The girl from hell

I was busy with my life as usual but I was also curious about iLight Marina 2017 since I had visited the past two years’. As lazy as I could get, I didn’t really try asking around. Since social media would draw reactions from weird people, I couldn’t be direct about asking who wanted to go with me. So, I posted a status asking who hadn’t visited it to observe the responses. I did receive quite a number of reactions.

I could see that one of the girls was obviously interested. She was just a net friend whom I had not met before but she was quite interested in modelling. She had quite ordinary looks and was rather flat chested, but I was sure my HMUA friends could do a good makeover for her. Obviously, she wasn’t that bad since she was petite and would be easier to be captured. Looks aside, she had mentioned about doing sexy shoot and that was a bait, although she did show me a few examples and I thought she was rather immature. She also suggested to shoot in a hotel room and I thought she was rich.

I wasn’t desperate for a girlfriend and I knew she wasn’t my type simply by judging through the online interaction – it wasn’t about looks but her weird character. Anyway, I would usually try to maximise the action I do, such as going out with her. Firstly, I hated going out alone feeling like a loner and secondly, I wanted to know more about her simply for photography purpose.

Of course, I regretted my decision.

Princess-wannabe

During the discussion to visit the art festival, she had already instructed me to carry her laptop for her. She was upfront and serious about it, without showing any shyness, like as if every girl deserved the good treatment. I wasn’t very used to it since most of my female friends were independent and would not want to take advantage of their male friends. Usually, I would be the gentleman to insist to help them (regardless of their looks) carry their stuffs and they would be rejecting me genuinely.

Lack of surviving skill and not funny humour

Since it was a raining day and I remembered SIM would be cold as the lecture rooms were all air-conditioned, I showed her some concern by asking if she had brought along a jacket or cardigan. She said no and she wasn’t afraid of cold. After we met up, she did admit she was a little cold. It wasn’t her first day in school and she should have known. Besides, I didn’t find her joke/lie funny, but she thought it was. Was it fun to make me mistake that she was very strong?

Lack of update, no sense of urgency

We didn’t set a time since I didn’t know if her class would end earlier or later. However, she didn’t update me right after her class ended. Instead, she only texted me when she was at the bus-stop. A normal person would have contacted me right after she was ready and not acted as if we had already decided on the exact time and location to meet.

“Sotong”

She had stayed in Singapore for about 10 years and I was sure she could do simple research about travelling around. I gave her the easiest method to travel down from her school – direct bus – 75. I also listed out the landmarks the bus would be passing by to assure her that I knew the way. Besides, she used to stay near my place and I didn’t expect her to know nothing about the transportation. At the bus-stop, she couldn’t find the bus number. I told her it was operated by SMRT and double confirmed the other bus numbers with her to make sure she was at the correct bus-stop. It took quite some time for her to figure out I didn’t made a mistake. If you had been waiting for buses in a particular bus-stop (less than 10 bus numbers) for many months, you would probably have observed most of the numbers. It was beyond ways to describe someone like her. Of course, I wouldn’t take this flaw into consideration for friendship.

Her hunger

My plan was to hop onto the same bus she was taking even though I had other better buses (more direct) to the venue. It was about helping her since she didn’t even know where to alight even though I had told her to alight at the final stop. Anyway, she told me she was having gastric problem. After attending the school for long and knowing the routine, she should have better prepared herself! If she knew that her class would end late (in fact, 7pm seemed fine), she should have prepared some snacks. Besides, there were food stalls in SIM and she could grab a quick bite, not as if she was late since we didn’t confirm the time to meet.

