Sunday, 22 June 2008

The other side of Grandma

My grandma passed away peacefully last Friday, 13 June 2008.

Few days earlier, she was already bedridden and doctor had warned us her "time" was approaching. Jeffrey (my darling) and I were on the way back to my hometown, hoping to be able to see her while she was still around. We did not anticipate that we would be attending a funeral. (Made me recall the two things that we should do without hesitation because there might not be second chance - 1) Visit those who are sick and 2) Attend funeral (or wake))

I was sad when I heard of the bad news. I started to think about Grandma, her presence and influences in my life. I hate myself for saying this, it was not a lot. The memory about her is frail. You see, I was not really close with Grandma since I was young. This included the rest of my family. Somehow, we just were not her favourites.

However, with her death, I let myself wonder why this could have happened instead of just accepting that it was Grandma's fault. My grandma and my mum had not been able to get along very well since they first met each other. My father, on the other hand, treated his second sister, who looked after him when he was young, more like his mother. I gathered my Grandma was busy helping her husband on their business then. It is also obvious to everyone that Grandma care for her youngest son the most.

According to my mother, when we were babies, my grandma did not help to look after us. It would be also my father's second sister who bathed us and looked after us when my mother was busy or sick. But Grandma had helped her daughters to take care of their children. All these always made us think her love was one-sided and it embittered us. That was why we were never really close to her. At times, I even thought Grandma was not a generally likable person.

I have not been offering Grandma any justice. Although Grandma may have been very forceful, deep inside, she is very likable and gentle. She often went out and spend times with her friends while most of the other grandma of her ages opt to stay at home at most of the times. Jeffrey met Grandma once, about few months ago. Surprisingly, they talked for a long time, even in different languages and dialects. They seemed to be able to understand each other very much, especially when they talked about God and karma. Jeffrey said to me he had taken a liking to her immediately then. When he said that again after Grandma passed away, I cried because I knew I was so wrong about her.

I also realize Grandma had lived her life very successfully. She was an orphan and adopted into a doctor family. She married and have 2 daughters and 2 sons. But her husband died shortly when the youngest son was just 3 years old. That youngest son was my father. She remarried again and had four more children, youngest being a son. She helped her new husband to start a business selling hardware/steel. Because of her excellent English, she was able to communicate well with the British back then. Their business thrived, and most people said she had contributed to sixty percent of the business success. She was also a very resilient and assertive woman. In fact, while she was sick, I never heard her complain about her predicaments at all. She had so many success attributes. She always told us that she wished to be cremated after her death, and her ashes to be thrown into the sea. She said she wanted to be free. She also did not want to create hassle for the people to visit and pray on her grave. She was really one unique lady!

At first when I heard about her death, I prayed for her and told her I would forgive whatever she had not done for me and I was just glad to be her granddaughter.
But afterwards, I prayed for her forgiveness for what I had not done for her. For I had not made the efforts to really get to know her. I was the one who failed to do things for her.

In my previous post, I wrote about how our parents shaped our characters. I feel in a lot of ways my mum had a lot of influences in me and my brothers being not close to Grandma. I could not blame my mum though because I know she just wanted to share her frustrations with her children since my Grandma did not like her. Unfortunately, I was too young to be able to see from multiple sides of the stories. I guess I also held some frustrations towards Grandma.

But, once I let go of my frustrations, the revelation came to me. I felt I just twisted 180 degree and suddenly, I was on the other side of the story.

I heard of this past incident from my mum last Friday. It just came out as a normal discussion between us about some topics that I could not recall. My mum said because she was protective of her children, at one time, she did not allow my elder brother to go on a cruise vacation with Grandma. Grandma wanted to bring my brother and my other cousin brother. But my mum could not trust Grandma of being able to look after two boys at the same time and worried that my brother may fall off the ship. So, it ended with just Grandma and my cousin brother going on the vacation. Although I could not settle on whether my mum had done the right thing, I surely felt it was a misfortune for my brother to be denied a chance to enjoy himself on a vacation as well as a chance to spend time and build a closer relationship with Grandma. To a greater extent, I gather the same misfortunes might have happened to me and my younger brother until eventually Grandma just could not bother with us anymore.

So, I have to admit that I had my head in the clouds for so long. It is actually not just on Grandma, but with everything else around me. But I am starting to feel the clouds are clearing, because I am surely seeing a lot more things than I used to see.

And finally, for the first time in my life, I see the other side of the story of Grandma.

