Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Deception of Success

I don't consider myself successful. Not in an overtly ambitious, scaling the heights of the steep career wall aggressively, sense anyway. I don't consider myself a failure either. I am content. I am happy with where I am and what I have achieved.  Mostly because I am not gripped by career fever and I have other things in life that drive me. I am also modest and aware.

Many on the other hand are not. Modesty is one thing but awareness is something else altogether.

There is a disease that I have witnessed first hand grip colleagues and friends, and it has to do with success. I could go into the subjective psychological and philosophical layers underlying what success means to you or me or the average person trying to make a mark out there. I won't. The concept is much simpler than that. It is about reaching unprecedented levels of achievement before your very own eyes, that it almost becomes intoxicating. One achievement drives another and another until one loses track of the means and reason. When that happens, there is no control over sinking deeper into a dementia of ambition. The result? Being totally and utterly consumed by one's own success that there is absolutely no awareness of all the compromises made.

It can happen to anyone. Success can give such a feeling of elation, a sense of achievement and a power that one perhaps didn't realise existed. A hunger for more is born. Success becomes a drug that is needed to feed that power within and it grows exponentially. When one is not aware and one is not modest, it turns into a disease. What would it take to taste one more bitter sweet success story? Forego humaneness, good manners or decency. In very mild forms, that's always how it begins. The ends justify the means. It becomes ok to be a little less polite, a little more aggressive, a little less humane, a little more robotic or as the corporate world might describe it more "business-like". Business is business after all, whatever that means. A whirpool that consumes mind and soul because, what after all these successes? It is all temporary. What remains is how you are able to (or unable to) face yourself and those who matter because life is short and we all die.

So stop.

Modesty and awareness are the controllers of success. They pace us. They make us evaluate our approach and get us in tune with our value system. They are the checks and balances of our achievements and they ground us so that we don't end up living in the castles that we build in our minds. Success can be a good thing, just not when we are deceived by it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When it feels personal...

Martin Place.
The amphitheatre. The benches near the stall with all the flowers. The Law Society and Supreme Court just around the corner. The buildings. The businesses. The library. Elizabeth Street. The steps down to the train station. Snapshots. Continual poses frozen in my mind. I am stuck in my head. Clouded with emotion and shock.

Lindt cafe.
My favourite cafe in Sydney. I was there just last year. We were all there one Friday morning on a summer's day. All the other times I went there. Pancakes with my sister. Sitting by the windows. The tastes, senses and vibes from the chocolate. The type of people who would stop by, or linger. Chocolate to go. Delectable tastes and memories in my head. In my heart.

Katrina Dawson.
A tribute. A name. A face. A person. A college resident. A fleeting memory. A brave soul. Discrete moments captured and linked together to arrive at an unimaginable ending.

They say when something tragic happens to you, you need to give yourself time to grieve. Allow yourself to acknowledge the emotions. What happens when you are not directly affected but instead, a spectator from afar. Are you still entitled to grieve? I feel entitled to grieve and mourn the reckless murder of innocence. The violation of my personal memories. The loss of lives.

We make memories. We experience moments that leave a mark on us. We go through motions not knowing their effect or how they might influence others now or in the future. We leave pieces of our hearts in the things we love and do, sincerely but possibly superfluously, only to recall them at times like this. Time and circumstances work together to filter through the past and make important that which was once a single chain in a long series of moments.

When I first heard about the Sydney siege, I was in shock, just like millions of others. Maybe if it had occurred somewhere else, it wouldn't have shook me that way. But this is my hometown. This is Martin Place. A place I know. A place I walked through, lingered on in and reflected by many times. Time is testimony to moments I spent there. How can that same place be host and witness to an event so gruesome. How can a lunatic give himself the right to intrude on that space.

And this is Lindt cafe. My favourite chocolate cafe, in fact my favourite cafe in Sydney. A warm and delightful place. Chocolate attracts happiness and innocence. It also attracts children. A non-coffee drinker, Lindt was my solace and my answer. A delectable, stylish, classy and simple venue in the midst of a seriously busy city hub. Now the innocence of the place has been violated and destroyed. Guns, fear, threats, death... how can that be forever linked to the homecoming and welcoming feeling of chocolate.

