Saturday, May 26, 2007

People are NOT all the same

Today in a sudden burst of thought and curiousity, I decided to a) look up, and b) do a personality test on the internet. I was piqued by someone's comment saying that I might be an 'introvert'. I had never thought of the possibility before. I have always assumed that because I talk so much, it meant I am an extrovert.

I googled 'Personality Test' and came up with the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. It measures your personality from four aspects: rational, idealist, artisan and guardian. And guess what? One of my result scores are 'slightly expressed introvert'. I have yet to find out what that means. More of what it said about me (Counselor Idealist type):

*'Counselors focus on human potentials, think in terms of ethical values, and come easily to decisions.' -Some decisions, yes, but not on clothes!

*'The small number of this type (little more than 2 percent) is regrettable, since Counselors have an unusually strong desire to contribute to the welfare of others and genuinely enjoy helping their companions.'-Description is pretty true, but surely it's more than 2 percent. I find that these 'small percentage' statistics tend to be exaggerated, such as in online IQ tests that usually give people a higher than average score for the feel good factor it brings them.

*'Although Counselors tend to be private, sensitive people, and are not generally visible leaders, they nevertheless work quite intensely with those close to them, quietly exerting their influence behind the scenes with their families, friends, and colleagues.'-'Private' is not what I would call myself, but my dad would definitely agree with 'sensitive'!

*'Counselors have strong empathic abilities and can become aware of another's emotions or intentions -- good or evil -- even before that person is conscious of them. This "mind-reading" can take the form of feeling the hidden distress or illnesses of others to an extent which is difficult for other types to comprehend.'-Although I have not yet experienced this, it would be supercool to have that ability, don't you think?

*'Such supernormal intuition is found frequently in the Counselor, and can extend to people, things, and often events, taking the form of visions, episodes of foreknowledge, premonitions, auditory and visual images of things to come, as well as uncanny communications with certain individuals at a distance.' this part sounds a little unscientific, I'm not sure how much I subscribe to the 'communications between distant individuals' theory.

*All quotes taken from

Why don't you try one of these tests and find out what there really is hidden in your personality? One part of the website that offered this description has a profound point to make (If you're lazy, just read the bold points):

' The point of this book is that people are different from each other, and that no amount of getting after them is going to change them. Nor is there any reason to change them, because the differences are probably good, not bad.

People are different in fundamental ways. They want different things; they have different motives, purposes, aims, values, needs, drives, impulses, urges. Nothing is more fundamental than that. They believe differently: they think, cognize, conceptualize, perceive, understand, comprehend, and cogitate differently. And of course, manners of acting and emoting, governed as they are by wants and beliefs, follow suit and differ radically among people.

Differences abound and are not at all difficult to see, if one looks. And it is precisely these variations in behavior and attitude that trigger in each of us a common response: Seeing others around us differing from us, we conclude that these differences in individual behavior are but temporary manifestations of madness, badness, stupidity, or sickness. In other words, we rather naturally account for variations in the behavior of others in terms of flaw and afflictions. Our job, at least for those near us, would seem to be to correct these flaws. Our Pygmalion project, then, is to make all those near us just like us.

Fortunately, this project is impossible. To sculpt the other into our own likeness fails before it begins. People can't change form no matter how much and in what manner we require them to. Form is inherent, ingrained, indelible. Ask a snake to swallow itself. Ask a person to change form--think or want differently--and you ask the impossible, for it is the thinking and wanting that is required to change the thinking and wanting. Form cannot be self-changing.

Of course, some change is possible, but it is a twisting and distortion of underlying form. Remove the fangs of a lion and behold a toothless lion, not a domestic cat. Our attempts to change spouse, offspring, or others can result in change, but the result is a scar and not a transformation. '
-Copyright © 1998 David Keirsey, All rights reserved

There's some serious truth in there about appreciating and savouring the vastly different types of personalities that God has put in mankind. It isn't something that can be taught or trained, it goes much deeper than that. And that's what I love about God; He isn't trying to change who we are. He has created us with our unique likes and dislikes, gifts and talents and personality. What He wants to do is to 'transform us from glory to glory' (2 Cor 3:18).

Only then can we truly be everything He has made us to be, making full use of our personalities and unique characteristics to glorify him.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Of Doormats and Aviation Training

Today I finally understand what cliched books mean when they say "her eyes wide, she opened her mouth to say something, and then closed it shut." It happened to me.

I was just about to fire off a snappy retort to someone who super annoyed me with her assumptious comment. Without giving away too many details, she asked me to do something and I was going to do it, even though i was not keen on it but because she wanted me to and I wanted to make things easier for her. All the same I planned to complete another task I was doing first, and without even checking she said, "Waa, only doing that bit ahh!" (to that effect). So instantly the Flame of the Wrongly Accused flared up in me and I wanted to say in a very irritated tone, "I'm going to do this first."

