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The Friday Five for 12 October 2018
singapore sunset
1. What was the best compliment you ever received?

I'm not sure if it was the "best" compliment, but one that has stuck with me for - gosh, it must be almost 20 years now - is a note that was passed to me by a stranger on the bus.

It was around the time i had just decided that i was transsexual. I was still working in my first ever office job, where i had to wear a collared shirt and a tie. I was young - a teenager - and had long hair that i tied up at the top of my head like Ariana Grande.

Like most transpeople early on, i was hyperconscious of traditional gender markers - everything from how i held my body to how i walked. Being an awkward kid just compounded it. I wore mascara and sat with my legs crossed and my hands gathered on my knees and looked out the window trying not to cry because i was so unhappy with having to play this role of a man out in the world.

That's when i got the note. I don't know who gave it, because she handed it to me in the confusion when everyone piled off. I can't even remember what it said, exactly, but it was something like "don't worry about what other people think, you look amazing".

At the time i was convinced it was a note from someone who has seen the "real woman inside" and it brought me confidence to go ahead in my transition. Nowadays i think it was probably just someone who had picked up on my teenage insecurity and wanted to assure me it would get better.

It did get better, but it took a long time to really stop worrying what other people thought.

2. What are your five best talents?

• Well, as it turns out, not giving a shit what other people think is a learned talent.
• Knowing how to cook, including how to cut things with a big-ass chef's knife, is a good talent.
• I think i am good at writing. Perhaps not here in LJ land, but in the office i take pride in the clarity of my communication. Granted, it's easy to stand out because so many techies are hopeless.
• Directions. If you give me a map and drop me anywhere, i won't get lost. If you don't give me a map i probably will get lost, but not in a way that would lead me to getting eaten by a grue.
• Perhaps being single is a talent? I don't know. It seems like it is, given how many people think it must be so brave (or so pitiful) to live and travel and do pretty much everything alone.

3. What do you wish most people knew about you, and why?

I wish most people knew that i am quite easy-going. Often online i will get heated about things. Sometimes it's because i am briefly annoyed, but just as often it's because i am having fun with my writing. In real life i avoid conflict. As long as people aren't being complete assholes, i tend to believe in live and let live. Life's too short to spend it arguing or complaining.

4. What has been your biggest accomplishment so far, and why does it mean so much to you?

Getting divorced. It's not actually much of an accomplishment, per se, so i'm speaking more of the awakening that happened a year or two beforehand: the realization that a huge chunk of my life's stress, anxiety and depression was caused by trying be a good partner. When i realized that i didn't have to be a partner at all, suddenly everything started to make sense. My mood swings became my own. I never felt pulled in a direction i didn't want. God, i could leave the country, just on a whim! Literally everything about my life has improved since i decided relationships were not for me.

5. If you could achieve anything in your life, what would it be?

More than anything i would love to earn enough money to buy true freedom. I don't need a lot of money to be happy in my day-to-day life, but the problem is moving. Until the whole world adopts open borders, the amount of money required to truly be free is spectacularly high - beyond the reach of anything i (or anyone i know) will make in their lifetime. So i will continue with my nose to the grindstone and never achieve my dream. Hooray, nationalism.

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That makes me want to give someone a note.

I agree. Using a knife is awesome. I cherish my chef knives.

I worry it might come off as creepy to give a note to the wrong person, or give the wrong note for their state of mind. On the other hand... i do think random acts of kindness are usually well-received. It's just unusual to see them out in the world these days. A lady who works at one of the noodle places I frequent gave me half of her orange the other day. It's nothing, I guess, but it's nice, you know?

i think being able to live as a single person is a skill, especially after having lived as a partner (and a married person!). i mean, some people never really learn how to live on their own.

I guess you could also flip it around and say learning how to live with someone else is a skill too!

This was a really interesting set of questions, I thought.

I am amused that none of your language or computer skills are on your list. I agree that being single is a skill. I was very bad at it and could never do anything with myself as a single person. I would probably be better at it now though.

That's actually why I found these questions so interesting to answer. It's quite tough to think about your own "best" talents. I am quite sure other people would not see the same things in me that I do in my self.

To me, computer skills don't really feel like a talent, that's just what I do for work.

Languages also don't really feel like a talent to me, perhaps because getting fluent in Chinese is proving to be a really big challenge. I see it as more of a hobby because there are plenty of expats who never bother, and they survive just fine.

I also wonder how much of being comfortably independent is just a maturity issue.

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