Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Plugging the Invisible Gap

Have you ever gotten hunger pangs on the back of a particular craving? When you feel the need to satisfy the munchies monsters inside you -- but you can't quite nail what you're yearning for? You know you want something yet you don't particularly know what. And you'll only find out what it is when you see it.

Utterly frustrating, isn't it?

I get that feeling at times -- some more frequent than others. However, I'm afraid I'm no longer referring to food. Rather, something more profound and abstract. I feel the need to fill a void in me but I don't quite understand why the vacuity is there in the first place. I've come to terms with the fact that achieving happiness is a far-fetched concept -- possible, but not readily accessible. So instead, I've set my target on satisfaction and contentment, which I'd like to believe I've been enjoying for the past few years. I have gone through hell and back over matters that I'd rather forget -- and because of this, I have welcomed the state of stability entering my life and thought of it as a reward for surviving. I had no idea how long it was here to stay, but I thank the heavens that it decided to come visit indefinitely.

I have nothing to complain about in my life. Sure, parts of it have much left to be desired but it's half-decent and painfully average. I can think up of at least a thousand reason from the top of my head as to why I should be grateful to be in my situation. However, I feel this void creeping up from inside of me -- from the pits of my stomach straight to my restless psyche and hankering vision. And I also feel the need to fill it before it swallows me whole.

It absolutely destroys me not knowing how to address the issue. I don't even know where to begin looking.

In consulting, there's this term called "helicoptering." It essentially means to zoom up to take a look at the bigger picture. When I scrutinize particular sectors of my life, everything seems to be in order or at least holding together for now. There's the job -- check, there's the family -- check, there's the financial situation -- half a check (yet still passable), there's the social capacity -- check... and the rest, check, check, check and more checks. Everything is seemingly in order. However, it is when I take a step back and see how everything fits in together that I find myself frowning and pursing my lips.

It doesn't quite flow. It doesn't quite fit together... like there's a missing piece or bolt somewhere.

Either the equation for contentment has changed and upped its ante or my delusions about being satisfied has finally caught up to me. Have I just been denying all this time that I was actually okay? Or was I turning a blind eye over in order to block it off my system and pray to God that I would eventually forget about it?

Why, all of a sudden, did a cloud pass over me and changed everything -- without necessarily changing anything? How is that even possible? One day, I wake up and realized "Oh, there's something missing. What the fck is it?"

What the fck is it?!?!

If only it's as easy as going to 7-11 at 4 o'clock in the morning and roaming through the little aisles and finding exactly what I needed to satisfy my cravings... then life wouldn't be half bad now, would it?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Five Things And Then Some

Apologies, my lovelies, as I have been scarce. I've been plagued by tight deadlines, social obligations, sheer exhaustion and the urge to turn my life over 180 degrees. I'm praying hard that I can eventually blame all this to estrogen and other such biological excuses... in other words, I'm still hopeful that it's just a phase I'm going through and that I'd get over it eventually.

Also been pouring my energy on my magazine articles that will probably not get turned in on time, which will give way to one angry editor *wink*

For now though, a sweetheart has requested me to shell out a little bit of my life and myself. Five (un)delightful facts about myself...

1) I only wear black. I do the occasional red or white but the articles of clothing in my closet are predominantly black. I'm not remotely close to being Gothic or anything similar, but I simply appreciate the simplicity, elegance and beauty of the darkest shade in the palette. Besides, do you not think that it's practical to have ALL of your clothes matching and never go out of style? Many people say that I look good in colors but I think they're lying.

1.1 - Speaking of clothes, I love shopping. Correction, I absolutely adore it. However, I only really enjoy shopping when I do it alone. I can only shop with very select people, all of whom are very close to me. Otherwise, I can pretend to go shopping with them but I don't really buy anything or try anything on. I leave all those for when I'm alone. Is that weird?

2) Despite the deceitful exterior of perfect flat-ironed and highlighted hair, manicured nails and designer bags, there is a geek living inside of me. I majored in Information Systems back in university and I actually love it. At work, I double as the IT Manager for the Asia-Pacific region and I'm in charge of basically everything from network administration, desktop support *rolls eyes* and equipment purchasing. I, however, loathe programming. I'm convinced that it is one of the listed anti-christs in the bible.

