Why is my name Esther?

Why is my name Esther?

(This post was originally an essay assignment for Introduction to Sociology in NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, module taken in AY17/18 Sem 2 under Dr George Radics. This assignment was really fun and interesting to do so I decided to post it here for keepsake and because well, it’s about me)

The essay question requires one to find out the origins of their name and decide what has influenced one’s parents in giving them the name, also to question whether the individual’s life keeps to or goes against the values that the name suggests.


 

C Wright Mills believes that the Sociological Imagination can help people to link what is happening or has happened in their lives to the larger picture of society and history. This would help them understand their own experiences when they locate themselves in this period (Mills, 21), as well as comprehend the values upheld and issues plaguing their society. He recommends this so that people do not confuse personal troubles with societal issues, both which are inherently linked but distinct. In this light, I posit that my parents named me ‘Esther’ in hope that I would be a powerful woman whose decisions were based on the conservative Christian values, leading me to display utmost loyalty for my community and its upheld values which I argue to be true to my life currently. In this essay, what would be discussed would be my parents’ background and beliefs, a brief history behind the name ‘Esther’ as well as how the historical significance of the name links to present day context with regard to my personal experiences. Mills asks three questions in his piece which acts as a guide to understanding the link between the society of Queen Esther, the society my parents were brought up in and eventually the society I currently situate myself in

The society my parents grew up in was harsh, traditional and one in which they had to fend for their survival. My father had a rough childhood, watching his father go from riches to rags when he was disowned by his parents as he chose to become a soldier in WWII. My grandfather’s children were left to fend for themselves and in the process my dad came to Singapore to make a living. My mother grew up with a single parent and left her education early on to support the family. They left their families and past connections, they were very much on their own, free from the traditional Chinese values. Instead, both chose to uphold deep conservative Christian values that they were taught since young, shaping their world view and mine too, in time to come. They got married and lived (till now) in a very tight knit Christian community. During a church sermon from the book of Esther (from the Bible) that they realized they wanted to name me after Queen Esther of old.

Esther was an orphan, originally known as Hadassah (Jewish equivalent), but named as Esther (Persian equivalent), brought up by her cousin, a devout Jew. According to the Biblical story, the then king of the Persian Empire, Ahasuerus, had divorced his wife Vashti for insubordination and was looking for a new queen. A beauty contest was held which Esther won and she became the new queen, winning the heart of the king both in looks as well as in wisdom. However, she was strictly charged by her cousin not to reveal her identity that she was a Jew. Years later, the most high-ranking court official, Haman, was jealous of the Jews as they were prospering and he wanted to commit genocide by royal decree, attempting to blackmail the king into giving the ring of his approval. Esther then revealed who she was to her husband, risking her life as she went in to the king unannounced, and begged him to not let the decree pass. In this act she saved herself and her people from genocide.

With regard to Mills’ first question (Mills, 22), the social order of Queen Esther’s time and mine do not differ much. She was from a minority group – the Jews, religious, traditional and community-oriented, who were considered inferior to the Persians as they were foreigners and of a different culture. My parents believed that the Christian values they espoused were in contrast to the ‘then-becoming-liberal’ values of the times. Therefore, the values I was brought up in were community over self, filial piety and the Bible as the final authority.

This societies of the Jews and the Christians differ but have many similarities as well. Besides the latter having roots from the former, both societies are often less individualistic and view the greater good of the community as more important. There is an element of collective consciousness in both Jewish and highly conservative Christian societies especially in the former, in which generations pass down the shared values of community and loyalty. These societies defend their culture from dilution at all costs. My parents who situate themselves in such a tight knit Christian community are compelled to appreciate the transition from a localized traditional society to an increasingly global and technology driven one, thus the values from various parts of the world become spread and inevitably, dilution to the traditional culture happens

It is in this light that I agree with Mills that ‘…it is the uneasiness itself that is the trouble; it is the indifference that is the issue’ (Mills, 25). Considering the link between the historical narrative and the present day, the dilemma comes for me as did it for Esther of old when her personal troubles were tough to be dealt with in the light of the ongoing issues of the time. She was one of a minority having to stand up for what she believed in at risk of death, for the sake of her people. Yet she hesitated to do so until she was prompted because she was afraid to disrupt comfortable life in the palace as the issues outside did not directly concern her. For me, I have to find my identity in the midst of the barrage of both public issues such as the increasing emphasis on individualism especially with the millennial generation’s cries and the private issues of conservative values and loyalty to the community over the self. As the cries of secular society become greater and greater through the voice of the social media and the atmosphere of intellectual education in the tertiary institutions, the question is whether my current possession of the sociological imagination will help me better understand my place and create an identity with it or remain in a state of uneasiness.

 

References

Mills, C. Wright (1997 [1959]) ‘The Promise’ (from The Sociological Imagination) in Henslin, James M. (Ed.) Down to Earth Sociology: Introductory Readings. 9th Edition. New York. Free Press (pp.19-26)

 

