeds complacency and complacency is among the greatest downfalls of man, for it hinders progress. It is discontent that fuels passion. I try to put myself in unfamiliar situations, ones that demand decisiveness and resourcefulness. “Throwing myself in at the deep end” would be the appropriate expression. The more terrifying it looks, the deeper I delve.

I realise my approach will probably catch some flak. “But you don’t sound happy!” “How can you be happy if you are not content?”

You know what I say? To hell with happiness, to hell with it.

If I wanted to be happy, I would have stayed in Saigon, got a comfortable job, pat myself on the back and be content for the next 40 years. That was and is totally within my ability, I don’t doubt it. But no, I chose discomfort. Because I understood that it is only in discomfort that I can grow.

Let me take a moment and file a disclaimer to say that this is my approach to my life. I recognise that it does not suit everyone and I am certainly not recommending it for every person that reads this. This way of life is regularly mundane, often tiring and sometimes brutal. It will always be another climb. Another mountain. Another conquest. Comfort is momentary while discontent is permanent.

Word.

But again, discontent is what drives passion. And passion is what drives a person forward. Like a candle in the night.

I recently came across a question that read “What is your magnum opus?” 

I posted a piece of writing I wrote a long time ago, thinking that in terms of literary quality, it makes me proud the most. But now I understand that my life’s masterpiece must be myself. I am my greatest work. am my longest project. I will keep pushing my limits.

Oh, in case you didn’t know, let me just take this paragraph (and the next couple ones) to explain my job. I am currently working for an NGO called Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, whose focus is children in crisis. We serve street kids, kids at risk of being trafficked for labour or sex, and victims of human trafficking. (If you are thinking about donating to an NGO, please please please consider us. We do great work!) I work in the Communications and Fundraising Team, handling grants and reports. Basically, I write reports to foundations and organisations that give us money, and write grant applications to seek new funding. I collect data from staff who run the activities, compile them and put together nicely-written, nicely-formatted reports and proposal.

As you can tell, a lot of writing is involved. Alas, writing is not the difficult part. Collating different types of information is. I often joke that I am a beggar for info, but there is a degree of truth in that. Much of my time is spent hassling other folks for that piece of data I reallyyyy need to produce a good report. A story, a detail, a number. By now, I’d like to think they have grown familiar with my hassling and some, even fond of it (well a man can hope!).

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Sometimes I get out into the field too. Then I curse the sun and quickly get back inside.

If you are wondering then yes, I am liking this job. I do what I like. I do what I am good at. It is legal, it helps other people and most importantly, it pays. Both in money and in other things. Honestly, I’d be hard pressed to find a more suitable position elsewhere. So yeah, I am satisfied with my current work. Of course, there are professional challenges (hey, it’s my first job after uni in a sector I’ve no prior experience with), but I genuinely enjoy these challenges. I still remember finding out my grant was approved for the first time. It felt surreal, for I couldn’t really believe that I have done it. I wrote the application within a week, after three weeks at my new job. I really was fortunate enough to have support from others, so they have my gratitude. The grant wasn’t even that big monetarily but to me, it was, because it tells me that I am doing it right. That I am on the right track. That I am becoming the best version of myself. Besides, first blood always tastes better.

I read somewhere on Quora that your goal in life should be something you can’t be born with. So money, fame, happiness are out. Yes, even happiness, because many of us were born happy. Instead, our objective should be something that takes effort, time, and sweat. Preferably a lot of those. This way, we are poised to achieve eudaimonia, which is the ancient Greek term for “a fulfilled life”. Byproducts such as happiness, money or fame will show up along the way, but they themselves can’t be the end goal.

