The Thirty Diary

I crossed the 3- a few months back. I didn’t blog then. And I hadn’t been blogging regularly despite my new year resolution.

If anything has changed, a sense of urgency had crept upon me that I never noticed before. Some days, I lie on my bed, open my eyes and start to think, it’s just another decade before I’m 40, and another before 50 etc. It’s a path of no return. So, what do I want to do with my life?

I am not sure I will find the right answer. But I want this decade to be a process of finding that answer and making it work. I should certainly regret if I never try. For my thirties, I pray for the wisdom to be self-aware, for the clarity of vision in knowing what is important and for the discipline to be focused in trying to achieve my goals. 

There is an interesting Chinese article on Wechat that I read  a couple of months back, <二十几岁,没有十年> by 孙晴悦 . It translates loosely as, “Your Twenties Don’t Hold Ten Years“. There’s a book published by her under the same title, which I hadn’t read. But the article struck a chord:


The twenties are not like any other decade. At the beginning of the journey, we see it as a long long stretch of time. Endless. After all, at the age of twenty, a decade is half your living experience. It appears misleadingly as though an eternity awaits you. But as the author said, for many of us, the twenties are just made of “three” years – the first of which is spent aimlessly in the university, the second of which in we suddenly wake up to submit our CVs, rent apartments, rush after the train, and the third is spent doing work which we don’t like and living in a city which we do not want to. Then, suddenly, we wake up from the daze to discover that we are thirty.

And there is some truth to that. Enough truth that I start feeling a sense of loss for all the additional things that I wish I had done if I were given back that extravagance of the youthful decade.

I’m not saying that I hate being thirty. I love being in the thirties – you are at a stage of your life with enough financial capabilities, limited responsibilities, but enough energy,  and gradually growing into your own maturity/style and having a better knowledge of yourself. What is there not to like?

And my twenties were certainly not wasted. I enjoyed university, and unlike many, I love learning and school changed me for the better. My first job both taught me and pushed my capabilities. I met the best colleagues who remain great friends even after I left. I wanted to try teaching – and I did. I got a scholarship and went to do the Masters that I always wanted, at a university that had been the place of my dreams from the time I was eight. After which I decided I needed to structure my own career development and not leave it in the hands of a firm that clearly had a different agenda from yours, and I went on to take up a job in an emerging economy. I also chose a place where I could retrace my own roots.  I have lived in three entirely different cities in my twenties, each of which as I’m fully aware, shaped a part of the personality that I have grown into today. I explored three different career options, and took back something from each experience. I met a boy (actually, may be more than one) who made me contemplate a future together. It would be a denial of the privilege and good fortune that had been blessed upon me to downplay the wonderful experiences that I’ve had in this past decade. And yet, with the wisdom of hindsight and the maturity that time brings, I just wished… I spent my twenties even better.

I wish I had been even more open minded. More disciplined. I wish I had designed my career/work and love plans better. I wish I had more focus and had been more self-aware of my development path. I wish I wasted less time on unworthy people. I wish I spent each weekend a little better. I wish I spent each free hour more productively. I wish I picked up more skills. I wish I had the perseverance and determination to finish up with the lessons and the skills that I was trying to pick up. I wish I took care of myself better. I wish I took care of my family better.

I still do not know where I want to go, but I wish the thirty years old me will take this to heart and bring the message along as a reminder.

Our thirties will still hold mistakes and regrets and remind us of our inadequacies. But may my thirty years old self spend the next ten years in the company of the wisdom gained. Thou shall not make the same mistakes.

– Letters from my twenties. 


Have you wondered where you’ll be?

Have you? I have.

HBR: Don’t spend your life making up your mind

You spend your life making decisions. Meanwhile, things change. Your values change. Your dreams change. What broke your heart or made your day at 4 is inconsequential at 40. What breaks your heart or makes your day at 40 was incompre­hen­sible at 20. And there will come a day when you would give everything you have left to have what you have right now.

I should be living the moment, and yet I wonder if I’m not having the focus or discipline that I need in making my life work. Life’s all about achieving a good balance. And with all thesis, you need to dissect that question. So what’s “a good balance” and how can I learn to get better at it?




[Books] The Singapore Story

TSSI have been reading “The Singapore Story”. It’s strange that I never picked up the book before despite my respect of Lee Kuan Yew, but I was a self-avowed ahistorical and apolitical person. I knew the importance of history, I just didn’t enjoy it. And I’m a little self-indulgent that way.

