Thursday, September 30, 2010

Musical journey (5)

Some of you might not know this but I write both Chinese and English songs. However many of them are not that musically-presentable partly because I am too lazy to tidy them up and hence I do not exhibit them much. In this post I shall share with you one of the more complete ones that I have written.

As you know, I went through a phase of not knowing what I want in life like everyone else and quickly fell in love with a tall English businessman when I was back in Singapore though at that time I was 110% sure that I knew exactly what I wanted. Being intent on finding a relationship, I allowed my focus to blind me instead of letting love do the job. I misinterpreted his signals and fumbled with my own as I spiralled in a degenerative cycle of falling too deep too soon too often. Notwithstanding the ignorance I was harbouring, all those intense emotions were good fodder for writing songs–this song was written within a very short time as everything flowed so smoothly then as if it were a match made in heaven. I put together the video for the song using clips from the movie "Soundless Wind Chime". Although that is a very depressing movie, I chose to see it from another angle and used that for this song (one with a happy ending or at least the ending that I wanted back then).



[In Your Arms]

Looking for a grain in the desert of love
Will the sun ever meet the moon high up above?
Wishing by the well, a silent prayer in the wind
We hope to find a heart to live within

I know it's not easy, this silly thing called love
But we still found each other against the odds so tough
And now I'm contented but can never love you enough
I see you in the distance, to you I run

There you stand, tall as you are
Arms wide open, you shine like a star
In your arms, I am safe from harm
They never tire, they're never far

There our souls blend into one
Time stands still when I am in your arms
I get weak though you give me strength to overcome
Anything as long as I'm in your arms






Of course that brief on-off-and-then-back-on-and-off encounter landed me in utter frustration and worse still made me even more bent on finding a partner till I burnt myself out. That is the scary result of not loving yourself and thank goodness I have stripped that destructive behaviour off of myself for some years now–all my subsequent English compositions were all love songs for Ision!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Loving yourself

Plain-Jane Aaron meets gym-hunk Barry. It all starts out fine and Aaron falls in love with Barry within a week. Barry feels lukewarm about Aaron but does nothing to indicate that. Aaron thinks Barry feels the same as he does and sends twenty lovey-dovey texts a day to Barry. Feeling suffocated, Barry ignores all of the messages and continues to date other people without telling Aaron. The more distant Barry gets from Aaron, the more Aaron wants to come close and Barry decides to run further away. A vicious cycle is initiated. Eventually Aaron stops obsessing over Barry but ends up devastated. Subsequently Aaron’s self-worth dwindles to zero but to everyone around him, it is as if nothing has happened as life moves on with hundreds and thousands of Aarons roaming around.

Sounds like a familiar story? I bet many of us have been an Aaron for at least once in our lives–I sure have. But unlike many I am fortunate to have come out relatively early in my life, which is something that really speeds up one’s growth as a homosexual person. I once read somewhere that all homosexuals have two birthdays–one on which he or she was born and the other when he or she comes out. If you fall for someone aged 30 biologically but had just come out when he was 25, you must realise that you are with someone at the homosexual age of 5. Coming out is the first step to self-love, which is something that can solve almost every problem in your life.

The phrase “loving yourself” has been thrown around a lot but what does it practically mean and why is it important? The chief ingredient in “loving yourself” is knowing yourself, something which is easier said than done. To me this comes with maturity and life experiences eg. one cannot truly understand what one wants in life without going through what it feels like having something one doesn’t want. The best lesson in life is a hard one and without going through a few Barrys, how could Aaron fine-tune what he really wants in life? When you know yourself inside out, you will be able to set specific goals to what exactly you want in your life and then start working towards it. This is when life gets really efficient–when you weed out the things slowing you down and focus all your energies on your target. Life is too short for you to sit around or going about it aimlessly. Being an Aaron at 25 is learning but still being one at 45 is depressing.

Another component of knowing yourself is being acutely aware of your limits. Sure, parents like to teach their kids to reach for the sky but how many of these kids with presidential dreams actually become presidents? However knowing your limits does not necessarily constitute a defeatist attitude–a practical dream is no lesser a dream than an overly-grand one. In the Aaron-Barry story, as cruel as it sounds, Aaron needs to understand that Barry is out of his league. Of course no one should stop Aaron chasing after Barry but time would tell Aaron after much had been wasted that his pursuit will fail in the end. I know this sounds shallow but after resisting it for years on the grounds of superficiality, I finally decided to hit the gym and get a nice body so as to boost my self-confidence and I tell you it works, especially in the gay world. Either Aaron lowers his standard or he raises his own status but he should never fall into an endless loop of chasing after the Barrys of the world and lament how tragic his fate is without realising the root cause or doing something about it.

