Balance

This is my very feeble and subjective attempt to explain my current relationship status. It is by no means accurate or meant to be objective. Rather, it is a way to consolidate my thoughts on what  the terms ‘dating’ and being ‘in a relationship’ has come to mean for me over the years as I was growing up.

I must have grown up indignant about the need for companionship from the opposite gender. My education in an all-girls’ mission school for ten whole years has certainly etched that feminine identity and independence in my fellow schoolmates and I. My parents’ rocky marriage and subsequent divorce throughout my Primary School years must have also played a part to warn me that first of all, marriage and relationships may not last; and second of all, you did not need a man to be complete. (You did not look far beyond my mother to be persuaded – she is the epitome of independence and success, having raised four children on her own during the most turbulent times of her life.)

It was in Secondary School when my family began to go to church regularly and the church became an essential part of my teenage years. Although I started to develop feelings (more like an interest) in friends of the opposite gender during this time, I never acted on it. During this time, I met girls who got squealish and excited being around boys at some of the combined church camps and events. At one camp, girls skimpily clad in bikinis were at the beach playing beach volleyball and water polo with the boys. Needless to say, I was hugely affected by the culture I observed and wrote an article about it, expressing my discomfort at the inappropriate outfit and behavioral choices of teenagers, as well as implying my conviction to remain blameless and pure.

I read my first teenage girls’ magazine Brio shipped monthly from Colorado Springs. It taught me how to be discerning about many things related to my faith. It also introduced me to Joshua Harris, and his huge release, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, a romantically unromantic story about how he and his wife met and kept their love pure before God. What I took from this book was a deep (and probably very misguided) conviction that the concept of ‘dating’ is secular and unbiblical. In fact, ever since, I frowned upon spending one-to-one time with guys I did not know would be my future husband.

It gifted me with a very unrealistic and idealised version of love. On top of that, my mother cautioned me against seeing any boys until I quote, ‘grew up and started work’. She may not have meant it verbatim, but it was a guideline a shy girl would live by. In any case, junior college came and went by too quickly – I had no time to mingle socialise and fall in love. Growing up in a conservative family did not exactly give me reason to challenge these beliefs and guidelines either. I did not know how to look good, use cosmetics, buy pretty dresses or do my hair, and my mother did not exactly have the time to teach me. Everything I knew I learnt via trial-and-error and from my friends. Oftimes I looked like a fool.

In university, my ideal romantic story continued to accompany me. Each time I went out with a guy for lunch or dinner – alone, I would start questioning myself: ‘Did I like him more than a friend?’, ‘What was my purpose?’, ‘What was his purpose?’ and it hardly ended. I over-complicated and over-analysed every friendship I had with a guy, unless (1) he was already attached, or (2) he was not a Christian. I did not envy my social circle (given my very cautious way of managing my friendships), but I did not know how to balance it either.

And sadly, now that I have graduated and started working for nearly four years, there is barely any time to mingle, widen my social circle, meet new friends or invest in friends who could be potential boyfriends. I have fed myself with my own career and self-love that I find it hard to break down the idealised Joshua Harris-love I carried with me for so long.

It is only lately that I admit how imbalanced, and possibly hurtful, this view of love is. We do not lightly invest our heart and mind into relationships, but neither do we hold back from getting to know someone just because we are not sure where it may lead to. The truth is that we will never know who that person may be, and by writing off every single person you might like, just because there is no certainty involved, you are in actuality writing off your future.

It is after all, like our plans isn’t it? We never know the full picture or the final destination, only God does. But that doesn’t stop us from taking the plunge to try something radically different, or giving new ideas a shot to see where it may lead us. I hope 2015 becomes that kind of year. One of self-fulfillment, passion and love.

Head Space during the Lunar New Year

Things seem to just spiral on, event after event, day after day, week after week, the moment 2015 started. It is a little too quick to handle, too fast for me to stop and ‘smell the roses’, to notice and appreciate the other insignificant little things that could together make up a very pretty picture.

In yesterday’s “MIND YOUR BODY” Living column, I read about the necessity for ‘head space’ – the alone personal time you have to be disengaged from all electronic (and non-electronic) distractions, and just reflect, think and pray about life and you, and everything else that truly matter in kairos. And I realised I have not had that time to pause, reflect and write or read, as a form of re-calibrating my lifestyle, if you would have it.

Even during the festive Lunar New Year period, the home visiting can easily become one of those very things that demand your attention and energy. Which is why I am hugely thankful for the time to break away and find some time to think about how the past 2 months have been since the start of 2015, even if it comes at the expense of my marking.

I am thankful for friends. The past two months have been manageable because of friendships that support. S and our random dinner dates when we get too zonked out from school is always a refreshing way to end a long day of fire-fighting or nonsense. When we get upset our colleagues are there to give us a hand or offer a piece of candy to brighten up our day.

I am thankful for my students. As miserable as they can make me, they are also the meaning behind what we do. We want them to learn, we want them to mature, we want them to become people of sound and steadfast character, who is able to find succeed in life in the future. They challenge me to take my job seriously (no half-hearted lessons!), to find ways to make myself better (a good adult role model, as I try to walk the talk), to inspire me when life’s circumstances make them hardier than me.

I am thankful for my family. There is always a home to come back to, a safe environment (although there is not much room for a study/work space) to relax and unwind in, a working television set (haha! what could be more important?), my own bedroom (because my brothers are abroad), and the comforts of a stable loving family.

I am thankful for my job. As practical as that sounds, it provides me with the stability and financial independence to make decisions such as where to have dinner at, what clothes to buy, what movie to watch. It gives me something meaningful to do and challenges me to make myself better and more confident than previously.

We are going for an overseas camp next week. Here’s hoping everyone stays safe, and the trip is an uplifting and positive experience for all of us!