I will sit with you in the dark

This is a story of a boy and his best friend—one of whom is me. A story that was only one sided until now.

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.
—For Good, by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, written by Stephen Schwartz.

This song had been playing in his head for the past few months, but only on that day—a Tuesday—did he talk to me about this song. He asked me, “You know why I like this song?” I expected an answer like “the singers and the musical”, but he told me it was because this song reminded him to appreciate the people he has met.

I was not sure what he meant, so I asked him and he countered by asking if I know the quote “Always see the bright side of life”. He, then, went on to share his experience in his childhood.

He was one of the brightest in his class. Once the brightest, according to him, but he felt that the implicit expectation, and the unspoken recognition, from his closest ones and his teachers had, somehow, created a person that was not capable of sharing his personal opinions. He added, “You know, the kind that make you think twice, that maybe you are wrong and that you shouldn’t be careless! That you do not deserve recognition. Not before you come out on top of the world.”

I know about impostor syndrome now, but I didn’t back then. So, I didn’t really give a useful response to him.

“…But the reason I asked if you know the quote ‘Always see the bright side of life’ is that life won’t always seem sunny, but even if it’s cloudy or raining like it’s gonna drown you, you are actually living through it all. That only when you know pain that you appreciate the joy, and that only when you know what it feels to be alive can you appreciate the death.

He added that he didn’t hate the people he had come across in his life. Those people were the ones that helped him being who he was. And that the people he would meet would be the ones help shaping him as a person.

I wished that I had told him that it was ok for him to sit in the dark when he couldn’t see the bright side of his life, and that I would—still will—sit with him, even if the whole world would say otherwise.

Real Life La La Land: From Sebastian To The Fools Who Dream(ed)

Real Life La La Land: From Sebastian To The Fools Who Dream(ed)


That’s what I think of the movie La La Land, starred by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. If you have watched the movie, you’ll see my point. If you haven’t, please do (and then you can start re-reading from “Delusional…”).

Yet, I love it. I love it, mainly, not because of the lovely scene and surreal settings, but because I feel that the story hits home. Just like a soap opera, this musical magnifies our (mostly) ordinary life events to the extreme.

How many of us want to be an actress or a musician? Probably, not all of us aspire to become one, and maybe some of us are even still looking for that thing—the life we know we’ll love till the Death comes. By bringing events to the extreme, the movie nudges us (almost subtly) to see what little aspects of our life we might be ignoring at the moment, ones that drift us farther apart from our thing—our purpose.

When we are to choose the path to walk through, how do we choose? Are we like Sebastian of La La Land—that broke Jazz musician who chose to work, in a gig he doesn’t love, so that he can save up for his dream? While that may seems like a good idea, it has its curse.

As Sebastian began to live his newfound gig—by numbing his feelings—he started to lose his purpose. In real life, it’ll be like a young banker who took his first job, out of economy school, thinking to pay his study debt, who then keep on working in the banks as he’s now accustomed to his current living style. On one occasion, he said, “Maybe this is the best for me. This should happen for a reason.” Well, maybe. Maybe his dream of being involved first hand in social setting was never a real thing to begin with.

Another example, by Clayton M. Christensen in How Will Your Measure Your Life (and also his paid post in Harvard Business Review), is about how Honda entered the bike market in US: after failing to materialise its original plan to fight with the likes of Harley-Davidson, it realised that it might do better by changing its target audience and sold product — its success was enabled because Honda seized the unanticipated opportunity.

Saying yes to the opportunities that emerge before us might be a good thing, as it turned out so for Honda, but—unfortunately, there is always a ‘but’—we should do so remembering:

  • Will this new opportunity bring me closer to my goal? (Honda’s did, for its market share)
  • And, if we drift apart: Why do I dreamt that dream I have in the first place? and Does it still rings true now?

These are hard questions. Sebastian rationalised that his job was what his lover wanted for him, so he passed the blame to his lover. We might be doing so unknowingly, clouded by those external noise and / or our losing our faith in ourselves. When we encounter this, take time to stop and be still.

I’d close with a suggestion—almost an urge—for us to listen to the song: Audition (The Fools who Dream), and take what we can. Dreamers might seem foolish, they might fail and ache, but given the chance to go back to past, they’ll pursue their dream all over again (most possibly with new ways of doing).

Leapt, without looking, and tumbled into the Seine. The water was freezing, she spent a month sneezing. But said she would do it again. Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make. — Audition (The Fools who Dream), La La Land

—End of Part 1

If this story happens to resonate with you, do share with your friends / colleagues that you think will find this useful. Comments are very much appreciated.

This post is also uploaded on my LinkedIn.