Category Archives: Writing

The Inevitable

As I mused to someone before… We who tend to be easily affected by the opinions of others and who hold ourselves to high expectations would likely carry these traits with us wherever we go.

So no matter which job you do, which country you move to, it’s probably unlikely that you’d be able to get away from yourself.

Which is why, as always, the most important work has to be done within.

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Stop the Worry Fest

 

Picture/ Post Inspiration Source: Be More With Less

Worry – the double-edged sword of my life. The edge that makes me strive for perfectionism, that makes me want to do things well, that makes me strive on and forward. And the other edge – the sleepless nights, the overwhelming thoughts, the sometimes irrational fears.

It has always been a see-saw ride of sorts, and recently I’ve felt that the other edge has been, well, having more of an edge. And this quote came at quite the right moment – how something ends up never depends on how much you worry about it.

After a familiar sleepless Sunday night, and a day after in which most of my worries didn’t materialise, or at least weren’t as bad as I thought, I really thought I wanted to stop this worry fest tendency once and for all.

Easier said than done, of course. But I guess this reminder is a good place to start. How something ends up never depends on how much you worry about it.

Free From Ego

A recent read (this) led me to contemplate about how much I let my ego get in the way of the things I do .

“Over-investing your ego in your results is unproductive and unnecessary. If you think the failure of your ideas is a personal failure, you’ll take too few risks, risks that could ultimately pay off. But if you can learn to separate yourself from your ideas and your work and see them as something separate from yourself, you’ll feel you truly have the right to be wrong.” – Steve Pavlina

I thought this was really poignant because it very closely describes and articulates why I fear failure so much. Why I even fear responsibility to a certain extent, because with more responsibility it means that there is also a greater chance of… you guessed it, failing.

Recently, as a member of a local professional body, I was tasked to help out with editing of the association’s newsletter. It was a job I thought I’d be well-suited to do. I’m generally organized, communicate well with people through emails, and make sure everyone keeps to their deadlines to make sure the publication makes it out in and on time.

What I did not forsee was… when the time came for final rounds of edits to be made and a few colleagues kindly offered to help me look through the publication one more time, I was aghast to find that… there were MORE things to change. Things I had not noticed were inconsistent, things I had not thought of looking at until they were pointed out to me. The horror. It totally collided with my view of myself as an organised, on-top-of-everything, time-keeping freak.

Then I came across the podcast/article on OLD, and the quote above, in particular, struck a deep chord with me. I had been over-invested in my ego when I accepted the role, that was clear enough to see. And because of that, I linked discrepancies and perceived lapses in the job as personal failures, as personal flaws. When it does not have to be this way. It could be simply a job everyone is tackling together, for the ultimate goal of getting the publication out.

And when I think deeper, I see how much I have learnt from placing myself out there, from accepting that I have missed out these details, and from re-organizing my perspective so that I look out for such things better in future projects. Without being “wrong”, or flawed, I would not have had the valuable learning experience.

And now I have a beautiful, wonderful opportunity to work on something for self-improvement: To do my work wholeheartedly without necessarily seeing them as an all-encompassing part of who I am. The work may fail, we may stumble and trip and fall along the way, but it need not define who we are 🙂 Yay for that.

 

On a separate note, it’s off to Bali for the mother and me for the next 5 days. Perfect time for rest, reflection and recharge!

Happy Non-Teacher’s Day

This year, I celebrate my identity as a non-teacher.

On the Wednesday of the last week of August, as schools around the island closed for half a day to celebrate and honour their teachers, I reflected on my identity of not being one.

I looked at instagram posts by ex-colleagues and friends, sharing their proud moments, their pile of letters and gifts from students, being award titles like “Most Caring” or “Most Inspiring”. I looked at them and I felt a little tug. I could have been one of them. I WAS one of them.

What was that tug? Jealousy? Nostalgia? The longing for something you think you might like but know that you would not want it so much once you have got your hands on it?

Maybe a mixture of all of the above.

As I contemplated my mixed feelings on a day I had always had mixed feelings about (because I was never fully secure in my identity as a teacher), I also contemplated on the person I am now.

