The New Beginning

I have to apologise first. This is a typical title for at this time of the year. It’s something I grew accustomed doing on an annual basis. So, I would like to take this opportunity to realign my goals for the new year.

2017 wasn’t all that great. It tasted remarkably bittersweet, laced with all the reasons to move on. The lingering pain is strikingly real and vividly memorable. I was reminded to stand my ground when my spidey sense for potential conflict kicks in. I realised there is nothing more important to keep doing what matters to you the most, and no one is obligated to safeguard your overall happiness.

The past year was most certainly, unpleasant. And I’m very certain that’s an understatement. But, whether I like it or not, it’s hard to deny that I grew the most the past year. For 2017, I’m glad that I got my financial issues out of the way, I’ll continue to save and invest for my financial independence in the future. There’s also excessive expenditure here and there, fluctuating with my emotional state. And I’m drinking just a tad more last year – I guess I’ve to make a mental note on that to drink moderately.

This coming year, I’m committed to executing what was said and not done. I’m determined to grow stronger – physically, mentally and spiritually.

In terms of physical goals, I’m pledging to improve my strength for the big 5 compound exercises: squats, bench press, deadlift, pull up and military press. I need to improve my body composition to look good for my upcoming travel plans this year.

For my mental goals, I want to learn sign language this year. It’s something I have put aside for way too long. On top of that, I need to hone my culinary skills. I would like to cook and bake more for this year. Oh, and the “guitar promise” I made years ago as well.

Spiritual goals would be focusing on my own happiness and learning to be more consistent with my goals. I’ll travel for this year – going places I’ve never been to, something I’ve put aside for the past year to focus on clearing my debt. Looking at the fleeting time, I’m certain that there’s no better time to do it than now.

Come on, 2018 – here we go again!

 

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Take Five

I stood there – a place I don’t quite belong. The grey smog suspended in midair – clouding my vision. A deep breath is heard and a quick drag after, the smog was refilled within a short distance between us. Like a wave, slowly ebbing and crashing back even harder. The tip of the cigarette glows in a bright, angry, fiery orange momentarily. It was then lowered slowly to the side, angled slightly outward, to avoid any unfortunate passerby.

To my greatest effort, I couldn’t release myself from the tobacco-tinted ethereal truth. My feeble attempt to dodge the smoke trail proves to achieve nothing. The reality is stark and obvious – all over my hair, adhering to my clothes and lingering in my poor, poor nose. At that very moment, I ache for air.

I stood up, gathering the courage to make a statement. Yet, no words left my mouth. “Who am I to dictate how one should live their lives?” I murmured under my breath. A sudden realisation to look at the same situation in a different light. And an internal struggle where I constantly question myself for not fighting for people and things that I deserve – not even the right to fresh, clean air.

“I’ll head up first; need to finish up something,” I said. To be fair, it’s not a lie, but a half-truth. I do have a project to work on, but it’s not a pressing matter at hand. As I took the escalator up, I took a deep breath and count to five. A long sigh follows closely behind.

Meeting Yoga

In a mere 4 years working on a desk-bound job, my body has taken a toll for more than I expected.

My mobility is crap. My hips and hamstrings are hopelessly tight, my right shoulder clicks all the time, and my wrists are both on the verge of snapping (at least that’s how it feels like). Let’s face it – I can’t squat down properly to pick up a pen nor I could sit long enough to feel my back begging for mercy.Sitting in a bad posture in front of the computer is bad, the only consolation is that I realised the necessity to do something about it at this very moment.It constantly felt like I am physically crippling away before its time. To be really honest, the thought is pretty scary. I mean, I literally can’t even scratch my back with my right hand. It could be worse, I agree, but I would like to do something about it right now.

Sitting in a bad posture in front of the computer is bad, the only consolation is that I realised the necessity to do something about it at this very moment.It constantly felt like I am physically crippling away before its time. To be really honest, the thought is pretty scary. I mean, I literally can’t even scratch my back with my right hand. It could be worse, I agree, but I would like to do something about it right now.

It constantly felt like I am physically crippling away before its time. To be really honest, the thought is pretty scary. I mean, I literally can’t even scratch my back with my right hand. It could be worse, I agree, but I would like to do something about it right now.

That’s when I met yoga in the wondrous land of YouTube.

Yoga postures look feasible, like a movement which your body suppose to work. Performing them, however, was a different story altogether. The more I try, the more I notice on the state of my body. The tightness, the sore points and the various problems that I have never realised before.

The worst nightmare in beginner yoga pose is the Downward Dog. I feel extremely awkward in that position. My hips are not high enough, my legs are not straight enough, my wrists are in pain and my heels are not on the floor. And we are not even talking about other poses yet. Yoga practice focuses on the state of your body and the awareness pushes you forward in improving day by day.  Let’s keep this going for now, and I will get there eventually.

Take a deep breath and release.

 

 

It ends or it doesn’t. 

It’s up to you, really. 

Either what you put yourself through (yes, I said what you put yourself through) finishes its course or it doesn’t – completely up to you. It’s ultimately your choice, in any event that took place. 

