And be thankful

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Though this I hijacked from the beautiful invite to #IALiveLongAndProsper I thought it would be equally apt for Thanksgiving, which is officially today, in the USofA.

While we should be thankful all year round, it's good to have a day set aside to reflect on all the good and great things that life has brought and will continue to bring.

Happy thanksgiving everyone. Eat your bread with joy, drink your wine with a merry heart, and above all, be thankful for everything you've got.

PTP and what it's taught me

Over the past three days, I’ve received some really positive and constructive feedback on the little Passion Talent Purpose series I’ve been working on, and I can’t tell you all how glad I am that the stories of the women featured resonate with all of you.

If nothing else, this series has taught me that compelling lifestyle content, written with passion and co-created with talented individuals, both engages people and activates social conversations. Personally, I’m glad that Lavishley has evolved to become more than just a personal blog, to become in some small way a means to showcase talented women building interesting new businesses.

It is my genuine hope that you will all continue to engage with me (as you have been! Thank you for that) and support them as they create new and innovative, niche and unique lifestyle concepts, products and services that make our lives a little better on the little red dot – it’s a win-win for everyone isn’t it?

And if you like it, please do share - the businesses, the stories, the content, and most of all, share with me women whom you think have combined their passions and talents for a purpose because there's nothing I'd love more than to get to know them a little better.

More stories of amazing women doing incredible things coming up super soon!

(Chinese) New Year Resolutions

Because this brilliant write up didn't come out in time for the angmo New Year, I thought I'd post it in time for the Chinese New Year. 

1. When you’re in a grocery store checkout line and the person behind you has one or two items, and you have a cart full of stuff, offer to have them go in front of you. Don’t make them have to work up the courage to ask you, in full fear that you might be a dick and say no — be the bigger person and offer.

2. When someone holds the door open for you, say thank you, instead of just acting as though they’re you’re personal slave who owed you some door-holding. A M E N .

3. If you want to compliment something, always make sure it’s something you actually think. Don’t just say “Oh, you look good,” or “Have you lost weight?” because you think it’s what they want to hear. Find something that you actually believe is true and focus on that.

4. When you post something to your blog or profile, make sure you credit it from where it came from, or at least make it a click-through. Don’t just steal people’s work willy-nilly. Please see below for full credits.

5. Don’t show up to a party empty-handed and then proceed to drink/eat all of their shit, especially if you knew the party was BYOB from the get-go. Given that most of us are working adults, the college excuse of "I'm broke" really doesn't cut it any more.

6. Don’t invite a bunch of randos to said party without first consulting the host and making sure it’s okay. (And understand that it may not be possible to invite all the extra people for logistical or personal reasons, and that does not entitle you to get mad at the party-thrower.)

7. Do that little wave when someone allows you to cross a street, or cut in front of them in traffic. It can go a long way in reducing the road rage.

8. Don’t wait for people outside of their stall/outside of the bathroom while they’re trying to poop. Don’t ruin their pooping experience like that, don’t be that guy. I suppose in the Singapore context this would be don't hover like a vulture over lunch tables at crowded spots in the CBD though I do understand this is near impossible at the fish soup stall at Arcade.

9. Don’t put on an egregious amount of perfume/cologne and then go into a small public area, such as a subway car or elevator.

10. If you’re going to write nasty things about someone on your Twitter or blog or whatever, don’t actually tag their name in it so they have to see that shit while scrolling through their tags or checking their interactions. It’s just not nice, and you know you’re only doing it to be bitchy and get a response. Grow up, don't even write the nasty on a public forum, as mama said, some things are better left unsaid.

11. Don’t walk down a sidewalk four-deep, and if you do, at least scoot out of the way for people who are trying to get by you. This is not an episode of Sex and the City, no one above the age of 15 actually walks that way anywhere in the world.

12. Wait for people to get off the subway car before you get on it. Don’t push everyone out of the way like some insane rugby player because you’re in such a hurry to stand up and hold a metal pole for 20 minutes.

13. Actually say “please” and “thank you” to cashiers at the various places you buy from, instead of just standing there on your phone, halfway acknowledging them just enough to put money in their hands and grunt in the affirmative when they ask if you want the receipt in the bag. Treat them like, oh, I don’t know, actual human beings.

