D-day delayed, but…

Unfortunately, increasing COVID restrictions affected us personally. D-day didn’t happen. 🙁 While it’s disappointing, there’s nothing to do but wait a little longer.

At the same time, I have to keep reminding myself how lucky S and I are. In the grand scheme of things, we are still very fortunate. There’s nothing to do but sit tight for now.

The Olympics have been a welcome distraction from all the COVID updates. Now, I don’t watch sports at all. I knew zero Aussie athletes (up until a week ago). So, it’s pretty funny how invested I’ve been with the Australian Tokyo campaign!

I read a tongue-in-cheek post the other day that each Olympic event should have a normal person in the events competing alongside, so that everyone knows exactly how amazing the athletes are. 😛

I am in awe watching the different competitions despite not really knowing much about each sport. For example, with diving, when commentators spoke about how an athlete had done a bad dive, I’d be scratching my head, trying to analyse exactly what went wrong. To my untrained eye, all the dives looked amazing. I may not know much about most events, but I can still admire what the athletes do.

The athletics events gave me flashbacks to high school. I was on the track varsity for all four years. I did the 400m, 800m, 1500m and 400m hurdles. I represented my school and local area. I won medals, but I never made it past the state championships. While I enjoyed running, I never wanted to take it further.

Despite not continuing with track after high school, I remember those times fondly. The practices, the competitions, the team camaraderie. I also remember the not-so-positive things: the body aches and the injuries (I’ve got fallen arches for one) and the anxiety and pressure I would feel before each competition. But you gotta take the good and the bad, and overall they were good times.

A few months ago, one of my former team members shared photos from that time. I look so young! Here’s one of the photos… I think I was a sophomore.

Given the baton in my hand, this was the 4x400m relay. I can’t remember why there were only two of us. Might’ve been one of the smaller comps? Were we the only two teams in that heat? Fuzzy as my memory is, I do remember that I was overtaking her. I remember complaining about this photo when I first saw it and my teammates were telling me it was a great photo because it showed me overtaking. 😛

No more news, please!

I really don’t want to watch or read the news anymore.

We’ve been in lockdown for a month now. Whilst it’s amazing how most of Sydney has rallied together by staying home, getting tested and getting vaccinated, it’s super upsetting hearing about the actions of a small, but vocal, percentage of individuals who refuse to believe that COVID is real.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk too much about it anymore, except that I need to make a concerted effort to not look up news sources. Doomscrolling is real and its effects are real.

Instead I need to… do all the things I used to do before the Internet came along.

At least I’ve read three books this past month… more than I’ve read since the start of the year. 😛

And that the Olympics are on.. I don’t think I’ve ever watched as many games in my life, but they’re a good break from all the news.

Also… this is our last weekend til D-Day! So that’s something to look forward to. Here’s crossing my fingers that everything goes well.


From now into the future

Now that I’m still in lockdown and have free time, one of my goals is to get a better handle on planning for retirement. I’m in my 30s and while I’m relatively still young, I’ve realised it’s time to start focusing on it more.

Lately, I’ve been more cognizant about how people around me are spending their retirement, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to experience the same when S and I are at that age.

I do feel like we’d have to be a bit more creative about how to get there. Things were different a generation ago. Back then, people with modest jobs on average incomes could purchase a house, pay it off within a reasonable timeframe, retire then spend their days in their homes.

Unfortunately, space being a premium in Sydney, prices have skyrocketed (houses cost 9.3 times the average income at the moment) as people are pushed further out. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of multimillion dollar houses in prime locations being sold – and the vendors weren’t super rich people either. They were middle class folk in modest jobs who happened to build or buy those homes 40 years ago and stayed there. It’s easy to complain that someone in a similar situation right now could in no way afford something like that – or if they could, they’d have to be mortgaged up to their eyeballs and have no quality of life otherwise. But of course, back then those areas weren’t desirable, they only became so when they gentrified. And people back then worked all their lives to pay off their mortgages.

Current circumstances, and my specific situation especially, are vastly different. I went to university, plus an additional 4 years of post-graduate study, which meant my savings went dangerously low on several occasions. I lived in a few countries before arriving in this one ~10 years ago. I had a couple of career changes which meant I started from the career ladder bottom-most rung more than once.

I acknowledge that being able to do those things – the travel and the study and the career changes – are luxuries. And that they came with consequences. Comparing myself to how people were decades ago, I’ve got less savings and assets like superannuation or equity in a freestanding home. But that’s a choice I’ve made. It is what it is. However, it means I need to do a bit more to get my retirement plan up to scratch.

