This is quite a different year…

I can’t believe that we have reached the end of this shocking year with so many turn of events! Sure, Covid-19 threw us off our feet, but on a personal basis, I have never in my wildest dream imagined that I would do the things I do this year, and even now, I think I am still in recovery mode. This is the last chance for me to add one more post before the year folds.

Some of my most notable “achievements” and highlights include these:

1. Started gardening

Like so many people who contributed to the rising price of plants, I am one of them who caught the gardening flu during the Movement Control Order because of Covid-19. I have a whole blog post on this so I’ll save myself the hassle of regurgitating of how it all started. Here are some awesome pictures of my garden.

My little bromeliad corner
My little “princess corner” for the plants which couldn’t take too much sun
Another corner for those who love the sun
My significant other helping to create shade for the princess corner

2. Moved house

My moving house signifies a different stage of life and era for me. I rented a room in my friend’s house mainly because I find coping with lupus while travelling the distance (30km per way) to be quite taxing. I was very grateful that my bestie lent me a helping hand by allowing me to stay at her place. Two years went by, and many things happened to our lives. We went on to our separate ways, she moved out, and after 9 months I moved out as well. We kept in touch, but we have different priorities now. So moving out is a huge change to me. Furthermore I made a conscious decision to stay in a suburban area instead of in the city so that I could have a garden instead of staying in an apartment where I know I have to give up some of my plants. I was not ready for that.

I think this is one of the most tiring year for my other half

3. My blog gained more viewership even though I only wrote 6 posts this year

Truth to be told, this year has been a rather tough year for me, work wise. As much as I love to, I had no time, and was not in the state of mind to add more posts to the blog. In fact at some point, I felt that I was so overwhelmed that I might be mildly depressed. The strangest thing was my blog’s viewership actually increased when I was not posting any new blog posts. I suppose this has something to do with the “3-year rule”, i.e. many of your efforts will only be seen after 3 years, especially websites and blogs. I think the 3-year rule rings true for many things. Even for my plants, some took 5-6 months to blossom. If I gave up on them prematurely, I will not be able to enjoy their beauty.

In 2021 I am going back to develop my blog further, edit and weed out some of the not-so-great posts. I am going to think about content and have more interviews with lupus patients so that my readers could be inspired.

4. Quit a stressful job and moved on to a less stressful role

My job has always been a stressful one, as long as I lived. However there was something else end of last year and almost the whole of this year, which made me pull the trigger. Covid-19 was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Due to the pandemic, my team could not work at the client’s place, the clients were not fully digitised, and therefore work was delayed and there was nothing much we could do. By the time work resumed, it was already 3 months down the road, and there was just no rest for anyone. It was really tough.

I have been contemplating about moving on to something else for quite a long time. For me, the question was always: when will I hit my magic number for early retirement?

Amidst this pandemic, I have other questions such as:

-Is not working going to make me happy?

– Why am I feeling so reluctant to work?

– Is this money going to be enough for me to indulge myself in my expensive hobbies?

– Am I shortchanging myself trying to save more to early retire?

I think I have been in withdrawal for the longest time. I always spent time tending to my garden, surfing the internet to buy more plants, doing something else instead of spending time to pen down my thoughts in my diary. I thought once I have nothing to do, I could sit down and contemplate about these questions. But it turns out that I could not actually sit down and do nothing. It is tough. Or maybe I could, but I would be surfing the internet. I do not have answers to these questions, so I carried on with the other job that does not leave me depressed and exhausted all the time.

I tried a few new things this year, namely getting writing jobs, selling plants and trying to sell some printables. I could not persist too long with my full time job. I also dislike packing up plants and earning peanuts trying to sell expensive plants to people who will not appreciate it. I might be doing it wrong but I think even if I changed my method to sell, I am not entirely sure I want to make this a career, not before I have a piece of land to place all my merchandise.

5. Did not use my passport at all this year

This goes without saying with the current pandemic situation. I think this has to be the first time in 20 years I have not used my passport at all. It is saddening, yet I now sometimes consider what would happen to my plants when I am travelling. What about my dream of living in a different country every year? Probably just have to install some irrigation system that can be controlled from abroad.

