It happened to me when I was still staying with my mum, back in Woodlands. I think I was already in my National Service. probably 19 years old. I can’t specifically recall what was it that triggered this epiphany, but it goes like a kind of dream.
The problem with words is that words are very poor messengers of life. Like this episode, I can’t tell you if it was a dream, or what.
It happened when I was asleep at night.
I usually tell people it is some kind of a message. But it was more than that, the feeling hits me in the depths of my soul.
It simply said that ‘We are all here on borrowed time.’
That’s the crux of the ‘message’ I got. What I knew was when I woke up, I felt the severity and seriousness of the message. And saw the world in a different way.
We are indeed living on borrowed time.
When it’s time for payback, we go, just like that. Everyday, every minute, every moment is time on loan to us, we don’t really own this life we live. We have it, and the next moment, we will not have it anymore.
It changed my life, and until now I’m still messed up trying to figure out the whole idea of what happened that night. The fact that I’m still alive means that I have a little bit more borrowed time to try and figure what that was all about.
The Scarcity of Death
It does darken my personality sometimes as I think about the scarcity of the whole idea of death, I will probably never get to finish what I wanted to do, and I might expire before my endeavour sees fruition. So why start?
Thinking about it, also spur me to do things, because there is somewhat a mentality of urgency, I have to get things done, before I die. Then the other side hit me, why start?
I’m kind of glad that I got that ‘message’. Since 19, I’ve gotten my life’s perspective right. Stayed happy, worked hard, I got a good sense of what is right and wrong, and somehow did what is mostly right, and stayed away from the wrong. When I want to die, I have to die right.
And I know now since we are on borrowed time, this life is a one way ticket with no return trip. I have to look forward, and when I die, I damn well be doing the things I love. I want to die with a smile on my face.
That doesn’t mean that I am always trippy high, not worried about anything in the world. I don’t try to cheat Death. I don’t fear Death, I won;t say I know Death, but I think I know Death a little better than the people around me. Sometimes thinking about it puts me in a dark place, and I can stay there thinking about death and the dark energy it brings. Sometimes, I’m bright and I want to be bright until I die.
It’s not here…yet…
As I grow older, moving into more borrowed time, I can get a sense of Death, and it is not here yet. But it is also not far away.
I think I’ve caused quite a ruckus at my office. You see, the place I worked is in a kind of Service Office, that means a lot of people uses a lot of shared resources. Think of it as a hostel, and you have to share the kitchen, toilet, office equipment and chairs.
That is where I think I became infamous.
Our office unit is located just outside the female toilet. and from where I’m seated, I can see who is going in and out of the ladies. Well, it is not that I want to, but the toilet entrance, is in my line of sight.
So I was on the phone one day and I caught a glimpse of a man, who made a quick knock on the ladies toilet sliding door, opened it and went right it. He wasn’t the office cleaner, he was, at that point in time, unidentified. And for me, an intruder.
My lady colleague also saw from the corner of her eye, and since she wasn’t on the phone, she went in to check it out; and at the same time, had the audacity to use one of the 2 cubicles there. That person, a man, no doubt was in the other cubicle.
The man got out of the toilet, before my colleague was done with her business, and before I was done with my phone call. He was just a about 10 seconds off. I hung up and went after him.
Face off with the Perpetrator
I caught up with him at the office reception, and first asked him, then told him.
Asked: “Did you use the female toilet?”
Told: ” You are not supposed to use the ladies!”
One of the Service Office staff manager came over and clarified what happened. (I felt it was more like in the perpetrator’s defence.)
The Perp explained that the male toilet’s 2 cubicles are both occupied….
Told: “Please use the toilets in nearby shopping centre! I faced this problem many times, and I always head for a shopping centre toilet a bare 3 minutes walk! You are not allowed to use the female toilet!”
I was instinctively pissed, the Perp actually have a reason AND excuse for using the ladies.
My female colleague caught up and asked him the same thing, that was right after I stomped off, making that scene. I wouldn’t want to tell her account, but what I got from her was the Perp wasn’t apologetic at all.
That was the story for the day.
