To meet is the beginning of parting

[逢うは別れの始め] To meet is the beginning of parting. The first time I read this, it felt like the perfect title of a story. It clues me in — prepares me for a bittersweet reality — and somehow I feel the words are beautiful as it does so. I know we will part, and I’m not scared that it will happen.

The most memorable times of my youth were college days. Four years aren’t long, but things that happen in our youth always seems to dig deeper than they should. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt so much more than ex-friends and ex-boyfriends, don’t you know? Didn’t you know? It didn’t make any sense. Why why why? I’ve spent some years willing to forget, fooling myself and trying not to regret, and only now can I say that I could look back at it with some detachment. The good was good, the bad was bad, and the good moments are better remembered fondly than never.

I’ve always been angry and resentful but time has been kind. Six years and finally I’m no longer scared to think about the past. Some moments have been fun, and real, and genuine — these are worth keeping. The old friends I wrote about in my older entries are different from who they were when friendships fell apart, and still different from who they are today. The versions of themselves in stories written by a girl who’s not that much older than a teen were transient moments worth capturing. Why why why? We’ve all changed, and the hurt doesn’t last forever.

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29 in 2019

One thing remained consistent from the moment I turned 20 until I crossed 29: I never felt truly adult. I am an adult now by virtue of age, but there’s so much I haven’t done that in many ways I feel like I’m still not old enough. I’m quite convinced that it’s either the height of my successes or the weight of my failures that would make me think, ah I’m a real adult now. I just don’t know when that height will be tall enough or that weight heavy enough to make me feel a lot less like Peter Pan.

Maybe I’ve been looking for adulthood in drastic changes in my life. The transition from an emotional early twenties to a calmer mid-twenties didn’t force any grand changes in personality or perspective in myself. More responsibilities and weightier decisions make me feel a lot more adult than usual, but I hadn’t made big risks. I haven’t made legal commitments like marriage, I’m not responsible for a life, and I haven’t committed wrong decisions that would’ve put me in debt. At this point, it’s easier to say 30 is the new 20 because I’m fairly behind the experiences and sacrifices my parents have achieved at my age. With a fairly sheltered upbringing, my journey in achieving adulthood feels glacial in its progress.

My early twenties was a balancing act of fun, focus, and failed friendships. I was a bit like the typical shounen protagonist — prideful, temperamental, and stubborn — minus the superpowers or luck or fate or a special destiny. Unlike Naruto or Ichigo, I didn’t exactly defeat my demons. Flight was easier than fight and I left my issues behind, literally, by moving overseas. Honestly, that wasn’t very adult-like. But I was young and a dreamer so I forced my way into a new arc by relocating.

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And the next, and the next

It’s been seven years since the last Game of Thrones novel was published. That’s as long as my career. While I was traversing through startups, clients, and countries, George R. R. Martin has been trying to write what happened after a certain someone was stabbed and fell onto the cold. That’s how far behind the novel is from the TV series, and it feels like the same distance I am from where I want to be in my career. I’m beginning to think that maybe the next big step in my life will happen when he publishes The Winds of Winter.

I take that back. If that’s the case then I’ll never progress in my career.

These days I’ve been feeling like I’ve been running. I’ve gone on a sprint then slowed down, but I’m still running all the same. There was only one instance during university days that I did anything remotely close to exercise: for one semester I ran a few rounds at the university’s “oval” (a small indoor track, really). I ran twice a week with a friend who laughed at me when I confessed that I only managed to finish the rounds because I’d imagine there was a strip of ribbon at the end, marking the finish line. That friendship ended long ago, but the running never ceased. I was running to lose weight, then for love, then for dreams. Now I feel like I’m running after ‘success’, whatever that means. It’s such a narrow word for such a subjective term. And in this new country, I’m running alone. I observe other girls who seem to be running the same race, but I’ve left my ‘exercise buddies’ back in Singapore.

December’s halfway done. On a new notebook I’ve recently bought, I penned milestones I’d like to achieve next: career goals, financial goals, skin goals, weight goals. I didn’t want to wait for a new year to kickstart resolutions. Instead, I’ve been applying the concept of Objectives and Key Results to life outside of work. I’ve been aligning the things I’m doing towards those objectives. This is how I’ve been running these days.

I feel a little anxious. I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know if I’ll tick off the little things I’ve already set myself out to do. I don’t know if I’m doing the right things.

I know I’m not going to wait. I know I’ll keep moving. I know I’ll be unhappy if I don’t. Sometimes it gets a little lonely, sometimes it gets a little tiring, but the world doesn’t stop moving just because I want a little break. I just keep on running towards my next objective, and the next, and the next, and the next.

