In a recent article in the NY Times, David Brooks asked about the Reflections on your life: Prose or Poem? (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/28/opinion/brooks-the-life-report.html) He said that ‘we have few formal moments of self-appraisal in our culture. Occasionally, on a big birthday people will take a step back and try to form a complete picture of their lives…’ He was requesting for people over 70 to send him a brief report on their lives so far – an evaluation.
Lee Wei Ling recently wrote a similar article on her father’s life, and how he had lived his life to the fullest, serving the needs of Singapore and continues doing so even as he approaches 9o.
I am approaching 46 in a day or two and this article is a reminder for me to take a hard look at my life so far. If you have read the article by David Brooks, there seems to be many regrets I share with the people quoted – ‘ Others wish they had had more intellectual curiosity, or that they weren’t so lazy, or that they had not gotten married so young.’
The most exciting lives are often those who are passionate in what they do, and actively pursue it. Artists, entrepreneurs or even politicians. I am a fan of George Yeo’s Facebook page and even though he is no longer in Singapore’s political scene, his life is so full I can’t imagine what it would be like if he is still the Foreign Minister. He could be in China one week attending a conference, in India a day later. Paris last week and England this week. His life essay, like those of LKY, would be exciting and lustrous.
While in Taiwan recently, a fortune-teller looked at my Ba Zhi and declared my life a smooth one, albeit a pressurized one. She was surprised to learn that I am a homemaker because my career house is supposed to be bright. ‘Why aren’t you working, you should consider a career now that this little boy (pointed to Aaron) is grown,’ she had advised.
If I were to do an evaluation of my life at this juncture, I would repeat and write that I ‘wish I had more intellectual curiosity, or that I weren’t so lazy, or that I had not gotten married so young.’ But that’s who I am and I can’t really change it. I was told by someone that being gifted is to be intellectually curious. Being in RJC and NUS had exposed me to many who were and even at that young age, I already knew my flaws.
I have about another 40 years to turn my life from a prose into a poem. I lamented this to Mike. He said I was being too hard on myself. I lamented this to the two boys, hoping that they don’t waste their youth like I did mine, at the same time reminding myself to let them lead their own lives. After all, I don’t want them to evaluate their lives at 70 only to regret that what could have been poem composed by them were proses written for them by their parents. They were thoughtful for a minute after reading this article.
Now I have the arduous task of turning my life into a poem.