A Smorgasbord of Reflections

Before I start feeling inundated by work life, I want to pen down my reflections on the recent happenings in my life. I hope that I can look back at this post in the future and laugh at the thoughts of the younger version of myself.

Coney Island, Singapore. Photo taken one evening in 2020 where I went to Coney Island for a jog.

Covid-19

The world today is vastly different from just two years ago. So much has changed and yet at the same time, so much has remained the same too.

Ever since the declaration of the Covid-19 as a global pandemic to be taken seriously, governments worldwide have imposed lockdowns or strict restrictions on social activities. This has resulted in a slowdown of economies worldwide, disruptions of people’s social and work lives, increased mental problems, wider rift between the poor and the rich, educations being halted for some, separation of family members across country borders, racism violence in the Americas as well as a host of other societal problems. For many Singapore residents, the occasional weekend trips to the nearby Johore state for a relaxing get-away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore life are now a thing of the past. Travelling has become fraughted with many new restrictions such as the need to serve quarantines and worries of getting infected on the journey.

Every evening on telegram, where I subscribe to the local newspaper The Straits Times channel, I will receive a notification informing me of the number of local transmission cases, imported cases and foreign workers dormitory cases. On the radio and television, there are countless reports of how the other countries in the world are faring and dealing with Covid-19 transmission cases. While several countries like China have appeared to have successfully kept the number of cases low, many countries in the world are still struggling to keep the virus in check. News of new Covid-19 hotspots springing up in the community or that a new variant of the virus is spreading amongst the population frequently make the headlines of the local Singapore news.

It’s troubling times indeed. Very soon, I find myself tuning out and not bothering about the situation anymore. It gets annoying after a while and there is no point for me to fret over the numbers of cases in the community and start conceiving negative or depressing thoughts in my mind about the gloomy future. While I am hopeful that things will quickly bear a certain resemblance to Pre-Covid times (especially with the increased vaccinations), I am pretty certain that this virus is here to stay for at least 2–3 more years. This is especially so when I still hear news of vaccinated people being infected with the virus and the enormous amount of efforts needed to make vaccinations available to everyone globally. I guess the Covid-19 will be something like the common flu, destined to be present amongst mankind, though with more serious health threats.

To be fair, I count myself to be fortunate. All my family members and relatives are safe and healthy. We have a roof over our head and I did not have any major life plans being disrupted. Thanks to technology, I was able to continue my university studies by having online zoom lessons. I also live in a country where the government has done a relatively decent job in maintaining order in society. As my house is nearby a reservoir, I have also been able to maintain my running habits to keep me sane!

A capture of sunset at Bedok Reservoir (2020)

In fact, since the first lock down imposed in around May 2020, I have been staying indoors for 80% of my time. My routine is pretty much the same everyday. But I am not complaining. I think that while Covid-19 has brought about a lot of inconveniences and even heart breaks for families around the world, it is undeniable that it has “forced” everyone to slow down and consider what really matters in life. Personally, I have become more appreciative of the little things I used to take for granted in the past. For example, realising that being able to walk around mask-less and dining in restaurants is a privilege. I also had more time to pursue new hobbies, learn new things and spend more time with my family. For sure it’s fortunate that we have our technological devices to entertain us during this period of time. Otherwise, I am sure many of us will go bonkers.

I have also been thinking about how it is a pity that many of the smartest brains on earth are working in technology companies, concerned with devising algorithms that are designed to make people click on advertisements or solving trifle problems such as making people addicted to their screens and spending huge portions of their time on unproductive activities online. The scale of the Covid-19 outbreak has led me to realise how vulnerable mankind is as well as the lack of attention being paid to industries such as Health and Environment. We hear news of hospitals being under-equipped and unable to deal with the sudden increased in patients seeking treatment. Why is it that in this 21st century where technology is so advanced, we are still experiencing inadequacy in certain areas of healthcare? (Eg, Where are those robots that can help nurses and doctors attend to patients? Why haven’t a cure for the virus been invented yet?) I think something has to be done to allocate more of mankind’s efforts in things that really matter. We should have more scientists working in the health tech and environmental tech industry to innovate solutions and help protect mankind from future catastrophes.

As quoted from one of Katy Perry’s song (I think….), “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I trust that we will all emerge from this pandemic feeling stronger and appreciative of the little things in life. Then again, given the forgetful nature of humans, after a while, all of these will just be a distant memory and we will all fall back to our old habits and thinking, be it good or bad.

