Friends We Grew Up With


1. The Almighty

The class queen, who had that special center seat at the usual canteen bench. She never walked around alone; always surrounded with people. She never has to get her own lunch because someone else would offer to get it for her. She knows everyone, including you, but sometimes you’d wonder what goes behind that smile. Everyone wants to be her friend, because it’s cool. Befriending her is a must, else risk sparking controversy.

2. The Indifferent

The Inert, and the immensely stable. To them, social pressure is a myth. They stand their ground, hardly swayed by opinions about them or others. They don’t subscribe to what’s popular just because it is, and they dare to go against the flow. They are not quite concerned if they have 5 or 5,000 friends on Facebook, if they even have an account to begin with. The world is their playground, and they shape it exactly how they want it to be.

3. The Princess

Anything and everything can be too hard. They’d rather spend three hours on a manicure than an hour in the gym. Nothing should be done alone, companions are always necessary. Fragility is always displayed because it is an ideal feminine trait. The sun equates to sweating and sweating is unacceptable. Seat priority should be given; ladies should go first. Hardship has never and will never be part of their history.

4. The Unpopular

The prime target for bullying stints, the laughing stock of the parade. No one wants to be associated with them. Nothing they do will ever and should ever look cool. They are looked upon with judgmental eyes and condescending stares. They cannot be allowed to fit in. You wonder who labelled them as unpopular in the first place; somehow everyone just knows that’s the unwelcomed kid on the block.

5. The Geek

The cerebral and intellectual whose mind processes logic and details seemingly ten times faster than the average individual. Nothing is too hard to understand; math is always easy. Decisions should be based on consistent logic; emotions are a waste of time. Quantum physics is amazing.

6. The Happy Pill

Nothing can quite bring them down or spoil their day. There’s always a silver lining, and a bright side to everything. They focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, not the darkness in between. They genuinely see good in people. They give the benefit of the doubt. There’s always better tomorrows and happier days. They carry an air of positive vibes wherever they go. Smiling is default; frowning is non-existent.

7. The Magnanimous

It is always others before self. There is no such thing is giving too much because giving is the only way to receive. They’d rather give away their lunch boxes than see a friend go without recess; they’d have no qualms in standing up for others when in need. They’d never reject your request for a talk on the phone, and they’d listen to you pour out your soul for hours so that you’d feel feel better. Their quality of life hinges on the well-being of others. They give relentlessly.


I had a few hours to kill, so I thought why not take that few hours to indulge in a good book over a pike brew. I took a seat by the corner, my favorite kind of seat where I can lean against the wall and watch the world.

People kept coming in to get a dose of caffeine to jump start their day, so I paid little attention to the queue of customers and their chattering.

But there was this little girl and her mother that came in. In didn’t notice them at first, till the girl walked past me and took the seat opposite me by the window. I happened to glance up from my book when she walked by my table, and was greeted with a big warm polite smile.

Immediately I thought this girl must be very well-mannered. She looked approximately 6 or 7 years old, dressed in a denim jacket, black leggings and a puffy black skirt that resembled swan feathers. She wore bright pink socks with what seemed like ballet shoes, and carried an air of confidence with each step she took.

Her mother was still in queue for a coffee, I would guess, so she bravely decided to take a seat on her own while waiting. What I love most in children is their public display of carefreeness. I watched her take the window seat, sitting gingerly at the edge of her chair with her legs stretched out, as though she couldn’t care less if that was considered dainty or not as long as it was the most comfortable sitting posture.

She sat there quietly eating her muffin, curiously looking outside the window at pedestrians crisscrossing each others’ path along the streets. Her mom must have lent her phone; the little girl played with it occasionally, and when her mom came to the table with her drink, she immediately returned the phone to her mother even without being asked.

Her dad must be out of town, because he video called his little daughter. She took the phone from her mother, delighted to see her dad’s face. She carried and articulated herself well, speaking with a tinge of excitement and zest, recounting the day’s events.