6. Only read 2 books this year

I suppose for me the most surprising turns of events was reading only 2 books and adding more than 100 plants to my garden. Maybe deep down I will always be a hoarder, be it hoarding books or plants or some other collectibles. I also have a secret dream that one day maybe I will be selling off everything and start living a minimalist lifestyle. Until then, I will recommence my reading habit soon after I tidy up my garden and made it the one I have in my head.

This is a year that gave me a lot to think, and I see many different things in new light. It maybe my quarter life or mid life crisis, there was just so many things to think about, I rather not think. Humans are complicated beings, or can things be less complicated? Am I overthinking or there are some merits to the things going through my head? This is such a quizzical year, and yet I felt that I have done quite a fair bit this year. I hope things will improve next year, and I could find some answers to all my questions!

Happy New Year to you and I wish you all the best!

Burnt out because of Covid-19? Don’t worry, just keep moving.

“You are lucky that you still have a job!”

“A recession is looming! Don’t you ever think of resigning. You’ll never find another job!”

I wished I could feel nothing but gratefulness that I still have a job, but lately it has became increasingly hard to feel so.

Covid-19 has created history for being the latest addition on the list of pandemics that threatened the lives and livelihood of the human race every few decades. Whilst the death toll could not compare with the 1918 Influenza, the impact was nonetheless unprecedented and devastating.

The disease has triggered a ripple effect on the world economy, and many industries are hurting badly, especially aviation, tourism, live performances, fitness, eateries, beauty parlours, construction etc. The chain does not stop there. When the employees from these industries have pay cut or outright job losses, they could not pay their rentals and daily necessities, and that is how recession rears its ugly head. Unemployment rate has surged during this Covid-19 worldwide, and having a job is definitely perceived to be fortunate. It is no wonder that people who still have jobs are working harder to prove that they are still an asset to their employers.

So yes, I still have a job, and I am also burnt out.

Workers who still have jobs are experiencing tremendous stress. The economic ecosystem has already lost its balance, with a few players at the verge of dropping out of the system, and yet the existing surviving industries are still expected to perform with little interference. I work in the finance industry, and it appears that the stock exchange worldwide believes that no disruption could befall the stock market. The shareholders need their numbers and their predictions. The timelines must be met. There are many people involved in the preparation of those numbers, and with disruption in supply chain and customers’ payment, getting things moving has been harder than before.

My colleagues told me that they are experiencing precisely the same. Now we are working 10 hours workdays, and many are working through weekends. With the calls and various decisions-making cropping up (for eg. due to government announcement), work has not been efficient as pre-Covid19. The only known way to catch-up is to work more hours. Working more hours leads to mental and physical fatigue, and that exacerbated the inefficiencies. That is how the vicious cycle kept perpetuating itself.

I think we have to stop feeling guilty about not working the extra hours, if we could not. Here are some of the things that I felt that could help if you are now in that rut:

1. List down all of the things that you have to do

Having a full list helps you plan and envision the end results. I have 60 things on my list. I am not discouraged, in fact I felt that now I know “this is it”, I have clarity on whether or not I could accomplish what was on the list, and whether or not I need to speak to someone for help.

2. Achieve bite size goals everyday

Nothing is too small as an achievement. Pace yourself. Remember to strikeout items in the full list and give yourself acknowledgement at the end of each day. Remember that working home is not a walk in the park these days, simply because many other things are affecting the business that you are working in, and you are shouldering part of those burden as well.

3. Seek help and delegate

Reach out to your boss and staff to understand how is everyone coping. Chances are even your boss is feeling the heat. Discuss if you should prioritise any tasks, or if any timelines could be deferred.

4. Give yourself a break

Do things other than work. Do not lose your identity in the midst of all this chaos. If you could not finish the work anyway, what is the difference if you spent a 15 minutes doing that HIIT training or watching a video on hiking? If you continue working knowing at the back of your mind that you are forgoing the things you love, you will dread work even more.

5. Reconsider your options

At the end of the day, if your boss did not understand the difficulties that you are facing, maybe it is time to rethink if this is the place for you.

Chin up, folks.

