essays/

mostly edited, structured pieces of writing (in the process of migrating from Medium)

Being the change you want to see

What it means to live the way you want the world to be

In the middle of a conversation, my friend remarked, “I am really impressed with what Adrianna is doing with the food thing.” His remark threw me off the moment he said it, because he doesn’t know Adrianna personally, except by virtue of my excessive Facebook shares. Also, I thought nobody paid attention to that ‘food thing’ I shared on Facebook, a couple of days ago.

That ‘food thing’, is one of the many initiatives spearheaded by a dear friend of mine, Adrianna Tan. Somehow between all her caffeine-induced adrenalin and alcohol-induced stupor, she hatches schemes like “Culture Kitchen”, which aims to bring immigrant communities closer to the local culture through food and art.

When Adrianna comes up with ideas like that, I only take her half seriously, because she tries to do a thousand things at one time in between her career and frequent travels. Then, one day a photo like this creeps up on my Facebook feed:

The success of the first Culture Kitchen, with a mixed array of cultures bonding over food. Photo by Kevin Lee.

And there I am, falling in intellectual love with Adrianna all over again. I am incredibly proud of her as a fellow Singaporean, as a friend, as a partner-in-crime with all the other initiatives we try to spearhead.

She explains why with her own writing:

I can, however, build communities and movements. This is one of the things I know I can do well, and I want to lend my technological and organisational skills to building a movement which will stand up for a Singapore which includes. The Singapore we want to see. While I will continue to call out the xenophobes every time they emerge from the hills, I will also spend twice as much time on helping to create a counter movement which is positive in nature. I don’t have an ROI, I don’t have an end goal, I just want to bring people together. – Why I’m Hosting Culture Kitchen


When I first made connections.sg, I was asked for my ‘real agenda’ or ‘how are you going to monetize’. People find it hard to believe when I say I don’t have an agenda, except I think and believe a simple step forward can make things better.

I am growing incredibly serious and passionate about wanting to realize my ideals and beliefs and yet plenty of times I question my own motivations myself. Why am I doing this? Why is it important that I go around trying to explain my thoughts to anybody who would listen to me?

I look at what Adrianna is doing, eight thousand miles across the world and I am reminded why.

It does not matter what people think or if they would understand. If they question or if they are skeptical. In this game called life, we can only do our very own individual best and hope that we have the blessing to find other partners-in-crime for the things we care about. Even if we don’t, we have to forge this lonely path ourselves anyway.

If we think humanity can be better, then let’s try to be better humans. If I want people to write more, then I will attempt to write more myself. If I think small efforts are paramount to a ripple of positive effects, then let me reflect that in my own little actions. If I wish for people to make better choices in the grand scheme of trying to forward humanity, I need to be exceptionally conscious of those choices myself.


Human beings are fundamentally social creatures. Modern society has proven that we could make other people emulate materialistic behavior by priding material success.

My sincere question is, could we make people emulate compassionate and empathetic behavior by showing how much good and joy we can all personally derive from it?

It makes people around you think if you demonstrate an unexpected behavior. It makes me sad to even type this that showing kindness, grace and generosity is considered to be unexpected. You no longer question when your friend buys a beautiful expensive car, but you question someone’s agenda when they try to do good.

Why?


I exchanged a few texts with Adrianna right after the event, she tells me she’s exhausted but she ‘loves people and the world’.

I felt her joy eight thousand miles across the world, I felt my own joy because I understood how much it meant to her and I am made to feel sane for wanting to love people and the world. For all the potentially crazy things I may attempt to do later on in my own life, in order to show how much I can love people and the world.

In this era of cynicism and skepticism, I am most grateful for the Adrianna Tans in this world. The ones who will make things happen despite all the questions and impossibilities.

She knows she needs to do these things because she wouldn’t be able to live with herself otherwise. In other words, she is doing it because she ‘loves people and the world’, but fundamentally she needs to do it for herself.

It is very much the same for me. Perhaps on my deathbed my attempts to better this world the way I envision it can be, would be ultimately futile. Would it matter though?

For I would be able to take my last breath in peace, knowing that I have exhausted and gave my entire self to this world, rather than wondering if I could have done more, if miracles would happen if I had tried doing them.

And this is what it means to be the change you want to see.

You simply be.


P.S. I am starting a writing experiment to write on Medium like how I tweet — whenever I feel like it. There will probably be still articles that I will birth through numerous iterations and edits, but there will be more like this one which is mainly written in the spur of a moment, driven by current emotions and bubbled thoughts, which I may argue, could have a higher net positive effect for me. I don’t want to be driven by stats and well, Fred Wilson writes every single day:

It forces me to think, articulate, and question. And I get feedback from it. When I hit publish, I get a rush. Every time. Just like the first time. It is incredibly powerful. – Writing It Down


Originally published on Medium.

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