Why

Three years ago, if someone had asked me the question “Should I learn to code?”, I would have said yes in a heartbeat.

I was fresh out of a coding bootcamp. I wanted to build the world and everything felt so within reach.

Ask me the same question now though and I’ll answer with a question: Why do you want to learn to code?

If it’s because “code is the language of the future”, don’t bother. Learn Mandarin or Spanish instead.

If it’s because you’re curious about data science and machine learning, brush up on basic statistics first. There’s no point learning Python if you don’t even know the relevant data to collect or what the word “correlation” means.

While knowing how to code is great, and can often make things a lot easier, it takes time to learn. It’s something you never stop learning.

Think: Would that time be better spent on other things?

But I’ll admit that I’m coming from a place of privilege. Other than coding I have a skill that I’ve been practising for far longer — writing.

These days I only code when I absolutely have to, or out of intellectual curiosity.

If using code to solve problems makes your brain come alive, I say, go for it!

Forecast

It’s almost the new year, which means that I’ve been doing some research on customs, the symbolism behind each dish served during the reunion dinner, and of course, the zodiac. 

Like Western astrology, there’s more than just one sign or animal at play. How do the planets and stars align at the time that you were born? What animal is dominant during that exact second? Your year, month, day and hour of birth tell a story.  

But it is only one story of the many parallel stories that life branches out into. Way leads on to way, said Robert Frost. There are many forks in the road. 

So here are some predictions:

  • 2019 will be a lucky year if you are prepared for it to be. 
  • There will be many good omens if you look out for them. 
  • Success is around the corner if you work for it.
  • You will find happiness if you choose to. 

And here are some things to take note of:

  • Taking care of your health this year is vital; eat well.
  • Avoid overworking as it may lead to burnout.
  • Carve out time for your family and/or loved ones.
  • To prevent personal stagnation, keep learning.

Grateful

I used to think that people were innately good. But lately, I’ve realised that we aren’t. We have a wild streak and often behave badly.

But we want to be good. And we often are.

I am constantly being reminded that there is so much goodness in the world.

Today, I was at the police station to pick up a copy of my accident report. (I had a car accident over the weekend and the report was only ready on Monday.)

Waiting my turn at the counter, I realized that I had to pay for the report. “Do they take card?” I asked the guy who was ahead in the line and was almost done with the process.

He asked the policeman behind the counter. Negative.

“It’s not a lot. How much cash do you have?” he asked.

“I have zero,” I said. (Yes, I tend to go cashless most of the time.)

He asked the policeman what my fee was — RM10 — and paid for me. I offered to repay him. Bank transfer, BigPay? He refused, said it was okay.

These random acts of kindness are being done to me all the time. I’m grateful, and it makes me want to strive harder to be good as well.

SOP

Sliding open the door to the bar feels like opening the door to go home. It’s familiar, it’s comforting. 

Los Flowerpecker has been my happy place in the last four months. 

I’ve been disappointed by many things in the last quarter of 2018, one of which was the loss of my team. I made the mistake of thinking that we were more than just colleagues, that we were friends as well. 

Water off a duck’s back, is what I tell myself. And LFP is where I feel the most duck-ish. Where I’ve somewhat become part of a new team. 

At LFP, the rest of the world fades away and nothing matters except the now. There’s beauty in standard operating procedures. 

The way the bar tools are laid out before the day’s service starts. How the bottles click against each other as I take them off the shelves, wipe them, put them back up. The straight lines of jiggers and shakers. 

The bar on a busy night is a balancing act between chaos and order. 

The front of house is chaotic — people are indecisive, they’re messy, they don’t know if their friends are going to show up. 

But behind the bar, there is a system. There’s a reason why everything has its place. There’s a reason why you wash dirty glasses anytime you get the chance. 

That confluence of opposing forces and navigating within them makes me come alive. 

Try again

What do you do when you fall off a horse? You take a beat to check on yourself, and then you get back on.

After 18 days of writing 200 words per day, I fell off the horse and missed two days. There’s always the urge to catch up, but the weight of all those unwritten words can become debilitating.

It becomes friction. So I’m dusting myself off and getting back on the horse again. New ride.

In the world of horse-riding, this really seems to be the standard piece of advice. “If you ride, you will fall off,” says an article on The Spruce Pets. (I’m always on the lookout for new hobbies to pick up.)

And in spite of recognising that the possibility of falling is there, the rider still chooses to ride. But not without preparation.

There are ways to avoid falling — by being aware and staying in control of oneself. There are ways to prepare for the fall — by wearing protective gear, having a game plan.

And then, there are proper methods for falling. Know how to release. And when you land, roll away from the horse’s legs. Reduce the damage.

It’s a lot like failing at things in life.

Bodytalk

Sometimes all your body wants is enough sleep.

For the last three months, I’ve been battling major skin issues. I wasn’t sure if it was eczema or bug bites. At one point, I even suspected scabies.

I boiled my sheets (and some of my clothes), cleaned my surroundings, slathered on creams. And yet the ugly red marks remained.

Then on Wednesday when my alarm rang at 7am, I said fuck it, turned it off (instead of snoozing) and went back to sleep. At night, I didn’t set an alarm for the next day.

Three days in a row, I got my eight hours of sleep and I began to notice that the red marks looked less angry, slowly blending back into the background of my skin.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been sleeping at between 3-6am. This is normal, for me. The only difference was that I’d been forcing myself to get out of bed between 7-9am.

There are so many things I want to do and I’ve always seen my body as a vehicle. It’s always been a tool to propel me through the day, a shell my mind lives in.

But that mindset doesn’t work.

When the body has had enough, it finds a way to speak. And eventually, bodily harm hurts the mind as well.

Grey

Living in grayscale. It feels like that’s what I’ve been doing since I turned off colour on my phone.

Although some people do it to reduce phone usage, I find that it hasn’t brought on that effect for me. 

But while my time spent on the phone hasn’t reduced, it’s changed my phone use behaviour. 

Although I’ve turned off notifications for most social media, I still found myself opening these apps at random times of the day. I still found myself scrolling through aimlessly. 

That is, until I switched to greyscale. 

The first thing that greyscale does is make those apps less noticeable from my home screen. 

When I do click into them, greyscale makes them less engaging. 

What I end up doing is switching to one of my reading apps instead — iBooks, Kindle, Medium. Or even to my Notes app to write. 

Having on greyscale doesn’t make the real world more colourful. It hasn’t made me more focused on the now. It hasn’t made me more mindful. 

It’s just made certain phone activities less interesting, and has created a change in my default behaviour when it comes to phone usage. 

There are days when I think the human brain is much like a computer. There are complex algorithms at play within our grey matter that handle more variables than we are aware of. 

Like AI, our brains need to be trained. So that our bodies do what they should, not what they want.