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I have an abnormally high tolerance for stress. Compared to the average person, I find that I perform exceedingly well when under high levels of stress. I guess it also depends on what I’ve been tasked to perform, and what constitutes as ‘high levels of stress’ to the average person, but I do know that I didn’t suffer a meltdown when

  1. The teachers who taught me Chinese always enrolled me in my primary school’s storytelling competition. You know, those events where you had to choose a short story from the library, proceed to commit the book from end to end to memory, then spew the contents out in front of a panel of judges and a small gathering of audience without any aid other than your memory? Being a storytelling competition, you also had to take note of your diction, your pacing, your comic timing, your facial expressions, and your body language, etc. It didn’t help that I had naughty classmates (boys, what else?) who sat in the audience dying to catch my eyes so that they could try to make me forget my lines or burst out laughing mid-story.
  2. The discipline head master wanted the 12-year-old head prefect (right, me) to make a speech in front of the whole school for Teachers’ Day.
  3. I had to lead the whole school in reciting the Singapore National Pledge as one of my prefectorial duties. That was when I was around 15-16 years old.
  4. A lack of canoes during one of the days in the leadership training camp I participated in resulted in one person being left with a kayak and a single blade paddle. Who should that person be but me? Left stranded in the residual currents created by one of the teachers in a speedboat, I literally fought my way back to shore, cussing inwardly at everything from the waves to said teacher who left me in the lurch, while trying to curb the anxiety that rose with every current that tried to pull me back into the open seas. I only knew how to dog paddle in water, and had minimal training on rowing techniques using a double blade paddle. Despite the life jacket I had on, drowning seemed all too real a possibility.

Those were only some of the things that happened in my childhood. Hitting my twenties, I found myself confronting much darker issues such as my dad‘s heart attack and our family’s subsequent lifestyle changes, the huge financial burden that I share with my sister and which will take us about 17 years to settle, and my issues with intimacy and trust after two extremely painful relationships.

From a spacey girl who always had her head in the clouds, those events that occurred in my adulthood ensured that I hit the earth with enough force to shatter every bone in the body. I’m not prepared to share all, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I guess you never really know how strong you could be until you find yourself gathering pieces of your soul and trying to glue them back into some semblance of your old self once again. You never really succeed, of course. But, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find happiness with the new you, no matter how much you miss certain aspects of the old you.

I talk to myself. A LOT. I probably know myself much better than the average person knows himself/herself. Many times I even know other people more than they know themselves. It is kind of sad, and…it really doesn’t lead to many lasting friendships. Not everybody is comfortable with viewing themselves so starkly and even more are reluctant to be in constant companionship with someone who knows they’re lying just by their twitches.

I’m not a psychic; it’s just observation skills through enough time spent together, and plenty of gut feeling. I know, no scientific proof whatsoever and you, my dear readers, will never know if I truly have astounding success rates at ‘profiling’ people, or am just a braggart with a bag of bull excrement.

Anyway, out of fun and maybe boredom from talking too much to myself, I have a habit of segregating parts of myself from the others. It’s like having the seven dwarfs inside me, but they’re all me. There’s Grumpy, there’s the Mad Rager, there’s the Snivelling Brat, there’s Glowing Grace…you get the idea.

They’re always around, lurking somewhere inside me. Cheering me on, goading me, or kicking my butt into action. I’m more comfortable having some of them around than the others, but I don’t deny any of them access to me. They are me, and I accept them. Even Snivelling Brat can be useful sometimes…to goad the rest into action, or to encourage me to be more empathetic to others.

The Mad Rager works best with the Brat; she threatens to burn her eyelashes and drag her (in pieces, if necessary) to move forward regardless of what has happened. The Brat…moves on. Slowly, hurt, in pain, dripping silent tears or just plain bawling her eyes out…but she drags her feet along despite having her hands shoved into her eyes in a pitiful and useless attempt to stem the flood of tears.

The Mad Rager is one snarling, spitting, angry beast. She loves me, and wants the best for me, and she shows it by telling me…no, by demanding that we fight back with everything that we have and surviving the day, the hour, the minute, the next damn second. Her intensity does not make her the most pleasant comrade to have around, but I have much to thank her for. A lot of my potential would not have been unleashed if not for her.

She may not be the best coping mechanism that anyone should use, but sometimes Glowing Grace and Reasonable Justine just have to take a back seat, even if the reins to tame the Mad Rager are still always in their hands. First, they have to let the Mad Rager run her course, get tired (of being angry), and be willing to listen to them. Ultimately, she always does listen…thus far.

And when she does quieten down, she is content to lie in wait patiently again. To confront the next challenge that dares provoke her. To howl and scream defiantly at God or the Fates,

Run me down,
Hunt me to the ground,
I will not break,
Not if my heart shall cease to beat and to ache.

Fighting back ferociously.

I need that, if only for me to go on breathing.