Whether we like it or not, we need to accept that everything has a beginning and an ending. But, don’t ever forget that it’s also your choice in every one of them.  

You decide to join a party. You decide to make friends. You decide to work for money. You decide to try a change. You decide to make it work. You decide to feel happy. You decide to not pursue your dreams. You can also decide to stop doing that. So what do you want to choose today?

“It ends or it doesn’t.

That’s what you say. That’s

how you get through it.

The tunnel, the night,

the pain, the love.

It ends or it doesn’t.

If the sun never comes up,

you find a way to live 

without it.

If they don’t come back,

you sleep in the middle of the bed,

learn how to make enough coffee 

for yourself alone.

Adapt. Adjust. 

It ends or it doesn’t.

It ends or it doesn’t.

We do not perish.”

– Caitlyn Siehl

Almost

She was beaming with enlightenment when she saw that post on Facebook. She walked over to the couch that I was slouching on and showed me a picture. 


“The world’s saddest word is the word – almost.” I must say, I agree with the sentiment. But isn’t the word – saddest, by definition, the saddest word in the dictionary. The attached concept of near to completion of a desired outcome, yet failing to obtain them to the word – almost, is regrettable. However, this emotion is derived from the unwillingness to accept failures right before its completion. 

One may choose to accept the concept of fate and write off this experience as “it was meant to be,” and that would not render the concept of almost being the saddest among other contenders. The degree of emotional investment are also subjective to the scenario. If one is less invested in the objective in sight than the others, the subject may not feel sadness in the same intensity despite the reference being the same case for multiple subjects. 

And even if you are heavily invested emotionally into the appropriate manner, you may not only feel sadness throughout the experience of potential loss and imminent failure. If that’s the case, is it still the saddest word ever? 

She looked at me and had to agree with my argument. Too bad, she almost had it. 

A Glimpse of Future

The door bell rang on a sunny afternoon.

I wipe my hands with a hand towel next to the fridge after I placed the experimental pie I was working on into the oven. “Coming,” I yelled while rushing out to get the door. Threw all my pillows up on the couch because it may set a bad example to the kids. I wouldn’t want to be the one to blame for messy upbringing.

I stood by the door and opened it when things are pretty much in place.

There stood Sharon and Esther with their kids. Sharon and her daughter were wearing matching floral skirt. Esther and her twins didn’t make that a priority. I squatted down and hugged the kids, but their names were a blur even when the names clearly came out of my mouth. Not sure how I handled the situation since there are so many kids, but things turned out to be fine. 

I ushered them into the kitchen and they all sat beside the counter top. After taking a bottle of red wine from the shelf, I popped the cork open and poured a glass of wine for the adults. And a little bit more for myself. They chuckled and still making jokes about me being alcoholic. I then head to the fridge and get the kids some milk. Yes, still loving milk after so many years.

We talked about work: how the market is fluctuating, how legislation could help, how to fix problems with an app, and basically everything under the sun. The kids were so cute when they are playing together.

By then, the kids have long left the kitchen and went roaming around the house. They would occasionally discover something interesting, you can tell when they are screaming or laughing uncontrollably. Occasionally, I would have to scream: “oh my goodness, be careful with that!” And run over to see if everything is alright.

I made carbonara with linguini – our sinful guilty pleasure since the day we know each other. And, refilled out wine several times. The kids were making a mess on their faces, which I made sure Esther clean that up before she leaves.

The pie in the oven is almost ready. You can tell when the sweet tart scent filled the air in the kitchen. I had too much fun watching them guess what’s actually inside the pie. Eventually, they surrendered and the I told them it’s beet root inside their bittersweet chocolate dessert.

The door bell rang again. This time, it’s two men outside of my door. Both arriving one after another right before the dessert ran out. By this time, the kids were sleeping on my large sofa covered with plenty of pillows. I let them in, and into the kitchen. Sharon’s husband helped himself to a bottle of beer and offered Esther’s husband the same. Wine is not their thing apparently. They each had a slice of the same cake and the surprised look on their face – it’s priceless.

Later into the night, we were talking and laughing on the carpet and bean bags. Losing weight, career advancement, investments and future travel plans, almost forgetting the fact that I had a TV. 

When it gets too late, they excused themselves and head home. They carried their kids in their arms, trying not to wake them. I hugged Sharon and Esther tight (except the husbands, since they are holding the kids), not wanting to forget any of this. I left the bottles and wine glasses on the coffee table. And fell asleep on the couch.

It was a good night.

And then I woke up, 20 years before what I thought would happen. It was still a very good night. 

Tokyo Sunrise

An RM800 return ticket to Tokyo.

My eyes were practically glued to the computer screen when my colleague, Vicky was standing next to me. I was partially poisoned by a full-fledged advertising campaign by Maddie, another colleague of mine, who just came back from a ten-day trip to Japan as well.”You will love it there,” she assured me with almost unprecedented confidence oozing out her every pore.