2.1 - Currently, the other half of my job is in economic research. I shall spare you the details but it involves looking at a lot of numbers, monitoring current events and doing a lot of analysis.

3) I don't do sports or outdoorsy stuff. I learned from a very young age that I am meant to always be indoors where there is an abundant supply of airconditioning. I've had my fair share of gym classes and games but it only reiterates how pathetic I am with sports. The list includes camping, hiking, rock climbing and anything that requires a lot of physical stress.

3.1 - That said, I've managed to find happiness in wasting time indoors by reading lots of books and watching lots of movies as a child. It was only later on (around ten or eleven years old) that I started writing and being more creative.

3.2 - Though music is mostly an indoor activity, I'm quite sad when it comes to that sector as well. Don't get me wrong, I love music -- I appreciate its greatness and beauty -- but I just can't make music. I feel naked without my iPod during my daily commute and the first thing that I do when I wake up is to put on some music to accompany me during my morning routines. I used to play the piano but laziness got over me...

3.3 - Ironically, I am named after the patron saint of music

4) My major indicator on whether or not I can get along with someone is the length of time I can stay on the phone with them -- and is especially true with guys. If I cannot keep a conversation that lasts longer than fifteen minutes with you, chances are, you wouldn't make it to my will. I enjoy hanging out with people in the physical sense of the word but being on the phone and being able to maintain the same kind of vibe and energy without the visual aid is a skill in itself already.

4.1 - The longest time I've spent on the phone is 16 hours -- in a row.

5) I wear a necklace that I never take off (even when sleeping and showering). It's a gold chain with a matching gold medallion of Jesus and the Mother Mary which I've had since I was a child. I feel restless without it and I have this habit of playing with it as I slide the medallion back and forth the chain... and letting it rest on my chin while I type. I'd like to think of it as my thinking pose.

5.1 - Similarly, I'm heavily reliant on time (which I blame on my undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder) and I never leave home without a watch.

That is probably the most I have bared about myself in cyberspace. I'd love to know more about you as well. It would just be right to tag everyone who has read this post *wink* -- but don't forget to leave me a message so that I can check out your space. Looking forward to it!

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Back in business school, getting rejected by a firm is endearingly termed as a "ding." I assume the term was inspired by the sound that elevators make just before it is closing and giving you one hell of a ride back to the lobby of the office building. A ding is when financial institutions or prominent business schools don't deem you worthy enough to hobnob with their crowd -- regardless of the fact that you have worked the hardest in your life to get their approval, you're still not good enough.

I've always regarded rejection as the supreme anti-christ -- more than jealousy, more than backstabbing and more than unfair criticism. It's hard not to take rejection personally, no matter how many fortune cookies and proverbs out there dictate the opposite. Sure, we've heard it all, haven't we? We're meant for bigger and better things... we just have to wait a little while longer. It just wasn't meant to be. Truly, it is most probably true. However, it's charm and magic doesn't exactly work at its peak when someone has just felt like he was kicked and battered whilst he was crouching on the floor -- stark naked.

Rejection comes in many forms. The worst one is the personal kind. Yay or nay?

Pick your biggest insecurity in life and imagine the person that you admire the most in the whole wide world pouncing on that repeatedly until it starts bleeding rocks -- and then saying you're not good enough. Funny enough, the words "to hell with you" just couldn't come out of your mouth fast enough.

Getting rejected is only but a natural process of finding one's self. How else will the universe let us filter out those bad decisions from the good ones? And how else will we learn that we can't all get what we want? And most importantly, without rejection, how do we expect to improve ourselves as people?

Rejection, among many other things, are part of life's great teachers. Funny enough, it's when you're given the test first before you learn the lesson. I reckon somewhat that many risks are left not taken because of the very fear of rejection. That and disappointment. Perhaps we fear rejection not because we fear rejection itself, but because we fear the consequences of that rejection. After all, rejection more often that not is followed by an episode of humility.

