Off the Camera: On Experiencing Life in HD

“Can any of you recall a time when you were confronted with a scene of such spectacular beauty?
That it took you outside of yourself into a place of great serenity, maybe a rainbow, a mountain range, a valley, a sea, anything…


So one day I went to a beach and watched the day turn into night. The sunset wasn’t the best part.

In the evening of Saturday last week after my weekly session with Matthew, my ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver dropped me off at the Dhyana Pura beach in Seminyak.

With my loyal backpack and sandals, and a piece of peanut butter ball in an over-sized paper bag I’d picked up from a nearby organic restaurant, I situated myself on the best seat in the house;

an empty spot right in the face of the 5.30 PM sun, warmly surrounded by vendors, romance-seeking couples, vacationing families, and men with their dogs and Frisbees.

A little past 6 PM, I watched as the sun gradually lowered itself down into, what as far as my eyes could see is, the end of the Bali sea.
Its rays at first blinding my eyes and turning all that was in front of it into shadows; but then slowly and gracefully, extracting a trail of yellow-orange-pink-purple lights and reluctant gradating blue darkness all at the same time.

And for a moment just right before it disappears, you’d almost swear that you could see, just below the sun, a transparent formation of exotic gates, statues and palace-like buildings – like a defined outline of an ethereal city –

which may have been the clouds, but what I choose to believe to be the glimpse of a neighboring universe discreetly revealing its existence.

And just when I thought I’d seen all that the sunset had to offer, the beach started to clear off.

The romance-achieving couples walked away hand-in-hand, the vendors retired carrying away their bags, the vacationing families wrapped up their last poses and packed up their cameras.

I picked up my bag and sandals, and walked towards the shore. And once the gurgling ocean waters have reached my toes, I stopped and buried my feet in the sand like how my father used to teach me to do when I was small.

I stood there and followed with my eyes the trail of yellow-orange-pink-purple rays of light that was further radiating from the arc where the sun had just taken its bow, freshly dyeing the sky and uncovering the layers of heaven above all at the same time.

I dipped my hand into the silk-surfaced water and watched the waves diving in, their white foams gently swaying in and cradling against my open palm. The whitest of whites. The clearest of little tiny bubbles.

I looked around at the two men who were still throw-catching their Frisbee, at two other friends waiting for the water to rise and lift up their surfboards, and a boy who was half-swimming half-splashing just a few feet away from where I was a witness to it all.

I looked back towards the ocean. At tides vibrantly crashing into the shore, water eagerly creeping up towards dry land, dropping off fizzing white foams and quickly running back into the sea as tadpole-shaped glimmering tiny particles on orchestrated spot lights.

Everything moved in the sharpest of motions, with a glistening touch of the faintest yellow golden glow.

All, a part of what the sun had set to arise: This Life, live, in HD.

And that Life, ever so unconditionally, basked me in a sudden overwhelming embrace of its beautiful serenity and gravitated me to my knees.

I reached towards the seams between the beach and its sea, and grabbed a handful of sand just to let them slip off right through my fingers again.

I swept in and around a few more handfuls, letting the surface of my skin rejoice in the finely-textured carpet of velvety pixie dust beneath me with a dance.

I observed carefully as little lumps of moistened grains took shape, the way each one fell and merged itself back into earth, in a most elegant display of obedience, phasing from a lighter to a darker shade of gray.

The grayest of gray. The whitest of white. The most yellow-orange-pink-purple of yellow-orange-pink-purple lights. The finest of fine texture. The most luminous of glow. The most visible of the smallest particles.

Suddenly in those moments I was gone. My ego, the self that knew I was me, was carried off.

The sweetest momentary absence of the soul.

I became but a small atom that made up only an insignificant portion of the entire universe.

One with the world.

As the sky grew dimmer and the watch lights lit on, I gave my hand to the smooth oscillations of the ocean and let it memorize all that I’d been shown.

In lifted spirit I turned around and made my way back towards the entrance to civilization, lightly stomping each step on the solid bed of sand that had been a 60-minute home.

Thinking back to the wandering visitors who had dropped by for a little more than a shiny backdrop for an impromptu photoshoot, or some kind of an I-have-a-life digital proof,

“They’ve got it all wrong.”

Off-the-camera, is Life, as the universe has meant it to be. Unbuffered. Unpixalated. The highest of resolution. The best quality of experience.

