Monday, July 21, 2008

Birds of a feather, flock together

What about the other birds then?

I was speaking to my colleague the other day (well, gossiping more like) about the petrol price increase and what our management was going to do about it. We were generally upset that the higher management is refusing to increase the mileage claim amount in relation to the hike percentage. He's summary to the issue was simple "they won't budge to our needs because they are given petrol cards and hence not affected. and they are all of the same mind... you know... birds of a feather"

which made me wonder, i am not of the same feather, but i am of the same forest, why am i to be discriminated? surely i have an ecology contribution to the system.

over the month i pondered on his point "birds of a feather". i started noticing that this point applies to everything we do in life, including triathlons and weekend rides.

how many of us can honestly say we do not discriminate our friends in this circle? ok, perhaps discriminate is a bad word to use, let me rephrase the question: how many of us can honestly say we do not categorise our friends in this circle?

everyone does: the speed demons, the siput girls, the ever-sweeper etc.

nothing wrong there. and we love our friends regardless of the category we place them in.

however, discrimination i feel comes to play when friends are not in the same category as the 'main flock'.

of late, even the friendly cycling group pcc has lost its niche as your 'perfect cycling partner'. when i first started, pcc was fondly known as the 'le tour de fat farm'. famous for its easy routes, great rides and fantastic eating experience. every ride was centered around where was the best place to eat what. within pcc, we had the fast boys in front, the leisure riders in the middle and the newbies behind with the ever trusty sweeper.

to other clubs like p2k and bike pro, pcc were the underdogs and not to be taken seriously. while it is impressive how pcc has evolved in the past two years, it is sad to know it is no longer unique as it once was. it now breeds speed demons and strong mutants, all very similar to the birds over at p2k and bike pro.

of course it is not in my position to say whether pcc has evolved for the better or for the worse, but i do know that it is no longer the 'perfect cycling partner'. it shows less empathy for new riders or slow seasoned ones. it has also developed a hint of arrogance of how far it has evolved into.

all well justified i'm sure because it is the hard work of the leaders and the frequent flyers of pcc to be faster, better, stronger. we are also no longer the fat farm, which i'm sure is great news to many who see the term as an insult.

but really to me, pcc was the 'perfect cycling partner' because it housed a forestry of birds: big ones, small ones, sleek ones, colourful ones, nutty ones and they all sang a different tune: chirpy and sharp, low and sexy, even god awful screeching. you would imagine with such unorganised tunes, it would be chaotic but no... any new bird, young or experienced that flew into the pcc forest would find a circle of same feathered friends that they can sing together.

it was harmonious. it was the heart of pcc.

today i am sadden that the birds sing the same song as other clubs. it sings of speed, and distance and how only great birds do great things. it sings of competition and without intend, alienates the minority birds. these are not necessarily new birds, just birds that do not sing the same tune. it is as if the main flock birds have grown in such numbers that other birds either have to sing the same way, or move out of the forest.

step back before i continue: i'm not imposing the main flock birds are snobs, merely the fact that minority birds are constantly pressured to be accepted by singing to the main flock tune.

it's really not the main flock's fault. it's the weakness of the minority bird.

let me explain: i am a minority bird.

while i think i am well liked by all birds in the forest, at heart, i am a minority bird. minority in the sense that i'm relatively a seasoned rider but never considered myself a speed demon. never been classified as one either. just occasional spats of speed. other than that, i'm pretty much on my own.

even in triathlons, i am a minority bird. i'm not exactly new.. but i'm not exactly a top 10 finisher either.

i have to admit i have been upset about main flock birds asking me to join them on the higher branches of the forest. upset because i feel pressured to feel belong.

then i realise i play a very important role in the forest's ecosystem.

if you think you are a minority bird like me, here are two main things to think about and hopeful you too will not be pressured into joining the main flock birds:
1. if everybody is as fast, how do we have greatness?
think about this. if we are all main flock birds, able to deliver the same amount of energy and distance, how are we going to brag or admire anybody? we'll all be the same. at triathlons, we will all finish the same and the podium will overflow with people taking turns to receive their gold medal. in fact, we will all be 'normal'. nobody will shine. and since nobody will be last and have a great story of determination to tell, we will lose inspiration and soul too.

2. if everybody was a main flock bird, where's the melody?
an orchestra is never built on a single musical instrument. it needs a range of different sounds and rhythm to make something magical and memorable. a piano solo may sound impressive, but the whole orchestra is what makes it great.

so back to my point about my contribution to this ecosystem as a minority bird.

if i was as great as the main flock, i will not be inspired to write this blog which in turn has inspired many.

if i was as great as the main flock, i will not be able to speak and share experiences that newbies can relate to. hence, they will think you must be great in order to join a triathlon. on hindsight, they may be less competitors! but that's not the point here...

if i was as great as the main flock, i would not have understood what many other minority birds feel and therefore lose out on a lot of soul.

my contribution to the ecosystem is to provide an avenue for slower season riders or newbies to build the courage and inspiration to challange no one else but themselves.

my contribution to the ecosystem is to provide support and encouragement to other minority birds by saying "hey, you know what, forget what the other birds are singing. what do you feel like singing?"

and i know there are some key minority birds out there.

like nabil when he was actively riding in pcc. he was the ever protective and steady sailboat. very reliable and definitely sang his own song. although he was normally the sweeper, he never lost out on respect from other riders. in fact i think we respected him most because he always ensured nobody was left behind and everybody was safe. a very responsible role and no 'flimsy' main flock bird can handle.

so if you are indeed a minority bird like me. do not be ashamed and do not be upset and succum to peer pressure as i once have.

you should realise that your contribution to the ecosystem is very important. do a self check, ask yourself "if i am not a main flock bird, what is my contribution to the ecosystem?". don't be afraid to ask friends close to you as you will be surprised how much you actually mean to the forest without changing the type of bird you are..

i mean, if every bird in the forest sang the same song in the same tune... it would be a very plain and boring forest, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ode to my string of pearls (and Kenyir tri race report!)

