Category Archives: Reflection

The Little Boy and The Old Man

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.
– Shel Silverstein
I had the chance to observe a music therapist at work in a local hospital setting. The ward was made up of patients with dementia, and music therapy was aimed at improving their mood during their stay, which would contribute to their overall well-being. We all know how distressing, isolating and lonely the hospital environment can be. I certainly felt it, watching the nurses and doctors go from patient to patient, solving one problem at a time, doing their job professionally and extremely well, but not being able to give individuals the personal nourishment and interaction that all humans crave for at a basic level.

Madam W used to be a dancer and a dance instructor, teaching dance groups in schools. Now she is long-retired, reduced to lying on the bed, being fed through tubes, not being able to talk or swallow. But whenever someone walked past her bed, she would lift her eyes and hands up to that person, only to shift them down again when the person has walked past her bed.

“Are you expecting a visitor?” The therapist gently asked. Madam W shook her head. Yet she continued to look expectantly at everyone who walked past her, raising her hand in a waving gesture. We felt that she was trying to initiate some social interaction. One can only imagine how active her social life must have been as a dancer and instructor. How much joy she must have derived from being able to move her limbs and body. How much she must be suffering physically and emotionally now.

I don’t want to grow old if I can’t do what I love.
But we don’t have much say over such things, do we?

On Appreciation

I recently was prompted to think about the notion and concept of appreciation, after a friend and ex-colleague expressed how she did not feel appreciated in the environment she works in.

People and bosses around the world know that appreciation is something important. Give too much and people take it for granted, but give too little and people get disgruntled.

What are we looking for when we seek appreciation? No doubt we are responding to our ego’s need to be fed. I also think, like what Gus said in The Fault in Our Stars – we “fear oblivion”. We are responding to our innate and primitive desire to know that we have a purpose for existing, that we haven’t lived in vain. We need that acknowledgement. That appreciation. So, in response to this innate human desire to feel validated in accordance to the work and effort we have put in, institution, organizations, companies have come up with endless array of ways and means to make people feel appreciated. Awards, certificates, staff dinner and appreciation nights, _____ Days,  monetary rewards. All these and more, to show for our existence, that we have lived.

As well-meaning as these systems and institutions are, we suffer because of them. We suffer because we peg our self-worth and value to these systems which have been imposed upon us. Because of these systems, we in today’s society have largely lost the ability to validate our existence intrinsically, relying on external rewards to measure the worth of our work and existence, and feeling that we are not as good as the people who have managed to clinch the sought-after titles and rewards. In some parts of society, we might even have been conditioned to work for such rewards – bonuses, posts, ranks, titles –  sadly forgetting the meaning in our work, forgetting why we do the things we do in the first place.

Why should I allowed the value of my existence to be measured by such man-made systems, created by another group of people whom themselves are seeking appreciation, validation, love and encouragement, but simply do not know where to get them?

Why should I measure my personal strengths and value according to systems which do not recognize me as an individual?

Why should I seek appreciation from a system which simply uses appreciation as a means to an end?

Is being appreciated by such a system really integral to my well-being and survival?

It is not.

Being able to step out of the workplace, knowing that I have done my best for the day. Being able to learn from aspects I did not do so well in, and will get a chance to improve on them the next day, or the next time. Being able to sleep at night, knowing that my conscience is clear. Not being in debt because I am financially independent and mature, and able to support my family. Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses and being able to adapt them to work with the people around me so as to achieve the best possible result and outcome. Being able to live in a country without fear of bombings in the middle of the night. Being able to know where my next meal is coming from.

These are the things integral to my well-being and survival.

And while being appreciated once in a while for the things we do is definitely a plus point, I hope I do not end up working simply to earn the appreciation of others. It is too unpredictable, too tiring. I want to learn how to first appreciate myself, and others. Whether or not that will be returned… Well that’d be up to them. Anyway, it would not affect my well-being or survival 🙂

Conversations Through The Asian Collections

It was the day after ALL the assignments had been submitted. With an aura of liberation, I made another visit to the Art Gallery of NSW.

Am pretty sure I saw this at the White Rabbit.


My favourite.

“In a world defined by spectacle and information overload, how loud should an artwork be? Some artists respond by producing works that shout for attention. Suda takes the opposite approach, creating objects so quiet that we must slow down and re-focus to perceive them.”


