a Christmas that doesn’t feel like Christmas at all

I can’t believe it has been so long since I last posted anything. It’s getting increasingly challenging to post on WordPress, metaphorically. There really isn’t much to write about and I just do not have the inclination to write. It’s easier on other platforms perhaps, to share, words or pictures.

That said, as I checked out the blog’s page, I realised that the drifting snowflakes are back! Obviously I haven’t activated that this year, so I guess it is a feature that has carried over from the year before. Looking at the snowflakes, I can’t help but feel the sharp contrast to what we are experiencing this year in Singapore; the weather has been nothing short of scorching, warm and humid, save for a few bouts of slightly gloomier, cooler and wetter moments that offer some kind of respite from the heat that is so uncharacteristic of this time of the year. Indeed, if these are the effects of global warming, I really shudder to think of what could lie ahead.

Such weather pushes any thoughts of Christmas far away from my mind, which automatically links the heat to ‘summer’ season. On the other hand, the shopping belt and malls have started pretty early in ramping up the festive vibe, with the decor and then when they began playing Yuletide tunes that kind of sets the tone to get people into the spirit. I didn’t want to, and seldom buy many gifts for Christmas in the first place but as I bought one, the others somehow just seem to follow. It is always a blessing to give than to receive, although I wouldn’t of course refuse presents that come my way!

Going through a period of simplifying my life and hopefully eschew the more material parts of life that I used to (and probably sometimes still do) hanker after. After all, we all come into this world with nothing and will leave with nothing, why should we indulge in material items that don’t do much other than to artificially inflate our egos? It’s something I try to convince myself, that material things don’t make or define a person, definitely not me. I don’t become a “better” person just by carrying an expensive bag, or wearing expensive clothes or shoes. What matters more and most is what is inside of me, which are not what so-called branded items can define.

Anyway, before the year runs out… we have another 10 days or so before 2017 arrives, if I don’t come back here to do another post, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

right believing leads to right living

This is something that my pastor usually talks about. I’m not about to go into my belief, which I think is something personal and I don’t need to share it publicly. But rather I thought this is a very apt phrase – “Right believing leads to right living”. Simply put, it just means that believing in the right thing(s) will cause you to lead a life that is.. right and good. What is right and good, is of course debatable and subjective depending on person. But it generally corresponds to something like, not doing the wrong/illegal things, and also perhaps in terms of mind set, not thinking the ‘wrong’ things?

I don’t know if I were a born pessimist. But I would admit that for the most part of my life so far, I have become sort of a pessimistic person. It is not chronic, for I still do see the good in some situations and I am not constantly in a state of depression as there are still bursts of optimism, hope and sunshine in my life. It’s just that, my life and my emotions often go through a crazy roller coaster ride, which can happen many times a day. It is tiring, to say the least, but whatever option it is that I am going for, whether it is believing in God for everything and letting God chart my life, or seeking tangible professional help, at the end of the day, it is still my mind that needs to be controlled. My mind needs to see the hope, believe in the hope that God has a great plan for me in life and that whatever it is that I am going through now, it is a way for me to grow, to learn whatever I need to that I am currently lacking in, to be protected from a path that I would otherwise have taken that might have put me in harm’s way.

I am trying very hard. With His grace, I want to believe that this is possible and every single hurdle that looms up in front will be cleared and overcome, and I will come out stronger and better.

As I was going through some files, I saw a lot of my travel photos from the past, when I was in my previous job. I remembered complaining about the fatigue from travelling to places far away, not the glitzy, glamourous cities that we associate with business travel. I remembered complaining about the lost weekends and personal time because of the need to start the business trip before the work week begins, and after it has ended. The discomfort of not being able to get proper and quality sleep due to the different time zones, being stuck in cattle class, the need to take red-eye flights, suffering from jet lag.

But I also remembered and reminisced the peaceful and happy moments when I managed to squeeze in some form of sightseeing in those nondescript places that these trips led me to, enjoying the wonderful cuisines of these countries and marvelling at the magnificent sights that Mother Nature had created there. The euphoria of heading home after a trip and the real feeling of ‘being home’ when the flight touches down in Changi. The anticipation of seeing my family again, of being able to feel the familiarity of Singapore and having my favourite local food, being dressed comfortably in our national ‘costume’ of shorts and T-shirt, not needing to be all wrapped up for the cold, wintry climates overseas.

Was that meant to be just a phase of my life that has passed and become another chapter of my life’s history? I don’t know. I do miss travelling, but I don’t know if it is not God’s plan for me to continue a life of frequent jet-setting. I can still travel leisurely, and it definitely beats business travelling. But there is always a difference, because I can’t afford to travel as often on my own expense, and I won’t be going to some places that I won’t travel on my own.

