on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

notes people send me

This is the fourth day in a row I’m writing, ever since I decided I should just write whenever I want. I am not sure how long I can keep up with this, but as long as I feel the impulse to write, I should write. Who knows when the words will dry up?

I received a couple of emails today among other notes left on my Medium post, telling me how much it meant to them. They tell me it is like I am ghost-writing in their place. I know what they mean because I have felt the same way reading people’s stories. It is as if someone found a way to retrieve the voice you’ve thought you’ve lost and then proceeded to soothe your soul.

It is very human to seek a sense of belonging, and we find it through the stories we share. When someone shares a story we identify with, it is a very powerful realization to know that we are not alone. This is what to me, humanity is all about. Lighting up each other’s way, lending each other shoulders to cry on, smiling from the heart when we see others in joy.

It means the world to me to have that capacity to help people tell the stories they cannot tell through my own stories. I may not be doing the best job, but it is a very sincere and desired effort. Days like today remind me why I have to keep on doing this.

I wouldn’t exchange this for anything else in this world, really. To be able to bring back just a little bit of light to someone’s eyes.

Same broken

This was one of my favorite tweets today:

I can’t emphasize this enough – I don’t know how I’ll be without the internet. I may not exist. Imagine growing up believing that you’re everything possibly wrong, only to realize there’s an entire world out there who are just as wrong. Then you start to question, what exactly is right?

I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach the day I first experienced the internet. I couldn’t feel a sense of community locally, but there it was on the internet. Tons of people trying out crazy shit in the brave new world.

It is the same sense of community that I try to reach out to when I publish posts like the one I did Sunday. I was thinking to myself that it is okay if not many people would read it, as long as those who need to will read it. This is what I tell myself every time I write posts like that. It doesn’t matter if nobody reads it. I have fulfilled my end of the bargain.

Unexpectedly it has become my most popular post on Medium in just three days, only exceeded by the power of your writing, but that post accumulated all that traffic after an entire year. I do think part of it is the network effect of Medium compounding, but based on the ratio of recommendations, I would say that people really resonated with the subject. More than I actually wish it to be.

I have been the receipient of many similar stories when I was going through my darkest times. Stories of survival, love and surmounting odds. I remember reading a story about a woman who was sexually abused by a relative, and not only did she rise above and thrive – she shared her story in public. Then I thought to myself, if she could share such a private story publicly, my stories are nothing to be private about.

I have a lot of feedback that people think I am brave, but the truth is, I no longer feel like it is an exceptional effort to share such details of my life. It was nail-biting at first, but I have been writing this way for six years now, the difference is my older blogs were never as widely read. But the traffic is not the point. The moment you publish something like this to the world, you become like an open book to the internet, widely read or not.

The impact of being my true authentic self everywhere is huge. I am who I am. Nobody expects me to be perfect or some shiny object. I don’t have to be afraid that one day people are going to discover my dark self. It is there on the internet for everyone’s consumption pleasure. In turn I get people sharing their selves and stories with me. I get to develop a real community, a community based on a common shared narrative. There are people out there who have been reading such long-winded writing of mine for six years (more for those who started reading on my livejournal and earlier). People are naturally drawn to truth.

For all the stories that lighted my way, I hope by telling my stories and living my life for everyone to see, I can be at least one example of a human being who is extremely broken and yet found a part of the world to belong to. Perhaps one day, there will be more people unafraid to share parts of themselves, and we will evolve to become a society less judgmental of ourselves and one another.

Because this is what I’ve learned. Everyone is fucked up in their own ways. We just cover it up really well. But if everyone realizes that everyone else is as fucked up, perhaps we can be a lot more compassionate to one another and stop standing on our moral high ground. Then, perhaps we’ll stop our senseless power struggles in pursuit of never-ending validation, because we’re all the same broken. Then perhaps, we can really start building this world for what it is. For connection.

I can have a dream. Thanks internet, for letting me find my same broken kind of people. I like them a lot. Where we break, is where the light gets in.

Blogging, again

Apparently there is a blogging renaissance going on and the premise is that you can write anything you care about. The problem with me is that I care about a lot of things, so I confuse myself when I feel the impulse to write.

