Oh just do it already


Whenever I opened my laptop, it took 10 minutes for it to be operational. And that’s barely functional. I couldn’t have more than 3 applications open at any time, and if I had to open a big application like Photoshop or Illustrator, it would take up to 10 minutes for it to load completely.

It was bad.

My laptop is 5 years old, and I’ve been living with this situation for about a year. Maybe more.

On the off chance that Mr. T came over to my side of a desk to use it, he would get frustrated. Grimaces even. “I don’t even know how you use this thing – it’s so slow.” I just brushed it off because it’s still usable. At least to me. But I knew it was time to do something when I realized that all those minutes – waiting for applications to open, close and process – they all added up. A big chunk of my day was waiting for things to happen. It was frustrating. It was a waste of precious time.

Getting ready is not enough

I called a service center who could get my laptop into working condition again. Turns out a few things needed to be swapped out to make it faster, if I wanted to run it with a new operating system. New RAMs, new solid state hard drives, and a complete reinstall of the operating system. Which would mean losing all my files, and that freaked me out a bit.

It took me a month to clear my files and move them to Dropbox in anticipation of the servicing.

And when I was done with the files I kept delaying the laptop upgrade. I kept thinking maybe there’s something I had missed. Some stuff that I haven’t saved. Like settings and passwords or something, or all the tabs that’s open on my Chrome.

But one day, I woke up and thought this is enough. I called the service center and scheduled an appointment to fix the problem once and for all. I didn’t schedule it the week after. I made an appointment the next day. It was now or never: I had only a few hours to straighten things out and to make sure that I’ve gotten everything I needed off the hard disk. That was it – no more waiting or waffling about.

When I got to the service center, I was a ball of nerves. I handed my unit over to the cheerful assistant and waited. And waited.

Overthinking paralysis

I remember why it took my so long to come here: every time I made up my mind to come, my brain goes into overdrive, making me worry about things that might not have happened. But in my mind, they could have. It was a cruel, painful circle that incapacitated and frustrated me at the same time. It was so embarrassingly simple too. Just send it over to the service center and get it over with! In hindsight, that should have been enough for me to hightail it over. But it wasn’t. It was a fear of the unknown, and I was hesitating to make the leap. And so I stalled. By not penciling in the appointment, there was no end date and thus it got dragged out for as long as it did.

Mainly I was scared that sending in my laptop for a repair would mean not being able to use it for a few days or weeks. Or that something bad would happen to it that we didn’t talk about before. Or that when I got it back, things would be worse than before. You know the phrase “don’t mess with things that aren’t broken?” Well, I knew that technically, it wasn’t broken, so I didn’t want to throw a wrench into things (but if you were to see how the laptop performed back then you might have actually thrown a wrench at it!)

Don’t put off the pain (maybe there isn’t any)

When the technician handed me the laptop half an hour later, I was shocked and relieved. But I was also surprised. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. The wait was nothing. Everything just went away – the doubts, the anxiety, the crazy scenarios that made me paranoid about sending it away for repair. Poof. All gone. What I got in return was a brand new (well, almost!) machine that was able to finally function properly, the way it was meant to be.

I now feel extremely silly for letting a slow laptop eat into my time. Heck, even that spinning beachball was not much fun to look at. But it got me thinking – don’t we all have something that we put off for another day? I’ve learned, that if it’s not something that you look forward to, it probably might not happen (until it’s too late).

So while you may not have the exact situation like I did. Maybe you’re putting off going to the dentist. Maybe you have a project you’re not ready to show to the world. It might be a small thing, or a big one. But if you’re putting off something that should have been done a long time ago, take a leaf out of my book –don’t let it drag on longer that it should because there’s a ripple effect that you might not know about. Here’s what you can learn from my sorry experience:
Pencil it in.
Schedule an appointment.
Set a date.
Just get it over with.

What about you? What’s the one thing you’re putting off right now that could improve the way you work?

[Artwork: Jack Strange. Spinning Beach Ball of Death. 2007. Motor, paper, wood. Diameter: 1″ (2.5 cm).]

What if you don’t like social media very much?


It’s everywhere.