My last business trip was to Shanghai.

shanghai_nov2013

I am thankful that I didn’t have bad memories of Shanghai. In total, I think I have been there 4 times, and they were all business trips, and always in times of generally fine weather, either March or November. I didn’t have to go through the nastiness of summer in Shanghai, and on several of those past trips, I had the opportunity to meet up with friends or family who work/live there. It had been kind to me, and on that last trip, it was good as well. I was even given a farewell gift by my German colleague, which although small, was a really nice gesture that touched me, despite that we were not exactly that close since I only meet her when I go on business trips. She knows how much I visit Starbucks, which we usually also do when we travel, so this was what she gave me.

shanghai_nov2013_1

How about this alternative?

Somewhere along the way, I dreamt a dream – to work in a cafe. Not as an owner since I don’t harbour lofty dreams of a proprietor, but just as an employee, calling that role a barista, service crew or what-have-you. In a place like Singapore, unfortunately, it isn’t a ‘dream’ that is quite practical or realistic. It isn’t that this can’t be a full-time, permanent job but it requires a great deal of adjustment in many aspects.

SB_path

Being someone who has worked in the corporate sector for more than ten years post-graduation, in an air-conditioned office sitting at a desk for the most part of the day, it would definitely be a big change if I were to say, become a service crew at a cafe. Type of work aside, which instead of facing the computer screen all the time to facing people, customers, who can range from nice to nasty (which is not so different from people we encounter in our corporate working lives, but sometimes with more complicated characters and situations thrown in the mix), it also means a lot of changes that need to be made to adjust to the possibly big gap that will result from the pay differences.

I know it isn’t impossible. It’s just like how I often relate stories of friends who have become SAHM, where the family becomes a single-income household, that it is not impossible to cut back and cut down. There are of course the more well-to-do ones who even with a single income, they are still able to enjoy a fairly good and above-average lifestyle, including luxurious shopping treats and vacations. Then there are those who just make do with what they have already been blessed with, and limit family outings to local excursions.

With financial commitments just inked in the recent years, and without proper planning for the near and longer medium term, it will be a hard choice to make, which at this juncture, could jolly well mean a point of no return. Yet it is often said that, if you don’t try, you will never know. So then, it again goes back to the choice. To do or not to do. It really depends on how ‘adventurous’ one’s character is to throw caution to the wind and follow the heart?

Hello.

It’s been more than a month since I last updated. Like I mentioned sometime ago, blogging sometimes feel like a chore. It’s again one of those things that I had taken for granted; something that I used to find a breeze, and enjoyable, has now become tedious. There is still a lot that I would love to write about, to share, but to articulate these thoughts and put them into this virtual space, is becoming a drag. It is easier to do so on other platforms, micro-blogging if you would call them. Even then, it still proves to be a bit of an effort.

Where I have fallen short of here, I do bits and pieces of it through micro-blogging and Instagram.

Went and came back from a one-week trip to Tokyo. It went by in a blur even though I didn’t have any itinerary, and for the number of days I was there, I actually went to fewer places than I did on most other past trips. It is always good to have a change of scenery, even if I am doing the same things that I do when I’m back home here. The frame and state of mind are just different and it makes the whole experience different somewhat.

As I continue to deal with various issues in my life, whether to tackle them or to get them sorted out, let’s hope that at some point in time, I can get back on track, or maybe, who cares about coming back on track if I can embark on a brand new and better track? I can only pray and hope so.

The journey of thoughts

It is not news that I generally am someone who is dissatisfied with many things in life. It’s a given that complaining is a national past-time, and me being a true-blue Singaporean, am also wont to complain all the time. It ranges from day-to-day trivial issues like crowded trains (what’s new), to slightly more serious matters like future plans. Well, the latter is relative, because to me that isn’t trivial but to another person it doesn’t mean a thing.

Anyway, I have always been told to learn to practice gratitude, appreciate what I have in life instead of being a chronic complainer. It is definitely something easier said than done, since being caught in the moment, sometimes it is just easier to vent and play the role of a victim. It is easier to blame the whole world for everything that went wrong, rather than to quiet the mind and consider all the other possibilities that could have been worse off, breathe and move on.

Recently, I have been trying harder than ever, to be appreciative. It is a journey no doubt, but I hope I will be able to proceed in a positive direction. I still am not happy with my life and every circumstance that have led to where I am today. I can complain till the cows come home and frown at every single item that I feel has caused me to envy another person.

But then, comparisons usually lead us nowhere. Sure, they may spur us to improve and probably at some point they will, but raising the quality of one’s life, is something that should be intrinsically-motivated rather than because we see something that we want to have just because someone else has them. Besides, envy and jealousy are hardly desirable feelings since they only leave you feeling bitter with another person or yourself.

And I also try to resolve to move on, move forward. We are all told not to look back too much, for the past has been cast in history and looking back and reminiscing on the good times can create a warm feeling, although sometimes these are felt on hindsight. But looking back and regretting what was done or not, leading to unhappiness, serves no purpose.

