On positivity 

I had the urge to write a quick update after I went back and reread this Solitary blog post at the very beginning of 2017. Gosh, that IS way too bleak! I feel embarrassed now that I did write all that. But it’s almost an unwritten rule that you will always feel embarrassed by what you wrote in the past. 

2017, so far my outlook has changed for the better! 

Of course, there are ups and downs in life, as expected. In fact, the first 2 months of 2017 was a bit of emotional whirlwind. Fortunately, it was resolved quite quickly and I did not dwell on it at all. Then again got thrown into another type of emotional whirlwind in March. But once again I managed to get through it. 

What has changed is: at the moment I tend (and from time to time, try) to take things as they are with no expectation (Or as less as I can possibly manage. Still struggling from time to time, but hey, I’m only human, aren’t I?). Welcoming a neutral, realistic, and perhaps a bit more relaxing approach in life. 

I no longer feel like I lost faith in love anymore. SO happy for that! Safe to say that time heals and I have finally fully recovered, which is a great feeling. At the same time, it doesn’t mean I look at love with bright and hopeful eyes like 10 years ago either. Love comes in different shapes and forms, and people are flawed and so different from one another. You really have to stay open-minded and get to know a person as who/what they are. There is no one-size-fit-all definition of love and relationship. I am definitely more positive than last year, but also have my feet firm on the (realistic) ground as ever. 

Also don’t think too much about HOW the future will be if I end up being alone. It is always a good idea to plan things in advance, especially financially. But there is no point to fret over it as I’ve chosen to be extremely picky of who I let in my life. If being alone makes me happier than letting the wrong person in, then it is what it is! This is my decision. 

Somehow I’ve become even surer of what I want and look for in a relationship, and I won’t settle for anything less. Failed enough to finally know what I want, perhaps! You learn from your past experiences. In the meantime, it is great to be exposed to new people and just see how it goes. You could learn and pick up something from them, and to me it’s interesting that way. 

Learning to enjoy the journey and trust the process more. As always, the future is uncertain! 🙂 

The Murakami Effect

“Wow,” I thought to myself, after reading the last word of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, and stared fixedly at the page. It took me only 2 days to finish (with work in between), simply because I was unable to stop reading. 

The clock on the wall shows it’s almost midnight. 

It’s beyond me to describe this deep…sorrow and unnamed unsettling feelings rising up in my chest. As a result, I was pacing around the room, earphones plugged in my ears playing one song on repeat. In my head, trains of thoughts of nothing in particular kept swirling one after another. I couldn’t quite catch any of them. 

What a weird sensation. 

I vaguely remembered reading Norwegian Wood and how bleak and suffocating the novel made me feel, many years ago. It was too much sorrow, the kind I did not understand at all, back in college years. 

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, once again, is full of melancholy and sorrow. As well as nostalgia, loneliness, self-discovery journey, forgiveness, and so much more. 

But this time, this kind of sorrow, I…get it. The feelings go straight to the heart. While I was reading it, many waves of emotions kept hitting me relentlessly. Even made me stunned in the end. 

One thing for certain, I’ve never felt this deeply touched by any novel before. 

“This must be Murakami Effect,” I closed my eyes, trying to yank myself back to reality, silent all chaotic thoughts, and sleep. No more feels, please. 

The plot is fairly simple. One day in college, a guy named Tsukuru Tazaki was “expelled” from his closest group of 4 high school friends. They decided to cut him off and did not want to speak to him ever again, with no explanation. For about 7 months, Tsukuru contemplated about nothing but commit suicide. It affected his life so much that he felt scared to be emotionally close with anyone else ever since. 

Sixteen years later, now 36, he is determined to find the truth from all his friends, in the hope to be free from his haunting past and pain. And the journey of discovery begins. 

Murakami uses colors as a symbol of alienation in this book and I personally love that. All Tsukuru’s friends and characters in this story have different “colors” attached as a part of their names, except Tsukuru whose name is “colorless” Therefore, he constantly thinks his life is as empty and colorless as the name implies. 

Perhaps I know the reason why this novel touched me this much. 

