Adulting

Whuuttt… 13 months since my last post. Atrocious. I told myself that I should write more in this blog but inertia and laziness has won the battle.

I should definitely write more to stimulate my increasingly stagnant mind, probably made so by the quotidian and unimaginative nature of working life as an adult. The thing about writing at work – sure, drafting emails does engage the mind – but the style of writing required is vastly different compared to personal writing, such as now. It almost feels as if the conduits of creativity within my brain have dried and shriveled; as if the previously firing neurons within the gray matter have sizzled out. Perhaps some literary penmanship could jolt some the life back. (New year resolution anyone?)

Writing at work requires concise and succinct writing, none of the superfluous shit you see here. The key is to use efficient and simple English without any hint of ambiguity, based on logical flow. And you have to put it in a way which your boss likes. Not the easiest job as I do not possess a major in mind-reading. However, expressing myself freely in writing, I have realize, seems to have an unshackling effect, almost like activating an “ON” button my mind. I can’t speak for everyone but as an introvert, penning down my thoughts makes me feel alive as opposed to verbalizing them, which drains my energy if they require my musings. On with today’s muse…

Adulting:

1) To do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

2) Being a responsible adult. Used by immature 20-somethings who are proud of themselves for paying a bill.

Source: Urban Dictionary

A term invented and oft used by millennials that “reduces” the inexorable event of growing up to an optional hobby, it tends to receive criticism from the older generation, who enjoy lambasting the younger generation for having it too easy. But then again, wouldn’t they wish their children a better life than themselves? Hmm… then again, I can see their point of view as youths nowadays are definitely not as self-sufficient as compared to earlier generations. However, history has shown time and again that every generation will compare themselves favorably to the next and point out the latter’s shortcomings, even though they were the ones responsible for shaping the next generation. I have no doubt that I will have similar sentiments of my kids next time (if I have kids, that is).

I think I have “adulted” quite a fair bit in 2017. It has been 2.5 years since I’ve graduated and started work; I’ve lost some of my youth (and quite a bit of hair) worrying over work and my mom’s health; I’m paying bills/renovation/expenses for my family; I’ve fretted over insurance coverage for my family; I’ve pondered over money for personal investments; I’ve a better idea of what I look for in a partner; I’ve adopted a silly kid (my dog); and I’m soon to experiencing my first ever job change. In short, if I’m a DOTA hero, I have probably reached Level 6 and learnt my Ultimate. Yes, I think quite a lot has happened in the past year. For better or worse, the verdict is still out, but adulting isn’t as awesome (or fun) as I envisaged it to be as a student.

At times I do miss the student lifestyle of relatively carefree days when the only concerns we had were tests, exams, and looking good to impress our eye-candies. In hindsight, I can’t help but wonder why we treated them as life or death situations in the past when in reality they were just minor stress events. In the grand scheme of things, insignificant and ephemeral  in the long run. “Adult” life certainly throws us more curve-balls, pressure situations, do-or-die scenarios which demand and justify our worrying. As with human nature, it is usually the things we can’t have that we crave for. We can’t rewind and relive our younger days, as the sands of time slip through the cracks of our fingers, leaving us only with the yearning of memories gone by. Adulthood is only going to get tougher.

So look forth I say, with optimism. Optimism is a unique human ability and concept, borne out of our developed prefrontal cortex (the part of our brain that makes us “human”, so to speak). It describes forward thinking and imagination through a positive-biased outlook, believing that the future will be better than the present, regardless of whether it is true or not. Hence, it is only natural that humans are optimistic when we are young. Boundaries are non-existent for work, romance, self-fulfillment and achievements. Physical and mental decline? Setbacks and limitations? Oh please, the skies’ the limit.

The years pass by with the blink of an eye and the countdown begins, not just for life itself, but also for the different phases in life. Career. Marriage. Family. Retirement. Savings. Alas, for some reason, optimism seems to be in shorter supply as we grow older, it seems. Whether self-inflicted, delivered by someone or something, or forced into it by social construct, we all get caught between a rock and a hard place (many times) growing up.  What is also true is that as we age, we all become that little bit more jaded, that little bit less optimistic. I feel it. The torrential bombardment (both figuratively and literally) of negativity reflected in news and media certain do us no favor in reversing this trend, and only serves to reinforce our grim dispositions.

