The Vampires Come at Four in the Morning

As I age, I find myself thinking more about mortality, life, and how I spend my time. Not sure why, but it might be a consequence of growing old. After all, I’m reaching forty soon, the right age to depart this world. Before any ailments and debilitating illnesses have a chance to set in these old bones.

Gone are the days of sleeping through weekends. I’m usually up before lunchtime, sometimes even early morning. I force myself out of bed to get shit done.

Now that forty is not so far away, I find myself reconsidering that deadline. Especially since I’m now in the best shape of my life, thanks to gymming thrice a week. Although each session only lasts about an hour, I find the time constraint helpful in keeping me focused and not wasting it.

Yet, efficiency eludes me at times. I still find myself daydreaming and procrastinating when I should be working instead. I also spend late nights working, mostly to catch up on work that I didn’t do during the day but also because I enjoy working at night. It’s quieter and nobody bothers me.

When I want to eat at a restaurant but there’s a queue that’s too long? I skip it and go eat elsewhere instead. I often find that most restaurants aren’t worth the wait. There’s always an alternative place around the corner with no queue.

I don’t mind eating meals alone these days either. I don’t have to wait for people to finish, plus I get to read and eat at the same time without being a jerk.

“Time is a man-made construct.” The units we use to measure it are all man-made. We defined the seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, and so on to represent one of the fundamental aspects of the universe. Time goes on regardless of what we do, we’re just passengers along for the ride.

For simplicity’s sake, we won’t take into account how long a person has been alive or how long they have left. Regardless of wealth, status, or background, everyone is given the same twenty-four hours a day. Time is the great equalizer. How everyone spends their time? That is the difference maker.

Whether we want to use our time to achieve our goals, help others, or waste away – it’s all up to us. There are no rules for what we should do with our time. However, it is the major limiting factor to what an individual can accomplish.

Entrepreneurs have great ideas they want to execute. But usually, they don’t have the time to do everything by themselves. Technically, they could learn all the required skills to be a one-man show, but it would take an unreasonable amount of time to see meaningful results.

Since they have the money to spare, they hire other people who already have those skills to help them with their goals. These employees can spend their time doing things they already know. Collectively, they make up a company and together, they work to carry out the founder’s vision.

Just like our passions and interests, it is up to us to allocate time to pursue them. There’s no such thing as not enough time. If can feel that way, but in the end it’s a choice. Like, I look at all these talented kids on YouTube making music and other content I wish I could produce and feel jealous.

But then I tell myself I shouldn’t. I have the same amount of time as that kid, maybe even more. If I wanted to be as good as them, I would need to put the hours into practicing the right techniques and so on. To think otherwise would be to complain for the sake of complaining.

Since I don’t do that, I obviously don’t feel like it’s important enough for me to make the necessary sacrifices. And that’s what life is all about – choices. The sacrifices we make. Like tasks we have to accomplish at work, we decide what to prioritize.

Which ones do we want to accomplish sooner? What can we cut to make the task easier? What’s non-scope?

If we really want something, we’d be willing to give up a lot of things for it. That’s just how humans function. If we’re desperate enough, nothing’s going to stop us. But most of the time, we’re comfortable enough to not want to make a change or put in any effort. So we end up stuck and not progressing.

Of course, there’s no reason to rush anything – unless you set yourself a deadline you wish to stick to. We can still accomplish our dreams of getting better at things with incremental steps. Break down those large monumental dreams into smaller chunks. When your goals become bite-sized, they’re easier to complete.

Be patient and take your time but be consistent. Thirty minutes a week improving a skill is better than spending zero minutes. Over time, the thirty minutes add up to hours. The next thing you know, you’ve spent more hours improving yourself than whining about it.

Ultimately, life is defined by our choices and sacrifices, shaping our experiences and achievements through how we use our time. You don’t have to succeed immediately, but you need to start somewhere and keep going. A little bit each time will eventually get to where you want to be.

Click, Break, Repeat

I’m a curious guy. I like clicking all the buttons in programs or pushing every button on a computer until I learn about what they do or things break. I enjoy discovering and experiencing new things. I like to try everything before forming an opinion.

After all, there are some things out there you don’t know you need or enjoy until you’ve tried them. Like drugs.

So when my company announced a monthly budget for mental health, I figured – hey, why not use it? I had never visited a therapist before and was curious about it. I didn’t think I needed mental help, but also I didn’t know if I didn’t need it.

With that in mind, I went in with an open mind.

I entered therapists near me in Google, and a center popped up a few minutes away from home. Sweet! Sent them an email to inquire about the price and process, and received a reply the next day. Gave them my WhatsApp number and I continued the conversation there.

I had a conversation with the person running the account and booked myself an appointment shortly after. On the day of the appointment, I arrived at the center about five minutes early and was instructed to register myself.

After that, I entered a room and waited for the therapist.

