Always. Always Alone.

Hi wordpress, it’s been a while. I don’t even know why I’m bothering to write this post even though I know there’s a high chance I’m gonna delete this later. But there has just been so much on my mind and so many things clouding my inner soul which I feel that no amounts of chatting or talking will be able to relieve me of this burden so I guess writing it out will be able to soothe things in some ways (but I know I’m always wrong anyways.)

I thought coming to wkw will make me write more but instead I have neglected everything. Everything I once loved to do. From writing prose to taking good pictures and coming up with creative video shoots ūüė¶ Why why has coming to the school I thought was ideal for me stopped me from trying to express my creativity. Is it because of the inferiority complex I have when seeing other people whom are much better at the things I love doing than I am?

School has been overwheming thus far. So much work to do, readings to read, projects to discuss, meetings to go for I feel like I had so little alone time this few months to even think about why I am doing what I am doing. And as if I already do not have the charisma to connect with people, I cannot even do well for my mods. It is so so so freaking depressing that I cannot even try to be as smart as how I once was. How did I lose my ability to study well and ace my tests. HOW. WHY. HELP?

And as though school work isn’t enough, I still feel the same sorrow when having to deal with people. Just like how it was in primary, secondary school and JC. I just cannot establish that connection with people. While so many others are forming close ties, I am just there, by myself, all alone. Somehow, nobody wants to associate themselves with me, nobody wants to say that they are friends with darren. Don’t get me wrong, I have made a couple of lovely friends whom are really kind and great but it’s the one on one relationship which I once again cannot seem to build with people and that really gets to me. While friends in my own clique have that special one on one friendship, I have nothing. And before people start to hate on me and say that I am unappreciative of what I have, I can only say you do not know where did this boy come from. This boy who was once so badly ostracised, that he did not want to even leave home to go to school. This boy who made no friends in primary school. This boy who just somehow has no appeal factor good enough to make a close bond with any friend.

It just really saddens me how until now, 21 years into this thing we call life that I have no clue how this bonding thing works. I have friends, but none I feel whom really wants to even make me one of their close friends.

And to add on to the misery, while it’s nice having the feels again of fancying someone, it just sucks, sucks so bad when you are unable to do anything about it :/ and all you can do is watch from afar, hoping just hoping that that someone gives you that second of attention, just a smile that can warm you up on these hard, tiring, cold days. It’s been 2 years, 2 years before I decide that I’m ready to take on this enemy called feelings, but maybe I’m not up for this challenge, this impossible battle. Maybe I’m better left sprawling in my bed, under my duvet, alone. Cause then again, when was I never alone. Always. Have been always alone.

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Auckland

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The sunset at Sydney before boarding my connecting flight

Auckland was another cosmopolitan city, bustling with life as soon as you head straight into the heart of the CBD. I took the skybus out from Auckland International Airport (NZD$16 one-way and $28 return) and alighted along Queen Street, a main street in the Auckland CBD.

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My hostel was literally opposite the Auckland Skytower

I tried my best to fit in upon arriving, especially since my mini Asian frame was not helping. Turns out, with each turn of the street I was seeing so many Asian faces that it felt just like Melbourne.

If you have a copy of Lonely Planet’s travel guide, they have a pretty comprehensive 3.5 km city walk, which takes about 4 hours to cover. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately) I left my guide behind so all I could do was choose a location and head towards it.

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Auckland Town Hall. Fancy a show anyone?

Having not done any research, I decided to just follow the direction of the sunset and go to wherever it took me. I found myself walking down Queen Street. With numerous shopping malls to my left and right it was tempting to take a detour to see what was going on in each smaller lane, but the alluring sunset, kept me on my path.

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Got carried away and went on without having a picture of the main entrance sign till a little later

In no time, I found myself at Wynyard Quarters, a wharf area with several bars and a place for sails and larger boats to dock. The walk was a rather longer one, about 2Km from my hostel (Surf n Snow Backpackers).

