It’s been a little more than two weeks since I moved to Paris. When flight SQ334 landed on the morning of 19th March, I marvelled at the snow that greeted me, even when Spring was just round the corner. I thought to myself as the plane touched down the runway, that the world was ending, there was no time to waste.
Savour life, I say, and make things happen for yourself. The watchword being: self-imagination. Or else your story will end up like one of those indie films, where pretty much nothing really happens, and the characters grow old and die. Not sad, but not exciting either. I realized we’ve got to foster our dreams, the way we nurture relationships with the people we care for. And this balance between life’s practicalities and hopes constantly kept me on my toes. I am in Paris, because I do not want to surrender to the limitations of where I came from. I expected more out of a lifetime, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with harbouring a desire for a bigger, better, brighter you. No matter what they say.
And so here I am, dancing and drowning in spontaneity.
For now, before my next adventure begins. I am in no hurry. Can we stay this way for a lifetime? I believe, that when a woman sheds her armour of self-importance, she becomes stronger. You can no longer hurt her with your cynicism. “Today’s news is tomorrow’s history”. I no longer take what is said about me, about anything or anyone seriously. Being Sharon Au suddenly seems pretty fun and distinctive again without all these self-image baggages. You will not hurt me with your words. Not for too long anyway.
If an ordinary girl from Singapore who grew up from a broken, poor and unprivileged family background could receive a good education, be awarded Best Trainee of Singapore Airlines Batch 364, win 11 Star Awards trophies as a TV host and actress, study abroad in Japan and France in my 30s, contribute to the media and fashion industry after graduation and arrive in Paris, I believe nothing should ever stop you from stepping out and stepping up. Live with vigour!
This is not the end. I want to see you fly.
(Photos by Yujia)
The first thing I did in the year 2018, was to quit my job. On the second day of the new year. I left a company I had been a part of for 22 long years. It was the second best thing I have done in my life thus far. The first was in 2005 when I left a 10-year showbiz career to pursue a university degree in Waseda University, Tokyo. That was without a doubt, the scariest, bravest thing I have done in my life. And, yes, it changed my life. After all, huge risks, are the only ones worth taking.
To anyone who is pondering on whether to stay, or leave…if you are wondering where does this courage come from…this is how I found mine. Twice.
Block out the noise, and listen intently to your own voice. Your body (and soul) has a natural defence mechanism to self-heal. We could not hear them because we are drowned by social construct. I say, purge all the layers of externalities, and for once, have a conversation with just yourself.
I can’t tell you what and how the dialogue will go. We all have different stories. Let your body tell you hers. But I say, don’t wait for a tragedy to strike, before it shakes you to want to live better. A mentor of mine recently bravely fought nose cancer. He was so positive throughout his 33 sessions of chemotherapy he brought laughter to the other patients in therapy. A close friend of mine just suffered a stroke. He goes to the gym every day in the week, eats mostly boiled vegetables and fish, doesn’t smoke. We all have constant reminders like this. We see and hear enough. No one needs to tell us any more, that life is short, vulnerable and unpredictable.
Don’t wait too long to be happy. We might not have the time.
And then, go forth. and never look back.
The march towards liberation started three months ago. And the universe brought me back to the place where I first knew what passion was. Awakening, it is all about timing.
I went back in time, to Paris. Spirit soared. Love the vibes of the city, light and yet soulful. I took many walks, I hungered for her scent and her lumière.
There I found the inspiration to communicate and to connect. In a deeper way that is. Neither through captions on Instagram, nor via emoji-ranting on Facebook. I am motivated to write, for those of you who are reading this right now.
Some friends told me that my last post “The Art of (Not) Giving Up” was painfully moving. I am glad my words did something for you. The thing is, what one takes away from a piece of confession actually depends on your perspective in approaching the piece. The objective of said blog entry was to motivate people, who like me, found themselves involuntarily stuck in a moment. However it received some unfavourable feedback from certain quarters of my life, who felt I should be more discerning of what I air on my blog, even if it was a personal one.
I guess that was why I have not able to pen my thoughts since, for I was unsure of what might or might not be acceptable, anymore.
We all have our own battles to fight.
But today I’ll say, let us end the inner-struggle. For once in your life, let us go where the heart leads us. We face enough external conflicts everyday. Why then do we still want to fight with ourselves. It is simply not natural.
Don’t tell me what to do. I am tired of following rules. This is my blog. Hear me roar.
She sent me a poem she saw engraved on a park bench, an extrait from Gaston Miron’s La Marche À L’amour:
je marche à toi, je titube à toi, je meurs de toi
lentement je m’affale de tout mon long dans l’âme
je marche à toi, je titube à toi, je bois
à la gourde vide du sens de la vie
je n’attends pas à demain je t’attends
je n’attends pas la fin du monde je t’attends
Love, it is a grand experiment. One that lights up your heart in delight. One that aches your soul with longing. This is the art of waiting.
Choose pleasure, not hurt.
Make love, not hate.
Do not wait for tomorrow, wait for me.
Wait, and hope.
I am not a feminist. I don’t even know what it truly means to be one. I grew up in an environment where I could be as formidable as the boy next to me, sometimes even more powerful.
In my primary school, the girls outperformed the boys. The top three in standard were always girls. I was one of them.
In secondary school, I immersed myself in an all-girls convent. St Nicholas Girls was one of the nine SAP schools who offered both English and Chinese as first languages. The elite special top 7% of students. And I thought to myself, I had to be in the best company. I had to learn from the best. That was the only way I could break out of my poverty. Yes I was already reaching for the stars at the age of 12.