It has been a long time since any book lit any spark in me. This did. More than history, more than politics, it was the writing, the story-telling and what it reflected of the man who told the story as much as of the times. There was an unerring stamp of Lee Kuan Yew’s identity in his words. A complex, thoughtful, hard man with a razor sharp vision – not always likeable (least the image of a warm old grandfather in white hair waving to his supporters in modern day Singapore misleads you), but someone who made his own path to get what he wanted and in the end, the good thing for Singapore was that he wanted a world which is better for the people around him.

Because of his precision of thought and careful use of words the book said as much from its printed letters as it did from in between the lines and also what was left unsaid. There is a story you read, and then there is a story you get from between those words about the man who said them. He is surprisingly fair and honest in the book, and totally unapologetic. This was a man who was clear of what he did, and would do it again, no matter how you would judge him to be.

I have always been a very straight-forward person, and I took pride in that unflinching core sense of identity. Saying what I felt and immediately doing what I wanted made me “real” and “sincere”. If anything, this book showed me the importance of vision, of observation and reading men, of knowing when to take a step back to gain two steps ahead, and when “politics” is really an art that goes beyond the defined arena. He was an honest man, honest in what he wanted and driven to achieve that. Some would say he was ruthless and manipulative. I can see hints of events that might have been interpreted as such. The actions are always factual. The story that ties them together will always be intentional, and driven by the storyteller.

History is kind to him when looking back at the events on hindsight. But he built this history, which a nation of people are grateful for. One could hardly begrudge some one like him that favour. No one is perfect and I doubt he aimed for perfection. Thankfully for a nation of people, he aimed for something more, and achieved that. Was he always right? Probably not. In life we could perhaps think of better conclusions, but I couldn’t think of a better person who might have have been actually able to achieve that, or even something as close to a good chapter as The Singapore Story had. I’m still awed, and even more, I’m inspired.

On Seeking Love

There are those inexplicable moments of vulnerability in our twenties which invade our invincible façade and make us start questioning if there was something inherently wrong with us which prevented us from finding love.

Yes, I’ve been through that.

“Being single is a choice. I refuse to compromise. I’m living the life that I want to live and making myself the best that I can be. I just have not met the right person.”

I’ve heard all that. Not the least from my inner self to my vulnerable self in the middle of the night. It can all be true. But there are moments when the truth is not the answer to the yearning in your heart.

And then I started, “Project Getting Attached”. It’s a posthumous name to the Project by the way. I wouldn’t be so cheesy. Or that frank with myself then. It seemed to me then that the endeavour smacks of desperation. Continue reading “On Seeking Love”

[France] – River Seine

The Paris that I knew before I stepped foot on it was a place I associated with the Enlightenment, with Romance, with Beauty, and with the legacy of endless stories told and filmed. I didn’t know what to expect, but the anticipation was real.

More than the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, or the Notre Dame, the one place that I really wanted to see was the River Seine. It was the place of dreams, the place where Celine and Jesse had the chance to continue the conversation they left behind nine years ago in Vienna. It was the  塞纳河 of many a love songs.


Jesse: Oh, God, why didn’t we exchange phone numbers and stuff? Why didn’t we do that?

Celine: Because we were young and stupid.

Jesse: Do you think we still are?

Celine: I guess when you’re young, you just believe there’ll be many people with whom you’ll connect with. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.

Jesse: And you can screw it up, you know, misconnect.

I often feel that the tales that touch you the most are those with a hint of regret. The younger me loved “Before Sunrise” for its beauty, for its whimsical indulgence of two young adults’ flight of fancy and the promise and anticipation in  the world we are stepping out to explore. The older me broke my heart over the realism of “Before Sunset” and the “what-it-could-have-been” as we look back at the detours we took in our lives and the people we missed.

And because of that, a desire for a stroll along River Seine brought me all the way to Paris.


It was just a whiff as I stood beside him. My heat skipped a beat and the tiniest pause in my words betrayed my surprise. I held my breath for that moment that went on for ever so long. My glance flickered up from the document in my hands into his eyes.

Very surreptitiously, I released my breath in an attempt to cover my misstep. I completed my sentence and  nodded in response to his question. At the same time, involuntarily and in an indulgence of my greed for more, I replenished my emptied lungs with a long, deep and deliberately measured breath.

Be still, my heart. 

On Careers – Paddling in my tiny Pond

As they all say, we are in an age when the concept of “a career for life” no longer works for most people. It’s almost taken for granted now that the path of spending your lifetime with a single employer or in a linear progression in a single job is no longer the advice or the reality. Now people are increasingly realising that the same applies to careers. Few careers last a life time. Sometimes the driving force is internal (i.e. we want a change) and other times, external (i.e. the world changed, and your job no longer existed).

Continue reading “On Careers – Paddling in my tiny Pond”