Her instruction

After getting into the bus, she instructed me to get food and drinks for her even though I had told her the place was very near my house, which meant that we would be having dinner very soon after I boarded it. The bus journey to reach my place could be between 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the traffic, and it wasn’t a long time to do shopping for her. I grabbed some snacks from my house. Then she asked me for milk and she named 7-11. It was crazy to take any cold drink when someone was having gastric pain and thus I decided it was better to get packet Milo from NTUC, which was also much more economic as well. She then suggested buying hot Milo and I thought it was a bad idea for I could foresee her spilling it inside the bus. So, I walked very fast down to the NTUC but realised they hadn’t replenished their stock. I got some chocolate milk instead and ran home to pick up my bag and kept the extra packets, before running to the bus-stop.

The elixir

After having a few slips of the chocolate milk I passed to her, she claimed that she had felt very comfortable. It was simply weird to me because even medicine wouldn’t have such immediate healing effect. Nevertheless, if she thought she felt good, that was good.

Buff up

One of the few topics she ranked up was that I should have buffed myself up. I didn’t go to the gym and many girls already thought I was fit. I thought it was weird for a girl to ask a friend to buff up just because he had fetish for guys with big muscle; I wasn’t even her boyfriend. On the contrast, she was underweight and didn’t look very fit.

Language

At first, I thought she was from Malaysia and thus most of them prefered to converse in Mandarin, which I was more comfortable with. I tried to talk to her in Mandarin but she kept it in English. Then, I realised she was actually a Canadian. Even though it seemed to me that her English language wasn’t good as well, she had tried to correct me.

Self conscious

She asked me to compare her real person with her photographs. For people who had been through waves and tides, we knew it was trap. It was a difficult task for me since I hated lying but luckily, she resembled her photographs in her styling – long hair hiding much of the sides of her face. Of course, there was blurring effect by the phone app automatically or manually and thus she looked much paler with not-so-good complexion in real person. I didn’t tell her that her nose looked bigger in her photographs.

Lectured on joke

Somehow, the conversation led to the topic of joking. She was in a serious tone, telling me not to joke using physical looks. She was right to an extent but her tone was really bad like as if she was lecturing her student – not that I had offended her. I tried to reason with her that if a friend make obvious jokes, it was very okay. For instance, if a girl was very pretty and her friend (yes, FRIEND) told her she was ugly, obviously it was just a joke. Another more obvious example I gave was that if her hair was long and her friend called it short, it was obvious a joke as well. Eventually, she was insistence and didn’t buy my explanation. It wasn’t as if people would joke about their friend’s disfigured face or any physical inability. To me, all my friends trusted that I meant well to them and I needed not hang out with anyone who had any slight doubt in me. She was obviously not an easygoing girl because she set her own rules and everyone had to follow her instructions.

Extreme thick

Apart from some rough skin, it was “thick”. As we entered the shopping mall, she told me she didn’t have cash when the ATM machine was around five metres right in front of us. She didn’t bother to withdraw money. She borrowed money from me instead and the only good thing was that she didn’t demand to dine at a restaurant. She was quick enough to ask to share table with a couple in the foodcourt and then got the money from me before she left to get her own food.

Find her church friend

She regretted going to the foodcourt because she saw many of her ex churchmates who probably came over from Suntec City. she had stopped joining them and she didn’t like many of them for they didn’t like her. Then she made one abrupt and stupid demand (yes, she was really serious about it) for me to look for one of them in green bottom. I didn’t see the need to do it since she was not going over to say hi to that girl even if we could find her again. Logically, the foodcourt wasn’t small and there were some stalls blocking the tables on other sides, and that we were seated down while that lady could be seated as well. She was really weird and demanding.

More fluent in Mandarin

Her male friend passed by with a tray of food and I assumed he was from the church as well. She invited him to join us immediately. The first thing I noticed was that she was speaking to him in Mandarin and she was more fluent in it compared to English – I didn’t see why she could accommodate to him and not me, by using the language.

