By Serene Martin
“I prefer to be a dreamer among the humblest, with visions to be realized, than lord among those without dreams and desires.”
Throughout my life I have certainly done things I have enjoyed doing most of the time (thank god for that). As a kid, I enjoyed goofing around like most kids, hitting the playground, netball, singing and hanging out as long as possible in the sun. But there were very uncomfortable times too. Sometimes, the right decision or choice made in life isn’t the easy option. It isn’t necessarily the most popular option. Neither is it necessarily the most unique option. It just simply is the thing you have to do, because deep down, you know you have to do it. It’s something you feel in your bones you must do. You may not even be able to find the words to explain it…and it really doesn’t matter. What you feel is the bigger truth here because after all the explanations and ideas, what you feel is your visceral reality.
In my early twenties, I plucked myself out of my comfort zone and joined the Singapore Night Safari as a tram guide in hopes of being less introverted and to meet new people. I distinctively remember willing myself to go for the tram guide interview. It was the last thing I felt like doing in my mind. But in my heart, I knew it was going to take me to the next place I needed to go in life. Not in terms of physical location or status. But experientially. So I went. If I wanted to change, I had to do something different. All the people who applied for the job were ushered directly into a tram that took off shortly. Not at all what we were expecting as far as interview setting was concerned. We had to take the microphone in the front of the tram, beside the tram driver and project our voice confidently into it to the panel of interviewers fielding us the questions from the last cabin of the tram. They were seated right at the back. My turn came. When I was asked what I enjoyed doing in my free time, I said singing. I thought I said it quite inaudibly. To my discomfort, I was then asked to sing a song. Again, not what I was expecting. At that point, I sort of wished I never said I loved singing. I also wondered why the heck did I put myself through this. I was more of a bathroom singer. The kind that imagines herself on stage one fine day. I grew up in a family of good singers. My dad used to win singing competitions. All his sisters could hit every soulful note necessary to make tears roll. I used to hide behind the couch, watching them all sing.
Secretly, I wished I could sing like them but my shyness stopped my voice from coming out. However, I did have a powerful imagination. I continued to imagine that great things were going to happen one day. Maybe this was my moment. Flanked on both sides of the tram were the Malayan tigers and Indian elephants and the sensation of the jungle breeze wooshing against my racing heart. Still, I opened my mouth and sang ‘Shine’ by Vanessa Amorosi.
An Excerpt of ‘Shine’
“You can give your life
You can lose your soul
You can bang your head or you can drown in a hole
Nothing lasts forever, but, you can try
Look around you,
Everyone you see, everyone you know is gonna (Shine) Shine
(Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you do it)
(Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you do it)
Grow up and make the best of what you’ve got,
Of what you’ve got, (of what you’ve got), of what you’ve got
The days are going by and you’re sittin’ on your ass
And you’re wondering why, why, why? Yay Ay.”
It was the song I had in my head at that point because I used to listen to it again and again as a confidence booster. My voice cracked a little as I sang. I almost cried, but didn’t. I felt like crying not out of shame, but out of the sheer joy of knowing that I loved myself enough to venture into this unknown territory to see what learning and experiences I had to gather. When I stopped singing, everyone on the tram clapped loudly. My soul then sang. It was wonderful. I ended up working at the night safari for a year while completing my final year of university. I enjoyed every moment. They were moments I really felt I created for myself. My new self. It was not a high paying job. Some people wondered what was I doing there. There were better paying and easier options surely? But there are things in life you must do because it makes sense to you and the journey you set out to take.
After that experience, I ventured on to do other things including singing in a band (mostly jamming at studios and some bars occasionally), working as an Assistant Superintendent at a maximum security prison for short period of time, walking away from a marriage that almost happened because of a disastrous relationship, and many other experiences. I told myself to allow each experience to whip me into a better person. Maybe I will blog about these experiences separately one day. Before I forget the purpose of this entry though, I just want to say that it is really up to us to use our experiences to make us more resilient in facing future challenges and more empathetic towards anyone who is going through similar experiences. Most importantly, we have to keep the faith that better things are always coming.
It starts with the belief that we are worthy and capable. When we believe we are deserving of good things, everything changes. Radically. Everything happens for a reason. Every single experience serves its higher purpose but we need to believe it does first. Then it will. Keep dreaming. And if you really love yourself, dream big.