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You don’t know what hurt is

You don’t know what hurt is

You don’t know what hurt is until the words that come out of your mouth are like knives and they cut someone’s heart, sometimes lightly, sometimes more painfully. You don’t know it is painful because you aren’t capable of being at that level of depth to know how the pain only starts coming out when you go into the nuances of things. It’s the little actions you do, the words you say which I’m not sure if you mean, I could brush it off as insensitive for all I care. But the point is, I want to stop trying. I want to stop trying to act like I care. I want to stop trying to tell you how much I care for you when all you do is not treat me like I exist. I am your own flesh and blood but all you do is disregard my person, my words, my actions and everything that I have done that was only for your own good. You not just disrespect but you despise what I say. I am not the most spiritual, right, just, fair or mature. But I from my experiences and whatever little understanding I possess will tell you that this is how I think life should be when it comes to her and I and I am here, begging for you to lend me a ear. All that has happened in the past two years have only been pain and more pain, disillusion, discomfort and slowly it has descended into resignation, not bitterness, but just, a numb ache of grief that you know that you did not lose something, but that you didn’t have what you always thought you had. When I come to you I try my best to make things work between us. The years of separation have been long, in the process of time I ever asked God when I was 14, why God Why WHY did you take him away from me. But then I realised it was not God, but it was you, you chose to go pursue a greater mission than just a happy family, you chose to go because you believed. Or so I believed. When I was 17 I came to terms with understanding that loving God was the foremost thing in our lives and that nothing could and should come between us and God. There and then I respected you and I knew why you did what you do. Now I’m 22 and I find out the thing that perhaps no child should ever figure out, for they would be so much happier if they never ever came to understand the pain of disenfranchisement and disillusionment. The stab to the heart that comes when you find out that maybe you did not have a deep believe in what you did after all, that you were only a fair-weather person, that when tough times came you did not stick to those convictions your child assumed you had because you did never ever have them at all. When the going gets tough the tough is supposed to get going, but you know what, you stopped going because you never had a foundation. You and your other half are one and the same. Five years ago I asked her a question I asked why are you doing what you are doing, why did you choose to love God why did you choose to live your life as such. She did not have an answer. I will tell you now that I will have an answer, I will never be like her so help me God, I will give an answer for the hope that I believe in, for my sister, for my daughter and son, for those out there who question why I believe in this God who made me, who loved me. This answer you did not give me and I had to go the hard way to dig it out for myself. Sure you say, every child must seek their path, must seek faith on their own, must seek to know Whom they believe in. But let me tell you that as a parent, the both of you, listen to me right now. You should have had so many conversations as a father, as a mother, as friends. You did not have those with us. We went the hard way to find out all these things. If it were not for the family of God there would have been no answer there would have been no light. It was a path I took, a lonely path that included holding my family together, holding myself together, holding all of you as you fought every day, not in words, not even in body language, but in your minds, how you all claimed to be faithful to one cause, how you claimed to believe in the same essential set of principles but when it came down to the wire you did not do so. I am not saying that I would be able to do so 20 years down the road. I do not know what the path ahead is, but I am going to tell you now that at 22, I have a clear vision of what I want to do, Who I wish to follow and the people I want to be around. If you three cannot sort yourselves out, you can have time, you can have all the time in the world you ever need, but here it is, from me to you: I’m tired, I’m so tired of trying. Please understand an iota of this pain. It’s more than physical mental emotional psychological, its spiritual. It’s wearisome to play this family game. If you want to play it by all means do so, but I want to have no more part in it. You figure your own way out, you don’t come to me with your problems, listen to me pour my love and help out and then disregard every single word I say and walk away. Why then come to me and ask, why guilt trip me into not being a helpful ‘good girl’ in the family. Why is your definition so pathetically parochial, selfish, self centred and family centred? Why can’t you open your eyes to understand the world, to understand pastoral and deeper nuanced issues. Why???

Planning a 21st for 60 pax under $500

Planning a 21st for 60 pax under $500

This is a long long overdue post, it was supposed to be posted on May 26, 2017 but I’m not sure why it wasn’t posted. But here it is now.
This post was written because it is possible to host a 21st without breaking the bank. Some figures first: Number of people invited = 60 People who showed up = 56 Food + Cake + desserts = $490 Venue = $20 Decor (balloons, leaves, everything misc) = $40 TOTAL SPENT = $550 for 56 people.
The hardest part of running this 21st party was knowing that I was paying in full for it. It almost drove me crazy how to pull off a celebration on my own dead bank account. So starting the planning in January.

FOOOD!! There’s food which is pretty much the biggest headache. Usually caterers have a GST + delivery fee amounting to nearly $150, so I decided to go unconventional and not order from a caterer. Nowadays, Carousell can be used for everything, and being a very loyal user, I searched catering companies on that site. Of course there’s a risk right, how would you know if they’re legit? That’s what reviews are for. So I found this Malay lady named Bella with very decent reviews and even like screenshots/pictures of her cooking taken by customers, so I PMed her and dang, it’s really nice to order food this way. Why I really liked ordering from her was that I would order each dish separately. If you order from catering companies, you’d tell them the number of people coming and everything is standardised to be equal, so like there will be 40 eclairs, 40 shares of rice, noodles everything. This actually was something I didn’t want because I know that some food items would be more popular than others and so you’d wanna order more on that food item and less on some others. Bella charges BY DISH, so if you order a tray of rice, it’s charged differently from a pot of curry chicken/rendang, so each dish you can tell her how many pax it’s for. So I ordered more chicken, less beef, etc. This made life really easy for me. Her delivery charge is $25 and no GST. So LOOK HOW MUCH WAS SAVED YAY!! And cause I mistook the original number of people coming, I had to increase from 30 to 40 pax and she let me do it, THANK YOU BELLA, which really eased some of my pains.
Realising that I still didn’t have enough food, I decided to make sandwiches, tuna and egg mayo. Bread costs really little and it’s way more economic to make food than buy it. So we did it. Made tuna the night before, and boiled eggs the same morning and stuff, fed like 20 people/it was kinda like sides also.
Desserts – ordered cake from Batterlogy, I’m a super loyal fan to her macarons and desserts, please support her.
She delivered the cake to my party doorstep and it came in this amazingly gorgeous elegant box. Customer service and packaging 10/10. I didn’t take photo of the cake in the box, it was amazing. Check @batterlogy out on instagram!
For desserts check out @dilutedcoke on Instagram. She’s my friend’s cousin and once again, customer service 10/10 and dessert quality super nice, she even texted to apologize for burning/messing up some and compensated with 10 more macarons, I’m super grateful. I really regret not having pictures of the bakes. She gave me flower pots with miner scoops. That was the cutest thing ever, and I just asked her for flowerpot cupcakes I didn’t expect it to be so adorable. And it’s so reasonably priced and super nice, the mini cupcakes and small torched meringue little tarts.
DECOR 1. buy from daiso – I literally spent 10$ on leaves, so many leaves (mine was a garden party), and then brought small vases from my house with flower/some small blooms to decorate the place. 2. MistyDaydream – the one stop for all things party and decor.
Balloons are 2 bucks for a pack of 12, the huge helium foil balloons are really affordable also, table cloths are $3 for one. Bought bunting also and balloon pump + balloon glue –> all these can
be also recycled and kept for next time. 3. the top bunting on the photo backdrop was done by a friend, customized Bayern Munich themed :’). 4. I drew and created the standing frame on my table – I customize it btw, for 21sts/other parties/events, PM me for more information. here’s how everything looked. What’s not pictured is the side table with bunting and flower vase.
Venue: Book a friend’s condo function room, it’s not so far from everywhere like D’resort/Aloha Changi. (Sorry for those who like those places, no offence but I really don’t like how inaccessible it is). It’s also 0-30$ only. So yes. Save money on venues. Thank you Joel Wong for responding so readily and so so kindly to my SUPER last minute request. Without you the party would never have happened. 


