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Hopefully you never have to call triple zero. Or 911. Or 112. Or whatever the emergency telephone number the country you’re in. Hopefully you never feel threatened that you are really considering calling the police.

I did.

It has been a tough few days, if I’m honest. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who would be calm, or at least I expect myself to, in regards to emergency type of situation. I’ve watched countless movies, read countless books. I’ve pictured myself as a hero in those dystopian stories—the one who would actually take chances. But when it’s happening right in front of you and your mind draws a blank, remember this above all else: do not freeze.

I froze.

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Last week, I attended a situational awareness training at my workplace on how to deal with upset, difficult, or aggressive customers, and the trainer was talking about empathy. I know that this doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with cooking, but hear me out.

He told us about his encounter with a stranger on a train with whom he felt a strong connection to. At that time, he was undergoing a really difficult time—his wife had just died. He was sitting on a train, reading newspaper, when a woman in front of him asked him whether he was divorced. There was a line on his finger where his wedding ring should be.

He told her that that he has been widowed for three months, and that he has three little children.

“So you know how difficult it is to be in the kitchen then,” she said to him. He was offended. Just because I’m a man doesn’t mean that I can’t cook, he thought.

“Oh, no, no,” the woman said, realising his face had changed. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m referring to feeling the dread when entering the kitchen, thinking, What should I cook for dinner tonight?”

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Ever since I work in the library, I’ve met so many different people walking different paths of life.

It seems a bit surreal sometimes, of how different we all are, and how different are the lives we’re living—how different are the things we want in life.

Take those who work in the library for example. Almost everyone has a different story. One is currently studying, the other is a proud grandmother of three who’s filling her time as a casual. One, I find out, has always dreamed of becoming a librarian. Another comes into the job by accident, and yet he’s stayed on, year after year, for almost a decade.

One has a side business as a photographer. Another used to be a teacher, a banker, an economist.

One travels a lot, every chance he gets. The other has hardly ever left the country.

One thinks of the job as a bridge to the next thing. One really, really wants to be a permanent, and has been waiting for an opportunity ever since.

And that’s just the people working there. The patrons’ stories are even more diverse.

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When Tjok and I are getting our own house (in the near future, Amen), he’s promised me that he would get me my own library.

It’s probably not going to be as wonderful as Belle’s library, but I’d take anything that has more than three bookcases, hopefully with a ladder, and fill them with books.

You see, I’ve run out of spaces to put my books in our apartment since, well, since we first moved in. Most of my books are now stored in our basement storage space, and I make the pilgrimage to take out some books (and return some) once a month. Yet despite lacking the physical space to buy and store more books, this year I’ve been reading more than ever before. That’s because I’ve discovered a service that I’ve never really utilised before during my previous seven years in Melbourne: a local library.

It’s been slightly over a year since I’ve found out that I can borrow books, and even reserve the books that are still on order (so I get to be the first one reading that book before it’s being passed to dozens of other people) for free. So it’s only natural that sometime in August this year, I sent in my application to work as a library officer.

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Some months ago, I came across this article from The Atlantic titled, The Quantified Welp: A new study suggests that measuring an activity makes it less enjoyable. It’s sort of self-explanatory, and it does make sense: if you’re doing something and measuring it instead of being immersed in the activity, you’d end up enjoying it less.

Of course, the study clearly says that the intention of the activity matters too.

Say you want to lose weight—you would, of course, measure all those calories you burn while exercising. The end goal is different for you: you want to lose weight, so you track it; it has nothing to do with enjoying the activity or not. It’s different for those who just want to exercise because, well, they enjoy exercising.

The article goes on to paint another picture: say you’re doing colouring. You enjoy colouring. But then add a certain goal (e.g. colouring a certain number of figures), and you’d end up saying you enjoy the experience less. Sure, you get more figures done. But you don’t enjoy it as much.

A follow-up article on The Atlantic sums it simply: measuring an activity makes it feel like work, so you enjoy it less, even though you’re doing more of it. Consequently, it reduces your ‘subjective well-being’.

It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

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It’s quite remarkable how humans adapt to a situation.

Merely eight months ago, the only few times I slept with another human being in my bed were either with my sister or my mother during a trip overseas. And another a few handful times when I went on a trip with friends (which could be counted by one hand). Point is: I love sleeping alone. And I couldn’t possibly imagine how I would get used to a permanent human being sleeping by my side, night in, night out.

(I don’t count the times when my toddler-nephew slept with me, because sleeping with him feels a lot different. For one, you don’t really care of moving around when you’re sleeping because once he falls asleep, he will stay asleep no matter what. Getting him to sleep is the hardest part.)