Embarrassment

She was complimenting her friend for he seemed to be popular in instagram for he was working with Jack Neo in designing clothes. I was totally freaked out when she asked him directly if he was earning a lot and I could sense that he wasn’t very comfortable. I knew it was tough working with “big brands” or “celebrities” because you would either earn little or nothing at all, but of course, I kept quiet. Then, she started asking him for jobs in marketing and I was a bit taken aback when he realised she was talking about part-time job instead of full-time job – I had no idea what she was up to. Then, she even sought help from him to become an actress in Jack Neo’s movies. As a third party who was listening to the conversation, I felt she was trying hard to sell herself like as if she was going to swallow him up. I actually felt embarrassed and if I had the chance, I would want to explain to this guy that I wasn’t dating her. Obviously, I was treated as invisible. He didn’t get a chance to chew on his food and after some time, he had to excuse himself for he was in a rush and it was weird that he left the table and seemed like he was looking for another empty seat – obviously, he just wanted to excuse himself from her.

Excuse me

After the dinner, I was glad I was finally able to get straight the goal of the night – see the iLight installations. We crossed over to the Esplanade’s side and had to cut through Makansutra but it was very crowded. I led the way by the side and we had to cut through a bar’s outdoor area. An ang moh waitress was probably having a bad day and used a high pitch tone at me, “Excuse me!” like as if I was trying to block her way. My heroine friend decided to play a prank by using a higher pitch tone to repeat it. The waitress was at the door when she turned back, “Like, seriously?!”. I was at a total lost because I was already exhausted (running around before catching the bus) and feeling unwell (usual indigestion), and I was just trying to get over to the river side as quickly as possible. She explained to me that she was trying to tease me by repeating after the waitress. Later, she suddenly blamed me for not reacting so that the waitress wouldn’t mistake, in a speed second, that she wasn’t trying to anger the waitress.

Needs no explanation

It was one of the unluckiest nights ever when iLight met Earth Hour and we rammed into the start of that one hour. Most of the installations on the Esplanade side was shut down, apart from the Art Zoo at the floating platform that required purchasing of tickets to go in. Even the street lamps were off and I explained to her that the street wasn’t so dark usually but she didn’t seem to buy it. I didn’t see a need to explain. Anyway, that was the start of her using her phone intensively.

Stare at her boobs

There were some stalls under the audience seats in front of the floating platform. She was excited and went in. As clumsy as she could, she dropped the sample food, blaming the food for being too soft to be secured by the toothpick. She started cleaning her footwear with a piece of tissue and I didn’t really realise she had actually made quite a big mess of herself. After getting out of the crowd, she asked me to check her out for any stain and I finally looked at her from her head to toes and realised the cake had caught her top on her boob. She sounded very frustrated and blamed me for not noticing it like as if it was polite for a guy to stare at a girl’s boobs. I would avoid staring at sensitive places even during my photoshoot with models!

Glued to phone

Although she was holding onto her phone, updating her Instagram Story and texting her friends or friend, she did entertain me by telling me about her crush. However, she repeated her stories a few times to seek assurance from me that he was interested in her. The entire conversation was almost meaningless to me for she already knew the answer long ago. It was also very nasty for her to do that to a male friend and I counted myself lucky that I wasn’t interested in her at all.

Food and queue

Even though we just had our dinner, she was eyeing for food. Given her size, I was certain that she couldn’t finish up two meals in such a short span of time. Moreover, she didn’t even have cash with her. Luckily, all the queues were long, or otherwise, I would be treated as her ATM again.

Ridiculous blaming game again

By the time we had reached the Gastrobeats compound, she was already badly glued to her phone that she had almost stopped talking to me. As she looked very engrossed, it was difficult for me to engage her. Suddenly, she lectured me for not leading the way as she claimed she would be able to follow me even though she was busy with her phone. She was actually doing something I hated most – gluing to her phone instead of talking to me – and yet she could sound so arrogant. We actually missed some of the installations, not just because they weren’t very interesting, but mainly because her mind wasn’t at the festival. I was glad when she decided to call it a day.

