It's 5.45am now in Singa-land, where I'm back, jetlagged, for the holidays. I suck - I didn't manage to update this space last week, but I'll do one now.
This year has been one hell of an emotional ride. Over the last few weeks, I have looped Ariana's 'thank u, next' multiple, multiple times, because, in a very gay sistahly way, I relate to how she's been through a lot (suicide bombing in Manchester, engagement call-off etc.) but has spent more time with herself and how she's fucking grateful for everything that made her grow.
I am indeed, so fucking grateful for 2018. It has been a defining year. The greatest thing I learned this year, is to be more okay with my emotions. I allow myself to feel hurt, or stressed, or insecure, or angry, and also happy, appreciative, or silly. And then I try not to dwell on those emotions too much. For me, I've always felt massive guilt or massive self-censuring whenever I felt stressed out as if I was too weak to handle 'life' because I'm a gay man (I do this quite a lot, inherently I know I still equate being gay as being less of a man, it is wrong, I know), but now, with a good amount of help from the therapist I was seeing, I am just a lot more okay that I get moments of feeling overwhelmed. And in many ways, by being more okay with my emotions, that it is perfectly understandable why I feel the way I feel, they don't spiral me into bouts of negative thinking as much as before.
The last few weeks have been nothing short of amazing. Everything has miraculously worked out so well in my favor, when it didn't seem so for the rest of 2018. I smile all the time, I am able to control the amount of alcohol I drink (which is amazing), I essentially radiate positive energy :)
- I had a tremendously enjoyable 30th birthday weekend. I joined 10ish other friends (half were new friends) in a weekend getaway in a beautiful cottage by the beach along the English Channel. I've never done much exploring in the UK outside of London. The landscape here was grey, grim, and stoic - quintessentially English. We hiked along the cliffs and for those few hours there was nothing else in the purlieu - foilage seemed scrubbed raw by wind and rain, sheep quietly stirred in the distance, skies a perpetual rusty charcoal swirl. Mother Nature dictated, and everything else listened. I found myself in one of my usual introspective moods, far away from the familiarity of gargantuan noisy cities, the scenery here felt fierce, bitter, unforgiving, eerie, and altogether tragically beautiful. The rest of the weekend was spent in a happy drunken stupor, cooking (and devouring) lots of food, playing funny (and intense) board games, having in-depth conversations about growing up.
- I went to Paris with my family for an incredible experience - I watched the PSG vs Liverpool game, in the VIP box. Having champagne, nibbles, in a quiet private area in a deafening stadium, was pretty damn cool. Apparently Leo DiCap was in the VVIP box, unfortunately I didn't get to see him. This was a great experience because other than the opulent luxury that I always love (I find luxury extremely therapeutic to me) I bonded with my brother with something that he really loves - football. Oh, it was a great trip overall - I am less close to my brother than to my sister but I love him dearly and so I was very happy here.
- In Paris, we stayed in an incredible, incredible hotel - the Four Seasons. Hands down this is the most exquisite, palatial hotel I've ever stayed in my life. Christmas lights were everywhere, and I love Christmas lights. Also look at the pool:
- Everything with the new job is settled, admin-wise. It has been nerve-wracking with this whole work visa process (honestly it's extremely stressful to be a work immigrant). I even wrote out a whole flow chart as to what actions I needed to take depending on different scenario outcomes for the visa (long story short but I was cutting it really close with the timings of everything). I could then properly quit my old job, and enjoy Christmas break with family, completely, completely stress-free.
- This is the surreal part. I am insanely stress-free now, uncomfortably so, somewhat. I will not however, discount myself here by saying that it was all luck - I seized all the opportunities at the right time, so I am really proud of myself too. I smashed my interviews for the new job, even though I was mentally fraying at the seams from the abuse on the Danish project. I proactively followed up, chased, prodded along the headhunter, and the new firm's HR to expedite the tangled process of work sponsorship. My efforts have paid off, and I am really just so goddamn happy about it!
- I watched the play for Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I went without much expectations though I knew it won many, many awards, and I left in awe of the whole thing. This is one of my favorite ever books when I was younger, obviously along with Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is unlike the book, which was able to bring out the tragically poetic & isolated musings of the protagonist through words. What the play was very strong at was the creative use of the stage. It was beautiful. Hard to describe with words, but it was a great use of technology, and old-school stage magic. The main actor was also brilliant at being so dorky, I actually started finding him really cute halfway through the play.
- Therapy has been great. This is the first time I feel like I have learned so much from it, perhaps through a combination of how I was the most able to relate to this one than previous counsellors, and also that I was not at work for basically a month due to burning out, so I was finally able to take a very rare pause in my otherwise hectic life to help others help myself. I had so many tiny little 'eureka' moments with the lady, most of which individually nudged, but collectively shifted the power balance back to myself. One example is just being a lot more comfortable that I am an extremely orderly, structured, logical, sort of person. I always felt a bit of a freak with these things - e.g. how I like to enumerate all my paragraphs, how I need to conduct scenario analyses in my head for literally every event in my life to mentally prepare myself for all outcomes. I used to fret and be like, why the fuck can't I just be like everybody else and go with the flow? Well, because the fucking thing is - I am not like everybody else. I don't even want to be anyway...this is how I am, and this is what works for me, so I'll continue doing it.
