AS a person who feels like she is everywhere at once all the time, it was a little tricky to name this column at first. I like to act, hike, swim, read, travel, cook, take photos, talk to stray animals, commit random acts of kindness and shout, "That's my song!" to any deejay that drops a track by Earth Wind and Fire. But then I thought about the constant state of mind that connects these activities, and my theme appeared as clear as day.
Like many adolescents and young adults these days, I grew up looking forward to the day I would get hit by a bus. I struggled to find myself in an emotionally oppressed environment where curiosity was a bad influence, creativity stays in art class and charity was a rude word. Then in 2007, my father left the family and I experienced my first toxic relationship. It took me over a year to rebuild my relationships with loved ones, not to mention my self-respect. In the process, colours became brighter, the air felt fresher, and the act of smiling turned autonomous. I discovered the awesomeness of feeling blessed.
I admit I still do catch myself by surprise, like the day I had decided to start working on this article. I had stepped into my hotel room last week in Kuching at 6pm after a long day of drama teaching, to find that the city was experiencing a major power cut which would last right up until past midnight. Hot and frustrated that I couldn`t get any work done on my laptop, it then dawned on me – in college, I used to be able to draft entire 10-page assignments by hand. Did I not have that in me anymore? What happened, dude?
"Imagine how people lived in Victorian times," my colleague tells me as our vision hovers over a quickly dimming city beyond our windows on the seventeenth floor. "They had nothing close to what we have now. Nightfall was nightfall." "That`s true", I replied, my imagination conjuring blackouts in a futuristic flying-car era leading to hysteria and cannibalism.
My colleague’s words reminded me how much urbanites like us take things for granted. Being grumpy in a traffic jam, when we should feel glad that we can afford cars. Kicking a fuss about low water pressure, when others need to walk for miles to the nearest well. Wailing in a shop about a dress not coming in one’s size, to the relief of a wardrobe already choking.
In the technology sector, making history is no longer a fluke but an expectation. A modern society evolves to function as efficiently as possible. Fast service, fast food, fast transport, fast entertainment and fast love. Should any of them bail on us, even just temporarily, our impulse is to react as though they are human entitlements. And why not? We work hard for it. But perhaps we move so fast that we forget to take a step back and acknowledge what amazing times these are.
Gratitude is generally seen as ornamental. Thank you for the tip! Thank you for the company! Thank you for flushing! Is it possible for ripples of gratitude to continue long after the spare changed has been pocketed, the friends have been hugged, and the restroom door swings shut?
I no longer see gratitude as a moment of politeness but as a way of life. Like most lifestyle changes, getting started was the hardest part. But once I started keeping an eye out for the little things, and surrendering myself more to moments as they happened, the universe somehow picked up on it and started bombarding me with all sorts of events - bad ones leading to good, good ones leading to better, all of which were so randomly quaint they almost felt orchestrated.
So this is what 'The Gratitudist' will be about : a detox for the defeated. Stuff that I tell my friends about that have made them go, "You should have your own column!" I hope you stick around long enough to get what they mean. I`m not a messiah, politician, rockstar or nobel peace prize winner, but I know that has no reflection on my capability to learn, do and feel great things. And now being able to share that to a new audience, what is there not to feel grateful about?
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