I Don’t Want to Disappoint my Six Year Old Self

My bursting with confidence, six year old self, if she had the chance to meet the 40 year old me that’s plagued with self doubt would say, “You’re a writer. You love words and illustrations, remember?”.

I finally need to own it. Bite the bullet. How I came to this realization? Well, the other day at the dentist, when asked casually – “You’re on leave today?”, I’m embarrassed to say I lied and mumbled in the affirmative. I was tired of saying I am unemployed or in between jobs. There’s always a significant silence when I say that.  The Negative Nelly in my head fills in the blanks with “what a loser she must be”, “there must be something wrong with her”.  I shifted in my chair nervously, anticipating the next question.  I was already nervous, as I don’t like visiting the dentist. So when he pressed on with, “What do you do?”, I instinctively responded with, “I just write”.  The self assured six year old that still resides somewhere within me cried out, “Why just? You should have said, I’m a writer.”  I guess, just because no one as paying me doesn’t negate that I do have lovely readers.

I have been meaning to sit down to write out my resolutions like I do each year. Even though I hardly keep them, somehow New Year doesn’t feel like New Year without this ritual.  I just can’t imagine I let half a month of 2011 go by without doing this.  Last night all I could think of was one thing I will commit to in 2011. I will cut out the self doubt and finally work on articles for submission to magazines. I have always intended to, but my lack of confidence has held me back.

Being a Singaporean I have always felt that even though I believe I am a native speaker of English, not many would consider me to be. This may be partly contributing to my hesitation to submit articles to international publications.  But you know what? Deep down, I totally feel like a native speaker. It’s the language I think and dream in.  It didn’t stop writers like V S Naipaul – an Indian author who grew up in Trinidad, who’s clarity and searing honesty has made me a big fan.  In fact, his unique style of English draws me in.

When I studied a second language growing up, I always think in English and then convert to my mother tongue, with disastrous results.  Well Tamil is more like my grandmother’s tongue, because neither of my parents speak it well. They studied Malay as a second language and when I was little and we went to Malaysia, I was always impressed that they could speak in this language I did not understand.  I only knew simple words like “Satu Ringgit” which means “one dollar”.  I probably absorbed the words and meanings, as they were bargaining over durians.

Well I just can’t let down sweet six year old me who was secretly confident even though in my old report cards I constantly got remarks like these: “too soft spoken”, “try to speak up” which annoyed me, as I always felt like I was yelling till my throat hurt, when the teacher asked me to speak up. I think it had to do with the fact that I sat at the very back of the class and was very far from the teacher.  I do have a soft, timid voice though, but I guess that’s just me.  It quite reflects my personality which can be quite passive.  It might be why I can’t survive in the corporate jungle, because maybe that was not what I was meant to do.

I started this blog for morbid reasons. I asked myself, what would I regret if I died tomorrow.  For me it would be not getting my stories out there.  I told myself, if not in print, as least I can do it in the form of a blog.  As long as the internet survives at least to some extent I can leave a part of me behind.  I also feel that talking through my experiences makes me feel like I have truly lived.

I have to thank my bloggers colleagues out there who have left kind comments, as well as people I know who have given me feedback that has incredibly boosted my confidence. Each comment slowly notches away at my mountain of self doubt.

I end this post with a thank you from the bottom of my heart – from both the six year old and fourty year old me.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore & recently cancer too.
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14 Responses to I Don’t Want to Disappoint my Six Year Old Self

  1. Maria says:

    I would love to see you write something like “5 Things Tourists Don’t Know About Singapore” and send it to a travel website. You could do a lot of variations on this, such as “5 Cool Restaurants in Singapore You Won’t Find in Any Guidebook”. I KNOW you can do this — you have an intimate knowledge of your country and you take amazing photos. It’s what I love about your blog. Even if these articles aren’t the type of writing to truly want to do, they’re a foot in the door and could lead to bigger and better things.

    Barbara Sher is a motivational writer and speaker who has one of the best book titles I’ve ever seen: It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now. The woman makes a lot of sense, my friend. We can think and analyze and question ourselves until we end up talking ourselves out of doing the very thing we need to do.

    • bookjunkie says:

      Maria, I love your insight into what would appeal to an international audience. Sometimes it’s hard for a local person to think out of the box because everything is too familiar to us. That’s why I find the expat take on things really fascinating. Especially that article you wrote about the Tea Lady. It’s still one of my faves! Thank you so much! I really mean it.

      The title alone of Barbara Sher’s book is incredibly motivating and true.

  2. bookjunkie says:

    Dear Kirsten…thank you so much for sharing this. It was incredibly powerful and something I needed to read. I especially like this bit:

    “In such situations, try it on for size. Do the shoes fit? Does it feel right to you? Can you see yourself going ahead, liking it, even excelling at it? Walk, breathe, live in those shoes and you will find the metamorphosis already happening.”

    I can’t wait for the metamorphosis 🙂

    She must be right because there’s another thing in the article I found true…..I met my partner when we were both radiating joy and happiness from within.

  3. You are, most certainly, a writer! You must know by now that Americans do not have as good a grasp on the English language as you do and our grammar and spelling suck. You blogs are written with intelligence, but more importantly, they’re written from a place not many of us can speak from–the heart.
    Kudos to you at any age!

    • bookjunkie says:

      Thanks Sister Organics 🙂 Out of all the writing styles I do love the American style the best. I feel that Americans are wonderful at presentations too. It’s most refreshing to me than the British style. That’s why most of the authors I love are American and I love magazines from the US. They say China is taking over the world, but I don’t see any country in the world replacing the creative energy that is in the American people. Anyway that’s how an outsider feels….just thought it would be interesting to let you know.

      • It is interesting to know….I am a bit sheltered in what I read and my “worldly experiences”, so I really wasn’t aware of the different styles of writing.
        I like what thinkpinktoo says about submitting something to an American news magazine or paper!

        • bookjunkie says:

          Me too am starting to slowly work on it…..telling myself to me more disciplined about it. Generally I like the American style best. I also like the style they use in an Australian magazine called Frankie. It’s very refreshing, engaging and relaxing all at once.

  4. kierstens says:

    Oh I love this post, and I love the idea of not only trying to make yourself and your family proud, but also that part of yourself who is proud of you and knows that you’re capable of anything you put your mind to (aka your “6-year-old self”)! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • bookjunkie says:

      Sometimes when I look back I realize that most children are born with this confidence that’s slowly eroded as they grow older. It’s due to the negative voices they hear along the way that becomes am internal negative nelly once they grow up. For me it was mean teachers in primary school and mean bosses at work. I also had angelic teachers and bosses as well though. So at least the confidence wasn’t totally crushed. Did you experience the same?

  5. thinkpinktoo says:

    Why don’t you try sending a fiction piece to the New Yorker magazine? Apparently a fifth of authors published there are “amatures”. I think you would be great at story telling. Happy to vet for you too before you submit 🙂

    • bookjunkie says:

      thanks for your confidence in me……i think you have more confidence in me than I do for sure, but then again we are our own worse critics. Will definitely take you up on the vetting 🙂

  6. Lisa Reman says:

    I have practiced what you say and it definitely works. After a while you get used to that feeling of confidence and becomes a very natural expression in your daily life. Great tips as usual.

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