Breaking dawn

I stopped buying flowers because I'd rather walk in a forest.

Hello beautiful.

I was battling anxiety and feelings of overwhelm in my last post. Thankfully, I found out what wasn't working for me (my incredibly stifling grocery budget) and got rid of it. That experience also led me to realise how rough I had been with myself.

I wrote in my journal on the 26th of August: “When will I finally be gentle with myself? When I live in a smaller house? When I have enough money to pay for all the groceries, bills and mortgage? When my house is clean enough to lick? When my husband makes dinner? When I am 57kg and not 59/60kg again? 

When will I be gentle to myself? I will be gentle to myself today.” 😌

It dawned on me that very day that I would not be any kinder to myself even if I had somehow achieved all those things. Truly, nothing was stopping me from being kind to myself, apart from me. I do not need to postpone my happiness to a later, undefined date.

I kept pushing myself because I believe that I would return to the unsympathetic work force one day. I thought that I have to be mentally prepared for the gruelling hours and environment. I was still anticipating the work life back in Singapore, even though Denmark treats its workforce with much more dignity. This awareness was already simmering two week back. I wrote in my journal on the 13th of August: "I just realised... that when I am tired, I can lay myself down in bed. I can close my eyes. I don't have to scramble to do whatever it is I 'need to do'. I don't have a job!" 😏

My husband often laments that I don't know when to stop. "It is only in Singapore that you have someone answering the phone no matter the time. The rest of the world goes home at 5 o'clock." The Singapore education system has ingrained in me on a subconscious level the need to be productive all the time. It does not matter whether you are working or a stay-at-home mom. Trust me, I am committed to uninstalling this corrupted software!

Stress is a leading cause of premature death. I just don't want to die yet.

When I first left Singapore for Australia, I grieved for everyone that I have had the pleasure of crossing paths with. I felt a deep sadness, because I know that no words can convince them that a slower, more thoughtful life was possible. The career-driven ones would laugh at my naivety and lack of ambition. 

In arguing for a mentally healthy and inclusive society, I felt that there will surely be attacks on my person. Such is the fate of those who dare to challenge status quo in Singapore. I was afraid of backlash, so I kept my mouth shut. I couldn't even talk about my self-censorship. It felt like my mouth was sewed shut. That shows how bloody brilliant the government is at making sure that we stay compliant.

After traveling 15 countries with nothing that wouldn't fit into my two bags, I became certain that a different life was possible. I was acutely aware of my limited time on earth even when I was in Singapore. I had this intense impatience to do everything that my heart desired before my time ran out. But of course, my romantic pursuits of art and poetry were in direct conflict with what was deemed 'productive' by the state. The national narrative proclaims that hustling should be the main way to spend our finite time. And most of us buy that crap.

How different is the way Singaporeans live different from the Auschwitz concentration camp slogan, 'Arbeit macht frei' or 'Work sets you free'? Believe it or not, I have actually posed that question to one of my university professors, when we were going through war poems from WWII. He must have thought that I was insane to draw that connection. But I stand by it.

A sign that says SLOW in Singapore. How nice.

Had I not met my husband, I would probably still find ways to be content with my life in Singapore. I would buy flowers to spruce up my space. Light candles in the dark. But more importantly, I would keep my head low and mouth shut. It would be challenging because I have the fatal tendency to be idealistic. I always cling on to the hope that things might change for the better. To continue to work towards change. It is both my greatest virtue and my greatest weakness. And I would like to think that there are a lot more people like me.

My true and brave sentiment: I would never trade my access to this vast nature, fresh air and changing seasons for a life of eating out and impulsive spending. Especially not when it is to numb a soul-debilitating pain that accumulates over years of working at a job that I grow to hate. Yes, we all need money to live on. But I am proud to say that I am getting good at identifying what gives me a disproportionate amount of pleasure for its price. It helps when you can focus solely on what makes you happy, without giving a flying damn about what others think. 

That said, I wish that I could build a sort of Noah's ark. I would take my sister and close friends along, and their families if they will. It will protect them from Singapore's boundary-less work environment, where time is constantly spilled and people are constantly drained. Being far away, we will be protected from Singapore, where one can be expected to sit in a video conference meeting from 1 to 7pm, just because your colleagues do not want to have the additional responsibility of relaying to you succinct meeting notes, when they finally have something concrete planned. (My poor friend, if you are reading this. It's been tough on you 😟) In this ark, we will breathe. We will eat and drink and rest.

Whatever the future holds, I want to go gently. I want gentleness to be my highest value. Followed by patience and self-compassion. My values would be my anchor for a life well-lived. I will write more about what gentleness means to me and what it looks like in real terms. But I will do that another time.

Until then, stay beautiful. -V

Don't give up! We are here together in this time and space.


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