Monday, February 28, 2011

The Cheat

Monday 28th February, 2011

Dear brother,

Today, I’ll talk with you about cheating.

Cheating is when you having the thoughts/plans of attachment with another party, and then lie about it to your partner. Therefore, cheating is not merely an act of infidelity, but the state of emotional disassociation and loss of honesty, which is the core of any lasting relationship.

I know this guy (OK, in adult terms, it means myself) who has been married for a while now. 3 years almost, to be exact. His wife is a kind and wise woman. He learned a lot from her, about life, about love, integrity, and what’s important in life. However, the marriage has been stalling, for a while now. The thing is, he feels stuck, in a foreign place that is her home, not his. She has this huge family, and everyone else is more important than he is. She knows what he can do and how much he wants to live the life he envisioned, but she can never give that to him.

Entered the second girl, named M. She’s a young, soft spoken girl, whose family is hugely rich and successful, worldwide. She offers him a chance to return home. She offers him something he knows and desires that he can do so well. Only catch? He has to prove himself to her family, to start from scratch. He is weary of that (proving), but in his heart, he desires home, and a chance to break free…

And then there was N. She’s a successful business woman, young, and attractive. She offers him home, and offers him a chance to break all definition of age and limits, the sky he always wanted to reach. All she asks is for his time and his commitment. He has to leave his wife.

Now, I know none of this makes sense to you right now (In due time it will, I promise). But let’s consider this guy for a minute.

He’s probably not gonna leave his wife and run away to reach for the sky (with N), or even try that (with M). He is just pondering the thought. But then he lied to his wife about it…

You see I have never approved of cheating. Honesty means a lot to me. But, it then makes me wonder, in life, when the choice between previously promised commitment and lifetime aspiration comes down to one, gun point to the head, what would one choose?

I would choose the latter. I know I might be signing myself up as the “Asshole of the year” here, but at the end of the day, I’m just a very very young guy trying to live my life without regrets.
Just one advice though, once you choose, someone will always get hurt. At least, have the decency to be honest about it. That’s what I would tell this guy to do.

So now, what is his name? He’s “L” for death note. (See, it’s L, M and N :p) OK, just kidding.

With love

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Photographer

Friday 18th Feb 2011

Dear brother,

I would officially stop calling myself a Photographer. From today on, I am an aspiring Light writer.

I met an extremely cynical and jaded Photographer today (coming from me, you know how extreme he is). He was asking for assistant part-time, so I thought it’s good to learn. He wrote a long email explaining his expectation. No pay for 5 shoots. Need to check quality. Need to learn 1 year before you can shoot wedding. Cannot complain even when the pay is $100 for 10 hours shoot. Need to be humble and learn. All of which, I thought, for someone so experienced, I am willing to commit, give and learn. And then he went on about how other Photographers (he named names from famous people in the industry) betrayed him. He requests me to give up my brand (Pacevolution). All of which I was about to accept. Except for one thing, my copyright. Whatever I took will be branded under his group. For $100 bucks a day, I guess I’m not willing to give that up. My stories. My view. He maybe amazing, but he won’t take my voice. I know to him I’m just a young inexperienced apprentice trying to suck skills out from someone else, even when I was saying repeatedly I do this out of my love for Photography, and my genuine interest for people and humanity.

It is sad to see how cynical someone becomes.  Photography is supposed to be about story telling, about life. And since he is not a studio and wanting to do this out of passion, I was thinking being so condescending and demanding is oddly unsuitable. But I guess when passion becomes a business, it’s hard to say. He asks and request for it to not be a studio business, and for his apprentice not to expect that, and yet when it comes to copyright, he said since money is exchanged, the copyright is owned by the studio/company/group.

I’m not sure if it is fair, since everywhere it would be the same for business, the fact is this is Singapore, which wedding is a crazy expensive extravaganza, it has driven people to be cynical, competitive, and losing that of what most important: The people and the most precious moments in their lives.
In the end, I’m not a pro. I am starting out, with passion to learn. I guess I’m just too idealist to learn this from a business man. I need an artist to teach me…

And I know, in my heart, I will never use photography or painting as a business. It destroys the will to tell stories that matter… So yes, I am not a photographer. I’m a writer. I write stories through my lens. And I know my skill is junior (as he called it) and there are a lot more to learn, as long as there are still stories to tell, I will continue to learn it as my passion, and my life aspiration.

I just want to leave this place more every day. It’s so hard to just even work for your passion here.

Brother, it’s too, is my conviction for you NOT to become cynical. I need to protect you from that, too. Life is hard, but we don’t need to be harsh and condescending to each other to make it even harder.