There is something really attractive about writing on Medium (And it is really not because I used to work there). For me it isn’t the beautiful editor or the brand, but the very visceral feedback you get when you see little faces appearing in your notifications. It gets especially endearing when it is someone you know. But every piece I write there is significant to me, so for now I don’t really want to dilute the content I have there with my ongoing public monologue with myself here.

What is the point of blogging then? I don’t know. I’ve been doing it since those days when you had to run a perl script to generate your blog entries. I was blogging before blogger existed. I was writing both inane and contemplative ephemeral thoughts before ephemeral became a buzz word.

The other part is that I’m obsessed with self-quantifying and keeping a record of almost everything I do, just in case in 2080 I am still alive and want to create a memoir for myself. I have no idea what technology exists in the future, but the worst thing to happen is to have some amazing creation tool and a lack of data. I am already regretting not keeping proper backups of my Greymatter blog.

I just want to write whenever I feel the impulse to write. So many thoughts and moments uncaptured, and forgotten. It is also a recent thing that I no longer care about my professional image (not sure if I ever had one), so it doesn’t really matter if people read this entry with no obvious objective except for the simple pleasure of writing. Know me for me, not just purely for the work I do.

So, I want to embrace the opportunity to possibly write about my ongoing and ever-evolving opinions, biases, contradictions, neuroses and whatever tidbits I care to share with you.

Here’s a list of what’s been on my plate recently:

Writing about my depression

It is not the first time, and will not be the last. I wrote about recovering from chronic depression on Medium, it was something I had to put out there without knowing what will return. I wrote it because not enough people write about it, the stigma will not be reduced if we keep hiding it in the closet. The shame and guilt builds, there is not enough empathy, and the next thing you know, another suicide happens. I want to keep on writing about it, no matter how much distance away I am standing now. This will remain one of the core issues I will spend the rest of my life raising awareness for. What matters is the community of people I discover through these posts – having a powerful shared narrative and mutual resonance bonds two strangers like nothing else.

Consciously moving

I love being alone surrounded by four walls so much that it is starting to turn unhealthy. I managed to make myself bike all the way to the Richmond today, and I was rewarded with plenty of beautiful observations:

Little things amuse me so much and bring me so much joy, I don’t really know why I have to will myself so much to get out of the house.I constantly have to schedule things to force myself to break out of my own routine. It is a lot of positive reinforcement and repetition to build new habits, but I am relatively hopeful.


I finally bought the Vitamix blender I was supposed to buy with the birthday money I’ve gotten when I was still at Medium (yes, amazing perk – I used the rest of the money to buy the rest of my co-workers Amazon gift cards which they were supposed to buy a book with). Hence, I’ve been making delicious green smoothies for myself as meal replacements. I feel a subtle energy difference already, and again, I am relatively positive about this change.

And I keep thinking about…

Balance. And decentralized networks. More on this later, but it’ll probably end up being long essays on Medium.

I’ll probably be writing a lot more. I’ve been thinking about it since I discovered Fred Wilson writes every day. I had spurts when I used to write almost everyday, one such spurt was my first trip to San Francisco, and till today I still look back at those entries with great fondness. Also, I want to put it out there – if you follow me on twitter expecting some great dropping of knowledge on design, please do feel free to click on the unfollow button. The difference between me and most other designers is – I care about design, it is just that I care about 10,000 other things along with it. And I no longer feel bad about it.

There is just something about writing without giving a shit and not make a single edit. Except typos, of course.


I was sharing with a bunch of good friends earlier, on how going for a meditation retreat changed my life. They laughed, because I seem to be having these life-changing moments all the time.

I do have these transformative moments frequently. I actually think I don’t have as many of them as I would like to. There is a reason why I love new experiences and tons of solitude. I thrive on periods of forced contemplation. It is really easy for me to get into a routine, fall back into old behavioral patterns and simply live on auto-pilot mode – wake up, work, get home, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

I stop looking at my big picture, the snowball I want to build, all the learning opportunities I want to pursue. Work can be empowering, but it can also be an effective distraction if we only focus on the day to day tasks and forget to question why are we working on a particular cause in the first place?

I am not afraid of making big life decisions. I am only afraid of letting myself down after making these decisions. Do I have the will and determination to carry out my ambitions, or do I allow “busyness” to take charge of my life again? How can I increase the level of consciousness I have on a daily basis?

