Becoming the Fearless Radical Optimist

They say I am fearless but crazy. 

They tell me that I am making a huge mistake and I will live to regret it.

Behind my back, they snicker and say that I am a reckless and irresponsible mother. That I am not only ruining my own life, but my daughter’s as well.

They cannot imagine WHY I would uproot myself and my daughter from the familiar comforts of Kuala Lumpur to go live on a farm. On top of that, I adopted ten “Spartan Sons” at the farm. They really have trouble reconciling with the fact that my teenage daughter spends so much time with 10 young men of non-pedigree lineage and raging hormones.

The WHY seems to fascinate or confound a lot of people more than anything else. 

Because from my privileged disposition, I should have chosen better. I could have moved to a nicer country with first-world infrastructure and standard of living. After all, that is what many Malaysians have done, leaving the country in search of better prospects. Similarly, Filipinos also leave the Philippines in order to have a better life. But Malaysians and Filipinos would normally choose to immigrate to countries like the USA, UK, Australia or New Zealand. Most Malaysians would not choose to relocate to a farm in Angat, Bulacan. Most Malaysians would not even know where Angat, Bulacan is.

I do not know when it started exactly. But after going at it for a while, it became increasingly unbearable to just sit behind the screen and work furiously at the keyboard – blogging, writing or preaching about life, love and fearless living. It was no longer enough to experience life from the cocoon of my laptop. I could have stayed a keyboard warrior, and be content with clicking that share, or donate button in order to feel that I have done my part in contributing to the world . But I could not be appeased.

These questions kept coming back to taunt me ~ IS THIS REALLY IT? SHOULD I JUST FOLD AND ACCEPT THAT THIS IS ALL THERE IS?

Yes, both my blog and Facebook Fan Page have been getting more fans/likes. More than twenty thousand to date. But what have I really achieved?

I have never been remotely heroic or selfless. I am most reluctant to give someone else my last piece of dark chocolate. I am still very much attached to the good life, first-world amenities and plumbing that does not clog. In fact, I was too lazy to even care about anything or anyone beyond my comfort zone. I did not harbour any grand ambitions of changing the world. I had believed that I could never change the world, because I did not matter to the world.

Hence, that remained my excuse for the longest time for not caring about the world and not participating in real life despite constantly griping about what’s wrong in the world. I had resigned further to a hermit-like lifestyle, whereby leaving my home could be likened to severing the umbilical cord to my false sense of security. Over time, it became a habit. And that habit became my cage.

I did not set out on this fearless journey to be a saviour. I could not even save myself. Or my daughter, for that matter. I had to do this because I refused to settle. By some divine grace, I managed to muster some courage and bouts of clarity to ponder on why I had to settle, to just accept my fate as it were, and be happy with it. For the longest time, I was not happy with any of it and I did not understand WHY.

Believe me when I say that I have searched in ALL THE WRONG PLACES (and limbs) to find happiness. It evolved from craving to be in relationships, to yearning to be alone, to kicking and screaming and wondering why I was all alone, to finally understanding what it means to be happy with oneself in the first place.

Therefore, this fearless path is not about happiness or perfection. It is about progression. My personal pursuit of transformation into the best version of me. Because the people I love and care about deserve the best of me. I deserve the best of me.

This is why my progress became instrumental. I want it to be a meaningful and fulfilling experience. Above all, healing. It should reflect my highest aspirations, and help me arrive at my own greatness. Every decision or step I make should take me forward, not backward. In this respect, it is not the destination that matters. It is the process of experiencing, learning, growing and transforming. This is why I would always choose the very things that scare me, that break down the walls of my cage, and shred through my limitations. Because feeling the fear is human, but staying afraid is a choice. Hence, it is my choice to embark on a journey that is liberating, refining and defining.

In going through the process and trusting it, I have also discovered my purpose. I really have to thank Tony Meloto, the Meloto Family, Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm and the people at Gawad Kalinga for helping me establish my purpose. Most of all, I would really like to thank my amazing 10 Spartan Sons.

