Friday, February 25, 2022

Slow down, listen to life's music and embrace the journey

My world has two sides, like the yin and yang ... one that is designed for speed and the other designed for a stroll

Ravindran Raghavan at DubaiWhen I reached 50, I had a misconception that I have understood the world. Due to a not-by-design stroke of the paintbrush, I had an unexpected twist of my career that saw me walking along Dubai Marina all alone on weekends listening to my favourite music and having ample time to re-evaluate the priorities of my life. 

The experimental change from Kuala Lumpur (living with family) to Dubai (living by myself) changed my perspective on life drastically. I realised that many things that I took for granted in relationships, health and happiness requires attention. I was more selfish in the pre-50 segment of my life and mistook the experiences as "knowing a lot about life" just to learn at 50 that I knew very little.

Over the next few years, I lost weight, gained stamina, improved my tolerances with people around me, understood that the world revolves without my help, and started enjoying the new "me". Today, I am 57 (wow! time flies indeed) and my priorities have totally changed over the last 7 years. I value things and people very differently. And I value my time in my job differently too. 

Ok, so coming to the "my world has two sides" part. I work with a boss who is young, energetic and extremely futuristic. So much so that the people around him would grasp only a fraction of what he narrates from his vision. Imagine listening to a new concept for half an hour and ending up knowing less than when you started ... that's how it would feel in the beginning. A few more Google searches and reading will be required to connect the dots properly.

I am doing a catch-up job each time he shares a video, book or new technology. If he had the right resources, he would "land a rocket on Mars tomorrow", that is the speed of thought with the level of his detailing and conceptualising of the game plan. On our daily conversations, I hear thoroughly thought through details on self-adjusting colour on droplets of paint that can create a whole wall of image based on the algorithm, sustainable island resorts with self-contained supplies, tooth-fairy tales that educates children, underground farming to preserve the land above, a complete under-the-surface city, smart accommodation with self-managed self-billing services, and many more.

My workdays start with a dose of one of the videos or a chapter of one of the books that he has shared. Usually, these materials will awaken the senses and charge up the adrenalin for the day. Speed. That's the result of the action. Some of the references would be a discovery of something that I had not thought of ... like hearing that "the website design should have slightly off black fonts and a tad off white background" i.e., it should never be fully white or fully black; to suit the human eye ... I bet you must be Googling this now!! 

After some period of being exposed to this "radiation of virtual energy", I became habituated to depth-in-the-details views on things. I don't know what this is going to do to me in my old age ... would my kids serve me coffee from a distance with a long bamboo stick because I want it "exactly 83 deg C with Liberica beans in an off-white coffee mug with a grey handle"? ... maybe not, because my younger son measures the temperature of the oil using a digital thermometer when frying chicken and that irks his grandma ... so looks like I have rubbed it on him 😆

On the other hand, my boss' other half is a medical doctor (by qualification) and an entrepreneur (by design) who promotes inner well being, under the brand name Bodysm. I happen to be one of the Instagram followers of the well-being space and Bodysm's postings usually trigger the "Oh that's worth thinking!" reaction because some of them would lend the opposite perspective compared to my workday Tony Robbin's noise and thunder.

Considering that I am on my halfway point to retirement*, my weekends are usually the complete opposite of workdays. I wake up early, get my caffeine boost at the hotel coffee house, have a chat with Azhar the enthusiastic waiter ... and then it's personal time ... wandering to a mall for a second coffee while watching responsible fathers deal with their kids who are trying to play hide and seek under the table while tilting the hot coffee or seeing faithful husbands getting a brief lesson from the wife with a complete reference to the last 5 years' data of his misdoings (he stands no chance in that debate as he won't remember any of those past events!). And I would feel so lucky to be all by myself and have the almond croissant with no one to tell me how that could shorten my lifespan by 3 minutes over the next 10 years ... and oh yes, I would miss home badly 😜 

That's the time when these messages from Bodysm would awaken the other side of the Atlantic ocean, the brain cells that were sleeping during the workday. It would now be the "slow down, listen to the music, do not multitask and kill yourself, watch and embrace life" kind of perspective to life. When I am basking in the glorified retirement mission, these are absolutely the way to go! Embrace life, and not race with it. The 2022 opening message "Do not multitask" hit the home button on my keyboard of resolutions. 

With that, my resolution for the weekends has been "do not multitask ... catch one friend who has nothing to do ... listen to his version of why the world needs him ... and then go on with my mission of watching-the-world-go-by". Oh my, that has made my weekends feel so "spacious" ... giving the mind enough electricity to value the sights of birds chirping at the outdoor seats of Nero Cafe, the petunia on the road shoulders that colour the walkway and the workers who are enjoying their meal heartily while squatting on the ground within their exhibition workspace.

Life is dynamic. I cannot say that the thoughts of today are permanent. For now, the combination of high energy weekdays and low-speed weekends feels refreshing. It's like a cycle of charge and discharge. 

*Just for you to know and in case you want to fund my empty plans 😀... by retirement, I do not mean doing nothing and watching the neighbour's dog chase its tail. My glorified retirement dream is to visit the smaller countries in the world, listen to some old folks re-live their past glory by sharing their story, ... and chase some insects with my macro lens while "slowing down and embracing the music of life"

... BY THE WAY, on the sidelines ...

Make it a mission for tomorrow's breakfast - take a spoonful of Liberica* "television brand Kluang coffee", mix in cold water to create the "expresso", filter it into an off-white ceramic mug then add 83 deg C hot water (not boiling water), stir to perfection, add no sugar and sit on the outdoor seat. 

coffee in a mugYou will have the kind of coffee that will change your caffeine experience exponentially as you enjoy the inviting colour of the coffee (with the right contrast to the off-white mug), with the plume of steam dancing above the cup (against the backdrop of the chirping birds) and the smooth tasting coffee synonym to an XO cognac.

*Liberica accounts for less than 1.5% of global coffee, is quite rare, and has its caffeine concentration at ~1.23g per 100g which is the lowest among the 3 coffee cultivars. Fortunately, my hometown, Kluang in Malaysia a growing region for this coffee variant. The television brand was established in 1966 when I was one year old and still running in my napkins.

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