It somewhat resonates what I’m going through, my current state of mind. The book stirred those deep feelings I wasn’t even aware I have left, as well as memories from the past I tried my best to bury underneath, to resurface. It comes out as a mild shock, having to feel it all again because of just one book.  

To put it simply, the story is about a person’s self-discovery journey. It’s about growing up, struggling with pain, trying to overcome the past, and finally accepting, making peace with it. 

You can miss something in the past terribly, like how Tsukuru and his friends admitted that the times that 5 of them spent together was once in a lifetime and nothing could resemble that kind of precious friendship ever since. At the same time, though, you realize how everything has changed so much since then. Even though something terrible that caused you so much pain did happen, once your head begins to wrap around the situation from the present viewpoint, you gradually accept that it’s better things turned out this way, the way it did. 

You lost something once special and meaningful to you, but that is life. Nothing lasts forever. Not even the pain. 

In this novel, it takes 16 years for everybody involved to resolve that pain, 16 years for someone to have the courage to apologize and forgive. 

Tsukuru may think he’s the only one suffering from the situation as he was rejected from the group. But the story tells us that everyone suffers in their own different ways as a consequence, even though all of them leads separate lives. 

“You can hide memories but can’t erase the history that produced them.” 

Perhaps I was wrong. We didn’t become desensitized by life as we grow older. We probably are better at hiding it and pretending that things are okay. We are able to feel things deeply still, but in a different way from our youth. The pain lingers longer, leaves us with wounds and scars from the past. 

The sadness is not overpowering us and we no longer weep because of it. 

Instead, it’s etched on our skin and transformed into permanent scars, deeper than before, and eventually becomes a part of who we are. 

Desensitized?

When you are older and things go wrong in life,

You get up faster, you become stronger, you accept the reality easier. 

Which is a good thing. 

At the same time, though, 

The pain feels familiar like an old friend, in a lesser degree, yet it makes you numb. 

When 10 out of 10 goes wrong, what are the odds of the 11th to be right? 

So you lose hope. You roll your eyes. You smirk. You laugh this cruel laugh. You disregard it completely. 

The word “cynical” seems to be written with permanent ink on your bones, down your spines. 

It’s just another kind of screwups, what makes it different from others? 

So you shrug. 

*Meh*

You know life goes on, and the world never stops because one person is missing. You do things, you keep doing things, you discover happiness in many other places. It gets easier now to replace someone by doing something else, or even meeting new people. 

You live in the reality. In the present. Your head is no longer stuck in the past, like it once was in your youth. 

You move on. 

Yet at the same time, you no longer feel the depth of emotion when things go wrong as if your whole life could collapse, like in your youth. 

Nothing feels intense. Broken-hearted songs start to lose its meanings. 

Is this what maturity all about?

You become desensitized, by the flavor of life. 

“Just read it” – Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Wow. 

Throat constricted. 

Lost for words. 

I’ve got a few tears in my eyes during some parts of the book. But tears were literally streaming down my face when I reached the final chapter of this Nike memoir. 

It would be normal to cry for novels. And I’ve done that too many times. But for the memoir? Real life story? Never have I imagined a real life story could move me this much emotionally. 

Recently, when I’ve read stories of people making efforts after efforts fighting for their passion and belief in some of my books, I’ve got teared up at some certain moments. For some reasons. Funny, isn’t it? 

Grit and perseverance. Somehow, that really moved me. 

In this memoir, Phil Knight words and feelings truly touch my heart. There’s something about his novel-like writing style, almost like I’m reading his diary, while he was sharing his own experiences from day 1 of his Crazy Idea back in 1962. Along the journey, he told us all, unfolding everything in front of us. His writing feels very sincere, even intense, expressing shiny moments and many more dark moments of entrepreneurship. 

He wrote everything without holding back, at least that’s the feeling I’ve got. The reason I probably like this book the most, is that I don’t feel any sugar-coating in his writing. Not even bragging about the success (And it’s Nike we are talking about here!). On the contrary, I feel he is too humble and it’s shown in his writing! If anything, I felt his worries, insecurities, self-doubt, issues after issues to solve, obstacles, fights after fights, along those 20 year journey before the company went public in 1980. He captured the feeling of a start-up owner so perfectly; struggling, feeling lost and unsure of what to do next, but he and his team had been relentless and kept going and going and going, simply because he did not want to lose. 