The news of Robin William’s passing impacted me more than I thought it would, just like the passings of Chloe Weil, Aaron Swartz, Ilya Zhitomirskiy and the many others that were not as public. I don’t know these people personally, but I can’t help but feel bound to them in some ways, as though a part of me would die along with each of them. But these are the ones we see, how many of us we don’t see, and how many of us are living as though we are living dead?

It kills me on so many levels inside in ways I cannot describe. That I am never safe from myself, that each time this happens instead of feeling like my old self is miles away I actually feel her close to me again. That I get why. I envy. I grieve. All at once. I can no longer differentiate whether I am grieving for them or for myself. Whether I grieve because I wanted to be dead or that I am now still living.

It makes me rethink myself and the way I live. What is the point of all this technological advancement and progression if the society we are building is fundamentally so broken? The events of the past week or month have not helped.

I have a very dysfunctional relationship with my species. I love and resent us so much. Why are we a species capable of so much resilience and change, and yet so self-destructive?

Some people have asked me why I am able to write so bravely about myself. I tell them that I don’t have an intellectual choice. I must, or I cannot live with myself. I cannot live with knowing that we are so broken and yet we pretend we are not. I cannot live with knowing that everyone of us is broken in some way and yet we make so much judgment on how other people are more broken and less deserving than us.

I want to be publicly broken and yet demonstrate that I can thrive with all the breakage I have suffered, and that being unafraid to be broken is a sign of strength and that it can be tremendously empowering. What power do people have over me, when I am unafraid to break myself?

My regret is not being able to do even more than I already am. That I am not speaking louder about the issues I care about. That I am not living as much as I want to. That I am not making full use of my lucidity and consciousness as a human being and I am taking my ability to think and create for granted. That I am not acting more like the person I want to become. That some days I just want to lie in bed and pretend that the weight I carry does not exist. That sometimes I get really, really tired of wanting to care about the greater whole and I just want to live like a hermit where nobody can ever find me.

But I still try. I try to live on for the rest of us because I know every one of us counts. Everyone who battles daily with their darkness and yet live on just one more day matters to the rest of us who are still struggling. I light my way in order for the ones after me to find their way.

Perhaps I live on in the hope of proving myself wrong. That as a species we are really capable of so much more, that we will eventually work towards building a world where all of us can thrive together, that we can really see beyond the futility of power struggles when there wouldn’t be much of a world left to struggle for if this goes on.


I was on a plane to New York from Boston. There was some rough turbulence, and that is a given if we fly frequently enough. But each time it happens for me, I ask – what if this time is going to be that one time?

I think about my death a lot, but choosing to think consciously about it is really not the same when one is being forced to think about it.

It got real really quickly when the plane shook violently, especially with the knowing that my earlier flight was cancelled due to “inclement weather” and there’s a hurricane we were trying to avoid by taking an extended flight path that looked like tiny circles around Massachusetts.

I took a quick mental and emotional audit of my life, critically analyzing if there was anything I would have regretted doing or not doing. I don’t think I could have tried to be more alive than I was already attempting to be, with all factors and context considered.

Travel, the one thing that magnifies the paradox of quickening the urgency of how we live and yet provokes the neccessity to slow down and let go.

I hope to never lose my desire to keep on questioning myself, and that I will be blessed enough to keep on encountering opportunities for myself to face my own mortality right in the face, to always be reminded that it is really there with us all the time, we are just not very good at recognizing it.

On loving freely

There’s something about traveling that makes it always uncomfortable. We can travel in all the luxury we can afford, but nothing prepares us for the unexpected twists, delays, turns, jarring and new experiences.

I remember backpacking eight years ago, weathering spontaneous decisions by not flinching even as I slept in a insect-infested room with a cold shower. These days I feel the difference of just the pillows keenly – they are not the same as the ones I am used to sleeping with at home. Then there were the fourteen hour bus-rides I used to take to faraway places. Now I zip around in an UberX, too tired to take a thirty minute bus ride.

Am I losing my sense of adventure, or have I become one of those always-anxious, controlling, workaholics? Have I lost my capacity to not only feel free, but be free?

I comfort myself by telling myself that I am preserving my energy for a different kind of adventure. In my youth I thrived on spontaneous, non-committal adventures, now I am learning to walk each step with a very deliberate presence, yet keeping my heart open to being called in new directions.

