The Essence of Being

 

In the midst of the chaos that surrounds us all

You are my salvation

In spite of these scars and lacerations

In you I am made whole

 

When you’re all alone in the blistering cold

Your strength will always find you

When all the world seems to have left you behind

This love will always hold true

Behind these eyes an anchor lies

It’s solid, pure and true

A light from within illuminates your being

And that will pull you through

     

Daggers in the heart may rip you apart

But even then the truth still stands   

Nothing and no one can take this away:

The soul and its worth to a man

 

Waste not your time spent shrouded in doubt

It’s this love that we cannot live without

Drink in the knowledge of eternity

And let that set you free

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The Truth About Following Your Dreams

Most of us have, at one point or another, seen or heard successful people giving inspirational speeches and interviews about “following your dreams”. I’ll be the first to admit that I get really inspired and energised after watching a TED Talk or an interview of one of my favourite pop stars (psst – Taylor Swift is my spirit animal).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really seen someone talk about what it’s like to be at the beginning of his or her journey, or in the middle. I almost always see the end product: someone who’s already successful in life and looking back on his or her individual journey. I think it’s even less common to come across videos of people who failed miserably in the process of chasing their dreams.

There are many reasons why dreams don’t come to fruition, whether they be financial, personal, cultural or simply because the Universe has a personal vendetta against you (just kidding, but no really-I think the Universe hates me, sobs).

In my experience, the most common reasons are the fear of failure, self-sabotage, and actual failure.

The fear of failure and self-sabotage are enough to kill many a dream, but in my case, failure is probably the biggest deterrent at this point in my life.

As someone with a long history of mental health issues and a lifelong battle with low self-esteem, it took me a lot longer to chase after my dreams than most of my peers, but I wanted to be successful so badly that I knew I would regret it if I didn’t at least give it a go.

To give you a bit of context:

I grew up in South East Asia, specifically Malaysia: a country that is not exactly well known for the creative arts. People who desire to be artists, singers, dancers, actors or anything even remotely unconventional have a very hard time making a living.

And guess what? I happen to be one of them. Or at least I was.

When I was in secondary school (or “high school” in the USA), there was a streaming system that split students into three “streams”: Pure Science, Sub-Science, or Arts. 15-year-olds sat a major exam at the end of the academic year, and the results determined which stream they would go to for the final two years of secondary school. You can imagine which stream was the least desirable (hint: Arts).

My results were decent enough for me to get accepted into the Sub-Science stream, but I decided to switch to the Arts stream because I just knew that I wouldn’t need Biology, Chemistry or Physics in my future career. All my teachers were surprised or disappointed to see me in the dreaded Arts stream. Those two years were challenging in many ways but I don’t regret that decision at all.

I can tell you one thing: my intuition was spot on, because almost every major life decision I made after that was anything but conventional. Namely deciding to pursue my dreams of becoming a FAMOUS POP STAR-um, I mean a full-time performer. 

Here’s the good news: I did manage to tick some of my goals off my bucket list, namely starring as the main character in a play, being cast in four musicals, joining a dance team and even a choir. I wrote more than twenty songs and posted some of them online. I even won some awards as I chased my dreams. (Three cheers for external validation!)

I wish I could tell you that it was all sunshine and rainbows, but that wasn’t the case.

I failed. A LOT.

I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I got through to the callbacks stage for an audition and failed to get a part in the end. I almost performed for an open mic night with a full band but last minute cancellations killed that dream instantly. I watched helplessly as other people grabbed roles and opportunities that I thought I deserved as well. My low self-esteem and tendency to self-sabotage also prevented me from persevering through the failures, and I eventually stopped going for auditions. I still have a long list of goals related to my former life as an aspiring performer that I will most probably never achieve.

I’m not going to lie, not a day goes by that I don’t miss the stage. The last performance I had was almost two years ago. I still find myself dreaming about singing to a sold-out stadium. Some nights I end up crying into my pillow and stuffing myself with chocolate, thinking about my unrealised dreams and my unlived life.

But I also don’t regret a single moment. You know the saying, “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?” Well, the same thing applies here. Even if all you have at the end of the day is a thousand failed attempts, at least you’ll have gained a lot of experience, and most importantly, clarity.

Nothing is ever lost. Knowing what does and doesn’t work will help you when making decisions about your future. How will you know if you’re meant to do something if you don’t actually do it?

So, my advice to those of you who harbour a secret dream (or several) in your heart: JUST DO IT.

But I’m also not going to sugarcoat it: you’re probably going to fail. Over and over again.

But you may also succeed, and I promise that the moment you do, the joy you feel will completely outweigh the countless failed attempts. And if you’re like me and find yourself STILL “in progress”, you’ll still be able to look back with a smile on your face without regrets. I may not have achieved everything on my to-do-list, but at least I can move on knowing that I did my best.

So go ahead, pick up the phone and call that person. Go for that job interview. Buy that house. Move to another country. Take a chance. 

Because you just might succeed. Or you might not.

And that’s okay too, because whatever happens, at least you tried.

And that’s all that matters.

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