Came not with the tool to prove it, but with the eyes for us to see it. And the power to let go of what we make it to be, and embrace what simply is.




“… Have you ever wondered why that happened? The reason that happened is that somehow, for some reason, at that instant, you accepted the universe exactly as it was.”

~ Srikumar Rao


Between A Boy Learning to Lace His Shoes and A Girl

“If you understand, things are just as they are… If you do not understand, things are just as they are.”

~ Zen saying


Last weekend I met Matthew. Matthew is a 13 year-old boy with special needs whom I’ve recently started working with in a weekly session. Having been ill the week before, Matthew came in that Saturday afternoon sporting a runny nose, blowing onto a piece of tissue paper we’d given him every few minutes.

During one of the sessions in which I helped guide him, Matthew was learning how to lace his shoes for the first time.

So I watched as Matthew effortfully weaved in the white lace through one eyelet after another under his therapist’s guidance, each step pausing to figure out whether to put the lace from under or over, whether it should go on an eyelet on one side or the other.

At the sight of that I couldn’t help to hold myself back from shedding a tear. Partly because working with Matthew inevitably reminded me of being with my little sister, who herself is a child with special needs of Matthew’s age; and partly because for someone with a theoretical lack of ability to maintain attention, there seemed to be almost nothing else that Matthew was more focused on than that one shoe, those eyelets and that lace.

It took him a little over 15 minutes, with help, to get both shoes laced and tied.

Needless to say it was no easy task. And having a job that requires dealing with children on a daily basis, I’d expected to hear familiar sounds of frustration like, “But I just can’t do it..”, or “It’s too hard..”, or “But I’m sick, I can’t concentrate..”

Instead, whenever Matthew made a mistake, he’d simply say, “Oops”, or “Oh, right” when I probed him to remember what his next step should be. He would then go on. Nothing more, nothing less.

His eyes only gazed away a few times, when signaling that he needed another tissue to blow his nose with or turning to see the windows if he heard footsteps heading towards the classroom.

And what suddenly caught me is this:

To Matthew, lacing his shoes was difficult not because he was sick, or because he doesn’t yet have well-developed fine motor skills, or because of his disability in general (which he has come to be well aware of).

Lacing his shoes was difficult simply because he could not yet figure out which eyelet to put the lace through next, because he couldn’t remember whether to weave the lace from over and under. Lacing his shoes was difficult simply because he was only learning how to.


not Matthew

As I was recalling those images on my way home, I was reminded of the night I called a good friend of mine in the middle of the night crying having just had a long-winded argument with my parents.

Having just suddenly found myself retracing the last few years of my life and connecting them all in my head back to the disagreement I just had; what my parents did several years ago, about the choice I made several months ago, and about just the way I was born over 20 years ago.

Having just suddenly seen my whole life yet once more as one long piece of thread that has quickly snowballed into one giant tangled wool that I couldn’t undo.

To all that my friend only said to me what someone else had said to him when he found himself where I was,

“Tya, stop looking at your life as a story. For once, just see it as it is.”

And just like that, the voices in my head that had been long trained to say “But that’s just how I am..”, “But I had no choice..”, and “But people don’t change..” were immediately silenced.

Because at that moment, that one disagreement that night became just that, that disagreement that night. Nothing more, nothing less.

While I don’t naively deny that some problems do have their roots in the past and many other static factors, choosing to connect all our present troubles to events that cannot or can no longer be changed is often just a convenient way of positioning ourselves as a victim of our own situation, and most importantly neglecting the urgency of working towards a practical solution.

Imagine if Matthew were to connect all the learning difficulties he’s having to his disability rather than to the immediate challenges of his present task, how it wouldn’t get him very far. Not in a necessary amount of time.

So these days, I let those images, and my friend’s words, become a kind of mental pair of scissors that I always keep in my cognitive toolbox. Anytime that long thread is about to roll downhill and form a giant tangled mess of a wool ball, I take its front end and cut it at length as necessary.


And for once, examine it just as that. That one small piece of knotted thread. Nothing more, nothing less.


Ending the War between Your Past and Your Present

“We have two eyes to see two sides of things, but there must be a third eye which will see everything at the same time and yet not see anything.”

~ Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki

If you could just pause and follow me for a moment now. Sit yourself up in a comfortable position, rest your hand on your lap, close your eyes.

