I remember the first time I felt like an alien. I was seven, sweaty, tightly hemmed in by about twenty kids, all of them staring. They were murmuring "ching-chong" and I thought they were making fun of my face, but they were genuinely trying to communicate. I'd just landed on a tiny fishing village in the Philippines, where my parents had been sent as missionaries. The locals there hadn't seen many foreigners, and I sported an eyepatch for a lazy eye - no wonder they were staring. I felt a vague terror and a sudden need to pee.
Born in Australia, Malaysian by nationality, based in the Philippines but educated in American and British international schools before graduating from a Singaporean university, I've had many "alien" moments. Moving every few years meant I'd start over just as I was settling in. But it taught me to adapt fast and bring the best of that world when it's time to move on.
From the Philippines, I've taken away a sense of community in the face of hardship. From an American school, how to think imaginatively. From a British school, how to stay disciplined and ambitious. Admittedly these are generalisations, but they all expanded my thinking, honing keen interests in a lot of unrelated fields. I loved the humanities and sciences, sports and fine arts with equal fervour - and I was good at all of them. I was a well-rounded mutt who consequently couldn't pinpoint what I wanted to do with my life.
So I look for challenges. I've started to crave that "alien" feeling, because it forces me to fire on all fronts. I'm drawn to things that require me to be both analytical and creative, because that's who I am. Now, if my bladder twinges - it's a good sign.