And I was about to do it! But something stopped me before I could get the words out. You know how when you think, you don't think in words but rather are led by emotions or senses? Well, some sense in me reminded me that I had to be patient. And thus I kept quiet.

However the aforementioned flame had not burned out! While I was finishing my other task it roared inwardly. See, it said (metaphorically), being a Christian is being a doormat! Not fighting back, not defending yourself, not demanding your rights! You get stepped on, taken for granted, overlooked, unappreciated by everybody because you won't stand up for yourself! You see? YOU SEE?! And the God you serve was the biggest doormat of all! The only difference is, his doormat was vertical and in the shape of a cross!

All the same, after a while it subsided and, knowing my annoyance was blown out of porportion, tried to make sense of it. Indeed, Jesus' instructions to us, his followers, do sound like "be a doormat". Things such as:

1. If a man slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek to him too.
2. Be quiet when people speak to you in anger.
3. Pray for those who persecute you.
4. Do not seek vengeance or revenge.
5. Love those who hate you.

And so on. His whole life was a testimony to serving others and not himself: washing his disciples' feet, preaching to the crowds although he was exhausted and hungry, even restoring the chopped-off ear of a man who came to kill him.

His selflessness is not an easy act to follow. In fact, it downright goes against the thinking of this generation of "My right"-ists.

But I think of it this way...if my being a doormat for Christ can help to usher someone into the House of God, get someone interested in Him...then, I am willing to be one.

Another thought that I had was, (and this thought didn't feel like it came from me) before we can soar like eagles, our wings have to be strengthened first. Sometimes I'm so eager to fly off and explore my fullest potential that I forget that I need to grow stronger and firmer in my foundations first.

I think this is the period when God is putting many challenges in my life to build up the character I need to stay strong in Him even without the support group that I've had near me all my life. It's sometimes trying but also exciting as I prepare to venture into new territory. I had better prepare well!

Alright, sleep is calling my name and I must not keep it waiting. Farewell dear readers!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Examining my life as a wage worker

This benign, grandfatherly Santa Claus look-a-like would probably not impress you unless you already knew (from diligent study of a History textbook) that he was the Father of Philosophy. He founded the method of enquiry and he never wrote any of his teachings down, leaving the tedious job to his equally outstanding student, Plato.

Yes, this man is the great philosopher Socrates, and he said something that is still relevant to our lives today (actually, many things, but I only want to refer to one today):

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

How true it is! How often do we miss out on important lessons our life and mistakes are trying to teach us, just because we do not reflect on our lives. Working, eating, playing from sun-up till sundown; then collapsing in the bed to's important not to let the routine of daily living overwhelm us and make us into automatic androids (alliteration!) who never think beyond the surface of what they're doing.

Thus, I want to take time to categorise the lessons I have learnt from being a wage worker (approx. 1 month 9 days now) that I hope to use in the future.

1. Be honest.

Being honest about your abilities and reasons that you have to take leave and little things like that make you more trusted by your employer. And if there are any things you cannot handle, just ask for help!

2. Punctuality is important.

Hehe. I'm still working on this. First day I was five minutes early, second day I was on time, by the time the fourth week rolled about I was on average a few minutes late;p But I hope to improve.

3. Friendliness reaps rewards.

People are more receptive when you display a genuine interest in them. And it's a nicer atmosphere to work in too.

4. Working is tiring.

Helps me appreciate the years and years of work my parents had to do for the sake of our family. And also strengthens my resolve to become well-educated and qualified and get a job I enjoy so that 1) I will be well-paid for my time and effort, and 2) working is a joy and not a chore.

5. Time is the most important resource you will ever have.

It's so precious indeed. If I was ruler of the world, I would make it so that everyone didn't have to work so much and they could spend more time with their families and do things that truly matter to them. But I can't, so I'll have to settle with spending my time properly and putting the right priorities in place.

And the last thing I can think of for now (take note, this is no reflection on my employers who are really the nicest people, but just my point of view from where I'm standing)...

6. Schooldays really ARE the best days of your life.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This is for you, Sui Yoke

I passed your old house today. The one you used to live in with your nanny, or nai ma. I suddenly wondered where you are now, how you are, whether life has been kind to you these 6 years after we left primary school together.

I hoped I told you last time how good a friend you were. Although not the best student, you were always loyal to me and someone with a lot of joy and laughter even though your circumstances were nothing to laugh about. You always told me I would succeed. I really wanted you to be able to do well in life too. I wish you would just have worked harder, especially in English as it was your weakest subject. It really isn't that hard to pass the English UPSR exam. But perhaps it was for you.

