Newsletter 06: Real life is uncurated

Last Wednesday, I was at the fitness corner located outside my HDB apartment block and I saw my wheelchair-bound neighbor and her helper.

I waved at her but she didn’t seem to notice me. She was frowning and looking at the grass next to her. I walked up to her to greet her, as I always do after my morning jog.

“Aunty, good morning,” I said in Mandarin. “How are you?”

She didn’t look at me and said in Mandarin, “I can’t see, I can’t see. Everything is all blurry.”

Her helper, who had pushed her wheelchair to the fitness corner, said, “M’am woke up this morning and she could not see in one eye. Now both eyes cannot see.”

Oh no.

I told the old lady, “Aunty, please call the doctor. This is very serious. It could be a problem with your eyes or with your brain.”

That’s not a nice thing to say to a neighbor, is it?

But I always ask after her health each time we meet. She is unable to walk because she suffered a stroke several years ago. Her skull has a sunken cavity on one side due to the surgery that stemmed her brain bleeding.

With her sudden loss of sight, I was worried that she might have another stroke coming. I nagged at her again to get medical help.

My neighbor replied, “It’s a small thing. Just a small thing. No need to call the doctor.”

She paused, then said, “Ok, I will call my son later.”

Dear reader, you are reading this newsletter because you subscribed to it on LinkedIn.

The LinkedIn platform is a daily cacophony of people giving advice, displays of awards, new job appointments, corporate news, opinions on world events or non-events and so on.

Like every other social media platform, scrolling through LinkedIn for more than a few minutes can incite FOMO (fear of missing out) in almost anyone.

Wow, look at this person’s achievements! What a nice job she has! How do I get such awards?

Even I sometimes fall victim to these feelings of envy and regret.

But as real and wonderful as people’s work achievements are, you’re just reading a curated narrative.

Reality is that, no matter how hard you try, sometimes things don’t go your way.

My lady neighbor had told me her story on several occasions, “I always kept active with morning walks, doing housework and doing my groceries.”

“Then one day I got this stroke. I don’t know why this happened to me. I couldn’t accept it for a long time. I really couldn’t.”

Now, despite her best efforts to stay positive and get fresh air every morning at the fitness park, she suddenly found herself unable to see clearly.

Life is hard. Life is unpredictable. Life does not offer clear explanations.

Over the years of knowing thousands of people and sometimes being their scribe, the common theme I found is that one really has no idea what tomorrow holds.

Each day, I try to pause and give thanks to God that the day went by without incident for my family.

But I also ask him to give me strength if tomorrow goes awry.

As for my neighbor, I have not seen her for several days at the fitness corner. I hope and pray that she is ok.

Here’s what I wrote on LinkedIn this week:

I tried to become a sentient chatbot…

…but the experiment died after one day

Meet Poolander, my worrywart dog and a milestone in Gen AI Art

Explaining why I find ChatGPT Plus affordable

That’s all for this week, thank you for reading.

Originally published 16 Mar 2024 on LinkedIn. Subscribe here.