I know why the caged bird sings

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.  – Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird”
Eat, sleep, play - Panda style

Eat, sleep, play – Panda style

Sometime last year, one of my students dropped by to thank me. He had gotten a job in a finance advisory position. I had given him some good advice which led to be a turning point in his career search.  What rocket science advice you might wonder?  Go for jog.
My mind raced to that evening in December. He had a high GPA, likeable pleasant personality. It was a stressful time, handling a day job in pharmaceutical sales, studying for his Masters in Finance at night, looking for a job in finance post 2008.  After 3 sessions, I told him, go take care of yourself.  Enjoy. Give yourself a break. What do you like to do? Jog? When was the last time you did it? Doctor’s prescription: jog 20 mins 3 times a week.
I wasn’t even sure if it was exasperation that I was at my wit’s end and don’t know what else to say or some genius insight. He did just that.  His mind became calmer and he had extra mental stamina to check the university’s career portal in December. Only 5 students applied (possibly because it was December). He was one of four students who got the internship.
Why does the caged bird sing? Because it loves to. If it didn’t, it would lose its spirit.
What do you love to do? When was the last time you did it?
Recently I stayed over at a friend’s place to recuperate from my illness. She was very helpful and kind. She had told me in the past that she loved to read. But throughout my stay, I’d never seen her reading. I noticed her spending 3 hours daily watching Korean soap opera and cooking shows on TV in between a very busy schedule of doing household chores.

But pick up a newspaper or book to read? Not once.


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Somehow engaging in a activity that we enjoy and makes us happy seems to trigger a guilt trip.  We end up doing passive activities that are convenient. Such as watching TV, and picking up the phone to complain to a friend, under the guise of keeping them informed.

I find myself trying to be agreeable, going along with what others want to do, restaurants they like to eat. I was afraid that if I insisted, that no one wanted to come along with me, and I would be alone. As time went by, I got lazy and end up not having a voice, not having an opinion.  Anything will do.

1) What do you love to do?
2) When was the last time you did it?
3) When are you going to start doing it?
4) How often? (Once a week?) For how long? (15 mins?)
5) Write it down, schedule it.

Ernest Hemingway set up a goal chart to monitor the number of words he wrote every day.  No kidding.

Do you have difficulty trying to find a life goal, and finding your path?  Try taking care of yourself first.

Julia Cameron, in “The Artist’s Way” suggests

1. Writing 3 pages of A4 size every morning.

2. Go for a walk

3. Have a Play date with yourself. Do something creative once a week to feed your creative soul. e.g. you can fly a kite, walk in a Botanic Gardens, visit the museum, go to the library. Many local community gardens have free guided tours by volunteers.

Playing is necessary because you need to refill your well.  As an artist, [I would add, as a knowledge worker], Cameron says, we are drawing from our inner well. Unless you fill this well, its empty, there’s nothing left to create. More often than not, we feel guilty playing because of a work ethic.

In the name of playing, I’ve leaned Chinese calligraphy, learn to bake macaroons, mooncakes, bread, cakes. Whereas my analytical self would have said, that it was a waste of time, since the cost of the lesson would buy me more macaroons that I could ever eat. [Plus I don’t like to eat macaroons.]

What do you love to do? When was the last time you did it?

1. I love to dance and flag my banners

2. Read

3. Play with my nephews and nieces [not babysitting]

4. Nap

5. Walk on the treadmill in an air-conditioned room and watch TV

6. Take a long leisurely walk after dinner

7. Go to the library

8. Drink tea

9. Visit different restaurants (maybe once every few months)

10. Watch a play

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