Dance with uncertainty & embrace change
It’s my honor to give the occasional address speech at the University of New South Wales. I shared 3 stories about “Change” to the class of Art, Design & Architecture graduates at this exciting juncture in their career journeys.
What an honor to be standing here today to celebrate your big day. or should I say your freedom day?
First up, disclaimer, this speech is definitely NOT going to be perfectly crafted. I woke up 2 nights ago and suddenly remembered, oh my gosh I’ve got a speech to prepare, 😱 and then there’s me trying to rush that mid-night last-minute project just before it’s due.
It’s like re-living uni life again — Art students and overnight assignment rush, right?
Yup…. Some things never change.
Speaking of “Change”, today I’m going to share 3 stories with you — stories about “change, and the beauty of dancing with change”.
1 — First story is about “Surviving change”
I’ve always labeled myself as a natural-born rebel & mis-fit. My rebel nature started 9 months before I was even born — I was that “illegal” 2nd child, born in China.
At age 13, my sister and I arrived in Australia as international students. I spoke no English at the time. My world turned upside down. I suddenly found myself in a foreign land where I couldn’t communicate. I felt excluded. I had zero confidence and I was completely lost.
I had to suddenly learn everything from scratch while navigating a culture that was foreign to me.
That change was so sudden, and I was unprepared.
My mum constantly reminded me. — how many kids back in Asia would wish for an opportunity like this, so I should just suck it up and count my blessings. You know, typical tough Asian mum, and she was right, that harsh change was the best way to build resilience.
Before long I realised that I was able to take care of myself and tackle everyday challenges that most of my friends at the time wouldn’t know how to.
As I reflect on my early childhood, I am reminded of the quote from the great Eleanor Roosevelt.
“A woman is like a teabag — you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
That — was when I first had a taste of escaping my comfort zones. and it was surprisingly satisfying.
2 — Welcome change
Fast forward to the 22-year-old me, as I sat exactly where you are now.
Ohhhh…. the mixed emotions I can still feel in my soul — Happy, Relieved, Sad, Excited, and Scared. It’s scary right, What’s next?
You’ve gotta be ready, to dance with the uncertainty.
Right after uni, most of my friends started to look for a job right away,
Not me! I packed my bags and was ready to “escape the reality”.
I squeezed my whole life into a suitcase, with $400 dollars in my pocket, and a one-way ticket to Japan. And no, I didn’t know anyone in Japan nor spoke any Japanese.
Of course, mum thought I was nuts and tried to stop me, But my gut was saying, “Don’t get too comfortable too soon, if you need to see where life takes you, the time to take risks is now”.
And just like that, I jetted off to escape the comfort of this beautiful country, not to mention leaving the best coffee this world has to offer.
I didn’t have much cash, but I did have was — enough faith in myself. Faith, not hope. Faith leaps through fire, but hope wakes through it.
It was unstoppable, I continued to hop from country to country for the next10 years.
During my time in Japan, a wise old lady once told me this thing — which is still one of the greatest pieces of advice in my life. She said, “Have you got a boyfriend?” I said, “not yet”. She then replies: “ok, make sure you have a lot of boyfriends before you settle in”. .. haha I know right?!
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but over the years, her insights kept ringing true.
I think what she really meant was.. Don’t settle for less. You’ve gotta find what you love = in order to do that, first step is to know what you don’t love, and put them in your “nahh” list.
It is as true for your job as for your relationships. Your work of course is going to fill a major part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to keep discovering what you love.
When a door opens, walk through it, and meet different people. And when that door closes, there will be many other doors opening. So just keep looking, and keep opening those doors.
Have an open mind, welcome opportunities so that you can start to remove distractions and noise along the way, and start crafting the ideal state for yourself to thrive.
- Time is on your side. It’s OK… if you don’t find work right away and want to experience life a little.
- It’s OK if you keep changing jobs at the beginning because you don’t want to “Blend in” or “Settle for less”
- It’s OK if you ended up doing something completely different to what you’ve learnt here. It happens. This is one of your first chapters.
- It’s OK not to have all the answers to every question. Remember you always have the power to say: “I don’t know yet. But I’ll get back to you”.
3 — The last story is about “Thriving through change”
You know the saying “You might get hit by a bus tomorrow?”
Well… I actually did get hit by a bus😵💫.
When I was 24, I got hit by a bus — I j-walked across a street
Let’s just say this change — I did not see it coming. Literally.
By the time I got to the hospital, I had already stopped breathing. They pulled me back from death.
I was in a coma for 4 days. I lost my memory for a while, due to traumatic brain injury.
I’ve lost my right eyesight. And I had to breathe through a tube.
The doctors predicted that based on the conditions on day 1, I’d still struggle to speak even after a few months., if I was lucky.
By now, I hope you’ve all learnt from my mistake: 🗣 “Don’t J-walk. Look twice before you cross the road.”
So “How did you cope with losing sight in one eye?” You asked.
When the doctor said I would never be able to see again from my right eye, my first reaction was .. oh no watching 3D movies will never be the same again.” That… was… It. It didn’t impact me much other than that.
You see humans are magical creatures. When one eye retires, the other eye picks up 90% of what two eyes could achieve. And now I actually have this opportunity to see the world from a different lens. Like when I go hiking now, the forest looks like a 2 dimensional oil painting on steroids. It’s stunning. I bet all of you are jealous of my one-eye superpower now.
I count my blessings every single day to have experienced this. I did come out the other side much happier. What was supposed to be rock bottom had become a solid foundationI built my life on
Every time you pick yourself up after a fall, your ability to recover gets faster, and easier. Soon you realise that nothing is going to beat you down. Imagine what you can do when you truly believe “nothing is impossible”.
Change… might seem terrifying to begin with, you do have the superpower to turn it around.
So kids, Time is on your side, DO not take your youth for granted.
Time is the most valuable asset anyone could ever have. If you don’t embrace change and take some risks now, then when? You will have all the time in the world to enjoy your comfort zone when you get old.
The older you get, the more baggages you have, the less flexible you are. And I mean that literally, the other day I got out of bed, and my back hurts like hell. I didn’t even do anything, I just got out of bed. 🙃
The world is now your oyster (even if you hate oysters).
Change is inevitable, it’s a journey of continuous learning & discovery. It’s less about the end goal, and more about your flexibility to adapt.
Don’t do it alone, hang out with people who have your back. And make friends with people that are different to you. Be curious.
Embrace your imperfection — those are the qualities that make you unique.
Live in the moment — because that’s what truly matters.
Experience mistakes fast and early, because mistakes will lead you to find what you love, shape you into a better human and tell you which way to go.
Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
You’ve got this! Best of luck.
Thank you all very much ✨