“The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it he knows too little.”—Mark Twain

It also appears that the more I learn of this world, the more cynical I become of it. Maybe what they say about ignorance being bliss is true. Indeed, how do we maintain our sense of wonder and humor as we age? That is a mystery, which I want to solve, and I hope to solve. If anyone has the answer, do let me know 🙂

ALRIGHT time to sleep.

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Unconditional Love

Weary from my exertions in the gym, I shuffled my feet across the bus stop to plop myself unabashedly onto a vacant bench. Pumping iron is, and always will be a welcome distraction for me. From the doldrums of working life, and from the frustrations which life may present me. My mind drifted off in anticipation of what was lying on the dinner table later when I got home, prompted by my tummy which was rumbling in indignation.

“Tap… Tip… Tap…”

My eyes refocused as I watched a couple in their 30s alight from a bus. They were holding walking sticks and prodded them ahead cautiously as they tried to get a bearing on their surroundings. Their eyes were squinted close and the lady clung close to the man, as if she was afraid of losing him. The man led the way, angling his path ever so slightly whenever his stick hit a curb or a column. The couple slowly but steadily circumvented the obstacles before them, footsteps always in sync and in step. They were blind, I realized. Both of them.

The man had a rather serene expression on his face, one of quiet confidence which seemed to instill confidence in me too as I looked at him. The lady also had an equally tranquil look, but this time she held a faint smile on her lips as she walked with her partner. It was almost as if she had total faith in his stewardship as long as she was beside him. It then occurred to me that I had assumed, or rather, realized that they were a couple based on their expressions.

A wave of profound respect washed over me as the scene registered inside my head. “That’s really amazing,” I thought. “But also kind of sad,” whispered a thought at the back of my head momentarily. I quickly chided myself silently, for this couple did not need my sympathy. No, don’t be condescending dude. The truth of the matter is that either one of them is probably stronger than I will ever be, mentally and psychologically, I told myself. I cannot begin to fathom what it is like to live my life in total darkness, now that I have experienced the gift of sight.

I decided not to stare too long at the couple for it seemed rude if I did. I glanced around and noticed that some people were casting concerned looks at the couple. Although part of me wanted to ask if they needed help, I knew that any worries were unfounded for they were more than capable of taking care of themselves. As long as they held each other close.

Perhaps this is unconditional love, I thought to myself as I closed my eyes. Untainted by the superficiality of this world, untouched by any materialistic wants and needs, undefiled by any negative preconceptions which a seeing person may possess. Living in a world of pitch darkness is much like a defiant disregard of judgement, for what prejudice can there be when you cannot see flaws?

What kind of heartfelt stories might they share with one another? What sweet nothings might they whisper to each other? Or perhaps their relationship is one which transcends beyond speech, almost like a telepathic link that develops after two individuals spend too much time together. Or maybe a knowing touch of the hand is all that it takes to replace verbal communication. What if being unseeing actually uncovers the essence of a true relationship between two individuals – one defined by undistracted listening and genuine touch?

Perhaps this couple would know the answer to that question, of what it really means to have a soulmate. One who literally follows you into the dark and stands by you through thick and thin… albeit out of necessity.

I opened my eyes and turned around. They were already almost out of my sight. I smiled in my heart. As long as they don’t let go.

24th in Petra

Life really brings you to unexpected places at the most unexpected times. Just spent my 24th birthday last week in one of the 7 wonders of the modern world – Petra – trekking in the hot, blazing sun with 5 of my friends in the desolate, desert country that is Jordan. If you told me a year ago that I’d be spending my 24th traveling in Jordan, I would have scoffed at the ‘crazy’ thought. Well I certainly did not plan for this; it just so happened that a chain of events caused it to happen. If I did not make a last minute decision to go for exchange; if I did not receive Technion as my exchange university; if my birthday did not fall on the 10-day Pesach (Passover) break, if I had my own plans instead of tagging along… I wouldn’t have ended up there. Petra is worth a visit, it isn’t called one of the 7 wonders for nothing, but I feel that the entrance fee is a tad expensive. We got the 55 dinar 2-day pass to make sure that we didn’t miss anything out, but by the second day we were tired of walking. In case you’re wondering, 1 dinar is about 1 euro. If you go on a one day trip straight from Israel, it’s 90 dinars… talk about daylight robbery. But I didn’t like the fact that it has become so touristy and commercialized. I mean, are people really that lazy to walk that they have to take horse, donkey or camel rides up and down the attractions? It pains my heart slightly to exploit animals for such frivolous purposes of men. I can understand if the elderly or young kids require assistance up the hills but otherwise we have no reason to ride those animals. We’re given a pair of legs for a reason. It’s not pleasant to have dung all over the paths and steps too.


