My Struggles with Accepting Uncertainty

The certainty of life is that, nothing is certain in life. We can’t have everything we want, neither can we expect anything from it.

Human beings are born to be unsatisfied. No matter what we already have, we always want more. Whatever result we have achieved, we always think of how we can improve further. That’s what makes our species stronger, and how we can survive until now.

When I do my essay or work on music, I always find something new every time I look at it. There is never the ‘perfect answer’, we tend to be critical of ourselves all the time, no matter what we do. Even when we work hard on something, the result is always uncertain. We may think that it was a job well done, sometimes people might feel the same, but some might find that it was a lousy job, or even tell us that we didn’t put in enough effort. Our future is also uncertain all the time. We may plan ahead for something, but that’ll only work out because we assume certain conditions that will meet our targets. The reality is, we can’t guarantee a 100% that our future is set out for us, no matter what we do…

…and then we all die in the end. Even until that point, we cannot guarantee that we would have lived a fulfilling life, a life with no regrets whatsoever. We cannot assure ourselves that we have achieved whatever we want to in life. Scrap that, we don’t even know when and how we will die until it comes.

Yet, our social values and systems try so hard to overcome it. People try too hard to quantify success and benchmarks for success. Standardised tests, qualifications, social statuses, age limits, you name it. We have been brought up in an age where getting good grades for exams and attaining a degree will guarantee success, if you fail in your exams, you’re lazy and stupid; you’re successful if you’re rich, you’re incapable if you’re poor; you’re responsible if you’re married and have kids, you’re selfish and wild if you stay single. In some societies, there’s even the presence of hierarchy and the fear mentality. Your boss/parent/teacher has a higher authority over you, so whatever they say are the only ones that count. Otherwise, you’re rebellious and disrespectful. If you’ve achieved something, you are set for life, your future ahead is glistening. If you fail, life ahead is gonna be tough. Such benchmarks seem to make us think that there are things in life that will be certain to us.

As a student, there is no doubt that I work very hard. Every time I find something new/a mistake in my answer, I struggle to change it and expect myself to remember it quickly. I am a slow learner, yet I can’t afford to digest things at my own pace because there’s a deadline looming ahead of me (and deadlines are dead certain).

Our education system thrives on model answers, I try very hard to perfect something, and when I find something that seems perfect, I try very hard to maintain it. I am brought up to think that the moment I submit my answer, it ultimately has to be the best version. Besides work, this attitude has also manifested into my daily life and the way I interact with people (although fortunately I become more aware of it as I grow older). I am afraid of being too comfortable with the people around me, I fear that I take my relationship for granted. I fear that one day I might be taken advantaged of.

Life seems to be full of certainties that any form of failure or criticism can seem like a bomb that has fallen. If I muster enough courage and determination, I will work very hard to prevent that bomb from falling, or lessen the damage a little…and it becomes a vicious cycle. Life is full of uncertainties, yet knowing this I still continue to strive to make things certain. I have been foolishly sucked into this system.

While struggling to make things work consistently, the result ironically will always turn out not the way I wanted. I work so hard to perfect the same set of actions on the piano (I know it’s a stupid thing to do, but let’s not go into there now), yet when it’s time to play for my teacher or perform, I play as if I have not practiced at all. I am so worried about making things certain that that seems to be the only thing on my mind before every performance, and I freak out or get anxious. No matter how much pep talk I give myself, or no matter how I change the way I do sound checks, the result will always be the same.

Now that things have come to this point, I ask myself:

  1. Why the heck am I so obsessed with the certainties?
  2. What is it that I am afraid of?
  3. If I know things will never be certain in the end, is it even worth worrying about it?
  4. Will living a life full of certainties help me live a more fulfilling life?

I haven’t given myself a new year’s resolution this year, but I think I have found one now. This 2018, I want to learn to embrace the uncertainties, to live life over the edge a little and take risks. To not stupidly conform to benchmarks and rely them on markers for success. To not be ruled over by authority and dare to stand up for what is right. To accept that things will never be the same as before, to keep a inquisitive mind and never take things for granted.

Till next time, take care everyone.

xo

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10 Thoughts Today: How do I Feel About an LDR with My Significant Other

1. Definitely emptiness and loneliness, lots of it.

2. The person whom I talk to almost every hour everyday, the one who keeps me company when I’m alone and bored, suddenly isn’t here for me already.

3. I’m so tempted to ask my friends out or chat them up, but I don’t think it’s a very good idea…I don’t wanna give the impression that I’m only caring about them because I’m lonely 😂

4. So many things go on in a day, that I have to keep all of it to myself inside, and wait until the perfect time to say it all to him. Thinking about it, it’s quite beautiful, isn’t it? I love delayed gratification, but I absolutely suck at it. I have no self-control.

5. Being in a relationship isn’t just about having each other’s company (or the lack thereof), but it also the bond and connection we have for each other. He may be away, but he has never left my heart.

6. I wonder what did he do on the plane, how is he adjusting to the weather and environment out there, whether has he had his dinner, whether he is prepared for the stuff he has to do there, etc.

7. Before he left I didn’t really talk through his preparations, because I trust that he was able to take care of himself, but now that he’s not here I’m starting to worry and regret I didn’t give him enough reminders.

8. At least we are in the same time zone, I guess that’s a good thing.

9. I wonder will he come back with a different accent.

10. Oh damn it, it’s just for a week. I just hope we don’t fight 😕

Books I’ve Read in February 2018

Hi everyone,

February went by in a flash, not only was it because it is the shortest month of the year, I was largely preoccupied by the Chinese New Year celebrations. I enjoyed my time feasting and collecting angpows, wishing that February will never end.

