I win everyday

Over the past year alone, I have learnt quite a lot of things about me. There are some traits about me that I dislike because I always thought they make me a weak or useless person. There was a lot of self-hatred but I realized it won’t get me anywhere. It doesn’t make me a better person. After much introspection, I realized that I’m actually winning everyday.

I won’t say I will get to achieve the examples I provided below every day but even if it’s just one, it’s good enough for me.

  1. I’m a highly-sensitive person and that means I can get easily stressed and overstimulated. When that happens, I tend to lash out at people. These days, I have learnt to keep it under control by first acknowledging those emotions and then refocus myself on the bigger issue. There will be times when I fail to do that but I will consciously make sure I don’t lash out at people. I won’t say I’m successful all the time but thus far, I hadn’t have one major lashing incident. And that’s an achievement.
  2. There were a lot of days and I will continue to have days when I’m just outright depressed and didn’t want to go to work. Yet, I still get myself up from bed. Go through the routines and go to work. Once there, I try my best to do whatever it is I’m tasked. So that is a win for me because I didn’t stop. I continued on with life.
  3. I’m also learning to let go of the perfectionism I have for the things I do. I acknowledge that it was something I have to learn to let go because I’m only human. Mistakes bound to happen and it was only through those experiences that I learn to be better. So these days, I aim for 60% to 80% quality of work instead and then seek to improve my work later through iterations. Sometimes it’s a hit and sometimes it’s a miss but I didn’t let it stop me completely. That in my book is another win.
  4. I can get self-absorbed and self-centered, even selfish a lot of times. If I did went down that rabbit hole of “the whole universe revolves around me”, people will remind me. The past me would probably blame the whole world or be angry at the person. Now, I know there is really only me to blame. To be a better version of myself, I try to more empathic to the people around me. I consciously look at what another person need or want and then see if I can provide while trying to balance what I want or need. I win when I achieve both and both of us are happy.
  5. I’m also very self-aware of the fact that I can get self-destructive when certain things don’t go my way. As of late, I have learnt not to blame people around me for my self-destruction because it’s really my shit. My brain generates those impulses that to lead my self-destruction and it is up to me to decide if I want to act on those impulses or not. Thus, it is a win for me every time I didn’t act on those thoughts.
  6. Lastly, my life path is mine to walk. Nobody, not my friends, parents or colleagues get to decide and tell me I should go that route or do that thing. I will do me and make sure I’m happy. A lot of decisions I make can sound and look really irrational to people but I really don’t give a shit. I know I will get upset over certain things I have done or decisions I have made that don’t turn out to be the better one but I also know that if I don’t do those things or make those decision, I will be even more upset and fill with regret. The fact that I can make those decisions and answer to myself without blaming another person is a great achievement to me.

So instead of self-hatred and punishing yourself for being a human, you can start by changing your perspective of yourself and call yourself a winner every time you did something better than what you usually do. That to me is a start to create a different kind of mentality that leads you to become a better person.

My struggles as a feeling-type, emotional and highly-sensitive programmer

Unlike many in the tech industry, I’m one of the few who see the world through the emotion lens and intuition. Gut feelings guide almost every decision I make. Whenever I set down to do something, it must feel right or I just don’t do it. Sometimes, I consciously know that it will be painful for me in the future if I don’t do anything right now.

But often times, gut feelings just doesn’t cut it in the tech industry. You have to convince people of why you think or see things certain ways. After all, it is an industry that is predominantly numbers, logical and pragmatic.

So I found myself struggling quite often to articulate why I feel so strongly against or for something or explain my decisions. It is also a struggle to explain why I know a certain thing will happen or not. And when I finally do find the right words to use to make my stand, the arguments in hindsight are weak most of the time. At the end, people will not take you seriously since you can’t convince them and will brush you off if not reject you.

Rejection hurts. A lot. Then there were times when I’m just outright angry with that. I’ll admit, I did take it personally because deep down, I am really trying to help to make sure you don’t go through the same pain by getting you to be more conscientious and put in place mechanisms now that you can use easily in the future. It also lead me to feel disappointed with myself for failing to convince anyone more than anything else.

