I have decided to include my Toastmasters experience on this blog, as it has played a significant part of my learning journey in 2016/2017.
P1: The Ice Breaker — The first speech of the Toastmasters program is about introducing yourself to your peers, providing a benchmark for your current skill level, and standing and speaking without falling over.
Good morning fellow toastmasters,
Today I will be sharing with my new found family and home club a bit about me, myself and I. My initial response for this topic, was that it was so boring! I have known myself all my life, lived through every single memory I’ve had. I’m the type of person that would much rather be researching about the next trend, the next big idea or the next hot topic out there. But in seeing myself in my twenty somethings and looking at who and what I have become, I guess it is a good time to stop the rush of life and reflect about the culmination of experiences that have formed who I am today.
I will begin with my name. These simple four words behind me have defined who I am throughout my entire life. My name isn’t a typical Chinese name, and many of you would wonder why are there four characters in my name? That is because I have two surnames, one from my father and another from my mother. This comes from a feminist belief of my mother in having equal rights for women in society, encompassing her life all the way down to the ownership of her children. In having her surname included I am as much her son as I am my fathers. It has taken me time though, over the years in wondering why my name has to be so different, so difficult, and I have to explain my identity to people over and over again. However, through these years I have come to terms with its uniqueness and have taken ownership of this name. This name has helped me share the belief my parents held in creating a greater and more equal society in regards to gender roles.
Next is for where I’m from, a quick summary is that I was born and raised in Penang, Malaysia, studied my university in Melbourne, Australia, and am currently working in Singapore, Singapore. These cross border opportunities have given me exposure to a wealth of experiences in differing values, cultures and a way of life. A comparison between the Eastern and Western values such as work life balance and the concept of productivity, which I have come to understand are polar opposites between Australia and Singapore. But there is value in these differences and what I’ve found though is that this exposure has also enabled me to appreciate my roots and my hometown of Penang. Even though it is not a world renowned city, I have come to appreciate the long neglected and undervalued character and charm of my home. And many of these world class cities are struggling to find this character and self identity in their journey for progress. At the end of the day the grass is just as green anywhere we are, just as long as we make the best of it.
And finally the biggest label of all and the only conversation starter in the adult world. What do you work as? I am an architect. And surprisingly architecture is quite a mysterious profession and is only associated with drawings and long hours to most people. Architecture to me has been quite a journey from initially thinking it was a good meeting point between the sciences and the arts, to discovering its breadth of opportunities. Such as learning about people and how they experience a building and the concept of space, to learning about construction materials and their physical properties to work with, and all the way to learning about design and how we tackle innovative problems in the building industry. My journey in this profession has merely begun but I am excited to be part of this industry that has the potential to shape the lives of the public.
It was a compelling journey to look back at the milestones and points that have shaped my life. To come to realize how my name has always been my connection with my parents, how my travels have connected me better with my roots and my job is now my connection with society and the future. I have changed over the years from who I thought I was, and will continue changing as time continues to flow by. In our busy 21st Century lives, with social media and the information overload, we should never forget about ourselves and who we have become in time. I now put forth this challenge to you my friends, to look back in your life and understand which experiences are most important to you and have defined who you are today.
And I leave you with this quote by Yvonne Woon, an American author
“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”
In hindsight, I truly enjoyed writing this first speech. I found that being forced to take the time to introspect, and ask myself who am I at 25, was a refreshing experience. It gave me the chance to question these few aspects that have come to define me over the years, and what sort of role do they play now. It gave a new perspective and appreciation of my formative years, and how social justice and a multicultural dynamic has always been a part of me. It’s quite curious why I always default to social activism as the answer of how the world can be a better place and where can we find meaning and passion in our lives. But I guess to me it is essentially about giving back to the world and society that is our true calling. And when our society is ready to empathize with one another to do our part and give back, that is when social equality can be the norm and people can have such rich and fulfilling lives. So for now and in the coming years, it would be a journey for me to meld these multi-faceted lives together and to find how I can bring my profession, my experiences and my desire to better the world into a coherent direction.
Originally published at qpskpii.wordpress.com on January 3, 2017.