Pictures, updates, tweets. From people you know, people you follow, people you like, heck, even people you don’t know.

Social media isn’t going away, so why not just embrace it right? If you can’t beat them, why not join them?

Scars and selfies

I’m not particularly keen on having my pictures taken.

When I was a teenager I had horrendous cystic acne that could have scarred me for life. That whenever I walk to class, I might be ambushed by some well-meaning (yet tactless) folk who would look at me and ask “why is your face like that?” I couldn’t look in a mirror for a year or more because when I look at myself I would cry. Or that when I got up in the morning my pillowcase would be spotted with blood and pus from the night before.

The scars and pimples have mostly gone away. The ones you could see anyway. The ones deep down – those are hard to shake off.

So I cringe when I think about having to take a photo. My mind goes into a bit of a tailspin.

“Dang it, I have an oil slick on my face.”
“I’m not pretty, why am I in this picture?”
“No, I’m not ready!”

It used to be that when pictures were taken, they wouldn’t see the light of day. I’d rest easy because who would go through those pictures anyway? I would nervously laugh and think that it’s okay. I was mostly right. Like old photographs that belong in photo albums, your audience would be your Uncle Marvin or Aunty Yvonne – mostly family, and rarely shown to anyone else.

These days, however, whenever I hear a shutter click (or a phone click), I freeze up. Those photos aren’t just going to sit in a soon-to-be-forgotten album. They’re going out to the whole wide world. Before you know it, that picture with my face on it will be uploaded, tagged and bandied about, dangled in public waiting to get some likes and shares. My thoughts at this point: I feel like an animal who was an unwilling participant in a photo-op at the zoo, trying to claw its way out of the frame.

I’m self-conscious, with a side of self-loathing going on. Throw in some jealousy plus envy, and there’s that: the reason for my lack of updates, photos or selfies on social media. I don’t have a strong reaction to those who do post them, however – my motto is and has always been to do whatever you like.

If you ask me to take a selfie together with you though (effectively making it a wefie), I hesitate a bit before my brain tells me to snap out of it: by golly, smile and make sure you look at the right place so you won’t look like a dork when it’s plastered on Instagram or Facebook. OK? Here we go!

What I do instead

Seeing as I’m not brave enough to have my face on the screen most of the time (these people are brave, in my book!) or that I don’t share a lot of stuff online, you can bet that my social media feed isn’t the best place to hang out. If it were a room, you’d see cobwebs and the occasional visitor saying “is that it?” and then leave to find where the party’s at.

But that’s fine with me. I’ve always been a private person anyway. Even Mr. T still thinks I’m mysterious – and this is after 15 years together. And that’s how I like things. I don’t clutch at memories, going all possessive and hissing “MINE, ALL MINE” – it’s just that I’m not inclined to share them with anyone else, because while they mean a lot to me, I’m acutely aware that they might not mean much to other people.

You still can share them anyway – I can hear you say. True, I can. But I choose not to. Well if you’re a more private person like me, what should you share? For me, it’s not just about what I’m sharing, it also has to do with how much I share. I share the things I’ve seen (sometimes). The places I’ve been (maybe). And some of the things I hope that others might find useful (not often enough).

Should I worry that I’m not keeping up on social media? Maybe.
Would it affect how others look at me? Maybe.
Would I be forgotten? Maybe.
And that’s okay.

You see, if I did force myself to post on social media more than I’d like, it’s akin to feeding an imaginary monster because you’re scared that it might just eat you up. So you throw everything you have at it in the hopes that you’ve fed it enough for the day. Until tomorrow. And the day after. It’s very, very tiring. That’s not what I want, so I chose to opt out of keeping up with the rigorous schedule needed to sustain a social media presence.

Of course, some people actually do like the monster (in which case they’re no longer known as one). They’re real good friends with it and they have a beautiful relationship that’s based on mutual trust and respect. That’s perfectly fine too. I’m envious – jealous even.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to toss the monster a bone.

You know where to find me.


I’d like for you to share with me – am I the only feeling this? What’s your relationship with social media like?

