Year 2016 – The Pressure

– Family
There was a dramatic change in my family as my elder brother and his wife moved to their new BTO flat at Marsiling, together with Luckie. From a badly clustered house to a house with only three people left, the sound of silence filled the atmosphere most of the time. There used to be a lot of unhappiness for everyone had very different lifestyle that we wanted to live in. The limited space had always been causing frustration and thus I could firmly testify against those rich hypocrites who were running the country akin to North Korea. I was probably too used to hearing complaint from my younger brother about how the couple forgot to switch off the toilet’s light and my mum who would bottom up every matter to grumble only in front of my younger brother and I.

With the reduction of conflicts, loneliness began taking over. I knew well even with the very limited help in finance in the past, my elder brother actually contributed in other ways. I never wanted to part with my elder brother but I knew it was inevitable. It was simply impossible for them to get a house within or near the CBD area – apart from having limited space for new flats, the price would be scary. Sooner or later, we had to move far away from the city.

I helped out a lot in packing up the remaining stuff to bring over to my brother’s new place. It took quite a number of trips to empty the room they used to stay in, even though my mum quickly turned the room almost as messy as before. It was not because she wanted to keep a memory of my elder brother by creating similar mess, but because she was simply a collector of everything. Somehow, everything could somehow turn useful one day for the poor, maybe no in near future.

Apart from the sadness from the moving out of my elder brother, Luckie’s absence in the house was a big blow to me. I was the one who used to sleep with him when he first joined my family. Since I worked from home, I was the one who had spent the most time with him. It was also because of him, I always hesitated to leave the house since he had fear in loneliness. I stopped my occasion afternoon jog to places like Marina Barrage and Henderson Waves mainly because of him.

The most dramatic thing happened soon after they moved out as Luckie got his first slip disc problem. His lower back caused his legs to become strengthless. After his operation, I went over to take care of him during weekdays since both my elder brother and sister-in-law had to work. Seeing Luckie in such sorry state hurt me a lot. Before he was fully recovered, he had a second slip disc that caused him greater pain than ever. Just as I thought Luckie would be out of my life, the couple spent another 10 grands to save him. I did my part by going over to take care of Luckie during weekdays.

– Friends
The closest friend I had was as usual, Gilbert. He helped me in everything without expecting anything in return – not that I was able to help him much in anything. Apart from him and my volleyball friends, I hardly had many chances to meet up with old friends. I also made many new friends through photography even though it was back to business that not everyone would keep in touch with me after they had gotten what they wanted.

– Relationship
In the third quarter of the year, my relationship ended. She was the most intelligent girl I had ever being with but we had very different priorities in life. She was more into the YOLO lifestyle while I was still struggling with my own life to make ends meet. There were also some differences that we had always struggled with, such as I felt obligated to stay over at my elder brother’s place to look after Luckie but she was fed up for she knew I was unable to work over there without even a proper table. I always felt bad for my mum’s attitude towards her even though she had always been showing respect and offering helps. Unfortunately, it was a bad start after all and my mum was more inflexible than me. I was glad both of us had tried very hard after all. I blamed myself for I was unable to give her a better life – not that I was able to.

– Health
Cough caught up with me for months and I knew well I did not recover because of the food I had been eating – my mum loved spicy food and she would deny cooking them. As for my injuries, my ex-girlfriend helped a lot. After her mum brought me to a Chinese doctor, my back injury improved a lot because it did not ache very regularly. Since she had learned some massages on the acupuncture points, she also improved the conditions of my other injuries, such as my right shoulder. Towards the end of the end, I suffered from a new injury on my left shoulder after carrying the bulky and heavy camera equipment for too long – the nerve was pressed too much that I felt weakness on my left arm.

– Finance
The tuition agency business dropped tremendously since both of my main coordinators were too busy with their lives. One of them had too much family issues to handle while another could buy a condominium just by giving tuition lessons instead. They were both not obligated to spend their time to help me in my business and thus I was more than happy that they still spent some time whenever possible to take up some assignments. Whereas for the rest of the coordinators, they were busy with their lives too.

For my photography services, I was still unable to make any breakthrough as there was a huge competition from photographers who undercutted the market while most enquiries were from clients with low budget. I knew the standard of my work and the market rates, and my strong principle insisted me not to lower down my value or further harm the photography market.

Year 2015 – On the Verge of Breaking Down

Relationship

The most significant changes of the year was the removal of my “single” status. I was never ready to be grounded because reality was cruel and that money was as important as oxygen in Singapore; I didn’t want to take up responsibility that I couldn’t shoulder. Without money, I didn’t have time. For the past countless number of years, I had been alone not because I hadn’t met any nice girl, but because I wasn’t ready and thus didn’t take any action. In year 2015, while career was still vague, I still wasn’t ready yet.

As a photographer, I had countless interaction with pretty and hot girls. Most people would probably think that I was a typical superficial guy who would only go for “super model” type of girls with hourglass figure and flawless looks. Looks would fade but every aspect I loved about her would stay. She wasn’t my ideal type of girl by looks for I had always favoured the athletic build or “SYT” types of girls but her intelligence proved to be more tempting. Nobody could understand me more than her, although nothing and no one was perfect. She had also showed her thoughtfulness and tolerance towards me. Our communication was great and it was rare for anyone to achieve that with me. She had been my personal doctor and English tutor, displaying her excessive talents and appreciation for her imperfect boyfriend.

