It is so easy these days to stay negative, what with the situation we are all in now; millions losing livelihood, world economy going into recession that some say could be in the magnitude of the 1930s great depression and every day  and I mean every f***ing day on the news, there is not much relieve from the reporting of the pandemic, virus, fear, and negativities.  I am very selective on the news channel I watch and gone are the days when the telly is on as background noise.

I often wonder why is it so easy to be negative.

My parents would always tell me that if I don’t work hard and do well in school, I would end up having a shitty job with no money and live a miserable life.  I get it, I understand their intention, they wish the best for me to have a stable job that provides financial security.   Well, truth be known, I did fail my high school leaving exams which I sat for the year after and passed with flying colours. I also went into an industry I wanted to work in, met a lot of amazing people and thoroughly enjoyed my time.

In university, a senior, his family from Laos, offered me some unsolicited advice. 

“It is best to lose that Asian accent and speak like Australian if you want a career in this business.”

“People can understand you then.”

It would be a lie to say that I was mature enough to shrug it off, but it hurt and dented my confidence which I did not possess much when speaking in my third language English, after Hainanese (Chinese dialect) and mandarin.  Not long after I found myself making excuses for my accent and justify the way I speak but there’s a positive that came out of it, I became conscious and made effort to enunciate when at work or trying to get a point across.  Another positive thing is I have been working continuously in the industry for many years and though I have not come across that particular senior since graduation, I hope he is not waiting table still as an out of work actor looking for that big break.

I am not a scientist and I cannot explain the reason why bad things grab our attention more.  It could be an innate behaviour in human, an animal instinct, that cannot be ditched because looking out for danger kept us alive at a time when we had to hunt for food.  All I know is I now consciously choose gratitude over negativity.

My first big aha moment came when I was volunteering for Ankali Project in Sydney. 

“The Ankali Project provides training, and support to volunteers who in turn provide emotional and social support to socially isolated people living with HIV.”

Once a week, as a volunteer, I spent time with a designated Ankali client. We would meet at a place where we could chat, on any topics my client desired, sometimes in a park if the weather was nice. I was a companion to my client who otherwise had no other social contact.  It was during this time that I got some reality check and perspective on my own life.   

My problems then and now are comparatively inconsequential than those living it tough.  At the very minimum, I have a roof over my head and food to eat.  I am not suffering from an incurable disease or battling a detrimental addiction. I am not trying to trivialize the problems that I have but I am not wallowing in negativity and my brain is not decoding bad messaging that would affect my behaviour.   Instead with gratitude, I focus on what I have rather than have not.  I approach a problem with the attitude that is, “how can I make it better?” “what else can I do?”  rather than “why does this happens to me?” or blaming everyone and everything else for it.

Today, I volunteered with SecondBite, to collect surplus food i.e. fruit, veggies, bread and even flowers from retailers at market and redistribute to other charities for people in need.  The regular senior volunteers are told to stay home because of the pandemic, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute.  Once again, for me, it drives home the point that there is always someone else that is worse off and in need.  Especially now, in an extraordinary time, when there are many factors that are out of my control, I have to rely on the strengthening of the mental and physical wellness to weather through the tough times.

By practicing gratitude, hopefully I,

  • Worry less on material
  • Worry less which means reduce stressing
  • Become more optimistic
  • Improve my decision making
  • Connect deeper
  • Show more appreciation to friends and family

What am I grateful for today?   I am grateful,

  • For turning up to volunteer. It did cross my mind to not go because it was raining.
  • For my friend Susan, agreeing to let me post a video we made a month ago.
  • For writing this article, to get my thoughts out, digitally.
  • For delicious takeaway chilli pan mien (noodle) because many restaurants are closed due to stage 3 of lockdown.

What are you grateful for today?