14. Don’t make salespeople’s lives a living hell by trying a bunch of things on when you have no intention of actually purchasing anything, on top of leaving things in a crumpled pile in the dressing room for someone else to attend to. (If you say “Oh, that doesn’t happen,” you’ve never worked in retail.) Less relevant in a world where most of us online shop, but a good point to note nonetheless.

15. Chew with your goddamn mouth closed.

16. Work on being both a good guest and good host, meaning that you both offer something to your host when you are there to thank them and try to be as helpful/amicable as possible, and you make sure that you treat your guests with kindness and make them feel comfortable and welcomed.

17. Try food that other people cook for you at least once (unless you are allergic, of course), and be polite and grateful even if you have to decline eating the rest of it.

18. If you are in a couple and you end up, for whatever reason, going out with just one other person, make sure that they don’t feel like a complete third wheel by trying not to be too “couple-y” and including them in conversation and activities.

19. Give up your seat on the metro for the elderly or the disabled or a mother with her baby. Do it because you know it’s the right thing to do and so few people actually do it. Do it or be prepared to be publicly shamed on STOMP.

20. Give other people’s music a chance when they want to make you listen to something they really like, even if you’re sure that you won’t like it yourself.

21. Tip. I know it isn't mandatory in Singapore, but that extra couple of bucks goes a long way in making your wait staff's day. It's an especially good habit for watering holes you frequent.

22. Don’t make fun of people when out at an event, or wedding, or what have you for trying to dance. If they look awkward and uncomfortable, it was already likely extremely difficult for them to work up the courage to get out on the floor — and honestly, we could all afford to dance a little more in life. Don’t stamp out their little flame of rhythm. Point #22 is particularly dear to me as (1) I have a lot of weddings to attend this year, and (2) I dance like a tribal warrior, foot stamping, arm waving and all, so don't mock me.

And because of Point #4 and also because I don't want karma to bite me in the ass in the year of the water snake (might be particularly painful given venom and all) I'm going to go out of my way to give credit where it's due: The writer of this article is Chelsea Fagan, she is a 23 year old female living in Paris. In addition to Thought Catalog, you will also find her writings on The Atlantic, Grantland and Le Monde. Her first book is forthcoming in 2013.

You can find the original article over on Thought Catalog (which you should read on a regular basis as they're witty and insightful as hell) - I am only reproducing cos you folks are lazy and probably won't click through to it, and I think these are lessons well worth learning. Lessons that will make the world (or at least my tiny portion of it) a better place, if all you folks who inhabit my orbit (and dine at my dinner table) follow them.

Here's to a wonderful year of the snake ahead! God that sounds odd. But you really wouldn't want karma to come slithering up behind you and strike when you least expect it. So play nice people! Happy new year! Dong dong chang!

Of Options and Choices

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It seems to me that whenever L and I get together, we have fairly deep conversations on life, and by deep I mean it kind of feels like therapy, we sit there and we discuss perspectives, perceptions, and she always pushes me to ask why, and everytime it's over, I feel like I know a little more about myself, and I understand how to better live life. Intense, I know.

Last week, we talked about options and choices, and she passed on the best piece of advice she had received (dispensed without the usual gravity and burden of action that normally accompanies the advice) 

Don't let your options dictate your choices

Let me tell you something, when I heard those words I had to stop and think, really really hard, for a very very long time. It was quite the pregnant pause. Not because I didn't understand what the words meant, but because I needed time to think about how they applied to every decision I'd made - at least in recent times. Let me say, and I'm not proud of this, but every single outcome of mine was first defined by my options.

Not exactly awe-inspiring huh.

The thing about options is that ultimately, an option is a pre-defined bucket of future action. Dictionary.com defines it as "something that may be or is chosen." In finance, it is the right to buy a fixed quantity of a commodity, security, foreign exchange, etc, at a fixed price at a specified date in the future.

An option is essentially something that is pre-determined (by someone or something or just plain circumstance), and it will likely dictate the course of your life should you opt to go down that path. 

