According to the Chinese horoscope, those born under the year of the Ox are typified by such words as “methodical,” “steady,” “patient,” and “reliable.” The Ox is generally described as a “stubborn” creature. That sounds so dull when I compare myself to the descriptions of the other animals, like the Monkey or Tiger. Dull or not, my horoscope indicates how commitment has been a no-brainer for me, even at an early age.

Commitment means finding something I love and sticking to it. In this respect, I’m not very calculating when it comes to activities or people. Some folks learn things or make certain acquaintances based upon obligation, or gaining a foothold and leveraging themselves up in society. Me? I prefer pursuing matters because of personal joy and enrichment. Hence, while I may not be a person of large influence, the relationships I cultivate are true-blue, and the activities I enjoy sustain me.

Here are some activities I’ve committed to:

  • Letter correspondence: it started in primary school, when I roped my best friend Coral into writing correspondence letters back and forth, all while balancing homework and class. My appetite for letters didn’t end with Coral, and I’ve filed away every letter written to me, under that person’s name. I still love receiving a thought-filled letter that’s written just for me. In fact, deep friendships and even romantic relationships have started with the mere penning of a letter. Sadly for me, letter writing has been replaced by the ubiquitous email. Email’s efficient, but letter writing can be a craft. I’m finding new ways to express my writing, having run out of pen pals…like this blog.
  • Creative Arts: if I wasn’t writing, I was drawing. As a girl, I was obsessed with drawing horses. My school books were covered in Pegasus and unicorns. Then it was anime figures, with the pointy chins, humungous eyes, and crazy hair. Drawing lead to painting, and sculpture, as well as ceramics and videography. Finally, I settled on photography, first exploring the different mediums of analog (large, medium, 35mm format), as well as lighting and darkroom technique, and toy cameras. Nowadays, it’s my 8 megapixel digicam and Photoshop. I’m a real sucker for museums and cultural events.
  • Reading: is there ever a place I’m without a book? The library was my best friend from an early age, and it’s never let me down, called me names, or betrayed me. There’s a book in my tote bag, on top of my toilet, by the sofa, and stacked up on headboard of my bed.
  • Food: my mother tells me that when I was a girl and introduced to a new dish, I would eat it until I had my fill. This meant meal after meal I demanded the same dish over again, captivated by its flavour. I once ate bitter melon by the bucketful, outdoing even my father, who has a serious penchant for bitter melon. During my teenage years I ate in a phase-like manner: long lasting periods savouring TV dinners, string cheese, Eggo waffles, tuna fish sandwiches, Kraft macaroni and cheese. My twenties were spent cooking alongside a soon-to-be restauranteur, our time spent experimenting in the kitchen, perfecting dishes, catering the odd event, and hosting dinner parties. These days, I’m neither a gourmand nor dogmatic about diets, but I do treasure cooking most of my food from scratch, valuing nutritional balance. Food remains a central writing theme for me. The only real parties I enjoy are the dinner parties I throw, and of course, I am an ardent dinner guest, remaining deeply appreciative of any thoughtfully prepared home-cook meal served to me, no matter how humble the fare.
  • Swimming: I came to this activity relatively late, but have more than made up for lost time. Swimming happened purely as a consequence to Lasik eye surgery in 2001. Prior to that, my athletic prowess was less than stellar, always confined to stereotypical, uncoordinated geekiness, and a fear of breaking my glasses. Eye correction surgery gave me a new lease on physical activity, and after just five swim lessons by a very hunky Carlos, I was hooked. I went from zero activity to swimming six days a week. It transformed my self-confidence, my metabolism, my body image, and health. Lap swimming remains a meditative activity, and the smell of chlorine elicits a Pavlovian response in me.

When I told my friend about my boring horoscope reading, he said, “Those are just words. Don’t think about the emotional connotations. Every word has its flipside meaning.” And just like that, he helped me feel fine. Because when you think about it, isn’t “tenacious” very similar to “stubborn”? It just sounds better. Call me stubborn, methodical, or committed – I get shit done, which is my reputation.

Erica, 34, London UK