And as you settle in to the moment, simply let yourself breathe in, and breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Try to make it to 10 counts.

See how many it takes before the first flicker of thought pops into your head, about someone, about some time. Before the first urge is triggered to do something else, to be somewhere else.

It took me less than 5 at my first attempt at Mindfulness Meditation. About 10 at my following ones.

To give yourself another figure, if you’d like, note down how many times in a day you find yourself thinking about something from the past, or imagining something about the future.

How fascinating it is to realize, while we spend every moment of our waking hours in the Present, how much of it we actually spend experiencing it and how much effort it takes do something as simple as being in the Here and Now.


We all carry with us from the past our little hang-ups and emotional baggages. Which may not necessarily big enough to take over our present lives, but significant enough to hold us back from making use of it and enjoying it fully.

I for one am pretty well-acquainted with my own recent hang-up. I was carrying it with me for months. Every single day since the very start of this year, when I found myself within only the first few hours of January 1, 2012 deeply crushed by a mix of events that left me wildly confused and heavily stormy-weathered.

Like anyone going through a period of major emotional turbulence I spent the following several months finding ways to return to a state of inner peace, and more importantly, letting go of it first completely.

I went down some of the old-fashioned ways; talking about it in hope to ‘get it out there’ so it doesn’t eat me up inside, jotting down thoughts related to it in hope to ‘turn it into something tangible’ that I can physically shred into pieces and chuck away, or flooding myself with images of the event in hope that I would get tired and just grow out of it.

I even came up with my so-called own method of life acceptance, where at any time I found myself about to explode in tears, I would put my hand on my chest and to every emotion or thought I experienced I would reply, “That’s alright.”

The trick worked wonders in helping me remove a lot of the anger and internal turmoil. But it wasn’t enough to return me to that constant peaceful state of being.

It was as if I’ve come to accept the fact that the baggage I was carrying is heavy; but am still weighed down by the fact that it’s still on me, slowing down my every step of walking forward.


So when I read about how one of the benefits of practicing meditation is helping one ‘let go of the past’, I jumped right onto the boat.

Each time, both in and out of my meditation hours, the smallest hint of thought related to the January 1, 2012 event and everything else that predated it came over, I would deny it entrance. In my head I would mentally catch it and throw it away. Catch it, throw it away. Catch it, throw it away. Think nothing. Think nothing. Think nothing.

It wasn’t easy. Tiring, in fact. And a few weeks into practice, I was getting frustrated.

With only moving up my ‘staying in the present’ time record to a little less than 20 seconds, it didn’t seem like meditation was the thing. I was starting to question if it was even at all humanly possible for people to be completely absorbed into the present and unaffected by anything that is otherwise.

Up until I figured out what was not quite right; about both my understanding of what mindfulness meditation is, and all of the procedures I’d ever gone through in trying to ‘let go’.

In my attempt to push away the past and embody the present, I was actually making my past, my present.

Whenever I talked about it, whenever I wrote about it, whenever I flooded my mind with memories of it, even whenever I put my hand on my chest to comfort myself by accepting it, and whenever I caught it and sent it away before it would catch me first, all the conscious effort I was making – though done in good spirit – became the act of turning my history into my current reality.

The reality where my inner life suddenly became a war zone between my lone-soldier Present and the thousand-men army of my Past. And that certainly is no peace.



But the comfort is to learn that the concept of mindfulness meditation actually recognizes the fact that it is inevitable for you to start reminiscing and feeling when you’re only trying to give your mind and heart a break.

And thus the goal isn’t necessarily for you to prevent it, much less fight it; but for you to be aware of it, to acknowledge it, and most importantly, to then return your attention back to the Here and Now by putting the rest into the background.

Once I understood that, I was no longer on the edge of my seat trying to constantly safeguard my present state of mind from the colonizing thoughts of my past.

Whenever January 1, 2012 came to mind, I would now greet it briefly then gently tuck it away into the background.

I let it run around on its own in a private little secret garden – the whereabouts of which I don’t care to know – while I return to the little sounds, sights and scents that are around me, and the faintest sense of involuntary movements that take place effortlessly in my body.


Much like Death to Life, Wrong to Right, I’ve come to accept Past as something that Present can’t exist without. The trick, therefore, is to create a separate space in the back of my head for my past to exist without intruding my present.