The clock for global changes has been wound faster and like it or not we will have to learn to adapt. Maybe this means we have to pick up another skill, do a different type of work, or consider this as a crossroad, ie whether we have made the right life choices so far.  Give yourself a break. No-one could starve themselves to death in this 21st century. Hang in there. You just got to keep going. As long as you are doing something and achieving something everyday, you will get there soon.

Random thoughts on working from home and Covid-19

(With Leonard Bernstein full concert playing in the background)

It has been one month since our country was imposed with the movement restriction order. The order was to prevent the outbreak of Covid-19 and flatten the curve so that our healthcare system could cope with the number of patients. People are required to stay at home and only limited essential services, frontliners and food or grocery shopper could leave their homes.

With the constant bombardment of information and plenty of time on hand, it is almost inevitable that people are forced to face themselves and contemplate about their life one way or the other. I am grateful that I have a place to stay and a job that still maintain the pay, so I did not have to worry about my day-to-day life during the period of time. Here are some random thoughts that I have :

(1) I felt very accomplished completing house chores

I have always done my house chores religiously. But for some reasons, I felt more accomplished these days when I mopped the house, done my laundry, fold my clothes, helped with cooking, wiped down the stove etc. Maybe it is because being able to do these while working from home made me felt that I was able to live my life abit normally albeit the diminishing boundaries between work and after-work.

(2) Work from home – Yay or Nay?

I used to wish that I have a location independent work which I have the freedom to decide when I want to work, and no-one would be breathing down my neck. In my mind, free lance is the type of job that fits the bill. Now my wish has partially came true, I am starting to re-think if working from home is truly the life that I want. It is true that when you work from home, there is more flexibility. Save for conference calls, you can arrange when and how you want to do your work. Most importantly you keep your boss updated and there is results to be seen.

At the beginning of the work-from-home arrangement, there are so many conference calls that productivity is reduced significantly, especially when there are a few calls lined up. The whole day could have gone by without any actual work done. Calls can be extremely frustrating as well, with varied degrees of data connectivity issue, from both ends. There is also the part about the awkward silence when a question was asked because it is hard to call out someone when you do not see their faces.

After a while everyone just gets used to the tempo of working from home, but it does seem that it is now harder to segregate work and life. People tend to expect more from you when you are working from home.

Guess whilst having freedom to arrange work and life is important, I think a work set-up does help to segregate work and life, because no matter how much you enjoyed your work, time needs to be given to other parts of life and other people.

(3) Financial objectives – early retirement or job security?

When the stock market tanked sometime end February 2020, I started to re-think and assess which one is my priority: early retirement or job security. I have been saving up with a goal for early retirement since I stumbled upon a blog by Mr Money Moustache 4 years ago. Today I am proud to say I am on track, but just not yet. Short of 2.5 years’ savings. But now it is adequate for me to walk away and focus on doing something that makes me happy.

Of course the share market might crash yet again, with the pandemic having no signs of slowing down globally. In our country we are seeing good progress, having less cases each day, but everyone are still stuck at home, and businesses are suffering. Honestly this is the first time I felt that I cannot picture the light at the end of the tunnel. I could not phantom the world after Covid-19, when everything will be back to “how it used to be”. In fact, I am starting to think there is no such thing as “used to be”. It has already gone past the point of no return. Many things will change, and how people view jobs and life would change tremendously.

I have no qualms on the fact that I have not meet the milestone yet, financially, but I am in a good position to decide if I should take a leap of faith.

(4) People are the same, no matter where they are

This crisis has brought out the best and the worst of humanity.

When we stare at the face of a crisis, our reaction are going to be almost the same, no matter the colour of our skin, eyes and where we are. The most obvious phenomenon is panic buying. Granted there are different areas of concern for people in different location. Some might love their toilet papers more than the rest, some their furnitures, their groceries, and their masks etc.

The Aussie love their toilet papers
[Credit to Tracey Shelton/Al Jazeera]
Malaysians and their groceries.
Credit to TMR / Pic by Arif Kartono
The Singaporeans love their homeware
Credit to Twitter/infernoxv
The Filipinos queuing up for their masks.
Photo: AP

But at the same time, we see that everywhere people are donating money to help out the poor, less-privileged and homeless. Government of many countries are now providing temporary shelter to the homeless. Non-governmental organisations and volunteer charity organisations are reaching out and providing support to the frontliners and those who needed help. Humans will help out each other during these testing times.

