I’m nearing the end of my 11-day “mid year” holiday. This would typically center around my birthday and involve a vacation to the Philippines to visit family. But no. I’m in Singapore. I’ve spent the past 11 days doing a surprising number of things: a birthday staycation, a birthday gathering at home, getting another root canal, launching a podcast, watching a theatre play…
It’s a much-needed break from the routine of working from home. I thought I would squeeze in a few minutes of work emails or a few minutes of looking through Slack. But in fairness, none of that. I’ve spent almost eleven days in my own lane. Disconnected from work. Focused on me. (Woohoo.)
I turned 36 last week.
I’ve noticed hair growing in places they don’t normally grow (like a random strand of hair on my upper left arm – uhm, hello HU U?). I’ve noticed this odd feeling that I’m 5-10% less moisturised… how to describe, a youthful glow that is slowly starting to fade. I’ve noticed I’m no longer at the forefront of apps, tech… as I used to. It’s like everyone is listening to Olivia Rodrigo and even if I like her music, I feel like I could be Olivia Rodrigo’s dad.
I think I’m having a transformational moment.
I don’t know the exact trigger. It could be from a 10-minute Calm (app) meditation yesterday about embracing one’s vulnerability to be authentic. I think I’ve been obsessed with chasing happiness or living happy. I think that’s a mistake now. I should be chasing authenticity. How to live according to my choices, values, and identity. Choosing happiness or living happily isn’t fair to sadness or anger… which are valid emotions, right? Nobody is purely happy all the time. Sadness, anger, grief… these are all part of the equation.
I think I want to start living my life authentically as possible. I think that involves worrying less about what I can’t change. I think this means the real challenge is to just be me… without chasing what friends, people, and society “want” me to be.
The meaning of friends
This pandemic has isolated many of us from our loved ones. With reduced time spent with “regular friends” you see every other week, I’ve started to reflect on the type of friendships that matter to me.
A friend is someone you don’t have to check in with all the time. But the moment you connect, you just get each other. No formal niceties. No structured chatting.
If that were the criteria then… well, George, you can count your number of friends on one hand. Everyone else is most likely an acquaintance. These acquaintances are familiar people, but what do you really know about them?
And this is absolutely fine.
When I left my dragon boat team in 2019, it was like stepping out of a night club and into a parking lot. As the months passed and the pandemic took hold, it was like walking away from the parking lot and heading home where it’s warm and comfortable. I’m not saying the night club was a bad place. It was a fun place. But I grew exhausted. Plus, the night club had an unwanted patron.
I’ve spent years “cherishing” friendships. I’m the guy who “champions” get-togethers and annual reunions. I’m the guy who wants to “catch up soon”. But these days, no. I think it’s because I’m more comfortable with myself. I don’t see a need to fit myself in “for the sake of it”. I also don’t see myself bending to fit into schedules that don’t match. If I’m unavailable, we can find another time. If I’m late, you can go ahead and eat. I would have already apologised. But I’ll only apologise once. If you think I’m arrogant, I really don’t care.
I try to think if it would be the same if I were single. Yes, I think so. I’d most likely join a social club. Then I’d meet up with one or two friends (not acquaintances) and be fine with that. I think this is taking “I love me” to a new level. I attribute this learning to the pandemic.
All of this said, I am open for authentic connections. Not just happy ones.