What is choice then? Choice is the the right, power, or opportunity to choose. Choose from what then? The whole universe of what's out there, the obscure, the unimaginable, things we have yet to dream up, things we have yet to create. We don't have to choose from the options in front of us, we have the choice to make our way and not be constrained to what is most apparent and obvious.

Let me tell you a story, there was once a woman who was married to a man, and they had three little children. They did not have very much. The man was bad and abused his wife, and later abused his children. What were her options? She had none, they would say, she had no money, and no where to go, she had to stay.

She said no.

She packed up and she left and she took the three little children. She made a place where they could go. She had no money, so they said she should stay home and take care of the three children, work a job that lets you have that flexibility, you can't afford to have someone else care for them for you. But if I don't work, how will I make things better? So she worked and earned, and paid for rent and paid for a maid and did not save because there was nothing left to save at the end of the day. But the three children, they could go to school, they could build a better future, they could define their own tomorrow independent of the circumstance from which they were raised, and the options that were obvious to them. 

All the children grew up, they were talented, intelligent and passionate, conscientious, caring and kind. One of the three faced a conundrum in her late teens, take the multitude of government scholarships to prestigious universities overseas and the job that was guaranteed upon graduation? Or take the road less traveled and follow her true passions at a hardly known US liberal arts college? They all said take the scholarship of course. A free ride to the top of the pops to be among the cream of the crop. No she said. Why ever not they said.

Because I can choose my own path

A path that was not clear, one without a job offer waiting at the end of it, but one that she knew would make her happiest, and one she could never rightfully regret because it was her own choice to begin with. Today she's happy - in her young life, she's been a writer, a lecturer, and an actress, among many other things, and now works at one of the best, most cutting edge, and renowned consultancies in the world. One that ivy-leagued young ladies and men try their very darndest to get into. Many without success. When asked about her happy state, she said, "my mother taught me to never let my options dictate my choices"

Someone is going to tell me I'm playing with semantics here, but if you need more illustrious success stories, then ponder this: we would have no microsoft or facebook if Gates and Zuckerberg had stuck with their option (Harvard) - one which just about everyone in the world would consider the top option out there. If Larry Page and Sergey Brin had decided to go work for tech companies instead of starting their own, we would have no google. 

Doesn't the world feel so much wider without the blinders that bind us to the usual (A), (B), or (C). That's not to say there's anything wrong with sticking with the alphabet, it's perfectly fine if you're perfectly happy in between one of those brackets - but if you aren't, it might be time to look beyond them for your opportunity.

Tactics to avoid nosy relatives during CNY

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Chinese New Year is now just over a week away and all us single ladies (single = unmarried) are due for our annual interrogation from nosy aunts and prying grandaunts as to why young lady are you still unwed? A bunch of us were having Coffee at Black last week, and the topic led to much moaning, exchanging of worst ever encounters, and the potential plan to avoid everything this year by foregoing the angpows and heading off to Bintan for the long weekend...

Never one to be defeated, I thought it was a good opportunity to swap tactics.

The question of “when is it your turn” is a loaded one, and let's be honest here, no one is ever truly prepared for it. Is there a right answer? If I practice enough times (kind of like doing a ten year series - though I genuinely hope I won't have to go through this ritual for a full ten years before I can finally flash them something shiny), will I finally find an answer that will "pass" and is appropriate in your eyes? I mean really, what do you want me to say? I’m running out of excuses and isn’t it okay to just be, you know, single in my twenties? (The answer to that is irrevocably a "no")

You see, in Singapore (for those of you who aren't from around here), we all (by “we” I mean females above the age of 24 and below the age of 40, an age beyond which no one would dare ask the question) have to face the music (or the gentle nagging whine and “tsk tsk” on the end) at least once a year during the Chinese New Year. The festivities last a full 15 days, so you can be sure there will be more than one occasion where you'll be trapped in a house filled with relatives, who are all filled with concern over your future prospects. 

I love CNY. I love the festivities and the feeling of family. I love big gatherings. I love the food. I love seeing all the new little additions to the family! And yes, I love the angpow collection (that will be continuing for some time so don’t hold back on me now Aunties!) What I do not love are those well-meaning but meddlesome queries into my love life, or in the case of some of my friends, lack thereof. Truly, is my single self not enough for the lot of you? Do I have to come in twos?

