Why solitude matters

You walk into the cinema with your friends for a nice Friday night movie session.

Then you bump into a person that you know; sitting alone in the middle row, with a large tub of popcorn and a tall diet coke.

What would be your first reaction?

“Pity him, why is he all alone on a Friday night like this?”
“Where are his friends? Does he not have one?”
“Did he just break up with his girlfriend?”
“Is he depressed?”

These are the common reactions that people would make when they see someone they know spending time alone.

We live in the world where having company is a reflection of a person making it in the social world. The more friends a person has, the higher the position the person has on the social hierarchy.

We love making friends, and sometimes, we go out in groups most (if not all) the time not because we need to, but just because we are scared of being seen alone.

We don’t want to be that loser who fine dines alone.

Being alone, or being viewed as a lonely person, is still a taboo in our society that so values company.

There’s always a sense of shame associated with people who prefer spending their time alone.

We tend to think that when a person is alone, it must be because he has no choice but to be alone.

That he is undesirable. That he needs help.

And of course, that he needs our pity – which often comes in a way that also borders on schadenfreude, unfortunately.

***

Let’s go back to the person that you bumped into the cinema, devouring his popcorn and watching that chick-flick alone.

Why is he alone? Was he forced to do so by circumstances? If he indeed chose to be alone, why would he?

It’s simple, really.

We need solitude as much as we need company. And some of us, including the introverted ones, need the former more than the latter.

And that’s perfectly fine.

Imagine this situation – you go to work in a job that involves a lot of human interactions. You talk and write to people to get things done. Then you open your phone to take a 5-minute break and the first thing you’ll come across is your friend’s selfie – that friend that you just texted 10 minutes prior.

Then you go to the cubicle, and you meet a co-worker at the urinal. You exchanged some lines, probably about the group task that is due tomorrow, then you return to your cubicle and continue with work.

Then at home after dinner, with most of us millennials having to share their apartments with flatmates nowadays; chances are you will not get the whole couch to yourself either.

This is the reality of our generation today. Everywhere we go, even when looking at our iPhone screen, we see people, we interact with people, and we deal with people.

With all these happening day in and day out, don’t you think that we are often in desperate need for space?

I think we do.

And it kills us inside if we don’t.

Have you ever thought of your partner or friends annoying you so often, with the little things that they do? Have you ever blamed yourself for getting annoyed or moody so easily over the little things that people do?

If you have, you probably need some me-time. You need some space.

I love my space too. Frankly, going out to dinner alone sometimes, spending a week or two doing solo trips, and even taking a 2-hour drive alone to Melaka have really helped me put things into perspectives.

It’s when I am alone that I most appreciate the company that I have. Walking alone in a busy street of a foreign city reminds me of how good it feels like to have my close friends walking with me.

In many ways, spending some time alone, and getting ample space to be with myself, helps me enhance and preserve my relationship with a lot of people.

That’s why I really believe that solitude matters.

People who are out alone sometimes are not losers; nor are they miserable. They just know what they want – some space, and they are not ashamed to provide themselves with exactly what they need.

Solo latte at Huckleberry. Bring a book; lovely place for a read.

Speak soon,
FH

Of malls and piazzas

What do you want?
More Park!
*builds a mall with the largest indoor amusement park in the world

What do you need?
More trees!
*builds more Doubletrees

What do you look for?
More grass!
*paves a piazza

** It rains every single day nowadays. I miss blue skies.

Speak soon,
FH

 

Never Mind I’ll Find, Someone Like EU

With the invoking of Article 50, Brexit is indeed happening.

It’s unbelievable that we’re witnessing the unravelling of that very instrument that kept Europe in uninterrupted peace over the past 60 years.

Now that Britain is out of the EU, Europe will never be the same again. The world’s order will also change; and Europe’s decline as a global power, already apparent over the last half century, will certainly be even more profound.

Let’s hope that Merkel’s Germany gets to pick up the pieces and consolidate the EU as a strong bloc, even without the UK. The EU’s poor handling of the current refugee crisis, coupled with the seemingly endless economic slump affecting its periphery, is definitely making the idea of a unified Europe increasingly unpopular in places like Hungary and France.

The rise of Eurosceptic parties in Europe. Source: Business Insider

But let’s hope that today’s shortcomings won’t cloud the fact that today’s world will greatly benefit from a strong, progressive and unified Europe.

I was in London last year during Brexit, and London Pride happened just the day after. This is what I saw:

Massive outpouring of grief. Londoners and the millennials voted overwhelmingly for Remain, but well, shit happens.

***

Positive side: Cheaper Pound = More burgers and lobsters for us.

GBP vs USD. It ain’t looking pretty for the UK. Source: xe.com

Can’t wait for May.

