I almost never start stories with a quote, but here I am.
William Longgood, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 1963, once said that “Dreams and dedication are a powerful combination”.
This is certainly, without any hint of sarcasm, ‘breaking news’ for me. And I’m being completely serious.
When we were younger and tucked our dolls and stuffed bears to sleep— not tucked into caffeine and candy to keep us up late to finish reports—I often heard the phrase “Chase Your Dreams” uttered around the kindergarten and grade school I went to. In 2002, with my brother, my mother and father gathered our family around and said that a dream had been chase and caught [our family of four was complete]. My father, always someone to chase dreams (and my mother, back in his day) decided that the focus on dream-chasing would be on my brother and myself, and in subsequent years he invented numerous ‘strategies’ for us to easily set our sights on these dreams. I heard the same phrase Chase Your Dreams again two years later, when I had gone to my first book-signing as a Primary 1 pupil for my very own book I’d illustrated and authored, and I remember my lilting, high-pitched voice pitching in an anxious tone, “Chase Your Dreams”.
I grew up in California. I’m a Chinese kid. There wasn’t a cultural gap between my classmates and I, apart from the fact that I celebrated Chinese New Year like they celebrated Thanksgiving. However, I was definitely taught different values and principles from my friends. My Asian friends from Japan and Taiwan and Hong Kong could relate to me, a Singaporean kid. The differences didn’t set us apart from our friends who were blonde and brown-haired and blue-eyed and green-eyed; we were all living along the same suburban California road. It was okay.
I heard the phrase again in Primary 2 and it was thrown around in the backseat of my family’s Lexus, as lightly as the crumbs that filled the gaps of the leather seat, courtesy of my brother and my constant appetite.
We moved across the ocean to the continent of Asia when I was in the middle of Primary 3, and that was when I stopped uttering the phrase to myself. What were dreams and dedication in my life when I, a ten year-old child, felt disconnected from her entire physical environment? I recently wrote an essay on how my country [the one I relocated to] is an ideal place to live in, but I had not felt this way from the start. I was confused and suffering from cultural-shock. I have myself to blame for being particularly emotional since I was young, always forming strong attachments to the Carpet in my House or the Bugs On The Sidewalk or the Walls or my Actual House. Furthermore, due to transitioning between a school in America, an international school, and then finally into a local school here, amidst my longings to go back home to America, I honestly couldn’t even think of grasping the edge of a beautiful, hopeful dream.
Of course, we all have phases, and I guess I grew to warm up to the phrase “Chase Your Dreams” again as I stood on the cusp of growing into my adolescence. I stopped moping around and instead fiddled around with the keys of my father’s laptop, eager to recapture the same heady, blossoming feeling of writing something. I wanted to create a piece that would inspire other people, or at least a piece that could motivate myself—or perhaps, a story I was proud to be able to tell.
In the country which I live in, competition is high in terms of academic studies. I threw myself into studying, and while I did not throw writing away, but shoved it aside with a tut, telling myself that writing would have to wait.
I was wrong. As humans, we’re capable of making impulsive decisions, yes, but we’re also capable of multi-tasking and if it means chasing after the red ribbon of your passion while pursuing other things in a high-stress environment, then so be it. You can do it if you try.
You can do it if there’s a dream involved. Chasing your dream is the business of pushing your limits; you invest your blood, sweat and tears into developing yourself to be a citizen that Society would be proud of, and you come back home to continue reaching inside yourself, to feed a growing dream. You have to sign a Contract with yourself, in fine ink, to commit yourself towards climbing the staircase which would lead you to your dream, despite the number of steps on the staircase.
You have to empower yourself, and propel yourself forward, in order to open the door on a dream we’ve always wanted to come home to.
One of the ways that we can keep our determination flowing would be to an Inspiration Anchor. I’m calling the sources of inspiration in our lives Inspiration Anchors, because they ground us to reality. If we need to hustle harder, they inspire us to do so. If we need to take a break, they comfort some of our senses. An Inspiration Anchor for me would be BTS, a seven-membered KPOP group. Very honestly, their music—which ranges across numerous genres, lyrics spanning many themes that probe at much insight, controversial or unpopular at times—both pushes me and comforts me. Through Mic Drop, the strong beats and addictive hooks thrumming through my earphones enable me to lift my chin and develop a thicker skin to people who exude negativity when it comes to my creative work. Through Whalien 52, I, an extroverted individual, finally find peace with the introvert inside of me, and learn to embrace the occasional scary feeling of loneliness. Jump was the first song I listened to twice off their discography and really taught me about acknowledging the shortcomings of growing up, yet persisting to remember dreams that were once abundant.
Inspiration Anchors are important to have because inspiration is the essence that keeps you going on, driving towards your dream. Every vehicle needs a driver, and that is yourself. But a driver, no matter how motivated or determined he/she is to reach a destination with their wheels, is unable to move without the fuel in the tank.
BTS recently caught the eye of many organisations, print media and is the topic of discussion for many talk-shows. The group is known for something very admirable, and something very inspiring—consistently producing their own content, and consistently moving up each rung with an immense amount of dedication and effort. I feel that many people listen to artistes because of their songs, because of the melodies they waft, because of the music. But fans of BTS also listen to their speeches, their words, their advice—the leader, RM (Kim Nam-joon) did give very valuable words of wisdom on learning a new language—and carry BTS’ words with them to school, to work, through trials and tribulations. I moved to Asia without knowing Mandarin, and am living in a country where Mandarin is a language that many incorporate into dialogues and light-hearted conversations with friends. I want to be part of that, so I do try to learn it. Little dreams like that seem to be impossible when I have to catch up with six years’ worth of the language, and it does bring me comfort to hear from RM on picking up new languages.
So really, what I’d like to drop here – besides a mic; I can’t do that just yet – is that my Inspiration Anchor, BTS, really drove me forward to continue living, to continue striving for opportunity, to continue serving the community through creative work, and improving the quality of my work. It’s only in recent years that I got into this group, and I’m happy to say that they’ve “broken” the news to me, in terms of showing me that: Dreams and Dedication do make a powerful combination.