I went back home unsettled and decided to pursue the matter on the Service Office’s Facebook private group page:
The Perp, after being confronted, wrote me an email:
I wouldn’t want to tell you much about the response I got from the Facebook group, but one lady, who is the staff of the Service Office, admitted that she also used the Male toilet ‘in a rush’. Well, that is certainly a ‘WOW’. That is certainly new age, hippie, uber feminism!
Scathing in my reply, I challenged her to use the Gents when she is out at the food centre, shopping arcade, and perhaps she ought to do a social experiment and get guys to use public Ladies toilet, and time how soon the police can get to the scene and arrest that man.
Female toilet is for the female.
Boys, remember this. Under no circumstances should you wander into the ladies. You boys are no longer ‘babies’. There are legal consequences if you do that. Granted that even if you have a ‘medical condition‘, you both shouldn’t even consider using the Ladies, when there is always a choice to do your business somewhere else. And in Singapore, you can always do your business in the right gender segregated toilet.
What “pisses” (pun intended) me off
Of course I reflected on the matter, and wondered what made me got up in arms over the whole matter, without deliberation. I guess I was brought up in a place that really is meritocratic. I don’t care who the hell you are, even if you are the Pope, you still use the Gents. Rules are rules, when the rules are broken, I will speak up, and face whoever breaks the rules.
Like I said, the female toilet is for the ladies. Call me a Gentleman, or a Chauvinist Pig, the ladies stays in the ladies, the men, in the Gents. For that Perp to use the Ladies, he has effectively hijacked the ENTIRE ladies for his own self-centred use. That means while he is in there, would the ladies be comfortable? My lady colleague who went is, is sure as hell not comfortable, but knowing her temperament, she went in to make a point. Unfortunately, her point was well received at all.
What pissed me off was also the ‘self entitled’ mentality. The explanation, and behavior suggests that the Perp thought nothing wrong about it. He can even justified with a ‘medical detail’ which wasn’t even detail to begin with. A simple, empathetic, genuine ‘Sorry‘ would have been great. But what I got was a weak excuse and a nonchalant attitude.
You’re wrong, you’re wrong. When I’m wrong, tell me, I say ‘sorry’, period.
He probably would have gotten away with it, and thought it was ‘no big deal’ until he was confronted by a short, angry Chinese man.
Alright, perhaps, it wasn’t even my problem to begin with, but as I age, I grew into a pretty much don’t give a rat’s ass attitude about who the ‘bleep’ you are. You’re wrong, you’re wrong. When I’m wrong, tell me, I say ‘sorry’, period. Is this the start of civic mindedness for me? I don’t think so, I just do not like people to get away with wanton disregard for gender sensitive signage.
Well, if a guy uses the Ladies, and not longer after that, a hidden camera is found in the ladies, where will the finger naturally point? As a matter of decency and privacy, if the man using the Ladies, made some ‘noise‘ while there are ladies in there, how would the ladies feel? And vice versa? If the ladies adjust her undergarment at the toilet sink and the man walks out of the cubicle, wouldn’t that be embarrassing for the modesty of the ladies? So boys, please don’t be stupid. Next time, when you both grow up, got into a very senior position in business or even in your community, please respect the sign. It is there for a reason.
We found out that in a very bad way when you were 9 years old, which I think is one of your bad years.
Your Primary 3 years
We couldn’t get you to remember things. You constantly have to be reminded of the simplest things. It frustrates the hell out of us when we have to tell you things again and again, for a span of minutes. We thought it was a kid thing, for us to keep reminding you, nagging, and repeating our instructions. But something’s got to break, you results was deteriorating and despite of our coaching and helping, we can see that you are failing and we were desperate, a little scared ourselves perhaps.
The Last Straw
We didn’t know what to do. Simple instructions said had to be repeated countless of times. The last straw came when I told you to write your date format as DD/MM/YYYY, and that was told to you more than once, and you came back with MM/DD/YYYY or something else. I flew into a fit of rage and kicked you in the chest. I think the whole drama was too much for our neighbours and they called the cops, who came, took down our details and that was that.