The biggest problem was that she was extremely clingy, which I liked, yet couldn’t afford to enjoy due to work. My mum often acted as if I was jobless, in fact, she treated any job without CPF contribution from a boss not a job. Therefore, the amount of time I had to spend on the two women was really killing me and sometimes I wished I could just give up on everything and laze around at home just to entertain both of them. There was a few times we got to meet each other for seven days straight. She was also a superwoman who could multitask and text me regularly. Work got piled up as my production rate declined badly. I couldn’t do some of my internet marketing work while I was forced to delay some essential tasks, such as posting my work within the golden hours. My private photographs taken with friends during outing would be delayed for many months before I could squeeze some time to work on them. Whenever she behaved like a little girl while showing her appreciation to me for doing some things, I felt more pressurized than ever for she was unintentionally expecting me to do even more when I had already pushed myself to the limit. Her optimism was a double edged sword for the positiveness would influence me; however, she took things far too easily, which differed from my style of doing things.

The journey to adapt to each other’s flaws proceeded beyond the end of the year.

Family

I continued to be the free receptionist of the family since I was at home most of the time. Everyone, except my mum, had been purchasing items online and the delivery-men would trigger the dogs’ (Luckie and the neighbour’s crazy dog) barking often. Salesmen, surveyors, flyer distributors and retired neighbours were culprits too. No matter how much you loved a dog, sudden loud barks would definitely make you “jump”. I was also abused by telephone calls from weird friends of my family even though everyone already had a mobile phone to attend to their friends. Luckie continued to bother me by waking me up with his barking and then pestering me either for food or to bring him down for a walk. My only break-time was when my elder brother reached home and until my sister-in-law went to sleep – Luckie would be locked out of the bedroom, which finally saw a change for the later half of the year. My mum would even call me just to check the location of anyone or if she had forgotten to switch any appliance off. Very often, she would also turn back to the gate after leaving home to ask me to pass her her forgotten items like mobile phone or keys. Instead of calling my mum directly, my elder brother would sometimes text me to tell my mum when he wasn’t coming home for dinner. Despite my mum would always go to my younger brother to seek help, nobody realised I was the one who had spent most time entertaining her since my elder brother would be inside the room whenever he was at home while my younger brother was not at home most of the time and slept before my mum got home from work. I was the one who had to listen to her grandma stories multiple times because she would tell me directly, loud over the phone to her many friends and then to my siblings. I even had to answer to my mum over any new or misplaced item in the house since I was home most of the time and she expected everyone to notify me everything. The list of problems was too long to be remembered. The perfect job of working from home was soiled badly, affecting the progress of my work.

The harmony was shaken a few times throughout the year in the low income family, having too many people squeezing inside a small house of two bedrooms. The biggest argument was about fairness. We spoke up our minds and finally, around five years since Luckie joined our family, my elder brother started allowing him to sleep inside the bedroom instead of bothering me at night when I was working.

My younger brother had his own way of pampering my mum that I totally couldn’t agree on, because it caused my mum to be extremely over relying on us while he wasn’t at home most of the time. My mum was often simply behaving like a kid and thus it was definitely more challenging. Being filial didn’t have to be overdone, even though most people would agree to over-pampering her since they didn’t know the full scenario. I was the quiet observer in my house who stayed at home most of the time and nobody knew what was going on better than me. I knew there should be a limit to everything and besides, I had my own limit too. To put it in simple words, I wasn’t as capable as my younger brother in term of money-making and I really sucked at it.

Friends

I owed a lot to Gilbert. He appeared most of the time in my monthly hero list. Often, I felt stressed for I knew I could never help him as much as how he had helped me, including all the small kind gestures.

The most depressing thing was when I tried to get back the money I lent to my old buddy years ago for his marriage, he suggested paying me back through installment but didn’t even make the first payment. I often recalled that time when he promised me to return me around two months once he received his salary, it dragged on for countless years without receiving any cent from him while his son was already three years old. The most ridiculous fact was I was probably the lowest income earner in our group of friends and I was the only one who lent him a hand. I felt betrayed and it caused me sleepless nights. I learned to be more careful with whom to help in future.

I made new friends through photography but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to meet up with most of my old friends. It was such a pity to drift away from friends who had been through a lot with me in the past. There were only a few volleyball games and thus I could only meet up with the guys once every few months.

Work

My tuition agency was giving me more headache than ever. Apart from the daily chores, I also had to build up on security for the website. It was endless trouble that most people wouldn’t know the effort and doing things behind the scene was making me feel helpless and unappreciated. The problem was that I could see many things had to be done but it was going to be a hell lots of work. All the automation and information would require time to work on, and yet without doing them, I would be doing some same boring stuff often. To sum up, the effort and time I had spent on the business overwhelmed the revenue. Eventually, it was years of effort that I couldn’t give up.

There was some slight improvement in my photography work but it didn’t make much difference though. The fund generated was not even sufficient to cover up the cost of buying the equipment. I couldn’t take up too many projects for the time I had to spend on post-production was too much. I spent more time on marketing than the actual shootings. Although I did meet many kind clients and nice models, I had also encountered many time-wasters online, in fact, more of the latter.

Fallback in Photography

I got badly slashed on the route to expand my photography portfolio when one of my younger brother’s friends showed her true colours. During the early days of my photography journey, she volunteered to collaborate with me for a couple shoot with her then boyfriend. As she was an educator and they were together for quite long, I didn’t anticipate any problem. I spent weeks to do professional post-processing work for the album and gave her ridiculously large amount of photos that would cost over three grands for the standard. Obviously, in the name of building a portfolio for couple shoot, it benefited the couple much more.

Unfortunately, they broke up a couple of years later and she asked me to remove the photos entirely because it would somehow hurt her whenever she got to see them, like as if she would even visit my portfolio. I explained to her professionally, including the fact that male and female models who didn’t know each other would take up couple shoot projects together. She probably knew the facts that I had the copyrights over the photos even though I didn’t raise the point, and she resorted in using bitchy lines to try to insult my professionalism. She was so disgusting that I could feel the chill deep inside my bones that I decided to take down the photos because having a bitch inside my portfolio would tarnish my reputation – not because I was afraid of putting my younger brother in a difficult position or what.