It reminds me that it’s normal to feel unsure! It’s perfectly ok to feel lost. You have to find the purpose, of what makes it all worth fighting for. This book is a great example of showing why and what they all fight for. 

I feel overwhelmed by the passion and belief that he’s building more than “sports things” Nike is more than business. It’s what connects people, enables people to dream. He believed he has built it, and this is what he was searching for when he was fresh out of college traveling around the world, and first started Nike in 1962. 

But oh boy, was it easy. Of course it never was. The story threw myself in a wrench, when the company got kicked out of the bank, no cash flow (Throwback memories to my first accounting class at 9AM in University of Bath, and Mike our professor yelling “Cash is king”), and the fight with the U.S. government a few years afterwards. Even we all know the outcome that everything was ok in the end, the stress and worries at that time must have been too much to bear. I simply couldn’t imagine. 

Knight used the word “Maybe” a lot. Even when he talked about the iconic swoosh logo (costed $35, designed by a college student), “Not the best, maybe it will grow on me” One chapter after another, I feel his feeling of lost and uncertainty, more than I could count, on those early days of building Nike. 

And he shared his regrets and other mistakes in life as well. It’s a trade-off between work and family, isn’t it? The part when he mentioned that his own son refused to wear Nike shoes because Nike took his dad away almost broke my heart. Imagine his. 

I’ve loved this book so much because it sounds SO REAL. And it speaks directly to the heart. Beautifully written, too. It’s almost like he crafted it. I still try to figure out if Knight did write it himself. But I don’t see any other writer names on and inside the cover. 

This moved me so much that I had to watch some YouTube interview to see what this man is like in person. Nothing striked me more than the clarity of his speech and, is that the determination I see in his eyes? at the age of 78. So well-composed. 

What can I say but read it? Just read it. My best book of 2016 so far. Read it if you wish to be inspired. For anyone. 

Last but not least, I have to thank my long-lost middle school friend who recommended this book under a comment on Facebook, on my photo of the first Nike pair I own posted only a couple weeks ago, Nike free run. For once, I love social media for connecting people together and, this time, making me discover another special, meaningful book. 

“Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”

Oh how I hate Will Traynor’s last letter in Me Before You, how it had an effect of making me weep and sob for the last two pages of the book, and again at the end of the movie. 

I read this book in 2014 (Amazon purchase history, not my memory, mind you) and just got to see this movie tonight. It still held that effect on me; when a good book leaves you with some thoughts to contemplate long after you finish reading it. The key message of the story still rings true after I walked out of the cinema. 

Despite the fact that this is such a soap opera cliched plot; how a rich, handsome man initially looks down on a poor woman who is his care taker, how he places himself high above everyone with such arrogance that makes you wanna slap him in the face, how he is extremely bossy and likes to place orders and so on, I try to overlook that and see how amazing it can be when someone encourages you to take more risks, makes you try new things in life, and broadens your horizon. 

My friend once smirked at me and said, wow, why would you need a man to make you a better you? Can’t you do that yourself? Of course I can. I’m always trying to improve myself to be better anyway. But it feels extraordinary when, once in a while your path can be crossed with someone, and they challenge your worldview and push yourself to see things differently, shading some new lights in your life, and you will have changed for the better, becoming a more well-rounded person. At least it is for me, when I am aware how I can be independent with my own thoughts and how I do things. If someone can challenge me to do and see things a little differently, that feels quite special and they do earn my respect as it is one of the most rewarding experiences. 

The book, and once again the movie, just reminded me to keep going, try new things, and in general just live. 

I’ve thought all of this on the drive home late night after the movie. Not exactly the earth-shattering discovery kind of blog post – more like I want to document some thoughts to re-read later. I’ve discovered recently that I do enjoy late night drive alone on weekends, with light traffic on familiar roads, such a private and precious time to spend with yourself and your own thoughts, with your favorite playlist accompanying you home. It feels good. 

So, what are you working for?

Recently I’ve been contemplating about life and work during morning commute.

(Oh hi Existential Crisis, welcome back!) 

