The Year That Was 2020

Christmas 2020 family photo

Blessed Christmas to everyone who read this. In all our celebration with food and presents, let’s remember the reason for Christmas is the gift of Jesus.

I write this blog post as I reflect on the year 2020. The year started off pretty normal. In the first quarter, our family was busy trying to get our new house ready.

Nightfall

Then the economy came to a halt in Malaysia and Australia.

I work for an Australian company, so anything that happens to Australia has a direct impact to my rice bowl. In the second quarter, we received news of some colleagues being retrenched, including some of my team members. The rest of us who were left would have to take a pay cut.

I was hurt and felt betrayed. It felt so painful that I was losing my friends in the company. I was being pushed off the ledge, with only a single life rope holding me from crashing down. And a knife was slowly cutting the rope.

I just bought a house. What if I couldn’t pay for the loan? What if I lost my job? How do I feed my family?

I went into depression. I cut off contact with everyone. I didn’t want to meet anyone or talk to anyone. I felt like such a failure in life.

I stopped looking at social media. I just couldn’t stand to see anyone else happy. I see people enjoying their lockdown by doing hobbies or relaxing. It made me so furious.

I had to escape. I decided to find a stable job.

No success, zero interviews for months.

My lowest point was when we were allowed to go back to the office. Can you imagine going to work in an empty office. I had to sit there looking at the empty desks of my friends who were made redundant. Eating lunch alone.

Then they asked me to dismantle some of the servers and redundant hardware in the office. We just didn’t need them any more because there were so few staff. Turning them off was like switching off life support and watching somebody die.

I pushed myself to update my skills. I spent hours in the evening and on weekends learning and practicing new skills.

I was looking at the job websites daily. Still no opportunities came by.

Dawn

Then, one day I received an email. A MLM company was looking for a developer. Since I spent 15 years at my first company Elken, I seemed like a good match for the role.

I deleted the email.

Because I no longer had confidence. Because I didn’t want to get another rejection. But that night I couldn’t stop thinking about the offer. Poey Chin told me there’s no harm trying. The next morning, I retrieved the email from my trash bin, and replied.

Went through the interviews and everything seemed to align. The job scope was great. The company and products were great. Most important for me, I found out that the company was in a growth stage. This gave me the assurance I needed!

The offer letter came and I was offered an increment compared to my previous salary. I accepted on the spot.

I felt sad leaving my previous job, there are so many great people there. I just couldn’t survive with an uncertain future. I wish that company all the best and I am rooting for their success.

Daybreak

I have been in the new company for over a month now. I am so excited to say that I’ve found a new happy home. There is so much sharing, generosity and joy from my boss and colleagues.

The difference is like night and day.

I am incredibly grateful for this new job. They have given me so much more than they will ever know.

I owe so much to everyone who have taught me when I was younger, and were willing to help me through the interview process.

It’s really strange how the year turned out.

I went through my lowest point, only for things to turn better than I could have ever imagined. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, only to find something even better. I thought I’ve left the MLM industry behind me, but in the end those experiences helped me in my time of need.

Lessons Learned

#1. Be conscious of the tendency to compare on social media

Everyone only post good news or the best things on social media. Unconsciously you will compare yourself to them, and it makes you unhappy (or less satisfied) with what you have.

I’m not saying you cannot use social media. But keep this effect in mind.

#2. Watch out for ‘golden handcuffs’

Golden handcuffs are when you have benefits at your current company such as good salary or benefits. When you look for a job at other companies, you cannot find the same benefits. At the same time, you find your skills are no longer up to date. So you are stuck at the current company.

The way to prevent this is to always keep upgrading your skills. Always keep up to date so you have more options if you ever need to find another job. Never be content and sit there thinking you’re ok.

The company can change their strategy and plans any time. You are just a “resource” that can be replaced any time. You have more options when you have more skills.

