2014: A year of love and (mis)adventure

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

― Zora Neale Hurston

Melbourne's CBD.
Melbourne’s CBD.

As 2014 comes to a close, what kind of year has it been for you?

To be honest, it has been a whirlwind of a year. There were days that left me breathless (not in a good way); but on the other hand there have also been days that brought deep joy. The kind of joy that doesn’t warrant any Facebook posts or Instagram updates; the quiet kind of happiness and contentment that just happens sometimes.

It is in those moments I realise it has not been the best year for many. Three major aviation incidents occurred in 2014, all of which hit close to home. Sydney unexpectedly saw a tragedy unfold earlier this month. I’ve known of family emergencies and personal wars – it’s true when they say everyone is fighting a battle.

In the grand scheme of things, I will one day look back at 2014 and understand why it had to be trying. I am also keenly aware that there may be worse years to come; but for now, this post is an opportunity to take stock and look back at the mountains + valleys of what has been pretty much a defining year.

The job hunt + #foundgirlsclub

The year kicked off unceremoniously with a job hunt. Former international students (in Australia) may nod in agreement when I say it is incredibly difficult to be an Arts graduate – with no permanent residency visa in hand – and find work successfully.

I won’t say much about the job hunt except that it was a long, hard road that was probably necessary. There were days when self-doubt crept in and I wondered if I was even cut out for the media industry. I stayed home, felt sorry for myself, praying that my circumstances would change in an instant.

photo 3
5/6 of the #foundgirlsclub – plus an honorary member.

But there were good days too.

And so this is where the #foundgirlsclub comes in. We call ourselves that because, well, we are – for the most part – found in a crazy world. And how we found each other is a pretty funny, random story.

Friendship, like many things in life, cannot really be explained and that’s kind of how we work. Transcending distance and time we bond with a shared love for good food, coffee, alcohol, and MITG/SITG conversations (that last one’s an inside joke, teehee). Thanks to their generosity and incredible kindness I weathered some of the dark days and learned to embrace the good ones with fervour. :)

After seven long months (which felt like forever), the jobhunt came to an end. I’d landed the job of my dreams – but it would never have been possible without them. The #foundgirlsclub cheered me on every step of the way and encouraged me to believe in better things.

Without them, and the support from loved ones near and far, I would never have made it here.

To you girls, thank you. I could never repay you. x

Melbourne: My favourite hello and hardest goodbye

It is always uncanny to feel like you have two homes at once. While I was born (and grew up) in Singapore, I spent some of my formative years in Melbourne – which became home as well, in its own right.

The first couple of weeks upon my return were the most difficult, but I quickly realised Singapore as it is today is not the same place I left nearly eight years ago.

We may tear down historic buildings that carry significant parts of our story but our strength has always been in people. And now the people are starting to question the status quo; they are starting to chase their passions. Some of them understand “passion” is a loaded word, sometimes used as an excuse to not knuckle down during the daily grind; others do what they can to realise their dreams and invest in what makes them feel alive.

There’s a culture shift and it’s obvious – for which I am thankful. I’m glad home is a constant but it is also fluid; it changes with the tide and change isn’t always a bad thing. It can be for good. I hope it is for the better.

Singapore is not perfect – not by a long shot – but this generation (myself included) gets the opportunity to build the kind of world we want to live in. That, in itself, is kind of amazing. I get to be a part of this, and I can’t wait to see what Singapore’s 50th year of independence brings.

And of course there are days that I can’t help but miss Melbourne.

The two things I miss most about the world’s most liveable city: Coffee and Hillsong.

While one can now get a decent cup of coffee here in Singapore (thank you Jesus), Hillsong unwittingly became a huge part of my life in the last two years or so.

hillsong kids
Some of the amazing guys from Hillsong Kids Melbourne.

Sometime towards the end of last year, I had the incredible privilege of overseeing the Kids Creative team in Melbourne. It’s probably one of the biggest responsibilities I’ve ever been tasked with… And it was 10 months of waking up at the crack of dawn, refining my craft, and giving my best every Sunday. I wouldn’t change any of it.

In nearly two years the team has weathered crazy Sundays, equipment malfunctions, venue changes, all-day events, and circumstances that needed us to just wing it. But at the end of it all it’s about creating an environment for kids to know – beyond the shadow of a doubt – that they are loved and accepted, no matter what. We’ve learned that excellence is not (and will never be) about perfection, but about topping your best each week. The reward? Seeing each kid learn, grow, and become the best version of themselves. Everything else is a bonus.

The kids creative #dreamteam became family, too. Thank you for believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Thank you for championing my dreams and for the opportunity to be a part of the journey. It has been an absolute privilege serving alongside you guys and I know every single one of you has an incredible future ahead. :)

“we as in us.”

