I often think of time as a sandstorm, within which the countless grains of sand pelt us and slowly but surely pare the prevailing layer of beliefs.
It’s only been 2.5 years since I moved to Shanghai, but I reckon quite a few layers have already been exfoliated. I sometimes cringe when I look back at the Alywin of the past. It’s now hard to imagine how I used to have those beliefs and ambitions.
I’m in a happy place at the moment. And I’m not referring to the physical space.
Why am I happy? Because I’ve learnt, in the wise words of Mark Manson, the subtle art of not giving a fuck. I suppose the hokkien title to this blog post is a rough translation of that.
Before I left Singapore, I gave one too many fucks. About everything that had to do with money and success.
I was obsessed about drawing a five-figure salary as if my true self worth depended on it.
“Wah lan, zhun boh? 30 years old still drawing a pathetic $4,000 a month? Loser leh…Did you hear about our course mate from Ngee Ann who drew more than 10 grand when she was just 28?”
I was obsessed about holding a lofty title that would befit not my true abilities, but age.
“Hahaha! You haven’t even made managing editor by 32? What a sloth!”
I was obsessed with who I was in relation to my peers.
“Did you hear about our course mate from Ngee Ann who is already the managing director of her company? Geez I bet she had to suck a lot of cocks to get there!”
Looking back, that wasn’t healthy. Nope.
When you keep a constant tab on others, you lose sight of yourself.
The problem with me back then was that I couldn’t decipher between how much I desired versus how much I actually needed. Because, well, it was never really about the latter.
It was a case of self worth being pegged to my salary and to the salaries and achievements of people around me.
This was something I continued to struggle with during the acclimatisation phase in Shanghai, until I realised that I didn’t need all that much to be happy.
Because I stopped giving a fuck about everyone except myself.
I discovered that happiness had in a way stemmed from isolating oneself.
It was a fucking ironic twist. I used to be adamant that one needed to always be aware of the competition around him in order to excel in life. I despised hermits who lacked a world view. People who go about life with blinkers annoyed the shit outta me. And because of this I sought to stay ahead of the curve. Be in-tune with the latest trends. Maintain a constant high and enthusiasm for breaking new frontiers. If that hamster in the cage beside me was sprinting, I’d run so fast the fucking wheel would fall off.
This whole thing about money and success is contextual, and the thing with context is that you can choose to be in or out of the fucking box. I chose to step away from the maddening crowd and just disappear.
I chose to just fuck it all.
Earlier this year, I posted what some have described as “inflammatory” stuff about Singaporeans on this blog. I expressed my disgust with the myopia that’s seemingly gone pandemic on the island I used to call home. I got my fair share of criticism. I got flamed.
But that’s not why I haven’t blogged for some time.
It’s because I decided to fuck it all.
Fuck the trolls. Fuck those who are myopic. Fuck those who insist that you see things from their point of view.
Kanina, simi sai ma bo hiew liao.
Maybe it had to do with those trips to the remote recesses of China where I got a chance to experience how invigorating simplicity can be. Maybe it was all those features I wrote about inspiring people who had given up everything to help others. Or maybe it was just the result of the sands of time having scraped off that very last bit of beliefs from when I was still in Singapore. Maybe it’s a combination of all these things.
I realised that I was, by my own standards, writing some pretty solid stuff. I now have more time to spend doing things I love. I’m not constantly worried about not having enough money at the end of the month to pay the bills. I seriously enjoy just sitting next to my dog and watching it go crazy with her tennis ball.
Life is good. And I’m not even earning as much as before (well the fact that life in Shanghai is a little more affordable helps too). Evidently a big fat pay check has little to do with happiness.
I believe I’ve completely shed that old skin.
During dinner with one of my friends a couple of months ago, he told me about how his peers made him feel poor. Mind you, this is someone who’s drawing that coveted five-figure monthly salary and still complaining about feeling inferior. This is also someone who stands a chance of getting a SIX-FIGURE payout if he stays at his company for a certain period of time.
The Alywin of the past would’ve been envious and angry at the same time.
“Kanina lah! Earn so much still complain! You trying to rub it in right, you chao cheebai?”
Today, I find myself cringing and muttering under my breath:
“Siao, need so much money kum lan?”
Just months ago I was fuming about how much KOLs stand to earn. And how undeserving they are of it.
“$30,000 for ONE SINGLE FUCKING SOCIAL MEDIA POST? JESUS CHRIST WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO? TALENTLESS FUCKERS!”
Right now, I say fuck it. Fuck them. Fuck envy. Just fucking concentrating on yourself.
So what if they can earn that much money? Think about it – so what? Does it actually affect you?
Admittedly, we can’t do without money. Everything in life requires money. I once wondered if we could live a day without spending a single cent. I came to the conclusion that it’s impossible. You might think this is achievable simply by cooping yourself at home and surviving on what you have, but no.
You see, the moment you turn on that tap, every drop of water costs. That toilet flush costs. Turning on the air-conditioner costs. Turning on the television costs. Having broadband costs. Yes, money’s not departing your wallet immediately, but you’re going to have to pay for all of this in a few weeks.
My favourite buzzword these days is balance.
We all need to find that equilibrium between our actual needs and our desires. I have over the past year figured out that I can comfortably save around xxxx every month (unless there are big purchases that need to be made) even with my current pay.
Fuck me, I don’t actually need a five-figure salary.
Sure, earning big money would result in a much fatter savings account, but if I have to sacrifice time with my dog or time doing things I really wanna be doing, then fuck that.
Because it’s just not a worthwhile trade-off. Because it means being less happy or perhaps even unhappy. What the fuck for?
However, it is also imperative that we maintain a balance when it comes to “fucking it all” and “giving a fuck”, too. It’s important to be worldly. But it’s also important to not give too many fucks.
As much as I don’t wanna give a fuck now, I also want to give a fuck. I know, it’s a fucking paradox.
I’ll be embarking on a fundraising project soon. Because I want to help someone lead a better life.
Because all this not giving a fuck has given me a clarity of mind about what I really wanna give a fuck about.