By the time I was thinking about the financial implication that I am about to incur, Vicky looked at me and asked: “What are you still thinking about? This is really cheap.” Well, she did have a point, that was what I already knew. How much is the entire trip going to cost me?

Vietnam Air was something I have never taken before. But oh, what the heck. I may not know when exactly is my last day, but counting back the days after deducting the possible amount of annual leave left, I should be able to go by the last week of June. When I clicked “Buy Now”, I know one thing for sure: I am definitely going to Japan now. With a quick search on Airbnb, I booked a bed in a dormitory for RM70 per night at a district near Shinjuku station.

I barely had the time to plan for anything. We were rushing for the Raya campaign in the office on the last few weeks I was with NagaDDB. On the very day of departure, I was only armed with Maddie’s itinerary (which was the most beautiful one to date I have ever seen) and Tokyo Cheapo (which was recommended by Calvin Choong), then I was on my way to the land of the rising sun.

The flight was decent, I was able to get 30KG luggage allocation and in-flight meal with an AirAsia price. The only downside is the one-hour transit at Hanoi airport, which I had no qualms about. Arrived at Narita airport in the morning and took Tokyo Shuttle to Tokyo station for 1,000 yen (~RM39). Then swiftly bought a Suica card for 500 yen (~RM18) and reloaded 4,000 yen (~RM156) at the Tokyo station.

Along the rail, I seek nothing. #liveauthentic

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I must admit, deciphering the Tokyo train system will take some time. Do spend some time on that on your first day before taking the super express train and ended up a few hundred kilometers away from your intended destination. Some lines like Odakyu line have local trains that stop in all stations and express trains that stop in some stations only. Avoiding the rush hour is a smart thing to do because remember those sardine-packed train videos you see on social media? It’s as real as it gets.

If you are 6ft and above, please be extra careful with low door frames, ceilings, showerheads, beddings and almost everything here in Japan. Travel light with small bags because maneuvering in compact shops and restaurants would require extensive planning as well.

Don't rain on my parade. #takemethere

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During my stay in Tokyo, the weather was not as forgiving as I wish it would.

It was the spring showers for the entire week I was here. Probably because of the rain, I was down with the basic package of under the weather: flu, cough, and fever. Note to self, avoid June at all cost. I was lucky to have a friend while I was there, KK bought medicine for me and my daily schedule was reduced down to 4 hours per day before my head felt like it was going to explode into million pieces.

Walked the streets of a suburban neighbourhood at Nakano, intentionally got lost between the high rise buildings near Ginza and wandered around everywhere in between these two. Liberating may not be the word I’m looking for, but it was surely distinctive.

Keep on keeping on. #takemethere

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I won’t discount the fact that it’s really fast-paced in Tokyo. People are all living their life, efficiently, I suppose. Beside one of the most advanced metropolitan concrete jungle, culture and history still lived side-by-side. Personally, I enjoyed the tension between progression and preservation in cities like this. They are reserved and open and the same time, which was starkingly interesting to me. You would see traditional Izakaya (Japanese restaurant and pub) on one end of the street and a 7-storey sex shop on the other end. Personally, it was very eye-opening.

Tell me that you won't forget me after you have moved on. #liveauthentic

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Eating was utterly euphoric in Japan, but please refrain from converting the currency. The trick here is to eat like a king during lunch hour by taking advantage of their lunch sets in most restaurants and eat Japanese food in fast food chains all around Tokyo for dinner. Lunch sets would roughly cost around 1,500 yen (~RM58) and dinner would set you back around 500 yen (~RM18). Take a random trip and have a go at the local supermarket and try their rice bowls. Their portions are huge, even for me, and it tastes amazing. Worth every yen you poured into the cash registry.

Take a sip of Japanese whiskey while you’re at it. Or, the newest craze in town, the Japanese wine, if you prefer something lighter. And grab a bottle of umeshu for 1,500 yen (~RM58) before you head back to your dorm and you’ll stay happy for the night and make some new friends too!

I won’t consider myself a shopping kind of person. You know, those who won’t buy anything even if he spent a day in Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. But when I took a spin at Tokyu Hands, a lifestyle store that sells practically anything under the sun (can be found in the more crowded train stations), I ended up with a mug, a coffee grinder, cold brew bottle, and three tea brewers, which set me back by around 10,000 yen (~RM390). I guess, I can’t resist creative solutions to our everyday grind.

I went on to meet up another friend, Chen Liang before flying back home. Splurged a bit on our food budget and tried the Japanese buffet Yakiniku (grilled meat) for 5,000 yen (~RM195) per person. Broke my allocation of meat for the entire week ahead, because it was simply a meat galore. If you can’t live without meat, please make sure you put this in your itinerary.

Took Tokyo Shuttle back to Narita airport and grabbed whatever was left of Tokyo Banana as souvenirs for around 1,000 yen (~RM39) for 8 pieces. I was carrying 6 boxes around the airport like I’m addicted to these banana cake filled with banana flavoured custard.

The total cost for the entire trip? RM3,000 with random splurges here and there. Yes, and it’s entirely possible. Perhaps it’s your turn to go to Japan now. =)