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What Gives Us Our Names

WhatgivesusournamesOnce in a while I find a book that I fall deeply in love with and I would hold it dearly and read it over and over and let the words wrap me and lift my heart.

This is one of them.

It came in a mail from a dear friend in Singapore. I probably have seen it multiple times in BooksActually, but had never picked it up. So I’m extremely thankful that I received this beautiful gift.

Pang took human’s most common emotions and life traits and projected them into the people that we meet on the street, people we know, and ourselves. Through these stories, I saw myself, my relationships, my old friend Passion, my elusive friend Purpose, and was reminded of Success and Failure.

A beautiful simple book with bite-sized, yet very impactful, stories.

I’ve been recommending it to my friends and now I’m recommending it to you.

It’s only $10, and if you buy this, you’ll be supporting local talent of Singapore, and a beautiful Singapore publishing house, and also a very very awesome Singapore’s very-loved indie bookshop. And plus, you’ll be supporting literary art.

So when you get a chance, do read it. (For those in Singapore) Also available from the BooksActually vending machines at the National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Visitor Centre, and Goodman Arts Centre. [I can’t wait to buy a book from one of these vending machines!]

And to end, here’s a short passage from the book.

“No one really knows where Courage came from or who his parents were. In his youth, he was considered a hero, and many things, good and evil, have been done in his name. But he prefers to be remembered for his garden – where even the tiniest seeds brave the wind and rain, he says, because it is their nature to grow or die.

I once asked Courage what he was afraid of. He joked that he lived every day in fear that it would be his last. And then as I turned to go, he whispered to me what he truly feared above all else: that things would remain only as they are.”


Wherever you are right now, I want you to give someone a hug. Take a moment right now to do that. If there’s no one around you, give yourself a hug (literally – cross your arms in front of you and hug yoursef). Hold it for 5 seconds.

Doesn’t that feel good? 🙂

We have passed the halfway mark of 2016, and we’ve seen many tragic things in the last 6 months. Many have fallen into despair over the state of the world. Kinda feels like we’re 2 seconds from doomsday, doesn’t it?

Many people on social media want killings or deaths to stop now. Well here’s the truth, you can’t stop other people from killing each other (not in a simplistic manner anyway), but here’s what you can do: you can start making a change yourself.

This is one radical lesson I learned from the meta-physical text A Course in Miraclestreat others like your brothers. Heard that before? Well, it appears in all of the religious texts, as well as ancient philosophies.

Not a new lesson and I’ve heard it many times, but I only understood it 2 years ago. It’s one of those sayings that I used to take lightly by thinking “yeah yeah, I just have to be nice to people.” Well, it’s a lot more than that. It means, really not judging others and see others like your blood brothers and exactly your equal. Now THAT is not easy.

Can I see that friend without judgement although he, yet again, cheat on his girlfriend? Can I see that laborer, covered in dirt and in foul stench, cleaning the river full of trash, as my brother? Can I see that person, who stole my idea and hard work, claiming it as his own and achieved full success, as my friend?

When I read that passage, realized my misunderstanding and committed to shift the way I see people, I started acting from a place of love, instead of a place of judgment, and holy cow how things changed! People (read: everyone) actually started treating me kindly and with love, which in turns make me want to give them even bigger love. My surroundings changed and I found myself being helped by others, instead of getting mistreatments.

You might think I’m crazy, but if you really want to make a difference, give this a try. The next time you’re disliking someone, or thinking that a person is less than you, see how you can actually see and treat this person from a place of kindness and love.

What we’re doing here is planting the seed of love and slowly spreading it around by holding that energy of love. After all, energy is contagious – I have seen it many many times in theatre, especially as a performer.

Backstage before a performance, it takes only 1 person losing his/ her calm and become a nervous wreck to turn the whole company into one nervous soup. But if everyone maintains his/her calm, the whole company will hold the energy together.

And that is what we’re doing. We’re holding the energy of this world by holding our own vibration of love. Which is much much much higher than the vibration of hatred.