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But it was all so worth it, just check out the view. On the way back I couldn’t but take more pictures of the emerging nightlife under the twilight.

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Didn’t plan to¬†stay long in Auckland but this sunset was a real treat.

Stay tuned for more!

Open Water Diving | Bintan 2016

On the 19th of March, I found myself in a mini speedboat travelling along the waters, South East from Singapore. 

I was in Bintan- a popular resort location for families and beach enthusiasts. 

As the speedboat raced on, there was a crisp sound of water crashing against the windows of the boat, the occasional, sudden sputter of the two Yamaha engines at the back but most distinctively, a constant, jarring sound which interrupted my attempt at appreciating the tranquilness of the sea. 

On board, twenty oxygen tanks repeatedly collided with each other whenever the boat rode over a wave. After a 15 minutes journey, the initially lively engine died down. The wobble of the oxygen tanks stopped and the boat came to a halt. 

I was out in the middle of the ocean, with nothing but vast surfaces of water. The nearest island seemed like a 15 minute ride away.

Our small group of 12 stood up and went to claim our individual dive kits which were neatly stashed in a  corner of the boat. It was time to prepare our equipment and gear up. While we tried to ready our oxygen tanks, it was important to hang on tightly to it as the unwanted started to happen.

 

 

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Our group of 12 at the Bintan Agro Resort.

The ROCKING- gentle but deadly. The merciless current pounded the boat, causing it to tip from side to side. The longer we took to prepare, the easier the seasickness got to us.

I was eager to get off the boat, but was simultaneously hesitant to plunge into the ocean. After all, being submerged in water whilst having one’s face smacked by the waves constantly ain’t no fun.¬†

One by one, we gathered by the edge of the boat. I stood and waited in line patiently, checking all the equipment around me, taking multiple deep breaths before sitting at the ledge to wear my flippers. Then, with one hand against my stomach, the other, pressed tightly on my mask and an outstretched leg, I fell vertically into the sea.

The giant step took me well below the water but it was not long before I bobbed back up to the surface. Head tilted, resting against the buoyancy device I finned swiftly to join the others who were holding onto a buoy.

After a quick briefing, we were tasked to release the air from our buoyancy device and descend. Bit by bit I could feel the once puffy buoyancy bag slowly shrink in size that was now similar to the fitting of a normal t-shirt. Gradually, the island which I could initially see became blurry. My vision turned a little bluer and within seconds, I was underwater.

It seemed like we were sinking into an endless abyss but gradually the sea bed became clear. A sudden silence ensued. No longer could you hear the currents pound upon your chest. We were like floating Darth Vaders, making grisly, mechanical breaths as we finned along the sea bed in search of interesting finds.

Unfortunately, there were not much marine life to see but being in the ocean itself made up for it. The stillness of just standing on the seabed and closing one’s eyes, brought about much peace and serenity, something our heavily competitive world can hardly provide these days. Those ephemeral joys of staying in¬†an environment completely different from ours reaffirmed the fact of how large our world actually is.

Diving was never part of my plans in 2016 as being submerged in the water is more often than not a pretty uncomfortable thing to imagine. Yet, had I chosen to remain in my comfort zone, it would have been impossible to see a side of this world we hardly witness, a side which still has lots to amazing experiences to offer.

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We saw a shark?!

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Just chillin.

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Wouldn’t have done it without this bro ūüôā

 

An Unusual Interview

Today, I’ve met my match.

Today, I wavered, was too afraid to take a leap of faith and failed to stick to a value which I had always advocated.

It was always passion over money.

Pursuing one’s interest was always paramount to the tangible remuneration that one was to receive. Yet, today demonstrated how difficult it was to stay true to the statement above.

It was an unusual interview with a video productions company, an interview which I didn’t even expect myself to be called up for.