I have had to give up people, places, situations, objects I love. Through traveling I am learning to understand what it means to love freely. I love, that is why I leave. Staying longer than we should only seeks to artifically prolong a moment, without realizing that clinging on is the antithesis of love.

All things change and all things move, and that is how nature has always chosen to demonstrate her love. Even a rock changes its form with time. What would the world be like, if we have learned to love this process of change, instead of constantly trying to hold on?

I walk with a renewed sense of freedom, coupled with a sense of purpose. Every second I am loving what I experience, then learning to let go, knowing that my consciousness will never be the same again, and that is enough. The knowing that everything we love changes us permanently, and we too, change everything we love, permanently.

Life will never be the same again, and life has never been the same, it is our expectation that it stays the same, that brings us not only the greatest grief, but also the biggest obstacle to fulfilling our potential as a humanity capable of great leaps and evolution.

Being seen

There was this episode in “Scandal” where someone was wrongfully shot down by the FBI because he was actually a spy working to inflitrate enemy organizations. His mother couldn’t even know, and she died thinking her son was a terrorist.

I often wonder how many people in this world do what they do even though they will never be seen or acknowledged for it. I also often question myself if I would do what I do if I would never be seen, understood or recognized. There’s this old philosophical question along the same lines, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

I think it is important to consistently question my own motives and agenda for pursuing my goals. It is incredible how easy to lose sight of one’s original identity and purpose. I want to be the person who tried my darnest to live life, and not the person who tried her best to be successful based on societal terms.

Life loves the person who dares to live it, says Maya Angelou. Plenty of times feeling alive or doing what truly matters come at a price of never being seen or understood and this is where the genuine love of one’s self and life comes into play.

Ultimately it does not matter who sees you if you cannot see yourself.


I have an unbroken habit to write once a week, either here or at Medium. It is usually my favorite time of the weekend, where I would sit quietly, stare at the screen and wait for words to appear. Today I am nursing a slight migraine, but I don’t want to break my habit, so I am going to be even more spontaneous with my writing than usual.

Someone over at Twitter asked me how to write in a way that would express ourselves better in order to connect to our audience. I told him honestly that I write with my heart, if that is not the best way to express myself, I have no idea which way would be better.

I honestly don’t care if people think I write well or if I write posts which are too long. In some perverse way I am not even writing for an audience. I think when we start writing for an audience we lost a part of ourselves. It really depends on the why – why we write in the first place.

Life is extremely transient. It is a waste of our living moments trying to be an agreeable person. I take that back. It is a huge waste of our lives living as who we are not. It came to me in the middle of my New York trip. I stopped in the middle of my thoughts and wondered. Why am I waiting to be the person I want to be?

We are afraid because we have something to lose, but if we’re afraid of losing we will never be able to take the risks needed to truly live and love. If I cannot be my true self, people around me will always be shortchanged because I can never be capable of giving them the best of me. We are always waiting for people to validate us, only to realize that no amount of validation would suffice if we cannot validate ourselves.

I want to write as me, live as me, love as me, work as me. And my identity will keep on shifting because I will keep on growing. Every now and then I go through phases where I tear myself apart and put myself back together again. I feel like I just went through multiple phases of this and I am only expecting more to come.

At the end of my life, I want to look back at everything I have attempted to do and know that at the very least my very self wasn’t one of the obstacles put in front of me.

New York

New York, the city that never sleeps. My adrenals went into overdrive just contemplating that statement because I endured years of countless nights when I literally never slept.

It took me three decades to find a city where I actually feel at home. It still confounds me that I can never call a place where I had grown up and had most of my life’s memories, home. Instead, it was experiencing the vast blue skies of San Francisco on the 22nd of July, 2011 that made me understand what it means to feel whole.I will always love San Francisco with all my life because she gave me my life. I didn’t know it back then, but on that day my old self died. It was from that seemingly ordinary moment onwards that I began to experience life with a childlike sense of wonder inexplicably gifted to me.

With so much love and history for a city, how could I possibly love another? It was with admittedly bias and skepticism that I stepped into New York. A city that never sleepsShudder. Within a day of my visit my friends asked me what I thought of her.