The word “us” is so beautifully delicate. Two short letters can mean so many things – be it family, a cherished friendship, or the privilege of holding someone’s heart in your hands.

He used to say, “You don’t choose who you fall for.” I certainly didn’t.

Falling for someone is a curious feeling. Time passes too quickly and far too slowly at the same time. Everything feels new, and big, and almost impossible.

For a brief moment, I understood what it felt like when home wasn’t a place, it was a person. The “us” we knew, at the time, was about the unspoken words. It was the quiet moments, unexpected hugs, the joke that was passed with one look. It was a mutual love for the written word, good music, and Snicker pods. It was a warm embrace after a long day as a reminder that the next day would be better – with each other.

It ended when my time in Melbourne was up. Standing on the aerobridge right before boarding my plane to Singapore, I looked out at Tullamarine Airport with tears in my eyes, much to the shock of the passenger in front of me.

“On the other side of heartbreak is wisdom.”

― Zach Braff, Wish I Was Here

I have learned it’s okay that I was just a page in his story. A short paragraph, maybe not even worth mentioning. It is an unfamiliar concept to me that someone who walks into my life and becomes a huge part of it should be a stranger one day, but it is something that happens to the best of us. Not for any good reason, perhaps, except that it’s the way it should be.

In the words of Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye: Maybe Love stays. Maybe Love can’t. Maybe Love shouldn’t. Love arrives exactly when Love is supposed to, and Love leaves exactly when Love must.

Whether we like it or not, love (or what we believe to be love) changes us forever. It alters the way we see the world – quite literally for better or worse, and in our pursuit of it some of us become casualties. Broken things heal, albeit not quite the same as before. Yet the scars are a reminder of where you’ve been. Take a deep breath, dust yourself off, and carve out the next part of your journey.

When all is said and done, love is a funny thing. We walk into it with a blind kind of optimism hoping for the best, keeping fingers crossed and sending up every prayer that this time, it will be the exception.

If anything, our time together taught me this: To love is to be vulnerable. It is risking everything you believe in, throwing away almost everything you’ve been taught and going for it anyway. I didn’t emerge unscathed, but what is the alternative?

It would be to harden my heart to become bulletproof. Impenetrable. And that would truly be a terrible way to live.

It taught me this, too: Everything will be okay. It will not seem like it at first, but the dark days will pass. You’ll get by with the help of your friends. You’ll understand that some things are meant to stay in the past. Everything that hurts has a way of making you see in ways you have never seen. Smile in spite of the tears, look up, and it will be alright. I promise. x

For everything, there is a season

The thing about this life is learning to change with the seasons. It is learning to recognise change, and knowing that it is not always for the worse. It is being fully present, and finding your way in a chapter only you have the power to write.

2014 has been about rediscovering what it means to be human. To want to bail on life but keep going anyway. It is clinging onto a minute hope – almost as big as a mustard seed, but not quite – that things can (and will) get better. It is suspending cynicism and admitting that you have almost run out of faith and almost cannot believe in love.

But then the light returns, and you can see again. In the valleys it becomes all too clear that this life will end some day – which begs the question: What sort of ending are you planning for?

Quoting Shiao-yin Kuik, the director of social enterprise The Thought Collective, “I’ve been thinking it’s important to learn how to die a good death. We get plenty of practice along the way because we die a thousand small deaths before the final one. We have to choose many a time whether we want to die to our selfish selves, our worst thoughts, our most niggling fears.

The last 365 days have taught me this much: There is no straight-laced, one-size-fits-all answer for most things. If you love, be prepared to get hurt. Life is about picking yourself up, knowing there’s always a lesson around the corner. It is not about who you were, or even who you are, but all about who you are becoming that matters.

This year I fully understood life isn’t black and white. There are way more than fifty shades of grey we contend with every single day. Learning to live the questions, to look ahead and look up in spite of it all, is the challenge.

Life can be hard but a few things make it easier. Grace, because there are so many things we have the privilege of enjoying that we don’t deserve. Technology, because I work in the digital space and cannot live without it. And of course, love. Because love never gives up and it never fails.

To mum and dad, who never once questioned my decisions this year – however crazy they seemed – thank you. For trusting me to make my choices, and to make mistakes when the situation demanded it. Thank you for always catching me when I fall.

To the friends who helped pick up the pieces – you know who you are – thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you guys.

And to start 2015, I’d like to borrow this quote from my very wise (former) boss/big sister/mentor/fellow #foundgirl Karen Poh:

May the year ahead bring surprises and gifts that remind us all that the God we serve is good.

Surprises and gifts may come in packages that don’t look familiar – but let’s make the most of them, and make 2015 a hell of a great year.

Happy New Year, everyone. New mercies await :)

Much love,
Di x

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