Life is so short, shouldn’t we try to do something remarkable? – Me

Now that I have mentioned it, let’s stop at Quora for a moment. The site is definitely one of last year’s highlights. I had joined sometime before but it wasn’t until late 2016 that I actively participated in writing answers. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop indeed. I have learned so much, the most notable probably being becoming more emotionally mature. Reading answers from various writers who are considered knowledgeable on the subject has been enlightening. I have come to understand that in romance (and in life too), nobody owes me their time, attention or affection. Everything is voluntary, not obligatory. In other words, I ain’t owed shit. I also learned that it takes more than just attraction for two people to start a relationship together. Compatibility is what matters, and the term covers so many aspects, including but definitely not limited to mutual romantic interest.

This philosophy on romance has freed up a lot of my mind and time. And saved me a lot of headaches as well. Still on the quest of finding a quite secure and emotionally mature person with whom I enjoy spending a considerable amount of time hanging out though. I am truly not sure if I’ll be dating in the short future, but still, excited to see where this goes. Low expectations but high standards, I guess.

Also, massive shout-out to mature folks who handle uncomfortable situations with grace and empathy. You guys are cool, I want you to know that.

For this next year, I shall keep on working on myself. Probably try to lose some weight because I want to enjoy nice food for as long as I can. Probably travel a bit too, as I haven’t done much of that. Probably start building a personal brand, because I think I am an awesome person and more people should get to know me. It is going to be another year of pain and success, and I pray that I find the strength to thrive in it.

Well, it was hard to pack the last 365 days into over 2000 words, but hey, I tried. Told you it would be entertaining, educational and inspiring. Allegedly. Please don’t sue me.

This last year has been painful and thus enriching. And it is just the beginning.

I shall stop here. See you in probably the next couple of months. Gotta write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Yes, I stole that adage from Benjamin Franklin. Sue me.

Ciao ciao.

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Marvel at my brilliance. Or the sun’s. Either is fine by me, really.

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This post originated from a question on Quora: How can someone forget their first love and move on in life? As I was writing up the answer, I thought it’d be better if I made it a standalone post of my own. 

first loves

We were young. We fucked up.

That’s essentially my answer nowadays when enquired about what happened with my very first love.

You know, the thing that’s believed to mystically stay with us forever?

Well, I happen to believe in the myth. At least to a large extent.

The reasons vary, but I believe most can be traced back to two factors: the devouring intensity and the brief lifespan of it.

First love is an extraordinary sort of fever that consumes us. And we offer ourselves willingly.

Bar a number of people, most of us had/are having/will have our first love at a young age, often during our adolescence. The time when our hormones were raging and we just stepped out of childhood was probably the (relatively) worst time to fall in love.

We weren’t emotionally mature. Hell, we weren’t even physically mature to undertake such a monumental endeavour like love.

But love happened to us all the same. And at that tender age, everything around us was amplified through a gigantic magnifying glass.

The first person who stole our heart is no exception.

A brief “Good morning” text lifts our mood the entire day.

A slight touch of the hand put our heart on fire.

Even being in the same space with them without talking to each other can be exquisitely suffocating.

I know because I have been there.

Pure passion and no restraint, we romanticise love to the point of absurdity. But it was exactly that absurdity that bound us and made our heart scream with excitement.

Take a look at John Clare’s poem “First Love”

I ne’er was struck before that hour
   With love so sudden and so sweet,
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
   And stole my heart away complete.
My face turned pale as deadly pale,
   My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?
   My life and all seemed turned to clay.
And then my blood rushed to my face
   And took my eyesight quite away,
The trees and bushes round the place
   Seemed midnight at noonday.
I could not see a single thing,
   Words from my eyes did start—
They spoke as chords do from the string,
   And blood burnt round my heart.
Are flowers the winter’s choice?
   Is love’s bed always snow?
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
   Not love’s appeals to know.
I never saw so sweet a face
   As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
   And can return no more.

The infatuation was palpable.

We do crazy shit for our first love.

I did crazy shit for my first love.

Like waking up at 6AM, travelling to the airport and waiting for close to 2 hours just to be the first person to greet her. And yes, I made an improvised Hello sign with her name on it too, bonus points for dramatic flair.