Because of them, I embraced the higher meaning of community and family. Because of them, I am learning how to love Malaysia in a more hopeful way. Because of them, I have evolved from being the voice of a fearless radical feminist to a Fearless Radical Optimist.

Every milestone achieved in someone’s life is etched in strife, and dripped with his or her blood, sweat and tears. Until we learn to recognize each individual’s unique journey of becoming, we won’t fully value the glorious person they have become today.

When we know how to appreciate our very own process of becoming with beauty, grace and love; we would know how to do the same for everyone else.

In truth, we are all under-going our very own process of becoming. It is a constant work-in-progress. There are still flaws to be refined, mistakes to be remedied and weaknesses to be addressed. We will continue to fall and fail from time to time. This includes the farm, the Spartans, my daughter, me, and everyone else. But that does not mean that we should stop pursuing what is best for us. What is right for us. I would rather die than stop trying.

No, I do not know what I am doing all of the time. No, I do not have all the answers. All I feel is the joy reflected in my heart and my daughter’s smiles. I have not seen her face light up on a daily basis until she began staying at the farm and bonding with her 10 Spartan brothers. That’s priceless to me.

Yes, we are both very much changed from within. And we can never go back to being the people we were.

Yes, it takes courage and conviction to do what we do. My daughter and I. We have earned the right to build the life we want to live without apology or shame. We no longer wish to edit ourselves in order to fit into someone else’s reality or ideal. We are no longer afraid of our own truths. It is not our job to omit pieces of ourselves to make others comfortable. It is our job to live out our profound destiny with love, through love and in love.

What most people do not know is that the farm is not just any farm. And the 10 young Fearless Filipino Spartans are so much more than what they appear to be.

People do not understand that my daughter and I need the farm and the 10 Spartans more than they need us. We have become better versions of ourselves because of the farm and the 10 Spartans. Above all, we are both much happier.

Frankly, how would anyone really know all of this? They did not take the time to find out, or even visit us at the farm.

If they came to the farm and met the Spartans, they may begin to understand WHY.

So, this is my open invitation to everyone and anyone who is interested in finding out more. Don’t just assume or judge. Come and experience the WHY for yourself. Come and visit us at the farm.

May be, just may be, you might surprise yourself.

We are all valuable individuals that define humanity.

By becoming the best version of ourselves, we do make a profound difference to the world. 



All my love,



Being Afraid Is Human, But Staying Afraid Is A Choice.

  • Paul
    February 22, 2016

    That sounds cathartic Shirley – I applaud you on your choices and am quite frankly surprised and pleased that you would abandon a life of leisure for the rough and tumble of the farm. May all go well for you and your daughter.

    • shirleymaya
      May 4, 2016

      Thank you, Paul. Glad to hear from you again. Hope all is well with you. Everything is going well here for us at the Enchanted Farm. Felling very blessed 🙂

  • Thaman Singh Puran Singh
    February 23, 2016

    One is always reluctant and hesitant in talking the first step into the unknown territories. I applaud you for taking the step, you have mental strength and are brave. One fine day you will sit back and say, why didn’t I do this much earlier.Bless you and all the best.

    • shirleymaya
      May 4, 2016

      Hi, Thaman. Good to hear from you again. Yes, you are right. I am already thinking why I didn’t do this earlier. Haha
      I guess, when we are ready, the right path will start presenting itself like a bright star on a dark night. It is not easy but it is definitely rewarding. Hope all is well with you.

  • KC Tan
    February 24, 2016

    Thanks for sharing about journey in life as you move to Philippines. It looks like you are similar to the missionary who leaves the comfort of life and move to help those in another country who are not in such a privilege position as we have experience in Malaysia. In helping others who have less, we enrich our life and find our true self and true meaning for living as a human on earth. Keep up the good work with the Spartans!

    • shirleymaya
      May 4, 2016

      Thanks, KC. Glad to hear from you again. Hope all is well with you. My life is definitely immensely enriched.

