Meet Gladys Chua, a sunny, Singaporean girl currently living in smoky Shanghai. Gladys is one of the most chill, relaxed people I know. She always has a ready giggle and is so guileless in nature it’s very difficult not to like her. She’s also big hearted and generous – I’ve seen first hand how when a new colleague from abroad moved to Shanghai, she brought him for a walking tour and showed him around all the neighborhoods she knew.
I wanted to talk to Gladys to understand how it’s possible to be so chill and happy all the time. She explains her mindset on how to keep calm during chaotic, panicky moments.
“Well, the first thing is, what’s the worst thing that could happen?”
“Unless it’s a life or death situation – which actually means someone is really going to die or the world is ending, then there is no point in panicking and driving yourself into a panic. It’s just using the wrong muscles for the wrong reasons. Nothing is really worth the effort to be panicked. For example, if it’s about work, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Fire me. I can’t do anything about it. If I get fired, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I have no pay for this month. But can I get another job? Yes, I can.”
What I was curious to know was how she would deal if she were faced with a very stressed person. Stressed people have a magical way of transferring their own stress onto other people, whether it was by having a panic attack together or shouting at the nearest victim.
“First of all, there’s no need to react like that person. It’s very easy to mirror each other. For example, if I panic, you panic. If I’m sad, you’re sad. But, I think it takes self-control to intentionally not mirror another person’s stress onto yourself. At the end of the day, maybe this person needs your help to get things done. Maybe this person needs you to be the calm person! So, there’s no point in doubling the stress when you should be dividing the stress. The reason why there are two people there is to divide the problem, not double it. Of course, it’s very natural to react by doubling the stress, because it’s natural for us to get influenced by people and the environment around us. So I think that if you have stronger internal control, then you will be able to stop it and block it, and this is how you can cut the stress back.”
Gladys has grown up close to her family, and has a life philosophy driven by her father.
“My life philosophy is, try everything once!”
“This is how my dad brought us up, from when we were young and up to now. His belief for us was that we should try everything once. We should try to live life in a way that we have done everything that is possible. Of course, it has to be something within reach; I can’t decide suddenly I want to live in a castle because I want to be Cinderella. He thinks it’s important for us to live in all kinds of environments. For example, try to live like a very rich person and try to live like a very poor person. Live in a very tough environment, and live in a very luxurious environment. He wants us to push ourselves to our upper or our lower limits. This means that our life experiences won’t be so flat and within one range. Our range of experiences will be better!
The impact of this philosophy has led to Gladys looking for adventure around her.
“I love adventure! I like to jump off mountains. I’ve bungee jumped, sky dived and gone scuba diving. I even tried cliff jumping once, because I really live by this principle that I need to try everything once. I’m now in Shanghai, trying out what it’s like to live abroad. As a student, I would do a lot of budget travelling, taking the train, that kind of things. I’ve also experienced travelling luxuriously. I think I really believe in this philosophy of stretching ourselves to our limits.”
The thought of bungee jumping makes me feel like hiding under a blanket. I ask Gladys if she was scared when she was jumping, or whether it was a breeze for her.
“Of course I was scared! I was so scared! But I told myself, just do it! You’re at the top of a mountain, and looking down at a cliff. Your natural reaction is to be scared! At that point, my thoughts were, “Fuck, this is nonsense, I want to go home!” but I decided to just jump.”
At this point of the interview, I think secretly to myself that I most probably would have jumped back into the plane and begged the pilot to zip back down to the ground. However, Gladys has experienced bungee jumping in New Zealand and skydiving in the United States, and highly recommends it.
With her easygoing personality, I want to know how Gladys deals with having a bad day. What does she do to increase her happiness quota?
“Hmmn…I’m trying to think of the last time I had a bad day. I do have bad days, but I don’t think my bad days are so bad. I try not to get into a bad day cycle for too long. If I have a bad session with my boss or with a teammate, I think I’ll take a few hours to get over it so that it doesn’t spoil the rest of my day. Why would you let a 5-minute incident spoil the next 23 hours of your day? Of course, if my day is really bad, then I just sleep it off.”
Gladys is now dating an amazing man, Colin, and they have bought an HDB apartment together, which, in Singaporean terms, this means they are engaged. We got into a discussion about whether or not one should know about a partner’s past, and being the marketer that she is, equated it to a consumer insight.
In order to understand another person, it’s important to understand what people are scared of or what makes them happy.
“It’s like a consumer insight. You need to know what motivates people to do certain things. Being in a relationship, I feel he needs to know why I’m more uptight about certain things than the other. In order to understand another person, it’s important to understand what people are scared of or what makes them happy. It’s important to get the correct insight! The only way to get this insight is by understanding the history of what has happened.
I also prefer knowing his past. I prefer to know everything. Then, I select what I want to deal with in the situation. I choose to remember what I think is important to me. For example, if a girl has hurt him in a certain way, I will intentionally remember this, so that it’s important for me not to say those things to him. That’s why it’s really important for me to know, because if I don’t know these things, to me, it means it didn’t happen, and there’s going to be an information gap. I really want to connect with Colin on a very deep level, so it’s fair for me to tell him everything I’ve gone through, and the same for him. I would love him to tell me everything he has gone through!”
What advice would Gladys have for herself 10 years ago?
“I would tell younger Gladys that she’s fine. Go live your life the way you want to. You’re doing well, you’re doing okay!”
And what would the life of an older Gladys be like?
“Eventually, I want to have my own family. I think it will be fun to bring my kids up the way I was brought up. I want one kid, but I know Colin wants two, so we’ll probably get two.”
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