With love

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Plan

Tuesday 15th Feb 2011

Dear brother,

I was happy you called me yesterday just to say hi and Happy Valentine’s Day. It was a highlight of my otherwise totally shitty day (Bad day at work + racist jokes about Vietnamese repeated on the radio + hostile things said about foreigner PR in Singapore + fight with my ex). It was as if the universe is giving me a sign to fuck off.

Anyhow, I made up my mind. A lot of time in my life it seems I do things out of the blue and totally impulsive (going to Singapore, going to US for NOC, left home for 4 days to scare mom, quit my job without a job and going to US for 6 weeks), but a lot of time they are the result of a long pondering and questioning for a quest of life. This time is no different. I’ve decided it’s time to carry out the next phase of my life. I have thought about it for a long time. And now, I sat down and planned a timeline action for it, step by step. It shall be called, the Plan.

It all made sense to me, somehow. And I know in life nothing will go as planned, but having the big picture in mind of what have to be done and how many tasks are there ahead helped. It at least calms me down with all the manic crazy desperation lately. I just need to stick with it, with patience, grace, and hope, to move on.

And that’s what I can tell you, brother. Life is short. I know at 15 it seems life is so much ahead and so unclear. The bad news is it’s still like that when you are 26. The good news, however, is that you learn to deal with them, the uncertainties of life. You learn to plan, to weigh your options, and to go ahead. Be brave, and do what’s right for you. Because, again, life is short.

It’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna be tiring. It’s gonna be at times heart breaking and exhausting. It’s life. And I think I am ready for it. Because I know at the end, it’ll all be better (I know, for a cynic, I have a lot of faith).

Time to move on, with “The Plan”.

When the time is right, I’ll share it with you and mom, and dad, and my friends. For now, it remains mine. J

With love
Your brother

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The beginning of the end

Sunday, 13th February 2011, 1:07am


I'm moving house today, again. I can only pray the new landlord is better. I don't ask for much. I'm not asking them to treat me like their son. I just needed a quiet place to lay my head down and rest, a place to do laundry without the landlord banging on the door every 5 mins while I was talking to mom because she wants me to remove my clothes from the machine. A place where people don't enter my room and looked through my stuffs when I'm not home. I just needed a small cozy quiet space to be home.

The truth is, for the past week, I feel like Singapore is rejecting me, in every corner, as if I am a virus. Work has been kinda frustrating. There will be no training and I'm just doing a programming role, which I had communicated with the senior executive is not my career's goal. Living, well, as you know, my landlord is crazy and I just have to keep packing.

It's Valentines' Day again. And I'm all alone, again, for the 7th time. I guess I'm so used to being alone it should not mean that much anymore. Somehow it does. I was that romantic teenage guy who recorded my voice, called my girlfriend, standing outside her door with a rose. I was.

I feel all alone. So much so I become hyper sensitive to things around me. I'm so terrified every time I receive a new email from the new landlord. I feel rejected every time my friend doesn't turn up for some events I'm trying to organize. I feel left alone when my god Dad told me to call back and he needs to settle his things before he can help me (which absolutely makes sense). I feel insulted when my senior manager was joking "Are you doing any work or not? I see you keep reading documents?". I am in constant battle mode.

My friend advised me wisely: "Focus on what you have, rather that what you are missing". I have a loving family in Vietnam. I have a brother who needs me there in Vietnam. I have an understanding and kind god dad half way around the world. I have someone who loved me and is still waiting for me, to be with them, from a very far distance.

I have nothing left here. I realized. So well, time to plan for the end, a responsible, sensible, end. It won't be immediate, because I have grown enough to not just leave. But it will happen.

Sometimes, brother, it is just so hard to be all alone on your own on some city that is packed with people (who just don't care). I wish for you to not go through the same. I will ensure if you study overseas you will stay with me, and if you study in Vietnam, you'd have a decent life.

I promise. :)


Time to prepare to go. This year, I'm heading out of this space.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Thursday 10th Feb 2011, 5am

Dear brother,

It's almost a week since I got back here, and I already almost wanting to burn the place down.

A few rejections. Some lot of isolation. I made some efforts to do the impossible. For the change I wanted. No response from the universe. It is just rejection after rejection.

Well, I guess there were a time I wanted to give up.

But then again, brother, change doesn't happen over night. It takes effort, and commitment, and discouraged hearts. And hope.

I was thinking I should stop giving in to false hope and put in so much efforts and time where it doesn't yield anything. Except, there is nothing false about hope.

So here I go again. The uncertain times and hard times as life has always been. But I guess I grew to know life is not easy for anyone. We just have to stay with the struggles, stay with the frustration, and move on forward.