Finding way home

The underground pathways around the place was messy to me but I was certain they would be linked to Raffles Place MRT station. We entered one of the entrances and took the escalator down. There was a label “to shops” and she didn’t believe me that it could somehow be linked to Raffles Place MRT station. Of course, I was not 100% sure but was more than willing to take the risk. We exited and somehow made our way to the nearest Downtown Line instead.

Same old selfie

She started doing selfie inside the train, it was all the same closed-up shots with hair covering quite a lot of the face. She then asked me to try a shot using her phone and exclaimed I was holding it very near her even though her selfie was closer; besides, there was no good background.

Gentleman

Despite having all the shit throughout the night, I still tried to be nice and asked if she preferred to be alone for the rest of the journey. I knew the answer since she was still busy on her phone with her crush. So, I counted myself lucky and alighted at my station. Of course, I was the one who remembered about her laptop and returned it to her.

iLight without photography

The main reason that I didn’t even bother to take my camera out from my bag was obvious – the person didn’t deserve any professional shot from me.

Intention to return money

She did contact me to ask me for my bank account number. According to my analysis of her, she was kind of “testing market”. It was another trap for guy. If a guy were to get back the 10 bucks, he would be considered as ungentleman to some girls for not treating a “cheap” dinner. My real friends knew I was stingy to myself but I was generous to friends. However, for this girl, I was very reluctant but to tell her that I would have the 10 bucks parked at her side to accumulate interest. I was also trying to test her reaction and she didn’t insist to return. I didn’t help to continue the conversation.

Petty and cheapo

A week after the meet-up, she commented on one of my Instagram photographs and stated that I looked like Steven Lim. Since Steven Lim was a comedian who was often being related to “disgusting”, I assumed she was trying to play teasing game with me when she suddenly texted me in Whatsapp, repeating it. She hated people joking about physical looks and yet she was doing it on me. So, I played along to tease her that she was weak for her whatever hiking trip and linked it to sleeping at home. She exclaimed I was rude and proclaimed that I was not going to have my 10 bucks back. Then, she removed me from her social media. To be exact, she unfriended me in Facebook and unfollowed me in Instagram, instead of blocking me.

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.

Spread the Love – June 2016

When I was at Angie’s gallery, even though she was very busy with her customers, she took time to come over personally to pass me my cheque.

Weitat organised two volleyball sessions at Yusok Ishak Secondary School. As usual, he also took the trouble to give me a lift home after supper even though we were all tired.

Shujuan had a meet-up with me. She actually got attached days before that and I appreciated her friendship that she had not forgotten me. It was rare for friends to ask me out just to chill up and not trying to sell me anything.

Gilbert brought me to Fitness First and guided me on training. Without him pushing me, I would be very lazy to do my occasional work out.

Spread the Love – July 2014

My younger brother and I were using the same phone – Samsung Note 2. He was an explorer of a few local online shopping sites and when he bought his “unbreakable” screen protector, he got one for me too. It was a selfless act, especially when he did not expect me to pay him back, which I did together with the monthly bills payment.

I started to understand the limitation of my Canon 430 EX-II and thus I knew I had to invest in a better flash unit. When I tried to buy a Canon 600 EX-RT, Stephen, instigated by Samuel, offered to lend me his Canon 580 EX-II. He was such a nice and honest guy who was ready to lend his friends all his equipments.

The flash power of Canon 580 EX-II and Canon 600 EX-RT were almost similar, except that Canon 600 EX-RT had Canon’s radio receiver built-in and the buttons were better designed. If I were to buy a new piece, I would choose Canon 600 EX-RT for its value would stay longer. Whereas for second hand unit, both were fine to me and of course Canon 580 EX-II would be much cheaper. However, I was quite scared of getting bad second hand unit, which I probably would not be able to find out the fault until using it.