Grandma, my siblings and me (in the younger years) -
**Only can find this photo with Grandma in my photo album**

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The child in us

When we were growing as a child…

I used to hug and kiss my dad whenever he came back from work. At around 3 to 4 years old, I was daddy’s sweet little girl. Time passed very fast and I grew up. Somehow I have forgotten when I stopped hugging and kissing my dad. I guess it was a gradual process, like I did it lesser and lesser until one day I just stopped doing that altogether. Or maybe, he scolded me real bad and I got mad and just stopped being close to him.

Now, whenever I have the chance, I would open the door for him and greet him at the doorstep when he came back from work. It was not often because I no longer lived with my parents. However, at those moments, deep inside me, I would remember how it feels to hug and kiss him like his little girl again.

I realized these.

Sometimes, no matter how we grow up, there is still this little child inside us that never want to grow up. And, that child guides and affects us in a lot of ways more than we can understand.

When we were growing as an adult...
When we stop growing and become lost...

Being grown-ups, we are always expected to behave in certain ways. We are supposed to know more things than the children. We should act mature. We have seen more things in the world , so that also make us more correct in our thinking. We know how to do our jobs well. We know how to plan for ourselves, our families and our futures.

Sometimes, unfortunately, we are so totally wrong and illusional about what we have achieved and what we think we know.

I realized these.

Somewhere in our life, we stop growing. We stop asking for help and advices. We stop wondering whether we do things correctly. We do not like to accept criticism. We hate to have someone set the rules for us. We do not want to follow sound advices, but choose to follow stupid advices. That is where we made our gravest mistake sometimes.

Pride is also part of the culprit. We hate to admit that we do not know how to do certain things in life. That is why, instead of asking people how to do something; we do not want to look bad, so we have to find out by ourselves. Sometimes this is good because it seems that we have initiative and are not dependent on people. But sometimes we waste so much time on trials and error. We can be much more productive if we can just ask from the person who has done it successfully and then we can just follow and get the result right away.

But of course, there are not a lot of smart people around that we can ask and who can help us. But there still are someone out there, and that depends on where you look and how hard you look for them. If you find someone smart, stay close to them.

When we changed and grow again…

It has been ages since someone really pointed to me what were the underlying problems with me and how I could change that. And, how it could have been my funeral if I choose not to change.
At first, I was very defensive and did not really want to look like a defective person. Eventually, I have changed. It was a gradual and painstaking process and I am still changing.

If you read a lot of articles and books out there, most of them said it is hard for people to change, especially their characters. It is hard for people to improve on their non-talents. Like we would never be a good fashion designer because we do not have a good fashion sense or I would never be an organized and tidy person because organization skill is one of my non-talents.

I realized these.

That is just partially true. Sometimes, it is not because we do not have talents in things. It is just, somewhere in our life, we encountered something that made us believe we cannot do it and we just give up trying. And when we are pushed to try sometimes, in the back of our mind, we would tell ourselves there is no use trying and we will fail. So, we fail and we prove ourselves right by failing.

To key is to overcome the negative thinking and fears of failing to step beyond our comfortable zone and start doing things diffferently while believing we can achieve what we set out to do.

When we continue to grow while reflecting on our past, what matters to us and who we want to become...

Try to think back about your life, especially those incidents you never seemed to be able to forget.

I realized these.

There are some parts in our childhood, where somethings happened and then we just decided to be who we are today. Like why I did not like to do housework is not because I was not capable of doing it or did not have talent for it. It is just during my childhood, at some points, I gave up doing the housework and decided I just want to focus on my study and get a good result.

For some of you, maybe when your parents always do not seem to understand and scold you for things you tell them, then you decide it is better to keep things for yourself and that is where you start to close up yourself. Or when you get cheated by your loved one and you decide you do not want to commit your heart to anyone anymore and start to cheat other people the way you are cheated.

But, no matter what happened in the past, sometimes, it is good to remember what our childhood was like. Remember what are our basics, what shape us. Things are always so pure and innocent during our childhoods. It is not at all like what we need to face today.

As an exercise, my mentor asked me and his other students to write 1000 words about ourselves. Anything that we feel like writing about ourselves and it should be handwritten. I wrote mostly about my childhood, how I was brought up and what changed me along the way. That was where I realized my values have not changed that much. I am still the sweet little girl inside. The objectives of the exercise is to remember who we were, and to constantly reflect on our past on the journey to become who we want to be.

Try this exercise yourself if you want. I bet you will have tears welling in your eyes halfway through what you have written.

For those of you who are good now and want to be someone great, let us not forget how we grow until now and like Google's mantra - "Don't be evil".

For those of you who are doing bad things to others, even to your defense, to survive in this world, hope you can remember your childhoods, your roots and remind yourself that you do not need to survive by cheating and hurting other people.

