Seek the Signs

I’ve been blessed these few days that passed. I realised that lessons in life come in all shapes and sizes and they may just come from unexpected sources. First and foremost, it may be a bit noteworthy to note that just last Saturday, I competed in the evaluation contest within the division of my toastmaster’s circle. Realisation came again that I am at my peak best when I am not under the pressure of my own scrutinisation. There were no core supporters in sight,except for the organising club members who were there as usual giving their dosage of welcoming support. I was a bit overwhelmed when I scrolled down the list of people participating in the evaluation part. There was this Benjaming Cheng dude,the founder of S.E.A Speaker’s Association,who was a highly sought after trainer. Then there was Kelvin Thiang,the division winner the year before,who also participated in the Humorous Speech earlier. Then there was the Master himself. A Distinguished Toastmaster. A lawyer by profession. Last year’s District Evaluation Contest speaker in Macau,Pradeep Kumar. Then there were two other dude and a lady who I knew very well as competent evaluators in their own right. And myself. The novice,first time evaluator from AIA Changi representing at Division level. The session for the picking of lots was significant. I was a bit nonchalant,as I thought that it really did not matter the order of sequence. I thought,why bother when I was perhaps not having even the slightest of chances. I chose not to draw any lots. I allowed everybody to pick theirs. What was left,will be my number. Guess what? I got the last speaker slot. My lucky number 7. Great,I thought to myself. Unlike speech contest,being last does not exactly put one in a favourable state. Firstly, because by contextual manner,the last speaker is literally the last speaker. So for that day,I was akin to be the 18th speaker. Imagine if you are a audience or a contest judge who had to sit through 18 speakers,of all shapes and sizes. Dreadful. Anyway,during the session of waiting for my turn,I could literally see the burning desires within each and every contestant. I was the only bloke sitting down in the room,humming to myself,whilst the rest paced and fidgeted nervously aound the room. A picture of concentration and absolute focus. My attempts at cracking small conversations fell flat. All that was going through my mind was the mental visual that I am gonna be on stage and enjoy myself,whilst at the same time making sure the audience enjoyed themselves too. Soon my turn came. And this was what I said,(I remember it so well.It was a 3 minutes evaluation.)

“Contest Chair. Fellow Toastmasters,ladies and gentlemen and of course to my beautiful Geng Yeok. I usually use the words impeccable and elegant to describe a dance. But today I beg to differ because you had proved indefinitely that you are able to present an elegant speech impeccably. Congratulations. Now,Geng Yeok,what was going well for you today? First let me say that you have a personality. Most of us here probably find that lacking,and that happens to be the differentiating factor between a good and great speaker. The audience were able to engage themselves to you,people like Gae Ban Peng,because you had a lot of personality. You seemed to exude an aura of feminine radiance. Good for you. Secondly,your speech was short and sweet. Just like yourself. I understood it simply and clearly. And of course you attempted to use visual aids to enhance your speech. By dancing Salsa and showing us on the board what the word stood for in acronym. We managed to understand clearly your message about how Salsa had affected certain components of your life. Geng Yeok,I have three suggestions for you. I propose firstly for you to have a central theme to illustrate your message. An example is perhaps about how Salsa has affected your love life. If you do not have a love life,I can help you with it. Because the problem with having five areas of discussions in your acronym,is that it does not aid audience’s memory retention. Secondly,I recommend that you utilise the usage of the stage fully. As a dancer you know that in order to work the audience,you need to work the dance floor,which in your case today,was the stage. I noticed that you had perhaps subconsciously,adopted your salsa-ic stance and as a result only moved forward and backwards. I would have preferred to have you salsa your way down the sides as well. Last but not least,my personal challenge to you,is for you to look into imbueing your personality into your future speeches. No doubt you have the personality,but how you can carry a message with that personality,is your challenge. To summarise,I believe that if you can strike that balance between your likable personality and your message in your speechcrafting,soon enough,you’ll be dancing into our hearts. Contest Chair.”

Impromptu evaluation. So what did I achieve? What is the big deal all about? First,I got a hug immediately after I came down from the stage from my immediate past president,James. He said,”You outperformed yourself!” My president,Goo Yin shook my hand and exclaimed loudly,”If you do not win the Champion today,then the judges are blind.” But knowing how false,praise can be,I asked an audience seate beside me,”How did I do?”.He said,”It’s you or Pradeep. Both of you were the only ones who stood out with a different point of view on things.” The moment of truth finally came. I got a runner’s up plaque. Behind the champion Pradeep. A judge came over and whispered to my ears,”It was very close.”Comforting words? Perhaps. James came over and said,”There is no shame in losing to Pradeep. You know it yourself.” Perhaps James. Perhaps. For the meantime,it is indeed a consolation. The realisation is that I probably have to work harder next year.

