So for many months now I’ve been meaning to figure out a way to make my money grow. I’ve been earning for about two years now, and I’m 25 years old. With rent and the daily living expenses that come with living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I don’t have a whole lot of savings, but I save on a regular basis and don’t really splurge on branded clothing and accessories or technology, unless I absolutely need to. The only thing I probably tend to buy more than I need of is clothes, but even those, I don’t buy at super expensive places and I try to limit myself. In my defense, we all do have our vices.
Anyway, so I’ve been meaning to figure out how to make my money ‘grow’ and I don’t know the first thing about investing in … anything.
I didn’t study any Finance in university. No Math, a little Econs., no Accounting.. nothing. I am a girl and I work in Healthcare unlike most of my friends who a.) are either Engineers or b.) work in banks c.) are mostly boys. So clearly, when it was time to grow up and enter the big, scary world of money, I was groping in the dark. I mean, I AM groping in the dark. I’ll admit it - I’m a Financially Illiterate Chick.
Yes, I have a lot of male friends who are less risk aversive than I am (I tread on shallow waters for the most part) and who, for some inexplicable reason, just GET it. They GET the stock market, they GET the options they have, they GET what’s ‘right’ for them. They may lose out, but they still seem to know or at least come across like they know what the hell is up and what they’re doing when it comes to money. And no, I don’t ask them, because my friends kind of suck and think I’m just a ‘chick’, incapable of being part of the world of money. Yes, stupid Indian males - and I should totally dump them all, but I take their lack of faith in me as fuel to spur myself on to keep up with this crazy competitive world. Call me a sellout, but it works for me.
So getting back to the Financially Illiterate Chick - I have spent the last 6 months ‘meaning’ to make my first investment, but not knowing where to invest or in what. But I also spent those 6 months reading. Reading a LOT.
The internet is crazy rich in information for anyone, including ‘chicks’ like me, who have the bare minimum background in high school math, Stats 101, a far from decent understanding of what the word ‘market’ means and write down whatever they read in a green $1 notebook with ice creams on the cover using a pencil that needs to be sharpened.
Slowly, terms are getting familiar, graphs are looking less intimidating. Bear in mind, I still can’t read them very well, but the familiarity helps. Charts are looking less like random numbers and patterns are surfacing.
Yet, this whole process got me thinking - if me, an educated individual with a university degree and the ability to understand a reasonably complex document is struggling for months to understand what it means to be financially literate and to make my money grow, what happens to those people who aren’t as educated as I am? In particular, what happens to women who say, are not very well educated, are less likely to have jobs in the Finance industry, are more likely to have to juggle family and work or raise kids on their own? Where do they start, who can they trust to help them out and why should they be left behind?
The world of money is really unfair, people who work in life saving professions like Nursing and Healthcare get paid less than people who work with non-existent money and man-made things like stocks and shares and a virtual or hypothetical market because somehow they successfully sold the world the idea that money makes the world go round, and we are stuck to deal with it. And to top it off, we have to learn their ways and keep up with this stupid notion and even if we may lead better quality lives due to better working hours and healthier lifestyles, they’re still considered more successful because they know how to make the bucks.
I was supposed to start working – learning French, to be specific as soon as I was done eating a simple lunch but my mind is too preoccupied, my heart troubled, to concentrate on the good or the positive or what can be instead of the troubles plaguing my life at the current moment. To be honest, they are not that vast or significant in the grand scheme of troubles the universe has to offer and I’m not homeless or jobless or hungry or diseased.
But everyone has problems, no matter what the scale, and they trouble people and so I feel the need for some catharsis, which to be honest, I think is best achieved through silent sitting or writing. Or travel, but that has some logistical constraints for everyday problems that never cease to exist, morph, transform and be a part of us.
My current problem is work. While I still enjoy my job, regardless of the challenges that would exist in any given profession, I’m faced, for the first time in my life, with office politics. And I know that the ‘office politics’ I’m experiencing at the moment are pretty minor as compared with what happens in cut-throat industries like stock brokering firms and banks, but my easily disturbed frame of mind is troubled.