Whenever Past starts knocking on the door of my attention, I would simply say to it, “No, I don’t have time for you. Go to the back and tire yourself out running around. I have a sound of rain to dance to.”

Once you reach that point, your past no longer becomes a baggage that you forcefully carry around and weighs you down. It merely becomes a harmless weightless crab that’s caught on to the back of your shirt and just tags itself along.

Sometimes you’d turn around for a second to look if it’s still there, then you say, “Oh, hi”. But then you turn your head right back around again to continue walking forward, taking one single breath at a time.



Unpinning the #FirstWorldProblem ‘Badge of Honor’

“If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.”

~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

One month into my settling into a new life in Bali, I’ve been starting to get the obligatory questions of

“So how’s it been? What’s it like, living in Bali?”

With the attached glimmering hope of excitement from hearing potential stories of exotic travels and unique cultural encounters.

With all politeness I reply with a short and ambiguous,

“Life here is, well, like life in any other place.”

It’s a pretty disappointing answer. Not to mention my lack of traveling photo uploads on Facebook. (Although the latter has more to do with the fact that I’m really just not the kind of person with a tendency to enjoy taking pictures of the moments that I’m in the middle of experiencing.)

But I’m guessing that the rest has to do with the letting down of the expectation that living in Bali should be some kind of an upgrade from a rather cold and monotonous metropolis routine to a warmer and richly adventurous one.

While it’s true that for someone who has always felt rather detached from the city life, the Bali experience certainly does present itself with more soul-energizing opportunities to be closer to nature and media to explore one’s spirituality (if you take on a more Eastern philosophical direction).

But for someone who is also starting a whole new life and career as a single female twenty-something with an attachment to convenience and comfort who’s come to a city where public transportation is scarce and living costs are high, while living on a probational teacher’s salary, the Bali life does not exactly roll out to be the way I once expected it to be with a glimmering hope of excitement either.

So no, I don’t wake up in a chalet by the beach to the shine of a morning sunrise, or travel to work passing by a line of young women in white kebaya and colorful wrap-arounds while carrying a basket of fruits on their heads, or come back from work everyday to walk on the beach and watch the sunset, or travel to rural corners of the province to observe religious ceremonies and feast on fresh organic foods.

I live in a humble little rented-room that faces a mango tree and a row of other rented rooms in the building across from where I mostly hear the sounds of passing trucks and barking street dogs.

I travel to work on the backseat of a motorcycle while holding my breath to avoid sucking in too much polluted air from said passing trucks.

I come back from work to perform manual laundry duty and settle for lunch leftovers for dinner while forcing myself to uncover the tiniest feeling of being entertained by local TV channel programs.

And at least one day of every weekend is spent in my room alone cleaning and watching replays of TV series while wishing I was eating something that’s not ‘makanan seadanya’ from a nearby warung nasi.

Not necessarily because a convenient and comfortable life that I’m more accustomed to is not possible to accomplish. But given the circumstantial limits and my priority of independently surviving as I tip-toe on the crucial stage of building a career, it’s simply all I can afford to have.

So if anything, my life seems to experience more of a downgrade in some way rather than an upgrade.

But you see I almost wanted to slap my own hands for typing all of that. Because for a minute there I just became the girl who cries #firstworldproblem.


(While in a parallel universe,)

Yes, I know, my memes are bad and I should feel bad.

But I don’t like that. Much less the perpetuation of what seems to be the appropriation of a cultural habit that suggests a lack of gratitude and appreciation of what we are already greatly blessed with in life.

I remember one morning as I sat on the back of Pak Dewa’s motorcycle that takes me to work everyday and found myself silently grunting about this less-than perfect life, I finally cut my self-chattering and said to myself,

“No, this is not okay. I don’t want to have to constantly put an effort to accept my life. I want to just live it, regardless.”

Not so long after I found the reply on the page of one ‘Zen Fables for Today‘ book:


“Because, damn it, that was all I had.”

And nothing has ever hit me harder than that.

Than the few simple words of the second-last line in the story.

Ever since which, when I find myself now thinking, “I’m traveling to work on the back of a motorcycle…“,

I’ve learned to pause and say, “I’m traveling to work on the back of a motorcycle!”

And I start to notice the wonderful feeling of the morning sea breeze enveloping my body, I start to notice the giant gong that stands behind a small farm by the side of the road I never did before, and delve in the wonder of the characteristically elongated ears feature of Buddha statues that line the streets of Bali.

