If this is what success looks like, then I don't want it.

When someone asks me what’s the best thing about running my own business, my answer changes every time.

Most recently, the answer has been

I get to do things my way, and I have the freedom to say no to the things I don’t want to do.

A few hours back, my account manager from one of the fairs we now regularly participate in, updated me about the competition we should be expecting in the upcoming fairs. Simply because bralettes are now a thing in the world of mummies and that other brands are beginning to adopt bralettes in their repertoire of products.

It’s nothing new. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and the easiest way to get in with the times is simply through mimicking. That’s what we used to do. And that’s what most businesses still do today. Mimick and iterate.

But the one thing I cannot stand is when brands sound the drums and pull out the banners to claim that they are on the side of female empowerment and helping women feel comfortable in their own skin — yet at the same time, sell creams, shapewear and slimming products, targeted at helping mummies get back into their pre-pregnancy body in the least amount of time.

It’s bullshit, clear as day. And it reeks of a company trying to reap the benefits of being body positive, yet at the same time, exploiting the emotional and mental weakness of a postpartum mother.

But you know what’s worse? The fact that we as consumers are suckers for it.

We want to see brands and businesses standing on the side of body positivity and size inclusivity. We want it so badly, that we take it in all forms, whether it’s a passing tweet about “standing alongside women everywhere” or a picture of a model that isn’t size zero with the caption “All bodies are beautiful”.

We smile, double-tap to like, maybe even repost it on our feeds. Then go back to buying all the products that are sized XS only, buy the slimming creams and detox diets that the same body-loving brand is trying to sell you.

It’s not a clear line. It’s not black and white. And who is to say helping you become a slimmer, fitter, pre-pregnancy sized you isn’t the route to helping promote body positivity? (not to me, but who knows right?)

I’m getting a little off tangent here. But recently, success has become a concept that I’m increasingly foreign to. The idea of success in the eyes of so many has become so warped and mutated, that it’s clear that they are willing to jump through the hoops of immorality and cross the rivers of grey areas to reach.

Just a couple of weeks back, I read a post about how an ex-colleague, who went to a bank to make some withdrawals and almost got sweet-talked into signing up for a life insurance plan cleverly disguised as an investment plan with guaranteed interest and zero risk. He’d almost signed on the dotted line, only to look at the fine print and realise that the interest was definitely not guaranteed and his money was definitely not at zero risk.

And that’s just one scenario.

Question is, how many guarantees are you willing to make, and how many silken half-truths are you willing to spin in order to close a deal? How many underhanded means are you willing to take just to get that little bit closer to your definition of success?

It’s difficult. When in our day and age, success is an indicator of how capable, smart, clever and worthy you are. That sometimes we are blinded by the need to be validated by these little words, we are willing to do anything it takes so we don’t end up in the pool of people who “work so hard their whole lives and end up right at the same place they began”.

The thought scares me. Being raised in a family where my parents constantly reiterated the need for hard work in order to achieve success, albeit applied only academically. It was a promise that there’s no dumb person, only lazy ones. That if you’re willing to clench your teeth, double down in hard work, success will find you, even if you weren’t reaching for it in the first place.

But the more years you add to your age, the more you realise that hard work is defined differently in this playing field we call life. That sometimes, simply working hard isn’t going to work for you. You can climb the stairs over and over and still feel like everything you’ve been promised is so far out of reach.

If that’s the case, then maybe you shouldn’t be reaching for it in the first place. The definition of success and the associated brilliance it comes with is a societal expectation. It should not define you as a person and it should not make you feel less, just because you’ve tried so hard and still don’t have it.

Most days now, I yearn for a day of hard work and an honest payout. I no longer look for shortcuts in life that will get me to the greatest amount of reward with minimal amounts of effort. The tradeoffs just aren’t worth it.

Sometimes when my mum asks me how’s business and I want to tell her, it could be better. I also want to tell her, it should be better. But it cannot be, because I’m the one running it. And there are things I refuse to do, words I refuse to say and lies I refuse to spin in order for it to be better.

I am more than my work. I am more than what I do. And I refuse to change the way I am just because it makes things easier.

Because if that’s the way success is coming to me, I’d rather not have it anyway.

Thunderstorms

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I have a habit of listening to music at deafening volumes in complete darkness whenever there’s a heaviness in my heart that I can’t seem to comprehend. When I developed this habit I don’t know. I don’t even know if it makes me feel better because twenty minutes into this and I still feel suffocated by the still night air.  

Storms are supposed to make the sky look darker, like a foreshadowing of ominous thoughts or baleful wishes. Yet tonight, the night sky is unnaturally lit by what seems like an impending torrent of rain. It’s funny how when you eliminate the potential threat of deafening thunder roars, streaks of lightning actually seem easier to appreciate. They illuminate the darkness in a brilliant yet almost artificial manner and in that fraction of a second they burst into light, everything is crystal clear.

If you were here, perhaps I would have righteously proclaimed the storm as “cuddle weather”. But since you’re not, and the weight of the night has proven too much to bear alone, I’ll resign to doing what I do best — escape. When the world is bent on sending torrential downpours your way, the last thing you want to do is to fight it. When the universe is hell bent on making you break, maybe the easiest way to emerge unscathed is to hide somewhere they can’t find you. That, I can do.

Ideas are Bulletproof

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School makes you appreciate the lesser things in life — like showering at absurd times of the day and seeking refuge from the scorching sun beneath the comfort of your blankets and artificially chilled air.

I just spent the afternoon curled up in the fetal position on fresh bedsheets when I should have been halfway across the island, stiffly sat upon a lecture chair fighting sleep. I tell myself sacrifices have to be made in order to retain whatever’s left of my sanity on a stuffy Monday morning and guiltlessly enjoyed my midday nap. A 10 hour work day is way too intense for the second week of school.

While waiting for the train in the sweltering heat and mindlessly scrolling through my Tumblr feed, I realised we fall in love with the idea of things like a moth helplessly attracted to a burning flame. We repost images we see online of people we’ve never met and rolls of cigarettes we’ve never really tasted. We fall in love with the simplicity of an image and the endless possibilities of perfection it brings. Flowers that never have to wither, balloons that rise without limit and love that’s captured infinitely in the summer.

I once asked why he never bought me flowers, insisting that I was being denied the one thing I truly loved and brought me immeasurable happiness. (Peonies particularly. Others not so.) In return, I was told what I loved was the idea of receiving and not the actual act. That I fell in love with the images of bouquets with the pastel hues against the flushed skin, the smiles and joyous laughter I was conditioned to expect when I held a stalk between my hands. In reality, I wouldn’t know what to do with them the moment the excitement faded. I would trouble with where and how to dispose of them, I would fret when they gradually lost their elegant disposition.

We fall in love with the idea of things because we can’t help it. Because things are always so covetable, so beautiful, so flawless when we only see them in a two dimensional world. We replay scenarios in our heads, convinced that we’re irrevocably smittened, until one day ideas become reality and we begin to grasp the unfathomable knowledge of why and how ideas are and will always be better kept in fantasy.