At the same time I know I – we – are lucky. For one, we’re pretty good savers. Personally, I record every cent I spend (advice from my accountant grandfather). This helps me understand where my money goes so I know I’m spending it on the right things and saving it if not. However, “saving” and “property” are my only wealth strategies at the moment. I remember vaguely researching shares before, then giving up on that because I had purchased my apartment and decided to put all my money into paying off the mortgage. I don’t know if I should continue to rely on putting all my savings into property, or if I should get into investing. And if yes, what? How?

I’ve been trying to read books but they seem either to be super basic (“step one: make sure you earn more than you spend”) or geared to people who have already settled on an investment strategy. But I’m committed to this. Here’s to financial freedom!

(And whaddaya know… six posts down. One more to go!)


The Internet and watching things

Since I’ve been mostly indoors the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of watching TV and streaming services (naturally).

I have since realised that I am now unable to give a show or movie my undivided attention and enjoy it for what it is.

Sadly, there are a couple of things with my personality that makes it worse.

One, I’m the kind of person who will sometimes read the ending of a book first, because I like seeing how things would fall into place.

Two, I’ve never been able to handle anything scary, suspenseful or remotely uncomfortable. I don’t like seeing people humiliated or hurt, whether that’s physically or emotionally. I can’t watch horror movies, suspense movies, movies that are too emotionally charged, or violent movies. Heck, I can’t even watch ice skating, gymnastics or diving competitions because I’m worried the athletes will stuff up then get into an accident or have the cameras zoom into their disappointed faces.

Marry that up with the Internet, streaming services offering on-demand shows with heaps of choice and I can no longer enjoy shows and movies the way I used to.

First, choosing what to watch. It’s not just about endlessly scrolling Netflix, it’s also searching online what people are recommending, and their reviews about the movie.

Second, instead of waiting through any boring or slow bits, it’s so easy to say, “I don’t like this, what else is there?” and going back to Step 1 and searching for something else.

Third, if we do get through it, but there are some boring or uncomfortable bits for me, I can’t just sit through it and accept it as part of the experience. I’m on my phone, Googling things about the show or movie, searching wikis about how the show or movie ends.

Finally, at the end of the show or movie, I end up Googling things. What did other people think about it? Are there any fun factoids? Was there anything I missed? Sometimes, I feel like I’ve lost the ability to really absorb a movie, to try to figure it out and make sense of it in my head, because I know that somewhere out there on Reddit is someone who’s thought things out a little more thoroughly.

Watching a movie in a theatre is slightly better. I don’t use my phone at all when watching in the theatre. But at the end of it, I’m back on my phone, looking up things about the movie.

So anyway here’s to… putting my phone in a separate place when trying to watching things. Hah!

Yesterday, we watched Sherpa on Netflix. I thought it was going be a feel-good documentary about Sherpa culture, but it turned into an expose of their working conditions and struggles highlighted during the 2014 Mount Everest ice avalanche.

The documentary started off by touching on the relationship between Western tour operators and Sherpa workers. It initially seemed like a mutually beneficial and respectful partnership. After the avalanche, the Sherpas decided to cancel that year’s climbing season, and it’s clear that what’s really happening is exploitation.

The Sherpas were grieving and discontent with their poor working conditions, yet somehow they had to put it aside because they needed to fulfill foreigners’ dreams of climbing Mt Everest and the foreigners would be devastated. An operator claimed some Sherpas had threatened violence when there was no evidence of that shown in the doco. An American went as far as asking the operator who the “rebel” Sherpas “owners” were, and later called the Sherpas terrorists, because he’s an American who’s lived through 9/11 and clearly the Sherpas were at that level. (That was sarcasm, in case I needed to spell it out.)

The worst argument for me was that the Sherpas had to go through it because they had to support their families. Growing up in a country where there was plenty of cheap labour this is something that I struggle with. Yes, it’s good to provide opportunities to those who otherwise wouldn’t have found ways to support themselves or their families. But there’s a line between providing for others and exploiting their situations by justifying that “without me, they’d be much better off” and paying them a pittance compared to the risks and labour they have to undertake.

It was disappointing to see some of the entitled foreigners and how dispensable they saw the Sherpas. There were other foreigners though who seemed more compassionate. When it was clear they would have to go home without climbing Mt Everest some Asian ladies hugged the Sherpas, clearly having built a connection with them other than as objects “owned” by the operator. (That comment about “owners” makes me so angry whenever I remember it. Mate, if you really want to climb Everest then do it yourself without the help of Sherpas carrying all your supplies for you.)

I know someone who’s climbed Everest, so it’s hard for me to be entirely critical of those who choose to… but when does the price become too much to pay?

(Anyway… Five posts down. Two more to go.)