End of life

I’m talking about this blog. I’ve decided to shut the WordPress blog down as my objective isn’t to maintain an actual blog. My interest lies in just writing, through my experiences and not to amplify a blog. 

Hence, I’ve started with Medium just to write ‘stories’ and if you are keen to continue reading about my experiences, please follow me here: https://medium.com/@walkingwithali. 

Thank you again for following me on this WordPress site. Much appreciated. 

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What are you reading?

With so many distractions and things to do after work and over the weekends, I have not been disciplined with reading or completing a book. Functional reading such as catching up on news and reading for work take over reading which feeds the soul.

Even when it comes to reading, there’s a question of what do I read now, with the limited time and attention and yet, so much more out there to consume. I’ve hard copy books which are still waiting for some attention. Books on Kindle waiting for that long, chill holiday. On top of that, there’s hiking research and planning to be done for that upcoming backcountry hiking trip in September 2018. Don’t get me wrong. This is a not complaint. I love reading, researching and planning. This is about my recent read…

I managed to complete a book on my Kindle within two days of my purchase! Which is now a feat. No, it’s not a short story. In fact, it’s a rather inspiring true story of four women who are doing well in their careers and at home. They each have two children and they are in their mid-forties and early-fifties.

The book: Four Mums in a Boat

The read was easy and entertaining, so I managed to devour the book over the weekend, owing to our rare lazy Sunday.

They defied all odds and were the first women to row across the North Sea and the oldest women to complete the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. They had no ocean rowing experience and in the book, I learnt that there’s a big difference between river rowing and ocean rowing. They had so many obstacles standing in the way of their dreams before they had even gotten to the actual race.

What I’ve learnt from their story: 

These are not new but we get drawn into the cycle of our routines, work and life.

  • Change is in your hands and you have the power to change something you don’t like in your life.
  • Push on even with some physical challenges. A good reminder for long hiking trips.
  • Dare to dream
  • Grab an opportunity
  • Pack only what you would eat and love in a snack pack…. everything else goes overboard…or in our case, we would end up carrying them [food we don’t want] in and out of the park.

As what Frances has mentioned in the book, “…it takes all sorts to make a world. Some people will never understand. They feel uneasy when other people try to break the mould, rock the boat, and do something a little different; when they stop treading the same path as everyone else.”

Watch this video of their journey (in a nutshell): https://youtu.be/KwVrYWHjqLI 

I’m glad I made the decision to stay home and finish a book on a Sunday. What I’d missed was Tom Cruise’s, apparently best, Mission Impossible movie yet…and training for our hike.

The special walk

I was proposed to about fourteen days ago, on a bridge above a canopy of trees, in Singapore, in the rain, while on a day hike. It was apt since we both love the outdoors, greenery, hiking and it was one of our first hikes together in Singapore. Since then, we’ve gone on longer hikes in New Zealand, Canada and Norway, in the rain, under the sun and in the snow. We’ve made many good memories while on those hikes that’s for sure.

There are so many memories and thoughts that I’m struggling to put this in a blog article read by people who do not know us and hence, the lack of context. For us, getting engaged is a milestone in our lives after five years of living together, but it does not change many other things. Commitment is above any law and it is what holds people accountable to something. However, that said, I grew up in a more conservative culture whereby couples who live together should be legally married and there is still a slight stigma for women who live together with a partner, without getting married or an indication of that happening in the near future. So this was definitely good news for my parents too. They did find out about this earlier than me…when M asked them for permission and blessing before the proposal.

Tradition aside, it is also a goal for many women – to have their very special day, being a princess (although sometimes, we probably do not stop being princesses…). Thanks to all those TV influences – both Western and Eastern, what we are brought up with and societal mindset. Many women see that [getting attached or married] as a part of their value or self-worth.

Coming back to simpler and happier thoughts, hiking and our journey so far which cumulated to the day of being proposed to. It was definitely a special moment which seems more important than signing any legal document. The first few hikes we had as a couple in Singapore and later brought us on many other adventures.

The adventures we had together were great experiences which brought us closer as partners. Multi-day hikes are a great way to bond for sure, when you are ‘bonded’ together for that number of days and nights…

There are so many memories and stories to tell around each hike, adventure and experience we’ve had together. Although we’ve had some bad ones too, just like any other couples, I think it takes work from both parties to work out any issues.

Some things I’ve learn so far after being in a good and healthy relationship. We may not be perfect at doing this yet but a relationship is a learning journey.

  • Do not leave issues as they are. Work them out and find a middle ground if there is and then move on.
  • As partners, we need to lift each other up. From simple things like sharing domestic chores to something more emotional and mental.
  • Listening to each other. Really listen. This is so important for any form of relationship – friends, colleagues, family…yet so tough. Many people listen ‘shallowly’ and jump right off to what they want to say. I’m more aware of this now, but still room for improvement.
  • If there are deal breakers in the relationship, learn to say no and break away as early as possible. Life is too short for staying unhappy for too long.
  • Learn to discover and travel solo first before travelling with your partner. Find that space, peace and happiness within yourself as you should not rely solely on someone else to make you happy.
  • Mutual respect, honesty and trust form the basis of a healthy relationship.

We are so alike in so many ways that it is easy for me to be my weird self. I don’t think there could have been another answer to the proposal other than, yes.