Then there are the victims. I could've been one of them. Any one of my family or friends could've been one of them. It would not be uncommon for us to stop by the cafe for a hot chocolate or a special treat. Whenever I think back to the horror that the victims and their families must've experienced, I feel sick to the bone. It is not hard to replace their images with myself or any one of my family or friends.

Katrina Dawson. What a brave soul. Ever since I saw her picture or heard her name, I felt a sense of connection. At first I thought I was empathising with her but there was another nagging yet distant feeling. And then I realised why as the cobwebs of the past cleared and I found myself facing an explosion of memories. Our connection is Womens College. The halls of residence I lived in for three years while I studied at the University of Sydney many many years ago, while approaching the end of my teens. A place where she and I lived and shared for one of my three years. A place that shaped my personality. There is no denying it. My initial university years, my college years were the most influential years in my life. Living with other women, day in and day out, sharing meals, sharing activities and events. The formal dinners. The guest speakers. The food. The random wanderings... We were influenced by the same things. For a year, we took in the same experiences. Did I know her personally? No. But I could've passed her by walking down one of the corridors. I could've smiled at her. Could she have been just a few doors away from me? Did I ever imagine that someone I used to live with but had no direct connection with would suddenly make me want to grieve for her? How is this possible?

Perhaps it is still the shock of it all that is preventing me from understanding my emotions. I am saddended. I am mourning silently in my heart a fellow college resident. I am mourning the cafe manager. Brave, brave soul. I am silently holding a vigil and a prayer in my heart for them and for their families. And I cry untold tears for my religion that gets blasphemed by lunatics time and time again for no reason. Lunatics who know nothing of its tenderness.

I cry silent tears for the #illridewithyou hashtag that touched so many of us. This is what humanity is about. I cry silent tears for the hope of humanity left in many and I cry bitter tears for those whose hearts have hardened in its face.

I long to lay flowers on the ground at the site and to write sincere words in the notebooks lying there now. I long to join in and show my little bit of humanity. But I am afar so I grieve alone. May they rest in peace and may the justice system learn a hard hard lesson, never to be repeated ever again.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The End or the Beginning?

I'm about to start the last week of my seven year journey. A career change I embarked on when everyone around me thought I had lost the plot on life. A journey that was filled with hardships and challenges and many lessons learnt. Now, it's come down to the final week. The stakes are high and the challenges during this week are the toughest yet. Just one week more. Survive this and it's all over. It hit me a few days ago but I brushed it aside. It was only this morning that the realisation dawned on me. And with it came a sea of emotions, confusing me, tugging at me here and there. And with it came the stress.

Seven years ago I took a leap of faith and took my first baby steps into an unknown world. It was a journey I started not knowing where it would take me. I changed paths many times. I had to stop and recalibrate my proverbial compass when things weren't working. It was a journey marred by extreme uncertainty but also blessed with luck and elements of success that kept me going. And I soldiered on during those times when I was close to giving up.

Seven years of my life. The same questions that haunted me at various points on my way are nagging at me now. Was it worth it? Or have I just wasted a precious seven years of my life. The best years of my life to reach an endpoint that might be synonymous to an anti-climax.

Recalibration of the mind...

This is not the end of a seven year journey. This is a means to a new beginning.

The value is not in reaching the endpoint - although one of the goals that keep you moving - but in learning lessons and becoming a richer person. I am not the same person I was seven years ago by far. I think back to my life at the start and imagine what it would've been like had I not made this change. I shake my head and think: No. Things are exactly the way they are meant to be. 

I was meant to take this journey. I was meant to endure, fight and rise above. I was meant to become the person I am today and it's all for the purpose of preparing me for something bigger and better. So it's not about the endpoint. It's much deeper and all-encompassing than that.

I am about to start the last week of a seven year journey that will catapult me into the life I am meant to live. Be the person I am meant to be and fulfill my destiny. It's about shaping who I am. It was about healing my wounds and sealing my scars and making me stronger. 

And now, as I take it one day at a time during these final challenges, I will rest assured, looking forward to the fresh start that is awaiting me.

Life is composed of a series of fresh starts, though we might not know it. I'm about to start mine..