When I find myself thinking, “I come home from work and still have chores to do…”,

I’ve learned to pause and say, “I come home from work and have things to do!”

And I start to appreciate knowing what it is like for people who cannot afford to wash their clothes with the help of a machine or a paid helper, I start to appreciate the thought stimulation I get from coming up with systems and ways to make chores easier to go through, and take comfort in the fact that for each bucket of clothes I wash is a few rupiahs saved to help afford healthier food purchases.

When I find myself thinking, “I’m sitting alone in my room with so much time left before bed…”,

I’ve learned to pause and say, “I’m sitting alone in my room with so much time left before bed!”

And I start to re-embrace and devour in the freedom of long uninterrupted reading hours, the unquestioned spiritual exploration moments, the uncompromised habit-changing processes.

Because, damn it, that’s all I have.

This life, right here, wherever that may be and however imperfect it may be, is all I have right now.

And once you see how beautiful that is, that’s a kind of peace you can’t put a price tag on, or any paradise’s post-stamp on.


Freedom as a Love Language

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”

~ Wayne Dyer

I’ve always thought that one of the biggest misunderstandings about Love is that it is often seen only as the manifestation of some form of an interference, whether in words or actions.

For example, they say that if you love someone, you should tell them how much, in conversations, declarations, songs, poems, or even books. They also say that if you love someone, you should show them how much. Through the gifts of things, the warmth of touch, the comfort of protection, the ease of service, the generosity of sacrifice.

I wouldn’t argue against any of that. In fact, should there be one, in the ranking order of Love manifestation, I regard sacrifice as one of the highest.

But should there be one, what would come in as the most Fruitful, to me, is none of the rest of the above.

The people whose Loves have Given me and are Worth to me the most, have manifested theirs through neither words nor actions, but rather through the absence of both.

Theirs is the kind of Love that places value in the idea that
despite their own belief system and tendency to impose,
regardless of them do I seek my truths, to them do I not owe my reasons.

The kind of Love that therefore lets its hands and tongue go,
and lets me tread the paths of finding the answers and explanations to my own questions.

The kind of Love that places understanding in the idea that
despite their natural concerns and tendency to own,
to them do I not belong, nor by them do I lead myself where to go.

The kind of Love that therefore lets its hands and tongue go,
and lets me be where I come to know the kind of peace that is peaceful to me, and the kind of meaning that is meaningful to me.

The kind of Love that places respect in the idea that
despite their well-meaning expectations and tendency to control,
by them do I not make my choices, nor from them do I claim my right to be my own soul.

The kind of Love that therefore lets its hands and tongue go,
and lets me give myself to something bigger than tradition, give my life for the only hope I have been blessed with from the moment I was born: to be of use to the world.

Not all the time. But most of the time. I do believe the absence of interference, the allowance of Freedom, to be a most fruitful manifestation of Love and its richest language of all.


“The trick, is not minding that it hurts.”

~ T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

The unreciprocated attention. The unappreciated kindness. The unpaid sacrifice.

The unmet expectation. The hard cold truth. The cut-short hope.

The final sentence. The irreparable damage. The irretrievable loss.

The unchangeable history. The uncompromisable reality. The irremovable memory.

The unfulfilled longing. The irrelievable pain. The thousand-night irrelievable suffocating invisible pain.


“The trick, is not minding that it hurts.”

Pacification by Paddy Fields, Desensitization of Dogs: A Postcard from Segara Beach, Bali

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

~ Seth Godin

“I divide my friends into two categories,” a college senior of mine once said. “The ones that dread and complain about their jobs, and the ones that enjoy and love what they do for a living.”

I have at different times found myself in both (my senior’s) classifications. So if I were to ever find myself sitting on the mid-parting fence, the choice should be obvious. But here’s the thing about this kind of twenty-something dilemma.

On one hand, the job I dread and eats me up from the inside comes with the convenience of organized training and orders I’d only have to follow, the comfort of a high-rise office building in the business district of Jakarta metropolis, the confidence from wearing figure-flattering skirts and high heels and carrying a smartphone and a black leather planner, and last but definitely not least, the security of a bank account that remains on stand-by to maintain a comfortable lifestyle and occasional exotic holiday.