After we went our separate ways in secondary school, I didn't keep in touch with you. That was selfish of me. I guess I just wanted to leave all of that behind. But I shouldn't have left you. Even though the gap between us was widening because our plans for the future and ideas about life were so different. I hope I never made a foolish promise that we'd be friends forever or something like that. Or else I'd have broken a promise as well.

I heard a year later that you'd mixed with the wrong crowd in secondary school, that you were becoming more naughty and out of control there. In Form 3, I think, I heard you dropped out of school. That shocked me. You really should have stayed, but who am I to dictate the choices you make in life? I don't have all the answers for you anyway. Though in Standard 6 I always advised you to study hard, so you'd have a better future...

Wherever you are now, Sui Yoke, I earnestly pray that you are safe. That you are happy. That you will not be exploited or hurt by anyone because of your trusting, happy-go-lucky nature. It's a dangerous world out there. God keep his angels around you to protect you. Keep close to Him, this Heavenly Father whom you got to know in primary school, the Father who loves you millions of times more than the earthly father you never met.

This is for you, Sui Yoke. A friend's heartfelt wishes and prayers, and I hope they will touch you wherever you are.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Excitement Of The Open Road...

Have you ever been 18? Do you remember how it was like to be 18, and have your whole future stretched out before you, glorious opportunities ripe for the taking?

Have you ever had all the adults suddenly cornering you and asking you what you want to do with your life? Where you want to go? Which place to study?

Have you ever waited with sweaty palms, waiting to hear someone over the phone telling you whether you had won a college place, a scholarship, a competition? Have you ever spent nights staring at your ceiling, wondering how to make a decision that will greatly impact your future?

Have you ever been torn between your wildest hopes and ambitions; and the realistic limitations of finance and your own capabilities? Have you ever agonised about whether your plans were in line with the One who has the highest plans for you?

Have you ever believed that you can do anything that you dream of, if only you try? Have you ever been convinced that in your own small way, you can make a difference for the better; change the world?

To be naive, to be inexperienced, to be hopeful and optimistic and idealistic and pseudo-cynical and insecure all at once. To love for the very first time, and get your heart crushed like brittle ice under your lover's feet.

All part of parcel of being 18, for the first and last time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A Life of Little Survival Value?

I was having a chat with a friend today. As we talked about our interests, sports, abilities and so forth; I realised something about myself which came as a surprise. I became conscious that, although my parents, teachers and church members have invested so much in me in terms of their time, money and knowledge, I have very few practical skills. I can score pretty good results, lead in societies, speak intelligibly; but I have almost zero understanding of some crucial aspects of life. And not only practical skills, but everyday things like being able to swat a cockroach instead of running away and passing the newspaper roll to someone else.

Inventory check. I don’t know how to cook. I don’t sew very well, can mend a button passably but not good enough sew a dress. I can’t play any musical instruments. I don’t play any sport (only jogging once in a while, which doesn’t really count). I can’t draw, a sad disappointment. I can’t speak Hokkien (though I know a few languages). Oh, and I also can’t dance. I never learned any martial arts like Taekwondo. I don’t know computer programming. Even this blog takes a long time to personalize because it has to be done by trial and error. I would definitely be at a loss at how to survive if I got lost in the jungle; because: I can’t cook (as mentioned before), I’ve never hunted or fished, I don’t know how to read the constellations, and I don’t know first aid (besides applying a bandage and antiseptic).

So what did this realisation mean to me? It actually humbles me because it reminds me how dependent I am on others. I don’t work for a living yet, so I still live on my parent’s money. Everything I eat and drink, wear, read and even the bed I sleep on belongs to them. Likewise, my whole lifestyle hinges on this comfortable society where everyone looks to someone else to solve any problems not directly within their field of expertise. Child not doing well? Send to tuition. Don’t like to cook? Cater food. No time for chores? Get a maid. And the list goes on.

It reminds me of Piggy; the civilised, adult figure in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. He could not survive on the tropical island where survival of the fittest reigned, because he was conditioned to polite society where intellectualism was respected and all basic needs were taken care of in the community. If I were on that island too, would I perish too?

Probably, but it’s quite unlikely that I’ll ever find myself in that situation. Perhaps, more importantly, I should be learning how to run the little things of life on my own. To fix a leak, to read a map properly, to *gasp!* cook a few dishes. These abilities may not be highly valued in our specialised-skill, knowledge-centric world now, but it will certainly make life easier even for a high-flying, busy professional, right? (But don’t tell any of my chauvinistic male friends who think it’s my duty as a woman to cook that I’m going to learn it.)

