Life Lessons Learned From A Hiatus

Idleness is the root of all evil. The said adage does not ring any truth to me, at least in my opinion. I’ve been idle for almost a year and I am excited for my one year idle anniversary come January 2015. I never asked for this to happen and didn’t even want this to happen especially if it’s unplanned. But the universe has its own uncanny way of bringing surprises that I am unsure and unaware of. I don’t know how to put all these into words or how would I call my situation. So let me call it a happy hiatus. I am not an authority to give tips but I would like you to have a peek into my own world which is a sort of a hullabaloo-meets-oasis kind of thing.

I am branding this year as my lucky year because it is a year like no other. Each year is unique but this one is very distinctive. Losing a lot when situations have gone haywire on the first month of the year is something most folks consider bad luck. Come to think of it, people may brand it as bad luck but it is just our own thoughts making the situations worse as they seem. At first I thought I’ve lost it all — job, money, chances, people, opportunities, you name it! All I can think of is how bad the situation was and a part of my life is over. And then I tried to shift my thinking on a different level. If something bad happens, something good will happen, too. That was a bit excruciating for me because I am not a Pollyanna.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Hellen Keller

I thought being jobless for a year would make me a useless wimp. Ironic as it seems, I was completely busy. I’ve been touring on my own, hopping from one country to the next either by plane, bus or boat. It was fun meeting new people, all different and beautiful in their own ways. I was like an exchange student and a foster child at some point! Being a lonesome traveler is liberating for me. I do travel on my own but it is my first time to travel for months. Crossing the borders with the other solo travelers and setting our foot in between two borders at the same time is one of my definitions of the word awesome, at least before kicking the bucket.

Finally, my nomad dream came true this year. When you travel alone, you don’t know what to expect. You get to live in the moment and savor every second of it. Sure, sometimes worry sets in and then sadness fills my heart but looking forward to the wonderful adventures take all those sentiments away. Every single day of my backpacking journey is exciting as I do not know what to expect. It is like today I am wandering in this beautiful city then tonight I will sleep in the bus and wake up in another city!

In this happy period, I was also able to write some posts, letters and do the things I always dreamed of doing but never got the chance. I did some moonlighting and yes, it sustained me for awhile to go on with my journey. Along the way, I also met likeminded people who want to share their lives by giving back a portion of themselves. I engaged in helping the less fortunate together with these wonderful people that I’ve met. I also visited old friends whom I haven’t seen for a long time and gave my time to them especially to the ones who need it the most. My life is not about me at all. It’s about them. It is about my loved ones and other people. I am just a dot in the universe also connecting to other dots. By connecting to them, my life is enriched and I feel happy and contented. We don’t need much in life, we just need one another to get through each day. Money can surely buy some happiness but it cannot buy fulfillment.

To begin with, I am not rich and by mere definition, I am poor. I just happened to sustain myself for a year (without working) because of some little preparation. My work as a freelancer does not guarantee a fixed salary every month. It only lasted for three months. So, for the rest of the months, I lived my life as a nomad. What I do is I save every penny that I have years back. Is it impossible? No. If we are living from paycheck to paycheck, we can live below our means and spend money on necessary things only. No matter how little money we have, if we use it wisely and feel grateful for what we have, everything will work out fine. I thought at first, I wouldn’t make it and then December came. Finally, I am closing the year with an unexpected grin on my face. I never believed in myself as much as I believed in myself now.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

As silly as it may seem, I trusted myself that I’ll get through it. That’s the only option so I am forced to make it happen. While it is true that having a backup plan in life is one of the best things to do, it also makes sense to focus on your main plan. Otherwise, you would just end up doing plan B and may have some regrets later on. At that time, I just jumped right on, not looking back. I also quit over thinking because it kills the mood and makes the vibrations low. I have learned to put myself on a pedestal and love myself more.

Being the spontaneous being that I am, I always go with my gut feel. There are countless times that I have ignored my gut and I was left crestfallen. I blew it and I constantly blamed myself why the hell I am put in this kind of situation. It is when our hearts, minds and intuitions are aligned that magical experiences unfold. It depends on what works for you, if your mind works better then use it more than your heart. It all boils down to knowing ourselves and what works for us. No inhibitions, no pretensions, no whatsoever.

Back then, I am unsure of myself and I was scared of the unknown. I am not brave but I just know that I have to do it. Otherwise, none of all these wonderful things could have happened. Just live life on your terms and let go of the things you cannot control. Even if we are not armed with a plan, we just do it and take a leap of faith and watch what happens.

