Do Your Life
I remember a conversation I had with my mother at the start of 2017, amid rushing through past-year examination papers and juggling a co-directed dance production, I wasn’t sure what the future held or which step to take next. I was approaching the finishing line of my secondary education yet only ambiguity met my horizon. Something within withheld me from accepting university offers from abroad and instead urged me to look inward and take time for myself.
I returned to our conversation with a freshened mind and a loosened harness to allow the possibilities to follow its course. We spent lunchtime pondering over the number of possibilities and hurdles, and figured that this would probably be the best time in my youth to rediscover the place I’ve called ‘home’ for the past 17 years, to understand the intricate and multilayered dimensions that have nurtured this vibrant culturescape of Singapore.
By the middle of 2017, I had completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma, having been awarded Senior Artist of the Year with the highest attainable mark in the world. I enrolled into Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to start my second diploma. I greatly anticipated the journey of marvel to come, to learn among aspiring creatives, to be a speck in the timeline of radically pursued art pioneered by Greats before me. However, I found that the doubt I had met with at the start of the year had not magically vanished overnight. Instead, it manifested new arms and legs that became a little gremlin that irked me day by day. I questioned my purpose, intent, life’s ‘ultimatum’, and I grew worrisome of my lofty, spirit-fueled tendencies. What if going with the flow was actually going against everyone else’s ripples?
One thing stayed constant throughout this process of questioning, I wanted to keep experiencing; I desired to understand what laid beyond me and I believed that the world had looms of mystery awaiting to be discovered, to be explored, to be cherished. Entering this new environment was as enlivening as blowing bubbles in the bath as a child, each encounter was like that of each soapy pop.
Months later, I was honored to have the opportunity to meet the founders of Bold at Work as part of a talent development programme hosted by the Academy. The two-day intensive, known as Design Your Life, was perhaps one of the pivotal events that piloted a billowing effect on how I approached my forthcomings, the people around me, everyday’s happenstances. It changed the way I saw myself, the way I understood my habits and tendencies. It provided a padded resolution in that not everything had to be presented alike everyone else’s, because it is our differences that make collaborations so much more invigorating. Where I once saw weakness, I grew strength; and what I once neglected, now exuded with energy and prominence. The anxiety that accompanied me had a moment to pause in its endless burrowing within me; it was as if the switch had been hit and the lights were all slowly coming to a flickering brightness.
Along my journey I had delightfully been able to connect with awe-striking talents from other programmes within the Academy, all of whom exuded this unmistakable glimmer and gleam of confidence and grace, all of whom possessed a sparking flame of passion and ambition. Meeting one another for the first time, we spent the days together discovering notes on ourselves, making sense of our potential, exploring the possibilities; we opened up and we flourished with and among one another. The common thread that guided us along this expansive introspection was the CliftonStrengths assessment, an empowering analysis of our strengths to understand how to maximize them to our advantage. I suppose while other personality tests present a general overview of how, for example, four letters determine the type of individual you are, the assessment with CliftonStrengths provided an extensive breakdown of each strength, gathering our unique points and then deciphering how we can best utilize them.
The two-day intensive thrived with inspiration and love for ourselves and for one another, each wanting to figure ways for us to bloom abundantly as a collective. In that moment, I was in total admiration of my peers, these young creatives who wanted something more than simply proving their ability, and who desired to share their greatness with others. A significant part of this journey was designing our life maps, which became a transformative meditation on where we saw ourselves, seeking consultation from our confidants within the group, getting viewpoints from people of different strengths.
The concept of designing my life was something I hadn’t been truly exposed to before. Typically, it was always planning the next step… which school to go to, which subjects to choose, what to eat for dinner? Not often did I have time to meditate on where I saw myself exactly in two, or five, or ten years. I suppose I’ve always seen it as a part of going with the flow of life; I thought it would be impossible to configure every phase of life to adjoin seamlessly, so I avoided that for fear of not achieving milestones set from five years ago. Time passes and people change, visions change, understanding broadens, I didn’t want to put limits on the possibilities. But grounding in our core beliefs created vibrations that looked inward at what we valued, what our ideals are — not only did it not limit the potential within us, it propagated us to reach new heights and see ourselves in the brightest light. We really spent hours decoding, rearranging, reflecting on this seemingly unreachable image of the future, yet it was something so deeply rooted within us, needing that extra bit of patience to untangle the vines within us.
By the end of my journey with Design Your Life at Bold at Work, not only was I able to spend time discovering new crevices and understanding of my being, but I was fortunate to have met a group of supportive and open-hearted individuals who, like me, wanted to see the potential within all of us. From Strengthsfinder to curating our lives, the only word I can find to best summarize this experience would be ‘empowerment’.
Empowerment gives voice, it comes from within, and it goes beyond. I started my journey unsure and irresolute, and while I don’t have a conclusion to the life that has yet to unveil, I am light at heart and in mind to the beauty of possibilities, staying authentic to self, and knowing that everything happens for a reason if not a season.
I am grateful to the tribe at Bold At Work, a place that believes in us youth, a safe space of meditation, innovation, and sentiment.
A reflection piece by Choo Jen Quinn
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Previously know as M.A.D At Work or Design Your Life, this career design workshop by Bold At Work is now sporting a new name and new look as it enters its’ next phase. Think! Immersive tools, experiential moments…If you like to do life with us, or are just wondering what could be at where you’re at, let us bring you on this whole new world. Find out more here.