My interests so far have often been centred on those things that I feel I can do well: acheiving results, organising events, leading a team, speaking, writing and singing. Maybe it’s time I broke out of that self-imposed mould, and surprise myself (and those chauvinistic male friends) with just how resourceful and multi-talented people can become when they dare to try something new. Perhaps this is the period in my life when I can unearth and explore another side of me, free from the tyranny of exam dates and Everest piles of schoolwork.

Another point not to be scoffed at, being able to do things dispels the notion of one being a nerd, a bookworm, a geek…and might even make someone…dare we say it…cool? Of course, that’s not the main reason I’d do this. Definitely not. Out of the question. No way.

All the same, enthusiastic as I am about upgrading my life to one with (a little) more survival value and becoming a more multi-faceted individual…

I’m still not keen on squashing a cockroach.

Originally written on 6 May 2007, when the Teh Tarik Academy was shut down temporarily due to modem failure.

Add: Due to an change in working plans soon, the guitar and cooking part might not go through. But the spirit of the essay still remains, anyway.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

My Puzzle

Actually, I don't think this is a very good work. But sometimes, you cannot wait till everything's perfect before you step out and put yourself, your work on the line for others' opinion and criticism. Perhaps that's the best(only) way to improve, after all. So, here's my imperfect offering, be honest and kind, please.


When I was young, the pieces of my jigsaw puzzle all fitted together. It made a beautiful picture, rectangular in shape, all neat corners and ends. Life was full, there were no dark shadows to plague my dreams; or even when there were, they could always be chased away by a comforting bedtime tale. In that story the jigsaw told, good guys always won at the end although they had to suffer through many trials first, and bad guys would always be punished; in a non-gory but final manner. Love and family would always triumph over all. It was a world of happily-ever-afters.

Somehow, as the years went by, the puzzle changed. Suddenly there seemed to be no corners anymore. Every piece was a stand-alone, a clue to the final picture yet unexplainable on its own. Every day and month brought pieces of this new picture into my life. At the same time, the beautiful puzzle of my childhood was disintegrating.

Some days, I get a piece of sky and I’m happy, because it reminds me of safe, warm things: family, friendship, loyalty, kindness. It doesn’t explain away all the negative things, but it reminds me that good things exist. Other times, I’m almost shattered when a fragment of dark comes my way –shreds of mashed-up hopes and dreams, torn pieces unconceivable tragedy, strips of mistakes and regrets. And it seems sometimes that there are nothing but grey and black pieces in this jigsaw and if that’s all I’m going to get, what’s the point of continuing to assemble it?

Once in a while, but more often now, I can figure out a patch of the puzzle but there’s a hole in the middle. Without the missing piece, the picture cannot be understood. So I look everywhere for it, asking others where I could find it: and to my surprise and despair, they say there are always missing pieces in the grown-up puzzle! You just have to live with unexplained mysteries, they say. I’ve refused to believe that, I think if only I can search hard enough, I’ll find those precious answers somewhere. I just need to try harder, that’s all. They sigh and tell me that I’ll see their point of view, in time.

Many people I meet are making their own puzzles, too. We show each other parts of our whole but never everything. Still, some people wear their puzzles on their sleeves. It’s very easy to see the picture they’re going to end up with. However, you never know. One piece more or less could change everything. One decision can change the course of our lives, too.

My puzzle is far from done, and I’m figuring more of it every day. I know this is going to be my life work, because each day is going to give me more pieces of the jigsaw; to sort out, to group, to put together in order to become something meaningful. I press on because I believe that one day when it’s all over, I’m going to stand back and look at the puzzle and look all the pieces I’ve put together: the light, the dark, the grey and the colourful and even the missing holes: and it will finally make sense, it will be whole, complete.

What an awesome sight that would be!


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A hopeful beginning!

Finally a name that is not already been colonised!

I admit that, for a species that prides itself on making one-of-a-kind specimens, we tend to have the same ideas. The same inspirations. The same corny ideas to use as blog names after which they are abandoned after two posts read by none other by the blogger and his/her cat.

Anyway, I have no particular 'theme' for this blog. I don't want it to be the usual, humdrum, 'yeah man, this is my sucky life' kind of tell-all blog. And yet I'm not quite at the intellectual plateau where blogs have been shaped to become well-oiled media machines that function as powerful opinion-shapers and forums for public discussion and debate.

So I guess I'll take it as we go along.

If you're here for the first time, I welcome you. Sit down in a nice chair, close your eyes and imagine a steaming hot cup of teh tarik in front of you. Order some kaya toast with butter too, if you like. And we'll talk like old friends. Or rather, I'll talk and you can give comments.

Crossing my fingers and hoping my fervor can outlast the two-post probationary stage,
The tea-puller.