How stamp collecting transformed an introvert’s life

|     Yong Chuan Chee     |

IN this story, you will discover the epic journey of an introvert whose life has been

transformed in a colourful extrovert world by stamp collecting. Reading that first sentence, you probably be wondering what is the connection between stamp collecting, introvert and extrovert?

Since young, I was an introvert, a shy person. If anything happened, I just kept it to myself. Stamp collecting is just a way I express myself in my ups and downs. Introverts have difficulties in expressing themselves.

Most of the time, they are being misunderstood compared to extroverts. They are always feeling guilty and constantly find themselves in a dilemma.

The word introvert has its roots in the Latin words intro (inward) and vertere (turning). It characterises someone who tends to turn inward mentally. Introverts on occasions evade large groups of people and enjoy spending time alone. This is in contrast to extroverts who find energy in interactions with others.

File photo shows Borneo Bulletin news clipping about a stamp collecting activity organised by the Brunei Postal Services Department to commemorate Brunei Darussalam’s Silver Jubilee National Day celebration. – PHOTOS: YONG CHUAN CHEE
Photo provided by the writer shows a collection of stamps

My journey in stamp collecting began when I was seven years old. I was given some stamps by my father. That sparked my interest in stamp collecting as a hobby which has been growing ever since and as such my collection has increased over the years.

Stamps are a window to the world. They can tell you about a country’s history, geography, politics, economy; fashion, culture, great achievements, famous citizens and so much more.

There are many ways to acquire stamps: By asking people to give them, exchanging with other stamp collectors, buying from a dealer or at an auction, buying from a post office and many more. The list is endless.

As mentioned earlier, when I was young I was an introvert and stamp collecting helped me in my personal development and growth over the years. In order to acquire and increase my stamp collection as a student with not much pocket money, I used an inexpensive way by asking my friends, neighbours, classmates, relatives and virtually everybody around me to give me stamps.

Through this way, I developed the courage, strength and confidence in interacting with people, even with strangers. After many trials and errors, I gained communication skills and negotiation experience in stamp collecting. As years went by, I became more confident in communicating with people and opened my world to the outside.

My stamp collection grows over the years with many extra stamps to exchange with other collectors. Therefore, I built up my courage further by asking people who are willing to exchange stamps with me. The process again involves an important skill: negotiating. Sometimes, I need to convince the stamp collectors to exchange a number of stamps for certain rare ones. This again polishes my negotiation and communication skills.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and witnessed the historic moment of the Reunification of Germany. The Internet era began and revolutionised the world in every aspect of our life and with it, stamp collecting moves up to a whole new level. In the cyber world, the possibilities are endless.

On Facebook, there are many stamp collecting exchange club webpages available and through them I am able to exchange my duplicate stamps with other stamp collectors around the world.

The blessing of the Internet era is that the world has become a smaller place. As Internet users, we can reap the rewards of a diverse and exciting hobby in an age of technological innovation, be it making contact with fellow collectors around the globe, bidding online for rare stamps or researching the history of an unusual stamp.

On one Facebook stamp collecting exchange club webpage, I made friends with many stamp collectors around the world. My extra duplicate stamps are exchanged with other collectors, helping me to get varieties of stamps in return in an inexpensive way.

On the webpage, there are thousands of collectors and I can simply exchange stamps with them with the simple click of a button.

Stamp collecting has not only enhanced my knowledge but also helped me make friends with many people from all walks of life cutting across different continents, countries, nationalities, languages and cultures.

I am truly grateful that I have found stamp collecting as a useful and meaningful hobby to fill my leisure time.

In conclusion, life is short. So, why not make it extraordinary and leave a lasting legacy? Remember: life is a mission, not a career. A career is a profession. A mission is a cause. A career asks, “What’s in it for me?” A mission asks, “How can I make a difference?”

Martin Luther King Jr’s mission was to ensure civil rights for all people. Mahatma Gandhi’s mission was to liberate 300 million Indians. Mother Theresa’s mission was to clothe the poor and feed the hungry.

These are extreme examples. We do not have to change the world to have a mission. As educator Maren Mouritsen says, “Most of us will never do great things. But we can do small things in a great way.”

Indeed, stamp collecting has changed my life tremendously.