Though resilience and adversity are important elements to possess when dealing with disappointments and rejections, it is perfectly okay to wallow in self-pity for a bit -- to permit yourself some time to lick your wounds. That extra tub of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice cream is calling out your name. Go ahead and indulge. Vodka martini? Yes, please! Retail therapy? I'm so there! It's okay to nourish your soul after allowing someone to blow your ego to bits. You will need it all back when you embark on your next endeavor.

Maybe rejection is the universe's way to steer us towards a greater path. Or perhaps, it is a way for us to learn to broaden our horizons, to open our minds further and to up the antes of our risks. Or maybe even serve as eye-openers. Aren't some of us too stubborn to notice what surrounds us until it hits us squarely in the middle of our eyes? Well, that's the universe at work. It hurts when it hits us, but it's all for the greater good.

Didn't Louis Neverson once say: "I think all great innovations are built on rejections?"


Everything happens for a reason -- that's what I believe at least.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And Counting

Life is one big numbers game -- whether or not we're partial to mathematics. Unfortunately! More than a few aspects of our lives revolve around them. And though we try to focus on the quality of our lives, these quantities tend to intervene and make various elements of life more tangible.

The most common one, I would presume, is money. Whether or not this is the most important, you decide. However, money faces a lot of mixed reviews in the world. Some don't think anything of it, some long for it, some make it their priority... and some even worship it. We devote almost half our lives (maybe even more) trying to earn money and making those figures in our bank accounts fatter and fatter. In exchange for what? Material objects that are yet again measurable by quantity -- more cars in the garage, higher carats of diamonds, a big house with more rooms than the old one, more pairs of shoes even? Relatedly, everything around us seems to be labeled with a price tag -- rent, phone bills, damages on the credit card after a shopping spree, insurance fees, and the list goes on. More numbers that plague us.

We work to be able to get our numbers up, just to fulfill the requirements of these other numbers.

Is it me, or does that not make any sense when it's put that way?

Another big hoo-ha... age! We like convincing ourselves that age is just a number. However, in reality, it grates us all inside knowing that the number that indicates our years of existence is piling up everyday. If only there was a way to stop it... and yet be able to keep the wisdom and knowledge that we've swept up along the way.

Even growing up, during our school days, our lives revolved around numbers. We worked hard to attain high grades, to get as many credits for college, to get the topmost rankings in our class -- essentially to be numero uno. And you'd think that the number fever stops the moment you write off that last calculus exam. It's only bound to get worse.

We, as people, get characterized as numbers as well. Regardless of the fact that we all have names, we are still numbers in many places. We are in possession of various numbers that identify us such as our social security numbers, drivers license numbers, identification card numbers, passport numbers, name it! Surely, we have at least half a million of numbers tied to our names. And these lurking chatter about getting microchips inside us with unique barcodes on them? I won't be surprised if governments spring that on us one of these days. Ethical or not, that's saved for another day.

Economic indicators have also become a strong foothold in our lives. We even use it as excuses or motivation sometimes. "Times are tough and a little bit tight because the economy's down." Or perhaps "Oil prices are skyrocketing, it's time to save up." Economists -- a special type of mathematicians, safe to say -- swim in a sea of numbers everyday. And through these numbers, lifestyles and living standards are dictated. Everything is measured from poverty to per capita income to gross domestic products to inflation to trade. It's all these numbers that we bank on everyday... and it's through these numbers that we fashion our lives on.

Furthermore, evolution and technology have made it possible that we can be profiled by using pure numbers -- our age, how much we make, how many kids we have, what grade point average we achieved, how many of this and that we own, and so on. Why? Why is everything quantified? Sure, to make assessments clearer and quicker. But tell me -- how accurate is it? Numbers may say a lot about us, but it definitely does not tell the whole story.

One set of numbers that we are definitely conscious of is time. We are conscious of it, yet we don't necessarily appreciate it. The numbers on our clocks, our watches, the corners of our computers, those on the towers of municipal halls -- they all indicate time. We find ourselves constantly asking what time it is because usually, each hour of the day is connected to a particular activity such as eating a meal, working, sleeping or resting. However, we don't realize that time actually runs out. Unlike most of the other numbers involved in our lives, this one doesn't pile up. Quite the opposite, it dissipates.

