Saturday, March 21, 2015

Above the Tree Tops

Crazy enough to walk for four hours
Through Macritchie Reservoir
On a Wednesday morning

It wasn't as hot as our last walk
In fact it was shady, with a bit of a breeze

We went up the Tree Top Walk
and Jelutong Tower
Both offered views overlooking the reservoir
Surrounded by pretty impressive greenery
Okay, maybe not so impressive
But it offered respite from the concrete jungle

The most relaxing part was the boardwalk
That runs along the side of the reservoir
Covered in shade by the trees
With benches to take a pause
We stopped plenty of times along the way
To enjoy the view
and appreciate the moment

Friday, March 13, 2015

To Stand in the Sun

When I'm on my way to work, the sun is barely in the sky. When I'm in the office, the sun is up and I think, "What a nice day. If only I were out." When I'm done, I head home and the sun has set. The day is gone, just like that.

Then one day I realised - I want to stand in the sun.

So before Chinese New Year, I served my last day at my previous job. It was my very first job, the one that gave me a chance to work and do something meaningful. It was the job that put food in my tummy and allowed me to contribute to my family. It saw me through races, holidays and countless parties (hey Zoukout and F1) and helped me repay my study loan.

After 3.5 years though, I am ready to switch gears. If you want change, you've got to do things differently. I wanted 2015 to be different, to stand out, be remembered. So call it risky, call me reckless but I'm taking the plunge. I'm taking one year off work, to have the flexibility and freedom to travel, dabble in photography, read, write, be outdoors, do sports, hit the gym, swim - basically, stand in the sun. This will be the year of learning for fun, learning without fear of failure, learning by doing. I'll sharpen my skills and produce work on my own terms.

I'm all too aware that it sounds idealistic. Even supportive friends cautioned me.  What about job stability, company insurance, benefits and leave? What about CPF? What about a monthly pay check? It's actually really scary not to have a monthly paycheck to depend on. But there's always this dilemma - you either get time or you get money. You can't have it both ways.

There's also no longer any KPIs and promotions - milestones to tell you where you stand. I have to forge my own path and that's scary. It's highly probable that this year will fly by and I'd have nothing to show for it. But at the same time, it's now or never. I would regret not taking this opportunity to seek clarity on what I want in my life now that I am in control of everything I do - can I make a living? Will it be meaningful? What are the limits I can push myself to? What is it that I want and can I achieve it without being employed?

That's a lot of questions to answer in a year.

In the meantime, I'm still grounded and I will be realistic and practical. I'm still working, albeit not in a "proper" job. I've been teaching tuition for the past 8 years and I've been doing well, so I'll take this year to throw myself into it, impart knowledge and inspire kids.

I don't rule out returning to the corporate world. For now though, I'm taking the year off to stand in the sun.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Epic Long Walk

Who knew that it'd be 
To walk from Harbourfront
to Kent Ridge?

Climbed Mt Faber 
Crossed Henderson Waves
and Alexandra Archs
Stunning views, looking from treetops

Then there was Hortpark
Cleverly horticulture and park
A swing, a colourful playground, and
Green houses that were boomz

It led us to a
but impressive 
Canopy Walk
Overlooking a nursery
At Kent Ridge Park

Ended at Science Park 1
When we saw office folks
A return to civilisation of sorts

We went to Botak Jones for lunch
At Clementi
And watched the world go by
at the void decks of HDBs

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Resisting the Urge to Text

My name is Jason and I think I'm addicted to texting.

It's not a serious. I'm sure I'm far from the only one who is! It's hard to escape when there are chat-apps like WhatsApp, Line, Snapchat and GChat, and then there are those with chat functions like facebook and Tinder.

The reason that they are there is because we can't get enough of texting. There's a need for us to connect instantly like a drug. At any time, I am able reach out to multiple people at once. So many brains, so many personalities, so many characters... find out what they're doing, what inspires them, what's on their mind. I text most when I'm travelling because, well, what else are you supposed to do right? But sometimes, even when we're out with our family and friends, we're texting to find out how other people are doing! It's an addiction, and for many of us, a form of escape from boredom, from being in the present.

So recently, I got to know this friend who touches his phone about 10 times a day. 10 times! His last seen on WhatsApp could be 8 hours ago. 8 hours! Compared to me, well, my last seen on WhatsApp is probably 2 minutes ago at any time of the day. He is a busy man, I get it, but if he's not on WhatsApp then how do his colleagues ask him for lunch? Or go to a meeting? Or give him work-related info? I was baffled. If I were to do that, I'd be crippled. I can't imagine living like that!

It then led me to wonder: What if I could? What if I could let go a little and resist the urge to touch my phone every second?

So, in an attempt to be more present, I've tossed my phone aside, put it out of reach. I've even switched it off for a couple of hours a day, which I found to be the most effective way of disconnecting. I focus on what I'm doing. I could be watching a TV show, writing or hanging out with a friend. With some effort, I stay away from my phone and after awhile, I forget it exists!

As with all cold turkey treatments, it's hard not to give in to the impulse. The most difficult time for me is when I'm by myself, and the need to feel connected is amplified. Some parts of me actually feel physical pain when my brain tells my hand not to reach for my phone.