So what about failure, does it matter? Failure is subjective and it’s up to us how we perceive our failures. Sure it hurts when we fail at something we really want and things don’t go as planned, but when we take failure as an opportunity to learn, that’s the first step to making things happen. We can be right, we can be wrong and we can be both and still fail but as long as we still try and get up every after fall, we will still get to our destination.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

If you think that you’re living in a rut and have lost hope, please give another chance to yourself. There is always a glimpse of hope, a light in every dark corner and a chance to shine. May you always remember that you are a masterpiece and your story goes on. To all jobless sibs and wanderers, it is not yet the end of the world. Remember, the rest of our story is still unwritten. 🙂

How to Survive if You Are Living in the World’s Most Expensive City

I should not write this post but then maybe I should. Many friends and acquaintances have asked me countless times about Singapore. As much as I wanted them to just google the information about this “fine” city, I don’t want to offend and sound like I don’t want to help. After all, I am not an authority to give tips and useful information about SG because even if I am barely breathing here for 3 years, every day feels like a new day as if I am a tourist. Add that to the fact that I don’t know until when my expat life here will come to an end.

When I came to this beloved merlion island, I only have the things present in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — even fewer. I know nothing about living abroad, not to mention that SG is the first country I have ever visited aside from my home country, Philippines. Even back home, I chose not to live on my own so I could save more money and be with my family. Although most people associate independence living on their own, I have my own predicament and eccentricities to deal with. I have my own definition of independence and more of it to be discussed on the bottom part of this post.

I am just your average overseas worker struggling to make the ends meet. I am also the typical Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) who works everyday, gives some portion of my money to my family and live life from paycheck to paycheck. I assume many people are also like me even in the other parts of the world. Until it dawned upon me that I should do something to break this cycle or else, I’d be a beggar all my life. As the adage says, “It is not your fault if you are born poor but it is your fault if you die poor.” There’s nothing wrong about being poor but poverty really bites as many people have financial problems. Come to think of it, most people in this world have financial problems aside from the personal problems we have by default.

On Homesickness
Homesickness happens for real and for some people, this is the core reason why they don’t want to try their fate moving/working in another country, especially to countries that are literally miles and miles away. If you think you are not yet ready to leave your home, you have to condition yourself. Otherwise, there will be lots of things holding you back and you’d never walk out that door and do your luggage. You will be sad, they will be sad and tears will be shed (that is, if you’re emotional but it’s perfectly okay). The good thing is, your tears and their tears will dry up, too. And then, you’d embark on a new journey and have new experiences that are all unknown to you. But then, here comes another problem — when you’re staying abroad for so long and you miss them so much that it hurts or to quote other people, “so much that their hearts bleed.” That’s just life and some drama eating you up. All you have to do is call your loved ones and write them missives. What if all these won’t work? Book a ticket and have your much deserved vacation to be with them.

On Learning
Singapore is a great place to learn new things. Some people say that there’s nothing more to do or learn here because after a year or so, this island becomes boring. I beg to differ although I get bored at times, I do acknowledge the fact that there are lots of things to learn and do here, only if we are looking. As a worker, learning is crucial because getting a job here is very hard. The competition is tough as we cannot blame employers if they wanted someone who is a local or a permanent resident (PR), to which obviously I am not. One of the advantages you could have over the other candidates are your experiences and learning. I do believe that everyone can do a job but one who continuously learn would do the job better. You could enroll yourself to classes that would hone your skills, attend seminars and trainings, have new hobbies and activities and so on and so forth. The lists are endless and it is up to us if we wanted to learn or be mediocre at something forever.
We must not stop learning, whatever that is. If your problem is your budget, the government hosts free activities islandwide. Just keep looking. Further, if you want to learn on a broader scale and gain a new perspective, go travel. Singapore is a travel hub connected to different countries in Asia and this is your chance to travel a lot cheaper if you are here. Some lessons about traveling will lead you to a bit of independence and self-discovery (if you think you are lost for quite some time).

On Independence
In my own definition, independence is living a life that you have dreamt of without having to rely on other people most of the time. I get it, we all need help but not to the point where we get too complacent and be dependent on others whenever problems get the best of us. Problems and trials will always be there, dilemmas will always be present and no matter what we do, these so-called tribulations are here to stay. It is just about us bouncing back, adjusting our sails while we are dancing in the typhoon (not just rain) and getting back on our feet. Your heart will be broken and your ego will be dumped and you’d be very disappointed that things don’t work out as planned. But this is just the start of a wonderful journey and if you continue to improve yourself for the better, you’d find your journey to be one of the bests you’ll ever have. Independence is a subjective matter and the above definition is pretty much how I define it. As an expat here, I have to admit that there are times I find it hard to live in SG (mostly due to the demands of work since I am working in IT) but most of the time, I love it to bits. That’s the reason why I am maximizing my stay here and enjoy every single day, just as I would if I am in my hometown. Now, I can say I am used to it though. Adjustment takes some time and we have to be patient.