On the other hand, the job I love and wake up looking forward to in the morning, is teaching. And we all know what that comes with, a lot of compromises. Mostly in terms of finance and convenience.

And for a single, independence-striving twenty-something that has known little of lifestyle beyond the boundaries of luxury and walks around with big dreams of entrepreneurship and parenthood, that love does post a concern.

So I spent months exploring both options, at the same time stalling my decision-making in fear of committing to either option that just couldn’t seem to fulfill my ideal.

Whenever I came close to sealing a deal with the corporate, I cursed myself for giving in, selling out. And whenever I found myself magnetically pulled by the possibility of going back to teaching, I cursed myself for being such an old soul, for knowing better, for being so clear about what my calling is, this early in life.

Oh, Ignorance, thou art bliss.

The cold shower came one afternoon during a job selection process at the last local corporate agency I applied to, when the company’s owner concluded to me, in a way, that I appealed more as a personality than a corporate figure. It was the ultimate confirmation, once and for all, that the corporate isn’t where I belong.

But the afternoon I spent scrolling through teaching job online ads and suddenly found myself caught in a kind of rush of involuntary flow of energy of natural excitement, was the ultimate set-in-stone, once and for all, that not only that this Love is undeniable; it is unavoidable, and most importantly soul essential.

So when a job offer came from a school in Bali, I packed up my stuff within a few days and left Jakarta to land on the side of the fence I should’ve been back on a long time ago.

And as it always has been, Love never fails.

The fact that I have a job that wakes no urge in me to distract myself by checking my phone, personal email or Facebook is the way it should be.
The fact that I work in a library building literally bordered by green paddy fields that stretch just behind the Sanur beach is just a bonus pacifying compensation for some of the convenience I’m lacking.


the scenic official morning greeter at work


Banjar Tangtu paddy fields cum lunch time view from the teachers’ lounge

The fact that I have been fortunate enough to become a part of a culture so abundant of humility and kindness is a grace.
The fact that I find myself living in a place with such wonderful energy that I feel an effortless synchronization to is a peaceful luxury.

The fact that there are so many street dogs wandering around that I can’t always run away from is the accidental blessing of fear reduction in disguise.
And the fact that I’m writing this sitting at a beach with sand on my feet, the sea breeze blowing through my hair and the sound of crashing waves to my ears while waiting for the sun to set, well, that’s just living the dream.


Oh, Moon, thou art full and bright.

The only catch is that I still haven’t come here for a vacation. I still have to put myself on a monk diet and manual laundry duty in order to stay healthy and have enough to save up, and spare plenty of time in the weekend to keep myself on my toes for my work’s sake.

But for now, it’s all enough for a life that I don’t need to escape from.

Oh, Enlightening, thou art Bliss.

I have also decided to dedicate Saturdays to go, see and write.

So, till next weekend,


So I said ‘Yes’

“Every calling is great when greatly pursued.”

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

A Letter from Your Calling

(A re-blog from tiny buddha‘s contributor Tara Sophia Morr)

It’s me. The one who keeps talking to you about that thing. That project. That possibility.

I know you think you couldn’t be the one for the job, but honestly, if you weren’t the one for the job, I wouldn’t have come to you with it.

I wouldn’t have come knocking at the door of your mind. I wouldn’t have come into your dreams, into your imagination, into your heart.

I wouldn’t have made it so compelling to think about me.

I wouldn’t have planted in you the frustration with what is.

I wouldn’t have planted in you the vision of what could be.

You say you want more meaning, more adventure, and to have a greater impact.

I’m offering you all of that, but you keep telling me I’m silly, unrealistic, too big, when here I am, ready to give you the greatest adventure of your life.

I don’t take it personally, but I do weep about it.

I weep for the joy you are missing out on. I weep because you aren’t getting to witness your immense strength and brilliance. I weep for what the world is missing out on too.

When I took this job, they told me much of it would be waiting. Waiting on you.

I want to make sure you know, I’m here, close as breath, waiting. I’m waiting for you to say yes.

We can do this. Together, we can do this thing.

It’s true, part of my job is creating challenges and dark moments along the way—but only enough of them to teach you the most beautiful lessons you’ll ever learn.

I need you. Your hands. Your heart. Your mind. Your circumstances. Your strengths. Your weaknesses. Your wounds. Your wit. Your tale.

I need you, just as you are.

Say yes?


