What Have You Been Doing These Days?

I’ve got the question “what have you been doing these days” a lot lately. After leaving my relatively comfortably paid job last Christmas, my answers range from “I am taking a break” (that sort of confuses many people) and “I am taking a career break” (that gives a deeper confusion) to now “I am retired” and “going through my 11 years of to-do list”. The responses to the later answers are a palette of emotions ranging from a cooler tone of disbelieve, disapproval, uninterested, and shocked to a warmer tone of genuine interest, throwing in new ideas, and being supportive. Social norms dictate our reaction to events around us. We work, we save, and at 65 or hopefully earlier, we retire. We retire without knowing how much exactly we need (can you predict life?) and without a clear idea of what retirement is going to be like. By then we are old, having difficulties even to get from point A to point B and we are looking at this golden pot of Haagen Dazs ice-cream that it will probably kill us if we eat too much of it (it’s an analogy to indulgence in life that we cannot enjoy when we are old because we are too old for that). That is, if we live old enough to even look at this golden pot of ice-cream.

To me, the approach to retirement should be like the approach of marriage: in normal circumstances, I endorse pre-marriage cohabitation just to have an idea of what marriage is going to be like. Traditions force people to plunge into marriage with less knowledge of what they are getting themselves into. We all think that retirement has to happen after the age of 65 (or before if you are well-off) but if we can take some breaks here and there, in the surface, we got a taste of what this golden pot of Haagen Dazs ice-cream is like. In a deeper sense, we know what to expect in our actual retirement and we know what we are working so hard for.

Many people wonder how I spend my time these days. I have known a friend’s friend who had a week of compulsory leave came close to consult me on how to spend his days (he never did). Some friends of mine from reading my website think that I have turned into a full time sportsman. Others think that I have turned into a movie-craze goer. My gaming friends think that I become a full time gamer. Some who know that I need to start preparing food at 6pm think that I have become a full time house-husband. Those of you who know I am working hard to memorise 5 of my songs for gig performance think that I am heading towards becoming a performing artist. And the books that I am suppose to write, my recent interest in oil painting … the list just goes on and on. In short, my days are very much fully occupied with all my passions on top of the time spent meeting up with friends for lunch and dinner and other social events.

Compares to my life before this break, right now I have 8 hours of sleep a day, eat healthy, exercise regularly, meeting people whom I enjoy the company, doing things I love to do, and most importantly, feeling happy all the time. Now of course, sooner or later I need to return to Planet Earth and do a reality check. Even if I need to return to the workforce in a couple of months’ time (provided that none of the business opportunities come through), I shall remember what this golden pot of Haagen Dazs ice-cream tastes like and what I am working so hard for.

French Toast

I can’t remember when was the last time I made french toast but this image of french toast was my number one motivation when I took a swim early this afternoon.

Finally, the raining season is going, going, and sort of gone. We still have occasionally rainfall (look, this is a tropical country) but the day usually begins with a bright sunshine. In this time of the year, the breeze is cool to the skin. Perfect timing to do outdoor exercise.

My jogging ritual must have helped in building up my stamina, which by the way, my timing improves steadily shaving off 1 min from the last run record for 3 consecutive runs. I must have swam for 45 minutes with a hot sun above me and the cool water underneath.

The french toast was delicious – how hungry I was! – especially with those butter and honey. I mean, people exercise so hard so that they can eat to their hearts content … right?

Day 15 of 2007

Officially passed the 2-weeks point whereby a good majority of people by now have forgotten and put aside what they set out to do in their New Year Resolution (once again quote from Reader’s Digest). Having developed a Personal Scorecard, I found myself very focused these days on what I want to achieve. Just to give you an idea, I have consciously cut down on my gaming hours. I have clocked in 20.5 hours so far and it should not be a problem not exceeding the target of 40 hours a month as set on New Year Day. I hope that the new World of Warcraft expansion that is due to come out this week will not ruin my plan.

Avid readers of my website probably know by now I have put in a lot of emphasis in achieving my exercise hours target. I still fall short by a great deal and the idea of revising the targets has crossed my mind. But I must practice what I preach: scorecard is not a report card. The aim is not to get green lights at each reporting period but rather to highlight areas of improvement. I still think 8 hours a month is the right thing to do. I may not hit the target this month but I should get closer the month after.

And when I look at my measurements, it does have causal relationships like corporate scorecards. If I free up more time from gaming, I will have more time to do other things such as ideas on book publishing, practicing for my upcoming-yet-to-be-organised gigs, money matters, and etc. And if I wish to fully realise the benefit of all the exercise hours I have put in, I better stay away from alcohol and eat healthily (the other two measurements of mine). As for the healthy eating department, we have home cook food more than 50% of the time so far and I hope to see another measurement hitting the target.

