How I Found My Soulmate, Part 2: Appearance of Ken Soh (Someone I Knew Before)

This is part 2 of my love series where I share my love journey, how I met my soulmate (Ken Soh), and how to attract authentic love into your life. If you haven’t, read Part 1: My Journey in Love first.

Reflection in the water

An impending connection… a love that has always been in the books (Photo from our Glasgow Engagement Shoot

Early 2013: Jadedness and Emptiness

By early this year (2013), I was quite jaded with this whole process of dating, meeting someone, and then feeling disappointed when things didn’t turn out to be the way I wanted.

A Toxic Connection

One thing was that I was very badly burned by this one guy (let’s call him N) I met during my dating-immersion phase. While I initially thought he was a good match, he turned out to be toxic.

In the few months we knew each other, I was incredibly unhappy. Our connection started with me being misguided by his, at many times IMO, non-platonic behavior. He later apologized and clarified that he wasn’t looking to be romantically involved, something which I found incredulous due to his contradicting behavior but accepted nonetheless.

Subsequently we had many conflicts even as friends, with him often berating and putting me down, leaving me feeling very lousy about myself. At one point I thought maybe he was my nemesis because he exemplified everything I did not want to stand for — darkness, unhappiness, toxicity, and negativity.

Because N would repeatedly chastise me, I doubted myself a lot in the few months I knew him. The fact that a subconscious part of me felt unworthy as a woman (because I had never had much luck with love) didn’t help. Many times I mentally played out our conflicts to figure out how I could be a better friend to him, only for him to find new things to put me down me for. Even though I was bending over backwards to make him happy, N was still unhappy with me.

Finally, I had enough. I cut him away early this year because I couldn’t take his volatile and ungrateful behavior anymore. I was surprised I even let this connection drag on so long because I would have never tolerated such behavior if it was from any other person. While this toxic connection was out of my life, I was back to being alone, by myself, after months of hope, unhappiness, and struggle.

Disappointment When Dates/Events Didn’t Turn Out the Way I Ideally Wanted

I also found myself disappointed each time I went on a date or socializing event but didn’t meet any potential match. I felt I had to constantly be my best and look my best, lest I missed out on a potential connection. I also felt that there had to be something wrong with me if I was meeting so many great people and going on dates but was not getting into a relationship (for whatever reason).

The fact that people — readers, friends, acquaintances, and even my sponsored date coach then — were anticipating me to get into a relationship didn’t help at all. Because I was so open about my Lunch Actually experience and wanting to date, people became very curious to see who I would attract. Many also subconsciously imposed their desire for a romantic relationship onto me. These factors silently pressurized me into finding someone noteworthy ASAP, because I didn’t want to feel like a failure for not being able to get into a relationship despite wanting to. (Not just any relationship of course but a conscious relationship with someone I like.)

Inside, I felt empty. Not with myself, but with the situation.

Reflection

While some might call this “dating wear out” (where you get worn out after intensive dating), it wasn’t like that for me at all. My emptiness was because I felt misaligned with this notion of “getting out there” to find someone.

Girl reflecting

The thing was I had already realized years ago that I’m complete as a single. Many people’s obsession with dating today centers around being with someone to complete oneself. This wasn’t (and still isn’t) the case for me.

I wasn’t seeking someone to complete my life. As I had mentioned in part oneI was seeking someone because I was living a fantastic life as an individual and I felt ready to share my life with someone else, someone whom I felt would be a good match.

However, by deliberately seeking out someone, I was putting my life and subsequently my real self on hold. Because I was so busy going on dates, being a better date to others and wondering where I could meet like-minded people to increase chances of meeting my special someone, I had unwittingly put my personal self on hold.

I was losing myself to find someone, someone whom I didn’t even know and didn’t even know existed to begin with.

Revelation: Self Over “Finding” Love

This was when I realized, Regardless of how much I want to share my life and be with someone conscious, I should never alter my personal agenda in blind pursuit of love, because that would be repressing my real self to find something that isn’t supposed to define my life to begin with.