It disappeared for a while, and I was glad my brain could just shut up and leave me in peaceful oblivion, but this (useless?) life contemplation is back visiting me again. Seems to come in a quarterly cycle (What are you Brain, performance quarterly report!?) 

What is your purpose of working, financial reasons aside? 

What drives you to get up and work every day? 

(The kind of question that would make my mother snicker, roll her eyes, and say “you poor thing, have too much leisure time and luxury to contemplate about purpose of work, when majority of people have to do it to survive and make ends meet.”) 

I just asked my best friend this question. Her answer striked me. 

She said “Yeah, I used to wonder that too, but then I remember I still have a daughter’s obligation to fulfill, and that is – to take care of my parents. So that gives me a sense of purpose to keep working.” 

So that made me wonder, would you have a clearer sense of purpose to keep trying to do or fight for something, when you do it for other people, not for yourself? 

Suppose if you have kids, you must work in order to raise them up, make sure they are well taken care of, because you love them and want what is best for them. Even though work is tiring and/or boring, you can’t quit when you have kids relying on you financially at home. 

Would that shut up the voice in your head what or who exactly you are working for? You know you have to struggle and try hard for the kids, for their good life. 

Or would that put even more pressure on you as you have obligation now? And this would make you hate your job even more? Not lost, have a sense of purpose (kids), but hate it and have to do it anyway. 

Perhaps it doesn’t need to be kids. It could be a greater sense of purpose – doing it for other people, a lot more people. For some causes that are personally meaningful to you. 

Would that give you a purpose of working? Would your energy shoot up when you are fighting for it and improving something for other people? Would that give work a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction? 

As a single working woman who doesn’t have many responsibilities toward anyone but myself (Don’t roll your eyes at me, please. I already got that from my mother, ok?), I do have freedom and choices to choose what to work (Oh hi Maslow. Keep seeing your pyramid these days.) Freedom is good (I guess), but choices also come with doubts. So many things to choose, so which one should you pick? Which direction should you be heading? 

Perhaps the purpose of working for self-learning and self-development is not strong enough, when things get rough and tough. 

At the end of the day, could you stop yourself from wondering what or why you are working for? Being tired and stressed for what? 

Still looking for the answer. Back to square one

Embracing a new change

Hi Change. It’s been almost a year since we last met. Not that long I suppose, but when encountering you again, I almost forgot what it feels like, and almost forgot I still needed you. 

Encountering new, unfamiliar changes surely is confusing. At the same time anxiety and worry join forces as you are exposed to these things for the first time. 

But it’s been a while I’ve felt this. I was too relaxed for too long. It can be stressful in the beginning, in this unknown territory, but somehow, surprisingly I’ve missed it. Being confused is confusing! Yet it means I’m learning new things again. You can never take learning opportunities for granted – they make you grow, they make you become a smarter and better you. 

And it’s so important at this point of my life. I still think it is. This is not the period to stop and stay still. 

Being surrounded by talented people also pushed stress even further. But again, hopefully the environment will keep me motivated. I only hope I won’t feel too stressed or too worried that I will underperform or won’t live up to the expectation. I’m fully aware I have the tendency to put the pressure on myself, even when no one is forcing me anything. Usually I am always the one who drives myself crazy, thinking I’m never good enough. What a nagging feeling! The right amount of pressure is good, but too much of it will leave you nothing but stress and worry. And worry never fixes anything, only makes the situation worse than it is. 

Ever thought the older we get, the harder people say or admit “I don’t know”? I see this attitude often and am sadden by it. People are scared to admit what they don’t know, because they are afraid others could view them incompetent or even stupid. As a result, they seem to work hard pretending they know everything, but in fact they haven’t got a clue. And this creates a lot of problems afterwards.

Ego is a very dangerous word when you get older. Funnily enough, perhaps it takes more courage to admit what you don’t know to other people. After all, isn’t it impossible for a person to know everything

I’m trying my best to not be scared of asking questions and admitting I don’t know something, but at the same time showing I’m willing to learn and improve myself. 

HA! This blog post feels like a pep talk to myself to keep it going. Release stress by writing it out, perhaps. I might need to come back and re-read it when I feel overwhelmed!