Mean girls exist in all walks of life. Right from the time you’re in kindergarten or playing in your diaps with the neighbourhood kids. I remember several instances of me being a mean girl. Yeap. I was pretty harsh and ruthless and intolerant of what I deemed to be ‘silly’ or ‘unacceptable’. These were judgements that should not have been made, regardless of how rational I was convinced they were. The fact of the matter is, no one can judge someone else – it’s not your place nor your right to do so, so regardless of what you think, shut your mouth and swallow that judgement.
Recently, I’ve been receiving the cold shoulder by colleagues I had once considered to be friends. I’m sure that their lunch conversations do dabble on topics that surround me, and to be honest, it hurts. I don’t have massive struggles in life, but I do have some, and they don’t understand. I don’t blame them, because I have been guilty of the same – not understanding someone else’s position, pushing them to conform to what I want, and judging them for not doing what I think is acceptable.
The truth is, despite our DNA being 99.9999999% similar, we are very, very different people. Even if you have someone close to you, who you can confide everything in, at the end of the day, your problems are still exclusively yours. Your struggles, your ability to cope or accept cannot be matched or identified with anyone else’s. It just does not happen.
They say that one fine day in the course of adulthood, you have an epiphany and realise that it just doesn’t matter what other people think of you, and you just stop caring how you come across to other people (don’t ask me who ‘they’ is, I just heard it). While it seems pretty logical and straightforward a thought to have, it only matters when it becomes a realisation. Because that’s when you actually stop caring what other people think of you, and start caring about what YOU think of you. I, for sure, am yet to have that epiphany.
As much as I feel resentful and helpless and misunderstood, all I can do with the current situation is learn. Learn to be more accepting of others, to do unto others what one would want done unto them. To be a little more of the kind of person I wished someone else were. To be kind to everyone, for we are all fighting our own battles; and to shut my mouth, and swallow my judgement. And also maybe, to develop a thicker skin.
Image source: http://bettydish.ca/on-wednesdays-we-wear-pink/
3. Golden Bay, Malta (May 2014)
2. Flic en Flac, Mauritius (December 2011)
1. Boracay, Philippines (February 2013)
Today, I’m a defeatist. My heart aches too much to convince my brain that the ‘comforts’ of my life here and now are what constitutes a ‘good’ life. For the nun has travelled and the heart has experienced a different joy. A simpler joy. Real joy.
I give up on trying to get people to like me. I’m tired of being ‘good’. Or trying to be ‘good’. I’m tired of myself lashing out at people. I’m tired at not being able to handle situations in a ‘mature’ way. I give up on wanting to be employee of the year. I give up on being able to please my superiors. I give up on trying to please myself. I give up on trying not to think negative.
All I want is the cold air and warm sunshine of Gozo. Of the road to Ramla Bay.
Take me back to Malta, where life is slow and people are happy and ambition is not everything and life is not a rat-race with people tick-tock-tick-tock pushing their way through endless queues tick-tock-tick-tock and squeezing through too crowded and too tight tick-tock-tick-tock malls and trying to buy the latest kate-tick-tock-tick-tock-spade handbag and where a masters costs a $100,000 tick-tock-tick-tock and a house costs you your ti——— life.
Take me back to where people smile and waddle through the streets of Rabat. Where sleep comes easy in an afternoon siesta and not tumultuous and raging on a hot-humid-bed-with-rain-pitter-patter-pitter-patter-crash-boom-bang-sizzle flying in through the window - and not the therapeutic kind, but the one that comes too late in the summer and too forcefully and leaves everything in a sultry-smoldering-hot-wet-mess night of sleep lost due to worry about catching up.
The nun who traveled is chained-down again. Tied down to the worldly ways of the world. The race. The never ending race. Race to what? Who knows?
Take me back to Valletta, where the doors are colored like the people and their lives. Where soft music wafts through the streets with the smell of baking pastizzis and fish and sea.
Take me back to Marsaxlokk, where old man and wife huddle and explore their own country together. Where those small simple joys of a joke shared or a hand held or a longing stare are not rare events but everyday pleasures.