My dad’s youngest brother (my uncle) suddenly messaged me in Facebook and asked me if I had received his SMS. At first I thought he was looking for me for some urgent matters. He had actually sent the SMS to my old number, which was not in use since many years ago. Anyway, he was asking me if I had bought my new camera. He promised me to split the cost of a new camera with me during last December when I borrowed his house for a Christmas theme photoshoot. I felt too pampered and thus did not talk to him over it after that day. I had actually forgotten about it after I used my saving to buy my new Canon 6D camera and Canon 24-70mm F2.8 II lens.

I told him I would need a stronger flash unit like Canon 600 EX-RT at the moment and he wanted to get it for me. Even though we were blooded family members, I did not get to meet him often, except during Chinese New Years and I thought I did not deserve such expensive gift from him. I supposed my dad had been “borrowing” money from him long time ago when he was still alive and if that was real, they were definitely bad debts. Lastly, I was also hoping I would be able to earn through photography to purchase the necessary equipments on my own. The struggle within me was torturing. Eventually, I decided to take this “shortcut” by accepting the offer from my uncle. I supposed I would also cherish the new flash unit better if it was a gift.

I thought it was a good chance to meet up with my uncle and auntie to get the new Canon 600 EX-RT flash unit together but they were too busy. To me, it was weird but he offered to do a bank transfer over instead. He got my auntie to do it on the next day and there was even an excess of money, which would help me to get a much needed external harddisk as well.

Spread the Love – February 2014

I had a couple shoot with Derrick and Peisee. ET, my younger brother and mum tagged along since we had a gathering over Derrick’s place at night. Together we managed to create some nice photos. Derrick had the steamboat dinner prepared with the help of his family and he refused when we offered to share the cost of the food. He and his dad drove and sent all of us home at night from the West to Central of Singapore. I felt the love from everyone who had spent their time with me on that day.

I was still trying hard to upgrade my camera gears and finally decided to go all the way for it. As there was a daily limit in withdrawing money from the ATM, I was short of cash. Gilbert didn’t hesitate to loan a thousand bucks to me immediately. I appreciated his trust in me.

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.

Spread the Love – October 2013

I had an appointment at ITE College West during October to meet up with my ex-colleague (a great chef), Edwin Phua, for some photography projects. I went slightly earlier to visit other colleagues. It was near 6.30pm and most of my ex colleagues had left. However, as I had expected, my ex boss, Lim Wee Lian, was still around. It was around an hour after the official working hour had ended and he was one of the few hardworking civil servants who were still slogging hard.

I started chatting with him inside his office. During the half an hour’s catch-up, the topics were mainly resolving around my current well being. Wee Lian was busy thinking of ways that I could work on to generate some income. At the same point of time as I was amazed by his creativeness, I felt so guilty that I was actually delaying him from finishing his work, such that he would have to leave for home even later.

It would at least take half a day’s time to list out the great things he has done for me. I would just sum up that he is someone I would sacrifice my time for. That was the reason I had stayed on for three more months by his request before I left; moreover, he had forgotten about my new degree paper that would fetch me at least a thousand bucks more in total. Three months, no, I doubt I would do that for anyone else.

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.