FINALLY, This is a long overdue note of thanks.
  1. To the party planners and helpers. I would have never been able to pull this off without your help. To Rennes Lee for planning this with me from start to finish, from brainstorming ideas, convincing me that it was not about how fancy it was but about the friends (every time I forgot you reminded me), to helping me on the day to run everything. You literally showed up whenever you could and your presence whether on the phone or in person made everything better. To Jedidiah Huang I think you won MVP. You’re really amazing I can’t even say how much you did, like from the food/desserts to the day itself and more so, the thoughtfulness that went into everything. To Michelle Lim thank you for being so kind despite you had so much other things on your mind. Thank you for volunteering so willingly and for lending me your dog and for being there, I was so happy to see you, you have no idea. To Olivier Tan thank you for your quiet unassuming presence that helped to run everything, for responding to my SOS calls with composure and the other MVP is your mom please say many many thanks to her for me. To Mom and Kezia Yeoh thank you for helping me with the sandwiches, for showing up despite being busy, for sacrificing your time and money and energy. It means a lot to me.
  2. To Shao Kai Chng thank you for capturing the moments which allowed me to create a scrapbook of memories! Thank you for being so willing and doing it for so little, for being a friend in need.
  3. Thanks for the gifts and the words, friends, your presence, and warm smiles really warmed my heart. I actually cried when I realised the depth of thoughtfulness in some of the gifts. Like okay I provided the wishlist but there was so much love in that. Arggh I can’t. :’)
Little things

Little things

Yesterday, a lot of things got sorted out that haven’t been sorted out for a while. It’s been a while since things have been going my way and in this period I’ve learnt to be grateful for the little things that God has given me. I realised I’ve taken a lot of things for granted, like clear vision, easily obtainable modules, and motivation. It’s not until these things were taken away from me one by one that I figured I couldn’t live without them. It started with me getting sick on new years day and I’m still kinda sick… With health taken away I was basically consigned to the bed and even after the fever subsided I was miserably stuck with flu. Being sick is really terrible, besides sniffling everywhere and having a sore nose, you don’t have strength to do much stuff. Attending to the multiple errands of the day tired me out so easily that I was quite shocked at how one train ride and back left me half dead. Coupled with that, I was waiting for my glasses to be done cause genius clumsy me broke them woohoo and I was left with contact lens that weren’t astigmatism equipped so I sort of hobbled around, banging into objects here and there, being unable to see anything or anyone clearly for a whole week and a half. It was pretty miserably sniffling and being partially blind. To add on to that, I really wanted to run or gym but you can’t do so when you’re sick so it was just me pining for some activity beside binging on Netflix and running errands. Then I couldn’t actually decide on whether I should bid for 3ks or 4ks, the dilemma was between pulling up my cap with easier 1-3k mods or just diving headfirst into 4ks. I was well aware of the fact that my grades was absolutely crappy and the fear of not getting to year 4 haunted me. It was pretty crippling, my own expectations and the fear of everything plus being unable to see anything clearly gave me daily mild headaches that lasted for the whole day. Bidding came and I panicked and dropped my MPE mods, I swear I wasn’t thinking straight. I still have no idea what happened for the first 12 days of January. With motivation and morale at an all time low, it reached the point where I didn’t want to leave the bed, I was sleeping 14 hours a day. Today was the turning point. I got my specs and I talked to someone who told me to choose my battles, take a few steps back and decide on a goal and let everything align around it. She told me I gotta choose what I wanna pursue and drop the rest because trying to achieve everything will only give me stress. Also she made me set a new goal for 2018 and that is to discover for myself how to rest and rejuvenate. She said you can’t help others if you’re dead. So start by taking care of yourself. I realised three years into uni and I didn’t know how to do that. So I’m gonna statt learning that, slowly. For now, things are looking up. I’m quietly thankful.

2017 in review

2017 in review

photo_2017-12-15_14-34-57The journey
In January I discovered I could draw watercolour stuff. That sparked a journey of art, and commissions. I realised art was a way of expression and de-stressing and thus #distressdoodles developed. As it grew, so did my confidence in my own art.
The semester had great modules, I enjoyed particularly History of Film and Renaissance. I found joy in learning, especially in History of Film. As someone not accustomed to movie watching, it seemed like a strange thing to watch all 18 Marvel movies for a paper and in the end writing on something that was not part of the whole deal, Doctor Strange. The module gave me new perspectives to research on and also made me a Marvel fan, going deep down into places where I’d never ever have gone. At the same time, Renaissance brought me back to interesting places in the past, where I found developing a certain liking to Andrew Marvell and Christopher Marlowe. It was interesting. The GEM I did sent me to DC Universe where the presentation on Arrow allowed me to watch multiple seasons of it (heh), and even Visual Culture sent me to ArtScience Museum to figure out technology and art and write about space and time. Gilby’s 2201 gave me a certain foundation in doing the things I liked, Greek mythology and Genesis/John were familiar and yet new places for exploration and understanding. I spent so much time in research in all the places I found myself satisfied and contented in. I realised I didn’t want the semester to end.
My 21st was a happy and special time where I met friends who I hadn’t seen in a while, it was a day of warm hugs and smiles and laughter. I’m always thankful for those who made it possible, the RMJ gang who went extra miles for me and my family. I pushed it up a month earlier than my actual because it was the people that mattered, not so much the date.
Work came next over the summer and it was trying for me mentally. I used photography to cope with the pain and struggles that came my way as I faced old demons and also discovered new ways to help myself instead of always relying on people to pull me out of my down state. I also figured out what I liked and what I did not like, what I liked in work environments and what I did not like. I was forced to do certain things outside my comfort zone that tested my resilience and I’m thankful to God for grace. I wouldn’t have made it through without that. I’d like to thank God also for the people who made things easier when I found things hard, for those who were bros, for making me believe in loyalty, sincerity and love again. Thank you also for those in church who taught me how to survive this period and for aunty Reb who brought me around town to eat, who accompanied me when I was a scared little child.