I also read two fiction books this month. The first was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. The book revolves around Oscar and his family, written in a third-person narrative. Oscar is a young Dominican man raised in New Jersey, a huge science fiction nerd and a hopeless romantic in hopes of finding true love one day. However, his family is struck by the fukú, a curse brought upon his family for several generations. The story also focuses on several key characters in Oscar’s multi-generational family. Although mainly written in English, the author included several conversations and words in Spanish, along with a few cultural references. Although I really loved the story and felt that it was very well-written, it was quite a difficult read because of my lack of knowledge in Spanish and several of the cultural references. Thankfully, I had Google Translate and a website to refer to for help. I really liked the writing and so I felt that I should not ignore the parts I didn’t understand for the sake of convenience. It was quite a tedious process, but it was worth it as I could appreciate the nuances of conversations better and learnt a few Spanish words along the way. Overall, Díaz writing style was very creative and beautiful, and I found the story quite heartwarming and the characters pretty relatable.

Next, I continued my journey with the filthy rich and powerful in Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan, which is sadly the third and final instalment. 😞 With Shang Su Yi ill and at her deathbed, her family have gathered to be with her, while in fact vying for Tyersall Park. The biggest question remains- who will be the next heir to Tyersall Park, (one of) the largest and most valuable residential properties in the world? Meanwhile, the Astrid-Charlie saga continues, and Kitty Pong, a.k.a. Mrs Jack Bing, continues to be upstaged by her new stepdaughter, Colette Bing. Again, like the previous two books, a highly witty and entertaining read. As usual, I really loved the local cultural references as well as the satire and humour in the book. Kinda sad that it was the end, I wish that there was more. As a Singaporean, I really appreciated reading literature that was relatable to me culturally. The references to food, pop culture, and Singlish, really struck a chord with me. If there are any books similar to this, please recommend them to me!

Realised that the books I’ve read in February had one similarity- lots of cultural references and foreign languages in them. Different backgrounds, and different problems.

Also, I would like to sneak in something else that I’ve read, which is the National Geographic Magazine, Jan/Feb issue. I was glad I picked up this magazine, as it had a lot of things I was interested in. Highlights included the Egyptian mummification of animals, the significance of silk and the Silk Road, as well as Napoleon’s coming out of exile and defeat in the Battle of the Waterloo in 1815. I like reading magazines, I always learn something new, and NatGeo is one of my favourites.

In the month of March, I’ve decided to diversify my reading sources to not just books, but in other forms as well. Reading is a wonderful source of knowledge, which is not just limited to books. Stay tuned for my next reading post! ☺️

Till next time, take care everyone.

Xo

Of Maggi and Music

Earlier in the night, at around 10.30pm, I had mad cravings for instant noodles (or instant ramen, or Maggi noodles as the generic term we call every type of instant noodles here, regardless of brand). I was really hungry because my dinner was so unsatisfying, and whenever I’m hungry I would crave for instant noodles.

I snuck out of my room and into the kitchen, grabbed a packet of instant noodles and a handful of ingredients I could find in my fridge, and began cooking. When it was done and I ate, I was extremely delighted and satisfied. At that moment, it felt like I had just made the best bowl of instant noodles in my life. I have never been more satisfied eating a bowl of instant noodles.

Momentarily, a thought popped up in my head. I realised that, when I really want something, everything else didn’t matter, but I was just focused on achieving the task at hand. At the end of the day, the result will be the best I’ve ever come up with. I really wanted to eat instant noodles, I was craving for the bouncy texture and firm bite of the noodles, accompanied with a rich oily soup broth. Straightaway, I got cooking with that in mind, and the result was the most satisfying bowl of instant noodle soup that I’ve ever had in a long time. Whenever I just felt like cooking a bowl of noodles just to fill myself up, I didn’t care so much about the refinement of the taste, and as a result I whip up a mediocre-tasting bowl of noodles. I feel full, but it doesn’t really touch me, or blow my mind.

It was from that same thought that made me wonder- isn’t that the same thing as in music making? If you know the music so well you know exactly what you want to achieve and how, which is to make music and let the score come alive, you’ll do everything to make things work the way you want. The result will be very satisfying as you know you have made music. However, if you just focus on playing a piece and wanting to get through it, the result will be very mediocre and unmusical. The output is the same, but the quality is totally different because the mindsets were varied.

For me, I definitely practice wanting to make music, but when it comes to performing I get so worried about playing wrong notes that I tend to forget or disregard music making in favour of feeling safe in my comfort zone. If I had the drive and strong desire to make music, I would have done whatever it takes to make my practice bear fruits, just like my desire to cook instant noodles exactly the way I was craving for.

There is a definitely a barrier for me to cross in order to really achieve musicianship in performance, but first I need to have the same desire/thirst for music-making, to be just as strong as my desire to cook instant noodles in a way that satisfies my craving.

Xiao Long Bao [2017]

Words by Evangeline Ching

Last night I was so hungry,
I really wanted to eat.
Dialled boyfriend on my celly
And he said ‘Have something sweet to eat.’

If there’s one thing just for me,
It will satisfy my tummy.
If there’s one thing just for me,
It will just be X-L-B.

Xiao long bao,
Xiao long bao,
I wish I could have it now.
Pork and skin,
It looks a little lonely,
Soup will keep it company.

Xiao long bao,
Xiao long bao,
Just one bite and you go ‘Wow!’
Pork and soup,
Must go together.
This with that, not any other!

Am I Worth It?

I often ask myself,
Am I worth it?
Am I worth the pain?
Am I worth the trouble?
What is there to gain?

Why would you go all out for me
When I didn’t ask for it;
When I need someone beside me,
Without question, there you’ll be?

Every single time I apologise,
For every favour, every sacrifice.
‘Don’t say sorry, say thank you.’
Why are you so nice?

Am I worth it?
Am I worth the pain?
Am I worth the trouble?
What is there to gain?