• Personal

    Turn­ing Twen­ty

    8 August 2015

    Turned 20 but still look and act like I’m 12.

    I know I’m rush­ing things but turn­ing twen­ty has hon­est­ly made me feel extreme­ly old (and kind of wise). It’s a weird thought .. Being two decades old. For so long I’ve had 1 as the first dig­it of my age and now it’s a 2. The only thing I’m com­fort­ing myself with right now is that I’ve ‘lev­elled up’. I thought it’d be nice to do a lit­tle post about some things I’ve learnt whilst I’ve been alive. And yes .. This is still part of my self-ther­a­py in order to make myself feel less mor­tal than I already am.

    This is a com­plete cliché, and I guess a lot of peo­ple expe­ri­ence it too, but self-dis­cov­ery has always been a non-stop process for me. It start­ed in the high school days, when rules and restric­tions were preva­lent and heav­i­ly empha­sised on pupils. If you don’t fit in a cer­tain cat­e­go­ry (i.e. intel­lec­tu­al stu­dents) then you fail; if you don’t fol­low the ‘accept­ed stan­dards’ of the school, you get pun­ished. These fac­tors all have a severe impact on the poor lit­tle teenagers’ abil­i­ty to find them­selves, essen­tial­ly under­min­ing their abil­i­ty to see how they can fit into this world with­out being a cer­tain some­one or some­thing.

    I’m in no way say­ing I’ve found my ulti­mate and true self now that I’m twen­ty. No. I’m still embark­ing on this jour­ney of unveil­ing myself and find­ing out what makes me tick, what I’m made of and how I iden­ti­fy with the world around me. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing thought — that we’re nev­er ever con­stant. The world around us has so much influ­ence over us that we morph into the per­son we become, not in a vac­u­um, but in a soup of cul­tures and val­ues that soci­ety has engraved into our minds. I’ve slow­ly learnt that just because soci­ety has a cer­tain per­cep­tion of what makes one ‘accept­able’ or ‘pleas­ing’, I don’t need that kind of val­i­da­tion in order to find hap­pi­ness or sat­is­fac­tion. It’s what makes me dif­fer­ent that real­ly helps me dis­cov­er who I am and what I want to be — and that’s what gives me val­i­da­tion. I’m dif­fer­ent and I’m SO okay with that.

    This flows from the pre­vi­ous notion of fit­ting into a cer­tain cat­e­go­ry or meet­ing a cri­te­ria in order to be clas­si­fied as ‘intel­li­gent’ or ‘smart’. Num­bers seem like every­thing in high school, whether it be marks, body weight, calo­ries, or for some, tele­phone num­bers of their cute lit­tle crush­es. My teenage years were built sole­ly on num­bers: I need to get at least 90% in this exam, and if I don’t my whole world will col­lapse. And, even with the priv­i­leges of hind­sight, I don’t think I was stu­pid at all for think­ing that num­bers were impor­tant, because the world around me was con­struct­ed on the basis that they were. After grad­u­at­ing and final­ly receiv­ing my final results that I need­ed to get into uni­ver­si­ty (law school), I realised that hard work does pay off, but I wouldn’t have had the moti­va­tion or strength to push on and study hard if I didn’t have the men­tal­i­ty that num­bers are impor­tant. I’m not say­ing that num­bers are incred­i­bly impor­tant, but I’m say­ing that the cog­ni­tive process and self-dis­ci­pline we put our­selves through will dis­tin­guish us from oth­ers.

    And this applies not only aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly, but also in oth­er facets of life. How often do you hear peo­ple talk about accounts with a lot of fol­low­ers as if they’re some kind of god or idol? Since ear­ly last year, I attract­ed more view­ers on social media than I had ever antic­i­pat­ed, but since then it’s almost like peo­ple can’t start a con­ver­sa­tion with me with­out men­tion­ing Insta­gram or my fol­low­ers. I think it’s quite ter­ri­fy­ing that so many teenagers now (I’m say­ing teenagers a lot in this post cause I’m no longer one, HA) mea­sure how pop­u­lar or accept­ed they are accord­ing to likes and fol­low­ers. Suc­cess is often erro­neous­ly equat­ed with a high sub­scriber count. And there’s noth­ing wrong with using num­bers as a way to mar­ket your own brand and reach a larg­er audi­ence; but there’s a fine line between using those fig­ures to under­stand your audience’s reac­tion, to fig­ure out a way to build upon that, and mere­ly using those fig­ures to either put your­self down or make your­self seem supe­ri­or to oth­ers. I know the Fash­ion Blog­gers TV show has the tagline ‘build­ing their empires one post at a time’ but some peo­ple need to relax and realise that it’s just Insta­gram. Yes, it’s a mar­ket­ing tool but it’s not your life. Don’t depend on it entire­ly.

