Once, when I was in secondary school, I emailed Chris Crutcher, a multiple award-winning author, out of sheer recklessness. He had just became my favourite writer then, with themes ranging from parental abuse and rascism to suicide and rape.
With wit and words, he painted a heartwarming - though realistic - tapestry of life.
There was this story, one which I still read even now. Staying fat for Sarah Byrnes. It was about a disfigured girl and her chubby childhood friend. The girl's visage was scarred when her step dad pressed her face against a burning stove.
Chris Crutcher was a school counsellor. I can only wonder what stories he had heard, ones that inspired such aching tales.
I wasn't all that surprised when he answered. He told me that he was coming to Singapore to promote his books and hoped to see me then. I was young, ignorant. Thought that the world was without strangers, that everyone responded to smses, emails and phone calls.
It was awesome to receive an email, no matter how mundane, from the same hands which wrote aching tales on teenage experiences.
During a visit to an art exhibition with a friend, I saw the most fascinating art piece.
Each President's Young Artist contender was given a space to present their works. Felicia Low's installation on education excited me. It combined art with education, my two raison d'etres.
It was when my latent stalker tendencies expressed themselves. Chanced upon Ms Low's number in some explanatory notes and decided to message her. Told her how delightful her works were and asked to meet her.
(Sounds creepy? Yeah, it sounded spooky to me on hindsight. Wouldn't be doing such a thing again.)
In all fairness, I was just complimenting her, didn't intend anything by it. Always thought that the world would be a greater place, more beautiful, if everyone just expressed their sincerest praises.
Besides, I really wanted to know if art teachers can survive well in the local bureaucracy. (I was considering that as a career, being an art teacher). And I was still ignorant then, thought the whole world was very generous with giving praises and all. If she was spooked, she hid her surprise really well.
She agreed and we met in her art space. Had a great discussion on art, Singapore's education system and life.
People who live life passionately, they make great conversationalists.
And Mr Lin replied to my queries on equities, forex, education and integrity. Quite a wonderful personality, this man.
Told me that I'd succeed in life as long as I live it with honesty. Quite surreal since he's someone from the finance industry and not, say, the church or a hospital ward.
To live with honesty, it sounded so wonderfully simple. But simplicity in concept does not equate simplicity in execution.
The talk was a real gem:
Mr Lin was from USP and managed a 4.0++ GPA all the time. Nope, he wasn't a first class honours student. He worked, he saved, he invested. He studied extra modules, out of sheer interest.
He was from a well-to-do family till his dad failed in one of his business endeavours -
Wait, I'm not really comfortable sharing his background. It felt vaguely like a betrayal.
Suffice to say, he has a magnetic presence. No wonder he managed to ascend the corporate ladder with such dexterity.
My awesome successful aunt also manages to chat with me once in a while. Though I'm not sure if it's simply because I'm related to her, haha.
She always has interesting observations about the local politics, education and business. Always a delight to ask her about her life, yup.
And so, I realised that the genuinely successful people always have time to help others along.
They aren't wrapped in a bubble of self-absorption. They are willing to share the richness of their lives and in doing so, spread an appreciation for living.