They spent a few moments talking; I didn’t hear what the mother was saying, but the little girl obediently listened. Her mother stretched her hand out to her daughter across the table, and the little girl immediately understood, stretching out hers and held her mother’s hand. She seemed so mature for her young age, sitting across her mother at the same table without fidgeting or squirming in her seat, responding to her mother in some grown-up fashion.

Though they were sitting some distance from me, I could feel the warmth of their parent-child love. I witnessed bliss at its purest form, and happiness at its simplest moment.

That’s how life should be right?


In many parts of the world, 2012 has begun. Over here I’m still lagging behind, but nevertheless, what’s the hurry.

Decided to go slow on the last day of the year. Get a cup of pike place brew by the seaside and watch the last 12 hours of 2011 go by. Need to give my ACL a breather too; I guess it must be starting to protest after all the hiking and biking in SF. Age is evidently catching up huh, or maybe some things just don’t heal no matter how much time you give it.

2011 has been quite a milestone. I think coming to the US has changed me a lot, and made me grow a lot. You’d figure how much you take the little things in life for granted, and how much of this world you have yet to see and experience. You start fighting with yourself over decisions you have to make at the crossroads. And you learn the pain of compromising because you can’t always have everything you want. Life isn’t a happily ever after fairytale ending; it’s the chapters that come after. Reality can be cruel and merciless. You can take it in your stride, but it isn’t always easy to swallow.

But life isn’t always a doomsday scene from Hollywood. I’m pretty sure we will still be here after 2012, so there’s really no need to get all depressed (or happy — well that’s severe depression actually) that the world is going to end within the next 365 days.

I think my biggest takeaway from this year is finding (or sometimes self-creating) happy spots.

Many of us are already experts in manufacturing grief. Open your photo library from way way back, reminisce the old times, play that nostalgic tune, read those old diary entries. Tear your heart out over those times you wished you could return to, replay those old emotions that you consciously preserved somewhere in the depths of your heart. I do that sometimes, and I’d feel terrible. Objectively speaking, it’s pretty morbid isn’t it? It’s no difference from self-torture, yet we seem to like to do that to ourselves. It’s the biggest irony in human psychology, I think, to compete in feeling the most miserable. I’m sure you’ve witnessed an episode like that.

And so I figured that perhaps it might be better for a change and not be such a psycho and indulge in self-torture. Also known as emoing in today’s lingo. We are have such fantastic cognitive abilities that we are capable of creating our own illusions that’s real enough to fool ourselves. So if we can put ourselves into grief-mode, I guess it shouldn’t be that hard to create happy vibes. And it really isn’t that hard, if you stop craning your neck and squinting your eyes to find that happiness you thought resided in the distant future.

For an extrovert, I find it ironic that I find happiness in solitude. (Hear me out before you lay judgment that I’m crazy.)

Solitude is actually very hard to deal with. Extroverts get an extremely hard time, because we are naturally engineered to talk, socialize and interact. We struggle being alone because not reaching our daily yakking quota drives us up the wall.

But talking in excess isn’t always good. They say moderation is key, and I guess that applies to extroversion. In the right circumstances, I talk lot. Always had and I predict I always will. But sometimes when you keep talking you don’t listen. And you miss out a lot when you don’t listen. You tell people your side of the story but you stop hearing others’. You are used to flooding your mind with words and thoughts that you don’t know how to control them when you lack a channel to output. And when that happens you feel the urge to find someone or some way to let out your thoughts before they drown your soul.

It takes time and I guess a tad of determination to quieten your mind and let it rest. Like how our bodies get tired after physical strain, our minds need a break too from mental processing. When you can finally stare into nothingness and let your mind empty out, it’s really a nice feeling.