D quipped that one of her aunts, who is 37 (we think), has been telling everyone she will be “getting married next year” for the last ten years or so. She is clearly using the ten year series tactic. While that may work in her clan (they must not have very good memories), it sure as certain won’t work in mine.

So I wrote to a group of good girl friends asking for their assistance, and here my dear readers, is a selection of the very best responses I received. Some real (others a really bad idea) tactics to deal with nosy relatives this CNY season

    • Lie. Buy a fake ring + borrow a fake boyfriend (or get your actual boyfriend to play along). You can deal with the consequences tomorrow, or better yet, next Chinese New Year (if you’re in the habit of only seeing these peeps on an annual basis and no more)

      • Shock and Awe. Leap straight into taboo territory and say you decided to skip the big wedding banquet and eloped instead, adding 'Oh you didn't know? I'm 3 months pregnant!" to explain the CNY food baby. You definitely won’t be getting any more questions about marriage after that because you can be damn sure that piece of news will spread like wildfire. Might be an idea to pre-empt your own parents though. They will probably be pissed.

      • Eye for an eye. This gem I found online – though it does require some prep: the next time someone asks if you’re next (to get married), be sure to sit beside them at a family funeral and ask the same in return. Be prepared for a very angry phone call from your mother.

      • Deflect. If you’re from a super traditional family that doesn’t believe in interracial marriages (yes, people like that still exist. Shocking, I know), bring home someone from another race :) They will definitely avoid the topic of marriage because they sure wouldn’t want you marrying outside of their type! Which is a pity because mixed-race babies are.just.so.cute.

      • Defect. To the other side. When someone asks go on and say, “well, I’ve been thinking about coming out and I really don’t know how I should do it, I don’t want to upset <insert older relative’s name> but I’m so glad you’re open about these things…” Socially awkward situation ensues! But also super fun for you, until you receive that angry phone call from your mother of course.

      • Be practical. Simply tell them you won't be holding a banquet till you collect enough angpows to cover the cost. Smile and hold out your hand unabashedly. They might feel compelled to give you more.
      • Be statistically correct. Quote divorce statistics which you will find here and here. In 2011, there were approximately 27 thousand marriages registered, and 7.6 thousand divorces... you do the math but it does not look pretty. Even the most persistent of Aunties cannot argue with fact. Okay, some can, and since reason is out the window, your next best option is to simply smile and nod.

      • Turn the other cheek. Sometimes, the best plan of attack, is to let them have at you. Try not to get indignant when your relative asks you why you still haven’t gotten married. Instead, embrace it, and take the head on approach: “You’re right, Grandaunt Mildred! I’ve had a rough year, I am in a crappy job that leaves me with absolutely no time to socialize. I’ve also been stress-eating, which means I’ve put on some weight. Wanna talk about it?!” No. They don’t want to talk about it. They just want you to know that they think you ought to be married with three kids by now, as they were. Embrace it, and let it go.

      • Appeal to their sense of reason, because I’m sure it’s in there somewhere (this gem is courtesy of L): my best and most effective and truest response – “aunty xxx, in life, if there is one thing you’d ask <insert their kid’s name here> to be fussy/picky about, what would it be?” works every time… has them shuffling away in contrition, or telling me I’m smart, which I like. 

      The last option is obviously the most feasible, though if any of you do venture to try the first 8, please do let me know how it goes! I can't fathom why older female relatives feel compelled to ask these questions. Is it because you do not know what else to talk to me about? Is it because you feel duty bound to ensure your young eligible niece/grandniece makes the right match? Or is it just something you feel you need to do, because it was done to you?

      Whatever the reason, I appreciate your concern! And as soon as I have the answer, you will be the first to know. But for now couldn’t we just enjoy these delicious pineapple tarts in peace?

      What? You thought I wrote this article for fun? Totally had an agenda behind it, because I know that right now, right this very minute, one of my dearly beloved aunties is likely reading this. Please don't hate me :)