    It’s so easy to take things for grant­ed, and it’s human nature to instant­ly regret not cher­ish­ing some­thing that we once had or could’ve had if only we hadn’t done this or we hadn’t said that. It’s nor­mal. Notwith­stand­ing my phase of hav­ing a strong dis­like (refrain­ing from using the word hate because birth­day posts need to be A+ pos­i­tive) for the peo­ple I was sur­round­ed with back when I was a teenag­er (not because there was any­thing ‘wrong’ with them; it was just a pro­jec­tion of the world inside of me) I can say that the peo­ple you don’t realise will stick around, usu­al­ly do. It’s the peo­ple that talk to you when you’re left out of the cir­cle at recess, or the kid who asks if you’re alright when you fall down in the play­ground and need help going to the school clin­ic. They’re the ones that stay by you even though you’re being a com­plete ass crack to them.

    In say­ing that, know the peo­ple you need to detach your­self from and the groups you need to keep a dis­tance from. This is some­thing I’m still learn­ing and I’m sure we all still are as life moves on. Peo­ple enter our lives, stay for a while, have a good time, then some­thing hap­pens and they either leave or bail on you. Even with the advances of Face­book, Twit­ter, Insta­gram, Tum­blr and what not, we still find it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to rekin­dle our con­nec­tion with the peo­ple that we’ve some­how lost con­tact with for a peri­od of time, even the ‘bffls’ we had in pri­ma­ry school. But I’ve learnt that just because peo­ple have accept­ed this as a harsh real­i­ty of life, so long as I make an effort to pre­serve the rela­tion­ships I’ve had with oth­ers, then at least I can say I’ve tried. This leads me to a side note and the final point: The world will con­stant­ly put you down for not being ‘good enough’ or ‘some­thing enough’ but the only thing that ever mat­ters is whether you know you who are, whether you want to do what you’re doing, and whether it makes you hap­py. If it doesn’t, leave it.

    This is just a lit­tle thought I’ve had for a while but didn’t know how to inte­grate into this blog. Some­how I thought it was quite fit­ting to do it on my twen­ti­eth birth­day. I hope you gained a lit­tle bit of insight into the strange lit­tle head of mine. Be blessed.

    You Might Also Like

    • Cia­ra

      Wish­ing you a very hap­py 20th birth­day Jef­frey!

    • Aw, hap­py 20th birth­day Jef­frey! Also, I couldn’t agree more about how peo­ple nowa­days depend a lot on the num­ber of likes and fol­low­ers on Insta­gram and such… It’s quite sad real­ly.

    • It only gets bet­ter from here on. Hap­py birth­day.

      Buck­ets & Spades

    • What a great list. How often we find our­selves for­get­ting these sim­ple, inspir­ing truths. Wish­ing you the best 20th year. 

    • Hap­py birth­day Jef­frey! here’s to 20 being anoth­er year of wis­dom and count­less expe­ri­ence.

    • Hap­py Birth­day Jef­frey! What love­ly sen­ti­ments for you to have at the big 2–0! The last bit real­ly struck a per­son­al chord with me. “The only thing that ever mat­ters is whether you know who you are, whether you want to do what you’re doing, and whether it makes you hap­py. If it doesn’t leave it” This is one of those “harsh” real­i­ties (in my per­son­al life at the moment), that has been very dif­fi­cult to grasp and accept. As many oth­er peo­ple may expe­ri­ence; some­times putting your­self first in this man­ner, makes you feel guilty because it may or may not res­onate well with oth­ers. But as you said, it doesn’t mat­ter, all that mat­ters is our­selves in the end.

      Won­der­ful post! Again, wish­ing you a very hap­py birth­day and thank­ing you for the thought­ful insight you always seem to pro­vide. <3

    • eun-yee

      Hap­py Bleat­ed Birth­day Jef­frey! Lov­ing your post, I couldn’t agree more with the three thoughts that you have list­ed above. In your post, espe­cial­ly “I am who I am” relates to me the most.

      I’m con­stant­ly still try­ing to find my true self as a teenag­er too, bump­ing into obsta­cles as I grow. Just like you said being dif­fer­ent is okay. It is what “help me to dis­cov­er who I am and what I want to be.” 

    • Albert Wijaya

      Hap­py Belat­ed Birth­day! Have a great and won­der­ful year ahead!!

      Best, Albert | Palm­ing Peb­bles
      Palm­ing Peb­bles FB

    • Heythere dream­er

      Ahh, can’t believe you’re so young! I’ve been fol­low­ing you for quite awhile via Insta­gram now, and I love what you do — I hope you nev­er lose your pas­sion and do con­tin­ue doing what you’re doing!