Alas, she got what she wanted, from the start, a free professional couple shoot which many young couple were dying for and yet couldn’t afford, and eventually, the removal of the professional work when she no longer thought they were useful to her. However, this spoiled brat had also displayed her true self – someone who could be very nice to friends during good days but could do anything to them if they were to go against her childish demands, especially during bad days.

It was a gigantic damage to me because the shoot covered three locations and I had been trying to do photoshoot in different parts of Singapore to add to my list of beautiful places in Singapore. I could persuade my clients to shoot at the same locations but every shoot would occupy weeks of my time and I could only take up a few shoots per month.

Another hurtful thing was some friends took pity of the bitch just because she broke up with her boyfriend, likely due to having different directions in life and definitely not due to any unfaithfulness. None had considered the effort and time I had put in for the entire album of over 70 professionally fully edited photos for the couple who didn’t have professional hairstyling and makeup on when the gentleman had quite bad complexion. The travelling around with the heavy photography equipment and the weeks of frustrating effort to produce the final work were taken granted for. Even the lady who had insisted me in doing commercial standard of editing photos was soft on the bitch. Even though at this point of time, my equipment and skill in photography had already far exceeded the quality of that album, the master pieces of work were already better than most of the outdoor pre-wedding shoot albums I saw in Facebook.

Finance

Despite doing freelance photography, the income generated from the shoots was entirely spent on equipment upgrades and replacement. My main income source was from the tuition agency, which could hardly cover my monthly expenditure. Dating put further pressure on me even though my girlfriend wasn’t the type of girl who would demand good food and branded stuff. From a near zero spending staying at home to having to spend for two people made a very big difference.

My younger brother unintentionally placed huge burden and pressure on me since years ago by upping the sum of contribution to the household. I had to turn down wedding invitations and I didn’t even want to renew the ridiculously expensive Singapore passport. Years of having extremely low income together with the high expenses was a torment to my brain. The most ridiculous thing was that my monthly contribution to the family and mum was a few times higher than the combination of my elder brother and his wife’s, while their combined income was a few times higher than mine. Their reason was they had to save up for their new house. Nobody had probably given a thought that I had to save up for marriage and to get myself a house, which I was dying for, in near future as well.

While my mum’s fiance health was extremely good with the extra contribution from my younger brother, nobody seemed to know what she had been spending the money on other than lottery. Often, when I came to know that she had bought useless things after being conned by strangers or friends, I would feel very upset because I couldn’t even bear to pay for some essential things for myself; even when I had to carry 18 kilograms of bulky equipment out for work, I would rather risk injuring or over-exhausting myself than to spend money on cab.

I didn’t know how I managed to survive as there were months that I had to “eat into” my saving.

Volleyball

Weitat organised and paid for using the indoor court at the OCBC Arena a few times. However, my shoulder and feet injuries (could be plantar fasciitis) made me a cripple during my last two games with them. It was terrible to feel the pain before I could even take off to do spiking. I couldn’t jump to my usual height and even if I could reach the peak, my shoulder injury forbid me from doing the swing to hit the ball. It was pretty useless to explain about my conditions when everything I said was treated as an excuse, or at least I didn’t appreciate much of the sarcasm.

Alas, I was also quite unlucky that I was always placed in the same team as one of the most competitive and inconsiderate guys. He played as the setter most of the time and I didn’t get to spike even when I was playing as the main spiker. When I was lucky, he had no choice but to set the ball to me, which happened at most twice during every set of game out of 25 points. Since it was a “no choice” situation, the ball was always delivered badly while I had already given up and thus unprepared. Playing volleyball under such situation killed my confidence. Besides, he was quite a show-off and decided to waste lots of opportunities by dropping the second ball over, as if he had a high scoring rate. Of course, I didn’t voice out since I didn’t want to make anyone feel stress or awkward over such leisure games. I hated being there just to make up the number although my main motive was to spend time with them.

Health

I got seriously ill for only a couple of times, which was much better compared to the previous years. However, more injuries plagued me as it further affected my mood for the worse. My right shoulder and feet injuries were the main devils while my girlfriend was able to reduce the pain of my back injury with her skill learned from a Taiwanese physician. She also brought me to a Chinese physician at Ang Mo Kio who further eased the pain caused by my back injury. I felt weak as all the injuries restricted my freedom of movements.

2015 was certainly one of the worst years ever. I was mentally stabbed and robbed of my calmness and patience. There were many lessons to learn from and the most important thing was become stronger and not give in to shit.

Year 2014 – Professional Photography Journey Began

Smart Tuition
The tuition agency business was somehow as stagnant as before. I did not have the time and energy to “expand” it. The lack of credible and suitable coordinators was the main problem. There were quite a number of people emailing us to take up the job but we did not want to take any risk as we really wanted to help clients and tutors to our best ability and not treating it like a business. It was thanks to the existing team, especially Tricia and ET, that the business was able to sustain. We continued to meet weird people along the way and I got more and more weary of dealing with ridiculous and cunning people as well.

Photography
I took my photography to the next level by upgrading to a full frame camera. More people started approaching me and I began to take up event shoot instead of just sticking to portrait shoots. It was a tiring journey. I got to meet more people both online and offline. I was very excited to interact with all the good people in real person. However, just as there were many kind people in this world, I had encountered many eat-full-nothing-to-do people. It was irritating enough for “shoppers” to enquire for the fees when I had already stated the minimal amount on the website, but there were also many who were worse. I had entertained many people who had shown so much interest in engaging my help. We chatted for long time and I gave them advices but they eventually decided to waste my time.

