Defining 2019

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We’re hours away from 2020- which seems both full of promise and challenge. I vaguely remember how, about 3 decades ago – the then Prime Minister of Malaysia (who’s once again the Prime Minister of Malaysia – who would have imagined?) shared on his ambitious Wawasan 2020 – and how as a youth, it sounded so grandiose and distant.

Yet, here we are literally moments shy of this big decade switch – and I feel.. weathered but hopeful. Equal parts calm and anxious – enough to make me want to sit up straight, and pace my breathing. A bundle of mixed feelings, really.

2019 rounded up with painful lows and enough highs to leave me cautiously optimistic but also open to the fact that anything can happen.

Here are 4 defining moments for 2019 that I wish to remember:

  1. I became a mother! Indisputably, the biggest life blessing and life milestone I’ve experienced to date and also one accompanied by large sacrifices and huge responsibility. This big life transition has left me with so much joy and love in my heart that has made my husband and I want to do better and be better for him. And although there is nothing in this world I would trade my little baby and the honour of being his mother for, it would be a lie to say it’s been a walk in the park. Despite being blessed with so much support from my mother in law and extended family that has allowed me to still work, there have been sacrifices too. The daily parenting struggle: less sleep, milk- diaper- food demand-clothes-creams and lotions’, insurance (etc etc) selection and demand- supply planning and inventory management, developmental activities, milestones and time together is transcended by the sobering responsibility of raising another human – whom you know will be shaped by the values you live by and the decisions you make. That continues to place much pressure. Mothering and working has left me less room for my parents, friends and passion projects – but I remain optimistic that things will improve in 2020 with better planning. (ever the optimist, albeit a more cautious one)
  2. A close mentor was hit by a grave illness. Once a sprightly and fit man, I broke down in tears upon seeing him immobile and unconscious. I’ve seen this happen before to another dear high-flying corporate mentor – but seeing this happen once again, to another person whom I’ve worked with so closely in the past couple of years, and who has both inspired and taught me so much, has shaken me deeply. Life is fleeting and unpredictable, and health is truly everything. As a person of the Islamic faith, I take comfort in the belief that God is the best planner, and that everything will unfurl exactly the way it’s meant to – regardless of what we think is best. It has also reminded me to not take the future for granted – to take action now and consistently for things that matter. To call my mum and grandma *today*, to invest in self-care *now*, to take time to plan for your loved ones in the event that you’re no longer around, and to take steps to making that dream come true now. It has reminded me to translate the gratitude of being blessed with yet another day in health by being present and striving for excellence in all that I do, with humility and heart.
  3. Obama’s sharing – Always act from a position of hope and courage, and never of fear. Living in a competitive Asian society like Singapore where certain versions of success are more celebrated than others has left me with several FOMO (fear of missing out) and vulnerable – “am I enough” moments – and I see this present in the way conversations with my peers pan out. The subtle need to compare how we’re doing relative to others is but an outcome of a society that’s constantly measuring who’s younger, better and more accomplished. This one take-away has reminded me to focus on what matters. Acting out of fear –whether it’s the fear of missing out, or fear of not being enough is unproductive as it drags you away from an empowering position of what -can-I-do to uplift this situation to one of helplessness (what-will-I-lose-as a result of this situation). Changing our frame of mind and attitude is truly half the battle won, already. For with the right mindset (and coffee), you can conquer the world.
  4. Wealth and talent are impactful enablers, only if you’re not afraid to use them.  This was something I grappled with a large part of my life. Having come from humble origins, my goal for a large part of my life was to study hard, gain a stellar education and earn a ticket to an awesome well-paying job, save up and work for the rest of my life, and maybe retire someday. Yet, gone are the days of the iron rice bowl. Lives are disrupted with new technology and bravado by individuals who care to change the world. Stable corporations with decades of existence can be rocked overnight with the advent of new hungry underdogs who change the way problems are defined and who dare to introduce innovative solutions. All of us – are blessed with our own inclinations, talents, experiences and inspirations – that could translate into us becoming agents of positive impact should we choose to. But, it won’t be possible until we can truly embrace the entrepreneurial mindset that dares to use wealth, time and talent for their true noble purpose, and to invest them where paths are less forged in solving problems that matter.  To enable greatness, you must dare to be different. I’ve seen so many remarkably talented individuals – from ivy league institutions whose sole goal is to get a leg in the door of corporations, and run the machinery of large well-oiled corporations – sure, that’s not a bad way to live at all, and indeed, to each man, his own. Yet, I can’t help but wonder how amazing it’ll be if more of these outliers would dare to put that talent, persistence and drive into solving real problems that aren’t getting the time and resources of the day, that they deserve. What I’m saying is, if we realise, how much impact we can bring, to the world and lives by choosing to solve one problem – be it as a side hustle/ a passion project or even a full blown life-consuming gig, we’ll all be the richer for it. This entrepreneurial mindset – is something I realise most of us are not born with – especially not in Singapore, where thankfully, the system works and for a large part of our education, we’re taught to fix and optimize, as opposed to create and innovate.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading these. What were some of your life-defining insights gleaned from 2019?  Leave a comment – I’d love to read them.

Here’s wishing you a fantastic 2020 ahead – one filled with optimism, bravado, courage and hope. Let’s make it happen!