My heart yearns.
I took this picture whilst visiting Hagar Qim and Mnajdra on a sunny evening in Malta, May 2014. The air was cool and crisp and all was right with the world.
"Qalbi" is heart in Maltese
In exactly 5 days, this is where I will be. Can. not. wait.
Memory is a funny thing. Simple messages from people from your past can stir up a flurry of emotions. That first crush that always was and will be wrong for you. That impression you had of people being silly stays on. My cheeks still flush when I recall an argument I had with someone - the embarrassment may reduce, but things can be stirred up, and the feelings remain the same.
Recently, I was added to a Whatsapp group started by someone from school. Whilst I hardly read any of the messages (most of them are people who didn’t have much of a significance to me during my school life, recollecting memories that I don’t feature in), some of the names on the list stir up something funny inside me.
My first best friend in that school who I haven’t spoken to in 9 years.
The guy I had nothing but respect for at one time, who just.. changed.
The snob squad I was once almost a part of, but which I chose not to involve myself with.
The rebel I secretly hoped liked me.
The simple girls I actually shared many laughs with who I just can’t relate to now. Or maybe I can. If I try.
The only way to describe this is sensation I’m experiencing is an anxiety, an uncertainty, a flutter. Will this be a rekindling of the past? Was there even a significant past or am I making the situation out to be more significant than it was. I do wish I could go back for a high school reunion. But it would only be fun if everyone were there. It would be nice to keep in touch with old classmates. It would be nice to iron out old creases. It would be nice to start over. It would be nice to be friends.
This morning, a woman called me and my friends ‘selfish’ for not getting up from our table after we were done eating. Apparently, she and her family (husband and baby in a stroller) had been standing beside our table, waiting for us to get up for ten minutes. In a crowded mall where people are always standing around, how were we to realize that they were waiting for us to get up? Furthermore, our table (for 6) had 3 empty seats which she and her husband could have easily occupied. They didn’t have trays or food. They were just standing. When she asked us whether we were done, and if we could give up our place (in an irritable tone), we immediately agreed, picked up our belongings and stood up. The minute we turned, she muttered ‘So selfish’.
This really irked me. How dare someone who doesn’t even know me call me names? If it was a genuine mistake, not having observed someone standing beside you, you can just tell them. This was my thought process - You do not have a tray, you’re just standing around, are we to assume that you are waiting for us to get up? Furthermore, we are deep in conversation. Normal people who are not sucked into the society of smartphones and gadgets tend to get into deep conversation sometimes. There is no reason to call them selfish. You can be polite about it and ask them to leave. So I told her off.
"There’s no reason to say that. We didn’t know you were waiting for the table."
"It was pretty obvious. We were standing here for ten minutes."
"We really didn’t know that you were waiting for us to get up - sorry about that. You could have just asked us to leave politely and the moment you told us you were waiting, we got up. There’s no reason to call us selfish."
She gave me a stare that said - I just want to slap you. For the first time in my life here, I felt like a second class citizen.
Her husband gestured to her to stop arguing. We left.
As much as I wish she didn’t, she spoiled my mood for the whole day.
Okay, I get it - We weren’t observant. We were apologetic about it and got up the minute we were asked to. What was the need for a grown woman to use a word like ‘selfish’? We were perfectly polite, but I had to stand my ground. You cannot call me a name that was not warranted and get away with it. I am a human being too, and I feel bad. There is no reason to spoil your mood and my mood and the moods of your husband and my two friends all in the span of 30 seconds. What was the need to stand there for ten minutes, bottling up the urge to tell us to move, and building up a whole lot of bilious resentment against us? You could have just asked if we were done. Or if we could move in (there were, after all, three extra seats on the table). That’s what we had done hardly 35 minutes ago.
A friendly society, where people join others, smile, greet each other and be nice to one another. If something bothers you, speak up before it builds up and comes out as petty, vengeful venom. People think they are polite by not speaking up, by not asserting themselves, but then when their lid pops, they ruin the geniality of society.