July was the wildest month of the year. Bayern came to Singapore, I had multiple camps, Commencement 2017 and FASS Guardians. Bayern’s trip to Singapore was one heck of a week, it was crazy, I slept minimally but I had such a blast. I think those experiences couldn’t be captured with photos, watching them live for the first time in 11 years, meeting with friends and those who also were on the same side, as well as meeting the players and legends themselves. That was really amazing. I felt like I went to Munich.

Commencement 2017 was bittersweet, I watched a whole batch of seniors that impacted my life so deeply, graduate and move on to the working world. I felt sad that they were leaving but happy that they made it out of the system finally on to paths and to things that they were happy in. Adulting is never easy and as the year continued and as the struggles continued, I’m thankful they are friends because I could be a part of their journeys and being able to be there for them sometimes made me really glad.
August opened a new semester and a new mini chapter in the book of uni life. Joining boxing and kayaking was physically and mentally a challenge for me. I started year 2 with the goal of serving and year 3 was to hand over. Looking over, I regret nothing. These two comms brought joy, and heartwarming feelings. I think it was just a special feeling to be refreshed with such sincere friends surrounding me. I looked forward to seeing them every week, they were the breaks from the mundaneness that the semester brought. The semester was tiring, the modules were exhausting and to be honest, boring, except soci theory and writing which opened a new world for me. This sem I met a prof that kinda changed my perspective on a lot of things. Two profs actually. One inspired me to try things I wouldn’t have done and encouraged me so much I started to believe that it was possible to do something I thought impossible. The other prof made me face my fears of writing and approach it with new lenses and a tad more bravery. Both of them carried me through the semester with somewhat more confidence especially at a point in university where I thought I couldn’t go on anymore.
In November I discovered Operation Broken Wing and a new world of social work x fitness. I look forward to more on this journey and I am so thankful Lionel approached me to join the team in the capacity I could 🙂

 


In short, 

here’s some thoughts on the things I tracked for myself in this year

  1. Fitness journey – I started to run this year, from not running to actually writing 5km without stopping that’s a pretty decent result. Also maintaining at 45 kg and ending the year at 45 is an achievement for me. I picked up and balanced weights and functional dynamic training alongside boxing and kayaking. I have been pretty active this year despite all that was happening so that’s really good.
  2. Confidence and mental state – I nearly lost it many times this year, it doesn’t help that it’s getting harder and harder sometimes to keep my sanity with everything that crumbles and threatens to crumble around me. But thank God for church, for His grace and for all those who kept me in check and kept checking on me to make sure I took care of myself. To all those who dropped little encouragements here and there, you are loved, you never know how your comment may have been just so needful.
  3. Discovering what I was good at and being okay with the fact that I was gonna be stuck in something I’m not good at. I think I found out I chose the wrong major. When I started a sociology module and discovered I was good at it and also I found out that I was good in factual and evaluative thinking rather than what I was currently doing, it was a bitter pill to swallow, especially knowing that I wasted time and energy and mental strength all these years to convince myself of something that I knew wasn’t meant to be. It was painful to know that what I really loved, literature, I wasn’t gonna be good in, or even do a Masters in it, possibly. But I had to learn to come to terms with the fact that sometimes life doesn’t go the way I want it to and maybe that’s what God wanted me to learn all this while.
  4. Found a family in boxing and kayaking – it is a family. I haven’t had such happiness with circles in school especially when the academic year started on a not so pleasant note. As mentioned above in the ‘Journey’ section, it’s not often after you end your day exhausted, you will still go to find a group of people and spend time with them unless they really are special. These two bunches are special and I am blessed to have met them. Conversations and HTHTs as well as learning through common experiences are things I wouldn’t have traded for anything else, and here’s to all the bonds formed and to be formed, I’m excited.
  5. Becoming a senior myself and passing on and watching other people grow – year 3  was meant to be handover year. It was in a way, in that I taught people under me, whether or not from positions of power. I realised just knowing things and being able to get them done in the most efficient way does not make you a good leader, but teaching others and empowering them to do what you can do and more, that makes you a good leader. I learnt through failure and mistakes how I can help others grow and when I see them growing and thriving and being way better than I was, I am thankful for the opportunities given to me. I want to continue to coach and to help, in any capacity and make a difference in people’s lives.
  6. Somewhere in the middle of Y3S1 I transitioned from @distressdoodles to @esthertiq. More information regarding that can be found here, but for now, I am grateful that change happened, and also I did not break as I expected to, one breakdown a semester. This semester it was plain madness, there was madness in school, at home, everywhere, but God kept me sane through His Word, His love and those around me who were there for me.
  7. Dealing with loss. I lost friends this semester, for various reasons. I didn’t know how to be okay with it, I lost a DG that met every week, I gained another, but it would never be the same. I lost certain other friends and I still grieve over those friendships. Yet I know that life happens and somethings you do not go after them because everything does have a lifespan to it and sometimes life carries you on and you got to go with it. Yet whatever it is I am always grateful for experiences and people who have shaped my life in one way or another, for better or worse, I have matured and grown.