Family
Things were pretty much the same as previous years, except that we were all more enthusiastic towards the arrival of my elder brother’s new BTO flat, which should be ready by end of year 2015 or beginning of 2016. By then, our current flat would be more “spacious” and there would be less conflicts. My house might still be very messy since it was my mum’s characteristic to keep everything. However, there might be a change in her attitude when we had an “extra room” while my elder brother would not help to mess up the living room again. Eventually, there would be a big problem for the family as my elder brother was a handy man. Apart from that, my mum continued to put stress to me, while I worked from home, by creating

Health
I had my right arm and wrist injured for a long period of time. The arm was due to volleyball games while wrist was because of holding to the heavy camera on a single hand for long duration. I fell sick twice for a long period of time too, taking panadol tablets more than I had ever taken in my entire life. My health was badly affected by my neighbours’ puppy who barked loudly every morning. My neighbours were helpless over the aggressive dog who was trying to destroy their main door.

Volleyball
My gang was quite active for beach volleyball games until towards the end of the year. Everyone was very busy, especially for those who were doing shift jobs. We finally had an indoor court game because of Jingkun’s request before his marriage. That was the first time I played on an indoor hard court after years.

Friendship
I felt I was disconnected with most of my friends. The struggle for work and photography had massacred every single thought to catch up with my old friends. I had no time to think of giving away presents or whatsoever. In the last three months of the year, I had to attend six wedding though and I had to be the “brother” for two of them. Photography did help me gain many new friends but not many kept in touch with me, most probably because the models were mainly into getting good photos. At least, they knew my character and felt safe to be with me.

Love
Boy-girl-relationship was a flat zero score for me. Due to photography, communication with people was mainly about the hobby. I did not really find new net friends to chat, except for a few occasions, I was curious with some sites like OKcupid, Omegle and the phone app Tinder. I was too busy to utilize them. Besides, it was not my forte to fight for attention with thousands of guys.

Conclusion
My life was stagnant except for the progress in photography. I did not party nor meet friends often to chill up together. To many people, my life was boring but I was glad that I was living it differently and meaningfully. Some people might be seeking to enjoy their lives to the fullest by partying around, some wanted different experiences of sexual partners; I sought to establish a name for myself and be remembered positively after leaving this world.

Sick of Being Sick

I had suffered a long and serious illness for the past month. It did not come as a surprise for I had been warned three months before that. During that period, I had sore throat before I slept but I always woke up feeling normal. It happened for quite a number of time and I guessed that I was saved by taking a tiny bit of manuka honey every night. However, there was also an obvious symptom – my scalp was growing acne and it was irritating.

My body had been “heaty” since young and thus I would fall sick often. I was no fan of food but I most preferred western food, fast food and just any fried food. I had been resisting them throughout my life because they made me fall sick very easily.

However, for this year, I was rather rebellious and did not practise self control. Other than taking fast food numerous times, there was a couple of times I took fried food like char kuey teow as my main course meal. My mum had also bought packet roti prata from the NTUC Fairprice for supper, which tasted quite good after frying them and she replenished it quite a few times. My mum’s porridge for lunch was rather healthy but not her dinner, which usually came with food like nuggets. I was very amazed with myself throughout the months before my body failed me.

As usual, it always started with sore throat, followed by cough and flu. I did not take my temperature but I knew I was having fever occasionally. Phlegm, blocked nose and ears were gifts from them and the worst thing was to bring down my energy. I was pretty slow in my work then.

The terrors did not leave me soon. They stayed faithfully with me for over a month. Doctor told me it was not that my body was weak, but I did not have enough rest. I had to agree.

I was badly disturbed almost every morning by my neighbour’s puppy who barked loudly for a few minutes. It was obvious that I did not sleep early and thus being woke up in the morning was a torture.

Resting during the afternoon was almost impossible with my sticky dog around. I had only two bedrooms and my mum barred Luckie from entering one and my sister-in-law did not like anyone to enter the other bedroom when she and my elder brother were not around. I could not leave Luckie alone in the living room because he would end up crying and barking so loudly that I would end up not able to sleep.

Since I was sharing bedroom with my mum and younger brother and both of them would “die” without switching the air-con on even when the weather was not very bad, I had to bear with it despite I was afraid of the low temperature. Flu was never tolerating.

While I was sick, I still had to continue with my daily administration work. It was not difficult at all but to do the same old time-consuming stuffs for the past few years was really sickening. Those boring work would not make me grow.

One of the most stressful things was to arrange for photoshoot. Things would be better if the parties I had to alias with did not give problems, and eventually, I had actually wasted my time and effort. I was all along very easygoing but some people might be fussier than me. Not everyone was very committed.

I had one of the most challenging tasks on hand, which was to update the website for my “xiao mei”. She had changed her webhost a year ago but did not migrate her files over. Somehow, she was lucky that her old files were still inside the old server and the host did not remove the files. I had to try log into both her new and old webhosts, and of course the latter did not work. In the end, I had to rip the source codes and other files from her own webhost and it included a flash file, which was calling other files. I spent a few days to fix everything for her. It was mind-blowing. In fact, she was not in a rush but I was just too determined and eager to solve her problems.

That week, I had promised to do an interior shoot for my cousin-in-law. During the first day, a Tuesday, he was astonished to see me turn up at the bar. I was wrecked by the full-equipment bags that I had carried all the way to the place when my body was so weak. He checked his phone and realised it was the correct date and time. The problem was that there were many staffs working there to setup the place as they were still in preparation for the opening the week after. Even one of the string of LED light was loosen and hanging around. We agreed to shoot during the next morning but he texted me a couple of hours before the shoot that the bar’s staffs would be there to work and thus we postponed to Friday. I had forced myself to wake up early over nothing. On Friday, I was smart enough to not bring my laptop along, in fact, there was no need to even bring my lighting along to the cramp place. The person holding to the key was not around and I had to wait outside the bar for around half an hour. Then, contractors continued to go in to fix things while the lady staff was cleaning things up. Many items such as fruits were laying around the bar counter and tables. The tables were not even in order. To conclude, it was a disaster for a photographer. I had to move things around by myself and even wiping the surfaces of the tables and it was impossible to even capture the widest shoot using my 24-70mm lens. I had to also wait for the staffs and contractors to move away before I could set the long exposure for my camera. It was one of the most horrible photoshoot I had ever done in my illness and I was not even satisfied with the angles and lighting.