Once you have successfully tackled the biggest unknown in your life (ie. yourself), you are well on your way to greater things. One more thing to note is that “loving yourself” is not a manifestation of selfishness. I for one would not want to mess around with people who are unsure of themselves. I would rather they take care of themselves and find their bearings in life before knowing them–yes, to me this applies to lovers AND friends. The journey of loving yourself does not stop once you have reached your goal or have found a long-term partner. Take the latter as an example–even in a stable relationship, the two people in it have to still exist as individuals with their own identities and beliefs. Many relationships start out intense and continue to remain so as both parties subjugate their own ideals and ways of thinking all in the name of compromise. Don’t get me wrong–I still believe the hallmark of true love is sacrifice but I also believe that the heart must be in the right place when you make that sacrifice and you can only do that if you truly understand yourself and your needs. Being totally co-dependent in a relationship is unhealthy as one should not let another person define one’s own life. We are all responsible for our own lives and we do that by first taking that big step of starting to love and know ourselves. Only after we conquer that battle can we start to love someone else–they deserve the same strength and confidence that we want our partners to have. If everyone bears that in mind and practise it, the weird everyone-is-searching-for-true-love-yet-everyone-remains-single-and-lonely phenomenon currently plaguing this world will cease to exist.

It took me about seven years to get to the point where I genuinely know myself and since then, armed with all the life experiences and lessons, I have become one of the more well-adjusted gay persons I know of in this predominantly non-gay world (I am not tooting my own horn for my friends can easily attest to that). I am not saying that I don’t falter, of course I do. But when I do make mistakes, I know what the consequences are and have the tools I have previously readied to deal with them. Even if I don’t, I continue to use these mistakes to enrich my book of life lessons and then move on to remain focused on my target or set new ones. To the uninitiated I can come across as pompous and arrogant because of how sure I am about myself but one of the best products of truly knowing myself is being content with what I have yet still having goals to constantly fight for. That to me is the ideal balance I have finally achieved after all these years.

So if you are still struggling with something in your life or have unresolved issues that stop you from living the way you want, why not take a step back and look at yourself in the mirror? Do you really know who that is you see?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My first step

I've done it! I've really done it! I've finally taken my first step to further my career in this new land and in a way, my life in Australia actually begins from now.

For a long time, I have been very dissatisfied with being a contractor at just above the entry-level. You see, being a very experienced consultant is a perk on its own because you can charge an obscene premium for that "experience" and that can be way above the salary of a lowly refinery engineer or even the boss of said engineer. I can totally get that but as an almost entry-level contractor on permanent secondment to the client, I neither get the high pay nor the career development and training a junior person is supposed to get–I am plain sick and tired of having to beg for training opportunities! Moreover I do not see the potential to move interstate (or to god-forbid Middle East where opportunities abound) within my engineering firm as a benefit and so the eager-to-root-himself-in-a-new-land mentality in me becomes a further push factor. And don't even get me started on how my blood boils from being under-appreciated for my hard work for it pales in comparison for being treated like a weirdo for being super-efficient in his work.

Lately the discontent simmering just under my skin worsened as Caltex introduced the Refinery Manager's Award where employees get rewarded for outstanding effort. Contractors if they are part of a team are entitled to this award but all other award categories are meant only for employees. It so happened that an ultra-lazy colleague of mine (a Caltex employee) received such an award recently and that pushed me over the edge whilst still scratching my head wondering how the hell did she deserve that. If even a curry-loving woman spending on average 6% of her time (yes, I have been tracking the hours on my spreadsheet–that is only the time when it is audibly-obvious to EVERY ONE that she is not working–there are countless more hours spent M.I.A., off "sick" and surfing the net) on private phone calls could get an award as an employee while a hardworking contractor like me gets zilch, it is time to release that simmering discontent.

A few weeks back my two-year anniversary working at Caltex came and I have been waiting for ages for that day to arrive when I can negotiate with my Caltex boss regarding jumping over with all that work experience. I had that discussion and was pleased that he mentioned that I would be a "strong candidate for many positions" at Caltex. Finally! Some recognition! Coincidentally, an engineer left the company soon after and that was my opportunity to apply for his job and make that switch. As a contractor embedded within the client company, I have the advantage of applying for that position internally. And I just clicked the "Submit" button.

The irony (there is always a catch) is the nature of the position (it pays roughly the same as my current one by the way) I have just applied for. It is the role of a process control engineer–exactly what I was doing for two years before I relocated to Sydney. Am I then pushing myself to go through some sort of regression? Granted that I did not really learn all that I could from my previous position (because of human issues–a micro-managing group lead), it still takes an acquired taste to become a control engineer and I am not totally sure that I have that taste. But this is my perfect opportunity to get through the Caltex door and shouldn't I seize it? I have the exact experience for the role as well as a good recommendation from my Caltex boss–what more can one ask for? Somehow during the interview I must downplay the get-my-foot-in-the-door angle and impress the panel with my fervent love for the role... To complicate matters, my department really needs me now to deliver a project within schedule and if my Caltex boss were selfish, he would not want to recommend (and release) me. Fortunately I think he is not that sort of person but it is a complication nonetheless.

Regardless of the internal and external struggles and difficulties involved in this endeavour, I have just crossed the point of no return and now my intention is out there, vulnerable and open to scrutiny. I will hear from the recruiting team within two weeks–wouldn't it be strange if my Caltex boss were part of the interviewing panel? Well all I can do now is to cross my fingers and start dusting the "How To Ace An Interview" file in my brain. Give me all the luck you've got!