It’s my birthday again

Grace Lam

I’m another year wiser! I haven’t lost my driver’s license even once this year.

Thank you to everyone for your support and keeping me accountable. When I don’t write for a while, I get emails in my inbox asking where I am! I read every comment and email. Even if I can’t respond to everyone, the comments are important to me. I’ve been through some pretty tough times and you guys continually support and encourage me

I was feeling down on myself that I hadn’t done anything impressive this year. But in situations like this, it’s best to keep your head up and stop comparing yourself to others, because you set your own benchmarks.

Here are two significant things I’ve done this past year, and two that I will do in the coming year.

I’m not so hard on myself.

I agreed to pick up my life and move it to the US. I tell myself that most senior executives have international experience, so this will also pre-empt any future moves (to the cardboard box by the subway station, for example).

I accepted that I don’t have time to maintain the performer-level piano technique that I used to have. Instead, I am focussing on being great at playing four staple pieces of music and I am much more satisfied with my progress.

I am also taking care of my mental health. I’m aware that I need more frequent breaks because of the way I work which is usually to grind until I explode so I can be on par with everyone who received formal training.

Which brings me to my final realization: I am bad with managing time. Exceedingly bad. Did you know that your perception of time is an actual sense that humans have? Apparently, mine is warped. I can play piano all day by telling myself that I only have five more minutes to improve this piece before a performance and stress myself the hell out.

It works in my favour when I am starting an organization. It works in my favour when I am managing a team. It does not work in my favour when I want a healthy mindset.

But I don’t care anymore. Instead of looking to change myself, I am looking to appreciate the good side to these qualities. We should work with what we have, because these are the tools most readily available to us.

This helps build character, they say. I’ll let you know if this just turns me into a jerk.

 

I’m growing hair.

Last week, I tied my hair in a ponytail and asked my sister to cut it off, handing her the tape measure.

“Make sure it’s eight inches,” I say. “Or this will be for nothing.”

“Is eight inches the longest point, or the average?” She says.

“Average,” I say.

“I’ll make it twelve inches just in case.”

I should also mention that she’s a left-handed person using right-handed scissors in her right hand.

She chops the ponytail off and one side looks perfect. It looks like a freaking wig grazing my chin. The other side looks like someone hacked it off in a knife fight, but she snips at it here and there to clean it up.

I put the ponytail in an envelope to mail to the cancer agency that will make a wig for someone who has cancer. It’s intriguing that someone out there will be walking around with chunks of my hair on their head.

I’ve wanted to donate my hair for years and I do encourage anyone who is interested to look up any agencies in your country that takes donations.

The next morning, that one side of my head still looks weird so I take it upon myself to fix the hedges. I now look like I had a nightmare while sleeping on that one side.

I’m young enough to still believe in changing even a tiny part of the world.

 

I’ll work on something I believe in.

I started a tech community organization called Design Lab a few years ago to run nonprofit tech events like hackathons for hundreds of people to create projects that improve the lives of people who face mental health challenges. Each year, we hold a hackathon and other tech events to grow the medtech community.

We’ve gotten a team of smart, motivated people together to execute this vision with me. Someone once told me that the ultimate test of leadership is when people willingly and happily return to your leadership because they believe in you.

I’m curious what the next thing I’m working on is, but right now, I’m focussed on relaxing for a few months.

 

I’ll pick up a new interest.

Interests and hobbies make life so much better. Some of my friends find it amusing that I’m so passionate. I tell them to shut it.

DJ Avicii passed away recently and I was intrigued that some people who seemingly have it all, don’t really have that much when it comes to mental health, or health in general. Michael Jackson, for example, was apparently found to be balding in the autopsy, and had black tattooed in his scalp to hide it. I’m pretty sure that the media sensationalizes Michael Jackson’s death, so I’ve read tons of articles and documentaries to get a fuller picture. I’m still intrigued.

We look up to these talented people who are suffering behind closed doors and I wonder if we should also be picking daily role models who are great at navigating life. Someone like a friend or colleague, who can teach us how to be better humans overall. More spiritual, or whatever your definition of wholesome is.

After Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize, I was intrigued about alternate genres of music; he’s not a classical musician, nor is he dead, so how did he win it? There must be something great about his music that I don’t see.

Ask me what I’m obsessed with right now and I’ll tell you — Takashi Murakami. He blends high art and low culture. I got a limited edition Art Gallery membership card with Murakami’s artwork on the back. I am trying to get Pan to visit the art gallery with me.

“I can go if I’m drunk,” he says.

“Some people walk around holding champagne glasses,” I say.

When I show the card to my sister, she says, “You’re holding a piece of art right there.” She isn’t wrong.

Where I’m Going…

This upcoming year holds a lot of change and intrigue. They say that change is opportunity and I’m intrigued about opportunity. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so let’s hope that nothing kills me this year.

I hope that each of us can set aside some time, even for minutes a day, to focus on something that we enjoy. This may mean making music, or reading, or doing exercises. We set our own benchmarks for success, and if we turned our own personal growth into one of these benchmarks, we might find that we’d be more content with our lives.

Thank you for reading and I hope I’ve made you smile or ponder this year. :)

7 Comments


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7 Comments

  • Reply Mike April 29, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Ummm… It’s a bit off-topic, but I was just looking at your picture in the blue dress (pretty!) and I found myself looking at your hands, and I thought: you know, there are really only two possibilities here, either (1) she’s really short, or (2) she’s kind of normal in height, and her hands are enormous. If it turns out that it’s (2), then you really should capitalize on your gifts and… become a strangler. I mean, with hands like yours! Have you any famous stranglers in the family? Or are you, like, 5’2″ or so? If you don’t mind me asking…?

  • Reply Mike April 29, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    Oh! And HAPPY AFTER BIRTHDAY!!!!

    • Reply Grace Lam April 30, 2018 at 6:36 am

      THANKS MIKE! I had a wonderful birthday with family and friends! It was more like a birthday month. :D

      To answer your question, I’m around 5’5”, so it seems that my hands are ginormous. I had a piano teacher comment once that I had big hands, but she was a tiny woman. (I can reach one note and one octave on the piano pretty comfortably) I haven’t become a strangler yet, but I’ve kneaded a lot of play dough back in the day and I imagine it’s kind of a similar motion? You’d have to tell me more about it.

  • Reply Mike April 30, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Ah, well then, we’ll save the Liszt for you! Still, it’s nice to know that if your coming endeavors don’t work out, you’ve got an alternate profession to fall back on…

    • Reply Grace Lam May 1, 2018 at 4:54 am

      I hereby invite you to become a hobby strangler with me!

  • Reply carol May 8, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Hmmm . . . hobby strangler? If I’m not practicing to perfect my piano playing, I would go ‘off a tangent’ and start playing my Student’s homework pieces. Just making sure that I play it well enough in front of them during their lessons. Then they would ask how I could play it so well without making any mistakes. I would just answer in saying that you need the 3 P’s. Practice – practice – practice.! But I do try to do some kind of time management with my daily life. And you know what?!! It’s really hard! You get up in the morning, trying to get ready for work (not forgetting to feed the kitten — he’s meowing at you as you brush your teeth and hair) then you fly out the door! The work day breezes by and then by the time you know it — it’s time to go home. But waiting at home is the kitten — now it’s time to relax at the piano — YAY!!

    • Reply Grace Lam May 9, 2018 at 5:48 am

      Oh you have a kitty! I’ve recently discovered a newfound affection for them.

      And I was always surprised that my teachers played my pieces so well when I was a student that it never occurred to me (until I started teaching) that my teachers practiced certain pieces and sections only.

    What do you think?

    7 Comments