That’s not the say I lost perspective. I do know projects are time-sensitive as the customer wants the product out fast and good. Nobody got the time to wait for you to lay down the foundational properly now. I know recognize that people at the management level are pulling their hair out trying to manage the whole project and deal with the customer. I also know that some of my colleagues are swarmed with work while some just didn’t want to expend so much effort.

Ability to multi-task is expected of you when you work as a programmer. I don’t know about the other roles in other industry because I have never worked in those before. But what I do know, from the perspective of a highly-sensitive person, multi-tasking is very expensive in terms of energy use. Then you have to juggle with a whole bunch of demands, go for meetings, eat, and mingle with other colleagues. So by the end of most of my work day, I always feel so drained.

Those are the things that make me feel like just giving up working as a programmer or engineer. I just don’t feel like I belong in this industry because of my highly-sensitive and emotional nature. I just no longer have the same conviction I had when I was younger. My colleagues, despite my efforts to explain my nature, don’t seem to get it. It means that I don’t get the kind of support I need to get through my day or do my work properly. Then, there is the self-doubt. It is also my biggest enemy and leads me to suffer from higher amount of anxiety.

Until the day I finally snap and quit software development, there are a few tips I can think of to help one go through his or her day better. I have to admit I tend forget about them when I’m overly stressed or anxious:

  1. Remind yourself that there is nothing personal at work unless it is obviously a personal attack by your colleagues. Everyone is there to do their work and fuck off at the end of the day.
  2. Be mindful of how you are feeling. Walk away if necessary, collect yourself and try again.
  3. Let it all out at the end of the day by going for a quick jog or run or exercise. Go for screaming therapy if need be. Punch a punching bag or do high-intensity workout.
  4. Avoid any form of chemical stimulants like caffeine. I know as programmers, caffeine is your best friend but if you are highly-sensitive or emotional, caffeine will send your nervous system into overdrive. That will put you at higher risk of anxiety attacks or feel more restless than usual. I have been there. If you really want something to drink that is not water, try mint, chamomile or ginger tea.

Musings – Software Development

  1. It’s always best to avoid rolling your own implementation of things like database connection managers, encryption unless you want to deal with the pain six or seven years later, assuming you are still working on that project. And if you are a newbie or junior developer with less than 1 year of real world working experience, do not even think about rolling your own.
  2. Troubleshooting and debugging a software bug in an old piece of software that you built five years ago without documentation or with poor code style is like hunting for a specific color of needle in a haystack but you forgot which haystack and where it is, even if it is right in front of you. When you finally found the haystack, you forgot which color of needle you are looking for.
  3. If you are a highly-sensitive person and love programming, software engineering as a career may not be the best choice for you. Projects are extremely time-sensitive, multi-tasking is required, majorly understaffed, and people are mostly logical. So depending on the level of your sensitivities and ability to manage those sensitives, you are probably better off working for yourself or do programming on the side. Of course, the company you work for and the culture could affect your choice. If your team and management totally understand it, know the strength of a highly sensitive person and appreciate those strength while seeking to help mitigate the weaknesses, then yes, you can do it as a career. Otherwise, get out and find something else to do. Cultivate a new passion.
  4. Your years of software development experience doesn’t necessary means you can be a senior developer. It is especially so if you haven’t develop the skills to be a senior developer or a lead developer. In that case, either you improve yourself and develop those skills, work for yourself or lower your ego, pride and salary, and continue to be a junior developer.

Growing up feeling inadequate makes you a miserable person

When you don’t have that confidence in what you do, or when you constantly compare yourself with others, you will always feel inadequate. Allow that feeling to go on long enough, you will start to resent your life. This is also how you will develop anxiety disorder and subsequently depression.

I’m speaking from my own personal experience. During my growing up years, adults ranging from my school teachers to my relatives always questioned my abilities to make it in life because of my failures in some things. When I make a mistakes, they would berate me and call me stupid. Or they would find ways and means to twist the situation to make you feel like you are the worse thing in the world.

I still remember the time when I found myself ranked fifth during my fifth year, also my final year, in secondary school amongst 80 students. My aunt was with me to pick up the result sheet and have a talk to my form teacher. On the way home, she commented that, “Looking at your current score of only two As and so many Bs and Cs, you ranking fifth means your cohort of 80 students aren’t the brightest. So your score isn’t that good.”

Being at a rebellious age, I did get quite pissed at her and countered, “At least I got fifth and didn’t fail any subjects.”

