Tuesday, 4 November 2014

#1: Inspired by

Hi all. How's it going?

I must say, life is so much better now, what without 4-5 calls a month (which left me feeling sooo tired and constantly in a semi-zombified state) and finishing work at a really decent time (with the sun still up! Trust me, once you've been deprived of such things, they matter so much once you've given them back ;p) to squeeze in exercise, an episode or two of Castle/Modern Family/Elementary (my 3 favorite TV series at the moment) and even some studying.

I felt like writing this post because it's something that's been brewing on my mind for quite awhile now. I figured when I come across inspiring figures, there's no better way to pay tribute to them that to pass it on and spread the word.

This particular one all started a month or two ago at a memorable sleepover with my dearest secondary school friends. It was one of our most successful sleepovers in a long time because we only dropped off to sleep at about...3am? We've been sleeping much earlier these past few years due to *ahem* old age so it was amazing how we managed to stay up the latest in a long time. That was in no small part related to our entertainment for the night - episodes of Masterchef Season 4! I got totally hooked after that. But not on Season 4 though. At the side of the youtube page there were other recommended video links and there was one that caught my eye about 'Blind Masterchef' and that's when I started watching season 3 to find out more. Have you heard of Christine Ha, the season 3 Masterchef winner? She's also the first blind contestant and masterchef to have emerged victorious so far. :) And she is AMAZING.

Her story is one that's incredibly inspiring. She started losing her vision gradually in her early 20s while she was at university and just starting her foray in the culinary arts due to an autoimmune condition called Neuromyelitis Optica. Over the years as her vision deteriorated, she had to relearn everything from scratch - navigating her way round the kitchen, the use of cooking utensils and the actual cooking of dishes.

I love watching her audition segment because it's such a good introduction to her story. It's amazing how at the end she (almost prophetically) declares, "I'm going to be the next Masterchef" and it does come true. :)

After watching the entire season 3 and thoroughly enjoying it, I started trawling through youtube for other videos/interviews of hers to find out more about her story. Season 3 was a lot of fun because there were so many memorable characters (my favs include Frank - such a decent guy who always made the best Italian dishes!, Monti - just about the coolest mama I've seen on tv + she has the most wicked tortoise-shell glasses, Felix - super feisty character who said the craziest things lol) and crazy challenges that really got my heart racing along with excitement. Anyway, I spent loads of time just watching and listening to her interviews, in which she shares her experiences of rebuilding her life after learning to accept her disability. What never fails to inspire me is her sheer willpower and strength to keep at it and to always look on the bright side of things.

One of my favorite quotes from her - " Everyone in this world is dealt a different hand—some better, some worse than others—but what's more important is how you play that hand. This is what builds character. And with great character comes great reward."

And that couldn't be more true. At the end of the day, with all the challenges we go through, while we might complain about the frustrations that come along with it, at least we're growing in character and fortitude and always learning and changing. There were many days on the way to work when I would just play an interview of hers on my phone while driving and her words just gave me that lift to look on the bright side of things and to work harder at overcoming challenges instead of being afraid. Am pretty sure she said it a couple times that she's always been competitive by nature and the harder the challenge, the harder she works at something to overcome it. That couldn't be more obvious from the way she went through all those challenges in the competition and emerged stronger each time and eventually...the winner.

I know some people aren't the sort who are easily swayed by words/quotes but for me, I lap it all up because those inspiring words really can make a difference to one's mindset and attitude towards life.

Plus, how awesome is it to not just be able to accept a disability, adjust to life with it, but also move beyond it to become an inspiration to others? She's also got a youtube channel with her own series called The Blind Life in which she talks about various topics related to her visual impairment, cooking, life in general. There was one in which she shares her methods for making use of technology - tweeting/facebooking/emailing, which was really eye-opening in sharing various means that the visually impaired have to communicate.

She shares her story and other bits and bobs of life on her blog HERE.

Along the same lines of being inspired, I just HAVE to share this other video that I just watched today. ;) After being introduced to the series, Begin Japanology, by my boyfriend (who is also a huge fan of all things Japanese), it's something I turn to whenever I fell like relaxing AND learning (so I don't feel tooo guilty about the slothing heh) and there are sooo many interesting episodes. This one is about Japanese Juku or cram-schools but towards the end of the episode (definitely start watching the segment from about 8:30 in Part 2!!), they talk about special schools that cater to teaching mainly adults who might not have had the chance for a formal education. The lady featured is, Fusako Ito, and her story is another really inspirational one. After having contracted polio at a young age, she was not able to receive a formal education and was illiterate for most of her life until she started going to the special juku. After 8 years of studying, she was able to write an entire 53 page essay about her life, entitled, "I'm Glad that I'm Alive". I just feel that it's amazing how lives can be changed...enriched, with learning.



I dare you to watch that portion when she reads her essay out loud to her class and not at least tear up a little. ;') Because I certainly did. It's often the older generation who treasure things like education because a lot of them might not have had the opportunity when they were younger. Reminds me of my Ahpo (my grandma who is my absolute favorite person in the world) who never fails to ask each time I visit her, whether I'm studying hard or not. And if I make even the slightest complaint about how work is tough or studying is annoying, she'll start launching into her memoirs of how her primary school education was cut short due to WWII. And of course, I'll be reminded of just how lucky I am. 

I suppose at the end of the day, I'm always being reminded of how all that I have is a blessing. Work may be tedious, (overly) challenging with so much studying/learning involved but...these are things that will always enrich me and make me grow as a person no matter how annoying/frustrated it might make me at the beginning. Yet sometimes, these are things that others crave for and wish for themselves. So I guess, instead of facing each day thinking, "oh man so much work to do", I should be telling myself, "ok, there are so many people to help today. Leshhhgo!" There have been many times when I've thought that maybe this isn't the right career for me, but after watching things like this and being reminded of how a little help/volunteerism can go such a long way to making a positive change in someone's life, I just end up thinking that no matter what, I would've eventually wanted to go into a profession which involves helping others in a direct way. If not, I'd probably get quarter-life crisis hitting a lot harder if I were in some other more financially driven line. That said... time to think about volunteering eventually. ;) 

Wow, that was quite a long post. But I couldn't help share those thoughts. I'm often filled with gratitude by things like these (who would've thought a video would have triggered all these musings eh?) and yet at the same time...I'm grateful for these daily reminders.

Anything that you've been inspired by? I'd love to hear about it. :)

In the meantime, have a great rest of the week! Saturday's coming in ... 3 days time.