009-E A Morning Run Discovery: Mount Austin@ Johor Bahru 

Because of Johor Bahru (JB)’s proximity to Singapore, I usually chose to return home on the same day whenever I have to travel there for work. Two weeks ago, I was there for four days, but decided to stay for one night because I had to work late on one particular day.

It was a decision that allowed me to discover another great place during my morning run the next day. I expected to see nothing more than closed shops and ordinary streets, but was pleasantly surprised to find a scenic location.

The trees planted on both sides of the foot path were not the boisterous Rain Trees that are commonly found everywhere in Singapore and Malaysia. Rather, they were the Sea Almond Trees, Christmas trees look-a-likes, that I often see in New Zealand and Australia. It was said that its name originated from its seeds that resemble almonds.

You would probably laughed at its name if you know that it sounds exactly like another word meaning lazybones in Chinese. Quite on the contrary though, sea almond trees were sturdy and tall, and they looked like beautifully-shaped umbrellas all lined up neatly along the road, extending welcome to whoever may come its way.

It was barely 7 am in the morning, perhaps as it was still early, the sky looked exceptionally blue. Even the clouds in the sky were dyed with a slight dash of blue.

As the sky turned brighter, the same place took on a new coat of green, derived from the grasslands, as if it has undergone a cosmetic makeover instantly.

Would you like to know the exact location of this scenic spot?  For now, I thought it might be wiser not to divulge the location, but to allow you discover it at Mount Austin on your own. It should be an easy place to find. The question is whether you still possess the ability to discover the beautiful things in ordinary life.

Beautiful places are bountiful and can be found everywhere. The key is whether we allow ourselves to have moments of tranquillity to appreciate the beauty of life. Especially when we are busy, tired or troubled, making time like this to have quiet moments of serenity is more precious than ever.       

陈惠谦 William W K Tan

5 September 2017 ( Tuesday)

Personal Notes:

I tried writing in two languages this time because some of my friends told me that they would very much like to read the blog posts I wrote in Chinese. 

One friend even told me she google translated whenever I wrote in Chinese. I am grateful and feel encouraged by you. I know I have to give it try even though it takes more time and effort to do the translation. 

Coincidentally, I feel a pressing need to recapture those tranquil moments I got in Mount Austin now. So, I am really glad to write this blog post tonight. Hope you’d like reading it too.

006 Running Out Of Friends

I never quite know how to make a convincing argument for spending time on friends, especially over family. After all, the truth is no matter how strong a friendship can be, its significance seems to pale in comparison to family ties. 

  • What are friends for?

Yet, we instinctively understand that friends are necessary for human flourishing. At the very least, the presence of friends provides a sense of familarity and safety that is needed for harmonious co-existence. And at its very best, friendship can blossom into a springwell of goodwill and strength derived from the extent friends are willing to do for the sake of friendship itself. At any rate, it seems self-evidently true that a life nourished with friends is more satisfying than a life without any.

  • Will you regret not spending more time with friends?

Still, maintaining friendship is a tricky business. Most friends come into our lives by chance, and often they slip out of our lives as and when they like.  Along the passage of time, people find new friends to replace old ones, as if the former is a convenient substitute for the latter. Friendship is seldom enduring and its transient nature casts serious doubt on the value of spending time on friends. 

Out of practical considerations, prudence teaches us to spend time on only a handful of chosen friends, rather than counting the headcount of friends one may collect. However, only time can discern lifelong friends apart from the passer-bys. As time passes, we may find ourselves losing more friends than we can handle, especially when even the most cherished ones are gone unexpectedly. No wonder one of greatest regrets people have at old age is said to be “not spending more time with friends” when they could.

  • Running out of friends

I did not realise my folly of not spending adequate time with friends until quite recently.  In a self-imposed exile for nearly a decade, I had skipped every class reunion with old friends and turned down almost every invitation to social gatherings that might rob whatever precious time I could give my family. And neither did I made any effort to connect with friends using social media. Soon, the number of friends I had dwindled drastically, and alas, eventually the phone calls I got outside work and family, were only those from the representatives of bank institutions and insurance companies.

I was unalarmed with the dearth of friends until I was hospitalised one year ago. Lying on the sick bed for five consecutive days, each day passed with my longing for the company of friends grew stronger. But no one came, not even a single colleague from the workplace. I realised, at that instant, workplace friendship is fundamentally different. I understand why people prefer to keep private and professional lives separate, but I couldn’t help feeling sad as there are colleagues that I genuinely like and count as friends.

In desperation, I called up a close friend since college days, “Hi, buddy, I am in a hospital for a surgery. Nothing serious really. Just thought if you have time for some catching up.”  I felt somewhat embarrassed.

To my delight, my good old friend visited me immediately without hesitation and I enjoyed his company tremendously. Thank you, my friend, I will never forget. And thank god, I  still got one friend left, I thought. 

  • How did I run out of friends?

How did I arrive at such a dismal state? You might have already guessed the reasons: Marriage, Parenthood and Work. On hindsight, however, I realise the root cause was something else– a lack of proper appreciation of friendship.

Entering marriage and parenthood in my early thirties, I was prepared for a reconfiguration of my social life to fulfill my new-found duties as a husband and a working father. What I was unprepared for was the double whammy of my first-born child being diagnosed with developmental disorders and an abrupt change of job nature that increased the frequency of my overseas travels sharply. My life tailspinned into chaos before I could put home and workplace back into order after years of efforts. Spending time with friends became a luxury that I could ill-afford for a long time.

  •  Lesssons on friendship from friends

Although I was once near the brink of bankruptcy on friendship in the domestic front, I have made some unexpectedly enduring friendships abroad over those years, and am starting to see some good results at home ground in recent months after making changes.

Among my new-found friends and old ones, some have become my mentors and counsels, and a few others see themselves as my apprentices. It all started as purely work relationships, but have blossomed into something more because of shared values and mutual trust. Having like-minded friends at work is enjoyable and raises productivity. Even after the work is ceased and people have parted ways, the relationship will continue to grow as long as both parties develop a genuine liking for each other to make continuous efforts to deepen the connections. 

I have learnt a few precious lessons from these friends, both new and old:

1. Friendship enriches a person and becomes an asset only when it is based on shared values and mutual trust.

2. Workplace friendship may turn into a liability only if it is grounded on convenience and calculated interests.

3. One must genuinely like a person, whatever the circumstances, to become lasting friends.

4. Do not mistake reciprocity of kindnesss as a transaction of give and take. Friends are willing to give and give for the sake of friendship alone.

5. Your friends may not always be there for you when you need them most. But if you truly cherish your friends, you can feel their presence even in their absence.

Thank you all for encouraging me to keep on writing in your WhatsApp messages. Please share your comments here or chose to follow my blog if you find it thoughtful and sincere enough.  I am curious to find out also for how long and how often can I keep up this efforts to share with you, my family and friends.

William W.K. Tan

16 August 2017 10.20 pm