Just yesterday,I met up with a client. A 55 year old polytechnic lecturer,a Captain in the maritime industry. Was there to aid him with his retirement planning. Is he rich? I don’t know indefinitely. Properties lying around in Malaysia. A private house in Singapore. A former candidate for NMP. An acquaintance of the late Harun Ghani. Bought his first property at the age of 18. A former under 20 Singapore player. Exco member of Geylang United FC. A trustee member of Sultan mosque. Has a 24 year old daughter. (shit!)Anyway,my point is,this chap is one antithesis of success. From my probing,he definitely is an achiever within the ranks of our small community. The list is too long for citations here. But the humility was evident. What I took out of that conversation was this comments from him,

“Hijazi.It is so hard a name to prononounce.What does it mean? “My clealiness.”I answered. “That’s good.I like it.I like you too. You probe me with the right words. Are you married?” “Soon enough.”I said. “That’s good. You could do with the responsibility.I notice that you are wearing a Toastmasters shirt…” “Errr,yes I am.I am a speaker….”I quivered. “Excellent. A talent. That is your strength,I noticed. You are dynamic. Maybe becase you are young. But you can speak. Being in this industry,you need the right network and the right point of reference. Credibility is sought after. A speaker eh? Interesting. Have you thought of…”and he continued on the conversation for over slightly an hour with me. Perhaps, in summary,he broke through my threshold of possibilities. Always thought I should do something. He confirmed that thought for me. Anyway,that’s for another entry. I just know that I have a deadline to meet.(raying hard)

A loved one send a text over the net just recently. “Is that you Hijazi? Blah…blah…blah…congratulations on your wedding….”Frankly put,I was just a bit blue and black all over. Firstly, of course it’s me. “Is that you Hijazi?” sounds a little bit off in the sense of ignorance or mockery? Perhaps my pics looked a bit ugly. (laughs) Nevertheless,the congratulations part just seems to be a bit of bitter pill to swallow. As moronic as it may sound,I do not really appreciate the congratulations portions of the marriage segments. An arm around my shoulders with the words,”Soon you’ll be a married man. Awwww!” by my Monsta is more comforting and sincere than the constant probing of “Hope your preparations are doing great.” The whole significance of marriage and wedding is not lost on me. I am just bemused by the dying obsession as though marriage is the penultimate event in anyone’s life. Yes sometimes I enjoy the occasional banters and jokes about being married. But as I highlighted to Monsta,why the paranoia? Will I turn into a three headed son of a bitched monster/alien after I’m married? Marriage is just a transition into another life phase. Period. Yes,significant. But definitely not the penultimate factor in determining happiness. Years back,I used to dream about my wedding and how it will turn out? Will it turn out that way? No. but do I regret having those dreams? No. Because those dreams measure the extend of how much I want to achieve in life. Realistically,the marriage is never so much the issue. It’s the wedding that can prove to be the greatest tests of all. It does not matter if you have or not the dough to finance a wedding. To my discovery,the essential component is how steadfast one is,in forming a family. It is noteworthy to mention that not even a single bloke/relatives/friends who asked me these questions of whether I am spiritually ready to guide my wife? Kids? Do I keep to my daily prayers conscientiously? Have I performed any special prayers in readiness? And all other componential questions that shapes a marriage,family and legacy. Instead, the proverbial teasers are,how much is the hantaran? What is the concept? What wedding car? How many hantaran dulangs? Where are the weddin cards? Blah. That is the sickening thing. The obsession with bastardisation of marriages. As sick as this may sound,weddings might just be a stopover in any case. The marriage a.k.a the journey is more worthy of contemplations. Noticed how enteprising we can be when it comes to wedding planning. We’ve already prebooked things for events happening 2 years down the road. Ask where our insurance policies are and we scramble through the haystack looking for a yellow needle. Our people are also the most networked people because when a wedding comes along,one suddenly have 500 friends to call upon and invite. Funny,how these 500 friends and relatives just disappear when that utilities bill come begging down your mailbox. Ever heard of wedding planners being millionaires? If you do,tell me. What’s with the surge in wedding planners? You get my drift? Surge in wedding planner. Surge in unwed mothers. Surge in divorce rates. What’s the corelations? The bastardisation of marriages. The lack of insightful discourse. Plan the wedding,and you’ll be king and queen of the day…by which you’ll turn into that occupational janitors the next day. Look around. Seek the signs.

I’ve digressed. My point is,the congratulatory wish from that soul was just a bit,slight. Sigh. Certain chapters in my life are written to be a story of its own. To flip back sometimes through those pages can be a bit daunting,no matter how far into the book I’ve gone into. That is why sometimes,I hate justifying myself to others. There are days when I clearly make it known that one is cherished and loved in the capacity as it is. Yet,I am made to sound rhetorical just because of circumstances. Look at the person and listen to what he is saying…not where he’s saying it. If life is so fair that one gets what he wants that easily,I am probably not writing this entry,but just kissing the lids of the sleeping Jessica Biel. I know what I want. It’s just probably you do not have what I want. Or you cannot give what I want. It’s fair to say this from my perspective. And since life is fair,I bet everyone else have their own perspective. Thank you to the soul who wished me. It’s just that in the scheme of things,”What do you call a rose other than its name,”so you must understand that there are certain chapters in my life that are not completely written,cause it was ripped out. And like all books,you cannot fully understand the story till you read all the chapters. Some things are surpressed not because I want to. It’s because for the benefit of living,I have to. Sometimes,leaving and being left does not always equate to an abundance of hatred. It grows and germinates into that essential quotient of acceptance living. Embrace the pain such that it pricks no more,but imbues with you.

And on that note,to friends who probably find that the rainbow after the shower is a bit distant,have faith. I just learned from my lovely partner,”The Adversity Quotient”. God tests you the way you melt gold. To get the purest gold,extreme heat has to be applied. If you are contented to be the blackest gold,stay comforted in your merriment that’s devoid of obstacles. That’s the way it is. The nature of things. In the great scheme of life,the people who think they matter,are perhaps just passing through like the gentle breeze on your hands. Felt,but definitely temporary. The ones who truly matter are the rays of sunshine. They may be gone briefly,but you know they’ll shine on you the next morning. Choose your associations. Kudos.