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Living more with less

The past 5 weeks back home in Singapore has been a roller-coaster ride of sorts. Figuring out my next courses of action for my life (I know it sounds serious, but it’s really not as serious as it sounds :)), trying to re-understand love and lost love, re-adjusting to the ways of life in this tiny, power-packed country state, a few to name. Analysing what are the right things to do.

Perhaps, I am a chronic over-thinker. Perhaps, I have too much time on my hands. Whatever the case is, I believe it’s a blessing, a huge blessing. To be able to have this privilege to sit back, undistracted by novelties of life (à la South America) or energies expelled doing work that I know do not make me happier or more fulfilled (à la Singapore). To be able to have the space to gain clarities of sights.

I’ve come home the same yet different. Same in terms of my character, my temperaments, same in terms of who I am deep in me. I am the same granddaughter to my grandmamma, the same daughter to my parents, the same sister to my brother. The same friend I have always been to my closest of friends.

Yet I’m different. Different in terms of desires, different in terms of reactions to things around me. In my course of work inculcating Emotional Intelligence to my ex-colleagues, I’ve always advocated that behaviours change with beliefs. But nothing truly prepares us for the moment we see these intellectual theories live in action, right down our own alleys. And wow, it is honestly, pretty magical 🙂

For one, I’ve learnt to live with a lot less. Maybe a part of it is by circumstances, since I am not having a regular income anymore, but a big part of it is definitely by choice. I realised I really do not need that many material possessions to make me happier.

10 months ago, I took a leap of faith by leaving my job (and ended up with a counter-offer of a year-long sabbatical from work) and choosing a path of so-called instability by not having a regular income. At that point of time, my life was really cushy. I’d always had good paying jobs because money gave me incredible comfort and security. You see, I grew up in a very humble home, living in a tiny governmental apartment where my parents worked really, really hard to provide for my brother and me to the best of their abilities. Because my Dad is Malaysian and owned businesses in Malaysia, things got really challenging when the Singapore dollar rose quickly and steadily against the Malaysian riggit. Regardless, they kept going. My parents never once fought over money even though I knew we did face challenging times for extended periods of time. Though largely unexpressed verbally, their love for my brother and I is bottomless. I am a very lucky girl.

However, I also went to schools where many of my peers were staying in luxurious condominiums and big landed properties. They had the niftiest toys and gadgets. They had the most beautiful bedrooms and houses. They had the coolest birthday parties ever. And that greedy little girl I was then, also wanted all of that.

As such, money had always been a theme of my life since I was young. And the fears were real. I still remembered my Mom telling me, probably out of genuine desperation to get my grades better, “this is all that we have. If you can’t graduate from school, you will have to work.” And I remembered being scared shitless at the prospect.

And that sealed the decisions I took in my life thereafter – going to business school even though my heart had always been in social sciences and the arts, studying enough so that I know I will do well enough for bursaries and grants, working while I was studying so that I can have more pocket money, taking well-paying jobs after that because it really didn’t make sense to make any less.

Subconsciously, I gravitated towards jobs that could fuel that glamorous lifestyle I wanted. I excelled in jobs that paid commissions, I went on to the jet-setting life of a flight attendant with our national carrier, taking the role of the enigmatic Singapore Girl by donning the gorgeous sarong kebaya and leading a truly materialism driven life. I travelled in style. I stayed in luxurious hotels around the world. I partied hard. I dined and drank well. I had surreal, some dreamy encounters. I started my collection of excessive designer bags, leather goods and watches. I became a trainer with the airline and business travels were luxurious in First or Business Classes. I eventually wormed myself into the banking industry, because I knew that the banks will be great paymasters given the skills that I excel in.

The strategist in me had it all planned out.

However, the strategist in me failed to recognise that life works in strange ways. She failed to realise that as much as she has everything planned, there will come a day where the true desires of the heart will always win.

So much for being a hardcore planner.

The then-me would be horrified to know that I have chosen to be income-less for the last year, because that was an unthinkable thought and definitely unacceptable.  I would have thought that I was crazy and I needed to get real. Love does not pay bills.

But guess what? I did it anyway. I was so sick of leading a compromised life. I don’t want to sell my soul to anything that doesn’t matter anymore.

After taking the stash of money I had initially saved for a condominium to take off to Argentina last January, my life has not stopped blossoming.

In the past 8 months, I lived on nothing but 2 dresses, 3 skirts, 3 pairs of shoes, a handful of pants and some tops. Totally unthinkable, for someone as vain as me.

But I’ve never been happier.

I’ve immersed myself in my love for cooking, for dancing, for reading, for music, for being out on a clear Autumn day enjoying the beauties Mother Nature bestowed on me.

More importantly, I’ve gained incredible insights to what truly makes me happy. Not a swanky new car, not the trendiest restaurant, not that expensive apartment in the middle of the coolest street. The trees swaying their leaves in the wind, the clear blue skies, the gorgeous sunset over the horizon, the seaside, the beautiful mountains, the laughter of children, home-made food, beautiful conversations and moments, and the precious relationships with people – those matter so much more.

