My life as I am getting to know it

HERE I am sitting in front of the computer and wondering what to write as my closing column for the year.

Do I prattle on about how it has been a watershed year for me because I retired? Or do I rant about another lost year for Malaysia Baru, no thanks to the many missteps and missed opportunities by the muddle-headed Pakatan Harapan administration?

How about I go on my soapbox and talk about the state of the world, which is in crisis over climate change, political eruptions and economic disruptions?

Well, folks, since it’s exactly a week before Christmas, I will start with a joke I heard in church last week. It’s about The Four Stages of Santa in a Man’s Life and it goes like this: First, you believe in Santa. Second, you don’t believe in Santa. Third, you are Santa. And finally, you look like Santa.

Okay, this might work better if you are a Caucasian male with blue eyes and the ability to grow a big white bushy beard but you get the picture.

And even though the Santa adage is male-centric, it can apply to women too. We start out believing in Santa, which is about unsullied childlike innocence. Then the believing stops when we become educated and cynical. Next, we become Santa because we are burdened by bills and mortgages and get treated like an ATM by loved ones. Finally, age catches up and we look the part.

Right now, I am in stage three and trying my best to slow down my descent into stage four. I still have bills to pay and without a regular income, I watch my spending carefully.

In the six months since I have been put out to pasture, I have realised many little things I once took for granted can add up. When I was employed, I had a driver, a company car, a Touch ‘n Go (TnG) card and a corporate petrol card. All gone now.

I traded my high-maintenance German sedan for a modest Japanese SUV. I got my MyRapid Warga Emas card so that I pay only half fares on the LRT and MRT. I will get my KTM card too as I plan to take the trains soon to Ipoh and Penang.

When I do drive, my best friend-cum-guide is Waze to find ways of avoiding toll plazas. I watch my petrol usage too and I no longer tap my TnG card at shopping mall carparks because I don’t want to pay the surcharge. I also look for malls with cheap parking rates!

Next, I ask about senior citizen discounts wherever I go and that includes tickets to cinemas and theatre shows.

I have reduced my credit cards to the minimum, cancelled my Astro decoders (from four down to just one for Mum as no one else in the family was watching) and my gym subscription.

I happily found a good and completely free trainer: fitness expert Lucy Wyndham-Read on YouTube. She enticed me with a video on her seven-minute workout to lose belly fat, and from there, I have gone on to more seven-minute videos and her longer routines.

Google and YouTube were a boon for me while I was working and they continue to be so.

As mentioned in my previous articles, I have started cooking again and I spend hours searching for recipes and watching cooking videos. Grocery shopping is one area where I haven’t reduced my spending, rather the opposite!

Looking after Mum takes up only a bit of my time now as my trusty maid does most of the heavy lifting. I collect and pack Mum’s medication, take her for her medical appointments and weddings, make or buy snacks for her and give her massages while we watch old Chinese movies.

My own enjoyment comes from watching dramas, movies and documentaries from around the world. But if I need a mood lifter, a pick-me-up, I trawl YouTube for videos by my favourite singer Dimash Kudaibergen from Kazakhstan and my favourite group, BTS. Yes, yes, they are the world’s biggest pop group from South Korea and I am proud to love them.

I also have my books. I am re-reading Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists because the movie is finally coming out next month. (More on that in my next column.) I have finally finished Upheaval: Turning Points

for Nations in Crisis, Jared Diamond’s enlightening and frightening tome that our politicians should read too.

Over the last few months, I am especially pleased I have caught some good stuff on the local theatre scene. I watched Dama Asia’s 25th anniversary musical, Rocking Broadway; Actors Studio’s A Man For All Seasons; and Universiti Malaya’s Dance Department’s Kesuma & UMa annual dance showcase.

It was awesome to see so much Malaysian talent on display and how multiracial all the productions were.

So this is my life, six months into retirement. Quiet and relatively stress-free. Sure, I do get stirred and shaken by issues and that’s when I have my rants like my last two columns.

Still, despite Pakatan’s shortcomings, our country is still holding up well. The fact that we are still a peaceful nation, unwracked by endless street protests, that I could ride a clean, efficient, well-designed and safe MRT and enjoy the elaborate Christmas decorations at the malls with fellow Malaysians of all races, is a very good thing.

As for the coming year, I only wish to travel a bit more, lose weight and be fitter, support local theatre (with my friend and ex-colleague Santha) and more ambitiously, get to watch concerts by Dimash and BTS.

Before I go, I will get on my soapbox for a bit. I am forever trying to cut down on my household waste, plastic in particular. I wish the government will come down harder on single-use plastic. They may have banned plastic straws but not the plastic cups those popular bubble tea drinks come in and that’s a lot more plastic than straws!

Governments around the world should also begin banning water in plastic bottles. Instead, make it compulsory for shopping malls to have water dispensers like airports and for restaurants to provide water in glass jugs instead. But we ourselves can say no to plastic bottles. Carry your own water bottle for a start!

I am a great admirer of young climate activist Greta Thunberg, just named Time magazine’s Person of the Year and deservedly so. This amazing Swedish teenager is really walking the talk. I urge everyone to learn her story and watch her speak on the world’s most urgent crisis.

Well, folks, if you have read this far, thank you for taking an interest in my rather dull life. Until next year, Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
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