Even if I was to meet anyone using this self-altering approach, he would not be a good match anyway because I would have intentionally altered my path just to meet / be with him. This means that I would likely have to continue altering my path, change myself or worse still — repress myself just to make a relationship happen and/or keep it alive. This would defeat the point of a relationship — to be a more conscious and better person. Not to repress my true self.

If I want to be with someone who matches me, then I need to first live my life, do my thing, and just be me, I thought. If I meet compatible guys along the way, then that’s great and I’ll be happy to date and explore a relationship together and all. However if I don’t, then… so be it. I’ll still be perfectly happy because I’m already complete as a single.

This was when I literally decided that I am done looking for love. I thought, From now on, I’m going to just live my life and do my thing, partner or no partner. Even if I am to remain single forever, that will be fine too. Maybe romantic love isn’t in my path for this life, and I will meet someone special in my next life.

Whatever happens, I will always have my dreams, my life, and my purpose. These will never change and these are the things I’m going to do for the rest of my life, whether I’m in a relationship or not. These are the things that will always fulfill me in life.

Girl in bright light, standing on field

With that, I went back to focusing on my personal path and living my life the way I would have if I wasn’t concerning myself with love/relationships.

(Note that here, it wasn’t a case of me thinking that I should just sit back and never do anything about love — rather, it was about me (1) living my life, and then (2) attracting love, dating, and seeking love as a natural extension of being me / living. Focusing on self first, then relationships, is the key essence here.

Back to Living My Life the Way I Would Have

I asked myself what I would want to do if I wasn’t doing this dating thing, and I realized I wanted to get back to traveling. I love traveling because I get to grow and meet new people.

I hadn’t been to South Africa before, so I booked a one-way ticket there. (I had to later purchase a return ticket because aviation guidelines no longer allow one-way trips to places not your home country.) Since I was back to pursuing my path, I was excited at what was in store next. Life was suddenly beautiful and wonderful again.

Because of my revelation, I was no longer thinking about love nor finding love anymore. I was happy just as myself, by myself, living my life to the fullest. But if you were to ask me, being away in South Africa — nearly 9,000 km / 5,400 miles away from Singapore no less — was honestly the last place on earth I thought I would find love.

Boy was I wrong. Because as the saying goes, “It’s when you stop looking for love that love comes looking for you.”

Off to Africa

So in March this year, I flew to South Africa, staying with PE readers Mavis and Lizette.

I enjoyed myself immensely. I had PE meetups while in Joburg and Cape Town, immersed myself in the local culture, attended a local bridal shower and Zimbabwean wedding, hung out with Afrikaans, and visited many local sites, thanks to my gracious hosts.

Celes stroking a lion cub in Johannesburg, South Africa

Me at The Lion Park in Johannesburg, South Africa

Celes at Mavis' Wedding in Johannesburg

At PE reader Mavis’ wedding, with the little bridesmaids and groomsmen

Johannesburg PE Readers Meetup, Group Shot

At the Johannesburg PE Readers Meetup (Apr 11, 2013)

Cape Town PE Readers Meetup, Group Shot

At the Cape Town PE Readers Meetup (Apr 21, 2013)

Despite my return ticket on April 24, I did not feel in a hurry to get home. I wanted to just enjoy the moment and see where the tides would take me. If I felt like traveling on beyond April 24 I would; if not, I would return to Singapore. I wasn’t about to let anything stop me from doing what I needed to do.

The Emergence of Someone from My Past

So 2 weeks passed.

One night, I was watching TV with one of Mavis’ nieces (one of the rare times I watch TV in my life). As she surfed the TV channels, I took a quick glance at my phone to check my messages.

This was when I saw an incoming message from an unknown number:

Very first message from Ken on Whatsapp

*NUS = National University of Singapore, the university I studied in. NUS Students’ Union (NUSSU) is a student leader committee I joined briefly while in NUS.

