on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

learning to be a human being

The past week I had a sense of becoming – the confluence of recent events seem to be forming some weird cosmic orchestra.

I received this very life-affirming response to one of my Medium posts:

You could be my daughter and I cannot thank you enough for helping me see who she really is and what she is feeling. She has tried over the years. She sent me your post and I get it, I finally get it. Thank you. – source

That response is one out of the hundreds of responses I have received on that post, they were so overwhelming that I didn’t know how to respond to the responses, except to be simply thankful.

But this one stood out strongly to me, for many reasons I probably cannot truly articulate. I have been trying for years, decades, my entire life to try to explain to people how I feel. To my own family. To people who love me. I am not sure if anyone really gets it still. Yet to be able to express that sentiment for just one person, so that he could see his loved one, it makes me feel like my entire existence is worthwhile just for that one moment.

I didn’t set out to have any agenda when I wrote that post, except to express the inner frustration I have been carrying myself.

One of my long-time twitter buddies @cheeaun recently wrote something so personal that it was almost difficult for me to read. Perhaps he too, was expressing his lifelong inner frustration, and yet like me, he managed to express that frustration in a productive manner, eventually. I have written briefly about the impact someone like @cheeaun has made on me before, though it is worth repeating that without people like him, my journey would have been so much more difficult. People like him simply did the work they love doing, freely gave parts of themselves and their work to the community, supported open-source way before it became cool, and is integral in building up the flourishing ecosystem we now have here in Singapore. It was nowhere near flourishing when we started hanging out together at Geek Terminal, I assure you.

It is because people like him were there, and that is why I can now be here. So it meant a huge ton to me, way more than I can ever use language to describe, what it felt like to see my name appear on the bottom of his post. I can again, only be thankful that we could be part of each other’s journeys.

I won the Listserve email lottery so I contributed a story. It was one of those times when I simply wrote however I felt at that moment. Most of the time, I throw things out in the Universe just to observe what happens.

I could write about my life’s work, about the causes I support, on how altruism is not about being kind but rather it is really about being pragmatic; I could write a poem or the design experiments I have been working on. I chose to write about love instead, because it has throughly changed and flipped life for me.

It wasn’t just a story about love, but a story about my redemption, that in reality, at every given moment we can choose to expand with courage or shrink in fear.

I am humbled. I have been so certain in my own beliefs and how I wish to live that it was very amusing to observe myself back-tracking and admit that I have been wrong. I was so wrong on so many levels – wrong about what I needed, wrong about what it takes for me to accomplish my life’s work, wrong about what it means to be an exemplary human being. Perhaps I could expand on that in another essay later.

The responses I have gotten back from the Listserve community were unexpected and beautiful, one of them turned out to be a serendipitous connection.

Sometimes, we just need a touch of love, even if it comes in the form of a story in an email.

All of that happened in just one week, and this is my takeaway for now: at the end, it is really not what I accomplish in my professional work that matters to me. The work that I produce in a literal sense is like a bonus, the gravy on top, but what truly matters to me is the person I am with my communities, the capacity I have to appreciate these intricate connections, the interconnectedness that comes along with being part of a greater collective consciousness, the impact we can have on each other by simply just being the unique expression we are.

I could change the way thousands of people use technology and it would be very satisfying, I will not lie. Yet increasingly, I am being made aware that the greatest accomplishment in life for me, is learning how to be a human being.

And what makes us human – is love. That to me, is one of the most difficult things to do in life – with work we can be strategic and calculated – to open our hearts repeatedly despite how harsh or cold reality can be, that takes a whole new level of deliberate consciousness and courage.

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