“… a universal metaphor for the clash between consumer-driven progress and and the preservation of historical artefacts.”


“… a spectacular meditation on Buddhist ideas of impermanence and time. Repeating the numbers 1 to 99 in different combinations and rhythms, his installation evokes a a continuous cycle of death and rebirth. Zero, which would indicate an end, is nowhere to be seen… Invites each of us to contemplate our place in the universe where everything is connected and ever-changing.” 

Year 1 Done


Yesterday marked the 10th Month since I stepped off the plane and started the journey to study and do something I’ve only ever dreamed off.

10 months later, I have finished the first year of the course, and today I fly home for the summer break. It has been a wonderful year of learning and experiencing life. I’ve been blessed with supportive family, friends, classmates, lecturers and supervisors.



While browsing through some old pictures I spotted this – something they made us write during one of those endless meetings. Perhaps our thoughts are really stronger than we think.
personal mission statement



As happy as I am with the direction my life is taking now, I know the future is still uncertain. But at least, having been through and won a few battles on behalf of my dreams, I also know that I am stronger than I (or others) think.

Let me live in the moment, arming myself with mental strength and resilience, so that I may face whatever the future has in store.

In the meantime – Home, see you soon!


PS: More posts about Aussieland adventures to come… I haven’t quite finished!


Today is the last day of placement for this sem.
A while ago, E and I sat down for what was to be my second placement/practical evaluation for the year. She asked me how I felt about my placement in this second semester.
“I have learnt a lot” – this was the gist of my verbal reply to her. In more detailed thoughts and words – I have learnt more than I thought would or could. Although I was resistant to change in supervisors at first, the experience has become just another episode in my life to demonstrate that change need not be negative, that there are times I need to embrace it in order to learn and progress.
With E, I got more opportunities to work on vocal and instrumental improvisation, and I was glad to hear her say that she can see my efforts and improvements as well. With the change in placement days, I also got exposed to a wider variety of clients and clinical conditions, like children with Autism, young adults with Tuberous Sclerosis, and intellectually disabled blind and deaf clients. I got more chances to expand my repertoire and playing styles. And through playing the role of co-therapist, I gained more confidence in responding intuitively in therapeutic settings.
After E went through the various assessment components, she asked if I had any other comments or things to add.
“Well… I hope I’ve been of help in the sessions.” (the mammoth in me fearing that I might have been more of a hinderance instead)
“Oh, yes. The co-therapist is basically an extension of the  therapist, and I think you’ve done a good job of reading my cues and facilitating. Like, I don’t need to say much and you know what to do. Put this way: I have difficult clients on this day, and I trust you with them.”
I could die with no regrets, after experiencing the happiness of feeling validated and affirmed in such a positive and encouraging way, in an area which means so much to me.
Am thankful that this term is winding down, that all seems to have gone well, and that I’ll be home for the holidays soon 🙂


I had the chance to assist in an initial assessment for music therapy the other day. The potential client was an 8-year-old non-verbal boy, “Johnny”, diagnosed with a chromosone disorder and autism.

In the drum circle and on the piano, he made strong eye contact, vocalized some pitches, and showed a strong desire to communicate and be heard. He looked up when his name was sung and was very readily engaged by tactile instruments like the guitar and cabasa. He showed some awareness of co-activity, but did not always seem inclined to share his instruments and be told to wait for his turn. He was constantly seeking stimulation from sight, touch and sound, an would frequently get up from his chair to run around the room.

I realised how an assessment session may look like any normal therapy session in which the therapists engage with the client, but the mindset is different. The client’s abilities are used as a stepping stone to gauge the goals which he or she can achieve over the next few months. Activities will then be structured to meet those goals. I was challenged to practice writing an initial assessment report, and to come up with some goals for the little guy.

Possible initial goals for Johnny:
– To build working relationship with therapists and settle into therapeutic environment
– To enjoy musical co-activity as a basis for social interaction and communication
– To increase attention span and focus through engagement in instrumental play (eg: drumming)
– To encourage vocalizations through singing / instrumental play as the basis for developing functional speech

When we were chatting after the session, Johnny’s mother expressed her feelings of frustration and failure at not being able to communicate with her son. I do hope that something positive will come out of his experience with music therapy in time to come.