Then I went to Hwa Chong Junior College and to my horror, my classmates were way smarter than I was. In particular, the boys. It was true what they said: men, they blossom at their own pace. and more often than not, later than women. I was in awe of all those intelligent boys I met who seemed to excel in everything they do, effortlessly, sans drama.
I also fell in love for the first time in my life. The once-in-a lifetime-LALA LAND-kind of love. We shared the same locker. He gave me a bunny on Easter 1992. I fell ill. He went to the doctor with me. I moved. We shopped for a bed together. We held hands. I almost fainted. We never kissed. We did not know how. He left me for another girl. I snipped off my long hair to show my pain. He did not notice. I cried.
But we are equal. Always. We bear the same rights to love. We fight on the same battlefields. We suffer the same fall. We celebrate victories the same drunken way.
And so this is what I learned from the men in my life.
Don’t bitch, just work. Don’t talk, just do.
Don’t think. Live.
Don’t think. Love.
I am a much more competent and confident woman, because of the men who left and the people who stayed in my life.
I wake up. A yellow bird is singing her lungs out. The same one that has been singing every morning at 7am perhaps? In any case, I enjoy her rendition of peace.
Then I realized the music of the waves became more pronounced. I see. Yellow bird has stopped singing. She is probably off stretching in the gym. Her regime is flying.
I make myself a cup of Japanese drip coffee. In the not too distant sea, a cruise ship has docked. My mum has returned from her Penang trip I smiled, thinking to myself how independent mum is and how I rarely need to worry about her being lonely. Even though she has lived alone for the most part of her adult life. The two men in her life did not deserve her company. One is my dad. And the other one is too insignificant for me to hate. Men simply leave, when they recognize that no matter how much they abuse you, you are not going to fall. My mum is used to abandonment and neglect. Her mother did not pay much attention to her as well. It is natural I guess, when you have too many children and too little money. Maybe that was why my mum married my dad when she was only 21. And then she had me a year later. Baby Sharon. And then dad left. And she left me too.
How did my serene morning bring me back to my not-so-happy childhood? The fact is, I was too young to be affected or unhappy. I knew I did not live with my parents. But I did not know the difference anyway. There was no comparison. Yes, I saw my friends with their papa and mama. I found it sweet of course. But er..no thanks, I can tie my own bata shoelace. And no no, I prefer to carry my own school bag thank you very much. I am proud of my heavy school bag, overloaded with textbooks and workbooks, every page scribbled with my curious remarks. I was not unhappy. I had many friends whom I love chatting with. I told them I had super powers. I could move things. Like a leaf. I could also command rain. I could do that if we wanted to skip PE class. My friends said yeah do it do it. And I focused with all my might, closed my eyes, and shouted the magic word “LEAF”. Why “leaf”? The word just came to me. It was not premeditated. I guess I was thinking of “LEAVE”. A word that would have made more sense to any psychiatrist, since my parents “left” me.
It did not rain, as I commanded. My friends were so sweet, God bless them. They told me maybe I did not have enough energy as that was before our lunch break. I said “yea, let’s try again after I have a bite. ”
This went on and on. Day after day. Slowly, my friends drifted away from me. And I asked the sky (I had no doubt God lived up there), why did my superpower leave me too? I am losing my friends. God replied, “Find your other superpower, you have many.”
I found it not long after. I realized I could make my friends laugh quite easily. I started to tell jokes and reenact scenarios of my life, all of which I made up. And I soon became the class clown, and I was popular again.
Four fabulous tips from a first-timer.
1. Don’t Rush
There is a reason wise men say do not “tread on thin ice”. Not only will you stumble, fall and maybe drown – often uncontrollably and in the most unglamorous fashion – you may end up doing all three in front of the ultra cool ski coach you were trying to impress. Hence, stroll. Don’t rush. And never ever tell the ojisan and obasan at my favourite cafe in Niseko (IF Cafe) to hurry with your orders. Every drip of coffee, every pot of creamy pasta sauce, every dollop of mascarpone cheese topping is prepared from scratch and with love. こだわり (Kodawari): The one word you need to know when it comes to Japanese culture.
2. Don’t Stinge
Niseko is not a place (in my unhumble opinion) to travel on a budget. To fully profit from your stay in Japan’s #1 premium ski resort , stay in one of the swanky hotels at Grand Hirafu, preferably one with a view of Hokkaido’s spectacular backcountry and the breathtaking snowcapped Mount Yotei. Many hotels are merely a few hops away from the slopes – perfect for the serious skier. If you are a beginner like me, enjoy standing tall and proud in your ski gear, because you are about to fall flat on your face right in front of kids who have just completed their double-black runs. Don’t forget to pamper yourself with world-class concierge service, one that arranges everything from best cheesecake and coffee deliveries to ski/snowboard/snowshoe hikes, onsens and dinner reservations at Rakuichi.
3. Don’t Grumble
Things will go wrong. Murphy says so. My flight to New Chitose Airport was cancelled after I waited for six hours, no thanks to the heaviest snowfall in 50 years. All flights to Sapporo were fully booked for the the next three days. I had to fly to Hakodate, and take a three-and-a-half-hour taxi ride that cost JPY62000 (approximately S$770) before I finally arrived at Niseko. You might have read about how groups of Chinese tourists had clashed with Japanese policemen and caused riots due to the flight delays. If only I had the chance to share with them how we could all deal with immense frustrations by singing. I serenaded “let it go~let it go~”, followed by “let it snow let it snow let it snow~”. It worked. Even if it was annoying to my fellow travellers.
4. Just Ski
It is as easy as ABC. Really. Get a competent coach. I had two – my godsons, Ethan (13 years old) and Kiefer (10 years old). Watch how gracefully I skied.