I strive to be ordinary. As these words came out of my mouth, and my heart went, “yeah, it feels right to say that!” As far back as I can remember, I strived to be extraordinary.
When I was in primary school, I sang “white christmas” slightly differently from the usual tune, and it sounded good. The teacher was a little irritated but she knew I sang well. As I think about it now, I feel ticklish inside…hee…
When I was in secondary school, I painted with odd colours, it made my “still life” look contrastic – pardon me for my odd English. In my teenage years, I always found it “stupid” to stand stiffly in a lined-up manner for class photo-taking sessions. So, I naturally stood out in a class photo.
Oh yeah, I loved the eighties. It gave me the chance to fully express myself.
Then, it turned me on when people wondered whether I’m male or female, by the way I dressed. My shirt was as long as a woman’s dress, bright yellow with japanese words on it. And of course, the eighties would not be complete without the hairdo. I had my fringe so long that it touched my chin. And, to make it “contrastic enough,” the rest of my hair was no longer than 1cm. Yes, I stood out when I walked along the street.
As I started working, I was always the one that left my “signature” on my work.
Even when I was just a Captain in a restaurant, I would be the one with the neatest and shiniest table-settings. Those years flew by very quickly, then I moved on to sales. Those were precious years, because they made a man of me. I had to brave the element of uncertainty and determine my own income. Even then, I left my mark – as the youngest full-time sales agent with a secretary. Most people strived to buy a car, I strived to have someone handle all my paperwork. There are more things, I’m sure, in which I strived to be different.
The strange thing is, I wouldn’t have admitted it back then because I wasn’t aware that I was striving to be different.
Especially when I was in a group, I unconsciously waited for the right moment to say the “right” things. And the “right” things would be different from the rest. If I’m not unique in what I say, then I’m not good enough; interestingly, my goodness was measured by my degree of difference from others. In this way, I fed my ego – to be better than others. The more I did that, the more I was aware of the contrast between my outside and my inside. As long as I continued to compare, I was reminded of the “weakling” inside. The need to be different, to be extraordinary, to stand out, pre-occupied a large part of my life. How could I be appreciated if I’m not “seen” as a different individual?
Today, my work in training and consulting allows me to share with people how they can view their world from another angle.
My work provides me with the opportunity to connect with people at a very personal level. I am so privileged to be a part of people’s lives that it never ceases to amaze me – the strength of the human spirit to prevail, to fulfil a meaningful existence.
At the end, at some level – we all want the same things.
We go to work, make money, feed ourselves and the ones we care for, share intimate moments with loved ones, exercise whenever we can, pay our taxes and bills, take holidays and make peace with the “man upstairs”. Looking at ourselves in this manner, we are the same. Amongst other things, we all want to be “seen” not as being different, but for who we are – that our existence, good and bad, is acknowledged by others.
Today, I enjoy and deeply appreciate mundane simple things.
I’m grateful to go to work in bermudas and moccasins – it is so comfortable. I look forward to my morning fish ball kway teow mee and a cup of good old kopi-o. I enjoy those moments taking the feeder bus with the usual driver smiling – he reminds me of the power of acknowledging people. One of my favourite weekly hobbies is cooking egg porridge – one of the simple meals that my mom used to prepare – simple ingredients, loving heart to monitor the temperature, and it turns out wholesome and very tasty.
We all have routines & combing our hair is one of them. Like my eyes, they are black – with a few strands of “wise” ones sprouting all around my head, more and more as the years go by. I enjoy spotting cats – I must admit that I like the orange ones, they are so adorable. They need to be befriended, just like humans – we need to earn each other’s trust. Cats, like any other animals, are so into the moment. Sometimes you see them enjoying basking in the sun, relaxing in the shade or catching the cool breeze. They are so observant and curious about little things, they capture the wonders of each moment.
To truly accept the “ordinary” is to accept who we are.
Accepting who we are includes the side of us that’s imperfect and to know that we are constantly in the state of “unfolding” – we are a constant “work-in-progress”. We also need to be mindful about being grateful for all the things that we have. For me, I am grateful for my son’s constant giggling for no apparent reason; I am grateful for the spacious home that I have; I am grateful for the quiet breezy neighbourhood; I am grateful for those times that I look out onto the road and a cab arrives. It is a way of life – to look at the glass half-filled in life.
It is most profound for me to know that when I was made, the mold used to make me was never used again.
Just like everyone else, I am the only one. A strange way to look at it, we are all differently the same, and we are all similarly different. To accept my ordinariness is to acknowledge my difference. Instead of striving to be different, I fully appreciate myself, totally applying myself, and I know that my being is constantly unfolding. It is in doing so – by accepting my ordinariness, that I bring forth “my true gift” to the world.