For now, I just hope sleep comes easy

With love

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A conversation with an long time friend

Tuesday, 8th February 2011

Dear brother,

I wanted to share with you a conversation I had with my long term ex-girlfriend (yeah, it's complicated). She's the first girlfriend I had and we had it on and off for 5 years, so sometimes it just feel so natural for us to talk and be with each other (she occasionally holds my hands and I occasionally thought of her as someone near. We still call each other dear). It was on the afternoon of my birthday, in a crowded Vietnam cafe, and the 2 of us speaking English, as if we are in a world of our own. What's the point of this? Well, to share with you what seemingly 2 healthy, successful 26-year-old struggle with, and how someone you met and fell in love at 15 can be in your life 10 years later. I shall call her She.

He: So what's the deal with the engagement ring?
She: What ring? This? It's from the guy I'm dating.
He: So when is the problem?
She: The problem is he has a girlfriend.
He: Well, I'm not judging. But is there a future to this?
She: You know, you can always be with someone, someone who is there for you, to listen to you, to care for you, even when you know fully well that you two have no future together
He: Like an emotional prostitute?
She: Yeah, like that. We rape each other off the emotions
He: That's why I broke up with my girlfriend last year.
She: You had a girlfriend?
He: Yeah, for a while. But then she wanted something more, something I was not ready to give. She wanted to settle down, get married, have a happy ending. I thought I was ready for that. But then I realized, I love myself too much to settle down. And I still need to go soul searching. So I let her go...
She: You are selfish, you know. Good selfish.
He: Yeah, I know.
She: I wonder why we ended up such broken people. You, me and her. We grew up together and we had careers and all that. Somehow when it comes to love it's always screwed up
He: Not broken. Maybe damaged. I blame it on my mom.
She: The woman of your life?
He: Yeah. Sometimes I feel I was so busy being the person she wanted me to be I have no time to be me.
She: That is your problem. You work hard at many things and you become good at them, but you never know who you are.
He: Agreed. Maybe that's why I never grew up. That's why I'm forever soul searching.
She: You are a 16 year-old-boy trapped in an ugly 26 year-old-man. Only with more spending power on travelling.
He: Yah, still. For what it's worth, I'm sorry for hurting you when I was younger. I was such a kid.
She: It's still not too late now
He: (laugh) I thought of that sometimes and how nice it is. But I care for you too much to be your boyfriend. I will only break your heart
She: (laughs) Maybe it's not the right time yet.
He: One day. Maybe. But listen. Sometimes in life we are so used to having our heart broken that we go out, working like crazy, searching for people that will only break our hearts, or worse, being with someone and hurt them. We tell ourselves we are so broken we do not deserve to be happy. And that's not true. I have never known anyone that is more deserving of happiness like you.
She: You are gonna make me cry.
He: Oh well, if you ever need an emotional prostitute...

And there you go, brother. I don't know if any of it makes sense to you, because we are sort of in our own world. But one day, I'll tell you about this...

With love.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Monday, 7th February 2011

Dear brother,

It is funny to write you a letter to the future, when I was just seeing you yesterday, when we were just celebrating birthday together on Saturday. You have grown. You are almost as tall and big as me now. And you have the worries that is very mature about the future, and yet the innocence of a kid who loves Transformer video games more than emotional talk with your brother. I am glad.

As the matter of fact, I wish things would not change. I wish you will forever be my little brother. But I guess change is the only constant thing, and no matter how hard I wish, I just cant get that. Things are changing so fast in Vietnam. Expensive cafe. High buildings. Cold and rushing people passing by. It's no longer the kind and loving Vietnam I used to love.

I am changing. I wish I could say I am not. But I am. I wish I wasn't snobbish and annoyed by how noisy and impolite the people were. I wish I wasn't judgmental when I looked at youth these days in their fancy clothes and loud mouth arrogance. I wish I wasn't scared of pickpocketers when I was in the crowd. I wish I could feel like I still belong. I don't.

The fact is, brother. I, more than anyone else, wish for change. I want to be next to the people that I care about. I want to be next to the person I love. I want to be somewhere I can breathe. I want to be somewhere I can be myself. I want to be with the mountains, the ocean, the air so cool and the whispers of "It will be alright, I promise".

I'm exhausted. Desperation, almost. Rejections after rejections. I feel like giving up and just go home. Only to realize I don't belong anymore. It's all changed. Even mom and dad advised me not to come back.

So brother, here I am, 26, trapped in the 16 year old. Difference is, at 16, I didn't know who I am and what I should do. Now, I know that, I just cant be that. Not here, in this tiny space where it is even hard to breathe at times.

Change. I wish for change... My birthday wish. I wish for change...