The Wake-Up Call

When life sends you a message, don't let it go to voicemail.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
When life sends you a message, don't let it go to voicemail.
Corbis/Click Photos
Corbis/Click Photos

If you’ve ever seen House, Sherlock or any other shows in the mystery genre, you’ll recognise the classic signs: the music slows, the camera zooms in for a close-up, and our hero stops talking mid-sentence. His eyes widen slightly or his face stills – all of this signifying that a sudden awareness has dawned upon him. Turns out, it was… small cell-lung cancer! Or it was… the taxi driver!

In real life, however, realisations and epiphanies are rarely ever so cinematic, well-timed or even tidy. Instead, it’s often only with the benefit of hindsight that most of us realise our feelings of frustration, sadness or dissatisfaction were building up towards an epic, lifechanging revelation.

But, as it turns out, that’s what wake-up calls are usually for. They’re the silver lining of life’s stormy seasons, the light that awaits at the end of life’s dark tunnels. If you think of life as a learning process, they are those little slivers of wisdom that follow a challenging period of difficulty. So if you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “What’s the point?” – take heart and be patient. Turns out the answer is usually right around the corner.


“Two years ago, I was an active beauty YouTuber and blogger, but I was unhappy and depressed,” recounts Roseanne Tang ( “I still had to keep up with the smiles but the blogging industry was tough and it was easy to spiral into a fit of comparsions – where all I could think of myself was that I was not enough: that I wasn’t beautiful, relevant or interesting.”

“That year was tough for me because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this my whole life; to be judged and seen this way,” she continues. “But I wanted to try. After all, I was doing it for so many years already and to give up now would be a waste. So I fell into this trap of trying to be someone I kind of wasn’t – dyeing my hair brown, wearing fake lashes and ignoring the pain when I wore heels. The struggle I had with myself wore down my self-esteem and confidence. Funnily enough, it was really a war against myself and I had started it.”

If life feels like a constant struggle, “sometimes a wake-up call shows that we live in dissonance with our essence or we have forgotten our values,” says Ralitza Peeva, a Wellness, Leadership and Life Coach at COMO Shambhala Urban Escape Singapore. As such, it can reveal fundamental gaps in the way we live our day-to-day lives, says Ralitza. “We go through our days with our ‘eyes wide shut’, we take for granted too many people, and we have stopped noticing what is important in life. Or it shows that we have repressed our identity or needs, and we have lost ourselves in the constant effort to complete tasks, to do more, to be more.”


Though it can seem tough when you’re in the middle of an emotional crisis, it’s worth knowing that every challenge is also an opportunity – to learn. “A lifechanging moment allows us to get back in touch with ourselves and change the way we are,” says Ralitza. “Such a realisation unleashes powerful energies in us and is often accompanied by a wide range of emotions: anger or joy, fear or courage, shame or acceptance. But regardless of the type of emotion it generates, a life-changing moment is invariably a major step towards change and self-discovery, and becoming a deeper, more authentic and more compassionate human being.”

Translation: change is never easy, but it’s worth it. “Even though I was the one who broke up with my ex-boyfriend John, I felt a sense of panic before, during and after because I knew I was letting go of something good,” reveals Jolene. “It was only after the emotions had settled that I realised it wasn’t just the typical irreconcilable differences that caused the end of us. He wasn’t what I wanted; he was oxygen in a shrinking room. When I finally found myself again, I saw the relationship for what it was – an escape. Since then, I’ve vowed to give myself time before jumping into a new love and to always be myself in a relationship, as hard and as easy as it is.”

At the end of the day, says Ralitza, it comes down to that age-old cure to heal all wounds – time. “Take the time to focus on the meaning of the wake-up call,” she advises. “What does it reveal to you about who you are, about the way you live in the present moment?” When you’re in the midst of a big wake-up call, it can also be easy to get overwhelmed with emotion. So it may help to break time down into different stages in order to properly visualise your wake-up call for what it ultimately is – part of a necessary journey of self-learning.

“Our thoughts often bring us either back in the past, where depression and sadness live, or in the future, which causes us anxiety and fear,” says Ralitza. “We have forgotten to stay in the present.” And most importantly, don’t paralyse yourself with worry: “Take the time to stay in the moment and understand the emotions you’re experiencing,” she advises. “Think about the ways in which you want to change your everyday life, your immediate goals. Think of what you want more of and less of in your life. Make decisions and start with small steps. Just start.”

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Ask yourself these questions to find out if you’re in need of a wake-up call.

+ Do you feel caught in a cycle of doing things only out of duty, with no passion or joy?

+ Do you feel stuck in a rut or feel like you’re alive only when you are on holiday away from your everyday routine?

+ Do you feel chronically stressed, worried, tired, and half-alive?

+ Do you feel constantly anxious and exhausted, with long “to-do” lists and little sleep?

+ Do you wake up in the morning feeling pain all over your body?

Ralitza Peeva, a Wellness, Leadership and Life Coach at COMO Shambhala Urban Escape Singapore says: “Then it’s time for a wake up call. We live every day, not in the future. Change is always possible. You can always start being a better you. Start now: with a deep breath and with a note of gratitude.”
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