Adulting – difficult conversations with yourself

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I’m Just a Kid..” sings the Simple Plan hit song from 2002 (which is a Tik Tok song btw and for that record, nope I don’t use TikTok) when I was really a kid when the song debuted.

18 years later, despite growing taller, bigger, fatter, smarter (or so I hope), I still feel (and act) like a kid.. from the mouth of someone who spent $50 at the arcade this week, playing UFO toy catcher machines and trying to win tickets to exchange for prizes which don’t make monetary sense in my logical mind.

Life has kind of taken a pause for me in this extended and unplanned 5.5 months break due to you-know-what and I’m glad I took some time to think about the difficult things that I’ve avoided thinking about. Despite having so much free time to think, there are still many areas and questions that I am not able to answer but there are also some thoughts that I’ve kind of figured out (for now). I’ve been talking/thinking/discussing the whole adulting nonsense for the past many years; and to be honest, I don’t think it will ever end. The escape to New Zealand was the first time in my life I could throw away my burdens temporarily and figure out how comfortable I was being alone, being abroad, being afar from all the strings that once bounded me.

What is your Life Goal?

This is such a tough question that I always wanted to skip thinking about. However, in the game ‘The Sims 4’, you’re not allowed to create your Sim (character) until you select your aspiration – which includes Athletic, Creativity, Deviance, Family, Food, Fortune, Knowledge, Love, Nature and Popularity – and somehow I find that this is quite a comprehensive list for the various types of goals we wish to achieve in real life.

Traditionally, most life cycles of humans look like that: Born -> Childhood -> Studies -> Get a Job -> Get Married and Start a Family -> Retirement

For me, (at this point in time) it is highly likely that I’m skipping Stage 5 and for the next 30-50 years or so, I should be figuring out what’s the best way to get from Stage 4 to Stage 6, at a comfortable pace which makes me happy. But the thing is being happy and comfortable can’t be considered as a life goal, at least not my societal standards. A lot of people (like interviewers) like to ask me what do I want to achieve in life and my answer is usually not the conventional answer of leading a team, becoming an expert in something, and all the fancy textbook answers. For the unambitious me, I just want to create meaning and impact in my life through the little moments. I want to be there for a friend when she needs me to, I want to assist that one customer who needs help, I want to have time to accompany my parents when they need me, I want to provide a smile for a complete stranger and I want to find/create meaning in whatever I do (including writing this entry). I.. aspire to be needed, to be useful, and to be relevant. It sounds pretty weird as a life goal but I really can’t think of anything else that I want to achieve at this point in time.

Have you thought about yours?

Money Matters

It’s not easy to talk or even think about money because it is indeed powerful at times, and somehow useless at the same time. Lately, I find myself speaking more about money to my friends (well, this is a common adulting topic) and I am somehow thankful that my life with money had been rather smooth sailing (at least for now). At my current age and life stage, I do not have any debt as I am not financing any house and I’m (mixed feelings) still living with my parents. I do not have to contribute a sizeable amount of income to my family and neither do I have to carry the burden of family debt. Thus, I’ve been able to control my finances well for the past few years and spend comfortable within my means (e.g. $10k on travel/year which sounds a little excessive to some people). To be honest, I’ve not bothered myself with any financial planning my whole life as it didn’t seem like an issue at all. However, with the luxury of time (especially in the past two weeks), I’ve started to think seriously about money, and how should I be making plans for the future.

Spending

A few weeks back, I was surprised when I met a friend who told me that he can barely spend $500/month. I was astonished as my expenditure was way above $500, even during the lockdown months where I could only go out for grocery shopping and food takeouts. This month alone (August), I’ve spent more than $1,2k already and this is with the context that I’ve been getting quite a few treats from my friends :/ I am happy that I persevered my finances recording since New Zealand (I use Ahorro app) but I’m also a little upset in myself that this expenditure recording ain’t making me spend lesser money. The only happy thing for me was that I resisted buying any new clothing (including shoes) for the past 6 months. I also did not buy any skincare or makeup product cause I still have a huge stash and I’m not going to use it as often given that everyone is gonna work from home. Also, I have been going out of the house barefaced cause nothing matters with the mask on and the makeup will stick on the mask anyways. Should I not have cut back on that expenditure, I might have been spending >$1.5k/month.