The thing that had worsen my illness was the NUS TevaSUN beach volleyball competition on that Saturday. Each team consisted of five players, including one substitute. Tony, Gin, Bernard and his girlfriend signed up for it but Bernard had confinement at Palau Tekong and thus I was roped in. As the substitute who had to cover for Bernard, I had to be present so that our team would not be disqualified. I finished my TCM medicine (that was prescribed to me right before my illness turned for the worst) and I did not have time to get new medicine due to my interior shoot. Eventually, I took panadol and flu tablets to fight the virus. On the actual day of the competition, I was still very sick. Every time I tried to use my strength, I coughed badly. My head was heavy and I could not concentrate. I disgraced myself in front of all the girls. Right after showering, as I tried to blow to clear my nose, the mucus came out with blood. I knew it was not due to bruises inside my nose because I did not blow my nose hard. The situation was so bad that after I got home and tried to clear my nose again, the mucus dripped continuously for more than five seconds and it was bloody on my basin. I went to see the TCM doctor again and was lectured by her for not resting. For a week, the blood was a loyal companion. My illness took even longer to go away.

I was naive at times but at least I kept my words to everyone. I did my best but my best was far from even the level that I could accept for myself.

Spread the Love – May 2014

May 2014 was filled with loves from many people.

Kexin and I met up for a photoshoot. She was trying to help me with a jogging theme that I wanted to do since a year ago, however, she forgot to bring a top that we had discussed. She was also tired after her school and thus we decided to do a better one during her holidays. I felt I had made a few mistakes while the sunset was not as good as I had seen the past few times at Labrador Park. I was very touched by her objective, which was to help me.

My health was bad for the entire month and almost fell sick many times. There was once when I was a little down, I posted a status in my Facebook before going for my beach volleyball game. Christine called me immediately to ask me to visit the doctor. She had also messaged me a few times through Whatsapp to help me with my photography. I felt very blessed to have an ex colleague who was so concern about me.

During my dinner with my beach volleyball gang, which Shuwen happened to join us, she helped me to log into her Facebook account on my phone and helped me to invite her friends to LIKE my Facebook photography page. It was very nice of her to have helped me. Not everyone was comfortable to log into their accounts on other people’s phone.

My sister-in-law found a new job finally. She took the initiative to treat my family to a dinner at a new restaurant at Chinatown Point owned by chef Daniel. She needed not go to the expense but it was very sweet of her.

I initially had a sexy theme photoshoot with a model and thus I asked Shujuan to accompany me to become my “bodyguard”. However, the model postponed the shoot. Eventually, Shujuan met up with me on the actual day for a photoshoot at IKEA Alexandra, which I wanted to do since long ago. She was very creative and natural, and thus managed to help me get many nice photos despite the bad lighting since I could not set up my equipments without getting permission. She was also a very intelligent and good listener who managed to hold good conversations with me, making it a fantastic day for me.

Weitat organised two gatherings, helping me to meet-up with Mingfa and our favourite uncle and auntie, and also with our ex colleagues. Without him, it was difficult for me to get to see the wonderful people because I was too lazy and busy to organise any meet-up. For the first dinner, he had probably forked out quite a sum of money as well just to give the elderly a treat.

Tony initially formed a team with Gin, Bernard and Poh Hian to take part in the NUS beach volleyball competition. However, Bernard could not make it since he was in BMT and it happened to be his confinement week. Therefore, Tony roped me in. Unfortunately, I felt very sick. Tony went to buy mineral water for us before we went into Sentosa. It started pouring at the end of our game and he went to collect the goodie bags with Gin, asking Poh Hian and I to go to the shower rooms immediately to avoid the rain. Anyway, I played like shit during the game and disgraced myself in front of many girls.

Year 2013 – Year of Stagnant & Frustration

My year 2013 was full of downs. It was a year when things were not moving fast enough.

Family

My elder brother finally got married. There was not much difference since his wife aka my sister-in-law had been staying with us for more than half of the weeks for many years. A joy for my mum was that she needed not be working super hard to find out if both my elder brother and his wife would be joining us for dinner everyday. There was less grumble about this and thus relieving some stress from me.

Luckie was one of my greatest problems apart from the joy and comfort he had given to me. As I was staying at home most of the time, he had been posing lots of troubles to me. I had to clear his pee and poo and he would pester me to bring him down for a walk every now and then. My elder brother would usually lock him out of the bedroom at night and I would still be the one clearing all the shit since my younger brother was not at home most of the time. Luckie was unofficially an abandoned dog since his daddy had been neglecting him as I could use my fingers to count the number of times my elder brother had brought him out of the house. There was a period of time when I felt so bad for Luckie that I tried to bring him down almost every weekday but I gave up, knowing my elder brother would continue to neglect him if he knew someone was taking good care of Luckie. Whenever I thought of the moment I told my elder brother that I would not be free to help to take care of a dog before we brought Luckie home, I felt stupid.

My younger brother moved over to his good friend Derrick’s place for some months as it was nearer to his school. That was a period of time when I became even more stress since he was the one who would settle everything in my house, including sorting out bills and my mum. I was also worried about his safety, especially his illness, when I could not get to see him during weekdays.

