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Some Sketches

Updated: Apr 8, 2023


At the National Gallery Singapore, 2022


If you asked me if this was the life I imagined in my forties, I'd say no. Because I didn't really imagine what life would be like at this age, much more plan for it. Forty was waaaaay out there, too far out into the future. And yet.


And yettttttt.

 

Now, if you asked me if I was where I wanted to be, I would also have say no.


I thought I'd be living elsewhere already by this time, in Hong Kong or in Singapore; in Amsterdam if I'd allowed my imagination to run wild. Or be living independently, in my own place.


I thought I'd be out of media or be out of media's daily grind. I thought I'd be married, if I'm being honest, and have a little more ease to my days. I thought I'd be living a wilder —wilder? —life.


Maybe freer is the better word?

 

But also: I didn't think I would be working at the biggest network in my home country (Please allow me this consolation). I didn't think I'd be pursuing climate journalism. I didn't even think I'd care so much for Planet Earth. I didn't think growing an avocado tree from seed would be something I'd take delight in doing.


(I also didn't think I'd be the type of person who would curl her hair and keep it that way five years on. I didn't think I'd be one to enjoy staycations at hotels. Or get botoxed)

 

When I resigned from Summit 10 years ago, Anna and I spent six weeks traveling around the country, and to Bangkok and Bali. In Boracay, someone approached us, asking if we were surfers. That made us laugh. Surprised by our reaction, the stranger egged on, "rock-climbed?" It drew more laughter from us.


We had just come from Caramoan then, where we ditched activities like rock climbing and island hopping to stay on private beaches and let our laziest selves run wild, which is to say we stayed put and nearly grew roots and drank the bottle of wine we constantly had, or drank coconut straight from the husk, harvested by the local living on the island and selling it for cheap.


Ten years later, I still don't know how to surf (though I tried to learn in Baler). Ten years on, I've gone on a single outdoor rock climbing trip. That's one rock climbing trip too many, if you asked me. And I started doing on 6b routes in wall climbing (yes, I'm fixated on this).


Life. You'd be surprised sometimes.

 

Woke up with a mini panic attack, as I have been constantly waking up with the past year or so. Today, it was because I didn't know how to handle a few things work-wise. It feels like everyday, new problems, problems I've never encountered ever, crop up. And I'm teetering at the edge.


What's surprising this morning though was instead of shushing the panic with panicked prayer — I belong to the "Are you there God, it's me Margaret" school of panic attacks — I found myself thinking: Could this be a sign that I'm moving forward? That I'm forging ahead into new frontiers?


Maybe that's a sign of growth: Look ma! I grew an inch! I'm seeing new things from my new height!


Maybe.


Or maybe not. It sounds sluggishly incremental to be called growth and really, isn't this just a mind trick, a reframing of things?


But also, isn't reframing a good skill to have?


At the foothills of Sierra Madre, 2023


I suppose I'm just trying to shush the dread. There's so much to do, so much to learn, and I'm afraid I don't have the capacity any more. But it's Good Friday and even if I'm on work duty today, it's hard not to love quiet that's fallen the day.


I'm hoping solutions — or actual help — will come to me.

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