Maybe there is a reason why God has created people who are good in math... and people who are not. It's bad enough that our lives are composed of so many numbers. There has got to be some people who look at quality, too. If everything in life can be specified and quantified, then risks, mistakes and trials are all thrown out the window. What else is there to live for? Numbers allow us to concretize certain concepts... but words allow us to live them.

After all, if not for the letters in the alphabet, what else will algebra use?

I will not deny, however, that mathematics and life have something in common: that both start off simply... only to end in an utterly complicated mess!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

First Love -- Part II

Valentine's day. Everywhere I looked, there were happy couples with the girls nestling a bouquet of colorful beauties on her arm. The atmosphere was warm despite the blowing chilly northern winds, which embodies the past angry winter that we just had.

"Are you bitter?" he asked.

"No," I lied. I kept my gaze forward onto the street that we were walking on. The wind was hurting my face but I wasn't so sure if I were to blame the winds or the resentment inside me.

"Are you lying?" he looked at me quizzically with those eyes that I fell in love with.

"No," I lied again.

"Okay," he said with unfulfilled resignation.

We walked in silence. I stuffed my empty hands into my coat pocket trying desperately to keep them warm.

"Do you regret being with someone who doesn't believe in giving his girl flowers on Valentine's Day?" he tried again.

I pursed my lips. "No," I said, not sure whether or not I was lying.


I turned to him angrily. "Where have you been the past two weeks?" I asked, feeling a strange tightness on my throat. "You barely called me."

"I was busy," was his answer. Plain and simple.

"Doing what?" I pressed on.

I saw his face harden. "Stuff, okay?" he said without any further elaboration.

We were silent again for a while. Inside me was a bag of mixed feelings being tossed around like a football. I felt frustrated and angry -- but at the same time, I felt extraordinarily safe being in his presence. I missed him, I really did.

"You missed our one-year anniversary," I said, barely in a whisper deliberately not meeting his eye.

"Oh yeah, I got the package you sent me," he retorted without skipping a beat. His voice was neither cold nor loving, I couldn't tell. "I've been meaning to thank you. So.. thank you."

I kept silent.

He took a deep breath as if taking a deep drag out of a cigarette.

"Listen. I was busy working," he finally revealed. He almost sounded ashamed. "It was a night shift, right after my last class. It was the only time I had left to work."

I was still silent -- mostly because I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say.

He fidgeted around in his pockets and produced a small box coated in a glossy turquoise color. It had a plain white ribbon tying the lid down.

"I only had two weeks to scrape up enough money to get you this," he said handing the box over to me. "I saw you looking at it last month and I know you hate it when I would use the money my parents give me to buy you presents or to take you out."

I looked at the box resting on top of his right palm. A million thoughts were racing through my head and I couldn't seem to pick one to dwell on right at that moment. When I still didn't budge, he quietly opened the box and I saw the most beautiful ring sitting inside the deep velvet case. It was gold with the letters X and O comprising the circumference of the prized jewel. I felt warmth on my face... then it dawned on me that a fat tear just rolled down my left cheek.

He put the promise ring on my left ring finger. "I don't like giving flowers because I don't like giving something that doesn't last forever," he explained quietly. "Especially if it's the type to die."

For the first time in my life, I was at a loss for words. All those unsettling thoughts I've had over the past couple of weeks suddenly seemed so silly, so juvenile. I was angry at myself for thinking them and for entertaining them. I gave this relationship a chance because I had faith in him. And because I love him. Despite his history, I knew there was loving heart hiding underneath that tough exterior that I so painfully wanted to crack.

"I don't like celebrating anniversaries either," he continued on. "I think it's a waste of time."

He wiped my tears away with his soft hands. His skin smelled like gingerbread.