Money was the greatest evil in the universe. My family was plagued with issues with money as usual that often I wished I could just move out of the house to avoid torment of my ears. Basically, my mum continued to grumble at my elder brother frequently for she expected him to help out with the household expenditure, including grocery. My younger brother also joined in to nag over the wastage of electricity. Things got better eventually after some dramas. I felt our relationships had improved a lot and the bond was strong.

My mum gave me one of the greatest headaches as usual, behaving like a child most of the time. It would not going to be fun when you already had big problems with your work and someone kept asking you obvious or stupid questions, grumbling over small things or repeating stories over the phone near you. For example, she would watch her favourite Taiwanese drama and turned over to ask what was happening in the show when obviously I was busy with my stuff to even care about the noisy television.

Friends

As I was stuck with work and photography, and facing financial downtime, I did not get to go out with many friends. At times, I rejected gathering invitations in order to cut down on expenditure and it was difficult to make people believe how bad my situation was – besides, I was really busy, with many non-profitable stuffs though. The person I went out most with was Gilbert. Even for my volleyball gang, there was limited number of beach outing and there were groups within group. I did a few voluntary work with the voluntary gang and the experience with them was fulfilling. The few get-together sessions with my younger brother and our common friends were excellent. I got to meet up with old friends like Hoay Min, Guoxin, Xiuwen, Mike and Wanling etc. There was a rare occasion of meet-up with ex primary school friends and unfortunately I had not been keeping touch with them and could not remember the childhood encounters with most of them. I also attended quite a few wedding dinners and was a loner at a couple of the tables. I got to meet quite a number of new friends through photography but I was not able to keep in touch with most of them. Irwin returned to Singapore a few times but I only managed to meet up with him for once.

I learned to distinguish between net friends and real life friends, as well as true friends and fine weather friends. I was, however, still trying to learn to lower down my expectation for people in order not to torture myself. If you were to treat others very good, do not ever expect them to treat you even half as good. Sometimes, I just felt too guilty when friends like Gilbert treated me too well because there was nothing I could offer to him as a buddy.

Somehow, I felt very isolated sometimes despite I had quite a few groups of caring friends. There was no close friend who stayed near me and shared the same hobby – photography.

Health

Ah Pa introduced her friend, Dickson, to me and with his knowledge and experience in Chinese medication, my back problem improved a lot, even though it was still haunting me. I got sick less frequently than before ever since I started taking manuka honey, keeping the usual sore throat, cough and flu away from me most of the time. However, my right arm gave me pain for many months due to beach volleyball. At the last quarter of the year, I also sprained or slightly dislocated my fingers after holding onto the camera for too long hours without rest.

I rarely exercised. It was the thought that I could have spent the time to bring Luckie down for a stroll that placed me in a deep dilemma. He could not run for long.

Relationship

At the beginning of the year, I got close to a girl but she was too busy to keep in touch with me after a week. Then, I realised she was not the one for me. I was never close to any girl despite getting to know many nice girls, especially through photography; in fact, I was too engrossed in photography that most of my chats were just discussions about the shoots. At least I could stand tall to say that I did not use photography as an excuse to get closer to girls.

No girl was able to spend time with me and I would never want to go into a relationship that I could only get to see my girlfriend once every fortnight.

I was also never anxious about getting a girlfriend given my financial situation. Perhaps, I had become a boring person with the countless numbers of worries and problems in my mind. I agreed that nice girls would not mind about my current financial status but I would mind if I could not give my girl a comfortable life. I would rather let nature take its own course.

The route to starting a family was not within my line of sight. I was, perhaps, depressed over the price of HDB flats. The supposed-to-be public housing to make sure every Singaporean had a roof over his head was more like a money-generating tool to push GDP up, so that the rich could become richer. I was not confident, at the moment, that I could afford a house in future.

Finance

I could hardly sustain my life despite I had been ill-treating myself. Income was at all time low since my NS days while I had to continue to give “protection money” every month, which was much more than I would spend on myself. CPF’s medisave extortion and life insurance added on to my burden. Basically, I was draining my saving every month with my bank account getting lighter. I got some of the cheapest camera gears but they were enough to weigh me down further more – photography was an expensive hobby and trade.

Most people who knew me well would know about my thriftiness but many did not realise that I was actually not earning much income. Almost everyone did not know I was in fact making negative income due to various financial loads as mentioned above. It was a joke when there were people who still tried to borrow money from met. Obviously they knew I was a very soft guy, and thus they would rather approach me than other mutual friends who were doing very well. This had helped me to reflect a lot on myself.

Due to the income problem, I hesitated a lot over to upgrade my photography gears that would bring me to a higher level. It affected me tremendously mentally.

On a better note, I would never get starved because I was thrifty and there were many kind people surrounding me. Before my saving could exhaust, I would have done better.

Work

My tuition agency was in a bad state as a few of the more consistent coordinators had left or taking up fewer assignments, and SEO was not well. ET got into a Taiwanese singing competition, Super Idol 8, and he had less time to help out, which resulted in a great fall of revenue since he was a very good worker. Unfortunately, the business model was more about helping parents than making big bucks – I knew of more ways that was less manpower intensive. Since it was my only source of income, it explained how bad my financial state was at. On a brighter side, I was also able to spend more time on picking up photography. That was because I was too lazy and frustrated to work on more features on my website.

I had to spend hours on my work everyday, including weekends. The workload was never consistent but the administration work had to be done daily. The least I had to do was to go through every new and updated tutors’ profiles, and also their submitted documents. I had to do SEO at least once in a couple of days. I had to be consistent with these because I placed myself in the tutors’ shoes that I would be anxious about my account and documents statuses. As for SEO, it would fall badly and would take many months or even years to pick up. Nobody understood how much effort I had to put in daily in order for my tuition agency to be recognised.