Ken Soh? I raised my brow and scanned through my memory. The cute chairman from NUSSU BizCom? What a surprise!

Ken Soh: An Acquaintance from University

So here’s a recap: Ken was an acquaintance I met almost a decade ago in this core-curricular activity I randomly joined in university (NUSSU BizCom). We had met no more than 2 times in our entire lives at that point (3, if you include a random encounter where he didn’t even see me at all).

First Encounter: At a Committee Meeting

The first time we met, I had just joined BizCom to accompany my friend and to boost my student profile. I met Ken at the new-members induction meeting, where he was the tall, dark, and handsome BizCom chairman inducting the new members.

We exchanged no more than 5 lines in total in that entire meeting, in front of a group no less. I passed him my name card (I was running a graphic design business then) to spread the word about my business.

The funny thing was that I left NUSSU BizCom soon after. I got busy teaching tuition, studying, running my graphic design business, being in another CCA, etc. and had to triage. 

I met Ken a short while (days?) later at a campus bus stop. He was with a girl whom I presumed to be his girlfriend. I didn’t say hi; I assume he wouldn’t remember me since our first meeting was so brief. He never saw me as he boarded the bus; we never saw each other again.

Second Encounter: 4.5 Years Later, on the Streets

… until 4.5 years later, when we were walking on the streets.

At that time I had just quit my day job and was starting PE. Ken saw me walking towards a traffic juncture and stopped me, “Hi, Celestine, right? I’m Ken Soh — we met in NUS Students’ Union. BizCom. Do you remember me?” 

It took me a few seconds to recall because we had met so briefly so long ago. Oh yeah, that cute chairman guy! It’s been a few years but wow he still looks good! I thought.

I was actually quite shocked that he remembered me because (a) we had only met once before and spoke so briefly, (b) I didn’t even think he would remember my face or name from that one encounter, much less 4.5 years later, and (c) he was the charming chairman with (pretty) girls flocking after him. (I later learned that he was scouted to join NUSSU Manhunt while he was in campus — Manhunt is a male model and beauty pageant — and emerged as the first runner-up, which further proves my point.)

Like in our first encounter, this was brief. We exchanged no more than 7 lines in all. Since I just started PE, I gave him my name card — this time of PE — which had my blog URL. I didn’t think that he would check my blog or stay in touch because… well, that’s how people are. They take your name card, say “Let’s keep in touch”, but never do.

And expectedly, we didn’t (stay in touch). He never messaged me and I never contacted him since I didn’t have his number. Not that there was any reason to do so, since we were 2 different individuals with 2 completely different lives who happened to bump into each other at 2 different points in our lives.

I thought that would be the last I would see of him. Until another 4.5 years later, when I was touring in South Africa.

Initial Skepticism

So when I saw this out-of-the-blue message from this guy whom I had only met like twice in my entire life and who had never tried to reach out before, my first thoughts were skeptical at best. I immediately thought,

How did he get my number?

and

Why is he suddenly messaging me?

I guessed he had saved my number from one of the name cards I had given him before, just that he had never reached out.

I didn’t understand why this guy was contacting me out of the blue. I thought maybe he was in some MLM and was trying to sell stuff to me (lol). Maybe he was starting a blog/business and needed my help. Maybe he was thinking of doing coaching and wanted my perspective. Maybe he was messaging a million girls and he was messaging me as one of those girls.

But honestly speaking though, there was nothing wrong with his message — it was genuinely nice and warm. Not only did he bother to check my Facebook page to see what I was doing BEFORE messaging me, he took note of the fact that I was in Joburg and noticed what I just had for dinner. I mean seriously, who even does stuff like this nowadays?? Many people are not capable of such sensitivity and kindness.

(He later told me that he even googled how to say “hello” in Afrikaan before messaging me, hence the “sawubona”!)

Pleasantly surprised that he still remembered me and curious as to why he was messaging me, I responded:

My initial message to Ken

(Singapore is 6 hours ahead of South Africa. Since it was 11pm where I was, it was 5am in Singapore.)