Lastly, here’s the thank you list that I’m gonna start to do yearly
God is at the top, always. I would have never made it without His abundant grace and strength poured out for me in so many ways, more than I ever would have imagined and believed. He helped those around me, and opened my eyes to understand that as well. Thank you God for holding me through the tears, fears and joy. I am blessed to know my Saviour is there, powerful and holding my life together.
  1. Deanna – thank you for being a brain dump, an essay proof reader, a fashion consultant, a feeder, and most of all, a sister.
  2. Oli- for being by my side, for hearing all my rants, every single day, for throwing chocolates at me, for showing polar bears in my face and for warm hugs
  3. Esther Ng and Naomi – you have no idea how much you both mean to me. Esther thank you for being a partner in school with me, for lunching with me, for those MRT conversations, for being honest to my face telling me things that are hurtful yet necessary. Ohms for being there. I cannot do uni without you both.
  4. Xiuwen – baobei!!!!! You were the miracle that happened, the friend and daughter I never imagined I’d have. I am so thankful you are in pubket and marketing comm with me. Thank you for being so compatible with my work style, for being a friend over everything else, for hearing my random comments and for trusting me with life’s problems, and for aimeeeee hahaha ❤ I really love you a whole load I hope you know that.
  5. Tham – broooo, thanks for being the other half of the boxing VPs. This sem was special cause you were part of it as well. HTHTs and honest transparent convos, I can’t ask for more. Connection is real brudder (*insert bad laughter here*)
  6. Rennes Michelle Jedi – babesss, this semester was tough but I am proud of you Michyyyy, and Rennes and Jedi. It was hard on all of us individually but thank you for being there for each other, especially for Michyy, and for Mich always caring for others before yourself. Im proud of you Renn and hope you enjoy disney. Jeds this sem kinda sucked a lot and you’re tired and all but I hope next sem will get better and that you’ll smile a lot more because you deserve it.
  7. Ivan – I did an insta dedication post for you, but you were the bro that made me believe in the fitness journey, and in loyalty and friendship, especially in a critical time where I didn’t know if I could believe in it again. You made it count and picked me up when it was really hard to. Thank you once again for showing me perspectives I’d never have seen on my own.
  8. Miss Nat – thank you thank you thank you, for everything. teacher, mentor and friend :). If I make it out of university alive you’re invited to my graduation in advance.
  9. Gaomin – thank you mom for speaking truth when I don’t wanna hear it the most, for telling me to rest, for being the pause button in my existence so I breath.
  10. Erinna – I love you a lot, for warm hugs, for your honesty, for the trust and for the friendship. Your presence brightens my days very much.
  11. Yenjie – thank you for sending me home, for the HTHTs, and for always going over and beyond for the club, for ZR and for myself. I am very thankful for you, really really thankful.
  12. Derek – thank you for being proud of me.

2018 goals 

  1. I want to grow in the understanding of the Bible, in love for others, and in compassion for those who do not have what I have, I am very blessed and I want to love like I’ve been loved.
  2. #roadto50kg – weight goal
  3. #roadto21.1km – fitness/training
  4. #estherpades – for adventures out of NUS, it’s university and beyond now
What doing a pullup taught me about life

What doing a pullup taught me about life

I’m a small girl, a weak girl. But pullups taught me incredibly much about life.
  1. THINKING IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. You start by believing it is incredibly ridiculous about the thought of ever crossing the bar. You watch videos and you’re like how do people manage to yank themselves up. It’s like life. Some of the most daunting things seem impossible and for a long time they will continue to do so. You watch people do and convince yourself you cant do it, you forget that God is the one who gives you the strength to do life, to finish that essay, to reach out to that person, to make peace with that family member. The thought of trying doesn’t cross your mind because you’ve internalised how hard it will be and you can never imagine it can be done.
  2. Growing the seeds of belief. Digging yourself out of your resigned state and starting to believe you may actually be able, one day, far away but possibly so. I watched fitness videos and I saw 16 year old girls, just like me do it and I thought wow maybe it’s because they tried and they definitely somewhere. It’s like how we see others do well because they trusted God for something and we’re like wow okay maybe it works. Seeing others try is faith provoking. So let me tell you that if you try, it creates a cycle where you inspire others (I’ll come back to this later). This part of the process is the hardest. It’s the hardest, it’s even harder than actually being on the bar. The battle isn’t so much physically but mentally, you need to convince yourself. This part no one can be a part of, it is all you that you need to convince yourself to go do what God wants you to do, or what you know you should but are just too afraid to try.
  3. Convinced? Stage three is where you start trying. You hang on the bar and you feel the weight of everything (your body weight + gravity) all on your arms/shoulders. When you start trying, the pressures don’t come just from inside you (your lack of belief) but also from the external. Everything will try to bring you down, the time won’t be right, you’ll be tired, people will reject and diss  what you thought were your good intentions and this makes you start to believe less as the days go. Worse part is the bar is so high, literally. You see standards set and you know the only standard you have is your own convictions and beliefs and yet you can’t help feeling small and inadequate. But you grip the bar anyway and that’s a start. Good on you.
  4. You keep pulling, against all the odds you pull. I pulled for months, I tried so long and I just couldn’t bring myself over the bar. I stopped for 2 years because I went back to stage 1. You’re gonna fail countless times, you’re gonna try until you’re exhausted. There’ll be days you sit there and cry because life has taken everything out of you, opportunities passed you by, you wasted some. You get rejected by companies you applied jobs for and passed the many stages of interviews only to fail at the final hurdle. Your parents don’t value you, your friends don’t either. You feel how tired you are and you get going deadlines work school family church social life everything just overwhelming,  crumbling on you. You want to give up.
  5. Helplines come. After all that time, my best friend told me to try using a resistance band. It reduces the weight you’re pulling so you can cross the bar easier. It worked wonders, not so much for my body but for my confidence. I actually crossed the bar. Life throws you helplines. Be wise and listen to them. They come in advice, scolding, hugs, many many forms, sometimes not forms you like. But listen. They make the difference between you succeeding and you failing. One more thing, don’t get super reliant on them. After a while I realised I could hit 10 pullups with the resistance band. When you’re going good with the helpline, it becomes time to get weaned off it.
  6. Crossing the bar? Stepping on the floor. Looking up. All the advice of everyone I’d talked to ringing in my ears, I grab the bar. I pullback my shoulders and I begin the pull, I clear half the distance between my head and the bar, and somewhere I hear half my mind tell me oh no you can’t, and another half just say go go go go. Who you listen to determines whether you cross because at this point (and actually the rest of the time) it’s not a physical thing, but mental. At the start you may have been physically weaker but there’s no reason to be now. I’ve trained. You too, you’ve come this far. Uttering a silent *God help me*, I listen to the half of my mind that tells me to go and I pull. And suddenly I’m clear of the bar. I see my chin cross it. And I finally understand what it is to succeed. It’s small but it’s a victory. It’s a personal victory from my fears. You too, you gotta listen to the side that tells you to just go and obey it. The helplines that pulled you along/up won’t be there forever. You’ll have to clear the bar on your own, your life and race is yours. You can train with people just like you can run life’s race with people but in the end your race is your own to brave through the nightmares, the doubts, fears and tears. But take heart, you will clear in His timing.
Y3S1; All in a Semester’s work