Year 2011 – Year of Living in the Mountain

Year 2011 was one of the worst years in my life. It was a year of isolation that I hardly met up with anyone. Most friends were busy with their own lives and work, and all the outing that some of my ex colleagues had promised to organise vanished with time. I was, in fact, too busy to meet up with old friends individually. One of the ex polytechnic class outing turned out to be disaster when all, except Wenchang, dropped out at the tick of the clock. The lack of communication with people offline made me a duller guy. There was no romance like the previous year, which marked another two years of single life for me. I was not really in a hurry to get a girlfriend since I was not financially stable yet. Sometimes I did turn lonely but work had kept me well occupied. I also knew well that my time was too tight, but on another note, a girl could actually spice up my life and make me push myself harder in my work, which could be a positive effect. It was all about fate after all. I was physically weakened for the minimal number workout sessions I had. I went back to ITE College West for volleyball for about twice and hardly did any jogging. The most tedious workout I did was when I went to Fitness First with Gilbert, but just for at most once per week, and I was mostly lazing about there. There were times when we skipped the outing for more than a month. All gym sessions were accompanied by big feast. I was very annoyed by numerous major incidents that happened in Singapore. The unfairness and deception caused by the greed of rich people were unbearable. There were plentiful of sad news such as public transportation prices were raised to make the rich people richer, while the trains and tracks were discovered to be unmaintained for ten years, only after major breakdown incidents with the service provider taking inhuman actions and responses. I realised I had to live with the great injustice in this society because there was nothing much I could do when I could not even fend for my own life. My family got into a major conflict once when things started to explode between my younger brother and my elder brother’s girlfriend after years of toleration. When everyone started to speak up, there were great improvements although many friends still felt sorry for the house owner and two brothers had to squeeze inside a bedroom so as to allow the elder brother to have a bedroom with his girlfriend who stayed overnight regularly in the same house. By then, my elder brother’s girlfriend had grown fonder of our dog and bought him more food and goodies than she bought for the rest of us, and thus my elder brother’s life got better. However, I found it a great insult when his girlfriend banned me from using her pillow whenever I went over to that bedroom, even though the dog was using it like nobody’s business every day. It reminded me of Bruce Lee’s movies that “Chinese and dogs are not allowed into the foreigners’ restaurant”, but I was worse than a dog. Things were still going well after all, in fact, it was much better. My mum’s super ultimate regular visits to the hospital and polyclinic for check-ups and follow-ups caused great problems as she expected companion. Each trip would waste two to four hours of time because of the inefficient system that required patients to wait for long. I hated the idea of my mum expecting us to foot the bill for her because it was totally unnecessary at the moment and that any excess money with her could be cheated off easily. The time wasted could help me to relax at home. I did not join my mum and younger brother for their overseas trips. Even though there was once when my mum’s friend’s husband had things on, I did not take up the free ticket. Apart from being thrifty, my work did not allow me to have any holiday. Work would only pile up. Finance was sustainable for me somehow although I only started earning my first cent from my tuition agency in February. However, I soon started to feel frustrated when the amount of effort and hard work I put in did not produce good results for me. I was in fact earning much lesser than I was working in ITE as a lecturer. The increasingly pressure on the expenses for both family and business caused frustration in me. Overall, after striving hard for a year, I was not rich but at least I did not starve. My elder brother was jobless most of the time, which added weights to my brain since I had to pay for most of the stuffs together with my younger brother, partly due to my mum’s constant nagging in front of me. I spent quite a sum of money on a double decker bed frame with a pull-out bed at the bottom to house my younger brother, my mum and I inside the small bedroom. It was due to my mum’s complaints of not able to get up from the mattress we initially placed on the floor easily and that she often knocked her head onto the old bed frame due to the height. Next was the changing of lighting in my house as to reduce electricity bill, which did not show results due to the increasing electricity cost. The old lighting had two tubes of round light-bulb each and the inner smaller light-bulb’s electricity consume alone was crazy enough. The third expensive item I had bought was a Fujifilm camera recommended by my elder brother due to his read-up of internet reviews during the IT show, which turned out to be a total waste of money. We lost trust in forum’s reviews. Anyway, I knew I should have spent more money to get a cheap DSLR camera instead, which I had wished for donkey years, even though my younger brother preferred a more compact one. Besides not able to catch up with friends, I was dealt deadly blows twice in this very lousy year. I was initially into planning with Tze Khit’s friends for a new business venture when I was already too tight with my tuition agency. I decided to drop out in the end and somehow, someone backstabbed me, which caused Andrew to confront me. As I thought things were fine, I realised I had lost a good friend when I was deleted away from his Facebook friends list. The lost of a friend, including the fact that I was being falsely accused, dwelled in my brain for months. I began the year in Mike’s office as a freeloader to work on my own business. I was too greedy as a perfectionist but I set my priority quite right to increase credibility and efficiency of coordinators by adding and editing useful features. I started from scratch without any knowledge of the business, whereby it required real life experience to further explore, and thus I had to make changes to the website’s features very often. Nobody could understand the amount of work I had put in when I was the sole person in charge of the researching, designing, coding, debugging, content writing, internet marketing and administrating etc. I had to choose between less prioritised tasks that would require more effort if I did not finish them earlier and important tasks that were more critical but could be more tedious. There were immediate tasks, such as to approve tutors’ profile, verifying of their documents and SEO, which was extremely time-consuming, leaving little energy for me to work on other tasks. There were also times, which I had to help the coordinators to even “debug” Gmail or bugless feature on my website. It could be a very good business many years ago but it was already too saturated and that the levy was actually very low. I learned many tricks regarding Search Engine Optimization from Mike. However, he got impatient with the progress of my work as a mentor. He expected more results from me even though he could not understand clearly the thousands of problems I was facing for operating a partially offline business without experience in business – both online and offline. Every month, he would also raise issues and talk to me in a very irritated tone. The pressure on me started driving me crazy and massacring my confidence when everything I did with my greatest effort seemed to be wrong. I became moody like a zombie with my existing struggles with everything and had phobia going to the office. There was a major communication breakdown somehow and I started to fear talking to him. I could not live up to his expectation even as a normal human as I became weary of everything, not knowing how to show him any slight of appreciation while I was almost breaking down mentally. In the end, he told me he had observed me for over ten months and that I had failed him, and we would revert back to good friends instead of mentor-student status. The thing that hurt me most was my misunderstanding that we had always trusted each other fully since the army days and that was why he had been guiding me along. I ended the last few months of the year with worsened sleepless nights tossing around my bed. I hated myself for not being capable enough to prove my worth so that many things would not have happened and refusing to become a person who could suck up to people. I could have borrowed some of his time from his girlfriend to give him a treat or get him a present even though I was suffering from fatigue all the while to even think of these. Year 2011 was yet another scar in my life.