"I wish you'd stop counting the years we've been together too... I don't want you getting tired," he said, his lips giving the hint of a smile. "Because I will be with you forever."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Time Capsule

If I were to choose one thing that I take for granted the most, I would have to say that it's TIME. Yes, TIME -- the same TIME that we think we have loads of just because we think it's always there. I'm quite guilty of pushing aside many things for "when I have more time" because I just happen to have better things to do at the moment. However, it never really occurs to me that time, as we get older, becomes a privilege or a luxury more than a concept that you try to waste or kill -- as illustrated by the follies of our youth.

The nature of my work requires me to pay attention to day-to-day events in global economics and politics. One would think that I, of all people, would be the most likely candidate to be aware of the time passing by everyday. Sure, many issues I deal with are time-sensitive and are bound within timeframes, but in actuality, it makes time pass by faster than ever. Because my mindset is constantly fast forwarded to these designated times, I tend to ignore the bouts of time that exists in between. And the next thing I know, the day is already over -- and afterwards, I would have trouble comprehending where my day just went.

Everyday is plagued by the lack of time -- never enough time to do everything. And to make matters worse, whenever I think of tomorrow, I think of the things I would have to accomplish thereby fast forwarding my brain to the end of tomorrow, without it even starting yet.

Smell the roses? Talk to my secretary... (the imaginary one sitting on the imaginary desk next to mine)

Just the other day, as I was rifling through my mp3 collection, I found some songs that I listened to in my late teen years -- give or take, the second half of the nineties. As I was going through memory lane with nostalgia in tow, I suddently realized that most of the songs in there were almost ten years old. Ten years! A decade! I could have had ten kids by now (in theory, at least). It couldn't have been that long now, can it? I mean, ten years ago for me was still the 80's -- tight pants, big hair and bright pink lipstick. Who was the jokester that moved the hands of the clock ten years too fast?

Listening to the oldies station at work includes listening to Take That, Selena, R.E.M, Simply Red and the Spice Girls, for crying out loud! Did we not witness these artists rise towards the top of the charts? Has it really been that long? Whatever happened to the real oldies like the Bee Gees or Chicago? And what's pretty scary is when you hear cover versions of songs that you knew the original of -- and worse, you own the album of. There should be a rule that songs cannot be covered unless the original artist who originally performed it is dead. Seriously...

We all have memories to fondly look back on in past years and decades. I reckon that there is always one special year or period in our lives that we keep going back to. And from then on, we would never age. I will always be nineteen years old in my head. My years between twenty to twenty-five is just one big blur of time where I'm not exactly sure what happened. All I know is that one day, I woke up, and I'm already twenty-five... and the day before that, I was nineteen.

Where does time go? I'd like to go find it. I don't want to wake up again one day to find out that I'm already sixty... without realizing how I got there.

I always take it for granted that I will always have a tomorrow to look forward to. What if I don't? I get so consumed with all the routinary things in life that I tend to brush away those that really matter. If I have time for the mundane stuff, shouldn't it follow that I make time for the more significant ones? It's a simple concept... but how come very little of us practice it?

I cannot agree more with Will Rogers when he said: "Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save."

Ironic, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Lil' Sumtin'

A new month, a new article.

Nothing too fancy this time, though... just a bunch of thoughts linked together to form a fun(ish) piece. Nothing too thought-provoking either as I just wanted to do something simple and straightforward. However, I did learn quite a bit of trivia from doing this article :)

Asiance Magazine Article -- Asian Contributions

You learn something new everyday... indeed!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Unbounded Picket Fences

A few months ago, I received a Friendster message from a college friend asking how I'm doing. It's been at least a good seven years since I lived next door to her in the freshman hall of my college. Needless to say, it was quite a pleasant surprise hearing from her. She's a very sweet girl -- bright-eyed and roseate about tackling the big city life having travelled from her humble town in Maine. We weren't exactly the best of friends as we had very little in common but circumstances had it that we spent some nights together, along with a bunch of other friends, getting wasted out of our minds and sharing woes about life and... what else, boys!

Life had a lot in store for her after graduation. She's married now, living in Colorado, with the perfect house and two precious dogs. Whilst reading her emails to me about her wonderful life, I felt this gnawing feeling creep up my throat. I felt that familiar feeling of the green-eyed monster gripping tightly against my esophagus keeping the oxygen from running through the rest of my body.

