People love to give advice. People also love to get advice, especially if it’s in line with what they were already thinking of doing. Most advice is shit, though. Better out than in, but still super stinky in most forms.

The one piece of advice I remember till today and still vaguely believe in was bestowed upon me at age 22, by a much-respected professor at uni, when I was on the cusp of graduation. It was a recipe for happiness.

Said professor told me to always make sure I get 2 out of 3 things right: What you’re doing, where you live and who you’re with. That’s the passing score of the most important exam, this funny little thing called Life.

For most part, this test proved true. 2 out of 3 was enough to make me happy, or at least happy-ish. But at this moment – for the first time – it’s not working. I’ve got my 2 of 3 in the bag, but I am quite unshakeably unhappy. I live in Singapore and I am very happy to be living here now, with crippling humidity, 4 baby cats and my family close by. I also have a boyfriend (a close friend-turned-something-more) who unfortunately lives in a different country. So maybe that box is not quite so firmly checked. Maybe I’m coming in at 1.8 out of 3. That must be it.

But lately I suspect that even if the boy was living with me, I still wouldn’t be happy. Happiness, or at least mine, clearly doesn’t work like that anymore, because the one thing I feel bad about – the “what I’m doing” portion – is engorged like a big bloated tapeworm nibbling away at the other two. It’s a Venn diagram gone rogue – instead of three neat overlapping circles, one has blown up and swallowed the others.

Family and friends have noticed my sad state of affairs, and started to dispense new pieces of unsolicited advice. (Is 98% of family-and-friends advice unsolicited, anyway?) In no other of merit:

  1. Don’t let them (the bosses) bully you. Stand up for yourself. Demand to have what you want.
  2. Just leave. It’s better to earn less than to be so unhappy. You can manage your spending and get by on less.
  3. You need to spend some time figuring about what you really REALLY want to do.
  4. Make things happen for yourself. Seize the opportunities out there.
  5. Be brave.
  6. Just suck it up and deal with it. Everyone has sucky/difficult jobs. Why should you be different?
  7. Take up a hobby to distract yourself.

I do see the point of all those, honest I do. But in terms of how relevant they feel to me, they are colourful shouty balloons floating in the clouds, across the sky. They are miles from where I’m standing, with my head tilted back to admire their cute shapes and brassy colours. They are so out of grasp, I despair even looking at them.

It’s not all gloom and doom, though. I’ve taken steps to shoot some of those balloons down. (I’m aiming particularly at the “Figure about what you REALLY want to do” one.) I’ve started seeing a counsellor. It’s been slow going, but pretty good.

To finish, allow me to practise the art of irony and leave you with a piece of unwanted advice for the road. It cost me possibly $10, because it came from my counsellor, but it’s all free for you.

You can’t out-think an anxiety attack: Close your eyes, breathe deeply for a few minutes, and then open your eyes and try again at that Life thing.

(I may have paraphrased a little.)


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