It has been 3 years since i heard this story but i never fully understood what it meant until the kenyir race last weekend..

3 years ago, as i embarked on to the world of triathlons - heart broken, frumpy looking and thrown into a whole new working industry - a good friend of mine said "forget what you have lost. look forward to what you will receive". i didn't believe her and in her sweet quest to help me recover she emailed me a chain letter about a father-daughter and a string of pearls.

i'm quite sure many of you would have received this chain letter one time or the other, but just in case you haven't, let me tell you the story (it was honestly long and boring, so i'll give you the more touching version.. but long still)

on her 5th birthday, her father gave her a pretty pearl necklace he had bought at toys r' us. she loved dressing up and she was his princess so he wanted to make sure she knew that. naturally, over time the pearl necklace chipped and the colour coating peeled.

couple of years later, her father said
"let's give away your necklace, it's old and the colour is faded"
"NO! this is my favourite pearl necklace. it is pretty still" she replied
"my darling, you must learn to let go. it will be alright" her father said lovingly.
and this conversation went on for weeks. each night, her father said "give away" and each night she replied "no".

finally two days before her 7th birthday she said:
"ok daddy, because i love you, i trust you that everything will be alright. but i want you to know my heart is breaking as i give this pearl necklace away"

her father smiled and hugged her.

on the eve of her birthday, her father came to her bedside and found her crying
father: "don't cry my darling. tomorrow is your birthday"
daughter: "daddy, it hurts. i don't want it to be my birthday"
father: "i know it does. but i wanted you to learn that letting go of something precious to you doesn't mean you will never be happy again"
daughter: "what do you mean?"

her father then took out a velvet box and in it is was a real string of pearls.

"i wanted you to let go of the past so that i can give you something more precious and beautiful for the future.. happy birthday darling.."

many friends said "ah! so materialistic! the old pearls may have been in bad shape but it was sentimental". true, but i'm sure there's a chain letter somewhere to cover that issue.


the moral of the story here is never be afraid to let go of something you feel is precious to you as there is always something more precious to discover.

so how does this relate to my enlightenment over the weekend?

well, for 3 years now i have been blessed with a loving partner which i initially thought was my 'real string of pearls' but i was never completely convinced. replacing a lover with another cannot really justify the empty spot left by the previous lover. not because he is insufficient, but because each lover is different so they fill up different areas of the void.

then after almost 5 months since february of not meeting my triathlon friends i realised something: my string of pearls is not represented by one person... it is literally a string of pearls! many many representatives... each one a pearl in my string:
from sweet alisa who is on a constant high and full of love, to her equally energetic father who braved IM 2008 after swimming 2k for the first time 10 days before race day.

from funny mj kalam, to his loving nurina whose heart of gold and determination to complete tris is a true admiration, to his kopi susu family tagging along everywhere like little ducklings.

from the elites of steph, dino, and kim who have achieved far beyond my personal ability yet remain humble and close.

from shen who introduced me to this triathlon world to her devoted KC and now tiny peanut who's almost 1 month old!

from edwin and his endless support and dedication, to his gentle kelly and everybody from

from willie with his funny ways of waiting for me at races, to shiraz and his "shut up! forget about the medal..just finish the race!

from patrick and his never ending evaluation of what is "necessary" and his growing up son now more interested in straddling the bench press to bulk up than straddling his bike.

from the fast and furious boys of ironmonyet to the new boys in town from bike boutique.

from my evergreen race bunny karen siah, to karoline yee and now michelle looi (all great gals that i target at races and all great gals that beat me flat at races!)

from carmen leong and her admirable win for a spot in kona 2008, to randy tan and his dedicated bench side barbie ivy.

from mac the ever trusty friend sweeping at the back, to adeline, to jaja, to vong, to pk and family and all the great guys/gals at pcc and their enjoyable sunday rides.

from yit thing coming slowly into this tri world to weina across the sea

the list goes on (if your name is not mentioned here, sorry... but don't worry, i still think you would be a pearl in my string too!)

but it doesn't stop there!

since letting go of the past i have been blessed with the company of arif's family and many other 'new' people in my life:
from little shafeeq and shaqeel who's laughter and snoring entertain me over weekend stays to their sweet nanny kye that helps around the house.

from sweet farah and cheeky daughter nana to her ever handy fahar and their great weekend parties/games night

from muscle mania and ever smiling feizal to his calming lynn where everything we do, give or buy is niiiiiiice.....

from the great guys at work like joanna, solomon, chua, leong, wan san, tang and many many others who make 8-5pm tolerable.

i could go on forever... but really what i would like to do is thank all of you for coming into my life and enriching it many folds over.

and to think, i would have missed all these had i not let go...

so a toast is "necessary"!

to all my friends mentioned and unmentioned, you enrich my life and each one of you is a true treasured pearl on my string.

i love you all and thank you for bringing colour to my life!

p.s: hope this post gives you the strength to let go of any past haunting you now as what the future brings is always far better.

p.p.s: i forgot about my kenyir race report! o well, here it is:
- did alright considering no training
- had fun
- finished with medal
- came home.
(figured you're all so well aware of my race capability there's no point dwelling in my imperfections!)