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How Many Ten-Years Do We Have In Our Lives?

One of my favourite Chinese drama shows, which had just ended recently, was Rosy Business. I was quite surprised that Gilbert did catch it as well. The story was based on the olden days of China during the Qing dynasty and I expected not many people would be interested in it. It was mainly about the family of the major rice seller in Wuxi, China. To them, it was not only about profit but the essential of lives of the people, and thus they had to fight against thugs and their evil family members to keep the business going and the price of rice low. I first caught it when I happened to have my dinner at home instead of dining out on a weekend. My curiosity was spiked by the great plot. It was a pity that I had missed out some of the exciting parts where the main characters applied intelligence to overcome problems. The show was not anything like “Huang Fei Hong” or Tom Cruise in “mission impossible”. The hero was not a saint; he made big mistakes and grew mature over times. His loyalty, courage and intelligence were impressive. The usual quote by the hero was “how many ten-years do we have in our lives?” and it clearly reminded everyone not to waste our lives. I know I have been ill-treating myself for the past twenty-plus years. Though I have not produced much result, I have clearly spent most of my entire life racing. I’m been trained not to have lust on food or travelling. I’m losing myself as days go by and soon becoming a zombie. I’m not a smart worker and I’m definitely bad at priority management. I have clearly disappointed many people. I’m never in need of money not because my family is rich but I rarely spend on myself. I’m used to mess around with hunger since polytechnic days. My dad’s last payslip wrote around $1300 before he passed away and my mum spent quite a sum of my dad’s leftovers (CPF and insurance) on renovation of the rundown house, insurance plans that she could not afford, crappy health magnetic mattresses and she even lent a big portion of it to her boss who had been abusing her verbally. One year before I went to the army for national service, I had to start skipping meals after volleyball games. Nobody can understand how much I have been through and thus no one is in the position to judge me. I have to work extra hard because I’m neither a genius nor apple-polisher. There are also some risks that I’m not able to take. I need to do something for my next ten years of life if I can live on.

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