Saturday, 26 November 2005

Uncharted Waters

I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to go through some decent schooling, healthy and good meals, supportive and caring family and friends. I may not be the first to admit this, however, I do acknowledge this.

Although a large proportion of my friends consist of my high school and university friends, I would have to say that we became friends and stayed friends because we shared common thread - in that our backgrounds were largely the same. Furthermore, our next steps were similar too - we worried about what course, which university, what jobs, which jobs etc.

Looking back, I do wonder what happened to some people I used to know. Like that guy at the back of the class who never really said that much or that girl who used to be in my tutorial in uni. Sometimes, in a very roundabout way, I will meet these people again in a very different context. While I was working at the video store, a customer happened to also be a girl from my primary school. She looked the same, but this time, she had a little girl in her arms as she perused through the videos. It's interesting that at some point our lives had converged but we had eventually headed in different directions.

For me, the progressions from primary school to high school and subsequently university were probably a generated through a mixture of expectations, persuasion and environment. Very briefly I wondered a million what-if's, but realised the futility in such an exercise. I cannot change the past and have made so many choices over the years that the countless possibilities may have yielded a very large number of permutations which would be too difficult to speculate. What is now, is what is real.

I needed to eat, live and finance my habits of sports and videogames, so work was almost an obvious step after years of hitting the books. Following a number of years of plugging away at work, I could not think of a logical progression in terms of time usage. Retirement? - but this could be another 40 years away, a timeframe with which I am definitely not familiar.

"I have no direction," I complained to a friend.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know what I want to do next."

Does there always have to be a next? Does one have to know what one is doing? There swere the same questions which were bombarding me.

"So where do you see yourself in five years time?"
"I don't know," I responded.
"Make sure you have a plan, because if you don't have a plan, you end up being part of someone else's plan."

A plan?

I pondered this for a moment. The thought had never really crossed my mind, as ironic as that may seem since I look as project plans and manage teams of people.

Perhaps the whole progression from school to uni to work was a plan. A plan which I had been transparent to me, but was there nonetheless. To this point, I was pretty much just going with the flow and not really thinking about what I wanted to do in the long run. Although plans rarely come true, at least there is something to aim for rather than standing on the spot.

I then spoke to one of my close friends.
"Do you have a plan?" I asked.
"Yeah. Of course. And an exit strategy." He began to explain his plan. Even though there were bumps along the way, his general plan was flexible enough to lead him to where he was and he is very happy where he is at the moment. I marvelled at his attention to detail, flexibility and general approach.

Hmm...maybe it's time I started planning.

Monday, 21 November 2005

Where in the world...?

Walking around with throngs of other people in the stifling heat; Watching beads of sweat develop on others; Feeling waterfalls of perspiration develop on me as my already saturated clothes cling to my body like huge suction caps.

I do feel like lazing about the pool and going for a swim and then getting fit (hey, at least I think about it). But my entire body feels like rejecting the notion of stepping outside in such humidity.

There's nothing like being in Singapore!

When the combination of 30 degrees celsius and 60% precipitation makes one feel a bit more than uncomfortable, there's nothing like sitting in an apartment with high speed internet and air-con creating a dry 23 degrees of comfort.

A lazy Sunday.

Typically, I attempt to compress as much as I can into my Sundays, although admittedly, a majority of the time is spent just travelling to and from destinations, rather than at the actual place I wanted to go.

Today started off great. Woke up late. Took a long shower. Had a hearty continental breakfast. Read some magazines. Chatted with friends. Played some games. Organised some emails and notes. Often, I don't allow myself that luxury, but once in a while it is relaxing and recharges.

A couple of things I noticed while here:

1) Just like HK, there is a general persistence to get on the train first - even if that means going against the tidal wave of people trying to get off the train. I am not sure whether it is to get bragging rights of who gets on first or general clamour to get to a seat or even fear of missing the trains which come every two minutes anyway.

2) Yesterday, I went shopping down at the local supermarket and was shocked at the extorionist prices charged for some of the goods. A packet of 250gms of beef was SG$4, milk was SG$3 and a punnet of berries were SG$8. Cooking for oneself is ludicrously expensive (upwards of $10) while food at the hawker stalls is $5 a pop. Talk about economies of scale! Apparently, most of the food is imported - even water is pumped from Malaysia!

3) Having just returned from HK, I understand that the temptation of shopping will be very great in many comparatively "cheaper" countries. For some reason, I spend more when I am overseas than when I am in town. Not that I spend it on food, but I just spend it buying item which, to be honest, I probably don't need or wouldn't have purchased back home. Having confided in a friend and confirmed that such behaviour was not isolated to myself, we concluded that this behaviour was the good deal theory.

Good Deal Theory
Knowing full well that it is comparatively more expensive in one's home country, one will merely spend the money for the sake of getting a good deal.
Common statements to justify one's decision include:
"I am not spending - I just saved money."
"I can't get the same product for that price back home."

This, I must say, would explain why my HK trip yielded seven pairs of shoes on the way home (admittedly, I had taken three pairs to HK in the first place - golf shoes, runners, and black shoes. Not unreasonable, right?)

4) Singapore has one of the highest level of savings in the world - gross national savings is about 38% of gross national income. That's a rather astonishing level and definitely puts me to shame! This would explain the high proportion of salespeople on the streets offering credit cards with low interest rates while throwing in some expensive gifts (like hi-fis and mobile phones). The uptake of credit cards is so low, that credit card companies are practically throwing them at people!