It's like all these little things that have pieced my inner confidence back together, which was chipped away by work this year, which represented in some ways, like an abusive & toxic relationship in my life. Another example of how she has helped me, is to open my eyes about how therapy 'works'. I used to have a very cynical view that none of them were remotely intelligent enough to engage in any sort of conversation with me. I have learned to judge a little less that way.
In fact, one of the previous ones, a gay white man, I loathed him. He was middle-aged, fat, pompous, and judgemental, but I felt compelled to resonate with him from the get-go because he was 1) gay 2) living in a really posh part of London. But he kept shoving his opinions down my throat when I never asked for them (an example was when he was adamant that my parents are bad parents because they 'dented' parts of me). This lady in contrast, lived in a small dingy rented shoebox sort of room in a terribly low-income and sketchy part of London. She was black, a lady, and from Africa (not born in the UK), and initially, my extremely judgemental self thought I would have nothing in common with her. How wrong was I. She was so level-headed all the time, and all her inputs were very simple, but always very helpful. I feel like I am rambling here a bit, but I really loved her. She made me realise that therapists are similar to how management consultants are. The client always (falsely) believes that he is paying top dollar to this person to solve all of his problems, so why is this person constantly hankering him for more information, or making most of the 'work' still lie on the shoulders of the client? Because just like how I have to educate my clients, only you will know your business the best, I have not lived through the growth of the company at all, but it is very helpful for an external person to come in, provide structure and frameworks, and ask the right questions to tease out how you can come up with a solution yourself that will work best for your company. And it's completely the same with therapy. All she did was nudge me with questions that always made me ponder and reflect and I came up with my own 'solutions' instead. In some ways I was willing to allow myself to be this receptive because I honestly thought I would loathe her at the start but I also secretly root for the underdogs and when she started to win me over, I was sold haha.
Another thing that I learned: I used to think that my gay identity was more defining (as it was more crippling) to me than my ethnic identity. False. I could not at all relate to the gay white male therapist because he was so privileged in his views as a white man, he was unable to be more receptive that there are different ways of life out there in the world. He kept telling me my parents abused me because they hit me when I was younger, but fucking hell, that's just how East Asia is. In contrast, this straight black female therapist was so understanding that while she might not have gone through my experiences, she could understand where I was coming from, even when I told her things about how I some times feel so filled with guilt that my family is so, so so much wealthier than the 99% of the world out there. It solidified for me once again that I do relate to non-white people the most, as is reflective now of my friendship groups which are virtually devoid of white friends. And I am completely okay with that now. In the past in college especially, I went out of my way to make white friends, simply because I wanted to prove that I wasn't one of those 'Asians' who stuck only with other Asians. Now I simply don't give a fuck - I am incredibly Asian, and one of the best things about Crazy Rich Asians is, in a very funny way, I am so much more comfortable also that many of my friends are legit crazy rich, and Asian. Even back in grad school, I used to distance myself from my crazy rich classmates, because I thought they were mostly out-of-touch assholes. Sure many of them are, but the majority are actually very nice and hardworking.
Basically, I am filled with hope for 2019. I believe my new job will give me a lot of stability (since I wouldn't have to travel much more for work) to ground myself, while still giving me a lot of challenges (I am the second person to be hired in this entirely new cross-functional department). I believe I am growing up more and more and becoming more assured of who I am, and that it doesn't matter than I am 30 and may some times feel like I am 'falling behind'. I am also more able to embed healthier routines for myself - for e.g. I have a mood app now to do daily self-check-ins to see how am I feeling, and I really like it, along with the 5 minute meditation I do in the mornings. These are mostly to ritualise good habits as insurance when things will inevitably go 'bad' for me at some point, but these will be tools to help weather the storm for sure. I also am oddly hopeful that I would be able to meet a romantic interest next year, because of a few things: 1. I really am a lot more okay with being single. I don't see that as being inferior anymore to someone who is coupled. 2. Work circumstances are a lot more stable, I will no longer be ripped apart living in 2 cities. 3. I am more okay with who I am, and perhaps in some ways, it helps me to be more okay with who I would like to go on dates with.
What does that mean? Well, the honest truth is, N was someone who I wanted to date also because I knew he was handsome, and the arm candy element of him actually meant a lot to me, to bolster my own value when people looked at me together with him. Now however, because I believe I am on the right path to more self-acceptance and self-love, I am more assured of my own value, as a single person, that I don't really care if the other person is stereotypically super hot anymore. Does this make sense? Like, I think I was always restricting myself with the kind of guy I wanted to end up with because I cared about what other people think about me too much. Now I genuinely care much less, part of growing up, and also partly because I haven't been on social media much at all this year to feed that external-validation-monster within me (I deactivated both FB and IG). So I think I will be a lot more okay to go on dates with dorky nerdy kinda guys when in the past, I felt that it was only worth my time if I met with someone who ticked all the boxes...which were a combination of what worked for me, but also what would appear the 'best' to others too. It is liberating. I don't feel like I need to date only hot guys. But equally, I'm not going to keep pressurising myself to date 'ugly' guys or whatever, I'll just date whoever with less internal judgement to begin with!
Makes sense? Okay I am tired now, it is 7 am. Fuck me. I shall go back to bed.