(5) The system collapses when there is no more trust.

The first biggest mistrust that we human beings have is evident in the panic shopping. We do not believe that our fellow country men will purchase rationally and leave some food for us to purchase. So we buy in excess of what we need. We are scared to be the last person holding that last share of the company, so we panic sell. We think that everyone will take out the last cash in the bank, so we tell our friends “Cash is king”, and to take out as much cash as possible from the bank.

Why does recession happen? Give it a deeper thought and you will realise that recession happens because people believe that no-one will care about your well-being, your money, your wealth, and it was the mistrust which crushed the system, not some mystical force that sank us into darkness.

It is during these times I realised that the system is just a fallacy that everyone believes in. When people no longer embrace the system, that is when everything goes out of the window, and chaos happens.

(6) Me-time is important to me

I was grateful that I am not staying alone during these times. My family asked if I should head home before the restriction starts. But I thought that the purpose of the restriction order was not to move around and bring the virus to your loved ones, in case you are infected, plus my plants would all die if I am gone for so long. So I stayed. My boyfriend came to stay with me. We keep our work space separate, and only get together for cooking and exercise. We have our own work and hobbies, so it is crucial to be able to stay apart even if we lived under one roof.

Guess this is the part of working from home that I loved the most, having “me-time” away from human beings, but still being together with a loved one. There are moments throughout the day when I will go check the plants on the balcony, see if they needed more water, or if I need to move the seedlings in if it rains. It was a short getaway from work, I suppose. Also I get to listen to live music when I am working. My boyfriend did not necessarily love having those music played when he work, so having separate areas helped.

A saying appears more often these days: If you want to make God laugh, tell him you have a plan. This saying rings so much truth especially now. No-one can tell the future, on what will happen next week, next month, or even next year. Our movement restriction order has been extended for the third time, there are no certainties anymore on anything. All we could do is just treasure the time that we have now, and live everyday like it is the last, and pray that everything will be better tomorrow.

I hope I’m not pushing myself too much….

Time flies.. and I am in the exact period when I found out that I have a lupus flare-up last year.

Life has been hectic, work has been stressful, and my eyes are getting more and more sore as a result. Sore eyes is normally a direct result of stress. This type of stress arises when I need to conduct courses. I have no issues conducting courses, but I often worry if people would learn during my sessions, and whether my sessions will achieve the intended objectives. I sworn off courses in October due to the high levels of stress caused by my own expectations. Ironically, I had to conduct another two day course again this week. I was supposed to have several colleagues assist me with the instruction of the course, since I prepare most of the materials. And yet, 2 out of the 4 instructors that promised to help did not turn up due to compelling reasons. So I had to be there both days.

After two days, I am glad it is over. I could not help but think: everyone has got their reasons why they fall apart.. What about me? It was inconsiderate for those people who just go ahead told me that they could not make it, and then did not offer to find any replacement. Just because I am still alive, does not mean I need to shoulder the world, no?

This is not the end yet. This is the nature of the job I am in. After you finished saving one fire, there are more fires waiting for you ahead. There will never be real peace of mind, until the day you quit. I have not decided to quit though. I still need the insurance for my lupus. Haha. I could pay for my medical expenses, but if someone else is paying for it, why not?

I am due for another check-up the week after next. I really need to manage my workload for the next two weeks so that my lupus do not flare-up again and cost me another one year of same heavy immunosuppressant dosage again. I am used to eating medication every day, but it would be good if I could taper down slightly.

Everyday is another day. Everyday is a day we fight for our survival. Gods be good and please do not let my good old friend flare-up again.

The handover procrastination syndrome and how to overcome it

The handover procrastination syndrome is a syndrome where one feels that it is impossible to handover their current tasks to the next person because of an utter sense of responsibility. You worry that you might be passing on unresolved problems, and therefore hope to minimise the hassle before handing over. Ironically this procrastination created even more stress to the person as there seems to be no escape from the piles of responsibilities that should have shifted place long ago.

Continue reading “The handover procrastination syndrome and how to overcome it”