I didn’t know what to think and feel. I was confused. It was like going on a first date with someone whom I didn’t like or dislike enough to know whether I wanted to have a second date.

One week in. New York is still confusing and is probably designed to be. That is because she is everything, nothing and anything. I wrote,

New York is like discovering flowers bloom among the winter-drenched brown.

She is so empty yet so full. She means so differently to everybody that it is enough to fill up a dictionary. She is dense and hence she is rich. Yet she feels close to people because she is distant.

I had deliberately chosen to spend my 33rd birthday in New York, learning just to be, at Central Park. I remember thinking to myself, how much fortune I truly had to gather, in order to spend the day honoring my birth at one of the most beautiful parks in the world?

For the past week I walked aimlessly to be surprised. I ate like there is no tomorrow and in New York the distinction between today and tomorrow blurs into the background. I smiled at strangers and looked into their eyes. I told my old stories in order to give them new lives. I understood more of my meaning because her people listened to me. I replaced the windows of my soul, in order to be fully in her light.

I made new connections and revived old ones. I loved and I lost. I learned that everything is impermanent and yet eternal. I understood what it means to have nothing and yet everything. I discovered my feelings are not best expressed with the words I lean on as a crutch, but in the beautiful ambiguity of a moment.

I am selfish in order to be gracious. I am tremendously flawed yet imperfectly whole. I like to be invisible so I can be vain. I pursue solitude in order to exist with the world. I want to desperately hold on and yet bravely let go. I love vulnerably and honestly, but only at a chosen distance.

Full of concrete and filled with colors

This is what New York has taught me. She made me learn that in order to have my identity I must accept that I have no fixed identity. That I am everything, nothing and anything. I am defined because I am really undefined.

With San Francisco I understood what it means for me to belong somewhere. New York has shown me that perhaps ultimately I don’t need to belong anywhere, because I will still be me, everywhere.

I fly back home to San Francisco, tomorrow. I felt that weird disconnect for I could be breathlessly alive in New York, while in the depths of my soul I terribly miss that city who first gave life to me.

But it was here that it became clear to me, that love is infinite and has no boundaries. Each and every entity I love is unique on its own and should not be defined with human-incepted labels or compared with. That love is not black or white but a full spectrum of colors in between. In its truest essence love has no particular definition, time or space — that the love I carry will live on as a part of me and be felt, from everywhere, nowhere and anywhere.

Bridging connections

I have a very small group of people in Singapore whom I have an exceptional soft spot for – people who were from the early web community, back in those days when the web isn’t such a distinct part of our lives.

There were some I haven’t had the opportunity to meet in person, mostly because my involvement in the community was mostly online, and I avoided meetups like plague because meeting people in general was not a very pleasant experience for me.

In those early days we were coming out of an era ruled by either flash-based or asp-based dynamic websites, there was once upon a time when developing in PHP was cool too. Contributing to the open-source community wasn’t a thing in Singapore.

Before twitter there were blogs for a long time. Some of these people I’ve gotten to know from an ambient-like asynchronous connection, by reading what they had to say and what they worked on. IRC, forums, comments and RSS were bridges for us.

I finally had the opportunity to meet two of these people yesterday. We have had followed each other on twitter for the longest time and prior to that I had probably stalked their websites for a while. I made a joke that it was easy for me to confuse the two of them, because they both contributed to Firefox, loved anime enough to mention it as part of their bios, and they both worked for Wego, a startup formed in Singapore at a time when nobody knew what startups were (Some people still don’t).

Through the asynchronous connection made possible by twitter, in those years which followed we were essentially silently supporting each other’s work. It is incredible to say this now, but there was really a time when being a designer or a developer was basically frowned upon.

They probably didn’t know this, but I have an immense sense of gratitude towards people who knew me then. The community that was there for me and for other people who needed to have one.

A sense of community.

Which ironically did not come to me from the traditional areas of life, but was given to me in a digital space.

It seemed like a full-circle to me that I was able to bring them around to my favorite spots in the Mission, showing them the parts of San Francisco that I deeply fell in love with.

We were all very different individuals, from vastly varying backgrounds and life stories, with divergent trajectories and hopes – but all of that didn’t matter when we were all bridged by the work we all love to do, made possible by the lack of a physical distance across ones and zeroes.