Upstream Field Guide: Lesson 4 Your Purpose Exercise 5

Today I need to travel back in time a bit and think about my childhood, around age 6-8. What do I aspire to be when I grow up? This age range is good because I’m young enough not to feel jaded by the realities of life but old enough to consider my real desires and fascinations. Usually answers to such question can be far-fetched but it’s not so much of the specifics but rather what it was that I love about my career choices at that age. Hmm…..

I seriously do not recall a huge chunk of my childhood. I don’t know if it’s because my childhood was rather uneventful or I just have a poor memory. In any case, I don’t think I was very self-aware at that age. I tried asking my mom and siblings but none of them remember what I wanted to be when I was a child. What I do remember is what I fantasized about. I know for certain that I was very hooked on Enid Blyton’s series of fairy tales! I’d save up the allowances that my parents gave me to buy these books. It became an obsession and I look forward to days when I can visit the book store to pick a copy. I spent a lot of my younger days reading them and living in a fantasy world of enchanted forests, gnomes and elves. The stories played out in a very visual way in my mind. I don’t remember making up an imaginary story of my own but I could “see” these stories vividly in my mind as I read them. What I can draw from this memory is that my intuition was pretty active as a child. I am also a highly visual person so I am sensitive to visual stimulation. But all these doesn’t give me clues to what I wanted to be. The closest to an answer to this question is a time, I believe it was towards the end of middle school, that my older brother asked me something along the line of what kind of life do I envision for myself. I remember vaguely that I struggled putting into words a vision of a simple country life surrounded by beauty and living happily ever after, just contented being my own space at my own pace. I remember feeling embarrassed that my brother might find me overly simplistic and unsophisticated. Gosh….how far have I strayed from that vision. My life now is nothing like that. Still, this does not answer the question about vocation. So let me try searching my memory bank a little more.

I remember being part of an unofficial student-initiated cheerleading team and I enjoyed staying back after school for practices. When I moved to middle school, I got excited about participating in a fashion show showcasing traditional cultural costumes. There was also a time when I sang a Boy George song solo in front of class and it freaked me out. I never attempted it ever again! I signed up for external aerobics dance classes with my sister and looked forward to those too. When I think about these seemingly uncharacteristic activities for introverts,  I deduce that they point to a desire for freedom of expression even though I am uncomfortable being in the spotlight. I enjoyed participating as a group rather than solo, perhaps to reduce the discomfort of being the center of attention.

So that’s it. These are the insights I gleaned from this exercise. Can’t wait to get the next one over and done with.




Upstream Field Guide: Lesson 4 Your Purpose Exercise 4

In this exercise, I write about where I usually park my thoughts when I am idling. In other words, what I daydream about. According to Tsh, they speak volumes about what our real, innate and instinctive desires are. How true? Let’s see…