I thought about the decision I made to leave a particular system, though I realise now that leaving the system does not necessarily mean leaving the identity completely. So many aspects of who I am now and what I do as a music therapist still manifest from the teacher in me, just in a different context and in a different industry, with different goals and intentions.

And as I told a comrade, “the institution we left has its own system of rewards to get us to do what they want. Because we have opted out of that system, it means that we may not get those rewards, but it also means we are spared from the confines of that system.”

And that is certainly something to celebrate. Because freedom to be who you are and to relate to your authentic personality in what you do is something priceless. Certainly not something you can measure in gifts and awards and letters, no matter how heartfelt and touching and affirming they are.

That said, I was very touched by the call from 2 ex-students. It’s always nice to be remembered.

So… on a day when I would have celebrated (or tried to celebrate) my identity as a teacher, I instead contemplated on who I am, who I want to be. And relished in the freedom of being able to do so.

“That Was Hard.” – a Lesson in Self Compassion

“That was so hard! You did amazing for what you were given to deal with!”

These words meant a lot to me for 2 main reasons.

  1. It’s not our cultural norm for someone to acknowledge how hard the things we have to do sometimes may be. I mean this in a widespread sense, not job-specific sense. But when your job is sometimes seen as nothing more than “having fun” and “making music with kids”, it can be even harder for people to understand why you feel like you have a hard time. So, having someone who understands when we have a difficult session, and acknowledge that it was hard, can be enough to move me to tears.
  2. I learnt that acknowledging and accepting when something is hard does not necessarily include admitting that I’m incompetent, which is one of my greatest fears. I learnt that acknowledging and accepting when something is objectively and naturally hard actually opens my mind to think about what can be done to overcome the difficulty of the problem, without getting too personal about it. Without thinking that if this doesn’t work = I’m a complete failure. Simply acknowledging the mountain-like nature of the tasks we have to do (Eg: Engage 6 kids at once on the same task, each of which have a different developmental delay diagnosis and/or have ASD and a cognitive age estimate of below 12months..) can go a long way in accepting that sometimes we don’t get the kind of completion and success we want, but can still learn and grow from the experience.

After that line was said to me, I felt so touched that the challenging nature of the situation was acknowledged, and I felt myself become more open than ever to take in suggestions for change and improvement. And some of the suggestions given were really good.

Of course I would have accepted the suggestions given anyway. But if not for this line, I don’t think I’d feel as confident about moving on, and might have even internalised some negative messages about myself. Not exactly the most healthy thing.

So today, I am thankful for this lesson in Self-Compassion. May all be well and happy!

Lessons From July: A Good Struggle

2 days late, but I was writing in my journal on the 1st of August and came up with a few things that July has taught me, and thought this main one to be blog-worthy.

The lesson on The Struggle and The Emerging… and the Going Back Again.

Yes, struggles like these are probably never going to completely go away. We find periods in our lives where we seem to be sinking into them uncontrollably, and by some stroke of luck and seeming effort, emerge from them thinking ourselves to be stronger than before, only to be immersed in the struggle again, once something else happens.

I’m referring to the struggle with self-doubt, of course.

And if there’s one thing July taught me, it’s that this struggle is truly necessary for reflection and growth. In fact, I should be worried if I don’t feel any struggle and am completely comfortable. Because it’d mean that I’m not pushing myself, that I’m not being stretched, that I’m not growing. In work or in my personal development.

The fact that I see my struggles as negative when they occur does not mean that they truly are. Just like we hate the bitter medication we have to take when prescribed, but when we’re well we look back and see how we couldn’t have gotten better without enduring and going through the medication process. Something like that.

The going through of the struggle also showed me how much I want to continue to do what I do, IN SPITE of the difficulties. It did not trigger in me feelings or thoughts of wanting to quit, or give up, or just let things be. It triggered in me the persistence to think of new ideas, to infuse new life into my approaches and interventions, and to put in more efforts to make the necessary connections and to develop the confidence I need to speak about what I do. The struggle did all that. And I am thankful.

I’m sure the next wave of self-doubt will come soon enough – there seems to be no lack of that in our world. Let’s hope that I’ll remember this lesson, on the value of a good struggle.