It’s December again. How time flies. Next year marks the 10th year of my “official” life as an economic hamster. It’s starting to become obvious that the “wheel of fortune” keeps spinning, but you seem to get nowhere — until you jump off.

I have tons of work and business related commitments. Now that I have a child, I have even less time for myself. I’m very tired and worn out.

To most of my peers, I would probably seem to have “made it”. I may have some wealth, but at this juncture I’d really love to have some time instead to do the things I want and spend more time with the people I love.

I never set out to work with the aim to become filthy rich. All I set out to do was to make some money so that I could do or buy the things that I want and then set aside some money as savings. Not that saving up is bad, but mindlessly hoarding money can also get out of hand pretty quickly. FYI, I found out that obsessively hoarding money can be some rich people’s hobby — some rich people don’t spend; they just store more and more to an extent they have so much money that they do not know what to do with it.

When I first set out to work, I made barely enough for myself to get by. However, I spent my time (and money) on things that I enjoyed, such as R/C helicopters, computers, gadgets, music, games, books, etc. It may sound absurd, but these little things also helped build some of my knowledge/skills and even my (social) network. It was also one of the best times I’ve had — I would stay up on Fridays to repair my R/C helis and wake up early on Saturdays to meet friends at a “fun fly” where a few enthusiasts would gather at an open field to chit chat, share knowledge, and watch each other fly our R/C helis, crash them, then spend our Sundays buying parts and repairing them, then the week starts all over again. The point is: having something you love/are enthusiastic about makes your life meaningful and keeps your energy (“qi”) flowing.

But I had no savings. That was the only miserable part.

These hobbies started to take a backstage as I got busier with business and work. I knew that having no savings was bad and I have definitely come a long way from then. Today, I no longer struggle to pay my bills; I can easily afford the gadgets I want, and can even afford to have people clean my house on weekends — a luxury to most people. I’m no where near to being a millionaire of course, but the point is that I do not feel poor either.

But what have I given up? Time. Lots of it. I have given up lots of hobbies and personal projects. I know that I am losing traction trying to keep up with technology —  the core of my livelihood. I don’t have much time with friends, and likewise they don’t have much time for me either.

The worst part of all this is that it’s hard to get out of the spinning hamster wheel. If you jump off, you may fall and hurt yourself. The hamster wheel may also be spinning so fast that you may never be able to get back on. Slowing down is the hardest thing to do.

I went to KK last weekend for grandma’s funeral and during my stay there I took my mind entirely off work. I spent a day chatting with my cousin whom I probably have not spoken with in 10 years. He shared about his small business (in Sarikei, East Malaysia) and how he makes just enough to get by. RM2,000 every month (S$700) would allow one to live very comfortably in his opinion. He spends his free time with family, friends and church. It seems to be the way he is going to live the rest of his life. It struck me that in a small town where life is simpler, people were indeed happier because they found the right balance between money, time, and spiritual dedication and that is the way life should be.

It is ironic that we all trade our time to work for money, and once we have (some) money we want to trade it for time. Some people, though, use money for things that consume all their time instead (in an unfavourable manner) and that is when it gets really fucked up, and I hope none of my friends are doing that.

Every Chinese New Year I clean my house and pull out my old R/C helis and camera equipment. I pack them in nice boxes, hoping that some day I will find time to play with them again. Year after year, I never did. Once reality sets in, you will see some of these items on Carousell.

Right now I just want to get things I need to do done and over with so I can get them out of my head. I will use the rest of December 2015 to think through what I would like to do for 2016 and blog about it when I have a better idea.