Firstly, before anyone thinks I have lots idle time, I don’t. I am a full-time working mom. Though my kids have grown some and I have more time now than when they were younger, I still struggle to find “idle time”. The thought of being idle is counter-intuitive to me because I am a “work first, play later” kind of person. And of course you know that work never ends, there is always something that needs to get done! I can be restless like that. So yeah, it’s a struggle even though MY WHOLE BEING CRAVES AND HUNGER FOR IDLE TIME! City life is not exactly conducive to idleness either. When I do choose to ignore the multitude of “things to do” and give myself some idle time, I am still rarely alone with my own thoughts. I find myself consuming content, either through reading, browsing the net, watching or listening. There was a time in my life when I had time and space to process my own thoughts a lot and that was when I was actively writing my blog journal. Those years were one of my most creative and inspired moments and one where I feel close to a flow state. I was self-aware and sensitive to that inner voice. It was no coincidence that during that time when I was also ferociously consuming spiritual-religious content. It was a period of intuitive awakening! Even then, I wasn’t exactly day dreaming about my desires. Rather, I was drawing connections and seeing meaning behind people, things, thoughts, emotions and, events etc. This is not day dreaming in the classic sense. For that, recent years prove more fruitful. Perhaps it was out of desperation – a need to escape a sense of staleness and sameness in my life. I find myself dreaming of living a simple, serene and unhurried life in a modernized hanok on the outskirts of South Korea, close to nature; a mountain to be exact. I dream of taking long leisurely hikes in these mountains whenever I want to and of traversing large open plains dotted by cute, pretty homes on a bicycle. I dream of being immersed in nature, not necessarily actively engaging it but more like absorbing it. I see a need for beauty, for freedom and space. I dream of wandering the picturesque and charming alleyways of Seoul’s cultural and historical district of Anguk with its interesting mix of old and new coexisting together, creating an interesting kind of harmony. I think this speaks to a need for exploration, for discovery, for variety and novelty and for welcoming newness and change in my life. I dream of a modest life rich in meaning and purpose, lived in harmony with its people and its environment; a life of moderation rather than excesses, be it pleasure, productivity, energy or creativity. Too much of something, even things that we enjoy or are good for us, can bring about dissonance. I dream of a life where I have freedom of expression, where I am free to be me; stripped of the need for pretense and people pleasing. This speaks of my need for harmony and balance, of moderation, simplicity, intention and authenticity.



Upstream Field Guide: Lesson 4 Your Purpose Exercise 3

Up next, I am to think of a film or book that really moves me. In other words, what story stays with me and why. Sounds simple enough but it took me 2 weeks to work on it!

I’m not sure how helpful is exercise because there are many movies and books that have moved me. The general theme is humanity’s triumph over evil, of overcoming odds and life’s challenges and adversity, stories of love, courage, sacrifice and selflessness. I think these are universal themes that move people everywhere.

I enjoy a wide variety of ideas and usually am able to draw something meaningful out of each. Perhaps what I can single out from this smorgasbord of stories is one that is closer to home – stories of self-discovery, of not being afraid to be my own person, of being at peace with myself and my place in this world, living a life congruent with who I am, of having the courage to start over and go after what brings me joy and contentment, of the grace of being given a second shot at happiness and of finding beauty and significance in the quiet, small and ordinary. For this, the story that stands out is a Korean melodrama called On the Way to the Airport. It is not on my list of favorites but the story and certain scenes and character stuck with me. Firstly I like the setting in autumn, my favorite season of the year! So there’s enough romantic and nature backdrop, though not as abundant as what you’d find in Goblin, another memorable drama in terms of excellent cinematography! I like the scenes set in a hanok-cum-art gallery and workshop of exquisite Korean handicraft. Life there is so tranquil you’d think all your worries will melt away sitting by the top-hung windows of the room overlooking the garden, sipping tea! The male lead’s wife and mother owns and manages the place. I also love the juxtaposition against the male lead’s modern apartment overlooking the city-scape. I especially love the setting of another small and cozy art gallery in a secluded and scenic spot in Jeju. This is where the male lead displays the artwork of his late mother in memory of her. It’s a home cum gallery. Very cozy, very personal. There’s nothing loud about both places but they have a distinctive character of their own.

This is a story of 2 married individuals who meet by fate. One thinks she is content with her life while the other discovers, while grieving for the loss of his step-daughter, that he’s been living in a deceptive marriage. Circumstances brought them together and for the first time they get a taste of a different and deeper kind of happiness; one that comes with having a heart and soul connection with another person and of having their own needs met. Amongst the characters in this film, the male lead leaves the deepest impression on me with his sensitive and quiet spirit and warm and gentlemanly ways. He’s an old soul with a spark of innocent expectation. Both are understandably guilt ridden because their life is not just their own. Yet they couldn’t ignore their heart’s desire. The tension between following ones heart and fulfilling ones expected role in the family and society is palpable. With time and patience they worked on what needs to be sorted out in their own lives so they can find happiness again without the burden of guilt.