Sleeping on the same bed, no matter if it’s with your sister, mother, or friend during trips, requires you to exercise control even when you’re asleep. You’re scared of moving too much, because it will disturb their sleep. You feel like tossing and turning, but doing so will wake up the other person.

So you stay still, unable to sleep, unwilling to move, probably for hours, until the oblivion comes.

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I’ve heard it and you’ve heard it too. Maybe you believe it, maybe you don’t. I do believe it though.

We are creatures of habit.

(…I think the opening paragraph is too dramatic for this post’s purpose. Anyway.)

If you’re a friend (or family), you’d know that I absolutely hate waking up in the morning. In fact, I used to wake up late, somewhere between nine-thirty to ten-thirty. On some occasions, I’d still be in bed at eleven, too lazy to kick out the blanket and start the day. Especially when it’s winter.

I know, I do have the privilege to be waking up whenever I want.

But in these past few months, I’ve consistently got up at eight-thirty in the morning. You might think that it’s still late, but it’s actually quite an achievement for me.

I now wake up to make breakfast for the husband before he goes to work—basically taking out the homemade bread from the freezer and popping it in the microwave for thirty seconds. Then I prepare his lunch (shoving fork and spoon into his lunch bag) and bid him goodbye. Then I go onto my routine: checking the plants, watering the plants, making coffee, and having breakfast while reading the Bible myself.

Oh, I’m so proud of myself.

(If you’re a night owl, you’d understand.)

It took me two months of forcing myself to kick the blanket every morning before I automatically, and voluntarily, get up from the bed. I have to remind myself that my coffee machine is waiting, that once I wake up I’d be able to reward myself with a cup of homemade latte. It kinda works, but I find that the biggest motivation to wake up is to take care of the plants. (I’m not even joking.) The later I water them, the stronger the sunlight and the faster the evaporation rate (or so I read), which means the water would just be gone with the wind instead of getting absorbed by the roots.

I’m really super into gardening right now.

Aaaaanddd there’s the husband—who would happily go to work without having any kind of breakfast, as he did in his bachelor days.

My ultimate goal is to wake up at seven every morning. But winter is coming, so probably I’d do just that in a few months…

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It seems like I’ve put more thought into turning 26 compared to turning 25.

Being a quarter-of-century old seems like an achievement, but you can still argue that it’s still part of the ‘early 20s’. And being in your early 20s comes with the societal understanding that you’re still young, still have a lot to learn, still able to make a lot of mistakes, and still trying to discover yourself. In your early 20s you’re doing things for the first time: you get your first job, fall in love, make big mistakes. And it’s okay.

Then you hit 26.

Twenty six means it’s the start of heavy adulting, a term that I just coined to explain that play time’s over. It’s time to get serious about money. It’s time to plan ahead on when you want to buy that house. It’s time to think about babies, figuring out whether you want two children, or three, and when’s the time to start having one to minimise the risk.

It’s time to, if I may borrow the words from the Bible, “put away childish things” (see 1 Corinthians 13:11).

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There are those who consider grocery shopping a chore. There are others who genuinely love to do groceries. I’m part of the latter group.

Even when I was still young(er), Mom would ask me whether I want to accompany her to go to the supermarket. Oftentimes, I would say yes, because I like the experience—browsing aisle upon aisle on things that I don’t need nor want, discovering that people do invent weird stuff.

Since I got married, I’ve made grocery shopping some sort of a project. Since my local supermarket (Woolworths) offers fuel discount (4 cents a litre) when I spend AUD 30 or more, that number has become the weekly benchmark. I try my best in shopping the specials, changing my planned meals for the next week should the beef is cheaper than the pork, and vice versa. And it doesn’t really matter if I don’t need other stuff apart from milk, I’d still walk down most of the aisles anyway.

I’d go to several Asian groceries to find out which one sells the cheapest soya bean. And I’d buy fruits at another store—which are of better quality and cheaper price.

Yeap, I really enjoy grocery shopping. I wonder how many of you feel the same.

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It’s easy to look back and spot the stumbling block as something that might even resemble a stepping stone. It’s harder to look at a bump on the road being other than, well, a bump on the road, when you’re actually on the road.

Do you get that? Erm, let me try another analogy.

C. B. Mosher once said, ‘Writing is torture. Not writing is torture. The only thing that feels good is having written.’ This could be translated as another thing: both not yet starting and being in the middle of a season suck.

At least, to an extent.

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