Let’s not forget the child in us. Let the child be our guide now.

When we become parents and growing our children...

My mentor mentioned this:
If you are a human being, you would not want your children to go through worse or have less than what you have gone through. Thus, it is your responsibility to provide better for your children than what your parents have provided for you.

When my mentor was young, he aspired to become a police officer or a mechanical engineer, both of which were disapproved relentlessly by his father. Eventually, he became a salesman and would then continue to hold senior managerial roles in corporate environment. His life would be pretty much different if his father allowed him to be who he wanted to become then. Maybe it would be much better or much worse, or maybe there is no different. Maybe he would end up to be a corrupted police officer or maybe he would become a well-respected police officer who save many lives. Maybe he would be an outstanding mechanical engineer who design a new generation of affordable cars that do not use fuels (due to the recent fuel hikes, this is very very much welcomed) or maybe he would be the director of Toyota today.

For me, my parents never disapproved of my ambitions , although at most time, they did not know what were my ambitions. I was not even clear about my ambitions back then. There was one time when I was in primary school, I wrote "Typist" as one of my ambition because I like typing. Luckily, I did not just become a mere typist, but I did earn my living through "typing" programming codes, reports, and book (yeah, when my book can really sell next time or when I really can finish it in the first place).

I realized these.

We largely determine who our children are going to be. In fact, we play a major role in shaping their characters and values of life. We can literally change their lives forever.

So, let's strive to be great parents to our kids. What our parents have done for us, we can only do better.

A handsome man and a cute girl.
Photo of me and my dad when I was 2+ years old.

Monday, 2 June 2008

What you don’t know will make the difference

"It is not what you know. It is what you don’t know that will make the difference."

That phrase hanged on my mind for a very long time when I heard it from my mentor last Saturday.

That is exactly what made me dare to change in about half year ago.

Being a manager in a small software company at the age of 26, I thought I could do well in my life by slowly moving up the career ladder. But life and work were constantly a struggle and firefighting against one problem after another. There were always not enough time for everything. I had to do some of the things that I did not know how to do. So were the people in the company, even my boss at that time. I learnt from books and website and implemented many of my newly learnt skills. I learnt from my mistakes. I learnt things from my subordinates and colleagues as well. But somehow, things were not improving significantly and pressure was mounting. I knew 2 problems:

  1. I was not doing some of the things right.
  2. I was not doing the right things. Something was missing, something that I could not grasp.

Yes, there is always Google but when I typed the search “What is wrong with me?”, it directed me to see some psychiatrists, therapists or some other forms of medical help. I do not think they really can help in my case.

But when I typed “What is wrong with my job?”, it pointed me straight to my boss (Okay, I am just making this up just to please myself).

Finally, I yelled Mayday. Striving to restore order to my life, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and gave up my job. From there, life is a constant surprise to me because of the new things I discover and learn each day. I found I was largely ignorant of a lot of things in work and life.

So, I got the answer to my problems, generally speaking.

The cause to my problems was the things that I did not know. Of course, there are millions and billions things that I do not know. But most importantly, I did not even know what I do not know that would make the difference in my life.

That is why I am very grateful to my mentor. It has been a long time (since I was in my teens) that someone really teaches me things and corrects my mistakes in a way that substantially changes me. Sometimes, the subject of the teaching can be something simple yet need to be taught in details and broken into steps. For examples, groceries shopping involves one to maintain some sort of groceries list and check the inventories every week. I mean real efficient groceries shopping where there is always enough stock for everything. For examples, I do not need to run to the nearest convenient shop urgently or borrow from the neighbors when I do not have enough salt, because there should be enough stock for salt in the first place. Wait a minute, I do not really know my neighbours enough to borrow salts from them. On top of that, I do not need to wander aimlessly in the hypermarket or supermarket, wondering at what I should buy because I do not have a list. Hell yes, I am still perfecting the groceries shopping system after months and I am not joking about this.

But changing oneself is really not easy. I received quite a number of slaps on my head for making mistakes and when I did not listen to sound advices.

Anyway, I am expected to make a lot of mistakes and get corrected along the way. That is how I am supposed to learn. But the caveat is I am NOT supposed to repeat the same mistakes. So, that is where I got the slaps on my head. The only consolation is that I received a lot of pats on my head too. :)

So, ask yourself this - what you do not know that may make the difference in your life? If you do not know, ask someone who knows.

My review and reflection for The Garden of Words

I just watched this short animation work from Makoto Shinkai. I had previously watched his grand hit 'Your Name' and absolutely fel...