Feb 14, 2013


I'm a beaten, weathered idealist. People look at me and think I'm so naive and sheltered, just waiting for the tide of maturity to bring down my view of the world.

Being naive has a pretty negative connotation. It says I'm gullible, unthinking, childish in thought. It spills over into other things - my not-very-private Facebook profile, my personal and very public blog, Christianity and my church, my values - and people tend to dismiss them all as being the result of naïveté. They look at my baby face and my 1.57m stature and the way I talk to people and it completes the picture. 

I'm very sheltered - grew up around good people, had supportive groups of friends who shared my values. Among my close friends, not one smokes or isn't a virgin (not that I know of, anyway), and most of them didn't get into a relationship until they were 17/18 or older, many of whom are still evergreen. Not that I have many close friends, but still. 

But I don't like to think I'm that naive. People look at my decision to join Yale-NUS and what I'm planning to major in in university and City Harvest and my faith and they think I don't question. They think I've never thought through the points they're listing off in their heads. Look, I have a devil of a man in my mind taunting and questioning me at every corner with a whip. I've fought so many inner wars in my head that when people confront me about these things, or tell me I'm just immature, I don't even want to fight back. I've thought through all the questions myself, too, and when you think about something for weeks on end, you never want to tell someone else about the thought process. They only see the end product, and assume you didn't give it much thought. That you're a brainwashed mouthpiece.

These are big things. My university choice is a huge thing. My faith is something I give my life to. Why would I not give it a constant, good, hard think-though? Why would I ever stop questioning myself and everything I'm giving up? I'm so tired of the cynic in my own mind, and more tired of those who assume I've never been anywhere near there. 

I've digressed a lot.

So people look at my the way I describe the world and think that I assume it's full of only beautiful people, people who are compassionate and who love selflessly and who all have a soft spot and will help me out with sincerity as I leap and stumble through life. 

People forget that as I have a more idealistic picture of the world, I also get disappointed a lot more. I just don't believe that someone would use me or give away a piece of myself that I've entrusted them with. I don't believe that my closest friends or loved ones will give me nothing less than the fullness of their hearts. I don't believe that people will choose to be heartless. I don't expect people not to acknowledge and reciprocate. I don't expect ugly things to happen, and more often than not, my expectations get the better of me, and they come crashing down. I know it - the pang that strikes you; the staring at the screen, unmoving; the sudden tears that come when you'd rather have no one there. Wondering what you're supposed to put your trust in now. Wondering if the people you felt were your closest friends don't see you that way at all. Wondering what you can tell about anyone.

To deal with disappointment or doubt, I tend to back off from the deepening pit really quickly. I shut off my mind and cover up the hole with bad thoughts and run from the pile of sweet milk turned sour and immerse myself in other things to forget the pain. That's how my mind defends itself against madness.

I have friends who have developed a different defence mechanism: a more 'realistic' outlook of the world. I have friends whose view of the world is that it is inherently ugly. Beauty is a wonderful addition that some people bring into the world, but it isn't a given, so don't expect it. Expecting nothing from anyone and taking good things to be an unexpected blessing is an attitude you have to force yourself into, because it defies the theory of give and take if looked at in its extreme. 

I have friends who look at how I expect everyone to be kind, and tell me I will get trampled over. That I'm making myself too easy a target for the kill. I have to learn to cut certain ropes and stay afloat. I have to recognise that all the dangerous hopes I'm carrying will only sink me deeper. What am I doing fighting the confusion? I have to stop trying to swim in that current and just throw off the weight of my idealistic picture of the world to get some oxygen. To survive.

I don't know, but when I try to adopt these, I don't see a way of doing it without numbing myself to the world first - of everything good and bad. And I don't understand why my belief that everything is inherently good is deemed naive. I didn't say "everything is good". I said "everything is inherently good" - when you peel off the layers and layers of mud and grime, something sparkling remains. 

That sparkle could be the yearn for a mother's love as a toddler. It could be the need to feel worthy. It could be your childhood longing for your parents' approval. It could be the wish for the ending of misery, or the ending of the cold stone walls, the ending of numbness, you just want to fly a stream of colours. Everyone needs love and self-worth and colour.

Babies are creatures that need love and attention. They are expressive and compassionate by nature. They're also curious - about what happens when you cut different things, or what things look like when they break, or funny feelings - which can have good or bad consequences. They also learn to fake-cry and throw tantrums and lie, yes, but all kids need is love and support from those around them. 

Some people and situations have so many layers of mud that the sparkle is only a grey ash-like speck, seemingly impossible to find. Maybe it's too far down, and crushed into pieces too small, to be redeemable. But it's definitely there. 

I can't adopt the attitudes of my friends even though it seems a lot more painless and mature. To me, forcing them on is admitting that the world is, in its most basic form, useless. Bare. A wasteland. I can't do that.

I live for the diamond in that wasteland, the diamond that tells of the beauty of the whole place before the age of neglect and numbness, and I will carve my world around it. There's a lot of pain and confusion in the fight, but I refuse to believe beauty is only a bonus. I can't. It is what sustains me.


Anonymous said...

When we were young like children, we dared to dream and did things that people would dismiss of. As time passes, we lose a bit of faith and settle for things that we can easily get. It is a bit sad, but it is how realists around us like to believe in. Yet, like any story, there is always the other side. There is no reason why you should settle for anything less, if you have the energy to keep holding on

Just a person who stumbled here a couple of years ago :)

Hannah Karen Ho said...

Hi there, thanks so much :) It's not that I have the energy to keep holding on; I simply can't live without holding on. It's like it's hardly a choice for me. I believe in that other side simply because taking that reality will stay as it is hurts too much. My dad just visited a home for people with mental disorders in Malaysia, and apparently there were kids with ADHD who were chained to beds and things like that. I can't live without the hope that things will get better, that humanity is inherently loving and good.

Thanks yeah :) and thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

That is really sad :( but these things happen and while they are common, when we come to know of them, they are always heart-wrenching. Nonetheless,as you put it, love and good will reign and we all see the light that we have always put our faith on :)

Hannah Karen Ho said...

I sure hope so... I don't see why those who are cynical and pessimistic are deemed "right", those who have given life more thought, who are those living in reality. And why those who see the positives and the hope are the naive ones. Thanks :)