Y3S1; All in a Semester’s work

Reflection
It’s been a while since I posted or wrote anything due to the sheer madness of deadlines and appointments every week. This was a painful semester because I changed a lot of things inside me. I let grades define me, and that stung real badly when everything started to crash terribly, all at once.  I used to pride myself that grades weren’t a priority but along the way I got lost in everything that was happening. I’m thankful that in this processing of digging myself out of the hole of self pity, I managed to find some basic self respect for the hard work I put in. I’m thankful for the people who kept reminding me, day in and day out, that I do my best and leave the rest to God and don’t tag my identity to my grades. And having said that, I’m also thankful to those who inspired change in me, who forced me to see the bigger picture. It’s very difficult to see the bigger picture when you’re stuck in the rat race, especially when you’re crying, dying, and struggling to pull yourself through. I reached the point where I convinced myself I was utterly stupid, incapable of coherent thought, as evidenced by the way I attempted to make arguments in the essays, all futile attempts. The confidence took a real beating.
It’s all better now, the pain for this time is starting to be that bit lessened, there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel.
Thanksgiving
I’m thankful also to professors who cared more than just for grades or academics, professors who asked about whether I was doing okay, why I did not show up for class because I was just too afraid to face a new day of challenges when I could barely get over the previous one. Thank God for professors who ended emails with ‘P. S. KEEP GOING, none of us are good, or perfect, but we’ll all be learning together’. Seems cliché but when you’re really down and out and sitting in a puddle of self pity, you need to hear that.
I’m thankful for friends who told me to sleep, who bought me food, who texted me and took time off to help me when I couldn’t help myself. Most of the healing took place while I slept and woke the next day with a renewed sense of purpose. I’ll keep trying, again.
Esthertiq
Lastly, I changed distressdoodles to esthertiq. Distressdoodles was a coping mechanism for the near breakdowns and high levels of mental stress experienced in university, especially year 2. Over time I realised that it completed what it was created to do and that inspiration to draw was easier and easier to come by. Lettering became a skill and a part of me, that I became able to go from using this as a device to deal with stress to something I could use to collaborate with others and be useful to those around me, to encourage them through cards, to brighten and put a smile on someone’s face.
Reformation Day
I used to underestimate the power of what I have and who I was, with the power and grace of Christ, and then I used to fail because I relied on myself completely and I failed myself, but from today at least I’ll attempt to document  this change that started in me and I pray God help me see my identity isn’t pegged to my grades, or accomplishments or skills, but to Christ, for all the love He poured out for me that day on the cross at Calvary. Reformation day came and went and one tenet out of the others that Luther stood for was Sola Fide, that is Justification/Salvation by Faith. Faith in Jesus, not myself, not my work or my anything, but in and through Christ alone.
The saviour from amidst the darkness of the world

The saviour from amidst the darkness of the world

Wonder Woman (2017) introduces us to strong fierce Amazonian women who were created by Zeus to restore peace and stability to a war torn world. Set in the context of World War 1, which the film’s initials also stand for, besides Wonder Woman, the movie brings two worlds together to understand one truth: Love does bring redemption. Captain Steve Trevor crashes his plane into the waters of Themyscira while escaping from German authorities and is rescued by Diana, a young budding Amazonian. She begs him to bring her to this war front as she cannot bear to hear of women and children slaughtered. She fights, inspired others who do not have her physical superpowers and works in a team of 5 to defeat the enemy. She matures to understand the depth of humankind, the relationship between gods and man. Chris Pine plays partner protagonist to Prince and yet beautifully complements. The film ends with the war’s conclusion. A combination of Greek mythology – the gods relation to humankind, coupled with really badass fight scenes and fantastic graphics, this film is certainly a heart-stopping one.

Wonder Woman possesses both religious as well as feminist things and both do not have to contradict each other.

That’s perhaps why a very important first lesson taught in this movie is that it’s very important to gain understanding about what is not in your sphere/world because it brings maturity and growth. Steve and Diana both needed to understand things that were out of their comfort zone. Knowing something that is out of your comfort zone can be the most uncomfortable thing ever, it can even border on ridiculous. For Steve, this ‘magical place’ called Themyscira was the weirdest and most stupid thing ever, furthermore given the extreme idealism and straightforwardness of Diana to him in the context of the war. He shook his head, and then continued listening, until he realised it was true. He saw it with his own eyes and of course it would have been a major shock to him, but never once did he dismiss her claims. I was amazed at the way he handled her ‘one track mind’ and did not try to ‘mansplain’ the ‘real world’ to her. In Diana’s case, her mother didn’t want to tell her the truth because she was afraid that her daughter would be killed even faster. But the thing is, without the knowledge of the world outside Themyscira, there would be, as her mother said, a lot of things she would not know. (On a side note, I really appreciate how Diana’s mom just let her daughter go out there and experience it for herself. She didn’t try to teach it but as Diana’s aunt said – the best way the girl can defend herself is if she learnt to protect herself.) For Diana, it was a journey of growing up, a really steep one, to realise that all the foundations of truths she was brought up in and that Ares needs to be defeated to bring peace to the world are not entirely true and as simplistic as it appears to be. Her understanding of humankind, the darkness within them and gradual appreciation of love and hope deepens her character.