The more there is to miss

Nostalgia is a sickness that hits harder as I’ve grown older. Music is the worst offender. A few seconds in, the first few notes of music is all I need to trigger even the smallest wave of nostalgia all over.

Today it was Utada Hikaru’s First Love while having tempura maki over dinner. It’s one of the many unintentional moments that make me go, aaaahhhh, this reminds me of high school innocence. For a short moment, I’m pulled back into a smaller world where everything I knew and felt were experiences with friends, or from Japanese drama, books and manga. A time when things were less complicated and relatively easier to handle. Happiness was simple; life was less cynical.

The older I am, the more there is to miss. When I was 16, there wasn’t much to miss about being 12. At 22, I was too busy running after dreams to reminisce. But at 28, going on an imaginary trip with the feels is a different story. Now people have come and gone, doors have closed and opened, paths have twisted and merged. Age blesses a person with wisdom (if you’re lucky), but that comes with the burden of knowing — what it feels, what it means, what it’s like. Ah, the burden of experience. Somewhere along the way, I became old enough to feel a twinge of sadness at moving on beyond a life of school uniforms, of structured schedules, of silliness, of old friends, of happiness within a smaller world.

On most days, nostalgia ends almost as soon as the last note plays. I’m back to the present day, to present worries, to present dreams, to present joys. Just like that.

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The second love story

The closer it is to December, the greater my fears are. Like I’ve done so little, and I want to be so much, and aging is a curse happening every second. Maybe it’s just because I don’t feel fresh, or I’m full of self-doubt, or I link my self-worth to many external things, or all of the above.

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Hello world, 2018

It’s the last quarter of 2018 and I’ve finally punched the keys on my keyboard, and would have this published online in the next thirty minutes (best scenario). I’ve thought about reviving this blog many times. It’s been approximately 798 days since I last blogged. That’s two years, two months, and seven days ago.

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Rebuilding Confidence

This year, I’ve been thinking more about the kind of career I want. It’s becoming less hard for me to think of what my long-term goals are in the next 2, 3, and 5 years but I have a weakness that has been pulling me back: my lack of confidence. I’d describe some of my flaws as a mix of meekness, passiveness, and a lack of trust in my abilities. I am surrounded by friends who are supportive and aren’t shy in giving compliments, and it makes me even more aware of our difference in perspectives. How could they think I could accomplish so much, and why could I only see myself as so little? Losing that belief in my skills as a designer was a change that gradually happened, and I haven’t even noticed until earlier this year. I became determined to rectify it, and I’ve made some decisions that are helping me regain that confidence back.

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Find a work culture and environment that fits

I spend around 40-50 hours a week on a full-time job,  which is 50% or more of my waking hours per day. These days, I’ve grown to truly value the influence that work culture and environment has on my happiness scale. People may have said to separate work and ‘personal’ life, but when half of it is spent in the office then it’s easier said than done. I’ve personally come to believe in the impact of an environment that cultivates and improves my skills,  keeps me challenged, growing, and happy. When I was in the middle of transitioning jobs, this was a deciding factor that determined which companies I applied for.

Culture and work environment may not always be visible to a newcomer’s eye on the get-go, but a little bit of research definitely helps:

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Empathy at Work

I’ve been reading up a lot on what makes people tick and company culture some few weeks back. This is another valuable insight and you’ll see where things in teams can break apart:

“…when companies try to optimize everything, it’s sometimes easy to forget that success is often built on experiences — like emotional interactions and complicated conversations and discussions of who we want to be and how our teammates make us feel — that can’t really be optimised.”

What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

It’s a good insight on how psychology, and things like empathy plays into one’s work experience. So those evenings when you ask your teammate how things are, how he/she honestly feels today — those moments are worth it.

I value working with my team and I’m glad to see that these things that I think are important actually do have some kind of research behind their impact.

But Google’s data indicated that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work.

The behaviors that create psychological safety — conversational turn-taking and empathy — are part of the same unwritten rules we often turn to, as individuals, when we need to establish a bond. And those human bonds matter as much at work as anywhere else. In fact, they sometimes matter more.

What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.

Idea vs. Vision

Before midnight musings: every person that leaves, leaves with their vision.

This is the same as products copying other products. You can copy features, but not the vision of the people who made them. So even in an array of products that do similar things, those that show promise have a strong vision behind them.

So for every person that joins a team brings their vision with them. For every person that goes, takes their vision with them. For an individual, where would that person bring their vision to?