0689 – do reviews to measure your progress against the ceaseless sands of time

I wrote two word vomits yesterday before getting interrupted by the Internet and running out of battery on my Macbook. I wonder how far I can go today? Let’s aim for 4. I’m playing “french cafe music” in the background on Spotify. Where was I yesterday? I was talking about the supposedly carefree nature of childhood, and ended up digging into what I thought was interesting about the social lives of teenagers. Do I want to continue from there, or do I want to do something entirely different? The node ahead of me is “September 2017”.

Let’s go ahead. I’ve been thinking about the passage of time. I’m sure I could google “visakanv ‘passage of time’” and find quite a large set of writing. I’m tempted to do it now, but let’s pause that to finish the rest of this vomit. What do I mean by passage of time? I mean, time passes all the… time… and I don’t really feel it. A couple of vomits ago I talked about “endlessness”. Another way of framing it is repetitive mundanity. Repetition by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t mind the repetition of writing again and again, day after day. It soothes me, nourishes me, helps me calm down, get into my bones. But I hate the mindless repetition of a daily commute. Commutes just suck, period. I’m sure lots has been written about it already, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel there. The point is that there’s good repetition and bad repetition, and since so much of life is repetitive, it makes a lot of sense to try and get more of the good and diminish the bad.

Daily and weekly updates would be good to do, but a little unrealistic to have to trawl through on hindsight. Monthly updates, on the other hand, seem perfectly sensible to me. On the first day of every month, at 12 noon, Singapore has an island-wide test of our emergency warning system. It’s tested with a pleasant chime that sounds like bells. (The actual use case is for warning sirens, in case of air raids and whatnot.) It’s a useful cue and reminder that a month has passed. And it’s a good moment to stop and reflect on the past month, and the month ahead. After all, if we live to be 80, we only get 960 months. That’s less than a thousand months. And you can discount the first 20 years or so when you’re still figuring out who the hell you are and what the hell is going on. So you get maybe 60 good years if you’re lucky. And I don’t feel very lucky. I feel like I should think about my life as though I’m only going to live to, say, 40. I don’t know why I have that feeling but I just do, even though my father and grandfather both appear to be aging very nicely. My grandfather is in his 90s now. Still, when I am still, I feel this sense of urgency. Like I’m being complacent when I should be moving forward. I don’t want to be in a total panic, I don’t want to be rushing, but I feel like there’s this adjacent reality where I’m moving purposefully. That’s what I want to be. Moving purposefully.

I happened to stumble on some old videos today – videos from 2013 and 2014. They don’t feel like they’re from very long ago, and at the same time, they’re from 3-4 years ago. Just a few months after I’d gotten married, after I’d started work. My current living arrangement is now the most stable one of my life – most Singaporeans spend 6 years in their primary school, but I changed schools halfway through – so my longest experience in one institution was in secondary school. 4 years. I’ve exceeded that now at my current workplace, where I’ve come to work for 4.5 years now. It’ll be 5 years before I know it. When my wife and I got married, we joked that if things didn’t work out, we could just keep things going for 5 years and then split. That timeframe is coming to an end. Cheesy as it sounds, I feel the winds of change upon me. When I talk to other friends (typically a couple of years older), I hear similar things. Friends my age too are just beginning to get married. (Speaking of marriage – I saw that Hayley Williams and Chad Gilbert got divorced after 16 months together. They were dating for about 10 years and then they got divorced after 16 months. In their own words, marriage is not for the faint of heart.)

So what then? What then? I was watching the video of myself in 2013 and I found myself embarrassed, cringing. I was less graceful then than I am now. I was louder, more obnoxious, more annoying. I’m still generally loud, I suppose, but I think I’ve learned to tone it down over the past 4 years. I think I’ve gotten a little bit more sensitive to the feelings of others. I think I’ve become a little bit more considerate, a little bit more temperate. As I say these words, of course, I find myself flooded with recent memories of instances in which I have failed to meet my own standards. And I cringe again. I still have a lot of work to do, and I hope I will continue to say that for as long as I am alive. I want to be a constant work in progress. That’s what I want to define me. Sometimes I encounter people who I find impressive, but after a couple of years of getting to know them, I find that they’re pretty much stagnant in some way. I’m sure I am too, and the thought troubles me. This is why I think it’s really important to do regular status updates. To keep growing and learning and reflecting. I am 27.5 years old now. I’m thinking back to all the milestone years – 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25. They all felt like important milestones, they all felt like thresholds that I had to cross. And yet sometimes it feels like I haven’t even started. I suppose it will always feel that way. All the more reason to get more focused, more disciplined, more rigorous, and to articulate my development more precisely.

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