Everyone knows what passion is even if it’s hard to explain in words.
Remember the things that excited you as a child? Maybe it was reading or drawing, collecting something or a sport, dance or music. You didn’t need anyone to push you to do your thing, motivation was natural and joyful. Hours and hours could go by without any realization of time.
As we grow older, our passions change. We have less time and more pressure. We have relationships to keep and family responsibilities. There’s less and less “me time” and we could even lose our happiness and meaning of who we are.
Wouldn’t it be great to reignite a long lost passion or even find new ones? Even in a small way to start with.
When we do something we love, it will be successful and give us a sense of joy and fulfilment. There’s no better panacea for the soul.
During my days as an HR professional, I had employees who confided in me that they did not enjoy what they are doing and had little choice other than to continue. There were all sorts of reasons and most of them became unhappy with life in general, becoming "disgruntled or disengaged employees”. Some shared that they want to do something different one day but not sure what and so, they continue the status quo and the cycle continues.
I was once upon a time, a girl who thought being first in the rat race would be an achievement and worked hard for many years to get to where I desired until the point I felt something was missing in my life. I began questioning myself if this is what I am going to do forever. After all, we only have one life. I quit my job and took time to ponder my next stage in life.
As you may already know, through Utoppii I reignited my passion in drawing and humanitarian work. Both were lost and buried as I was engrossed in pursuing my corporate ambition in the earlier years. They did not come to me naturally, in fact, I sought them out because a friend who inspired me to go into business, told me whatever I go into, it must be something I am passionate about.
So I went on a journey of self-discovery in search of my passion. I am no life coach guru, just sharing my experiences and what I have learnt on this journey, perhaps inspire someone who is looking to embark on something similar.
Take time off for yourself
In the past, I hardly set aside time for myself and was going through the motions of everyday life. After l left my job, I spent some time overseas away from the usual routine to have quality time to myself to reflect.
I looked back at the earliest years - starting from my childhood. I was always drawing and could draw for hours and hours, lost in my own world. Objects, fruits, animals... I filled scrap books with sketches. In school naturally I chose to go into arts as I hated maths and science. However after high school I had to drop this subject simply due to the heavy study culture of Singapore and the expectations of others that Art is not a good career path.
My mom gave me my very first school bag when I started kindergarten. She told me that I am going to school and in the bag, she put books and stationary. When I was older, mom replaced it with less of a kiddie backpack. One day she gave me a small bag that was a step above schoolbags and I saw it as her expression that I was becoming a young woman. By any standard it was not expensive or a super brand but it meant the world to me.
Because of my childhood experiences, I have always thought that bags do not just hold personal items, they hold dreams and memories of life transition.
In the first year of my HR career, I almost enrolled myself for a fashion design course. But I stopped short at submitting my application. There was a fear that I would be wasting years of education going into something so different. So I continued with my career in HR.
This reflection of the past allowed me to find the genuine person I was years ago. This is probably the most important step in my self-discovery journey and the key is take the time to reflect.
Try out different things
Because I found myself spending more time at home, I decided to try to make my own healthy meals instead of eating out all the time, something I never thought I would do because I used to hate cooking. Over time I surprised myself when I actually found cooking pretty enjoyable. By taking on the “impossible”, it gave me confidence that I can do something if I really want to and be good at it.
Constantly getting exposure to the unknown, whether its a new place or a hobby gives the opportunity to see things from different perspectives and even find yourself in the process. You will get better knowing what you enjoy doing or not. I always enjoy trying out new things because we are never too old to stop learning!
More often than not, I hear people saying they have no time. But in life it is so important to make that time to feed on new experiences that are meaningful and interesting.
I am a self-confessed hoarder. Everything is sentimental and I could not bear to throw. As a result, my room is constantly a mess. Since I had time, I decided to take 2 hours everyday to clear old stuff. It was a task that took much longer than I thought. What was interesting was that while looking at these stuff, it was a trip down memory lane that allowed me go think back of my old interests and hobbies. I actually found my old sketches and photographs of me taken at drawing competitions when I was little.
This simple task of decluttering actually allowed me to further discover myself. While physical decluttering may not be for everyone (some people are really organised and neat), the key is to remove what is not necessary. Focus on what is important now or has meant something to you in the past.
What makes you happy
I am happiest when I get to share my experiences with friends. We usually talk about fitness, fashion and travel experiences. How traveling solo makes me see things differently; how incorporating a fitness routine daily is so important and; how fashion can be a way to show our confidence in what we wear and carry.
My love of sharing experiences is probably what prompted me now to start a blog as a larger platform to share my entrepreneurial journey. I love when people come back and tell me that they felt our conversation has helped them see things from a different angle or inspired them to start something. It further inspires me to do more.
One of my best trips was volunteering at a village in Chiangmai, Thailand. Helping out in the fields, working with school children and most importantly educating the locals about living with wildlife in harmony, in particular the elephants. I love to see smiles and hopes in these simple people. Being able to give to the less privileged, and extend the love to other species, makes me feel the world can be a better place.
Things that you enjoy doing that are not out of obligation you will do with all your heart.
What are your strengths and areas to develop
I feel we all have strengths that we do not realise because in our daily lives, we hardly notice them. We probably take our strengths for granted. I know I’m no good with numbers and technologies but better on the creative side. So I spend more time on activities that leverage on creativity like photography. Though it can be technical as well, I am willing to put in the efforts to learn.
Do more of what you are good at. Exercise that muscle! Not only you will be better at your craft but you will even enjoy the whole process and not give up easily. When I was in HR, we always encourage employees to leverage on strengths and work on areas to develop. There is no such thing as weaknesses.
What would you be if you have a chance to start all over again
If I have not pursued an HR career, I would have gone into fashion design or something related. This was a powerful question for me because I realised there is sense of unfulfillment going on. But we often brush this away when we are caught up with life. I know of someone could have been a doctor but went for a different career path. Later in life he managed to do work related to medical, working with top doctors and enjoyed it.
While we may not have the chance to go back and restart our lives, we might have the power to do something related one day in a different capacity but just as purposeful.
What would your family and friends say about you
It will give you insights of what you are good at as these are what people find most valuable about you. One of my friends told me that I am the epitome of an organised chaos. I totally agree. Being organized is not my strength but getting things done in such a mode does take talent! A few of my ex-bosses and their bosses have used the word “swimmer” (in the corporate world) on me. Just throw me in the water and I will get myself back to shore.
Others may see what you do not see in yourself; the good and the not so good. So the best is to ask a few people whom you are close with. See if you can find a common observation of you to further understand yourself better.
Self-discovery can be raw and unnerving, or even a revelation. Through this journey of self-discovery, I understand myself better; what makes me tick and what I enjoy and there is less likelihood of me giving up.
My two passions of the past are now reignited in Utoppii. I can let loose my creativity and make products that I hope will carry many special memories for those who use them. I have a massive amount to learn to hone my skills but I’m enjoying every minute of it because I now work with passion.