On another occasion, I made a mixtape for her from scratched. The whole shebang. I put together a list of songs. I designed the CD and the cover. I found a place to burn the CD and put everything together. Contacted someone to have it delivered to her too.

I was barely eighteen at the time.

Ah, the lengths we go to for love.

Rapper 50 Cent says in one of his songs: “I love you like a fat kid love cake.”

Have you ever seen a fat kid who loves cake?

It’s the kind of unequivocal, unrelenting and unquenchable sensation that best describes how it feels like to love for the first time.

(For the record, I am fat. And I love cake. Cake ftw!)

It was the immaturity, the audacity, the recklessness that keeps us going. We happily hold the torchlight that always burns bright as day, even if sometimes it scalds our hand a little bit. The emotional intensity can be intoxicating and addictive, considering this is the first time we’ve come to know it.

We are carefree with our first love. The whole world just doesn’t matter. Nothing else but the person matters. It is this time that I believe one can be truly drunken with love. Our peripheral vision gets narrowed down into the size of a body frame. At the first kiss, we feel like we are going to explode. Again, pure passion and no restraint. First love is a special thing, and there is no denying it.

The second reason why first love stays with us for so long is its early demise.

To this date, I have rarely seen a first love result in a happy ending. Most of those didn’t even transition into a long-term relationship. At the risk of over-generalising, I’d go so far and say first loves are ephemeral and it often takes an incredible amount of effort AND luck to make them not so. Note: I am not condemning all first loves to certain, inescapable doom. I am just saying that the probability of high school sweethearts living happily ever after is strikingly low. And no, I have little empirical data to back that up. All I have is this quote:

Did I think he was “the one”? I’ll never know. At sixteen, everyone is “the one.” – K. A. Tucker

The problem lies with amplification. When things are good, they are heavenly good. When things are bad, they are, well, pretty fucking bad.

At the beginning, we are with each other and only with each other, there was no worldly needs involved. However, when the young love is put through the trials of life, things get rocky very quickly.

We are often too dazzled by the light that we forget it is blinding us.

A silly mistake can turn into an ugly fight.

A small obstacle can be seen as insurmountable.

A seemingly trivial matter can swiftly put an end to things.

As I have written, first-time lovers often lack the emotional capacity to handle challenges with maturity. I should stress that the death of first love is often due to neither party’s fault. We just suppose that everything is going to be perfect forever because we have found our perfect soul mate. So when an imperfection turns up (often out of the blue), we have no clue how to deal with it, and how to deal with it together. We mess up.

I partly agree with Benjamin Disraeli’s claim, that “the magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end.” Except I’d swap magic for tragedy. That’s more accurate. The dream never seems to end, until one day it does. Because the foundation upon which it was built was not quite than concrete and sustaining. As we mature and experience hardship, first love seems too perfect, too good, too unrealistic. We get the feeling that it is perhaps near inevitable that our first love had come to an end. We realise that it didn’t work out because much of it was due to our own fabrication.

This may sound oddly out of place, but I found this quote from the TV series Westworld to be extremely appropriate to describe the situation:

These violent delights have violent ends.

And to think it originally refers to Romeo and Juliet, it makes even more sense.

But it is precisely because of the way first love often ends that it stays with every moment of our waking life. We forged a close bond, experienced many unforgettable memories, and fell apart. Now we look back, with fondness and nostalgia, to when we were innocent once, when the whole world didn’t matter, when we felt invincible with the other person by our side. And it is impossible to ever love like that again. The only thing we can do is live on.

That’s what happens with your first love. It carves a hole in the muscle and fiber, so that you have no choice but to wear it like a birthmark.
—Rebecca Tsaros Dickson

The first flame always burns the brightest. Even if it is short-lived. Especially if it is short-lived.

Which brings me back to where I began.

We were young. We fucked up.

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That’s probably the end. I’ve gotta get back to prepping for work. That report ain’t gonna write itself.

Ciao.