All she did was to give me a shrug and a contemptuous yeah.

And in an asian culture—specifically Chinese ones, parents beating their kids for mistakes they made are common. Poor score on your result card, you get spanking. Teachers call up your parents complaining about you making some silly mistake at school, you get spanking. You fail to come home on time or play too much, you get spanking. There could easily be countless reasons why an asian parent will spank his or her kid. I get my fair share.

So when such a thing enter your life from a young age and continue until you reach your teenage years, it’s very easy to internalize it. Before you know it, your self-esteem is gone and you grow up thinking it’s perfectly ok to keep criticizing yourself when you make a mistake. After all, people have been telling you in your face that you are stupid and that’s why you make mistakes. If you are smart, you won’t have this kind of score. If you are smart, you should have been this or that.

So that’s what I did as I got older. I treat myself so harshly that I did contemplate maybe I’m better off dead. So that means I never was once happy during my early teenage years because I constantly fail to meet expectations.

It was only during my three year stint at a polytechnic getting a Diploma in Information Technology that I found something I’m truly good at. I can code better than most people. I could grasp technical concept faster and even found myself teaching my friends. But there were times when I do feel like a failure if I didn’t get the result I wanted. Yet overall, I would say I felt slightly happier.

Then came the mandatory two year conscription service. After that, it was a three year stint at a local university where I studied Computer Science. Because I didn’t keep myself abreast of what’s happening in the technology world nor practice programming, I found myself feeling miserable during those three years. I feel inadequate again. And instead of finding ways to improve my results, I simply let it be and resented myself for not achieving at least a CGPA of at least 4 out of 5. I thought, yeah, I’m stupid and that’s why I only get that kind of grades.

After graduating, I found my first full time job and the same thing happened over and over again. Every mistakes I made I scold myself, blame myself and forget all about self-care or acknowledging that I am only human.

By my third year as a member of the working class, I completely lost my way, feeling anxious, and depressed. A big contributing factor was poor cultural fit at my new company. I didn’t know I was a highly-sensitive person and don’t do well under stress. My self-awareness was suddenly gone. It all became me trying to meet everybody’s expectation and I no longer know what I wanted to do with my life anymore.

It took me a while to realize I am suffering from depression and decided to take control over my life again. I went to see a psychologist, then a psychiatrist for deeper diagnostics, and took a one long month break. I used that time to rediscover myself and figure out what I want to do actually.

Now I’m happier than I ever was but I’m not saying I’m completely above that self-critical nature. I still blame myself rather harshly for poor viewership of my writings but I pick myself up faster and earlier rather than let myself stay on the ground for very long. Because I finally acknowledged that making mistakes, as long as those mistakes don’t kill or hurt anyone seriously enough, is only human. It’s part of the experience. One should learn from it and then do it better next time. I have also learnt to stop comparing to another person because everyone leads a different life, have different personality and want different thing.

I for one wants a unbusy life, surrounded by friends and my family, have meals with them, play video games, watch movies or shows, and publish at least one fiction novel during my life time. Everything else is really just superfluous. Once you establish what you want and proceed to do the things necessary to achieve your goals, you will stop feeling inadequate.

*** This post is also published here on Medium

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

Write daily to improve (not) – Finding my own writing process

I’m pretty sure you will see this kind of content everywhere. I’m writing it anyway because I want to share my process and how I make my writing work.

The general consensus amongst writers, especially those what we deemed to be high-performers based on metrics like how many views, how many pieces of content they put out, how many claps or likes they get, and the amount of engagement they have, is that you should write daily. As wise people always say, quantity over quality. Keep putting yourself out there and not be paralyze by the fear of not putting out a piece of viral content.

Those advices are not wrong. I tried writing daily and now I can just hit publish without worrying whether my content is good enough. The market will decide by giving me likes or views or comments. And thus far, based on those metrics, my content sucks. Big time. But I digress.

Anyway, there are days when I simply don’t feel like writing because they are dry in terms of things that I have done or learnt or seen. My only excuse is that I live through most of my day following a fix routine => Wake up, go to work, go through my task list, do them, go home. Rinse, rise, repeat. Fixed routines can dramatically drain one’s inspiration but it is also one of those things that keep me sane in an insane world.

I’m neurotic in that sense.