Prior to the interview, I had an exchange with one of the co-founders who later on turned out to be the interviewer whom I met today. Our conversation on phone was carried out matter of factly. He got to learn a little about me through several sketchy questions and it ended off with him saying,” Actually your video skills, isn’t what we’re looking for and the videographer position has already been filled so…”

To my surprise, shortly after that abrupt ending, I received an email, inviting me to drop by his office for an interview.

Unlike most interviews, which get you to answer questions about yourself, my interviewer repeatedly asked if I had any questions for him. True enough, I didn’t arm myself with that many questions and could only blurt out some pretty shallow ones as to why he chose to come into this industry and the methods used to source for clients when they just started out.

Within minutes, I exhausted whatever questions I could think of, expecting him to take over the interview and hit me back with a few questions of his own. After all he didn’t even seem to bother asking why I was keen to take up this position, which piqued my curiosity as to why he kept prompting me to ask him one question after another.

He responded,” Do you know why I called you down today? It’s because on the phone you said you’re keen to start a business of your own in future.”

(Yes this is true, it has been somewhat a long term goal of mine to eventually be my own boss.)

Anyways, he continued,”I expected you to come prepared with more questions. The fact that I am willing to take time and invite you down here, you should have given it more thought,” whilst giving me a cursory, disapproving glance.

I didn’t know how to react. All I could muster was a sheepish grin while trying to avoid his gaze.

It was one of the most, if not the most uncomfortable moment for me during an interview. In a desperate bid to find another question, I eventually asked the question which I never thought to be important.

A question regarding the pay.

Internships never paid well. It was something I had establish a long time ago and hence refrained from asking it in any interviews. But upon knowing that the remuneration was $480, I subtly shifted in my seat, clearly taken aback by the meagre sum.

It did not take him long to notice my discomfort at the sound of the pay before he mentioned,”Indeed you’ll be behind your peers but the intangibles you can get out of the internship will definitely be worth more than this amount.”

Sure, everyone knows that, it’s why we even consider applying for internships in the first place isn’t it? But when you are unable to define my key role in the organisation and could only say I’m here to be a ‘chapalang man’ or a ‘Jack of all trades’, somehow, somewhere deep inside me, alarm bells went off.

“So, you are willing to take me in? To be part of the team?” I asked.

He nodded.

Before I applied for these internships, I told myself, no matter the pay, as long as I could get a position in a video productions company, I would take it up.

But $480 a month threw me off completely.

I asked him for a day to consider. It was true, that he had gone through rough patches when starting out and having been in the business for 7 years now, it was a place where I could learn about the hows in developing a start up, the necessities in turning ideas into reality.

But he said no.

I was asked to think and make the decision on the spot. ” I have to put you in a spot and let you make tough decisions in the moment,” he mentioned as he broke into a wry smile (in no way is this an exaggeration, I could feel it completely) ,”opportunities don’t come by twice so you better consider carefully.”

It was tough keeping my cool hearing him elicit those words as I was close to saying sorry and walking out straight. But thankfully I managed to remain calm. Yes, opportunities certainly don’t come by twice but some things just didn’t feel right and my gut told me to decline.

“Sorry but I don’t think I’ll take it up.” I said confidently.

He was stunned momentarily and for five seconds, all we heard was just the buzzing of the aircon. He got me to explain my rationale (which I won’t go into detail considering how long this post is getting). However, if you are interested to know, you can ask me personally.

Of course, he didn’t agree with my train of thought, and tried to sell the idea that it was difficult to get the chance to find such an environment to learn about growing a start-up.

I stuck to my words and thanked him for his time. Unlike how he first greeted me, with a smile, he bade goodbye rather nonchalantly. (Probably still couldn’t believe that I said no, considering how eager I sounded on the phone.)

I walked down the flight of stairs and the immediate thought was if I was going to ever regret turning down that offer.

As I continued on my path towards the crossroad junction, that sense of guilt of betraying my initial words of taking up an internship regardless of the pay began to set in.

Am I never capable to stay committed to the things I say or promise?

It was difficult to shake off what had happened in that studio. Either way, I hope I won’t be wrong in choosing to trust my gut feeling.