 

Speak soon,

FH

How did you feel this morning?

I personally think that the first five minutes after waking up is the most important part of my day.

Sometimes I wake up groggy after a long night, sometimes fresh and well-rested after a nice, deep sleep.

Sometimes I feel like a wreck.

But through it all, beneath the veneer of temporal feeling of grogginess or lapses of energetic feeling coming from having enough rest, one thing remains.

When I’m in a content phase, I have so much optimism over how my day will go.

When I’m content, I find a strong sense of purpose. I look forward to starting the day, no matter how sleep-deprived I am.

I might feel like a wreck, but I know things will get better. So I look forward to starting my day still.

That is why whenever I’m unsure of the state of life I am in at a particular moment, I’ll try go back to think of what I felt when I first started my day.

Because there were times when I felt disillusioned every morning.

There were times when I had to drag myself out of bed; to a job that I had to learn to tolerate. To face an inconsiderate boss that didn’t believe in me and my potential.

No matter how well-rested I was at that time, no matter how plush the bed I slept on; I woke up dreading to start the day.

I did not feel damn good in the morning, no matter how great the previous day was for me.

In retrospect, I think I was quite miserable.

***

So next time when you feel like you’re unsure if you’re doing the right thing with your life; try to think of how you started your day.

Did you dread it? Did you have to drag yourself out of home?

If you did, and it persisted, know that the time is probably right for a change. Get rid of the toxic elements that make your life miserable. Leave what dragged you down behind. Even if that means having slightly less money in the bank or less friends to call out for coffee with.

Start afresh, if you need to.

Nothing is worth feeling miserable every morning.

 

Speak soon,

FH

 

Would You Still Travel If Instagram Never Existed?

If, let’s say, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter did not exist, would you still travel?

Nowadays, many are led to believe that the spike in the travelling culture and backpacking tendencies amongst the millennials is due to our appetite for sharing. We share our experiences offline and online. We have special journals and photo galleries that document our travels.

So, the question comes to mind today. Would you travel just for the sake of the experience, or for the sake of sharing the experience?

Would you still travel just to feel the excitement of navigating the labyrinthine bazaar, with the smell of grilled meat wafting the air, and the dusty gust blowing on your face?

Here’s my take.

While there is this unique feeling of satisfaction that one may derive from sharing his travelling experience online (I won’t lie, posting a selfie in front of the Brandenburg Gate made me feel…quite good), I would still travel even if Instagram never existed.

The main reason is simple. Travelling is one of the great pleasures of life. It opens my mind to the diversity of cultures that people from many different corners of the world hold dear to.

Travelling makes me appreciate people at home even more.

I remember, walking alone in the streets of New York City; one of the biggest and the most crowded place in the world, feeling alone. I was on a 10-day trip in the city- I didn’t even leave the city, as I wanted to experience what it was like living in one of the most exciting cities on the planet.

It was fun, it was a great experience, but I felt lonely. I felt that, amidst all the good things that money could buy in the city, I missed my company at home. I had dinner alone most of the evenings I spent in the city, and I missed having someone talk to me from across the table. I went to some nice galleries, and I wish I could have someone to share my joy with. I walked the Central Park alone, and I imagined how my mom would enjoy the view. I had a hipster brunch in Williamsburg and I remembered how my friends and I would laugh over a similar cup of coffee back home.

Being alone puts you in the perspective; it allows you to experience the sweetness of company. Solitude helps us find ourselves.

The famous Junior’s cheesecake, solo picnic, Central Park

Travelling opens my eyes to the power of human kindness.

Flashback to October 2015.

I got off the bus at a wrong stop; my mind was groggy and I was beyond exhausted, so my street smart was probably not at its best. Stranded in Sharm-el-Sheikh, instead of Dahaab, which was 2 hours away, I looked like a lost tourist at the bus stations. My ticket to Dahaab was no longer valid, as the bus I was supposed to be one already left. Desperate for tourist dollars, taxi drivers came to me in groups and tried their luck to cash in on my vulnerability (if you’ve been to Egypt you’d know how persistent and aggressive Egyptian taxi drivers were).

Then an Egyptian couple approached me, offering to assist me. Long story short, they took some time out of their honeymoon to take me right to my hotel doorsteps in Dahaab. They were even kind enough to buy me lunch (which I insisted on paying for). The couple also repeatedly apologised to me for the difficult experience I had to go through as a solo traveller in Egypt – the country isn’t the best place for solo travels, I must admit.

Beautiful Dahaab, Egypt

Dahaab was at the tail end of my Egypt itinerary, and after encountering so much hassle in Cairo, I was glad that my experience in the Sinai taught me that wherever you are, there is human kindness. There will be someone who’s kind enough to assist you, and (as cliche as this may sound), protect you.