I think solitude helps you empty out all those old crappy lingering thoughts more easily. It’s hard at first when your mind keeps filling up and its contents have no where to go except swirl round and round in your thought space. But once in a while those thoughts find their own escape routes and clear out from your mind, and you’d feel like there’s suddenly a lot more room up there. When there’s less clutter and more space, you welcome happy feelings a little more easily. Or at least that’s what I get. It’s nice to let those burdens go once in a while and make room for happy feelings. The truth is that those burdens will always come back sooner or later, and reality will always come knocking on your door no matter how much you’d try to ignore. But that doesn’t mean you have to torture yourself by carrying all that heavy thoughts with you 24/7. To put it in a crude and sarcastic way this is nothing more than escapism. Then again, who cares? Escapism beats the gravity of reality, so I’ll gladly opt for the former.

My new year resolution is to be more honest with myself and not to live with a heavy heart. Life sucks sometimes, but there is always a happy tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.

Happy new year people.

Lands End, probably the most gorgeous place I’ve ever witnessed. It’s almost like at a digitally drawn art piece, with colours so perfectly balanced, every tree, rock and stone placed at its position with precision and the sunny skies that magnifies the already present grandeur.

I can’t remember how long I stood at the top of the Lands End trail head, trying hard to absorb every inch of beautiful detail. It’s like there’s suddenly so much colours, tones and shades that your eyes just can’t seem to keep up with.

I knew that Lands End is one of the popular hiking/biking trails in San Francisco, and that it boasts awesome scenery of coastlines and the Golden Gate Bridge from afar. But I didn’t expect it to be so, so gorgeous. I can’t even find sufficiently appropriate adjectives to describe that place. I think I took something like 200 over photos just during that few hours when I hiked the trail, though I know viewing a million shots of Lands End can never substitute being physically there. (I’ll deal with those 200 photos tomorrow, or maybe the day after.)

At the trail head was the Sutro Bath Ruins, and to get down there (it’s seriously steep) you can take this seemingly unlimited flight of stairs, or well, slide down the spongy grass. The latter sounds crazy, yes, but I saw kids (like tiny ones) happily sitting on the grass and sliding down the grass to the area below. For a moment I panicked when I saw a couple of kids going down. That slope is insanely steep, from where I was standing, within half a second those kids disappeared into the green mash below. And their mom just sat there and watched. I didn’t know if I found admiration for the mother or for her kids.

Never in the right mind would I ever do something like that. It’s scary even just looking down from the edge, never mind treating it like some Big Splash ride. And those kids did it without harboring second thought.

I realized how brave we all used to be when we were kids. Like when I was in Seattle I was thinking the same thing while watching little kids ice skate at Seattle Center’s skating rink. Kids, though so tiny in size, have such huge courage. It doesn’t seem to bother them that learning ice skating means falling down a lot and falling down could hurt. They skate a little, fall, get up, and keep trying over and over. Some fall so hard that bystanders at the outskirts of the rink get startled, but they just pick themselves back up like it was really no big deal.

Somehow as we grow older, we lose that big courage we once had. We think and speculate what-if scenarios before even doing something, imagining worst-case scenarios and planting self-manufactured fear into ourselves. More often than not, many of the things we fear as adults are irrational and silly. We fear heights, we fear animals, we fear authority, we fear our bosses, we fear losing friendships, we fear death, we fear love, we fear heartbreaks, we fear losses. Yeah, sure we had our share of fears as kids. We feared our parents, our teachers, going to school.. But somehow we seemed a lot more resilient and brave than we are now.

I wonder if our greater capacity to think has done us more harm than good; precisely because we are more able to think, comprehend, and analyze, we end up indulging in unnecessary thought processes that complicates every component of life. They always say that kids are more easily contented. That they attain happiness a lot faster than adults. Maybe that’s because as kids we didn’t think that much. When we got MacDonald’s breakfast, we were happy. We didn’t think about that impending load of calories entering our body system. When we felt sad, we cried. We didn’t think about how crying might make us look emotionally weak and vulnerable. When we thought about something, we’d say it out loud. We didn’t think about whether what we were going to say would have repercussions on people around us, or if it would contradict the external image we were trying to upkeep.

As kids, we didn’t care as much about the world; we cared a lot more about ourselves, and we were honest with ourselves. Maybe that’s just all we need to be happy — a little bit of selfishness, and a little more honesty.