And my day job does make me write a lot. I’m a software developer and so I write codes. Those things, when you do them for eight hours straight, they are bloody draining on one’s mental energy. Then there are those menial tasks like meetings and customer support.

I also do freelance development work for a long-time client. My mind is constantly working and churning.

By the time I get home, I’m already floored. I’m a highly-sensitive person and do need more personal time than the average person to relax and clear the toxins from my body.

Being highly-sensitive is not an excuse. I have also been building up my emotional immunity but there will be days when the balance is off and I didn’t have enough time to tip the scale accordingly. That’s when you will see me spiral out of control, have lots of mood swings.

Well, I don’t want that. It’s bad for my health too. My friends and family don’t want that because I do get extremely grumpy when I don’t rest enough. So I will find ways to shut down my mind for just a little while. Have a massage or something.

I’m also predominantly a fiction writer. Those take a lot of time to write. It’s even worse when you ran out of ideas, and feeling exhausted mentally and physically. Yes, you do see non-fiction writing coming from me but those are out there because I felt the urge to write them. Including this one. I am not specifically looking forward to write them. I don’t even write my daily log or journal daily.

Of course, you can say that there are other fiction writers who can put out daily content without problem.

Yes, I know. I do read content from these writers too. Good for them. They found a writing process that works for them. Some of them are even full-time writers. I’m not them. I have a day job that is equally draining for someone like me. I don’t do micro-fictions. I’m a long form fiction writer. The average length of my short story is anywhere between 2,000 to 4,000 words. Those take a lot of effort on my part to churn out. And need a healthy dose of inspiration. And a rested mind, not a moody one after a long day of work.

So I do spent time playing video games (sometimes for hours non-stop), watch movies, exercise, and read. If I need it, I will nap for four hours straight. This is how I take care of my mental state and health.

Then there will be days I’m feeling it. The inspiration just struck. I will just sit there and write. I could hit up to 9,000 words, maybe even 10,000, if I wanted to. After all, I did that a few times when I want to write a novel.

There was once, I even managed to churn out 14,000 words over three days as I was writing a novel. I was in the zone (or flow state) after being well-rested, full of motivation, and inspiration. That was one of my best records ever.

So yeah, you won’t see me putting out daily content just because it will improve my writing. I do believe in consistent practice but rest is equally important. Play is equally important. Balance is key. So I will put out content when I have the capacity to do so. I have other means and ways to improve my own writing.

Now that’s my writing process.

Social Media – Don’t need it for news, you are only making yourself stupid

A conversation today with a friend over lunch gave me an inspiration to write this.

The conversation began when I told him about the fan event for the Marvel’s Infinity War hosted at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore tomorrow. Then he asked, “You don’t have Facebook anymore, how you know about this news?”

For context, the news article that started the whole thing was this: Benedict Cumberbatch drops by Singapore Heritage Festival

So you see, I get my news from traditional news outlet. The intentional act of searching for, deciding and choosing what to read is both liberating and empowering. There is simply no need for the army of bots or AI or moderators used by social media to tell me what I should be reading, or hide news/articles that I won’t be interested in just because I clicked ‘like’ on some articles or pages and ignore some other stuff.

I curate the type of content I like to read myself. This is also inline with my minimalistic lifestyle—that intentionality behind everything I do.

What most people don’t realize when they choose to read news from Facebook or Twitter is, they have just outsourced their critical thinking or research skills to an external system be it human or machine. They don’t really stop to think if what they are seeing is fact or fake and don’t bother asking questions because they ‘trust’ the platform to give them exactly what they want to see or hear.

They also stop realizing that they can get information through other means like forums, actual news sites or even reddit. Like in my friend’s case. He even asked me who else still read the news or even newspaper when I replied him.

That’s just one of the many issues plaguing our modern societies.

Another would be when these people see something else out there that disagree with their world view, they get all upset and call those things ‘fake news’. No one is willing to talk to anyone anymore because they don’t want to deal with that discomfort. At least that’s how I view it.

So my question is, if nobody is talking to each other, how are we going to solve problems or how are we going to progress as a society?

You need to understand one thing. Social media sites like Facebook are good at delivering what you like to read or see because they target your emotion centers through the use of algorithms to show you news or articles with titles that trigger something inside of you. As far as I know, they have experts behind the scene guiding how those alogrithm should be developed to maximize the delivery of content to the audience. Those news or articles delivered aren’t necessarily fact-checked or from a credible source.