This is because, deep inside, people, most of them, are kind.

This is also something the kind of travel experience that Instragram won’t be able to document.

***

We don’t need Instagram to enjoy travelling, but if sharing pictures of your travels on social media enhances your experience, or makes you feel good, go ahead.

However, it’s important to not let our appetite to share distract us from the joy of living in-the-moment. Snap ahead, but don’t let taking photos be the main purpose of our travels.

Never let Instagram rob us of our experiences. Great memories and experience last forever. Social media validation, on the other hand, is short-lived.

Know your priorities.

 

Speak soon,

FH

Of Being Happy and Being Content

There are times when I feel like my life isn’t going the way it should be, when the cloud of inexplicable melancholy hangs over my head; casting the palpable sense of doubt over the direction my life is heading – am I heading toward the right direction in life, or have I steered too far from the path of happiness?

It may be triggered by the little things like the food at my favourite restaurant not tasting as delicious as it used to be, to the more serious stuff like friend suddenly thinking that it’s to their best interest not to be as close to me as they used to be.

But eating in my favourite restaurant should, by right, make me happy. Having a friend, for better or for worse, should make me happy too.

When something that should’ve been a source of my happiness becomes an impediment to which, it’s natural to ask myself, and do some self-reflection – Why are these things bothering me? Why am I unhappy because of these things that should’ve made me happy?

***

Perhaps there’s no rule for happiness. One can’t plan to be happy – no matter how much one does to make himself happy. Happiness isn’t an achievement. There’s not even a specific definition that dictates what happiness feels, or what it looks like.

Probably it’s time to tell myself that happiness shouldn’t be an end-goal. It shouldn’t be the only thing that matters. I shouldn’t do something only because I think it makes me happy. It doesn’t work that way.

Instead, I think I’ll try to do something that makes me feel content, and at ease. Who knows, from content, one becomes happy eventually. Effortless happy.

 

Speak soon,

FH

Alicia Keys’ Here

Four years after Girl on Fire, Alicia Keys returned with her sixth album Here, a departure from the romantic theme that dominated much of her earlier records. Social messages dominate the album, from its second track The Gospel where Keys rapped about life in an inner city ghetto (the track is devoid of a conventional chorus Keys’ songs are known for) to the 5-minute long Illusion of Bliss that covers the issue of drug addiction. Bliss ends with Keys’ signature moan as she pleads not to be a “fallen angel”.

Emeli Sande co-wrote Kill Your Mama, a song about the rape of Mother Nature. “Shame on us, on your sons and your daughters, dig all your gold and we poisoned all your waters”, Keys lamented. Girl Can’t Be Herself is the song of Keys’ controversial “no make-up” movement. “Who says I must conceal what I’m made of? Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem”, Keys complained, to the magnetic reggae beat. Easily one of the most summer-ready tracks on the otherwise dark album, Girl Can’t Be Herself shines as an anthem of woman empowerment in the age of photoshop and unrealistic mainstream expectations of beauty. She Don’t Really Care/1 Luv, with its slinky 90s beats, is the the song for the resurgence of black identity and racial consciousness in the pop culture during the era of Black Lives Matter.

Glimpses of Alicia Keys’ earlier sounds, married with Pharrell Williams’ slick production created Work on It, with its irresistible chorus that reminds listeners of No One, one of Keys’ most prolific hits. More Than We Know is an ode to self-empowerment, with Keys reminding the listeners that “there’s no fate that you can’t create”. The track is the closest it gets to a self-help midtempo ballad on the album; a forgettable one at that, considering the depth of other songs in the album. Blended Family is based on Keys’ experience of co-parenting her husband’s children in a blended household, it is a song about familial love and responsibilities.

In Common, one of the most experimental tracks on Here, while relegated to the Deluxe version of the album (a common practice among bigshot record artists when their first single underperformed on the charts), shows the more current side of Keys. It is Keys’ excellent foray into tropical music, and with the beats also infused with electronic collage, In Common is hands-down the most alluring dancehall track in the album.

Holy War, the most political track in Keys’ most political album to date, is the song for the post-election America. As Americans reel from the rise of Donald Trump and right-wing politics in the country, Keys asked “What if sex was holy and war was obscene, and it wasn’t twisted, what a wonderful dream”. The song’s powerful call of action “We can break these walls between each other”, a not-so-subtle reference to Trump’s proposal to “build the wall”, is a powerful close to the album. If anything, Here is Keys’ low-profile version of Rhythm Nation, released 25 years after the latter, but with an equally powerful message: That the world, after all this while, is still a mess.

3.5/5