Graduation & the Next Phase in Life

An early morning at Ridge View Residential College, NUS (2020)

I have just graduated from University and will be starting my next phase in life as a software engineer at a tech company. Out of the 8 semesters of my time at NUS, I spent 1 overseas, 1.5 semesters at home, 1 semester partially at home and in school, and the rest in physically school. Even though I might not have a physical commencement ceremony and that the second half of my studies was conducted mostly via zoom online, I am grateful that I got to enjoy the first 2 years of my academic years the “normal way”.

The following are what I am grateful for:

  • Staying at a residential college where I got the chance to live on campus and live with people of my age. Most importantly, it was convenient as I could stay as late as I wanted to complete school projects or arrange impromptu meetings with lecturers to clarify lecture concepts.
  • Being able to attend NUS Overseas College in Beijing. In fact, my first post in this medium account was about my experience at NOC. Check it out!
  • Having the opportunity to step into the world of computing and learning things I would otherwise never have picked up on my own.
  • Meeting smart, talented, funny and interesting friends along the way!
  • Starting to take running seriously. Since I was in Primary school, I had always enjoyed playing all sports and represented my school for netball and basketball team competitions. While I wasn’t necessarily the best in the sports I played, sports has always been one of my biggest passion growing up. I can remember the adrenaline rush I feel whenever I score a goal in a game of Basketball or when I manage to return a shuttle smash in Badminton. Upon entering University, I had expected myself to join a sports club and continue making new friends who enjoyed sports as I do. Unfortunately, because of the odd late timings (most started at around 9pm or 11pm etc) that most sports activities were conducted at, I didn’t manage to. I was not a late night sleeper and did not like playing sports at night. I was used to playing sports in the afternoon/evening. Hence, I only joined a few training sessions of Tennis and Volleyball organised by the residential college that I resided at in my first year and quitted thereafter. However, I wanted to continue exercising. Therefore, I turned to running as my main form of exercise. Running is a flexible solo sport that I could do alone at my own time, own pace. I started to run at least 4–5 times a week in the evenings and it provided me with the much needed respite from my school work. It was a huge change because prior to university, I only went running once a week. However, the more I ran, the more I enjoyed it. I am truly glad to have discovered my love for running!
A photo of the block where I used to stay on NUS Campus (2020/2021)

If I were given a clock to rewind my time back to year 1 of university, the one thing that I would change would be my mindset.

I entered university feeling very apprehensive. After my A’ Levels, I knew that I had to pick my major carefully because it would have a profound impact on my future career. It was stressful period for me because I was unsure of which path I should take and I didn’t want to make a mistake in such an important decision. Eventually, I chose to take a leap of faith and study Computer Science. This was because I thought that it would allow me to have a flexible career and that by being an engineer, I could work at anywhere in the world or work at any industry I liked. This was unlike other professions which I had previously considered, such as Civil Engineering or Medical Healthcare industry where professionals had to obtain certain professional accreditation specific to the country they wanted to work in. As I knew that I didn’t want to remain in Singapore forever and I wanted to experience living in other cities in the world, I knew that being a software engineer would give me greater flexibility and was a right choice for me. However, I had never learned coding before and wasn’t good with computers or any electronic hardware for that matter, this led me to doubt myself frequently during my course of studies. Especially in my first year, I struggled in my academics and spent many days trying to catch up with the fast-paced lectures in school. My self-esteem hit rock bottom. I pondered about my future and wondered everyday if I had made the right choice in studying Computer Science. I felt like a failure.

Looking back, I realised that if I had more self-confidence, I could have coped better and performed better. Negativity is the first step in the direction of failure. If I could change, I would tell myself to be more confident and make the effort to make more friends so that the journey would not be so stressful. Fortunately, as the semesters went by, I became better and gained more confidence in myself.

As of writing, I have around 2-3 weeks to the start of my first job. I hope that I will love my job and form good relationships with my colleagues. As an introvert, I get stressed and flustered easily in the presence of strangers. I prefer sitting in the corner and observe people rather than be in the center of attention. However, if there is anything I have learned from the e-books I have read and webinars I have watched, gaining visibility is the most important thing in the workforce. I will need to be brave to speak up in meetings, contribute my opinion and network. Time to grow up! I also need to write clean code and be able to complete the tasks given to me. In preparation, I have been reading software engineering related books to improve my knowledge. I hope I can meet the expectations set by everyone in the company and most importantly, myself.