When I first came home 5 weeks back and looked at my bedroom stashed with my material possessions, the first thought that came to my mind was, “wow, imagine the amount of experiences I could have gained if I had used the money different instead”.

Am I ready to be a tree hugging hippie? Hell, NO. Hahahaa.  Like I’ve said, I’m too vain. I still love my dresses and I still love looking pretty 🙂

But I’ve learnt that it doesn’t have to be that extreme. We can still be who we want to be by owning less and living more. Expensive clothes or accessories don’t make me prettier. A nice design, a free spirit and a big heart do.

Last Monday, I’ve taken another plunge – I had informed my boss that I will not return to my job in November and had officially tendered my resignation. Yes my friends, I am officially jobless 😛

I have decided to return to the city that I am not done with yet, the lovely Buenos Aires. I’m going to learn my Spanish properly (I will get there!!), dance Tango like there’s no tomorrow and keep plotting to make my dream of being a global employee work.

Money is still important, because it fuels dreams. But the distinction is this – it shouldn’t run our lives. It is just another tool, and we should technically be using it to fuel whatever that is in our heart’s desire.

Is it a big leap of faith? HELL YEAH. Because I’ve decided to use whatever that’s left in my kitty fund to go make this happen. That is crazy scary.

I was out for dinner with two ex-colleagues of mine last night, and we were fussing over my friend’s new purchase of a gorgeous green Bottega Veneta bag. And at some point, my other friend said, “wow, look at what you’ve gotten there” and I replied, “thank gawd for my material past” before we all broke out in peels of laughter.

Whatever choices that we had made in the past, will never be wrong choices. I’ve come to see that there is no right or wrong choice. There is only the choice that resonates with us now, and it is never too late to start on a clean slate. Life is always in transition and is a journey of creation anyway.

For me, simplicity and simplification matter the most now. My desire to work with people with the vision to make lives better, my desire to engulf in my passions of dance and the arts, my desire to form the strongest, most solid relationships ever. My desires to live simply with a family I’ve created and my desire to be with a man who fully embraces me for who I am. Life doesn’t have to be so hard. We just have to keep the focus, drop the things that aren’t value-adding, and keep going for what matters.

Because we all deserve a life well lived. Not just me, but you and I.

I’ve stumbled upon this brilliant article written 2 years back in The New York Times. It is an oldie but still a goldie. It validates my belief that I’m not the only one seeking liberation, and most of us are perhaps (as unbelievable as it sounds) going through the same journey. Maybe, this article will provide some good insights for all of us 🙂

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/opinion/sunday/living-with-less-a-lot-less.html?mwrsm=Facebook&referer=&_r=0

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7 thoughts on “Living more with less

  1. Oh Jane, beautifully written, i really do wish I had gotten to know you better…who knows, maybe you will still be in the beautiful Argentina next time we visit. Otherwise , if you ever choose to visit Australia, my little Australian/Argentinian family would be glad to have you. Sarah

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  2. Jane says:

    Thanks Sarah 🙂 yes it’s a pity we didn’t interact more in Rosario, but who knows, we might again in Argentina/Australia/Singapore…And thank you for your warm invitation… I do miss Melbourne and will love to revisit one day! Meanwhile, hope everything is great for you and your family down under. Besosss

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  4. Hello Jane. A beautifully written article! U are really a brave soul, leaving your harbor now to sail the sea. I am really envious, and wish u all the best for your journey ahead.

    I am hoping to go Argentina sometime next year. I want to be in Brazil for the Olympics. If I am, I will make it a point to travel to Argentina and Chile. I will drop you a note if I am indeed going, to see if we can meet. Maybe I can even bring you some Singaporean goodies 🙂

    We are somewhat on the same path. I let go of my car when I left for my sabbatical, and since, I have not gotten any. I am also living a frugal lifestyle, preferring to spend my money on meaningful experiences instead of on material goods.

    So I do empathize. It is not an easy path to take when we are in Singapore, surrounded by people always comparing and numerous temptations to indulge. Most people spend time in shopping malls, to shop and to eat. It really seems to me sometimes, rather meaningless.

    I pray that you will find your soul in Argentina. And when we do meet over there, you can infect me with your carefree spirit and share with me all the wonderful tales of your experiences.

    Take care 🙂

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    • Jane says:

      Hi Tony!

      I leave this weekend. Yes let me know when you drop by – always heartwarming to meet fellow Singaporeans far away from home!

      And thank you for your well wishes, I’m a mix-bag of emotions these days- excited, scared like crazy, vulnerable, hopeful! LOL. exciting times ahead!

      And I hope you find what makes your heart sing soon. Then again, it’s always there, we just need to embrace it with our whole heart 🙂

      Read this by Mark Manson last night, and I couldn’t agree more!!! Hope you like this article too:

      http://markmanson.net/passion

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  5. Hey Jane. Do drop me an email so I may inform you when I am on my way to Argentina 🙂 and have lots of fun there. Excited for u that you are leaving this weekend. Wow! 🙂

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