The season for love: is everyday

To think that Valentine’s Day was actually the day we started dating officially. We celebrate our anniversary with at least 60% of the adult population. The day which I’d received chocolates and flowers which gave me such a thrill. That was about five years ago now. While back then, ironically, we probably didn’t know each other as well as we do now. That said, we still learning about each other, but perhaps not so much of a ‘steep learning curve’ now.

While Valentine’s Day is when couples remember to date each other perfunctorily, it should also remind us that gestures of love should continue throughout the year, everyday. It is rather much like an observance of International Women’s Day, World Friendship Day etc. They aren’t something we celebrate for a day but rather, for reflection of achievements and the journey to come. I’m sure many would agree.

I celebrate the time and attention from my partner. The gift of time and attention are priceless.
On the other spectrum, I value the time I have to myself too. Time and space to develop personally.
I appreciate that my partner shares household chores and has a gift for ironing.

I still love the flowers I’d received at the office today. They are sitting pretty in a vase on our dining table now.

 

 

How to work from home

So, it’s been about five months into my new job and we do enjoy remote working arrangements at my company, for most divisions. While I like going to the office and meeting colleagues, I do also cherish the time I have working from home. I do have a nice setup for a home office and hence it makes a good environment for when you need to finish tasks and planning in a seating; while also managing domestic tasks. The arrangement helps me manage my day better especially when there are evening or night calls. While this was novel for me in the beginning and I was a little more ‘excited’ with the prospect of working from home officially and not have to feel guilty about it, it is becoming more of a usual flow for my week. I work from home on Mondays usually and I try to maximise the time I have for things which I do better while working at home than at the office.

Although it can be easy to just stay in PJs, the routine or some boundaries help to keep me on track and in ‘work mode’. These here are just based on my experience (without kids).

  1. Setting the alarm and waking up at the same time for days when I do not need to commute.
  2. Pick a morning routine like reading the news and having coffee and breakfast. For days when you feel like shaking up the routine a little for ‘inspiration’, squeeze in some exercise.
  3. Shower and get dressed. Not into my actual work clothes but just clothes for walking across the street to a store.
  4. Before I start at my home office, I also make myself a cup of tea which signals the start of my work day.
  5. While some days I do work through lunch time, I try to head out for a late lunch to get some air. Even if it means walking across the street to Starbucks. So a downside to me working at home these days is the number of steps in a day. This is something I am fixing and I hope to exercise more regularly on those work from home days.
  6. I make my lunch at home some times. I do not eat in front my desk now. I used to. Of course, besides making a mess on the keyboard and work area, there are other reasons for not eating in front of your work screen. Not ideal especially when you’re sitting at your desk for the whole day with no socialising. Having proper physical room boundaries in the house can help lift your mood or even help with creativity. Have your meal in the dining room if you can.
  7. Cats. I’ve two cats. Which means they can get in your way sometimes when they wake up and decide that they want to join your work space and your calls. When I have a planned call, I close the door to the home office to prevent the cats from meandering in and out when I’m on a call.
  8. Lists: I make a list of things I should complete in a day and to stick to them. There is a A-list which are things which are ‘MUST’ finish and another which are ‘good if I can get started or even finish’. I colour code the lists using sticky pads into different categories of tasks. That’s a personal system.
  9. Set a routine for water. I find that with fewer social breaks at home, I do not take that walk to the kitchen for water as often. And I do not put my water in the home office. Just for a simple reason that I should take that short break and a walk.

These are just some items I thought of…and they are not in any order importance. Everyone would have their own pace and rhythm for working at home. Sometimes when I feel that productivity and creativity levels have dropped, I do try to disrupt my own routine by taking a walk outside and then coming back to work (when there aren’t any calls).

Step goal fail at the end of the day.

The culture dimension @ work

I was reading this article on HBR which really resonated with me. “Culture can’t just be an assortment of well-meaning HR practices; it has to grow out of distinctive business practices.” How many different iterations of ‘culture’ or interpretations are there?

Can you capture what it means to be a member of your organization? At its core, the role of culture is to reinforce a sense of belonging, a shared commitment among colleagues about how they solve problems, share information, serve customers, and deliver experiences.” This is often difficult to implement across the organisation, especially if it’s a large organisation, but so important for talent retention and attraction, in addition to a business impact.

If you’ve not been in the situation of a culture misfit before, it probably wouldn’t be top of mind when taking on a new job offer. However, for job seekers out there, do pay attention to the details around culture. According to a Glassdoor survey, culture and values rated higher for job satisfaction compared with compensation and work-life balance. Nevertheless, on a personal note, I do think work-life balance is a subset or one of the parameters of culture.

What does ‘work culture’ entail? It’s certainly deeper than what is seen on the outside. The type of engagement counts. What is defined as ’employee engagement’? What behaviour is deemed as unacceptable and how do people react to change? Does the organisation truly believe in innovation and that comes through in the way they do things?

One question which I read on Fast Company was rather interesting, ‘How is risk-taking rewarded?’ Risk or change are often not as well-received in more conservative organisations, compared with a company which is often the disruptor or on its way to becoming one.

I came across a few articles which are quite helpful in helping job seekers develop a ‘checklist’ for culture matching, from Fast Company, The Balance and The Muse.