iComm – Confirmation Retreat 2017 Reflection

In the valley you made, you’re not meant to be.

-Sidewalk Prophets, Prodigal

Nothing happens without a cause in God’s plan. Maybe it means something when lyrics get stuck in my head even when I think it’s no longer applicable to me at the stage I am currently at in life.

So much of this retreat was wasted as I had mostly given up hope and refused to open up. I was so tired of emotional breakdowns at every camp, followed by self-conciousness, wondering if people thought less of me because I felt I appeared to always be in tears. I was so tired of feeling a spiritual high that eventually fades, especially the most recent one from Camp Empowered ’16 that disappeared without a trace once school and “the weight of the world” came into play..

To me, the Lord had always been an empathetic God who provides healing for those who have been hurt. I felt hopeless because no matter how much I told Him that I was emotionally, mentally and physically drained, it seemed to me I was talking to a wall in my daily prayer. I’m ranting to a silent listener who doesn’t offer to help. I seemed to forget that He is also a refiner and purifier who sometimes has to be stern to shape us in His likeness. (Malachi 3:3)

Only on the second night after being quite hysterical about the proceedings of the night session, a sudden realisation bloomed (like the flower of God’s Grace ;)), that maybe I overthink my problems, making them appear bigger than they seem, maybe I am making these problems my excuses for not putting in the effort required towards building my personal relationship with Christ, maybe it is time for me to take a step back from the quicksand of self pity and see the possibilities of gratitude and  positivity, maybe I was not offered comfort because it was not what I needed.
And I did get what I needed, in the form of unwelcome nagging from certain people in my life, and in the form of Almost Every Session in camp- prior to my realisation -which I chose to casually dismiss as unrelatable.

As I come to recall now, He (through the speakers) emphasised the importance of community, the people around us, to have respect for others even when their experiences differ from ours. Who am I to choose to be beyond empathising with others because of my “intellect”? I may have felt like a misfit occasionally and thus subconciously decided to stop trying to understand others as a defense mechanism, but who am I to block out people who did not purposely leave me out but happened to spark certain emotions in me simply because of who they are? I realise I need to stop isolating myself and enjoy what I can of community, especially those that will further nurture the relationship I have with Christ. Human relationships will never not be rocky, there will be some who test the limits of my patience and those who cause me to feel as though I have been repeatedly stabbed, and yet I should remember that he called us to love, regardless. Furthermore, I also recall a sharing about friends acting as harsh but well-meaning reminders for us to question our intentions behind the actions that we take that do not seem wrong which fits perfectly as a description for my sponsor’s criticisms and serves as a reminder to take things from a positive and growing perspective. Of course there will be words that scream injustice and misunderstanding, I pray for the wisdom to differentiate between the two and respond accordingly. I am reminded that while important to keep in touch with emotions, I should not allow feelings to become obstacles in my faith journey. After all, while the Lord speakes to us in examen through emotions, it is important to be clear about who is speaking. Is it really His voice? Or is it my selfish desires speaking over God?

Apart from that, sharings within the group reminded me that I may not have an entirely perfect loving family, but I still have more than some others. My relationship with family has definitely improved and my sister’s return to my school- despite many rough patches -was not as bad as I anticipated. I feel this is something I should be grateful for as I patiently await the complete mending of my relationship with certain family members. I am affirmed it will happen by a testimony also during this retreat.

Finally, while this camp has stood out like a sore thumb in being a slap in the face instead of the usually consolating experiences I’ve had, my overall takeaway is to embrace positivity  and gratitude while eradicating sloth that prevents me from fulfilling my responsibilities as not only a Child of God to rebuild my relationship with Him and refine my people skills but as a scholarship recipient to procrastinate less and better manage time for schoolwork.

School restarts tomorrow, pray for me. Everyone has flaws so please be kind about mine that I shared above. I wanted to do reflection for last years catechism programme camp in this same post but decided that I would share it in another post due to the difference in theme πŸ™‚ Do look forward to my testimonial! β™₯

Who Am I? Part II

Have you ever walked through the self-help section of a bookstore, and wondered why there were so many books that teach you to be more like others but none that tell others how to be more like you? If not, congratulations, society, at large, loves you as you are. But for some of us less lucky ones, or just me, it is not as easy discovering ourselves, that we do not fit into any of the prescribed moulds, and having to choose to remain faithful to who we are although it supposedly means we are not destined for conventional success.

What if I never intended to join this never ending race – labelled “prestigious”, where one inevitably ends up disqualified by death, and am perfectly content watering the flowers growing off-trail where the path is less trodden? 

Along the way, I see that a beautiful rare flower’s seeds have drifted onto the trail and budded. I race to reach the flower first, to protect it before anyone else in the race tramples it. I may not be comfortable nor proud of being high pitched and loud but would not hesitate to effectively express the thoughts and ideas that I am passionate and enthusiastic about. 