I laughed to myself as soon as I realized what was happening. I envied her because her life seemed so settled and certain -- something I've always dreamed of having one of these days. I looked at myself in the mirror and only found fleeting decisions (and indecisions) and uncertainties staring right back at me. I was a far cry from an ideal life of settledness.

However, if today I were given the chance to step into her shoes and live the quintessential life surrounded by white picket fences, I probably can't say no fast enough. Even though I yearn for certainty and a direction in my life, I realized that perhaps they arrive in different pockets in our lifetime. The universe decided that it was already her time to settle down whilst I was awarded with more time to figure myself out better and to view the wonders of this world. I'm not prepared to give all those up. Not yet.

I have lived in three different countries and have travelled to various countries in at least four continents -- and I still haven't found a good reason why I should stop. Perhaps I never will. My life may fit in a couple of suitcases with nothing else to show for, but it doesn't mean that my life is any less fulfilled or meaningful than anyone else's. I used to feel inferior towards friends and acquaintances who are so sure about how they want their lives to turn out and which directions they would like to take. Whereas I... I have but a tiny inkling with a faint voice in my head chanting over and over where I should be.

I still dream of living in Europe to make a dent on my life in this global village. I still wish to run with the wild life in Africa, and dance the flamenco in a beautiful swirly dress in Latin America. And maybe sit down on a wooden bench chugging down delicious beer in Denmark the night before I flee for Turkey for some more delights. I still want to ride an elephant in India and to dance the hula in Hawaii next to a flaring bonfire. I'd still like to scale the height of the pyramids in Egypt and go skiing inside the dome in Dubai. I may need to borrow a few more lives from God if I want to get through all these colorful experiences that span the globe.

I have three more continents to visit and a few hundred more countries too choose from on where I'd like to park my suitcases while painting their towns red. Why must I choose one when I can have them all? Maybe one day I will, but not now. I'm far too busy enjoying being the mistress of this world -- having an affair with all my great travels. After all, I have the rest of my life to settle down.

I follow what my favorite Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said: "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving."

I bask on the glory of finding a destination.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Prophets and Losses

Last Saturday night, a girl friend and I went in quest of a slow and chilled time, which included an indulgent meal, to fight the humidity that was enveloping the night and to keep the loose strands of my tight ponytail from sticking to the back of my neck. We found ourselves strolling down Clarke Quay on that beautiful evening just as the earth was adjusting from the rain we had a few hours ago. Amid the moist air that hung heavily in our lungs, we parked ourselves at one of the new(ish) bars/restaurants -- al fresco -- and recruited the tender to nourish us with some refreshing mojitos.

"What's he doing here?" she suddenly asked, interrupting my fantasies of snow falling at the height of summer in a tropical country. I followed the direction of her pointed finger. Just by the bar was our ever-famous door bitch from a nearby hip club -- thanks to him, we never had to queue up or pay door prices.

"Oh, I don't know... but it's too early for him to be working," I retorted, glancing at my watch.
She madly waved her hands whilst yelling out his name. He finally caught sight of the pair of us, gave us the nod that only cool people manage to do with perfection, and decidedly joined us at our table.

"Girls, girls! How are you?" he greeted us in that typical i'll-pretend-we've-been-friends-forever-but-I-honestly-don't-know-anything-about-you fashion of the people in a "happening" industry. Air kisses were swapped for a short while.

Fifteen minutes into the small talk that we all dread about -- about how crappy the weather was, how we're all underpaid and overworked, how quick weekends go by and all that banter -- we discovered that he has delved into owning some shares in food establishments here and there within the area, inlcuding the one we were at. Although... he did assure us that he will always be our door bitch whenever we swing by his club. He simply is giving the entrepreneur in him a chance to blossom and to try different things. Sure, clever move.

"So, been on holiday much?" I asked in an effort to revive the dying conversation.

"Not yet," he said. "But I will go on one in June. I'm going to India for a month."

Errr, excuse me? A month?

"I'm going on a retreat there and open up myself to peace and happiness," he continued, his eyes starting to sparkle dangerously. "My meditation teacher will be there too. I'm very excited."