The most frustrating thing was that most people would think that I was very free. My time was very flexible but I was never free. I did not like the feeling of being the default person to handle everything whenever shit happened. If things had to be done, they had to be done and I would suck my thumb to settle them but not if being forced to. In other words, I hated to be taken granted of. This was pushing me to give up and simply get a “8 to 5” job instead. A pity that I was a very determined person. I had to work smarter but it was never easy to learn.

Photography

I spent most of my time on photography. I went through countless number of Youtube videos and websites. I took lots of time to go through potential models’ photos, discuss with them, shoot and do the post-processing work, which included filtering the photos and photoshopping. Unfortunately, lots of time for pre-shooting was wasted because of “models” who were wasting my time. It was very frustrating when things were confirmed and the other parties called them off out of a sudden or simply went MIA (missing-in-action).

Through photography, I was able to talk to more people but at the same time, I was also distanced away from many people. In fact, I was too focused in photography that I hardly kept in touch with my models after the shoots. Nevertheless, some of them were in relationship and I had to maintain a safe distance with them. I was also able to find out who were my true friends eventually.

Portrait photoshoot was very tough on me since I was too soft when dealing with my models and the shoots usually did not turn up half as good as I had expected. I was never a commanding person – even when I was lecturing in ITE, I would never instruct any student to help me in anything simple. I did learn a lot but the progress was never fast enough as there were too many things to learn at the same time while my gears were limited. In fact, I had to learn how to use the gears, see lighting, get good composition, watch out for model’s appearance and makeup, and pose the model at the same time.

Tricia guided me a lot through her experience but her critics killed my confidence often. I had problems communicating with her at times because of her extremely serious typing errors in Facebook messenger. There were too much expectation on me, pouring pressure and stress over my helplessness. Sometimes I felt like I was trying to fly before I had learned how to even crawl. Throughout the entire year, I spent most of my days in depression because of the photos I owed people despite I had warned them of the long timeframe before the shoot. I was more anxious than the models to get the photos done so that I could move on to other shoots. Tricia was too busy to go through the photos with me but without her catching errors on the photos (mostly due to makeup and hair), the final photos would not turn out to be good.

I got to realise the limitation of my first DSLR camera – Sony NEX F3 mirrorless. The auto focus speed was simply too slow and I could not expect the models to pause their expression, especially during event shoot. It did not come with a hotshoe and I could not attach an external flash without buying an additional costly adapter. I bought my Canon 650D but things did not go smoothly. I realised the cropped factor of the body was 1.6x, which was lousier than Sony NEX F3’s 1.5x – 1x (full frame) was the best. Since Sony was using Carl Zeiss lens, the quality was much better as well. Canon’s 50mm F1.8 lens was far lousier than Sony’s. Therefore, it was actually a downgrade of image quality that I could never get used to and in fact, it was affecting me badly. Instead of working on my creativity during the shoots, I was badly distracted by the quality of images. I lost my confidence ever since the switch. I knew I needed a better camera.

AFter I got both my photography website and Facebook page up, there were more models approaching me for photoshoot. However, most of them were not serious. Unfortunately, I was someone who would be putting in my best effort every time. I was also disappointed by the results of my Facebook marketing, such that the number of fans for a start was far less than what I had expected.

Through photography, I had learned a lot, especially on human. Most people would not bother much if things were to come for free. I had tasted lots of fake enthusiasm. At least, I was comforted by the existence of great friends, especially Tricia.

Year 2012 – The Stagnant, The Beginning

Volleyball
I started going back for volleyball with my buddies but things had changed tremendously. I found myself landing in a “foreign place”. My gang was sidelined somehow for we were playing too causally whereas all the competitive players took the main court. I supposed nobody was at fault since everyone had different goals in the sport. However, I was very upset over the distancing of some friends. I did not get to play very often since my team was busy and seldom could make it.

Health
My health was not in good shape. Apart from the long term back injury (frequent aches) from volleyball and feet aching suffered during national service, I had problems with my gums and complexion.

I might have accidentally hit my gum with toothbrush a few times when I was trying to brush my teeth fast. It ended up with a tiny hole where food always got struck inside. I did go to the polyclinic once but the unprofessional doctor turned a blind eye in order to knock off early from his work. Finally I went back and a better doctor assigned me to the National Dental Centre (NDC). I did a minor surgery to borrow some flesh from the upper gum to fill the “hole” before pulling the “skin” up to cover it. The pain lasted for more than a week and I could hardly eat since the donor’s wound was at the centre. Within a week, my weight went down from 54kg to slightly below 50kg. As expected, upon recovery, the gum could only cover the root level and tiny food would still get stuck inside. It was quite a costy surgery that I was not even use my Medisave to pay, which was ridiculous.

On the same consultation day with the better polyclinic doctor, he also assigned me to National Skin Centre (NSC). My main concern was a tiny lump right below my nose, which looked like an acne. I did try to pluck it out with my nails but the wound would stay bloody for some hours before it reinstated. I was told by a friend that it could be due to hardening of pimple that I did not take good care of. While keeping it under observation for months, I also had medication for my acne problems. In the end, I had it extracted, which was a fast surgery.

Financial
My only source of income from Smart Tuition was stagnant and decreased tremendously towards end of the year. With the increase in living expenses, life began to get tough and I started to feel the pinch on my pocket. I was poorest during polytechnic days but at least I did not have the pressure of supporting the family.

Friends
I continued to stray away from friends as everyone progressed with their own lives. Occasionally I went out for volleyball with my gang and other than that, there was very few meet-up with other friends. I did make new friends but none of them was free enough to spend more time with me.

