Limits

I’ve discovered a love for testing limits.

Today, I finally found the time to check on my Cocktail Thoughts newsletter in Mailchimp — for some reason the campaign hadn’t gone out — and discovered that my account had been suspended due to “compliance issues”!

Where previously I might have gotten frustrated, this time, I felt a sense of excitement.

This had never happened before. I’ve used Mailchimp to send out all sorts of campaigns, including ones that were hard-selling vape juices. What happened this time?

Was it because my content was about alcohol? Considered adult-only?

Maybe because my list was imported and there were no age checks?

Was it because I’d linked to something I shouldn’t have?

The possibilities are varied, the Acceptable Use policy is vague. I contacted the Compliance team at Mailchimp. And if I get a response with more specific answers, I would have truly learned something.

I’ve realised that it’s a good thing to know the limits of one’s tools.

For example, if you advertise prohibited products on Facebook, your ad account will be banned. If you create multiple accounts on some forums, your IP will be banned no matter how soft you sell.

The more we use them, the more we learn about what we can use them for, how we can use them and what will make them break.

Implicit

Today is the eve of the New Year, which means that for the next 15 days, there will be rounds of visiting and merry-making. There will be lots of alcohol, I hope. 

More and more these days, I see social media posts and ad campaigns about how to respond to relatives who ask prying, personal questions like: when are you getting married, why so fat already, how much money you making now? 

We see these questions as annoying. But lately, I’ve realised that perhaps these questions are the only words our elders have to express how they feel. 

When they ask “when are you getting married”, they’re really saying, “I hope you have someone to look after you.”

Any questions related to size and weight mean “I want you to be healthy.”

And when they ask how much money you’re earning, what they actually want to say is, “Are you happy? Is life treating you well?” 

Having lost family members throughout the years, I’ve begun to appreciate even more the ones who are left. 

When I listen with my ears, it’s easy to become annoyed. But when I listen with my heart, I can hear all their wishes of love, concern and good intentions. 

And instead of annoyance, I am grateful that they are still around. 

Can-do

The things you can do if you stop saying, “I can’t.” 

I’m starting to realise the extent of it. 

An actually-in-use chalkboard menu at the bar

In the past, I would say, “I’m not good at art. I can’t draw.”

And yet, when necessity calls for it, I find that I’m able to churn something out. I’ve begun to wonder if the things we say we can’t do remain that way because we say it. Because we don’t try. 

Two years ago, I couldn’t make sense of sheets and databases. Having used only a word processor for most of my working life, even slide decks are a challenge for me. 

But last year I forced myself to create the company’s budget in sheets. And by the end of the year, I was able to do things like connect Google Analytics, write scripts and build tracking dashboards in sheets. 

The human brain is elastic. There’s so much that we can train ourselves to do. Like a muscle, the brain stretches itself to do what is required. We need to place it in an environment that provides a challenge.

But we also need to give it the time to grow. We must be patient. And we must be gracious. 

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.