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Wadi Rum was a really refreshing experience for me, I really love the feeling of the wind whipping across my face when I ride the open-top truck across the soft sand trails and dunes. Not to mention the sand and dust in yours eyes and ears while the UV radiation eats away at your exposed skin 😛 Thankfully I went prepared with shades and cap with neck protection so it was pretty alright. I was eagerly anticipating a clear starry night with an unobscured view of the constellations at night but regrettably it wasn’t as cloudless as I had wished for it to be so we didn’t get an excellent view of the stars. Dinner was awesome and I ate 3 plates each for both nights after going a couple of days without a proper meal when we were in Eilat previously. Love how they cook the meat, potatoes and onions by burying them in the sand along with tinder/coal so the end product is pretty awesome. The Bedouins strike me as really humble and pleasant folk during my stay of the campsite. Our jeep tour guide cooked lunch for us in the desert and I was surprised to learn that he was only 20-21 years of age. Talk about maturity… One of the highlights for me was sand surfing from atop of a dune of considerable incline. It was definitely an experience not to be missed. The climb up was really exhausting though; it was like 3 steps forwards 2 steps back trying to climb up the soft sand carrying the heavy board. I’m glad I didn’t give up and completed the descent from the very top.

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The trip was tainted by an infuriating experience with cab drivers in Amman towards the end, which I don’t really want to elaborate too much. In short, there are a lot of unscrupulous cab drivers who are out to scam tourists.  Let’s bring the focus back to Haifa instead… 2 days ago, I got reminded of how hot summer days here are going to be. Having checked the weather forecast, I breathed a sigh of relief when it showed that the searing heat was an anomaly in the week to come. For now at least, I must treasure the splendid weather and enjoy the gym and swim sessions that I have been picking up on a regular basis. Because it is usually cloudless here, the land receives almost maximum radiation from the sun and it’s really bad for the skin, so I should get sunblock as summer arrives. In Haifa, which in closer to the north, it isn’t so bad because there is elevation and lush greenery so the temperature doesn’t sky rocket like the south, where the arid desert and low-lying areas are. I shudder to think how summer would be in the Dead Sea, which is 400+m below sea level. The dry weather here can be a double-edged sword for people accustomed to the tropical areas though. The lack of humidity negates the need for more than a shower a day because the sweat leaves the skin instantly leaving you feeling clean and dry but the skin may need some moisturizer from time to time to prevent excessive peeling or cracking. I’m used to it now though so I’m fine.

Now, some personal reflection and + points:

1) I like the fact that I can easily watch champions league and premier league matches at night without having to stay up late or wake up in the middle of the night. Internet speed here is decent so streaming is usually smooth.

2) A couple of my courses have working professionals from the industry as lecturers teaching us so they have relevant expertise in their respective fields which is really good. I think we should have more of this in NUS engineering too, instead of full-time professors.

3) Really fortunate to have access to the gym and swimming pool at a convenient distance from my dorm. Classes are also 5 minutes away from dorms so I don’t have to wake up too early to prepare.

4) Students here are not afraid to speak their mind in class and at times there is a gray area between class participation and rowdiness. It would be nice to strike a balance somewhere in between the class culture here and back home, where hardly anyone speaks up during class.

5) Lucky to be able to borrow a guitar, though only after a month here have I gotten one. Better late than never, because it has rekindled my joy and desire to sing and play music, making me realize that music really can heal your soul.

