Tag Archive: the freelancer’s life


A Time to Rest

Sunday mornings are best spent quiet.

I grew up Catholic but never really observed the Sabbath. Till today, I don’t think I deliberately set aside time to rest on Sundays. In fact, I know little about its significance.

Apparently, the word “Sabbath” has its roots in Judaism. The Jews have a word, “Shabbat”, which in Hebrew refers to a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. The word comes from the root Shin-Beit-Tav, meaning to cease, to end or to rest.

In fact, Shabbat is the most important ritual observance in Judaism. It is the only ritual observance instituted in the Ten Commandments. (Source: Jewfaq.org).

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I am not religious. I won’t even venture to say I’m very spiritual these days. But from a very secular perspective, I respect that in the bigger scheme of things, there is a time for everything.

And one of these things – I believe – is rest.

Rest is even harder to do as a freelance writer because I don’t work 9-to-5. I don’t have “leave to clear” or a clear concept of “after-work hours”. Worse, I am a mother of twins. When does a mother go off-service?

But on this Sunday, I am reminded that we all need to allow ourselves to take a break from all the labouring. It’s not wrong. It’s not being lazy. And there shouldn’t be any guilt involved.

It may not end up being a Sunday – it may be a Wednesday or a Saturday – but one day a week. And unless we give ourselves permission through a conscious decision, we won’t.

I love this quote by one of my favourite inspirational writers, Maya Angelou:

Photo: dosomething.org

Photo: dosomething.org

“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

Counter-intuitive as it may be, it’s our ego that gets in the way sometimes. But an ex-colleague of mine, Samantha, told me something many moons ago. She said, “We’re not indispensable. The world will go on without us – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

So let’s make rest a weekly discipline – as it was intended.

Let’s first allow ourselves. Then let’s discipline ourselves to practise it into a habit. We may not realise the wisdom of Ancient Wisdoms till we give it a shot.

 

 

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Keep Your Eyes on the Mountain

When I left my Senior Producer job at Channel NewsAsia in February, I stepped out into a void. It wasn’t so much scary for me as it was liberating – because I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew I now had the freedom and space to create something from nothing. 

Looking back, I have taken several steps closer to what I see in my mind’s eye.

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I’m back to my first love – writing – and doing that about 50 per cent of the time. The other 50 per cent, I’ve spent producing for TV. I’ve also researched for and curated two small exhibitions for the National Heritage Board, as part of  Singapore Heritage Festival 2013.

I started the year making a resolution to see at least one new place every year.

In this past year alone, I’ve travelled to Tohoku, Chiang Mai, Melbourne, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Cebu, Cherating, Kota Tinggi, Myanmar, Bali… and in the next two months, I’ll be heading up to Japan to chase autumn leaves, to Krabi, and then maybe the Gili Islands. That makes 9.

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I’ve made two solo trips – to Melbourne and Ubud – both to attend writers festivals. And that has been the most powerful experience for me. I never thought I’d enjoy solo travel, but I realise I do!

Australian Festival of Travel Writing, Melbourne.

Australian Festival of Travel Writing, Melbourne.

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2013

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, Bali.

Solo travel allows me to slow down and go at my own pace, to reflect on things and listen to my own voice. I am beginning to know what I like, what I dislike, what makes me scared, what excites me, and to not judge that. It has made me more open to meeting new friends and making genuine connections with people – something that is harder when you’re travelling with someone.

I intend to do more of that – much more- in the coming year.

With Estelle & Kurt, Seminyak.

With Estelle & Kurt, Seminyak.

“If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Neil Gaiman said something to this effect in a commencement speech he gave: If your dreams are a mountain, you start the journey by walking towards that mountain from a distance. Anything that takes you closer to the mountain, say ‘Yes’. Anything that takes you in the opposite direction, say ‘No’. Keep walking with your eyes fixed on that mountain.

When you get nearer and nearer, what you might have said ‘Yes’ to before will start to become ‘No’ now, because you’re that much closer to that mountain, and you see it so much more clearly. The journey is fluid, the decisions are fluid, it’s always evolving. But always, always, you keep your eyes fixed on the mountain.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else but me. But in my life – with all its meanders – it makes absolute sense.

So as I wind down this work year, and start saying ‘No’ to assignments, I look back on 2013 with gratitude. I’ve been blessed with friends who have come into my life from nowhere to be pilgrims on the journey with me – if only for awhile. I’ve been blessed (beyond measure) with the strong support of my family, without whom I cannot do any of this. My guardian angels.

But having said that, 2013 was also a year I embarked on a process of letting go: Decluttering my life of things I do not need – extra baggage – and moving on lighter. That has made the journey more bearable and more pleasant. And that is crucial because I’m in it for the long haul.

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My dream is to travel and to keep traveling – for a whole lifetime – and to tell stories along the way. Stories that matter. I’ve been a writer, print journalist, radio DJ, TV producer… but if you ask me to sum up what I do for a living? I’d tell you I’m a storyteller.

Right now, I may not see clearly what 2014 holds, or even see beyond 6 months, but that’s the life of a free spirit. And so I keep on walking, staying true to myself. It may be a relatively straight path there or it may be a bit winding (I’ve always enjoyed the scenic route!).

But isn’t that the beauty of creating your own path?

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.