Give it a go but please don’t be perfect, just be human. Don’t punish yourself if you don’t do it, but be happy each time you do. We’re not aiming for perfection, we’re aiming to just simply do it whenever we remember. Plus, as humans, we get emotional, judgmental, and angry. That’s just part of being homo sapiens. Be with your emotions, but then come back to love, cause even one small act of love matters :).

So let’s take a deep breath, let it go, and hug yourself for 5 breaths. Feel how good that is? What you feel is the exact energy we’re spreading. You have it in you and you can always come back to it whenever you need it.

And I’d like to end this letter by sharing the powerful speech from Lin Manuel Miranda at the Tony Awards (you can watch the clip here if you haven’t seen it).

“When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day
This show is proof that history remembers
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love lasts long
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside,
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music love and pride”

Now, go make some music and spread some love :).

Thank You

Today is exactly 32 years since I came out of my mother’s womb. I was born on Friday, 11 May 1984, at somewhere around 5 AM.

(If you subscribed to my letters, you’ll notice that I schedule my non-travel edition letters to come out on the 11th of every month at 5 AM Bandung time. That particular combination of numbers is magic to me.)

On this special day, I’d like to express my gratitude of the amazing life I’ve had.

I could not have predicted I would be where I am today, at this age.

My 6 year old self probably thought that I would grow up in Bandung and end up being an engineer like my parents. I ended up leaving home at 15, and spent the 17 years after that away from home.

In the States, at the exciting age of 18, I thought I’ve found the perfect field (Information Systems), and I was going to work at a multi-national company and live a happy life in the States till I’m old. Well I did love my major, ended up working for a huge huge multi-national firm. But I ended up leaving all that behind and moved thousands of miles back to Singapore to enroll myself in dance, just because I wanted to. It would make me happy and I was tired of being sad.

My 26 year old self thought that was it. I would graduate with a dance degree, be a dancer, and live in Singapore. Little did I know that couple years after that, I would switched to arts management, earned my Master’s degree, worked in it a little bit, and decided that I should start something on my own and moved back to the homeland.

I also thought I would get married at 28 and have children in my early 30s. Now looking back, I think I was waay too young and so not ready to get married at 28. But I’m getting closer to feeling ready to get married. Which is exciting and scary at the same time.

And that brought us to the present. Life is full of turns and flips and drops and climaxes and I end up not where I thought I would be. But my oh my, I’ve had an amazing life.

I’ve been blessed to have seen many parts of this world. Not as many as some people perhaps. But I looked at my travel instagram photos and realized how I’ve been to so many beautiful places in this world.

I have an amazing family who continuously supports me, despite my curly topsy turvy journey in life and despite their fears and doubts. And I can never thank them enough. I love my family so so much.

I have met so many amazing souls in this journey that have guided me in navigating my life.

I have loved and been loved so deeply by all of my romantic partners. I am so blessed to have always met men who are good, solid, sweet men, who never treated me badly. And I’m so blessed to have learned so much from each and every one of them.

And through all of that (especially through the heartbreaks), I have learned to love myself. I have also learned the meaning of unconditional love.

Love, in its highest form, is the most important thing in this world. Nothing else matters. I am forever grateful I have an abundance of it surrounding me in the forms of friends and family.

So on this special day, I want to say thank you. Thank you for being in my life. I’m thankful that we have crossed path at one point in our lives. Let’s raise our cup/ glass/ mug of our preferred beverage to a lifetime of connection.

And in the spirit of not knowing where our lives is going to take us, I’d like to share a quote from probably the best blog post I’ve ever read. It’s written by the beautiful Kate Northrup. (And I strongly encourage you to take your time to read the original post in the link above):

“You won’t do it at the right time.

You’ll be late.

You’ll be early.

You’ll get re-routed.

You’ll get delayed.

You’ll change your mind.

You’ll change your heart.

It’s not going to turn the way you thought it would.


And indeed, my life has turned out better that I thought it would be.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.