6) Count my lucky stars to have met the lovely people here who have made my life more colorful and fun, because really without them things around here would be less interesting. (Rawan, Aya, Malak, Bob, Wen Hui, Haggai, just to name a few, as well as random travelers along the way who have helped one way or the other) And for that, I am undoubtedly grateful…

Hmmm…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LyCC6jjcx8

This is a really interesting video talking about how time passes faster as you age. I really recommend watching Michael on his Vsauce channel in your free time because he talks about random but really interesting stuff. I learn new things every time I watch his videos which, by the way, are pretty creative, quirky and captivating. If you’re into discovery, science and technology, or simply an avid seeker of knowledge, go check out the Vsauce channels (there’s Vsauce 1,2 and 3 I think).

It’s now only week 4 in Technion (I heard that it’s week 10 back in NUS already). Surprisingly, it feels like ages since I was back home; last semester felt so very long ago, like a distant, vague memory drifting and dissipating in the abysses of my mind. Hmmm… which is weird because only 3 months have passed by, but it felt more like 6 months to me. I have traveled quite a bit in this period, so like what the video mentioned, I guess my time conundrum can be attributed to the “novelty factor” of being in new places and meeting new people, which hasn’t really worn off just yet. People have asked me if I miss home; and my response is simply a slight shrug with a nonchalant “not really”. I haven’t gotten homesick for now, but I’ve had cravings of Singapore food when think about cooking ideas. Upon hearing that recently there was a mini-drought, a haze and a mosquito outbreak back home, I can count my lucky stars that I’m away from all that at the moment. Sure, there are times when the weather here fluctuates like the stock markets, but I still prefer the weather here over the overbearing, stifling tropical humidity that I grew up in.

I’m enjoying my time here so far, having settled down comfortably in my dorm with Damien and Joshua. I really like spending time with them, because they are people whom you can joke around and say anything bullshit without being judged. Sometimes I feel that our personalities are similar, yet worlds apart at other times. It’s really good that we do a lot of things together, and spending quality bro time living under the same roof really reveals our strengths and exposes our flaws, most especially my own. Though I am usually an easy going person, I have come to understand that for harmonious relationships to blossom, one cannot keep doing things based on one’s personal gain; that at some point compromises have to be made. Personally, I find that it is often for the better to be open to new ideas and learn from others so as to improve yourself, rather than be a stubborn mule who sticks to old habits. I used to be a closet perfectionist who would chide myself for my failings in anything and everything, but nowadays I am more understanding of my own limitations and work around it rather than play the blame game with myself.

Israel is a really fascinating country for all its pros and cons, and I’ve really grown to appreciate its diversity and cultural differences. The societal dynamics is extremely complex and takes a while to comprehend fully; I’m sure even the locals here do not fully understand the country which they are living in as well. The social fabric here is so complicated that I find it amazing that it can still be stitched together (to a certain extent of course). Within the Jews and the Arab communities, they are further cleaved into so many entities, which is mind-blowing to say the least. In some sense it reminds me of multicultural Singapore, but I understand that relations are much more delicately perched due to regional tensions and existing conflicts. Though I cannot proclaim that the people live in peaceful times, because safety can never be compromised over here, I applaud the Israelis for making light of the bleak situations they fight themselves in. Israel has become the Israel that I see and live in today, after all the crazy events that have happened over the years, because of sheer willpower and determination of its people. I have also come to appreciate the past as I learn about the timeline and history of the land.

What I like about the people here is that most of them seem like the direct, no-nonsense and down-to-earth type. They are not shy about speaking out and making their feelings known, which is really, really the exact opposite of Singapore, where most people keep quiet and act blur but all of s sudden become keyboard warriors behind a computer screen. Of course, some of the Israelis may come across as being brash or abrasive in the way they speak and act, but really I think most of the locals are genuine and sincere people. I have a really positive impression maybe because of our buddies make such nice friends <3… I feel blessed and lucky to have met the friends we’ve made so far. In hindsight, it’s a good thing that I emailed to request for a buddy at the last minute because my name was left out in the email list.

I am thinking of working on maybe a short novel or something, but no concrete ideas just yet. Maybe something related to the people I’ve met here would be nice, like a life story perhaps? Then again, I may be too lazy to bring that idea to fruition haha…