While I was screaming at you, ‘WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO!?’ ‘DO YOU WANT TO SEE A DOCTOR ABOUT IT!?’ You mother in the room picked up my vibe and checked online, she googled your condition and we learned that you might have Attention Deficit Disorder, which was the first time we heard about it. We also learned that the ADD will be most obvious around the 9-11 years of age, where the child will be tasked with more challenging and complex functions and responsibilities, and this will aggravate a child with ADD conditions.
It didn’t help when your Form Teacher and Co-Form Teacher was too inexperienced and immature to help you with your challenges; you were having problems with your classmates and even with us bringing this matters up to the Form Teacher, she was inadequate in understanding how easily other students can distract you from your work.
We eventually went to seek professional opinion from the Institute of Mental Health, so that we know what we re dealing with and if what we know is on the right track. Most of what we know is what they know, but more importantly, we want you to know that we are seeking help and there is nothing wrong with you. You spoke to the psychiatrists and psychologists yourself and have you explained your behavior and conditions to them and I think you did quite well in your meetings with them.
They helped us by informing your school about your condition and it is not that you are ‘stupid’, it is indeed a diagnosed condition.
We are thankful we didn’t protect you by protecting you.
The Responsible Thing to Do
Once we knew what we were dealing with, the very first thing we want to is to response in an able manner, we want information, knowledge and facts about the situation, we want to be educated, realistic, and pragmatic about what can be done. What we do not want is a stereotype, type cast, and discriminate, blame and label you. We as your parents have to be very careful, and we think the best way to protect you is to keep you informed. And also educate you on how people will see you. We are thankful we didn’t protect you by protecting you.
I know this was the approach when we realised that you have Tourette. We didn’t want to change you, or stop you, make you suppress your Tick. You have it, we will learn about it and manage it. With that approach we try to manage your ADD.
It is not easy, but we have to manage our expectations at a whole new level. There are things we have to explain again and again. we tried to label and colour code your tasks (that helped a bit). Diet wise, we heard that Fish Oil helps (the verdict is still out there). But more importantly, we want you to live your life, your way. Having ADD is you and we have no intention of removing that, we can’t.
What we have is you, the Lim Ian, our child, my favourite eldest son. You’re not perfect, you’re work in progress. As much as I loathe the ADD in you, you are a personality on your own, lovable, affable, aloof at times, very innocent.
Sometimes, I do get angry with you, and I strike fear into your heart, but I have to be very, very aware of who you are. Anger are ineffective as a tool in ADD management, raised voice is the best I can elevate the urgency to, anything higher, I’ll lose you to fear, panic and ADD. this tests my patience and having you as my child change me as a person, man, father and husband.
This condition will never leave you, you are, like what Dr Chng said to you, ‘You have a very special gift.’ and you have to see that you you it to you best. It is very unique to you, nobody else can understand you, and your butterfly mind, constantly fluttering from one flower to another. Ever settling down and never able to hold your attention for long, constantly distracted by yourself.
Just a couple of days back, you came into the room and asked me if I should clear the laundry, and I told you to do so, you took the laundry out from my room and the next thing I know, you are at the sofa, reading your book, and the laundry, left out at the living room, task not completed. I brought this back to your attention, and you told me that while you are kicking the laundry out with your leg, you saw the book and you wanted to keep it, which meant that you walked towards it, and the next thing you know, you sat down reading the book, and the laundry was left on the floor. It was always a new day when you are living with someone who has ADD. Everyday is a new day, a challenging one, and as your dad, I see that joy in your eyes, knows that every moment is worth it.
There are many, many rules out there for marriage. The wife will say ” What’s mine is mine, and what’s his is mine.”
You can check out the web and find more of these nonsense rules for a good laugh.
For your dad, there is one golden rule when it comes to marriage.
“You don’t have to understand the decision, you just have to respect it.”
You see, everyone has their idiosyncrasies, and your mum has hers, I have mine too. There is no possible way for everyone to come to terms in a logical and coherent manner about every single, little, itsy, bitsy teeny, weeny decision our spouse make. Couples can bitch, fight, quarrel over why, your spouse is afraid of cats, why you want to turn on the fan and blow it at the wet laundry. There are many, countless ridiculous decisions, often based on outdated bias or superstition. As long as they are not too extreme, like for example, if your spouse support the Nazi and wants to paint a huge Swastika in the living room, get out of there, that is one decision by a crazy deranged person.