Another ten minutes passed on how he got himself into this whole spiritual shindig. He admitted to gradually evolving into a cleaner and healthier person by giving up meat, alcohol, and a few other wordly temptations -- and that he has been meditating everyday and praying for bliss. He has been reading Indian books on spirituality, has opened all his chakras, and has attained several levels of peace (or something) already.

"When I go to India, I will be shaving my head to keep the energy close by," he said, with the opposite amount of enthusiasm that I would have if I said I were to shave my head. "It's going to be really cool! Nothing will come between me and my destiny."

Wait, that's not all...

"And then I'm going to give up everything I have. I will cash out all my shares and give my cash to the poor, saving a little for me for my expenses. I will give up everything and lead a life of simplicity, just like how it should really be. I'm so happy right now, you have no idea. I have finally achieved inner peace -- and I have realized that there is nothing else that we need in order to be happy but God."

One word: whoa...

Can I say radical change? This guy's life was revolving around booze and parties -- not to mention, his manner of scraping up a living involves those too. And part of his image were his signature sunglasses and his slick hair. And it's all going to go down the pipes?

He went on and one about how wonderful his journey to spirituality has become and how he was currently enjoying his state of nirvana. And also how he finally obtained the sort of wealth that can never be taken away from him. He quoted a few books here and there regarding the philosophies in life that he's been following and how it has helped him become a better person.

"I've become very zen," he quipped blushing with pride.

As a Catholic for the past twenty five years, the information he was feeding us was anything but brand new. He was boasting of the outstanding values he has learned from Hinduism and how he would recommend everyone to go through it. I couldn't help but think about how the foundation of his philosophies were very much tied to what mine are -- and I know absolute shite about Hinduism. He mentioned the need for God minus our craving for worldly objects and material pursuits. Sound familiar? His enthusiasm and zeal were fresher than it can ever be as his education is relatively new. Hopefully, however, that he will keep at it and that he will not regret any of his (drastic) decisions. He has only begun, after all, to discover what it truly means to be happy -- something that many people have been trying to achieve, and also something that a lot of other people fail to realize exists.

It only reiterates my living philosophy that there may be several religions in the world, with several names for God to match, but in essence... there is only one God that we all adore, worship and revere. No one can judge others by their methods of worship and the underlying philosophies and principles that support it because the prayers are all essentially towards the same being. There is no wrong or right religions, as long as it doesn't involve anyone or anything getting hurt.

I grew up within a widely Catholic society. Ironically, it is only upon my extraction from that circle that made me appreciate it more. The more I got attacked because of my religious identity, the more I felt compelled to defend it... and the more reason I found to believe in it. I've met numerous people following varied religions. And as I ensconce myself deeper into knowing more about the differences, the more similarities I find. The common theme being the path of goodness leading us to the door of eternal happiness.

Surely, the Catholic church has exposed more than a few unfortunate events in the past that has led many to stray from it. I don't believe in pointing fingers or taking sides, but I'd like to think that no matter how religiously influential some people are, the bottomline is that they're still human. Only God is perfect. We're only created in His image and likeness, and is therefore, still imperfect. However, those who have chosen to pull out of the Catholic family, I sincerely hope that they've sought refuge elsewhere instead of floating in eternal limbo and not belonging to a family that provides the basic pillars of living.

I have massive respect for people's religious beliefs (and non-beliefs) and I have never imposed mine on anyone. I answer questions when asked but because I dislike people who push their philosophies on me, I try to do otherwise. I admire those who have found their path to happiness through religion, however and whatever it may be. I've never really been fancy schmancy about being Catholic. Sure, I go to church every Sunday or say my prayers to the beads of the rosary once in a while, but I was never one to go out on a limb to join the choir or go on month-long retreats.. However, I'd like to think that I can safely call myself devout without feeling like a fraud. Devotion to one's God, after all, is highly subjective and is a very personal matter. And as mentioned, devotion to God can be expressed in differently.

As Frederick the Great once said, "All religions must be tolerated... for every man must get to heaven his own way."