So, about the religious ideas/allusions in the movie…
Firstly, certain characters identify to religious figures, Diana as a Jesus/Savior figure and Ares as the devil. It is interesting that Diana tends to move in a vertical direction when she attacks and her last battle with Ares show her commanding power from on high to defeat the force on earth, paralleling Jesus defeat of the devil.
Secondly, the idea of redemption and that man are the ones who choose corruption and the path of wrongdoing strikes me as quintessentially Christian. It is interesting that Hippolyta tells Diana that the world doesn’t deserve her. Her raw passionate love, desire to save humanity from killing themselves and empathy sets her apart as a hero whose superpower seems to be that. I don’t deny she’s powerful because she can harness the Celestial powers like lightning or whatever it was. But her empathic heart seems to be the source of her exploits. Steve Trevor’s self sacrificial act to save the front from being exposed to the mustard gas and his last words to Diana, ‘I save today so you can save the earth tomorrow’ is very much reminiscent of Jesus saving mankind that they could be the saviors of others whose paths they cross. It made my heart ache when the camera zoomed in on Steve’s last moments before shooting the plane full of bombs and killing himself in the process, then cross cutting to the grief that wrecked Diana as she saw Steve die (and also think of Hippolyta letting Diana go and knowing she would never come back). Perhaps here we see visually the love of the Father (through different characters) im giving His only begotten Son for the World.

Thirdly, the interesting thing about this movie as I mentioned earlier is that it is not just a simple love versus hate battle. It is a nuanced question of whether human beings were bad by nature and how many of them realize their need for a savior, Ares mentions that he did not make the wars happen, he whispered thoughts and intentions into human ears but the doings were all of their own. This is a very Christian perspective. Many like to believe we are born good but here the movie reflects a different perspective.

There is also, an undeniable message about the power of women. My breath was stolen everytime any of the Amazonians threw themselves into a fight scene, it was wonderful to see such strength and confidence exude out from the characters onscreen. What an overwhelming and also breathtaking scene it was to behold Diana run across No Man’s land, aptly named as though no ‘male’ could cross it but it took a female to push past the boundary. Of course, it means no man’s land because no one could cross it but that’s just my take. I adored the way gender stereotypes went out the window. THANK YOU PATTY JENKINS, I am in awe at the raw power and strength of the women casted, stereotypes that were always associated with men were for once, not in play. It was funny to see a man awkward and afraid in the middle of a group of powerful females, but the greater thing for me here is not female power or men bashing or anything like this, it’s about equality. Men and woman alike can and do have the power, the desire, and the ability to make a change, to lead, to save the world, to understand others, to love. Emotions are not limited to one gender. Empathy is a great thing to have, we all should have more of it.

These combine into an idea that redemption is given to Man, using instruments of justice to execute the evil and bring back peace. In this case the instrument used is not a male as a lot of superhero movies are wont to do. It is not a one time thing, because World War 1 ended but as we all know it, there was World War 2, and yet for a brief moment, the world had respite thanks to (in this movie) the courage of a saviour who stepped up to exercise judgment when no one else would. It is a call for equality and also for honesty and to take action, whoever you may be, to stand up for what you believe. As Trevor told Diana, it is what you believe that defines you.

Picture credits here
I used to be afraid (now not so much) // My leadership journey in NUS so far

I used to be afraid (now not so much) // My leadership journey in NUS so far

DISCLAIMER: This post is gonna be a reflection post on my leadership journey in NUS. It contains my experiences and mine only (it does not apply to everyone), neither is it a one size fits all kind of thing. Feel free to take the advice, but also know that it is from MY perspective.


I think I used to be afraid of position names. I still am, except, this time it comes with a sliver of courage, which is something experience (bad and good) gave me. I was afraid of position names because I used to think that it was a bad thing if I could be in a position and not have the ability to fulfil my role which would lead to letting people down. Slowly, as I took different positions, I realised that I not only was able to lead well in that role (thank you God!!) but I also surpassed my expectations in terms of what I was capable of. This is not to say that I didn’t fail. I freaked out countless times, especially with a fear of public speaking, I didn’t know how to phrase my words properly (I still have trouble with that), in that I do not know how to be diplomatic. I’m more of a get-the-job-done person, many times without considering the interpersonal relationships and dynamics of people that are intricately linked to the task at hand. Anyway, here’s a few lessons I learnt after taking on about 5-6 different leadership positions in Uni, from Subcomms to Secretary, I’ve kinda tried most stuff, including currently being the Project Director for Guardians.

