I have been hypocritical. I advocate being ourselves, being natural, being who we are, and yet, I have been hiding from the world all these years.
My profile picture did not show my face. I did not even use my real name.
The original profile photo was professionally taken by a good friend of mine, and I love the photo. My pen name, NochNoch, is indeed my nickname and much easier to remember from a marketing perspective. But both are deceptively artistic, and I now have awareness, and the courage to admit that I have been hiding behind that photo and name because I still could not face myself or the world with who I am.
Part of it was a paranoia of shadows from the past. I did not know how to face colleagues and people from my past corporate life. A few reached out recently, and I caught up with them in person, which has pacified my anxiety. It was all in my mind. After all, no one really gives me more than half a thought so all these stories I create for myself about how they must mock me are all a farce and a waste of time. And a few with whom I had stayed in touch all throughout, have drifted off in the abyss. A pity, but it is also time to move on.
In the last few weeks, I changed most of my profile pictures on social media. Now you can see my face, fair and square. Again, the photos were taken by the same good friend, who, might have seen my transition through her lenses all these years simply by the photos I request she take. Professionally, I go by my name again, though I have decided to keep my nickname as pen name for some platforms. It helps to have multiple personas at times…
Another catalyst was catching up with a friend in Beijing about 2 months ago. He was a friend from university, a friend I do not see often but we always have energizing conversations whenever we meet. We talked about Hong Kong, our views on the current state of affairs, on its people, our hopes, our dreams, our present. He asked why I did not do what I do now on raising mental health awareness, in Hong Kong. He said it was needed.
It was as if he poked a sore spot. I avoided the topic at first, but we probed. I was able to see – or rather, admit – that underneath the cynicism and judgments I had on Hong Kong, I was scared of the city and avoided it at all cost, for it symbolizes my past, my upbringing, and my corporate life, because it was where it all started.
And from that conversation, he told me to reach out to another friend, with whom I met for the first time in person in Hong Kong and had a riveting conversation about social enterprises and causes to champion to improve the state of the community. New beginnings.
It is time to stop hiding behind myself. I must embody the past, the shadows, the fears… all of it, if I am to be myself.
It is all me. Crazy me.