  • Carol Balawyder
    February 25, 2016

    Oh, this is so fantastic, Shirley. I loved the video. It looks like a wonderful place and you all look so happy. I loved this: “It is not our job to omit pieces of ourselves to make others comfortable.” 🙂

    • shirleymaya
      May 4, 2016

      Hi Carol, it is always a pleasure to hear from you. Hope all is well with you. I think by this age, that is 46, I am done editing or omitting pieces of myself to make others comfortable. I am also less afraid in disrupting my own process of being. As you know, I am always searching for ways to become the better version of myself. Hence, the “disruptive” approach deepens the nobility of existence. Hope you can come over to the Philippines and visit us at the farm. Would truly love to welcome you here. Take good care. Hugs x

  • Joan Tormis
    February 27, 2016

    This is very inspiring. I cried when you mentioned Mr. Tony Meloto and Gawad Kalinga for they are the picture of an amazing world to be. I am a fan of Mr. Meloto and truly Shirley you are, too, an inspiration. You called them “spartans” for they wear spartan slippers…just guessing. You melt my heart away. Thank you for loving these spartans who are Filipinos…thank you for loving me as well…I am a Filipino, too. I will be praying for you and all your amazing endeavors. I salute you for all your hardwork…you are in the right track. Keep loving. I love you.

    • shirleymaya
      May 4, 2016

      Hi Joan, Thank you for your very encouraging words. We call them, “Spartans” because they are fearless in fighting their lesser selves in order to become their highest most powerful selves. As you are Filipino, you would understand the term: “Bayani Challenge”. Every day is a bayani challenge for these young “Spartans”. They grow into heroes of their own right in due time. This is the future of Philippines – the next generation of amazing Filipino Spartans rising. Walang Iwanan. 🙂

  • Mich-in-French
    May 5, 2016

    What I know is that people always criticise that which they themselves are either unable to do or don’t fully understand themselves. As long as you know that this road you are following is right for you then that is all that counts essentially. We need to be brave and half the problem with this world is that people have become cowards and living in an endless cycle of fear and trepidation.
    You are a brave woman and I salute you.

  • shirleymaya
    July 5, 2016

    Thank you very much for your supportive comments, Michelle.
    Fear leads to hate, hate causes pain and pain leads to suffering.
    We should end the fear, hate and violence due to our own lack of understanding or sheer ignorance. We should just start with ourselves. I would still like to believe that there are more GOOD in this world than bad.
    We are all brave souls inside, but still searching for a way to become our greatest selves. Much care x

  • Sun Bin
    January 22, 2017

    first time to visit your blog after reading an article from the philippine daily inquirer. how i wish more of the money-rich individuals of the world discover how it is to be more prosperous and abundant in non-tangible wealth – love, friendship, caring, giving, empathy – and make them realise that with dedication and purpose all these are after all realisable. thanks, Shirley, for stepping out of your world of pre-defined wealth and for showing the world a different – even better, in fact the best- definition of what it is to be wealthy.

  • Miguel sarabia
    January 23, 2017

    Dear Shirley
    You are a kindred soul. I too have a background of comfort and privilege. But I am always trying to do more than what was expected. My venue for this is restoring sight to the poor. You are a confirmation to me that this is the right path to walk thru life.
    Thank you

  • Kok Hoe, Paul Yong
    January 23, 2017

    Hi Shirly,
    Very inspiring, it’s amazing transformation for you + daughter and glad that you have found purpose, peace and meaning moving forward. Please keep up the good work, be careful always and hopefully we here will be blessed with a Malaysian chapter by you.

  • Adam's Grandma
    January 24, 2017

    Dear Shirly, Thank you for sharing your journey. I read your article yesterday and can,t help thinking about your sincerity and honesty in changing the lives of others. I adore you and hope to build enough courage to live a life of purpose like you do. I feel very motivated to be like you.
    May you and your family be blessed always.