So what is the point of this post really? Nothing much other than to serve as a reminder to myself of what I thought I ought to do. It may be incoherent by some accounts but it’s just a way of ‘verbalising’ my thoughts and putting these ruminations into words. I’m just glad that Monday is almost over. More the next time…

Downsides of technology

Much has been lauded about technology and I won’t deny that its development has brought so many benefits to modern life, some that I can’t imagine being without. But we have probably heard and known enough about all the good things that technology has delivered so it’s really meaningless to continue praising it here.

Technology has its downsides as well, which many of us probably also know and acknowledge. By doing so, it doesn’t mean that I’m deploring technology or being unappreciative of the convenience enjoyed as a result of technology. It just means that perhaps we have to be mindful of it, and understand that technology should be a means, something like a slave, rather than master, of our lives.

Too often, I have witnessed and experienced, social situations such as gatherings, dinners or the likes, where instead of engaging the people seated face-to-face with them, people are busily tapping away at their smart phone screens, whether scrolling through Facebook news feeds, Whatsapping their friends, checking their emails, or otherwise. It is absolutely pointless that a group are seated physically together at a table yet their minds and focuses are elsewhere. Kudos to technology for enabling us to communicate with people across geographic locations, obliterating the distances in-between. Yet we can’t fault technology but how human behaviour has evolved to lack the consideration of “face-time”. Sometimes I have been exasperated enough to ask pointedly at my lunch/coffee/dinner partners if the issue is so urgent that their digital conversations have to take precedence over the face-to-face chats. Mostly, they will absentmindedly wave you off while they continue texting their friends.

Mobile phones and tablets should really be banned during such occasions but how many actually have the discipline and courtesy to practise this? I can be very absorbed in my phone too, I won’t deny that. But those are usually times when I have nothing better to do, for example whiling time away when waiting for someone or during the daily commute. I try to make it a point not to keep checking my phone or stow it away when I’m out with someone, unless it gets to the stage where my presence is redundant.

It’s just annoying. And plain rude.

Change – the only constant

Over the last few years, it seems like so much has happened since when I started working. Although it’s been more than 10 years, in the whole scheme of things, comparing it against the number of years that I would be in the workforce it isn’t such a long time. Yet, everything feels surreal and like in a drift.

When we were in school, there were always milestones to reach and goals to achieve. These were set for us by the academic system, to enter primary school, pass the PSLE and go on to secondary school, clear GCE ‘O’ Levels and either go to a JC or Polytechnic. From there, it could be onward to University or for some, they decide to enter the workforce. For most part of that schooling journey, exams are sort of the climax of each phase, and there is a fairly fixed time frame to work with. But the game changes entirely when we enter the working world. There are people I know who have set goals to retire early, as in reaching the stage where they choose to work, and not work because they need to. Then they work tirelessly towards that. I am not so ambitious, because simply put, I don’t know how I can work towards that, and I don’t know what would be a realistic age to set. As it is, I am not exactly young but yet not that old to look forward to retirement.

Sure, given a choice, I would rather not be working in a job where the only thing worth looking forward to is the monthly pay-check, and sometimes the bonus, or lack thereof. I would also want to arrive at the self-actualisation stage defined in Maslow’s hierarchy where work no longer feels like work, and that I actually enjoy what I do day-to-day. Then again, the lack of spirit just makes me think that is myth. Or it boils down to the fact that I don’t really know what I like to do. And if what I sort of enjoy doing can become something that could earn me a livelihood, or if I could even motivate myself to work so hard to be so good at it to make it a revenue-generating activity.

Some people have set other kinds of goals outside of the corporate life. To them, they accept that work can only be something that pays them to do what they like to do beyond it, so their goals are defined in their personal lives, such as getting married, owning a property (and more thereafter maybe), having children, and so on. The moment the kids come along, the milestones also change to revolve around their growth and development, and finally their own retirement. This is not something that I have considered or thought of at this point.

I don’t know where I am heading with this entry. It was just motivated from my internal rumination as I went through some photos and thoughts that surfaced when I considered the people around. Sometimes, life feels like a tiring and tiresome journey. We try so hard to keep things going yet it always feels so one-sided and pointless. At some point, it almost becomes that things I used to enjoy, I don’t really do and I don’t know what is it that I enjoy anymore and what is it I would enjoy at all. Everything just feels meaningless – life, people, things. Even travelling doesn’t seem appealing anymore because there just is no point in it.

Collated a set of food pictures from more than 3 years ago when I went to Tokyo, and as I looked at them, I realise that I no longer enjoy some of them, and don’t eat most of them anymore. Have my taste buds changed or do I just don’t get enjoyment from eating anymore?

Tokyo_Jan2012a