Goals, bro

As a response to suggestion-turned-pressure from a certain individual to consider and decide on my word soon to take precedence over my forthcoming year, here I am. Other than having to dig deeply into the complicated depths of my soul (not really) and as a result, sleep later than I could have by 45 minutes (this is true), it’s probably a good thing that this didn’t become an addition to the list of procrastinated tasks I have on hand.

What will 2017 be?

Last Christmas with the first without my mum. It was a struggle, as Christmas is always about family and was ruined for me without a complete one, but the extended family pulled through and invited everyone over for a bbq. I was sprawled out on my cousin’s bed that day, the both of us catching up on each other’s lives, which girl he liked, and plans for the next year. It was there that he told me about the week-long retreats he’d been attending of late, the purpose of them being self-discovery, confidence; in essence, understanding and accepting yourself. My cousin, being quiet and reserved, has battled with insecurities since we were kids. Although I was younger, it was always me who would berate his bullies to the pits of the earth and be there for an overall confidence boost whenever he was down. I thought it was amazing that he did something so proactive for himself. As I questioned more about what he learnt at these retreats (just performing my due diligence to ensure my cousin wasn’t joining a cult), he told me they did tests that explored difference avenues of life itself. Ok, interesting. An example of these being the love language test, which my curiosity led to me jumping on his computer and completing the series of questions right there and then. http://www.5lovelanguages.com  for those who haven’t had the pleasure of finding out which of ‘words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch’ are most important to you. Like all personality tests, zodiacs and star sign readings that supposedly tell me about myself, I instinctively rejected my results ‘nahhhhh that’s not me’.

Another group discussion that was key to the retreat was on the topic of fear. Not topical fears such as heights, or spiders, or confined spaces. Real fears, what you perceive your biggest weakness to be that is holding you back from taking the world by its balls. My cousin had attended enough of these retreats by now to sense that I wanted to weasel my way out of this question. I only came to stuff myself with bbq food, I complained. He didn’t let me off the hook. ‘It’s something that you’ve grown up with and have always had at the back of your head’, he explained, ‘not a new anxiety that has come from adulthood’. I begrudgingly listened to him talk about his own discovery and sat there stumped on mine. I was about to admit defeat when the realisation came to me. Not being good enough. This fear hasn’t dictated my life in any significant way, I just think it may be a reason why I’ve never tried hard enough to be the best at anything and why my own expectations of myself are set so high, yet I don’t congratulate myself with achievements and when I do attain first place, attributing these things to luck rather than skill or effort.

With that little story behind me and a whole lot ahead of me, 2017 is win.

I feel it’s unnecessary in this space, and also too boring, to venture into discussing my goals, abstract meanings and why exactly I felt the stars align when I chose this word. I’m not of the belief that my year will not have its setbacks, that it will not have times of loneliness, frustration and sadness. However, winning is high on my agenda and that is what I’m going to do; individually and with any team I’m on. Maybe not quite at DJ Khaled’s level, but close to. Let’s do this.

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Thanksgiving with a touch of November

My friends in the US still call me half-American. My ex-colleagues in Australia call me a third Australian/American/British. Strangers call me international. Identity crisis, much? Having now lived in 3 of the largest OECD countries (and also Shanghai for a few months as a fair comparison), I can comfortably confirm that identity issues are faced by most if not all Asians born, or arriving at a young age, in Western countries. I consider myself simply ABC – Australian Born Chinese (also works for American Born Chinese but I’m not sure what the UK equivalent is) and this creates a separate form of identity; it is colloquially progressive and creates a diverse community of Asians, not limited to just Chinese, who dress, speak, act and think differently from their motherland counterparts.

Growing up as an ABC kid was confusing. I had Caucasian friends whose parents gave them free reign over their life and constantly compared this to my own, where a school day was not considered finished without going to swimming squad practice, netball training, piano lesson, and math tutoring. This difference was incomprehensible for me at a young age. Why were my parents so difficult? So strict? So boring? I was later exposed to the concept of ‘asian pride’ in high school *queue anthem: got rice, bitch?* and became notoriously rebellious but eventually found my own feet and identity in understanding that I was always going to be different, but different isn’t always bad. After all, different is a relative term. Who is to say one is the norm/standard in comparison to their neighbour?

In retrospect, my parents were quite good at keeping an open mind about my choices and understood in a way that my upbringing could never be the same as theirs. Plus, they gave up on me early when they realised I was bad at math, liked sport activities, and had no patience in learning how to sight-read and therefore could not pass my piano examinations. Dreams of having a Doctor daughter: shattered.

So in Thanksgiving spirit, with everything that I am and who I am, because I was fortunate enough to be born in Australia, I thank my parents for their guts and pure determination it took to move to a foreign country – though not really by choice, and endurance in years of language barrier struggles, poverty and underwhelming working conditions. To fight through all that in becoming successful small business owners is no small feat and taught me at a young age invaluable lessons on the value of money and hard work. And thank you for having me, as I wouldn’t have been born should the both of you had stayed in Vietnam.

On a related, but separate note. November. Though not quite over yet, November has been my best and favourite month this year, for many reasons. It started with the solidification of my age increasing by 0.037% which I’d normally be bitter about, but sweet human beings have neutralised, if not completely offset and surpassed the effects of such quarter life age crises and I found myself focusing very little on the number and a lot more on the experiences I’m able to capture, some things planned and others certainly not, leading up to and at my age.

Alongside turning older on paper and younger at heart, I have also pondered upon the following: my word for 2017. Instead of new year’s resolutions, I assign a word to denominate my year ahead and try to stick as true to it as I can. 2015 was ‘free’. 2016 was ‘new’.

Working out what word 2017 will be for me exactly, is a thought in progress, though I hope it depicts something as lovely as November has been thus far.

Live more, aim for more, give more.
Power to you.