Insurance

Another unpopular topic to confront is the idea of insurance. Traditionally, people bought insurance to insure against death and it is extra important right now, given that virus/natural disaster/freak accidents are somehow on the rise. For myself, my life insurance had been bought by my parents for me, and should anything happen to me, at least my parents (the beneficiaries) will be able to receive a sum of money to tide through the would-have-been potential income from me, for them. Similarly, if you’re a parent with kids, you will need to purchase insurance on your own lives, for your kids (the beneficiaries), as they should be able to have enough money, at least till their university education, where they should be able to provide a living for themselves after that. My initial thoughts about insurance (prior to my in-depth reading) were that it was expensive, plus some policies don’t even make sense if you have to pay-till-you-die. However, if you dig deeper and think further, the concept of insurance can be really helpful to cushion against uncertainty. That 5-15% of your income can be used to exchange for that uncertainty. As I grow older, I started to learn more stories (both happiness and regrets) with and without insurance policies. In addition to insurance that gives you death benefit, the next most important insurance is your hospitalization benefit AND critical illness (e.g. cancer) protection policies. I don’t really want to elaborate more on this topic as I am no expert but my point is that insurance is truly important and you should always start young (especially when you’re still healthy) and it is a small price to pay in exchange for the uncertainty. Money cannot buy you health (not all the time), but money can buy you money when you really need it.

Investment

I am rather thankful that I have been able to have accumulated some savings in my bank account over the many years of working full time. Over the years, I’ve always put my money in different bank accounts as I do not like to see a lot of money in my account, as it might give me the temptation to spend more. I started out with a blue chips investment scheme where a portion of my money is deducted from my account on a monthly basis to purchase some funds. Years later, I started CDP account and was able to purchase stocks directly via a broker. I made several blue-chip trades, earned a little and with the crash of March 2020, my paper losses are bad. The only good thing is that I have been receiving dividends (which I didn’t bother keeping track in the past) and let’s hope that the share price can recover to my purchase price some time not too long later.

In addition to these investments, I’ve also kept a portion of my funds liquid in bank accounts that pay a slightly higher interest rate (~2-3%). Sadly, such higher bank interest rates have become things of the past and the rates have now nose-dived which resulted in me looking for alternatives like Singlife and Stashaway. Also, I’ve started to dabble with the US stock market which was a good learning experience and in case you’re wondering, I did not make a fortune out of it and I’m a little red on the penny stock gamble (which I shall not elaborate).

Anyway, I’m glad that I learned to be more conscious and cautious about my investments (my US penny stock gamble crashed 70%). Moving forward, I’ve learned that one should always keep a portion of liquid funds (15 to 30%) to save for emergencies and rainy days.

Family

“Blood is thicker than water..” and family is the people in life that you are born into, and people you cannot choose. The extended stay-at-home months have resulted in increased interaction which also led to increased annoyance. As our parents get older, it is inevitable that the topics of conversations fail to go beyond ‘What are we eating for lunch/dinner?’. However, I’m still thankful that I’ve been talking more to my entire family for the past six months than I have in the past six years? I started discussing about the US Stock market with my siblings, the SG Stock market with my dad, and about bubble tea/baking with my mum. We also went for longer car rides for food takeaways at further restaurants and apparently being in the car provides the perfect environment to talk. I found out more about their beginnings, school life, early work life, and their family interactions; some of which were repeated stories which I didn’t mind hearing again. Sometimes, I wonder if I will be passing on these ‘grandmother’ stories to my niece and will she in turn pass them n to her offsprings. There weren’t any glorious or significant triumphant story but it is the little things that matter. On a side note, I do enjoy reading autobiographies, so it’s nice to hear these stories from my own roots. Another thing I came to the realization was that grandkids can bring a new meaning to grandparent’s life. I’m glad that my brother has kids (so no pressure on me) and the little ones can help to settle disagreements and keep the mood at home lively.

Another thing that pains me is that as we grow older, our parents are aging as well and with old age, they are susceptible to many illnesses, many of which cannot be controlled. In 2020 alone, I’ve heard of countless parents’ friends and friends/co-workers’ parents getting cancer, some even passed on; unfortunately. It really made me reflect upon how fragile life is and how we should do things and make decisions with lesser regret (one of which was my New Zealand gap year trip). If there’s anything that is on your bucket’s list, do not pass on an opportunity, as you will really not know how much time you have left in this world. I had ex-colleagues who once called me morbid as I do have thoughts about death (more like the fragility of life) but I do believe it is important to think of it sometimes, so you’ll know what you have yet to accomplish. One thing that I have done right (or so I hope) was that I encouraged the family trip to New Zealand. It was the first time in many many years where we went on a vacation and I’m pretty sure my parents enjoyed it. In the COVID days and more to come, that would be the last holiday since COVID and who knows when will be the next. I’m glad and appreciative that the trip happened and I know they were happy too, at least during the trip.

As we grow older, we tend to get busy with our lives and forget about our roots and who were the people who once mattered to us the most. Take this (extra free) time to connect, to cherish and to treasure one another. Sometimes, even bickering is a form of communication and any kind of communication is always better than none.