Point is, there are many small little trivia we can quarrel over, and we took such a long time, and committed so much energy, only to break it up over your spouse who do not cap the toothpaste every single night after use?
The origin of my marriage policy probably stems from some professional dogma I learned somewhere, mostly likely from the military. You see, as a professional in any field, you can voice your opinion, have your grievances heard, says that the plan suck, oppose it, but when it comes down to execution, and you have to run it, you have to run it like you own it, irrespective that moments ago, you were opposing it like mad.
We often do not see the bigger picture, on why things have to be done the way it was done. We may question, bicker, bitch, complain about it, but when action is needed, all talk has to stop. It is not productive, nor constructive to continue the bickering while you are acting on the thing you are bickering about, it is bad vibes, it is bad attitude.
The other side of the coin is, ‘ If you can’t do the small things right, you cannot do the big things right.’ whatever… Marriage is not about big things or small things, it is the togetherness that matter, to thrive in a marriage is really compromising on the small things for the sake of the greater good, trying to fix the small things and you’ll eventually lose sight of the big picture. Because it is not a thing, matter, or situation you are trying to fix, you are dealing with a human being, and human beings cannot be fixed, or fixed.
So learn to accommodate to your spouse, as you both have already gone through the dating stage and hopefully as boyfriend and girlfriend, you both would have ironed out most of your individual quirks and funny little things. When your word to each other, for better or for worse, and more often than not, you’ll have to deal with the worse, remember this:
“You don’t have to understand the decision, you just have to respect it.”
We live in a country where almost everyone has a digital mobile devices, in an MRT train, almost everyone has their eyes glues to their 5 inch world. The invasion of mobile devices permeates every fabric of our society, we cannot live without our mobile devices.
There are no shortage of statistics out there pointing to the numbers, figures and percentages on penetration, usage, ownership relating to mobile devises usage vis-a-vis the population and demographics.
It is a tool
These devices, are fun, easy and so, that makes them so convenient to go to. Your dad uses smart phone for work, and play, so does your mum, but we still talk, in person, as often as we can. We watch movies from the net, we do it as a family. It is not my habit to watch movie on my mobile phone, but listening to music; yes, as I’ve been doing that since the time of Walkman.
The tool did not become the master
It is a tool, and I can see that the both of you using it as such, The tool did not become the master. There shouldn’t be a concern since both your parents also use these devices like tools. It helps use in many, many ways, but it doesn’t have an identity over us. Your mum and I are not constantly glued to our phones, we are not obsessed chasing phantom pocket monsters, while I appreciate the technological advances in Augmented Reality, I am not a big consumer of it.
For some, the use of mobile devices has reached an addictive level, it affects relationships, social interactions and human to human (H2H) communications. Sometimes, when I am in a train and I accidentally stepped on someone’s shoes, I’d like to apologise but all I got was a blank stare. I like to plug into my music, via my smart phone and when a person accidentally stepped on my toes, they’d save on saying ‘sorry’ because even if they say it, I’m plugged to music and probably won’t hear the apology anyway. We are all technologically swaddled in our own cocoon.
Diffusion of innovation
Mobile devices has become so prevalent that adults are getting it for the children. In Singapore, middle class affluence means mobile devices are affordable, it is a norm for people to have 2 mobile phones for reason I cannot understand nor comprehend.
In many cases, the parents are buying mobile phones for their children and thus children has become active users of mobile phones as well. You can see in many food courts all around Singapore, a child as young as 5, cannot eat a meal without glued to a show on the mobile phone, take it away and all hell breaks loose.
So I’m sure many people have devised methods, rules to limit and control the use of mobile devices.
Do we have a ‘Mobile Device Policy’ at home?
Do we need one?
As far as your childhood is concerned, you boys still have tonnes of toys, real physical toys. And you boys have each other, and you both are still playing with each other, making up stories, flying toy planes, fighting, chatting, arguing. There is too much banter between you both, that there is simply no need for a mobile device to be introduced into your life. I still see you boys going to your toys and playing with each other so this is still a healthy way of bring up the both of you and in no time, now or the near future, will I plan to introduce mobile devices into your lives.
