Upon what base I place my identity…


Reading: A Chinese Life – Li Kunwu
Listening: Daft Punk – Face to Face (Uppermost Remix)
Watching: Korra Season 3

Playing: To The Moon

After a series of happy days, I had a glum day. I had a glum day for a number of reasons, but the main trigger for my evening funk was probably the discovery that I did not win a writing competition.

I’ve not entered many writing competitions in my life. In fact, this was the only competition I’ve entered this year, and it was only after a friend suggested it to me. But for some reason I had a strange sense of exhilaration about the piece I submitted. I knew it was probably a false hope, but I felt magical and optimistic about my chances nevertheless. I submitted my story to a national medical journal, and expected to hear a good result.

I was surprised by how much it affected me to open that email and read: “…unfortunately, your story was not chosen by our judges as a winner…however, we do want to thank you for sharing your ideas with us and wish you better luck next year…”

I went home and tried to figure out why I was so upset. It wasn’t too hard to figure out. Obviously, I ground a significant part of my identity in the belief that I can write. It’s a lifelong passion of mine, and something that I nurture and keep very close to my heart. I spend time and effort on writing (more so in the past than lately…). And I think of myself as someone who writes. Without writing, a large portion of my self-identity vanishes.

But I realised then that perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this. Yes, writing is an activity that is uniquely personal. It’s one where you rely on your gut and your heart. But need to separate my skill as a writer—and other people’s judgement of that skill—from my sense of self-worth.

That got me musing about what else I derive identity from—and what I should be deriving it from. Most of the things we build ourselves on are impermanent, or unstable. Many of us base our identities on looks, sporting prowess, approval from others/social skills, intellect, or qualifications. Many of us base our identities on a relationship. Some of us base our identities on personal qualities–maybe we see ourselves as charitable, or kind, or assertive, or empathetic.

Almost everything in this world is unpredictable and not entirely under our control. Maybe I just need to be more aware of that, and of the things that I am dependent upon. Because in order to have a fulfilling life, I will need to trust my own skills and trust the relationships I have with other people. I just need to make sure I choose the right things, and the right people, to place my trust in :)


I woke up today pretty much feeling fine about not winning the competition, so maybe rejection isn’t so bad after all, heh. I’m not going to win any competitions if I don’t start entering dozens upon dozens of them.

Speaking of writing competitions, I only have one week left of work before I embark on my six months of unemployment and relative poverty!!! It’s come upon me so quickly in the midst of applications and interviews that I’m starting to mildly freak out. People are giving me surprised looks when I tell them I will be essentially unemployed, and generally ask, “But won’t you be bored?!”

Will I? I don’t think I’ll be. When do I get bored? I get bored during reality TV shows; when radio hosts run competitions to win small sums of money; when the conversation is all about work; when I’m waiting in traffic/at the bank/at the doctor’s. But I don’t think I’m someone who gets bored easily. There’s just so much to do, to read, to see, to watch, to eat, to learn!

So tonight I’m drawing up a battle plan for the next few months. So I don’t slip up or procrastinate. This is a once in a lifetime chance, to try out being a full-time writer for six months. Here’s hoping it goes well.



If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly — G.K. Chesterton

I know that one of my greatest fears is rejection.

If I’m not sure of attaining something, chances are I won’t work up the courage to try. I admire people who seem to be entirely thick-skinned — apparently without regard for what others think of them. I’m not aiming for such an extreme, but I know it would benefit me to learn to care less about the opinions of others.

(I believe I’ve made progress on the past few months: I now have the courage to say whatever’s on my mind…and then I spend the next couple of hours regretting my words ;-P)

A fear of rejection or failure keeps us from doing a lot of great things. Applying for that position or award. Telling your parents the truth. Confessing to someone how you feel.

A well-circulated piece of advice for writers is to write as often as you can, even if you don’t like what you’re putting down on the page. After all, you can edit bad writing. You can’t edit no writing.

Maybe a lesson for me to take on board is to give up the habit of writing only when the mood hits. Instead, it should be a daily routine; an automatism; a job, even.

On a different note…I heard something recently that made me feel a bit disenchanted. My mum told me about a missionary pastor who did something terrible against his family and his own morals. He was of course dismissed from the church at which he was employed, but he has left his wife and kids for good.

I felt shocked and angered by this dude. Mostly it was because of what he’d chosen to do, but it was also because, out of all people, he really should have known better. He was a missions pastor. He taught people how to live. Heck, I probably listened to his words of wisdom and nodded in accordance.

I think it’s the hypocrisy that really hit me. And the fact that no one, not even the seemingly best of us, gets much far away from the slippery slope.

I hope that, as I go through life, I’ll find that not everyone has a dark side. The world would be a sadder place if that were so.

At least I’m sure that what he did was definitely something not worth doing. Heh.