Monday, June 5, 2023

Random thoughts: The best "thank you" gift received

I recently received a "thank you" card that I think I will never forget. It was given to me by the P6 senior boys and girls team. After their NSG competition, they did not need to and should not have turned up for CCA sessions. They should have focused on their preparation for the final exam.

During one such session, I was shocked when they turned up in full force. I chased them away, but one of the pupils passed me the card.

It consists of 2 pieces of A3 paper folded together. Some of the messages are what a teacher would "die to hear," and I can only dream of pupils saying those things to me.

This batch of pupils did surprise me. I wasn't particularly close to them compared to other batches. I asked another pupil why they had gathered together. Did they have a program to express thanks to their teachers? She told me that it was just something they had been planning for a long time.

I am very surprised by how CCA can shape a person's attitude. When I called a parent to remind them to apply for DSA, if they wished, they mentioned how much they had seen their son change after he went for training. They sounded sincere enough to make me feel appreciated.

This batch of pupils worried me a lot when they went for competition. Their progress in the game was rather slow. In fact, I questioned myself why there was a need to work so hard every morning and recess, practicing with them. I even sent a message to myself on WhatsApp to cheer myself up:

如果没有四强,要记得,我的耕耘,不是完全没意义的。当年我中学,打了一半就放弃,现在还这么喜欢,并1学以致用 继续加油
"If there is no top four, I must remember that my hard work is not entirely meaningless. I used to give up halfway during my secondary school days, but now I still enjoy it and apply what I've learned. Keep going."

Over the last 3 years, my mindset regarding training the pupils hard has changed. Initially, I wanted to be the champion. After being defeated, I told myself that it was still worth it because the skills and values acquired would help them in the DSA application. But I still quietly hoped for a minimum top four. (Hence the "四强" in the previous message.)

After I wrote that message to myself, I found another reason. Many of these players are hardly athletic. They joined just because of passion and interest. In fact, many of them are shy.

We do not talent scout for our CCA. As long as you are committed to coming for extra training, you will improve and do better, albeit at a slow pace. They might not have had a chance to be in the school team if they went to another powerhouse school.

Coincidentally, that's what one pupil wrote in the thank you card. While it hardly reflects reality, it is a teacher's dream for pupils to work hard and believe that effort can produce results.

There is this player who joined late, towards the end of P5, and she learns very slowly. But she comes for every recess training. I told her that I am impressed by her passion, and while she may not have a chance to be one of the main players, she can still contribute to the training. I told her that her starting line is just too far away, but the route is long. As long as she is willing, she is always welcome to train with us, although I might not be able to give her much attention. She needs to understand the reality of the circumstances.

I thought she might be offended or disheartened, but nope, she continues and told me she is very grateful that I didn't give up on her.

This year, the situation has reversed. Instead of 6 players, I have 8 or 9 ready players, and perhaps another 3 weaker but still deployable players

One year after COVID, the opposing teams have become stronger as schools have intensified or normalized their training. It is beneficial for the sport. While I still yearn for a top-four result, I am equally thrilled about a closely fought match. There are many lessons to be learned from it.

The previous batch had confidence issues. Many of them did not believe in themselves. In contrast, this group has an issue with overconfidence, as they topped their group in the junior league (we got lucky with the draw).

Random thoughts: Rewriting the script of unfulfilled FIRE

Warning: Random thoughts are meant very much for myself, rather than any other readers. 

The script is clear.

Work hard, save, invest wisely, and then, when passive income exceeds expenses by a significant margin, say "F*off" to your day job. You have achieved Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) and have the freedom to do whatever you want.

The promise of the path to FIRE is clear, straightforward, and attainable for most white-collar workers, even those not earning top dollars.

Yet, I could not do it. So what?

A week ago, I was chatting on WhatsApp with fellow "financial bloggers," and we discussed feeling uneasy when the conversation shifted to property or "how much one has" in general. I started to feel a little inferiority complex creeping up on me again. This time, I am grabbing the inner demon by its neck and saying the following to it:

1. I will write my own script.

2. I love my work. When I achieve FIRE, I want to continue doing what I am doing—teaching pupils and coaching volleyball. So, people are paying me to do what I love, and that is freedom. I may be poor, but I have freedom.

3. Ten years ago, I wrote about my bucket list. When my mum passed away, I shared about the bucket list. I do not need to start a social enterprise, and I can live a life without fulfilling my dreams and fantasies. It is disappointing but not crippling. I will carry on with my life and find meaning daily.

4. I am well on my way to building a portfolio of reasonable dividends. However, very soon, I will liquidate most of it to buy a private property. Fulfilling the dreams of my loved ones is also my dream. I can let go.

5. FIRE means having everything.

6. I can have nothing and still stand straight. I will work until the day I drop dead at work, which is much preferred to waiting on a deathbed, even though the last journey is not controlled by my will.

I am fully aware that forcefully grabbing the neck of my inner demon indicates a lack of inner peace. Well, so be it. Whether it's sour grapes or not, I have learned to distance myself from conversations that revolve too much around "how much I make." Perhaps if I were making a substantial amount, I could join in, but currently, I simply don't enjoy participating. In fact, I find myself having lunches alone, even if the conversations don't revolve around "money and assets." Maybe as I age, I just want to focus on doing what I want, pursuing my interests, and avoiding superficial small talk.

Moreover, with my closest friends, I'm starting to feel like our conversations are going nowhere. During our recent supper three days ago, I made a deliberate effort to steer the conversation towards our beliefs, interests, lives, and values. I'm glad that my close friends still open up to me honestly. I was shocked to hear that one of them is contemplating divorce. The funny thing is, he mentioned it last year, and we didn't think much of it at the time.

Considering that I have attended several wakes and heard of the passing of many people in just a few months, I have decided to discard the conventional FIRE script and toss it into the fire pit. I need to get back to work soon, and it doesn't really bother me.