This year was a landmark year for me, in terms of the life lessons gleaned. A friend whom I considered one of my closest in university had a difficult battle with a brain virus and is now bedridden at home. Doctors say he is unlikely to recover and chances are he will remain mentally incapacitated for life. This affected me greatly as I witnessed firsthand how fragile life really is. This incident has inscribed in me the importance of contentment. Every second here on earth is a gift that we should never take for granted. Being a very impatient and ambitious person, I am starting to learn how to live in the present and to enjoy every moment in my life, instead of living life always planning for the future.
A culmination of factors also led me to a period of mild depression, where I found no purpose in my life. All along, I had obediently followed the standard pathway of a Singaporean son, completing my high school, followed by national service, and then university; only to realise at the end of it, that I still had not found what I wanted to do with my life. Peers were landing jobs, rushing to build their careers, and starting to build families, while I was living off my savings and part-time work to payback my university loan. I constantly looked to others and compared myself to them, only to find myself even more upset. It took me a few months, but I finally realised and understood that comparing ourselves to others is futile. Everyone has their own paths to take in life; one path can never be the same as the other, and we should not use money or social status to judge the progress one has made in their own lives. Being contented with what one has and being a good steward of our resources is more important.
My birthday this year was perhaps, the simplest one I ever had. In fact, I never even noticed it coming, until I was wished by friends. A simple meal of soya chicken rice alone for lunch and a family dinner was more than enough for me to give thanks for. I enjoyed the company of my close friends, of which at this stage in life, could be counted with one hand. Nevertheless, I can hardly remember any other birthdays in which I was any happier.
Earning a meagre wage, facing an unstable situation, and a lack of social interaction was a triple whammy, but being grateful for life itself gave me a new perspective, and an undeniable inner joy. “Take your time, don’t live too fast”, for we might end up like the poem below:
“First I was dying to finish high school and start college.
And then I was dying to finish college and start working.
And then I was dying to marry and have children.
And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work.
And then I was dying to retire.
And now I am dying…
And suddenly I realise I forgot to live.”
Truly, it’s the not the end, but the journey that matters. I used to rush everything I was doing, but now I’m trying to enjoy the process. A simple example would be my past focus on getting to my next task on my to-do list, rather than embracing the actual task at hand. Let’s learn to take life one step at a time, and to treasure each moment that it brings. Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas and a great year to come! 🙂