Friends

As we grow older, it is pretty normal to start losing friends contact with your friends as you move ahead with various life stages. When we were young, our friends came from schools – classmates, CCA mates, bus mates and then we have our online friends and friends that share a common interest with you. Later on, we will meet people from our workplace, part-time jobs, internship, full-time jobs, and the list goes on.. The number of friends you have will increase as you age but the depth of the friendship seems to go otherwise; and that is perfectly normal. I have friends moving overseas (for education/work) and our messages have dwindled to a mere ‘Happy Birthday’ when we remember. I have friends in cliques whom I’ve not met since the last gathering perhaps 10 years ago. I have friends that meet once or twice a year and that’s the only time we ‘catch up’ and the conversations remain rather shallow. There was a period of time where I felt a little upset for losing contact and conversation topics with my friends but I came to realisation that it is part and parcel of life. You can’t be close to everyone forever and we just got to move on instead of dwelling with regret. It takes two to clap and it also takes two to agree and arrange to make time for one another. If you’re constantly re-scheduling meet-ups due to last-minute unforeseen circumstances, chances are the relationship remains.. as such. It may be difficult, especially for those who board on the express train to family and career-building, to find time to connect and to interact. It is life; que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be. Don’t be too upset with the broken connections you’ve lost along the way, if you’ve tried and failed, just move on. The ones that remain would be extra special and there are many more opportunities to find great friends in life (even when you grow older). It is always better to have a few friends that matter than hundred friends that don’t.

Hobbies

I always feel strongly about having hobbies (or things to do to past your time) and despite all the hustle and bustle of your day to day lives, you should always find some time to relax and unwind. For me, blogging and managing this website is my hobby and I hope that I’ll continue for a long time. I love writing (even if I’m gonna be the only one reading) and I love to interact with the strangers who read and comment. Beyond blogging, I love to travel and explore (is it considered a hobby?). Also, I love to watch dramas (mainly Korean ones) and movies and I also love to sing KTV. I also do have a strong interest/obsession in a certain group for K-POP which had remained consistent since 2010. Anyway, my point is that even as an adult, we need to know what are our hobbies and what are things you can do which allows you to relax and unwind. Not judging but ‘doing nothing’ can be a hobby as long as you are able to derive satisfaction and joy from it. If you can’t find anything in life that sparks you joy, think deeper. It is important.

Personal Growth

This is the hardest of it all as I am still uncertain on how it is defined but I think it is pretty all-rounded like always seek to be a better version of yourself. Similar to mobile app updates and Leveling-up in games, I feel that it is important to reflect upon your life once in a while and ask yourself if you’ve improved/grown (not just horizontally) over time. It could be relating to your physical health, mental health, personality, getting rid of a bad habit, adapting a good habit, learning a new skill, strengthening relationships with someone, cutting off toxic relations, stepping out of your comfort zone and the list goes on.. This is personal, which also means that you don’t have to be answerable to anyone and no one will or should judge you of having a lame or useless growth. It can come in any form, be it achieving a personal best in a certain sport/running speed, achieving a goal of exercising once a week (i can’t even achieve this) or doing something brave (like dining alone aka loser dining). It is good to know and acknowledge your personal achievements in life, no matter how small it may be. It is the little things that help you find meaning to life and help you grow to become a better version of yourself. For me, I was proud of myself for having the courage to take a gap year in my career. Sure, it sounds like a huge risk for others and obviously not something that other people would be proud of but for me, it was a step into the uncertainty, a leap of faith and a challenge of adaptability for me. As you grow older, age simply becomes just a number, but your life experiences are the ones that matter more.

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Thanks for completing this lengthy (no pictures) post.

The 486 days of my break is coming to an end when I wake up tomorrow morning. It’s a bittersweet feeling but fate has decided that I should stop slothing my life around. I will miss my no alarm clock life, the luxury to drama-binge till 5am and the power to laugh at my working friends.

It was a good time and all good things will come to an end. Can bad things like COVID come to an end too?

I hope I’ll continue to blog (if time and my brain cell permits) and please let leisure traveling resume by year-end ><

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  • I enjoyed your melancholic musings. I think you are so articulate as you can pen down your thoughts well. Congratulations to the start of a new chapter in your life!

  • Wow. All of your ruminating is so close to my thoughts and experiences. It would take hours of conversation to share it all. I will only say, I am watching “My Lawyer Mr. Jo 2” right now, and you would find his discussion on what motivates him, versus what motivates the Evil One in this drama, to be spot on for your discussion of Life Goals. I also have been archiving in my life, and dealing with this stage of my life. I have decided that people in the childhood, and even adult stages of life should not have to think about the end. Otherwise, they would never LIVE. The EOL (End of Life) stage you gradually plan more for, and then learn to deal with the fact that your active life is behind you. In EOL you have to come to terms with “What is Beyond.”

    • Thanks for recommending me the drama! I’ll definitely put it on my to watch list. On a side note, I’m watching the on-going series ‘Flower of Evil’, it is of thriller category and the storyline has been really intensive so far! Lee Joongi is a very good actor for his character. You can give it a try if you have time! I acknowledge that I’m a little weird as I do think of ‘the end’ but my perspective is kind of like.. Coming to terms with ‘the end’ can somehow make me appreciate ‘the present’ more. When I’m older, I hope to be able to look back and feel proud of myself (life goals/personal growth) and that’s all I hope my life would be =p