  1. School is a safer and friendlier place to learn from your mistakes. I’ve always been very thankful for school. It’s the one place where you can screw up and have people actually teach you and tell you what went wrong without them having your head chopped after that. In the corporate world I’m sure that’s not just not the case, but also out there if you made a mistake, it could potentially cost like thousands or millions of dollars for the company. I guess I’m always thankful for mentors, seniors, people who give you advice especially with regards to leadership positions. I’m not saying you cannot get this out there in the working world, it is just that in school, it’s different, you can actually ask questions for things you don’t know with less politics, less people breathing down your neck, etc. It’s kinder, friendlier, of course this is not to say there aren’t politics, but, if you really hate it, you’re also free to leave an organization. I suppose it isn’t that simple to walk away from a job.
  2. Do things well in your term, give your best, LEAVE A LEGACY. You’re not gonna be serving in that term forever, pass on things well, don’t do a slipshod job. I get super annoyed every time people pass on stuff (whether materials, or their legacies) and it’s like crappy. Like a crappy event that was previously hosted, or a crappy attitude or whatever. Don’t do it halfheartedly, I mean you got elected/chosen/selected/whatever into that position because you said you wanted to do it, so do it, dammit. Do it well, don’t leave crap for people to pick up. Having said that, bad experience has also taught me that people will always leave their crap for you to pick up, then the onus is on you to create a good event, run a position well, do things to the best of your ability, then you (and your exco if you have one) will do well. I learnt this especially from my time in ODAC, the seniors did well, so well and there was so much that was learnt from them. My batch that served were tremendously talented as well as responsible and hardworking, they toiled super hard to create great events. I learnt much with them because I watched how they worked intelligently and honestly. So when we passed on everything to the next batch, they had much greatness to inherit (lol), no seriously, they inherited great things and we also made sure we attempted to select the best people so we could carry these things on. I’m still proud of them (hehe).
  3. Good communication is key. Be honest, yet tactful. I am still learning this. Two years, about 6-7 CCAs and I still have not mastered this art, yet I can say I have improved much. Communication breakdown tends to lead to failure. It seems very cliche to say this but seriously, a dearth of communication tends to lead to shit happening everywhere. Internal politics will result in external events failing, one cell believes they worked harder than the other cell, this results in crappy feelings and angst against another party, then leading to vendettas of people against other people, blah blah blah… I’ve gone through that and it wasn’t a pretty sight. So communicate, learn to air your feelings, sometimes it will be more painful than other times, especially if you’re on the side of blame, but I can say that it is better to deal with people telling you your mistakes in a straightforward and direct way than it is to deal with bitter feelings and unspoken tensions and fake diplomacy. Good communication also ensures people in the team know what is going on, they feel involved, not left out, and everyone wants to feel involved and part of the event/team.
  4. You need a good combination of diplomacy and efficiency. Usually you do this by combining the P/VP personalities, or at least in the Pres cell you should have a combination of both kinds. This means that you have to have task-oriented and people-oriented personalities. Too much of one either results in unhappy people while the job may be done, or happy people and no job done, or slow job done. Diplomacy is super important, you need someone who can talk to people, persuade, convince, and also elicit actions and responses from people, whether your fellow exco, participants, etc. Some people have both efficiency and diplomacy, like an individual I worked with and am friends with for two years. But others like me do not, I can really work but I don’t have as much skill/tactfulness in speaking to people. Have both personalities and those who lack part of the duo also sometimes do learn slowly. Having said that, it is not that these are the only two things needed in good leadership, but they are extremely crucial. Other factors however, do count.
  5. Learn the ropes of different roles in organizational stuff in NUS. Proposals, Admin, how to deal with OSA, how to book venues, how to email people using PDPA guidelines, how to handle addresses/a torrent of them especially in large(r) events, how to deal with manpower issues, logistics, catering services, vendors, marketing. Everyone of these usually is a different cell in a committee but it is good to get to know them. I think it is good that people try different things to learn. I joined logistics, admin, manpower, publicity, before I applied for VP role in a club. I think that’s very useful because it gives you finally a bird’s eye view over situations and in events you know where to get what done and how to get it done. It seems like a trivial job to print posters but there are things to learn there too. Ask questions, try different roles and learn from those who are in it already, it doesn’t hurt to learn more things and be able to help others who may suffer from the same problems in future. Also, knowing different cells and their roles actually makes you very marketable, it makes people want you because you know stuff and you can do stuff and even if you’re not doing it directly, they know you will be an asset to the club. Never hurts to be needed/wanted.
  6. Lastly, learn to deal with higher ups – whether OSA, CCA advisors, or even if you’re in a Subcomm, learn to deal with your pres cell. You need to learn to work under authority and with authority. Instead of feeling inferior, know your position and then excel in it, sometimes exceed expectations (haha). Make yourself an active and integral part of whatever you’re in. Learn to deal with higher-ups by befriending them and working with them, if you have issues with them, try and voice it out nicely (and if it doesn’t work, find another way out or ask for help/alternative suggestions). The higher-ups usually don’t cause trouble unless you do.

    Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to drop your comments/disagree. 🙂

Don’t despise the day of small things

Don’t despise the day of small things

little victories.jpg

It’s the little things that count, and this semester, I learnt to be proud of, and thankful for the smallest things. They’re little on their own but if you put them together, they’re not so little after all.

Here’s 25 little victories this semester:

  1. Being punctual for class. God knows how hard it was to (actually show up) and be punctual for class especially when the going got tough
  2. Attempting to eat healthier. (YAY!)
  3. Keeping coffee intake to ONE cup a day – for those people who say I am a coffee addict, now you know
  4. Not cabbing to school at all this semester. SAVING ALL THAT MONEY
  5. Learning how to save a few bucks a day
  6. Learning NOT to be guilty for being tired and then pushing myself doubly hard to deal with my weak, inefficient self.
  7. Planning essay submission such that it was one essay per week, not 5 per week (12/13).
  8. Walking away from friendships that caused me pain (congrats to me!)
  9. Shopping less
  10. Spending more time with my family, going home before 9pm almost every night.
  11. Doing more readings than last semester
  12. Doing readings not for assignments but for interest’s sake
  13. Gaining enough confidence to wear a midi dress (and other things that I thought was not my ‘type’ of attire).
  14. Maintaining my composure in tight situations and not lambasting people who I had issues against.
  15. Sleeping 6 hours (or more) a day (with the exception of one day in the semester)
  16. Finishing a notebook planner – like reaching the end of the book and not dumping it halfway
  17. Very actively participating in church stuff 🙂 yay
  18. Learning and honing a new skill/interest in watercolour
  19. Selling my own creations and learning to believe in the power of art and that I can make something that make people smile (thank you friends who have played a part in this)
  20. Making time for people who matter. Loving harder than ever.
  21. Being okay with being alone and happy on my own
  22. Drinking enough water (almost everyday)
  23. Reading my Bible almost everyday
  24. Hanging out more with my dad before he left for missions
  25. Quitting things that were not worth my time. and not being guilty for it.