Dear past-self

a gratuitous birthday photo

As of now, I have been alive for a grand total of 210,435 hours (that’s one way to be sneaky about not revealing your age, but a bunch of you will probably google it anyway, so eh).

That also translates to:

757,567,200 seconds.

45,454,032,000 electric jiffies.

12,626,120 minutes.

0.02402 milleniums.

0.00000010444477532923 galactic years.

Is that not cool? I would tell you I’ve calculated all that by myself, but I’ll have to expend credit to this nifty program I found here.

Random trivia aside, that’s a relatively long time to be alive! I’m certainly a different person I am today, compared to who I was 10 years ago. For today, I’d like to do something special, and retrogress back 210,435 hours, so I can tell my past-self a couple of things I’ve learnt along the way. Without further ado, let’s get the time-machine ticking. Here we go.

Dear past-self,

photo credit:

1. Grocery shopping. Believe it or not, there will come a day when grocery shopping actually seems more fun and fulfilling than playing computer games and trying to beat that final boss in Sailor-Moon R. You’ll find it an engaging and oddly-reassuring experience, akin to domestic bliss. You do get to push your own trolley. You’ll also develop a love for Asian and Korean grocery stores, with their charmingly stocked rows of Asian sweets, milk-mints, matcha-Pocky, and melon ice-cream.

2. You can live without Pepsi. Aligned with that, you’ll also learn that sweets, junk food, and canned cream soups are really bad for you, and you would have stopped drinking Pepsi entirely by now, in favor of fresh vegetables, fruits, tofu, chickpeas, and clear water (you’ll drink a hell of a lot of water). So you can do it! You can live without Pepsi!

it was free burrito day in uni!

3. Aunty-pride. You’ll pick up “aunty-pride”, and understand the beauty that is paying “half-price” for something usually “full-price”. You’ll also develop an embarrassing but useful knack for spotting free samples, which is pretty awesome, considering that you’ll be getting things like burritos, cheese-crumbles, fresh food slices, sausages, and even pizza, without paying a cent.

credit: Sasaki Asahi

4. Make-up. You’ll learn how to wear eyeliner like a pro. It won’t always start out that way though. Your first few attempts will look something along the lines of being punched in the eye multiple times. But it’s okay. You’ll soon learn how to do it within 5 minutes or less, without missing an inch. Practice makes perfect.

5. Cross-dressing. You should also probably know, that ironically, the reason you picked up make-up in the first place was so you could cross-dress as a dude. Lol.

6. Being a failure. You would have understood the meaning of being a failure, of being lost, of being at the seemingly absolute lowest point in your life. More than once. Multiple times. It will hurt. A lot. Especially if you’ve always defined your value by your achievements and grades. But you would have also understood the meaning of picking yourself up again, and pressing on. On days like this, when it feels like you’re not going anywhere, and that you’ll never get any better, remember that all things will come to pass. You need to press on. It will get better. Perhaps the hardest lesson is learning that sometimes, you do need to crumble empires, and start from scratch. And that’s okay. New beginnings may sometimes be exactly what you need.

“The Missing piece”- Shel Silverstein

7. Healing. Heartbreak will not, contrary to its name, break your heart. Not permanently, at least. Again, this will hurt. But in the bigger picture, you’ll understand that you can heal from anything, even if it takes a while, even if they’ve left the deepest imprints within your heart, even if they’ve lit bonfires in your soul. Trust me on this one, it’s a lesson and sentiment worth learning. And until you do heal, you’ve always got Nutella. And friends. Haha.

8. Plans. You cannot plan life in a neatly drawn map and hope that everything falls into place. Instead, plan and visualise key goals, with (wide) margins of error. Sometimes, nothing will go according to plan, and it will be an absolute blessing in disguise.

a day I stood under blooming jacarandas

9. Take leaps of faith. You won’t get answers by standing still. You need to keep moving in spite of fear, not in the absence of it. That is courage. Remember that every-time you’re about to make a big, important decision, it is going to scare you. Terrify you, even, because you actually care this time and you’re giving all the damns in the world. You’re taking a risk even if you don’t know where you’re going, and what is going to happen. That is a marvellous thing, because you are being very, very brave, and at that very instance, and you should feel proud of yourself.

PS: You’ll end up in a beautiful country with warm people and purple jacarandas because you decided to take a leap of faith. 

10. Validation. The things that you love and enjoy are validated. Don’t be ashamed of them, even if nobody else but you sees its value at that time. If it gives you peace, it is validated. It is real enough, for you, and that’s all that needs to matter.

11. The world isn’t as scary as you think. People are kinder than you think. And yes, you’ll find friends. You’ll never be completely alone. They are good people, who will make you laugh until your sides split, and whom you’ll find not just company, but mutual solace in.

Art by 川野

12. Being alone isn’t so bad anymore. Although, ironically because you’ve been alone for so long, you’ll actually learn  to enjoy being alone. Grocery-shopping alone. Traveling alone. Waiting in airports alone. Having lunch alone. And you’re actually going to prefer it, in some instances. So it’s the best of both worlds!

Not for too long though. All happiness is within balance. Don’t let go of the people you know you want to keep in your life.

13. Confusion. You’re not gonna have all the answers, unfortunately. You’re still confused as hell, and you’re figuring out what to do with your life. But while growing older doesn’t always come with clarity, it does come with the emotional maturity and coping tools needed, to handle things like uncertainty, failure, fear, and loss. Life is not a series of checklists you tick, in chronological order. Sometimes, you need to U-turn and reverse. Sometimes you travel Route C just to come back to Route A. Through the fog, you gotta keep going until you find the sun.

14. Directness. Solves so much problem. Just be honest about the issues that are bothering you. Get it out there. Don’t let it fester.

15. Do not give up. Just don’t. It’s less about the outcome, and more about the damage it does to your own faith in your self-efficacy. It’s going to cost you a lot of guilt. Sometimes if you start something, even if you’re falling apart halfway, finish it. At least, there is honour in that.

16.  Love. You’ve spent just over 2 decades trying to be comfortable in your own skin, and while you are not quite there yet, somewhere in hopefully not-too-distant future, you are getting there. Until then, you’ve learnt to love and forgive yourself for taking a little while, warts and all.

17. Carrots and broccoli take longer to cook. Put them to boil first.

18. Irons. For the love of God, please do not leave irons plugged in, especially if they’re on flammable, easily burnt carpets.

Happy Birthday. To the future. 


2 thoughts on “Dear past-self

  1. I loved this! 🙂 and totally agree with enjoying grocery shopping alone and having the aunty pride! hahaha I sometimes walk an extra 5 minutes to save 5 cents because 5 cents can become 5 dollars in the long run. Keep writing beautifully! – Elisa 😀

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