I am actually not 100% sure how long I will stay in the software engineering industry for. Regardless, at least for the first three years, I want to succeed and enjoy my job. I hope that I do not get burned out or “destroy” my body health in the process. If I find myself not enjoying it anymore, I hope that I will be brave enough to step out, try something new and make a career switch if necessary.

As shared in the book How will you measure your life, there are two factors to job satisfaction.

  • Hygiene Factor: Elements of work that, if not done right, causes us to be dissatisfied. Eg, status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policy and supervisory practices. However, having hygiene factors alone does not make us happy. We just won’t hate it.
  • Motivation Factor: Factors that causes us to love our jobs. Eg, challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth. They arise from the intrinsic conditions of the work itself.

It may sound idealistic to want to have both factors in a job. However, it is not impossible. I just need to keep an open mind and try out new opportunities. Eventually, I have to trust that I can carve out a meaningful career for myself. And most importantly, always remember that comparing with others is the bane of life.

Hopes for the future?

In some ways, I feel that in the past few years, I have grown and now have a clearer picture of what are my priorities in life. In other ways, I still feel that I am the same ignorant girl in a big big crazy world that is beyond my comprehension.

Here are some outline of my goals that I hope to achieve in the coming few years:

Language

Continue to read books in both my Mother tongue and English to improve my language skills.

As a graduate of the so called “Bilingual” education system of Singapore, I disdain myself for being fluent in neither my Mother tongue nor English. While I do speak mandarin at home, watch mainly Chinese entertainment shows or videos and listen to Chinese songs, I don’t dare to say that my mother tongue skills is on par with a native speaker. It is not good enough for a professional setting but decent for everyday conversations. At the same time, my English speaking skills is not comparable to many English native speakers as well. Sometimes I pronounce words wrongly, stutter and struggle to think of the right words in a conversation. (Though I am inclined to think that I am better at reading and writing in English.) So where does that leave me? A half filled bucket lady who is neither proficient in English nor her own mother tongue? One who can only speak Singlish?

There are enough arguments on the internet on why speaking Singlish should be discouraged and I will not go into them. I have a Love-Hate relationship with Singlish. On one hand, I hate speaking Singlish because it makes me sound uncultured, unprofessional and also incomprehensible to foreigners. On the other hand, I do find it convenient and easy to express myself in Singlish. It is a language conceived out of laziness where one uses borrowed words from other languages/dialects that one can think of without caring about the grammar rules. It is a product of inter-racial mixing in a multi-racial country. While some Singaporeans may say that they are proud of Singlish, it is not something that I want to continue speaking in. I am going to make a resolution that I should try my best to type and speak properly whether I am in both an informal and formal setting.

Marathon:

I hope that Covid-19 will be under control within the next one or two years so that I can take part in at least a few actual Half-Marathon and Marathon races before I turn 30.

My first overseas running race at Qian Dao Hu, Zhe Jiang Province, China! I didn’t run a half marathon then because I was under prepared and there wasn’t any more vacancies by the time I signed up. I ran the 9.2km race instead!
A shot taken in the middle of my run! I couldn’t resist stopping mid way to capture this sight! (2019)

Travel:

Travelling allows me to gain different perspectives, see new sights, appreciate the world and try new fun things! I like taking photographs and it is always such a good break from my mundane life in tiny red dot Singapore.

I hope that I can achieve my dreams of bag packing around the world and visit all the countries in the world!! It may seem like a far-fetched dream but I plan to do this after a few years of being in the workforce once I have accumulated enough savings. I hope that by then, I still remember my dream and be brave enough to achieve it.

Harbin Ice Snow World!!! Taken in early 2020.
Brrr…it was so cold…the temperature was almost -20 degrees celcius. It was definitely a big challenge taking photographs at such a cold weather.

Investment:

Investment is a grown up topic for me. There is so much about the finance world that I still don’t understand. Honestly, sometimes I don’t feel like learning investment and finance. Butttt…I have to set aside time learn and do it properly. As I always see in the advertisements shown to me on Youtube, “the longer I wait to learn how to invest, the longer I fall into the trap of having a single source of income” :p If I put my savings in the bank, inflation will soon make the value of my savings depreciate. Hence, investment is a must-do in order to save guard my wealth……

The end of my rantings…..

Photo From Pinterest. Have a Curry Puff, Have a Break!

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LiveRunGrow

LiveRunGrow

This is a repository of my thoughts on my personal life, my random interests & notes taken down as I navigate my way through the tech world!