At the same time it really shed a new perspective on that statement about pursuing one’s passion at the expense of material gains.

It was a statement I wasn’t embarrass to preach and in fact, proud to use that as my guiding principle, but today I found myself unable to maintain that stance.

For a long period of time, having believed in that value allowed me to be secure about myself and my ideas, but not being able to practise what I have advocated really got me to think again as to what I really want.

It’s again time to do some soul-searching.

Don’t Let Small Failures Blind you from Bigger Goals

Finally back writing. Have not been writing as frequently ever since I took up ACCA (an accounting qualification) whilst serving in the Army.

But guess what? Someone’s finally free!! Finally completed my mandatory national service 2 months ago. Indeed, mundane 2015 ended off nicely with a trip to Melbourne followed immediately with a successful, crazy trekking expedition¬†up Mount Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia.

It was my first time going off on a solo adventure (despite it being only for a week). But I definitely need to go for another solo adventure in the near future.

Great to be back climbing after so long.

Cycled for 50km from Lilydale to Warburton

And yes! Brighton Beach. Feeling the wanderlust yet?

Atop Mount Rinjani! (the climb was insane, was literally dying)

The bestest bunch to do crazy things together

It would be inaccurate to say that 2016 got off to a bad start. Rather, I have never welcomed a year in such a hyped up, exciting fashion before and for that I figured that everything will only get better.

Indeed, it did get better, MET FUNFORLOUIS HAHA

but,

WRONG.

Thereafter, it was a harsh return to reality. I scrambled to finish my resume for it to be sent to multiple companies hoping to secure a media-related internship particularly in the fields of videography or journalism.

For the past two years, my interest in filming and writing grew substantially (okay I did not quite write that much). When I was helplessly confined to my bed, I spent almost everyday finding interesting content to satisfy the inner desire of wanting to learn more of whatever that was going on around the world.

So I figured that the best way to learn was probably an internship?? After all, you get to see how the real world is like, how things are done and pick up new skills.

Yet, 12 companies and 2 weeks later, I did not get accepted by any of them. Bottom line is, the media industry is a really tough place to be in (and yes I had been warned).

Either way, it was disappointing having tried so hard just to craft out a resume let alone write that many cover letters. At one moment, I even doubted my own ability to do well in this industry. Were my writings sub-par? And my videos too amateurish?

To see yourself fail at meeting your first goal in 2016 can be kind of deflating especially when an opportunity of learning falls through your grasp.

But that was only a small goal in what is to be an exciting year.

I wanted to intern at a startup, learn how one is actually built while¬†taking my¬†journalism and videography game up a notch by¬†learning from professionals. Despite that being¬†out the picture, it is no excuse to drop that goal. Sure there isn’t¬†anyone to guide me but who says you can’t¬†learn stuff from the internet.

Keep the bigger picture in mind and work towards it. Come up with new plans that will lead you towards the larger goal and you are still on the right track.

//

For now, I have succumbed to the routine lifestyle. Ugh (have yet to muster the courage to drop everything and go.)

But.

I will continue to make Youtube videos. The goal of making films is very much alive despite it being in its infancy. Determined to work really hard on it.

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Shameless plug

If you’re keen to check out my amateurish works, you can click here

 

 

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail- a common adage, which has been reiterated by many in our adolescent years- teachers, parents, and elders. Growing up in an Asian society is the epitome of¬†this idiom. Since then, nothing seemed to be doable before coming up with¬†several full proof plans and obviously, as a result there weren’t many plans to begin with.

As I grew older this stigma of not having a detailed plan for my every move was an insignificant but lingering nuisance in me. Gradually I became more paranoid, over thinking scenarios, more indecisive and I saw myself not willing to take risk. There’s a very grey line between risk and stupidity, where the latter involves acting without considering blatant and inherent risks presented in a situation.

Yet to what extent should we plan? For we can plan up till the most minute of details but the end result are more often or not, uncontrollable.

