As I write this reflection, Michael Buble’s lyric punctuates the air: “It's the most wonderful time of the year”. The season of Christmas always brings sweetness to each moment and also invites us into a mood of reflection. 2022 is almost at the exit door, ready to leave, as we prepare to welcome 2023.
Unlike the last two years of covid, we had a relatively ‘normal’ year. Most of us took any possible opportunity to travel out of Singapore. The little red passport that for the last two years was gathering dust was finally usable.
I set out to read more in 2022 and created space to read. Books opened up my understanding of the world. Ravi Zacharias reminds us that an expenditure of words without an income of ideas leads to conceptual bankruptcy. And while I enjoy reading, I believe it is more important to implement the ideas we picked up instead of rushing through each book. I hope that my way of synthesizing what I have read in my articles has also brought some clarity and a new perspective for you.
On the family front, this is the year my daughter entered primary 1. We thank God that she was able to adjust wonderfully. She has always had difficulties adjusting to new spaces, so we were grateful when she took to primary school like fish to water. My son proved to be my son when he too started to have issues with Mandarin. But both of my children enjoy school, and there has not been a day where they resist going to school. I thank God that my children are amazing blessings to me and my wife.
However, not all was smooth sailing. My daughter was admitted to the hospital this year, which is a novel experience for us. She fell, and needed stitches and an overnight stay. Thankfully, a good insurance plan meant that our out-of-pocket payments were minimal, even though we stayed in a private hospital. The initial plan was to head to KKH, as we thought it would be sufficient. We were told the wait would be about 90 minutes just to see the triage nurse as my daughter’s case, despite the blood-stained clothes, was not that much of an emergency. We decided to head over to the nearby Mount Alvernia, where within 90 minutes, my daughter was prepped for surgery to stitch up the wound. While I am sure the standard of care at KKH is on par with any private ward, the speed of treatment was entirely different. And it reminded me again why we need good hospital insurance; to give us the freedom of choice to get the best care we need at the moment.
The sight of blood running down your daughter’s face is not a memory I look back on with “undiluted pleasure”. Yet at the same time, we did not restrict our daughter’s actions. She continues to climb and be active, and she continues to love her gymnastics class, despite the possible injuries. Yes, injuries will happen; but we do need to a certain level of risks, and suffer a certain level of loss. Otherwise, why live if we choose to hide in a safe bubble? Pain and joy are often two sides of a coin. What is important is to give ourselves the best cushion to meet pain when it comes.
Speaking of pain, I experienced the grief of losing my uncle this year. He passed away suddenly from a heart attack. He lived a full life, short as it may have been. At his wake, so many of his ex-colleagues shared amazing stories about how he helped them both professionally and socially. I marveled at the impact he made on the lives of others; if I can just achieve half of what he has, it would be enough.
However, I remain impacted by how sudden his passing was. He had never complained about heart issues, nor was he feeling poorly. It reminded me of how unexpected life really is. It calls to mind a song we sing in church: “I am wave tossed in the ocean, vapor in the wind”. One minute we are here, the next, we are gone. It reminds me to hug my loved ones; to tell them I love them.
What will 2023 bring? I don’t know. But 2022 (and every year before) taught me that life is unpredictable. It throws curve balls. The rug gets pulled under your leg. 2023 will bring more of such challenges. But I believe what is more important is what we bring into 2023. Arthur Ashe says, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” If we focus on ourselves and on our efforts, we will go somewhere. More importantly, we can grow and be better if we choose to start where we are and do what we can. Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit, tells it as it is. She says, “the human individual lives usually far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. Of course, there are limits… but these outer boundaries where we will eventually stop improving are simply irrelevant for the vast majority of us. “
What’s more important, is that we push our boundaries, grow and be so much better than we were, and live a full life.
What about you? What has 2022 taught you? I look forward to hearing your reflections and lessons. Thank you for being here.