Skin

My mother says that the last time my skin had a flare-up this bad was when my father died. Could it be that when it comes to stress, I am not as self-aware as I think I am?

In an article about identifying burnout before it happens, Anisa Purbasari Horton highlights three symptoms. 

If you’re (1) chronically exhausted, (2) overly cynical or (3) feel incompetent and unproductive, it’s possible that you’re about to be burned out. 

There are ways to combat this, the first of which is “recognise when you’re burning out”. 

Reading this article, I wonder if it’s possible that burnouts are also an effect of working with certain people. That it’s not so much the work, or the amount of it, but rather, the people you work with. 

Maybe besides filtering out negativity from my social life, I should also filter out negativity from my work life. 

I’ve worked with people who had completely different working styles than me, who lacked direction and changed their mind constantly, who were quick to place blame for failure on others but take credit for success. 

Rather than continue to work within these situations, telling myself that I’ll be stronger for it, I must learn to make a stand. Perhaps find better ways to deal with these situations. 

Look for positive ways to let out all the stress, rather than see its effects on my skin. 

Lines

In one of his latest Creative Caffeine emails, David Sherry writes:

Am I a writer? An author? A designer? A photographer? A Founder? A Coach? A Product Manager? A Marketer? 

I am all of them. I am none of them. I speak the languge. 

David Sherry, Creative Caffeine

And again, captures exactly what I feel in words. This is why I keep reading his newsletters. 

Although I mostly call myself a writer, I do and have done many other things that are “out of my scope”. 

There are days when I finish a concept for a design and I wonder why, if I call myself a writer, am I excited about how design works. 

I spend more time reading about marketing and bartending than I do about writing. 

As a writer, I haven’t read “all the right books”. There are days when I wish I could properly label myself, but there are other days, when I just think fuck it, and do what I want. 

“We used to draw lines everywhere,” writes Sherry.

“But those lines are being brought down and rearranged.”

He writes that having lines helps us create some structure for “producing our work”. But then he adds:

We will use lines to set context, but like an etch-e-sketch, right after the lines have fulfilled their role, we will shake the slate clean again.

Simple

For a time, I wondered how I could justify my passion for luxury within the idea of living a simple life. 

Although I don’t enjoy shopping or buying a lot of things, I love my bags. I love eating fine foods. I would like to drink a dram of $1000 whisky every night. 

Can someone who loves money as much as I do live a simple life?

But Seneca said, “We should not believe the lack of silver and gold to be proof of the simple life.”

In the Daily Stoic email newsletter on What the Simple Life is, it reminds me that it’s not about what’s going on externally. How much I spend, or how much I own. 

“Someone can be a billionaire, flying on a private jet, totally at peace, and indifferent to money, just as someone else, much less well-off, might be grinding their teeth in envy and resentment. 

“You can swear off materialism, but if you trade it for public recognition of your superiority and purity, is that really an improvement? 

“Or if you live frugally but obsess over every dollar, miserly extracting as much savings from every situation and interaction, what kind of peace is that?” 

And isn’t that the main goal of living “the simple life”? Peace. Tranquility. The ability to enjoy the present moment, no matter what that moment may hold. 

Loss

Last night I had a dream in which I was so angry, I woke myself up when I punched my pillow. My father was in the dream. 

It frightens me a little that although it’s been more than 15 years, he’s still so present in my life. That the gaping hole his absence left behind is still as wide as it ever was. 

People say that time heals all wounds. But that’s not true. Losing a parent is like losing a limb. You don’t heal; you learn to live without it.

You learn to go through life as if you didn’t need that limb, as if your body has always been that way. 

But some days, you wake up and half-asleep, reach out to touch that part of yourself and you realise that it’s missing. And you feel the loss of it all over again.

I’ve been asked if my father would have approved of the person I am today. I always reply, “If he wanted a say, he should have been around.”

It sounds like I’m joking. But the truth is, I would have been a different person. I would have lived a different life. 

And sometimes when I think about my father, I think about that girl too. What kind of person would she have been?

Accustomed

The melancholy often takes me by surprise, creeping up on me after I’ve made my plans for the next couple of months. After I tell myself okay, things are good. You’ll survive. Let’s think about the future now. 

So I make plans, set them in motion, gear myself up for the months ahead. And then one morning, I wake up with an ache in my chest and a feeling of wanting to sleep forever. 

And yet, every time this has happened, the pleaser in me, the completionist in me feels the need to make good on the plans I’ve made. To fulfil the things I have committed to. Even if it was just a promise I made to myself. 

But it’s the worst time to get shit done. In the midst of this melancholy, is a sliver of self-doubt. Its whispers are further reaching than any scream. 

Its words slither their way into my psyche, manifesting in the form of vivid nightmares and realistic dreams. The line between reality and unreality begins to blur. 

I’ve begun to recognise its pattern now. I’ve learned to separate its voice from the other thoughts in my head. 

And I’ve become accustomed to riding it out, slowly doing all the things the other me has planned. 

We all work well together now.

Dream

Today I conducted a self-audit and one of the things I realised was that I spend a lot of time working. Based on the time I’ve allocated, I work roughly 45 hours a week. 

And yet, I don’t feel as if any of it is work. In fact, I often find ways to turn my leisure time into work. There are days when I wake up at 7am, excited to start work but have to force myself to go back to sleep so that I get at least six hours. 

I go drinking almost every night — because that’s what I love doing. I travel (only when I have to). I’ve read 90+ books this year. I finished a few series on Netflix. With the right investments and budget prioritising, I live a relatively comfortable life. 

This is the life, I think. This is the real dream that all the “passive income” course buyers are looking for. 

I see those advertisements on Facebook, on Instagram, selling courses about how you, yes you too! can make $5000 a month without lifting a finger. You can do it while lying on a beach sipping margaritas or pina coladas. 

And all these ads follow the same formula. It’s always worth some obscene figure, but because they are dying to share their knowledge, they’re selling the course for only $197 or $2997. The number always ends with a 7. 

“Anything that starts with I don’t want to work is already a problem,” said Gary Vaynerchuk in a video on “passive income”, where he also mentions these courses. He describes it as “people ripping people off”. 

Here’s the truth: There’s no silver bullet. There’s no magic formula. The pathway to living a life that you want is built — brick by backbreaking brick. 

Bubble tea

On Wedneday, I was at Starling Mall. A Tiger Sugar branch had opened there and because there were less than 10 people in line, I thought I’d try it to see what the hype was about. 

I saw the price — RM12.90 — and walked away. When it comes to food and drink, I like to be more selective with regards to what I spend on. 

Thinking about it later, I wondered why people were so willing to line up for more than an hour, and pay the price of a good meal, just to get a cup of milk tea with tapioca balls in it. 

And the real cost isn’t the RM9-15 price one pays. The real cost of lining up for bubble tea is time. 

Money is everywhere, but time is limited. Those hours spent in line are hours that you will never get back. 

I mean, I enjoy a good cup of bubble tea, but how life-changing could it be? 

Say, a person worked a full-time job, with a salary of about RM3000. Standing in line for an hour would mean spending RM18 on top of the price of the bubble tea.

Would it still be worth it then? 

If the answer’s yes, perhaps paying the person at the front of the line RM30 for his bubble tea might be an option.