This post was not planned. Rather it was a flashing thought as I happen to plan my maiden solo voyage overseas to Melbourne and was enthralled with the thought of hiking solo along the Chautauqua Trail in the Grampians while being so close to Mother Nature. The hesitation set in only after reading that the trail involved the need to overcome steep boulders.

An immediate consideration was whether the trail will be too risky having recovered from a severe injury a year ago. The conservativeness of Asian parents did not exactly help either when I was advised against trying to conquer the highest peak in the Grampians.

I needed a plan, a shorter route to the summit maybe? None. What about a more gradual path? Negative. Guided tours? They didn’t fit into my travel schedule. So it seemed that a trip to the Grampians was about to fall through since I did not have concrete plan and without a plan I will eventually fail won’t I?

We’ve all come to a point in time when we gave up on something when we couldn’t establish a definite goal. Most of us draw motivation from having a tangible target, an outcome we envision. But when was the last time you chose to go ahead with things amidst a foggy journey. If all is but a thorn-less path then¬†where is the pride in having¬†taken a leap of faith and having¬†tried?

The route ahead may seem uncertain as you make certain key decisions but nothing is entirely in our control.  There will come a time in your life where you look back and thank yourself for making that decision.

And in the entirety of this post, Grampians here I come.

 

Remembering Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

When I first learnt of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s passing, the feelings of sadness did not overcome me instantly, unlike how it did for my mother. Rather, there was a particular empty feeling, knowing that such an important¬†man in Singapore’s history¬†had left us.

Maybe it was because I was born in the 90’s, when Singapore was already bearing fruit of the seeds Mr Lee and his team had sown; unlike my parents who¬†had¬†experienced the tumultuous periods of growing up when Mr Lee was then Prime Minister.

Growing up, I did not have the chance of meeting this honourable man in person. Instead, it was usually during the National Day celebrations, when the camera would pan to show him on-screen. I would stare intently at him, hearing the commentary on how Mr Lee had given up so much of his life in the course of building this nation.

Most of my initial impressions of Mr Lee were mainly how he ruled with an iron fist, clamping down on his political opponents and even strictly controlling the media, even up till today. Many who belong to the younger generation of Singapore frequently lament on how there is limited freedom of speech here, compared to the countries in the West.

But thank you Mr Lee for having that courage to have made so many unpopular decisions back then, when Singapore was still in her infancy. For without someone with that grit, Singapore will not be as orderly and prosperous as She is today, where people have roofs over their heads, a city with limited crime and where everyone of different races and religions can live in unison.

Over the last few days, watching memoirs of Mr Lee on-screen and reading write-ups of his life online as well as in the newspapers, it gradually occurred to me that he was not completely authoritative.

Once, Mr. Lee had an interview with Leonard M. Apcar, deputy managing editor of the International Herald Tribune. He mentioned of his disapproval of casinos but due to the changing world environments, Singapore had to keep up by having casino resorts of her own, leading to the opening of the 2 Integrated Resorts in 2010.

He was a truly adaptive man, who altered his decisions based on global scenarios and was never locked on one specific ideology when leading the country. What we can be sure of is that all he had done was for the betterment of Singapore and her people.

We may not agree with some of his policies especially since how times have changed from the 50’s. The population now compared to our forefathers’ is a more educated one. Decisions, which have worked in the past, may not necessarily work now. Singapore, in my opinion is still a country far from perfect; there are still lots to be done.

As Singaporeans, we can only promise to continue to work hard in our various fields, like how our forefathers once did. To continue living in harmony with one another and build on the solid foundation they have laid, to make Singapore an even better place to live in.

All of us are indebted to Mr Lee in our own ways and even though he may no longer be with us, even though I can never see him wave the Singapore flag or mouth the words of “Home”, come August 9th each year, we know that Mr Lee will definitely be watching over us from above.

Thank you Mr Lee for all that you have done, your story lives on and so do you in our hearts.