In the medium term horizon, I do have some quarterly targets to achieve. I have public performance to think about and as the very first step, 5 songs are selected and day-in-day-out I have been trying to memorise them. As for the travelling budget, Cynthia has already picked Australia as our next destination. How about “extraordinary projects”? I have something in mind but it is probably too early to talk about it now. Last but not the least, I have already set up 2 private forums in this website as part of the collaboration effort in co-writing some books with my friends.

There are still some measurements I have no clue in how to tackle. By and large, I think I am in for a fruitful 2007. How credible is that statement? I am not sure but I hope that this Personal Scorecard will take me where I want to be.

I Must Keep Running!

Drew this right after my jogging

My pair of spanking new running shoes are in tip top condition, the owner is not. Yesterday I jogged out of my lobby feeling light and especially happy that my shoes fit so well. I felt like gliding in air thinking that those gels underneath my feet must have been working real hard. Taking my “usual” 4.5km jogging route – by that I meant 5 years ago – my first challenge was to run up a small hill. Halfway, I felt like my lungs were collapsing, my heart was going to burst out of my chest, and my legs felt heavy. Not a good sign! I wanted to give up after … 45 seconds. If my 15 minutes of swimming is embarrassing, 45 seconds of running would not go down well in my history book. So I kept going … then I noticed something …

Initially I jogged with my eyes looking at the ground. Once I started to look at the sky and the far away scenery, I felt lighter. When I completed my 4.5km run, I was 40% slower than my “usual” record of 17 mins. Let’s see if I can be as fit as I was 5 years ago.

PS:

  • I had this image in my mind while I jogged and have decided to draw it out after a nice long rewarding shower.
  • Today my body aches like crazy.
  • I love my new running shoes.

Shopaholic Hit City Hall

People usually comment that women love to spend time in shopping and men shop with objectives in mind – just zoom into what they need and hit home run. I had my mother and sister’s jaws dropped when I walked straight to the pillow section of a departmental store and grabbed two of them in less than 5 seconds. These days, I am a changed man. This money saving mode has definitely lengthened my wish-list in every possible ways. And the real fun of shopping is to know that I have made a wise decision after exhausting all available options. Because of that, I was stuck in City Hall way longer than I have – how time flies when you shop! – and got Cynthia kept texting and calling me as subtle reminders. Look, it is really rude to pick up a call in the mist of an … engaging conversation with a salesperson, no?

Actually, I did have objectives in mind – besides the box of brown sugar and the can of WD-40 that I have conveniently forgotten – I needed a pair of goggles for my swimming and a pair of running shoes too. How else am I to hit my target of 8 hours of exercise a month when so far I have clocked in … ahem … half?

My buddy TK recommended Running Lab at Funan Center and indeed, I must say, these folks are professionals. This specialist Marc first asked me to take off my shoes and socks, roll up my pair of jeans, and he gave me a concise introduction on what we would be going through. Had he not told me so, I would have screamed: dude, take your hands off my feet! And when he ran his fingers along the sides of my feet as part of the diagnosis, I tried so hard not to giggle (yes, I am ticklish). After which, he asked me to run on treadmill and I gasped and told him that I have never run on a treadmill in my life!

He nearly gasped and put me on speed 2. I asked him what sort of speed do people usually run and he said 7 to 8. Okay, that hurt my ego a bit. Nevertheless, I did my best on speed 2 and he was observing how my feet landed on the treadmill. He kept asking me to run normally and … I really did my best to act like running on speed 2! I mean, it was sort of slow you know.

His diagnosis was that I need extra support on the inner sides of my feet. I countered that from the wearing and tearing of the heels of my shoes, I may need support on the outer sides instead. He counter-countered that from his observation, my feet landed on the outer side of my heel and then they curved inwards. Alright, sold! Extra support on the inner sides then.

He took out a couple of his recommendations that ranged from S$169 (gasp) to S$269 (gasp to the power 2). I chose the cheaper ones and we narrowed down with two models. I recalled that Marc did mention something about being able to try those shoes on the treadmill and hence, I asked if I may. Marc hesitated and said: you know, since you have never been on a treadmill before, it is rather dangerous for you to do so. But … this month’s motto is “nothing is gonna stop me!” … so I begged and he conceded. I did a speed 8 – proudly – and how I love those shoes! Still couldn’t decide which one to go for and he took out … an orange one. The orange one looked (still do) absolutely fabulous. He touched the heart of a customer and I fell in love with the orange one instantly. At that moment, I didn’t care which brand is which. He surely knew how to help me in making decisions.

So … a pair of orange running shoes worth S$169 … a pair of goggles worth S$30 … two CDs from HMV and an accessory (don’t ask) worth S$45 … BreadTalk snacks worth S$11 … guitar strings for my 12-strings worths S$13 a total of S$268!

Gasp! I really should have stayed at home.

Edit: Thanks to Tong Kiat who pointed out that my pair of running shoes cost S$169 instead of previously written S$269. Dude, you are good!

Edit: I have forgotten that I have bought guitar strings … till I emptied out the plastic bags.