She arrived after a few minutes and asked me what’s up? I told her I had this budget to spend, wasn’t sure if I needed therapy, and was giving it a shot. She nodded and asked me what she could help me with. I told her about my work-related problems.

If you were expecting some tea, sorry to disappoint.

We spoke for almost an hour, and she was unbiased and remained neutral throughout the whole session. The best part is, that she gave me some actionable advice, which I’ll share below. Hopefully, it can be useful to some of you too.

Problem: Procrastination/Staying Focused

  • Measure the time you spend procrastinating
  • Once you know how long you’re procrastinating each day, shorten those breaks
  • Each week, try to reduce those unproductive minutes (e.g. 2 hours to 1.5 hours, to 1 hour, to 45 minutes, and so on)
  • Take short breaks every time you lose focus. Leave your desk and walk around, talk to people, then come back later
  • Write down your tasks and if possible, the time it takes to complete them, that will help you allocate your time each day

Imposter Syndrome:

  • If you feel undeserving of compliments, look for proof of why you think you’re doing a bad job instead of looking for proof that a compliment is insincere

General Mental Self-Care Tips:

  • Ask yourself how you feel every morning, talk to yourself. Voicing it out can help you understand yourself
  • Have something to look forward to every day. It can be as simple as watching a show or hanging out with a friend. Set a reward for yourself each day

And that sums up my very first therapy session. Did it change me? Maybe. I did walk away with new knowledge. So what did I think of therapy?

Therapists only know what you reveal to them. The quality of their advice is going to be based on how much or what you let them know. If you don’t give them anything to work with, they won’t be able to help you much.

After my first experience, I’ve concluded that it’s not something I would pay so much for but because I get it for ‘free’, I wouldn’t mind going back again. Maybe I’d try other therapists just to see how different it can be.

For now, I’ll try practicing what the therapist suggested and see if it helps me with my work. I’ll report in a few weeks, hopefully with good news.

In the meantime, here’s a related song that features the Number 1 Hot New Band, Hot Mulligan. Happy Mental Awareness Week (one month late)!

Spooky Bad Vibes

I was reminded it was the month of the hungry ghost yesterday as I was walking home and saw people lighting joss sticks on fire by the side of the road. Maybe I did something terrible – like step in ghost poop and walked all over a ghost altar (I did neither of those things) but I’ve been having a terrible month so far.

You know one of those months where life keeps throwing punches when you’re already down? August has felt like that to me. However, I’m also aware of cognitive biases like negativity bias and recency bias. My month couldn’t have been all that bad right?

Since I have nothing better to do (that’s a lie) and I really wanted to write a blog post before the month ended, I sat down and drew up a table of good and bad things that happened to me this month, similar to what I did in January.

August 2023

Bad ThingsGood ThingsNeutral Things
Fell sick before my Bangkok tripHad a 5-day vacation in Bangkok
Which resulted in me not being able to equalize airplane ear when I landed. Even after returning to KL, airplane ear persisted (I still have it)
Got really high in BangkokGot really high in Bangkok
After returning to KL, visited an ENT specialist who couldn’t solve the problem and gave me medication insteadNot sure if I’m getting used to having muffled hearing or I’m getting better
The visit was expensive and my medical claim got rejected – because I didn’t have a referral letter to visit the doctor (the app refused to work when I was trying to secure an appointment)Colleague is trying to help me sort it out
Received a hospital call, asking me if I was someone’s emergency contact, which got me worried about my familyMy family turned out to be okay, not sure how the hospital ended up with my number
My credit card got charged thrice when I tried to pay for my season parking (it failed twice and worked the third time but the charges went through)My bank agreed to investigate the issue
My car’s serpentine belt literally disappeared (must’ve broken and fallen off – or eaten by rats or stolen by ghosts)Got home safely in a tow truck, belt didn’t cost that much to fix
Due to a colleague who left, I’ve been assigned a lot of new tasks at work that I have no experience withIt’s a chance for me to shine
I haven’t been able to write words for new music I’ve writtenI’ve been able to create new music
I can only do three pull upsI’ve been gymming consistently since February and I’m the lowest weight I’ve been in a long time
I’m vaping moreI smoke a lot less
I haven’t had time to gameI’ve been upskilling via online courses
My umbrella brokeI was close to home, so it wasn’t a big deal
Was rudely awakened by a spam call the other dayAs a result of the call, I woke up on time for work
I discovered Spanish Love Songs and Hot Mulligan still slaps
I finally cleaned up my room
Dr. Pepper is now available in Malaysia, in 7-Eleven nonetheless!
Moved to a swanky new office

So, am I being haunted? Nah. While there are way more negative entries than positive ones (it’s easier to remember those), it’s not so bad in retrospect. Nobody has a perfect month unless they’re dead. But then, they’re dead so it doesn’t matter. I can always look forward to the next one.

If you think you’re having a horrible month, try making a table. It could help you appreciate the good that’s going on in your life. If there’s nothing good about your life, you can cry into a pillow.

For those who need to hear something motivating, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: