Pressurised choices

Except probably for introverts with a steady job and without underlying health conditions in a comfortable lock down arrangement, this has not been an easy year.

My lock down experience has been both healing and growing. Crazy homesick for Yangon, separated from loved ones and physically alone, fending for myself here in London. With a ton of walking; so the new HAIM album is literally my quarantine summer anthem this year.

All this time in hand and a dearth of distractions make for a perfect storm for self-reflection … and overthinking of my life choices dating back to my college graduation year. Down the rabbit hole of the Quarantine Subconscious, I wake up at 5am these days when I’d rather stay asleep with questions like:

  • Is impact investing a hoax? Is climate-financing the new green washing? Is it too late? If so, should I be caring more about money?
  • Should I cut some slack with boys, or am I right to protect myself? Did I fold too soon when I could have just checked? Would I care without quarantine?
  • Would I have been happier as a suburban mom in the American South vs. my lonely quarantine existence in London with an expired Schengen visa?
  • How would my life be different if I had taken the offer to work for a hospital chain or a Fintech company close to family in Myanmar?
  • Have I been living my best life? Have I been true to myself?
  • AM I DOING ENOUGH?
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An Ode to Those Turning 27 This Year

This year, most of my peers are turning 27.

A quick Google search tells you that 27th birthday is a desolate place:

Someone sounds freaked out.

Someone sounds freaked out.

You probably have seen a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother series, which started around our junior year in college.  At the season premier of this show, Ted Mosby starts off at the age of 27.  Like some of us today, Ted at 27 has started feeling anxious to meet his soulmate even though he clearly is not ready to settle down in any way as we later witness in subsequent seasons.  Ted perhaps feels this way especially after his best friend Marshall gets engaged in the very first episode.

Now we are all Ted Mosby-s!  We are 27!

Because I want to know how I am faring in life and what my peers are doing, I looked up some statistics about this unique age although technically, every age is unique in one’s lifetime.

  • Fun fact numero uno.  The official median age of Myanmar, according to its most recent census, is 27.
  • The last time we had a population census, back in 1973, most Myanmar women were already married by 27.  To be exact, about 78% of women my age were married four decades ago!
  • In the United States, 27 happens to be the age an average American woman gets married.
  • If you are a health conscious 27-year-old who is getting hitched this year, you are likely to stay with this partner for another four dozen years, assuming you stay well into your seventies with copious help from salt caves, kombucha tea and quinoa.  That is an awful lot of time to be spending with a complete stranger.  Think about that!
  • Umm…I guess you are probably wishing you are not reading this, but science definitely says that the quality of female eggs measurably declines from age 27 onwards.  Perhaps this explains the earlier cries for help found on Google search engine about turning 27.  But this is the truth: the female fertility peaks at 27.  Our eggs will never be better, prettier, or healthier than they are right at this very moment.
  • According to National Center for Health Statistics (United States), women between 20-59 years of age have had four sexual partners (seven for men, but I think they exaggerate).  I have a lot of opinions about this survey, since the selected age range is too wide for the result to be meaningful at all.  In any case, there is no way to know statistically how many sexual partners Myanmar peers have, especially now that there is this uber conservative law banning sex outside of the confines of marriage, but honestly, how do you think you are faring in this area? Wink, wink.
  • The Atlantic did an article on Today’s 27-Year-Olds, reporting mostly facts which surprise nobody.  About half of 27-year-old Americans are indebted.  College dropouts are more likely to be unemployed.  Likely to be living with parents than roommates. Et cetra.  If you have a job right now, be thankful.
  • However, the same Atlantic article surprised me with the following reports.  Only a third of us have a Bachelor’s degree.  Among all 27-year-old with debts (not confined to student loans), about 55% have debt more than $10,000.  Only fewer than half of us are single.  The majority of Bachelor’s degree holders still report being single (that only means they are not co-habitating or married, but maybe in relationships).  That means that if you are in-between relationships right now or have a Bachelor’s degree without debt, you are “special.”  Add being Myanmar to this equation, and you are probably double, triple or data-unavailable special because (1) most Myanmar youths seem to marry earlier than their American peers reported in the Atlantic article, and (2) there are also fewer university graduates given the average Myanmar person finishes only up to fourth grade.
  • Divorce rates have always been lower for Myanmar women in the past, but I have a feeling that my generation is going to change this.  In the U.S., the often quoted number of divorce rates is 50%.  Conventional interpretation is that half of marriages fail, which is actually not all true.  Most divorce stats get dragged down by those who marry too early.  The stabilizing factor sets in at the age 23-25, while marrying late does not guarantee a more successful marriage either.  At a personal level, I take this to mean that dating decisions this year should not be taken lightly.  Time to get out of relationship ruts before Valentine!  Before you go and book  that table for two at La Carovana!  Do it.
  • Hopefully, we are doing better in life at 27 than people on this site, or at least having as much fun as them!
  • If you are a very, very talented 27-year-old musician and happen to die this year, you will officially be conducted into the Club 27.  Unfortunately, there are not very many perks to this club membership.
  • Random fact: Jon Hamm was dropped by his agency at 27 and could not find any work.  Jon Hamm, of all people!  At 27.
  • Finally, I am going to again mention Dr. Meg Jay’s Thirty is not the New Twenty.  Her book The Defining Decade should be a pre-requisite life reading for any recent graduate!  According to this school of thought, turning 27 = having three more years of focusing on things we want to work on about ourselves.  If we want to change anything about ourselves in life, work or love, the time is NOW.

Hello, 2016.  Happy New Year, y’all!  Wishing you all the best from Italy.  This post has been pre-scheduled.

Last afternoon at office

Last days at work are often awkward…

This is why I will be departing in somewhat of an Irish tradition this time, scheduled strategically on this particular Friday when most people in my team are away on inevitable business trips.

Since I will be transferring internally (my new desk is literally downstairs), my move is not a big deal logistically speaking.  No need to change email accounts, or commute routes.  There is not yet any need to hand out my personal email account.

The main task at hand in this transition process is clearing out my desk.  This desk I have grown attached to after two years in this job, the longest I have stayed in one place in the past ten years.  With a clear view of Shwedagon Pagoda and blue skies to my right but sufficiently away from glass windows to have to be concerned about UV radiations, and the right proximity to and a safe distance away from my supervisor buffered by two colleagues, I find my desk to be quite strategic in the team, though my colleagues may disagree.

Here is just a preview of unexpected findings as I strive to make my drawers and desk resemble their pristine state after two years of habitation:

  • Two bottles of hand sanitizer, one bottle of Thann conditioner (why would anyone have this at work?), and two tubes of hand creme (this one is still normal)
  • One MNK painting of owls, supposedly to watch over me as I do my job
  • Three power banks I have never used or know how to use
  • One large brown envelope titled August 2019 containing a letter for our future selves from one very drunken night at Onyx with friends last year
  • A LOT of lip glosses, although my lips remain as cracked and dehydrated as my lip moisturizing products are left intact
  • A collection of outdated name tags and strings from at least eight different conferences (I have read somewhere that I am supposed to recycle them, but where?)
  • One tiny pet lion – which I have named as Pete Lyon – from a former love interest that ended without much drama in a Skype call in my office conference room
  • One unnoticeable heart-shaped nail polish paint mark on the left handle of my chair following an incident involving a colleague of mine leaving his broken chair at my desk and claiming mine as his own (thought I left those days at kindergarten)

Did I really need these items?  As I deal concretely with an embarrassing amount of personal remnants, I remember this passage from some indie magazine I read whenever I think I can afford to splurge US$30 on a magazine proclaiming this:

The heart of essentialism isn’t about asking how little we can live with, but determining what we simply cannot live without…Perhaps the entire point of essentialism is this process of self-actualization.  If asked to identify the non-negotiables in our lives, we probably wouldn’t think about the restraints of our five item wardrobe or our abstinence from sugar, but about the times when we’ve palpably lived.  We couldn’t imagine life without the tribal rug we bought in Tangier or dad’s smoking jacket in the back of our closet, unworn but revered.  As we follow these internal pulls and sometimes irrational desires, the superfluity disappears and leaves us each with our own messy and eccentric authenticity.  And nothing is more essential than that.

Amen.