Family
We had a big setback as my younger brother was diagnosed with mild stroke a few days right before Chinese New Year. He had numbness over half of his entire body from head to feet, even though it did not affect his strength. We were all surprised since he was a very disciplined and active guy with no bad habit. All along I thought he would be the most successful guy in my family who could help to take care of my mum if I were to vanish someday.

Photography
My photography journey started after I bought my first decent camera – Sony NEX F3 – a mirrorless camera. I started helping Eng Teck with phototaking of his performance during Sunsilk Academy Fantasia competition. After that, I tried portrait photoshoot and started to learn more. It was a very tough journey for me. I faced countless rejection and many models would “back out” halfway or a day before the shoot after wasting lots of my time. Apart from pre-shoot planning and the actual shooting, filtering and editing the photos robbed me of my time.

Relationship
I had another year of clean sheet with relationship. Other than being busy with my tuition agency work and photography, there was no drive for me to get a girlfriend. I did meet many nice girls but they were never free for me to begin as friends.

Fell Sick for a Month

Not many people would believe that I have a rather weak body. Taking too much “heaty” food would take me down, other than being very upset. I usually feel thirsty even though my water bottle is always near me.

I was down with sore throat, cough, flu, diarrhea, and probably some fever almost a month ago. I went to the TCM before all the pests arrived and the four days of good behaviour did not save me. Then, I had to force myself to visit the polyclinic because I was told that green phlegm meant that it was a virus infection. Green poo threatened me more.

I knew I could have recovered much earlier like usual but it was a different scenario this time. Within the first few days when the symptoms arrived, I was deeply upset over certain news that I had lost my determination to resist anything. It made me feel stuffy on my chest and I knew my conditions would be worsened.

It took me a few weeks to pull myself together after trying to accept reality. I was, however, very loaded with work that I could not have sufficient rest. Keeping myself occupied with work was quite a good way to numb myself anyway. Nevertheless, being in a bad shape had slowed down my work by a lot.

The dry cough after the phlegm was gone kept me companied throughout for at least a week more. I still went to the toilet twice or more times daily as a new routine, and there would be bad tummy-ache at least once.

It was until Thursday night, I felt healthy and managed to have a good volleyball game, followed by supper at McDonald’s with my elder brother and mum.

Battling against illness depends a lot on the mind and I know I should try to avoid recalling depressing stuffs.

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On the Verge of Collapsing

Life has become more unpredictable than ever since the beginning of this year.

My younger brother and I were always at loggerheads when we were young. He has, however, grown up to become a very sensible person and we become very close.

As I have been putting stress on myself without taking much rest, I am prepared to die of brain cancer or similar illness at a young age. I used to think that I can depend on him to take care of my mum when I am gone.

When he notified me that his body was acting weird, I was lost.

A few days later, when he returned from Bali, we went straight to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of Singapore General Hospital (SGH). It was one of my most hated places. Scenes over there were nasty, especially when I had to witness foreigners crying over to the lost of their friend.

Half of my brother’s body was experiencing numbness on the right side and it seemed like needles were poking him. Doctors and nurses began to get worried after they conducted X-ray and CT scan. Initial finding was either brain bleeding or blood clot, as we were told different stories by the staffs.

I had to lie to my gullible mum that my brother went over purposely just because he had bought travel insurance and wanted to make full use of it. My acting skill excelled as I remained calm in front of my mum even when my brother was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Perhaps, his condition was not so critical at the moment but it happened that the high dependency (HD) ward was full and he had to be admitted inside the more critical ward.

When my relatives started to find out about my brother’s condition, I had to answer them on the phone besides my mum, pausing for a few seconds to suppress the urge to burst out, before explaining in a relaxing tone. That was what grown-ups had to learn to do.

There was no feeling of festive season. I was glad enough that we could get time-off for him to go out for our reunion dinner. My brother was hospitalized until the second day of Chinese New Year. We did not manage to see the doctor in charge to ask about his condition. We were also disappointed with the management of the hospital.

My brother needs no medication at the moment and we are all clueless about what will happen next. His illness is likely to be “Post Thalamic Syndrome” as researched online. I cannot imagine myself feeling the numbness over half of my body symmetrically and boiling over my leg occasionally.

I’m beginning to feel numb as well. Staying alive is mainly to face hardship. My work alone has already taken away half of my smiles.

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It just Hurts

My left thumb was sprained on last Saturday night. It was caused by receiving a ball using fingers on the volleyball court when I softened my fingers to place it a metre away for the setter. I did not trim my fingernails and had this phobia, which restricted my movements. It had been more than a year since I last sprained any part of my body as I had not played volleyball for very long. I hate it for causing pain whenever I trigger it. Even squeezing the toothpaste has been made difficult. It reminds me of the doctor warning my mum that losing the power on the thumb will cause disability to nearly 40% of the daily tasks. I am actually quite used to the after-sprained feeling since my back has been hurting similarly for the past ten years. The hurt is definitely not as severe as heartache though. Somehow, I have not forgotten about the hurt caused by my last ex-girlfriend more than two years ago. Every single lie, regardless of the seriousness, from any female friend just pours back the memories. “Please don’t treat me too nice.” I’m quite sensitive to the request from any female friend because it reminds me of my first relationship. It somehow makes girls guilty and the feeling is bad, which also makes them begin to admit their lies, whether big or small. Sometimes I wish I have not been too sharp, which has also been scaring female friends away. I always remember what Baoyu has told me more than a year ago – most girls do not think logically. When I begin to be too frank with my observation, it often draws a line between us. I’m not a smart person and thus I always do my best to make up for the shortcoming. However, I’m often powerless. Most of the time, I can only sit back and pray hard for them when they are in bad times. Whenever a sweet friend whom I have been treating sincerely distances away suddenly, it hurts.

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