Yes, I do let the both of you play with the Ipad (thanks to Auntie Kat, who gave it to us), I observed that there seem both of you are not addicted in anyway to it, at any given opportunity. There are times, I have to tell the both of you to stop using the Ipad, or stop playing games on your parents’ phone, but I also have to nag at the both of you to drop your toys and come for dinner.
In short, these mobile devices are part of your play activities, not the main activities. Which is why there is no need for me to restrict the amount of time you boys are on these devices, simply because you boys are not clocking massive amount of time on these devices.
Not keeping up with the Jones
In school, many kids have mobile phones, I didn’t get on for you boys, as there is no need to have one. You mum are there to fetch you most of the time, and if you boys need help, you can head down to the general office and ring us from there. When we are out, you boys are almost never out of our sight and there is no need for you to go wandering off on your own, and have to rely on a mobile phone to reach us. We as your parents, are always never far, in flesh and blood.
Technology is a good servant, but a bad master
While we cannot escape the increasing use of technology, mobile devices and other kind of gadgets and stuffs, we must not forget that we are after all, humans, we use all these to leverage and make our lives better. But ultimately, our lives are better if we deal with reality squarely in the face, and not escape into a 5 inch world, playing games, engrossed with social media, stuck to chasing Korean dramas.
Life will always evolve around human to human interaction. You cannot avoid suffering, making difficult choices, screw ups and dealing with people. Having a phone helps to make our lives easier, but it does not make life. We have to make life, we have to make our lives work, and we must never forget that we are the masters of our own lives, and these devices are not our life, they do not dictate us, define us, and we must not allow ourselves to become unwitting slaves to these devices
Sometimes we get so turned on in life, so engaged, we will burn out, and become living just to get on with life. Too much books, studies, exercise, work, commute can whittle what little life we have got left by the end of the day.
We have governments all over the work who can come up with ministries of all sorts of things, I just hoped that someone can form a Ministry of DayDream (MODD). And have some kind of DayDream Minister!
It is important for us to daydream, and I’m not talking about those where you mindlessly stare at blank space and simply convert Oxygen into Carbon Dioxide. Nor am I talking about those who just people watch, trying to look cool stirring a cup of cold Starbucks coffee at Starbucks.
Daydreaming in that sense is thinking about absurd things. Like what kind of parents police cars might have. Or singing and brushing your teeth at the same time. Just letting your mind wander, and wonder where the thoughts will bring you. Connect the dots in the most absurd and ridiculous ways. Laugh like a crazy deranged person, or giggle with such silliness that you yourself thinks your ought to be living in a mad people hospital!
You need space for that, firstly physical space, then mental space. We live in an island with very limited space. You simply cannot find a place so vast in Singapore that allows you to scream out loud and let the echos of your voice travel to the far corners of the globe, all without having people throwing weird looks at you, or worse, take a picture of you screaming at the top of your lungs, and post it on the social media, with a tag ‘crazy man screaming like a crazy man.’ You’ll be famous for the wrong reasons.
But we need space to get crazy sometimes.
There are pockets of space in Singapore, you just need to find them. Although its not vast enough for you to scream out loud, it is often suffice for you to get grounded and connect with nature, and daydream in the most non-judgmental way ever. Sometimes because such space usually lacks of aircon comforts, you’ll hardly find a single soul in these spots, even if you do, you’ll still get some spatial respite.
Alternatively, you can also find some solace in the library, Singapore has some of the best library in the world for you to get lost in, the unfortunate thing is they do have closing hours and you have to get lost somewhere else when they closes!
Nonetheless, a library is a good place to daydream, amongst the books, if you may, helps you look smart while you think stupid senseless thoughts, of plotting to overthrow the insect world.
Get ridiculous, in fact your sanity counts on it. Absurd thoughts helps us relax, crazy thoughts brings us to roles we can never fulfil. It is in our imagination that we can be ourselves and allow ourselves to loose the realities that sometimes grip us so tightly. We are often so bounded by our routines that we lost our motivations to dream big, dream ridiculously big, so audaciously big, that sometimes, it might become the reality we dream about.