On Work
Being jobless sucks, it is a well known fact and a general truth proven ages ago. Due to the nature of my job, each project that I am on ends at a given time to which I have to be prepared. Finding a job nowadays is such a pain in the ass and it frustrates me that even if there are lots of jobs posted everywhere, we have to realize that most of these are just plain job posts. Some of the jobs posted by recruiters and employers are created for pooling only. It only means that they are collecting jobseekers for the said position and would call you once they urgently need you to fill that position in. So, you get the picture, a job post is just a job post at that and nothing more unless it is job offered to you in black and white. You’d be lucky if they urgently need you because that only means you’re on your way to bagging that coveted job. Next step is to have your work pass (visa) approved — which is pretty hard, too.

On Finances
Whether we realize it or not, there are just lots of money matters to deal with, even rich people have money issues. The only difference is that rich people learn from their money woes and remember their mistakes and lessons very well. True enough, we don’t have to be rich but we must be responsible for our own finances. To answer how much money should a tourist bring to SG, all I can say is that it depends on what your purpose is. To have a work here, I went with the safest option of getting a job through a licensed job agency by paying a placement fee. Back to finances, a general tip I could give is to just mind the basics – food, shelter and clothing. Actually, clothing is not that needed, unless you are a fashionista or you need to buy clothes to follow the company’s dress code. You could rent a bedspace and not a whole room if you want to save a lot. Although privacy is priceless, the money you pay for a solo room can be used for other necessities in life or better yet, save the money for emergencies. Salary is given only once, every end of the month. It is definitely wise to save a portion of your salary every month because nothing is sure here even if it is stated in your contract that you have to work that long for that employer. Retrenchment, restructuring, redundancy and other issues arise at any moment.
I suggest that we use our money wisely by spending money on our needs first. Treat yourself, too, so you won’t feel deprived. Being a shopaholic is perfectly fine — only if you can afford it. What I have learned a lot about money here is not about how much we earn but how we handle it. Even if you get to earn a S$10,000 (7928 USD) and above each month, you’d be a pauper if you get a lifestyle you cannot sustain. How do I know? Because I know some people who earn a lot and have lots of debts even if they have bigger salaries every year. I have been jobless for 2 to 3 months and I can say that living in SG is not an easy feat. I am tempted to go back home but luckily, I got a job. So, I am just enjoying my journey here until it lasts. 🙂

Summary
In reality, any city can be just as expensive if we cannot manage the lifestyle we choose. Besides, even if we own all the riches in the world and not have the responsibility and knowledge on how to manage our funds, every place would be very expensive. To cap it all off, I don’t regret anything the moment I set my foot on sunny Singapore. I am humbled enough to be living in the world’s most expensive city. 😀

Becoming A Minimalist

Less is more. So this year, I want to try to become a minimalist, a certain note higher than my old minimalist self. And because I am my own guinea pig, I would want to see for myself if being a minimalist (a notch higher) would do me more good than harm. When I am climbing mountains, I only carry things that I need so my pack won’t be as much heavy. It gets heavier when tiredness sinks in.

Compared to most people, you could say that I own less stuff except for the gifts I send back home. I tend to hoard stuff to be given to loved ones. I’d put it all in a big box then I send the box home. This is cheaper than having the items checked in at the airport come departure time. I wonder if I could do with less waterproof and Badtz this year. But iTunes? I don’t think so. It’s just great that I have a terabyte hard disk and a cloud somewhere.

Listed are the advantages of being a minimalist:

Note: Ditch what is not applicable to you.

1. Ask yourself if there is a need to buy the item. If you are not going to use it more often and it is not a necessity, forget it.

2. If you are a lazy bloke like me and you are not fond of arranging things, having less stuff is easier. It would be easy to just clean the little stuff you have and your place would not be that messy. For reading materials, have a reading app (Zinio,Kobo, Google Play, etc.) on your phone/tablet or own a Kindle.

3. Buying less stuff would save you more money. Because of this, you could buy a sensible item or a coveted one that you’ve been eyeing for the longest time.  If your budget permits, buy something that is durable so it would last for a very long time. Therefore, it would save you more bucks. Although for collectors, I know this is not applicable.

4. Because you only have things that you need, you would be sure that each item will serve its purpose very well. The item will be very useful until it gets old and damaged. Let us learn to recycle as much as possible.

5. There will be less worry about losing and finding stuff. After all, less is more.

I guess I am just fortunate that I collect and create moments. My mind is my repository, a vast space with an unlimited storage capacity. Further, we could also own a minimalist’s mind. Get rid of unwanted and bad thoughts and focus on the good ones. As with any problem, we are allowed to think of our problems only if we are also thinking about the solutions. Is this a great way to start the year? What do you think? 🙂

~ Live Your Own Life

~ Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. – Steve Jobs

Live your own life, go for your dreams and remember that life is too short so please yourself first before other people. They don’t matter unless they are the ones who truly know and love you for who you are. 🙂

From Anais Nin

I agree with her. I may not be an authority in writing but I noticed that most of my posts revolve on how I live life and how other people live their lives. At times, I get ideas by seeing things through their own perspective. What I see is entirely different from what the other person sees. So, it is good that we also see through their eyes and feel through their hearts while we write.

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living. – Anais Nin