Your Calling

And the sun will rise in the Land of the Gods for me tomorrow. I’m one safe flight away from a long-overdue first date with destiny.


Till a postcard from Bali,


“It’s Good like how Tiramisu is Supposed to be Good”

“Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My mom, a tiramisu enthusiast in her own right, brought home a tiramisu cake from a newly-found bakery in town yesterday. As I was taking a bite out of my mini slice, she said to me, “It’s good, right?”

In my mouth, I tasted the soft layers of kahlua-soaked lady fingers that harmonioulsy marry with sweet creamy smooth mascarpone cheese and bitter dark cocoa powder that finely spreads on my tongue.

There was nothing particularly special about the tiramisu. For a classic hand-tossed slice of the Italian dessert, it was, well, good like how tiramisu is supposed to be good.


But what was brought to my attention is this, why should this particular tiramisu surprise her as good in the first place? It tastes just like how a tiramisu is supposed to taste like. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Back in August while I was going through a career switch exploration, I met with Mas Alex, the founder of a local human resources consultancy that a friend of mine had set me up with.
After spending a few days with him chatting through my selection process, I told him how incredibly taken I have been by the level of genuine commitment and sincere human touch they apply into their services.

Until then – I told him – so many times had I come across organizations that boast about their commitment to a meaningful client partnership, learning process, and goal-oriented development, yet have very little understanding of what each term truly means and commit to nothing more than getting their share of the work done and achieving ‘company target’.

Until then, so little had I seen a company with such a strong organizational identity and so much integrity in their adherence to the very values that they have set up to be the foundation of their work.

Daily Meaning, this small company that Mas Alex has created and has now captured every corner of my professional heart, was nothing of the former and all of the latter.

Yet when I shared my fascination with Mas Alex, he neither denied nor affirmed the special nature of his company’s character. Instead he said,


“Now let me ask you. What really surprises you so much about what we do here?

What you said about what we do here as a firm; making our clients close and informed partners in our work relationship, doing our homework in providing solutions that bring meaning and added value to the learning process, working with honest passion and adherence to our own company vision and mission, isn’t that what any organization is by right supposed to do anyway?

So why should it surprise you?”

I’ve been thinking about what he said since.

I thought about it over the slice of good tiramisu that my mother bought yesterday.

I think about it now whenever I find myself at first taken by what seem to be extraordinary actions of human beings only to soon realize that for so long and in so many ways, our lives have so many times been shortchanged. That something as natural and ordinary as doing something the way it’s supposed to be done becomes voluntary and glorified.

The kahlua-soaked lady fingers in my mom’s bought tiramisus are being shortchanged with instant coffee-soaked sponge cakes.

Genuinely tailored business services are being short-changed with impersonal instant formulaic approaches.

Children’s conversational quality time with parents is being short-changed with smartphones and tablets-accompanied silence.

Direct community involvement is being short-changed with sharing videos and liking statuses on Facebook.

Authentic food, service with a human touch, a fully-present pair of listening ears, and tangible acts of good will become extraordinary rarities and luxuries.

We come to forget that the actions we often perceive are extraordinary are often truly nothing more than what we’re just supposed to do as nothing more than people.


If I think about it now, when we watch in inspiration as a group of young designers take the initiative of constructing chairs to be placed at a busy bus stop in Kuala Lumpur, aren’t making use of our talents and helping our fellow citizens without being asked to just what we’re supposed to do as people?

When we read in admiration about Hollywood celebrities who take in adopted children into their homes and raise them as their own, isn’t channeling our abilities to provide a safe shelter, loving family and good life to those who need and equally deserve them just what we’re supposed to do as people?

When we follow in awe as leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Teresa sacrifice so much comfort in their lives just so that the people around them could feel at least half of what they could have, aren’t sharing our blessings and preserving harmony in our society just what we’re supposed to do as people?

And if my mother thinks about it now, whenever she buys a tiramisu, shouldn’t it have been made by right to taste like one?

By right? With no short changes. With no surprises.


Making Sense of Rihanna and Loves that Don’t Make Sense

“The heart has reasons that reason does not understand.”

~ Jacques Benigne Bossuel

The thing with celebrity news is that, to some people, they’re like street musicians. You don’t seek for them, but sometimes they get so loud they become difficult to ignore.