#3. It doesn’t take much time to learn new things

This year I’ve tried taking courses in psychology. I tried meditation. I learned so many tech skills. I learned Italian.

Probably I got a bit less time for afternoon naps. Probably I watched less TV series. But I found the time to get so many new skills and I’m hungry to learn more.

#4. There is always someone worse off than you

It was easy for me to pity myself but I realise I still have a better life compared to others.

So even in my time of desperation I have learned to give, to donate to those who are in need. I have given through my church but I’ve also learned to help out the local businesses that are finding it hard to survive.

Conclusion

Ok that’s all for now. Wish all of you a Happy New Year. Hope it’s a brighter 2021 for everyone.

Aloe Vera Flowering

My dad gave us this aloe vera plant around three years ago. It liked it because I had a small collection of succulents. And aloe plants were able to survive well in our tropical climate.

After we moved it to our new house, it suddenly grew a flower stalk. This photo was taken in March, during the MCO.

After a few days, the flowers started to wilt and drop off.

I’ve read that aloe vera plants are unable to self-pollinate, so unfortunately my aloe vera plant cannot produce seeds without another flowering aloe vera plant.

As I write this post in November, it had just sprouted flowers again. But this time there isn’t as many flowers on the stalk.

Moving Day

We moved into our new home on Feb 28th 2020.

It was a good day to move because it was near the end of the month, so I didn’t have to pay another month of rental at our old home. It was a Friday so we had the whole weekend to unpack.

This was before the MCO in March, before the Seri Petaling cluster emerged. So we were not even considering infections or wearing masks at that time.

We heard from some friends that it was much easier (and safer for our backs) to engage the services of professional movers. We asked for our friends recommendations and selected one.

All we had to do before moving was to make sure we’ve got rid of all the things we don’t want, and make sure we keep our valuables.

They arrived in a five ton lorry filled with cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, mahjong paper, and bubble wrap.
They sent ten men. Immediately half of them started to wrap our furniture in plastic. The other half stared to pack our belongings into cardboard boxes.

Yes that is the same dining table we’ve been using. You can see that table in my early blog posts from 2007.

Some of our boxes packed and ready to go. They will write down where the box is supposed to go in the new house (hall, kitchen, etc.).
They even provide the service of dismantling the beds and re-assemble them. Mattresses are wrapped in plastic to keep them clean.

Within one and a half hours, the lorry was loaded up and was ready to go with the first batch. They left 2 people behind to continue packing while the others went to the new house.

Even teddy bear was wrapped in plastic.

They called reinforcements for more cardboard cartons.

After unloading the first batch, they left two people at the new house to re-assemble furniture. Then the lorry came back for the second batch.

We had so many items to move. Fridge, washing machine, furniture, garden plants, tons of personal belongings.

The entire move was complete in around four hours.

The only things I carried in my car were valuable and fragile items.

It took three men in a three ton lorry to move all our things from our condo to our previous home. And it took ten men and two trips in a five ton lorry to move out of that home. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

This is how the boxes ended up in our kitchen. We spent the next few days “treasure hunting” each time we needed some kitchen utensils.

After unpacking, we folded all the packing paper and cardboard boxes. The movers came to collect them back a week later.

We’re very happy with the movers. You can see the name of the mover in the photos. If you want, I can pass you the contact. Price was quite reasonable, no hidden charges and work was fast.

At our “older” age, we don’t really have a lot of stamina. So it really helped that we didn’t have to go through muscle ache or sprains. We could focus on unpacking which is already a huge task.

The kitchen cabinets were still not installed when we moved in. Which meant we couldn’t unpack our kitchen for almost a week.

The contactor provided good service to assign one person to our house for the moving day. He helped do minor things like install our washing machine, touch up painting, and and repair any scratches caused by the movers.

Before moving, we tried to finish all our food and groceries supplies. We didn’t want to move so many items. After we moved, and before we had the chance to re-stock, the country went into lockdown. That is a story for another day.