These sites also make a person even lazier. And humans in general are quite lazy. I mean look at the amount of technology we have develop just to make our life easy and simple. As an example, I have had friends who skimmed through articles presented to them by Facebook, never checking the source, and then make stupid comments, causing unnecessary arguments or unhappiness. I’ll admit that I was guilty of that when I had Facebook too.

This form of lazy masked by the need for the next new thing will spread to other areas of one’s life too if left unchecked. Soon, people will stop thinking if they want to get red wine or white wine to drink or which car they should get, etc. They will just let algorithm decides for them.

At the end of it, they have just made themselves look stupid and their brains smaller. I for one don’t need that in my life. I like having a bigger brain.

Poem – End Human

Another day gone,
Comes another Day.
Humans Beings,
scurry across the streets,
Goes to work, to school.
Impervious to their surroundings,
Humans continued their pathetic lives.
Construction works continues,
Environmental destruction ensued.
Environment destroyed due to greed,
Thus Humans seeking own extermination.

When humans will stop?
Till the oncoming of doomsday,
or is it till the end of time?
Will nature lashed out, dishing
unforgiving punishments?
Seek to protect, save own skin,
Humans don’t do.
Humans understand not what’s life.

Black clouds from the pipes,
deadly gases consumed surrounding,
damage to environment is doubling.
Will human stop?
Human don’t know what’s stop.
Knowing only destruction,
immature fightings,
Humans don’t stop.

Green goo into the hydrid
of Hydrogen and Oxygen.
Black gold into the ocean,
Resources depleted.
Human continued their senseless doing,
Seeking their own extinction,
I agree.
Love, care, compassion?
Humans know nothing.
Love no oceans, love no trees,
Destruction continues.

Killings, bombings, fire, destruction,
These few words are what humans know.
They seek no peace, they seek war.
Why? you ask. There’s no answer.
I agree fully, extermination of human,
is a must.

P.S.: I wrote this poem when I just turned 18. I found it in one of my archive folder and thought why not post it in its raw form.

Poem – Internet Friend

Young, that we were,
innocent, that we were,
and different lives, we lived.
The common thread binding us,
the Internet.

Internet, a vast digital network,
connects all of us, like vessels
in our bodies.
Data, like bloods cells,
carries life giving knowledge.

Using data as our servants,
transmit our thoughts
and individuality.
Each other we find,
forming thread within thread.

Day by day,
thread became rope,
rope became chains.
Chains became gravity,
We fell in love,
with each other.

Random Thoughts Collection #1

  1. A nation’s infrastructure is a representation of its wealth and management. Singapore government constantly repairs or repave our roads because it is necessary. A failing infrastructure will cost the nation millions if not billions of dollars. Try imagining poorly maintained roads resulting in traffic accidents or goods tumbling off transport vehicle
  2. I never liked working on legacy systems with limited budget. It feels restrictive… Stifling…maybe part of it is because I wasnt there to build it… Thus never get to see it grow up… So yeah….hate to work on somebody’s stuff
  3. You pay money to subscribe to a service. And then you come with an expectation of how the service should be. So if there’s something wrong you’ll get upset and wonder why you even pay for that service. And if the customer support goes the extra mile, you are happy. It’s the same thing as being an employee. The concept is exactly the same. The company pay you for a service and therefore they expect to get their money worth. So does it make sense for company to continue to pay you for poor service? Are you as the service provider even worth the kind of money?
  4. Glass half full or half empty. Neither. It is simultaneously full and empty.
  5. In your writing, it is necessary to achieve a balance between your privacy, authenticity and vulnerability. You don’t want to be revealing too much details about your life but reveal enough to show that it’s real.

Poem – Off

I flipped the switch, lights off.
Out on the street, I see someone ugly,
I turned off, into a dark alleyway
where the lights are off.

I strolled along and felt off. A punch,
a kick, I’m down. People run off
with my things, only to be put off
by red and blue lights.

The attack, I shrugged off.
I made it home, my clothes came off.
In the shower, dirt and blood came off.
My love join me in the showers,
made me go off, then the lights went off.

Again.

It’s definitely my off day.