• Rachel Laiosa

Stuck in Singapore with a Smile (& One Pair of Shorts)

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

DAY 98

Incoming call.

Glenn’s big smile appears on FaceTime.

“Yeah, Singapore is great! I picked up skateboarding. Plus, the mall has a swimming pool in it.”

It’s gratitude month at Prezence, so I decided to interview one of the most grateful people I’ve ever met—my close friend Glenn. A few years after we graduated at Providence College, Glenn sold all of his things and headed to Bali to be a “digital nomad,” tackling Asia, one country at a time. Through countless FaceTimes and even a visit across the world, I never caught Glenn with a single complaint. For him, life doesn’t come with obstacles or setbacks, just new opportunities and mysteries to uncover.

When COVID-19 hit, Glenn was jumping on a plane to renew his visa with a quick, two-day trip to Singapore. When he settled into his hotel for the night, he had no idea that Singapore was going to close its borders for four months, leaving him locked on this unfamiliar island with next to nothing. While this would be a major setback (or panic attack) for most, Glenn embraced this lockdown as an opportunity to expand his comfort zone even further, all while living each day full of gratitude.

[RL]: “How did you stay positive knowing you were going to be in Singapore for an indefinite amount of time?”

[GE]: “To be honest, I really enjoy time on my own and exploring new places, so I found it to be kind of comforting, being my myself. It was never an issue, staying positive, I try to be a pretty optimistic person in general. You know, the whole “it could be worse” thing always seems to make its way back into my mind when I face new challenges.”

[RL]: “How do you always remind yourself that it could be worse? I feel like keeping that perspective top of mind all the time is really hard to do…”

[GE]: “I think as I’ve gotten older, experienced new things and met different people it has definitely shaped my outlook on life to the point where it’s hardened me against seeing days as bad days. I’m so appreciative for every day, I get re-excited every morning with the realization that I get another day here in the world.”

[RL]: “Have you always liked time alone? How do you find entertainment with just yourself?”

[GE]: “Yeah, I have. I actually find that I get pretty stressed out if I'm around people for too long, like, if I don’t have time to myself. I treasure those moments of reflection, it’s just an opportunity to think, to learn, to do art*—I guess I’ve always had hobbies that I’m better at when I’m alone.

*I HIGHLY encourage you to check out Glenn's art on Instagram.

[GE]: “I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately—I’ve been coming to this realization that sometimes I think I can only get better or work on myself or do art when I’m alone. I’m always waiting for that next time I’m going to be alone—but that’s not life, right? I’m not always going to be in a vacuum, alone in this perfect situation of self reflection. I’ve been trying to learn to do those things in and amongst the traveling and seeing people while also carving out the time to pause and work on myself and finding a balance among all the moving pieces.”

[RL]: “What advice would you give people who struggle with being grateful during challenging situations?”

[GE]: “Go watch a documentary about Haiti or some developing country and realize that your problems could be worse—while they are absolutely problems, like I don’t ever want to tell someone that their problems aren’t real or significant—it’s a lot easier to get a handle on your problems when you realize other people would love to have your problems. Life is too short to not be grateful. We live and then we die. And in between there...are you really going to complain despite the abundance of what you do have? Focus on what’s in front of you. Everyone has things and people they can be grateful for, it’s just deciding whether or not you want to be grateful for them.”

[RL]: “What was the biggest lesson you learned when you were in Singapore?”

[GE]: “I realized that you’re never too old to learn a new skill or develop a new habit. When we’re growing up and in a constant state of learning—we’re always trying new stuff...sports, hobbies, subject matters. And while we sharpen those skills in college and in our careers, that whole thing, for the most part, kind of settles out. I completely forgot that, at any age, you can pick up a new thing and learn it. While I was in Singapore I happened to buy a skateboard. I was trash at it at first, but then I kept getting back out there every day, each week. It was really cool to see my improvement. I’d forgotten about that whole piece of life, you know? I suddenly saw a drastic improvement in my skill, it was a really cool lesson in life—you can do new things and be good at them if you’re just willing and open-minded to put in the effort.”

[RL]: “Gratitude is a choice, and you always manage to choose it—do you have any advice about letting gratitude into your life?”

[GE]: “Growing up, experiencing pain, learning life’s challenging lessons, I realized the importance of being grateful. By the end of high school, I made a point to practice gratitude more. And by putting your energies towards a goal, it always comes to fruition eventually because all of your efforts are headed in that direction. Treat gratitude like I did with skateboarding. It’s just another skill waiting to be developed and expanded upon. You can get better at being grateful if you do it every day, if it’s consistent, if you put in the mental effort. I think that’s how I’ve gotten to this point where I’m just pumped every day. And it’s so rewarding to feel this natural, subconscious gratitude each day—it’s worth the effort for sure.”

My family always jokes that our favorite “Glenn moment” is when he takes a first bite of a food he loves (usually sour patch kids or something my mom cooks him). It’s like every other thing in his life vanishes for a second, he closes his eyes and savors that moment perfectly and completely. It’s a silly thing I’ve come to cherish, because It reminds me what being present really looks like—and it’s beautiful.

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