Is this the way the world is? Will incidences that leave a sour taste in your heart and mind continue to happen? Luckily it doesn’t happen often, but why should it happen at all?
I myself need to try not to be like this at times, but I am yet to find an instance when I have infuriated someone by calling them names. That is just really low, reflective of a superficial, unhappy and dissatisfied life and society. I never want to be associated with something like that.
Thinking about it, I’m glad I stood my ground, even though mentally she slapped me with her stare. It’s not my job to ensure justice, but if I want peace, I should just forgive her and her family in my mind and not call her names in my own mind.
I know I don’t believe in God, but ‘God’s principles’ that were taught to me as a kid - to forgive, let go, forget - they are all relevant. Perhaps justice will never be served. Perhaps no one will ever call her ‘selfish’, but at least if I forgive, if I take it lightly and if I forget, I will be at peace.
Instances like this make me realize two things: a.) I never want to be one with a disgruntled and materialistic society where the true happiness of a Sunday morning breakfast with family is forgotten because people don’t speak up, don’t be cheerful and tell people off instead of putting in a genuine request for something so simple as a seat, which is a small matter, and any sensible person would be willing to give up. b.) I myself would hate to be one of those negatrons, telling people off for something so small and silly, which could well be explained in a kind manner, without ruining anyone’s day (I’m sure I’ve been guilty of not doing this before, and this has to change). Sure, telling people what’s on your mind on a daily basis could potentially be nagging and make them be rude to you or hate you, but it’s better to express one’s mind upfront, in a kind way, than to bottle up and ASS-U-ME that others can take a hint.
In the wise words of the 100-year old man who jumped out of the window and disappeared: “People can behave how they like, but in general it is quite unnecessary to be grumpy if you have the chance not to.”
When I was in 3rd grade in Bangalore and had to learn a Hindi poem I simply could not memorize, I thought that I would no longer be stressed once my Dad moved to Bombay in the next few weeks. Guess what, we moved back to Bangalore within the month and I had to learn the bloody poem.
When I was in 6th grade and had to pass super-strict Sen’s English class, I thought that I would be no longer stressed when 6th grade ended. Guess what, I still had to pass Sen’s class for it to end.
When I was in 7th grade and sucked at Math, I thought that the stress would end when I finally reached 9th grade and could drop Math as a subject. 9th grade came and went - I didn’t drop Math.
When I was in JC1, I thought that the stress would end when Bio labs ended (for life, hopefully) and when I got new roommates (boy was I wrong). Guess what, JC1 ended, but I took up a Bachelor’s in Biomedicine later on in life, and got a brand new over-competitive and irritating roommate.
When I was in JC2, I thought the stress would end when A-levels ended. When A-levels ended, Raktim failed and didn’t come back to Singapore.
In year 1 of uni, I thought the stress would end when I finished my lab project. The project ended, and for some stupid reason, I took up another lab project in year 3.
In year 2 of uni at King’s College, I thought the stress would end when I told my loud, stoner, sexmaniac neighbour off for keeping the kitchen too dirty and for being too noisy. It didn’t, but I still passed my exams (despite the OHHH-AHHH-OOOOH-YEAHHHH noises I had to study/sleep to every single solitary night) and I still didn’t get fined for the dirty kitchen (because I practically cried in front of the warden).
In year 3 of uni, I thought the stress would end when I completed my 2nd lab project. Year 4 (and final year project lab work) then started.
In year 4 of uni, I thought the stress would end when year 4 and FYP lab work ended. Year 4 ended, and I had to find a house.
In my first year of work, I thought my stress would end when I found a house. It just so happened that the house was infested with roaches and I was homeless for 2 weeks. Luckily, I got my deposit back.
In my second year of work, I thought my stress would end when I moved in with these two retards. Well, now one is bloody unhygienic and the other is a bloody spoiled brat from Delhi with too much money.
Now I think my stress will end when this lease ends, but it will not.
Life sucks. People suck. And some are just a bloody nuisance and inconvenience to anything and everything and everyone. I guess I just have to accept the unfortunate existence of Stupidity in this world and stop letting it STRESS me out.