Illustration by Manjit Thapp

Things money can’t buy

Note: This was a post that I wrote for a local student magazine a few months back which I think would be useful to share here too. Enjoy!

Thomas Bayrle

Whenever I step into a classroom, the first question that I get asked is this: which profession in the design world makes more money: animators, graphic designers, or illustrators? Or how about multimedia artists or videographers? My reply was that there’s plenty of ways to make money – lots and lots of money perhaps. Not all of them are in the design industry. But all of it comes with a price. Heck, sometimes jobs that make the most money aren’t even legal, and you can bet that they’re dangerous. So again. There are plenty of ways to make money – not all of them are good. So herewith the question beckons: why all this talk about money first?

I can understand – I was once a student myself.

I was once so poor that I had to split a plate of economy rice with my friend. For those who don’t know what economy rice is, it’s a shop where they have 20-30 different kinds of side dishes that go with rice, ranging from meat dishes to vegetables, to other condiments. It’s popular with students because it’s fast and cheap – just grab a plate of rice and scoop up whatever you want and go to the counter to pay for what you’ve scooped. Back to the story: we had RM2.00 between us left for food. We went up to the lady in the restaurant and showed her the coins we had left and asked her what we could have from her array of dishes. I wasn’t sure if it was pity, or understanding – but she scooped what ever was left over from a few dishes and gave us each an egg to top it all off. We were thankful for the meal and conveyed our thanks to the lovely shopkeeper – whom we fondly patronised for as long as we studied there.

We weren’t flush with cash. We didn’t have shopping malls. And we didn’t even have McDonalds around each corner (this was in the year 2000). Money was tight – purchasing art supplies, books and endless trips to the printing house made sure of that. Whatever was left we scrimped on food. Bread was a staple at the time too – when we’re running out of time and cash, nothing fills you up faster than a roll of chocolate bun with a sticky black pseudo-chocolate filling with a side of lukewarm water.

It’s all very different now, of course. You have malls, left, right and centre. Fast food kiosks as far as the eye can see. Gourmet restaurants abound; and you’re spoilt for choice. Temptation in its many forms that clue you in on what money represents. And that’s just food. Let’s not even wander into the fashion industry, or the giant virtual malls that reside within the internet – one that offers a gateway to everything and anything your heart desires; open and available 24/7 with a mere click of a button and a working credit card.

I don’t blame you at all for thinking that cash is king. Money buys you lots of things. It buys you good food. Rad clothing. Fun toys. The best equipment and art supplies. And all these things make you happy. It’s a rather straight forward equation. Or is it?

The thing about money though, is that it doesn’t buy you freedom. When you’re doing things purely for money, you’re a slave to it. And it becomes your master. You’ll find yourself slaving away for him, in exchange for something that won’t be able to buy the things that truly matter. Things like love, friendship and time.

We’re living in a time where we constantly consume. We don’t create as much as we should, and this is a shame; because if we’re not creating, we are most likely consuming instead. Our eyes are fixated on screens while our wallets are empty. Our hearts grow heavy with greed; an endless, bottomless pit that desires more, more, more. The indescribable emptiness that spreads across our chest even as we move from one novelty to the next. One day we’ll find ourselves wondering what happened along the way that made us lose more of ourselves, little by little, piece by piece.

We’re all essentially broken – in fragments and bits, scattered around us in the people we love, the places we live in and the experiences we’ve yet to discover. Gathering those pieces and putting them together is what makes us human, and it’s what makes us special. We’re made up of everything, and yet we’re nothing. Money is merely an enabler and not the destination.

Do the things you’re good at, and the things that you love. Pick up the fragments and pieces of yourself through the work you do, so that you may put yourself back together. Figuring out how to do it is the best part about growing wiser. In the beginning you will be poor. You might have to share a plate of economy rice with a friend to get by (I hope not). But you’ll do better. The trick is to get better at the things you love, and to be nourished by the things you learn and the experiences you pick up along the way. Always endeavour to leave a mark. So much so that other people start to notice and respect you for what you do, and why you do it.

And you’ll realise along the way that the “why” isn’t always about the money.

It rarely ever is.

[Illustration: Thomas Bayrle]