Sometimes you walk on anyway. Other times, you bring yourself over and observe the spectacle for a while, and then you walk away. But other, other times, you walk away with the song stuck in your head.
You walk away remembering, thinking, and somehow understanding something.

Quite recently Rihanna sung to Oprah that she still loves Chris Brown. This was loud. We know what he’s done to her.

But apparently, we seem to assume it means we also know how she is, or is not, supposed to feel about him.

For much of this ongoing hard-to-ignore street concert that some of us have been drawn to, I’d been pretty much on the same side as the mainstream audience and particularly female population.

Along with much of the rest of the world, I too sympathized with her plight, I too grew inexplicable feelings of despise for this man whom I never even knew, I too quietly cheered her decision to end the relationship and speak about her experience to raise awareness about abusive relationships, I too then turned around and questioned her sanity for releasing a single that seems to contradict her stand and glorify it instead.


So when I frst started reading about her ‘he is the love of my life’ confession, (possibly along with much of the rest of the world) I couldn’t help to involuntarily react in a silent I-can’t-believe-you-not-only-still-have-a-heart-for-that-douche-but-also-wear-it-on-your-sleeve-and-bare-it-for-the-benefit-of-his-ego-like-that kind of sneer.

But out of a need to pass my judgment based on more information, I read on.

And as I arrived at the point where she expressed her struggle trying to make sense of all that had happened and how at the end of the day, his happiness is still important to her regardless; the thick wall of cynicsm I had put up between the laptop screen and my mind broke down, and an invisible bitter sneer turned into a plain flat “Oh, I get her.”


I’ve been terribly in love once. At 23 in university I fell hard for a guy I was in a platonic friendship with.
He wasn’t exactly my type. And we had very little in common except for that we really liked being with each other and cared about one another deeply.

My friends for the life of me couldn’t figure out what it was that I saw in him or how it is that we were ever going to work out.

Yet against all my (and everyone else who matters’) better judgment I pursued the ‘relationship’ and pushed for a real relationship.

Never mind that I found he didn’t want the same thing. Never mind that each time he said that he would still go on and continue to pull me closer. Never mind that each and every time it would hurt.

We went on in the whirl for a few months. And no amount of time that passed could make more sense out of any of that than it did when it first began.

I eventually did snap out of it. But for a little while both my friends and I still kind of wondered, how in the world did that happen in the first place?

There are many possible reasons.
My own insecurities, ‘daddy issues’, a kind of second-time ‘first-love’, a not-yet fully-developed prefrontal cortex, chemical reaction as a result of physical intimacy, and other kinds of physiological analysis which could be very well true of me considering my background, temperament and general romantic history with men.

But if you ask me, stripped all that aside, the most essential answer I can give is this: I don’t know. I just loved him that much.

And as much as anyone would like to smack me in the head for that, that is, truly, simply how I feel.

And I can still say that about him now. Even after he’s moved on, even after I’ve moved on. Even when I no longer hope for the possibility of us ever being together again.

I can still say in all genuineness that yes, I will always care about his well-being. I will always be happy to know that he is happy.

Now I recognize that the kind of hurt I experienced cannot be easily compared to what Rihanna suffered through. And in no way do I see how such an act of violence upon another human being should be justified. But that’s not what I’m getting at here.

What I’m saying is that when I said I will always care about the ‘love of my life’ who shattered my 23 year-old heart,
I say that without the intention of justifying the contribution his actions made to the emotional turmoil I experienced throughout my relationship with him. I say that without forgetting what once happened or ignoring the obvious risk I would take if we were to ever be involved again.

I say that for no other reason than that is simply the way I feel.

And that‘s the point.

And that’s what much of the rest of the world doesn’t seem to hear from this song.


Whether it was the wisest decision for someone as heard of as her to speak in the way that may be misunderstood when it surrounds such a sensitive and hard-to-ignore topic, that is an area that would require a whole other evaluation (which I do not intend to elaborate on). But what is also important to understand is this:

People who have gone through very difficult experience involving a person they care about deeply, making peace with it and themselves in one way or another is extremely important in coping.

Some find the need to justify for what the other person has done, some need to find a way to understand in order to forgive, and some need to know nothing more than despite all, they still have love.

And that’s not something anyone can say “You’re an idiot” about. That’s not something anyone can take away from your life.

So if you’ve been dropping by and watching this street spectacle, observe before passing a quick judgment, listen before walking on.