Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Indecent Proposal

Had dinner with some ex-colleagues last night and the topic of money came up.

My eyeballs nearly popped out of their sockets when one of them declared that her annual pay package is now -get this- a handsome 84,000 SGD.

sweet heavens above, EIGHTY FOUR K?????

on top of 4,500 SGD a month she also gets six months worth of FIXED bonus. and that doesnt even include the variable bonus component.

you know what people say about banks paying obscene salaries. but her revelation was way beyond my wildest expectations.

which got me thinking. what would i do for $84,000? i was asked last night if i would stay at my job if my bosses offered me that amount of money.

many of you would already know that i hate my dead-end job. but my answer was a resounding and definitive yes.

YES, for 84,000 bucks a year i will stifle my ambition to pursue my studies and chase after moolah instead. i might work a couple years more and rake in enough to further my studies. but not after deciding that i've made enough.

money should never be the sole purpose of living, but then again, who doesnt want more cold hard cash? i know i would.

so i went to bed last night dreaming 84k solid gold dreams. its the sort of money i might never get to see in my lifetime, but it didnt hurt to see how much an indecent proposal might cost, and what sort of boundaries i might be willing to cross.

and when i woke up in the morning, i went straight back to my humble bank job and my future as a poor student on a stipend.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Ode To My Sister

I don't really have to state the obvious, but Serinah isn't my real name. i decided one day when i was 14 that I would take on an english name, and i chose one close to my cousin's. i don't even think she knows there's where i got the inspiration from.
serene is a year older than me and is the eldest daughter of my dad's oldest brother. she was named sok ling at birth and i was called sok ping when i arrived a year later. we practically grew up together because i hung out with my cousins all the time when we were young (in fact we still do), but of them all, i was the closest to her.
this is not something i talk about very often but serene is suffering from severe mental depression. she's been battling her inner demons for 17 years now. it's very sad to admit but i dont even have that many memories of her when she was still healthy and happy. we came close to losing her several times across the years, but miraculously she has pulled through time and again.
the scary thing about mental illness is that you cant see how bad a person suffers. and the lack of proper understanding of depression and the damage it can wreak has made things a lot worse for serene. we can immediately sympathise with a cancer patient because physical suffering is very easily imagined, but this is not the case for illnesses inflicting the mind. the pain is no less real, but somehow the patient is denied the full extent of empathy simply because the nature of his affliction prevents him from putting his torture on display.
had serene not fallen sick, she would have achieved many great things by now. it's cruel how life seems to always curtail the glory of the bright and the brilliant. she excels in art. she is kind and always puts the needs of others before her own. she listens with a ready heart and always offers honest opinions. she is well-read and has wonderful insights on buddhism.
our relationship wasnt always smooth; my lack of understanding culminated in a unforgettably violent outburst once. for the past four years since my return from okinawa though, i've learnt to cater to her needs and listen to her problems. having her in my life made me a better person because it taught me the importance of stepping completely into a person's shoes.
and she has helped me considerably over the years. i now realise that i need her as much as she needs me.
lately i've been gripped by fear that i might actually lose her. that the connection we share might not be enough to keep her here with us. what would i do if her life slips past my fingers or if i fail to catch her when she falls?
my prayers for her are getting fervent. and for the first time i'm not sure if we'll ever see the light of day.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I Love Me

Spent Tuesday night with Jac and went to bed with a million thoughts.
maybe it's because the girl experienced enough bad karma from ten lifetimes, but i have had more than a few life-defining moments with jac. we dont meet or contact each other very often, but when we do, the moments are stellar. for me, jac represents the best things about friendship: (loud) laughter, the freedom to be honest, genuine support and heartfelt appreciation. it's so easy being jac's friend because i can perform beautifully without trying. and i always take home with me many precious things, like a treasure trove of good feelings or a much-deserved bout of deep introspection.
i went home with the latter on tuesday. jac said many things that felt like a concoction of bitter medicine. but because it was served with the best of intentions and the most accurate of insights, i drank in every word.
yes, i am going away. never has a day gone by without me having to repeat the fact that i am leaving in april. yes, i'll be gone for at least two, i dont know when i'll be coming back or where i may be headed after that. i've said these things so many times to so many people it's starting to sound like a mirage to me. one that pretends to exist sometime in the distant future but never really gets to happen.
if i sound like i dont have a choice about leaving, that's because i really dont. jac is right, love is not transferable. i am going away because this heart needs a home. this heart cannot be filled with the affections of well-meaning folks when what its void really yearns for are the contributions of a significant other. for too long i have been doing what should and ought to be done. i have stoically practised delayed gratification and the stress is showing. i am bruised and tired. i keep telling myself it's okay when it's really not. i feel like throwing everything down and running away.
this is not to say that i am escaping with illusions of any sort. it is not going to be a happy little life because i forecast a lot of rain and stormy weather. and i will probably find myself ridden with the same feelings of indignance and helplessness. but i wont ever regret it because i strongly feel that the life i am about to start miles away from home would be something of lasting value.
in other words, i am not simply doing this in the name of love. i have to go because i need to live my life, one that is defined by my own standards and created from my own two hands.
and this new life of mine would really need to be tempered with some well-placed self-love. giving is only good when you dont empty yourself out doing it. maybe when i finally locate the fine equilibirium i can give and honestly feel good about it. and i hope the next time i tell myself it's okay, i can smile knowing that i truly meant it.
to jac: thank you. sanity couldnt come in a better, sexier package. i love you.