He responded right after:

Ken's response to me on Whatsapp

I smiled. How rare that a guy would be so open in sharing, I thought. It seemed he was sincere in conversing. Plus, he spoke about my work (referencing my site and Facebook page) and I thought that was sweet. He seemed friendly, sensitive, and without airs, and I liked how the conversation was going.

So I responded:

My response to Ken on Whatsapp

And hence began an open, free-flowing conversation between the both of us.

A Brewing Connection

By the time I was ready to return to SG on April 24, we had exchanged 12,770 words over Whatsapp. That’s 919 speech bubbles in 16 days, making it an average of 57 bubbles per day. While we initially messaged each other a few times a day, it gradually changed to once every few hours, to every hour, and finally to every few minutes.

Continuous Messaging… Wanting to Hear From Him

I can’t explain why we were messaging so much. For me, I didn’t intend to communicate with anyone back home while I was in Africa. I just wanted to be in the moment and enjoy my trip, which I did. I actually put many friends’ messages on hold while I was in Africa, with the intention to respond once I got back.

However, Ken had this sensitivity and sincerity that made me keen to hear from him and share more about me.

He would read every single one of my messages carefully (even when I was typing large volumes of text), absorb and fully understand all I have said, then respond to them in very sharp detail, something which not everyone can do (they either gloss over what you write and give a brief reply or they don’t even register everything you have typed because they are simply not that observant).

He always included questions in his responses, which gave me a reason to continue messaging and share about myself. (Some people only talk but don’t ask anything, so the conversation ends after a short while.) 

He would make an effort to know about me, such as asking me what I was doing for the day, checking my Facebook page, checking out my articles, asking me about my work, and asking further questions about whatever topic we were talking about.

He was very kind and caring. He would tell me not to reply whenever I had limited phone credits left. He would tell me to clothe myself well because it was cold in Joburg/Cape Town then. He would also intentionally watch the clock and hold off messaging me until 10+am in South Africa every day because he didn’t want to wake me up with his messages. (That’s 4+pm in Singapore.) Who even does that these days??

His caringness also extended towards others. For example, he took time to celebrate his parents’ wedding anniversary with them and even treated them to a sumptuous dinner. (I don’t do that; actually I don’t even know what my parents’ wedding anniversary date is. I suck.) One time he cancelled his appointment because his ex-girlfriend called crying (some personal problem) and he went to meet her to calm her down. Another time he took time off work to send a friend to the hospital (because he stayed near her) and stayed with her until her friends arrived. These are just some of the many caring things about him I had observed.

He was also very reliable. I could always expect his responses within a few hours, if not minutes (usually the latter as we began messaging more frequently). He was a stark contrast from the flippant guys I had met in the past who leave you wondering when/if they were going to text you. If he ever took longer than usual to reply, he would explain why that was the case (e.g., long meeting, was taking a nap, or was with a friend), even though I never asked nor expected him to do so. Ken was a nice change, a very nice change from what I had come to expect from past dates.

A Strong Emotional Bond… Hampered by My Fears

It was obvious that an emotional bond was brewing (a strong one at that).

Here stands a sensitive, kind, reliable, patient, sweet, and empathetic guy, I thought. If I were to give a score, Ken was easily scoring tops (A+++) in just emotional quotient alone. His kindness and sensitivity were at a level which I had never seen in any other guy before.

Whether this brewing bond was platonic or romantic — I didn’t know. For all I know, he can well be a player, I thought. I also thought that he could just be a nice guy who wasn’t interested but was simply being, well, nice.

There were fears which I had to break through and a 5-round intensive interrogation which Ken had to pass before we could get together.

Proceed to Part 3: Addressing My Inner Demons, where I share the inner resistances I had to break through before I would get together with Ken.

This is part 2 of my love series where I share my love journey, how I met my soulmate (Ken Soh), and how to attract authentic love into your life.

Images: Reflection shot, Girl with hair covering face, Bright light