It's been liberating. I no longer feel like I'm an answering machine. It's calming. I don't feel like I'm doing multiple things at once, all the time. I'm more focused. I get on with my tasks. They reap the feel-good-factor less instantly, but lasts way longer than the high of punching words on the phone. Oh, and that feeling of waiting for people to reply dies along with the desire to text. You don't measure your self-worth by the number of texts you receive or the number of people who text you. You learn to enjoy your own company, or that of people next to you, more.

Another thing is that if you text each other less, you'd have more to share when you meet up. And when the conversation flows, you wouldn't think of looking at the phone at all. When you resist the urge to text, you're in the moment, and when you enjoy the present, you won't feel the need to escape.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I've Moved to Punggol

The room is a bit of a mess but this is work-in-progress!

So, breaking news!

As of 5th January, I've moved to Punggol! Quite amused that some of you have offered to throw me a room-warming party. I'm just renting a room. Hold your horses - wait till I get my own apartment alright?

It's a huge step for me, and something I have wanted to do for awhile. I was apprehensive, of course. I second-guessed myself. Why not save up to own a place? Why rent? Why go through the trouble of moving? I've also had people asking me, "What's the rush? Why now?"

Well, I could feel age catching up with me. There was also the impending new year. I didn't want it to be empty talk, that 2015 would be different just because it's not 2014. If the new year is what we make it out to be - a fresh start, a chance to hit restart, a chance to build from scratch - then I shouldn't be conservative about what I could do. Just jump and have faith that I'd be able to handle whatever gets thrown in my way right?

There's also the longing of finally having a space to myself. I've been in Woodlands for 18 years (I'm sure most of you are sick of hearing me complain about how that's far from everywhere), sharing the room with my two brothers. It was about time I ventured from the nest and got a place of my own.

I went on EasyRoommate for a couple of months and one week I just told myself, "Ok this is it. Do it." I lined up six places that were within my budget, saw all of them in a day and settled on a pretty awesome place which was cosy and literally a stone's throw away from the Damai LRT.

Punggol is not the best place to travel to or from. I've had friends telling me I've moved to one another inaccessible corner. It is literally at the end of the north-east and to prove that point, there's even a place called Punggol End. However I was pleasantly surprised to find that with all the developments coming up, from new establishments to tonnes of new housing, it's really an up-and-coming neighbourhood, and an exciting place to be.

Now, I'm responsible for basic necessities, absolutely mundane things like shampoo and tissue paper. I've taken an interest in buying groceries, which is awesome because now I actually now how much a packet of seedless grapes or a bunch of bananas cost! My proudest moment was buying and fixing a standing fan for the room. It was pretty fool-proof but that's the first time I've had to do something like that.

I'm happy that I made the move, with the help, advice, encouragement and support from the people around me.

A million and one things could go wrong, and I feel vulnerable now that I am responsible for keeping a roof over my head. At the same time I've never been more serious about adult stuff, like my finances.

It's going to be a tough year with lots of uncertainty, but that makes me feel alive. As they say, nothing worth doing ever comes easy.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Letter from my Future Self

Dear Jason,

Great news! In the future, you're still the king of procrastination. This letter comes a month after Hendric and Jac (that's future Hendric and future Jac to you) wrote theirs. Hendric is still travelling the world, just that he has stopped piking. The missus gave him an ultimatum on that! As for Jac, she's currently on a project to convert what you know as the Logistics Hub to her personal walk-in wardrobe. She never stopped shopping.

First of all, you're still alive and even better - you're no longer afraid of death or more specifically, never existing ever again once you're gone. Morbid, I know. You think you'll never get used to the idea that you will never be you again but that's the fun part about being human. One day, you'll rest forever. Till then, you get to be alive! So spectacularly alive. There's much holding you back - fear, responsibility - and you, being you, crave adventure. There's no such thing as the right time. Go after what you want. Granted you're cautious and not that spontaneous, but strike a balance. You're a Libran after all.

Of course, as you make big changes to seek the lifestyle you want, be more prudent with your finances. You'll most certainly get where you need to be some day, just that it'd be great to live on more than oats and fruit daily but then again at my age, steak is too much trouble.

Eat all the steak while you can.

Good food does not whet your appetite as much as good conversation. And you can always count on friends for good conversation. But friendships are a little tricky. You appear easy to get along with. You've no problem getting friends. And then you turn out to be a little tricky to get along with. That costs you friends. You are fond of saying, "The door is closed but not locked." They are welcome to leave whenever they want. Guess that's a pretty good mantra. You could keep it. Those who accept you for who you are, and who know how to deal with your quirky behavior, will stay. They deserve better so treat them better. But if you don't, they're cool.

As for love, you never had a problem with that. (I mean, just look at us.)

Be less superficial.

Don't be afraid to spend more time with people older than you. Stop being intimidated by the fact that you don't know everything. Keep your need to be in control under control.

Think more long-term. Although that seems at odds with the search for adventure. Figure it out.

Be critical of how you spend your time and energy. Figure that out.

What you really want out of life would not be immediately present itself to you. Figure that out too.

You'll have one regret though, and that is not having written more. It doesn't matter if nobody cares, if nobody reads your words, if nobody follows your thoughts. At the end of the day, you will enjoy reading what you've written. It's most valuable thing that you'll own.Writing costs you nothing, except time and guts. There's a certain vulnerability in letting everyone see your thoughts, but it's also your greatest weapon - the ability to share, to inspire, to influence.

Sometimes it feels like work, and sometimes you do it for work. But as they say, do what you like and you'll never have to work a day in your life.

P.S. The Dauntless tattoo still looks as good.