In others’ mad rush to get ahead, I get overwhelmed by the crowd and allow myself to be jostled into the throng. I then run to avoid being trampled upon myself and once I am safe from that threat, I lose myself wondering how I ended up where I am. To this day, I still get stressed over exams or competitions simply because my classmates fight for it. When I get a chance to take a step back, I realise I do not enjoy the competition and am more interested in learning.

Other times the race comes to a stretch that I genuinely enjoy, maybe it is a magnificent tall bridge across a vast lake, and I momentarily abandon my flowers to enjoy a change of scenery. I enjoy the thrill of competitive running and the satisfaction of post-training fatigue. 

“Oh so you are okay with being mainstream when you’re good at it?”, who ever said I was good at running and bad at academics?

But many do not understand. They think they are doing well by me when they prod and push me to be adopt the form of a sprinter when all I want to run is cross country. Just because we are both running athletes, people assume I would want to emulate the faster runner. Just because we are both students, teachers assume I would like to learn from an organised classmate. No, maybe I am okay with being messy, with doing my homework last minute because I have other passions. Maybe I want to run, read, play the guitar, laugh at bad puns and live life. Maybe I learn better in a mess than with rigid timetables.

This situation is similar to the story of a father, a son and a donkey, there is no way to please everyone so you do you even if it pleases no one else and do not impose your ideals on others β™₯ spread love not patronization.

Some people that I had certain respect for have been telling me to adopt the traits of others, leading me to seriously doubt my existence and after much turmoil I re-found and refined my thoughts and core principles so here we are again.

I understand some of my posts lack quality towards the end. It’s just I have so many ideas that I get excited to start and I kind of lose my train of thought amongst the jumble of unexpressed material in my brain. Thanks for bearing with me xx

Who Am I? (Part I)


Loneliness

Last post of February and before Lent starts!

Have you ever felt lonely? Not being alone in the physical sense but a detached aloofness as if no one understood.  I believe most of us have experienced loneliness in one of its many different forms. I myself am well acquainted with a cold, empty feeling in my gut, often manifesting as a hunger that no amount of food can satiate. After all, research suggests that hunger is the body’s way of telling me that I should seek out company as eating has remained a social activity throughout evolution. (funfact)

It is an easy choice dismissing loneliness as merely a nagging negative thought, or an emotion one should not feel. However, everyone’s feelings should be valid and research has shown loneliness to negatively impact mental health. It not only causes increased levels of stress and depression, but also decreased memory and learning. Loneliness can also affect physical health by disrupting sleeping patterns, leading to more daytime fatigue and a weaker immune system. These effects barely constitute the tip of the iceberg of problems brought about by loneliness.

What if I were to tell you now that we create our own loneliness? We are the ones painstakingly building the invisible walls that keep emotions in and care from others out. Perhaps this is our way of avoiding judgement, our attempt to fit into a community of seemingly perfect, happy people; perhaps this is how some of us, as children of Asian families, were brought up, to be stoic, silent, to be seen and never heard.

Though C.S. Lewis wrote in the preface of his book Surprised by Joy, ‘a man seldom mentions what he had supposed to be his most idiosyncratic sensations without receing from one (often more) of those present the reply, β€œWhat! Have you felt that too? I always thought I was the only one.”’, I believe this is highly dependant on the audience one can reach out to. Opening up to people can allow us to relate to others, and others to us, forging connectedness. On the other hand, multiple attempts to connect with the same community may simply be a waste of time. Apart from that, reaching out to an unsuitable crowd could lead one to feel increased isolation when there is no indication of understanding post-sharing. Instead, one could widen social circles to include relatable people from diverse walks of life, whose paths we may not normally intersect. However, this does not totally eradicate loneliness as occasional pangs of the disconcerting disengagement will still hit as one stands among a crowd of one’s own peers, none of whom one can understand or be understood by.

Humans, as highly intellectual beings, cannot help being aware of the infinite spectrum of experiences which divides us, being aware of how no one can completely understand another. This awareness is the reason loneliness is an inevitable feeling. However, there will be different people who can understand certain fragments of our lives better than others and in those people we can seek solace and comfort.
Loneliness may cause us to think we want to disappear when all we really want is to be found. Sure, it is easy to urge others to emerge from these illusive havens and seek out others instead of waiting for others to find them but I do understand how tiring it can be and how futile our efforts can seem and I am here to tell you that you, if you relate to this post, you are not alone.


I edited the original post to say how I truly felt instead of my approved speech which did end badly. Today happened to be an emotionally eventful day, leading to trembling as I was delivering my speech, perhaps causing my audience to believe I was overly emotional and agitated over a taboo topic. It definitely left me feeling very vulnerable and not getting the highest number of votes futher egged on my insecurities as there could only be two explanations for the voting results. Either no one bothered hearing any of the speeches and voted based on reputation, leaving me to sigh at the heart I poured into this, or I simply was not good enough. I’m not sure which is worse and I really do want to disappear now. Oops!


Life update: Attended my first Ash Wednesday mass, hopefully we will see a Lent  2017 blogpost soon πŸ˜‰ I have also identified my confirmation sponsor πŸ™‚