I never really talk to strangers. That’s besides the fact that I can’t hold small talk for nuts. But my conversation with Eileen was as effortless as reciting the alphabet, and the return flight from Siem Reap was over in an instant.
As she gathered her little backpack, I asked her if that was all she had throughout her couple of years in Southeast Asia.
“Yeah,” she said, a smile in the corners of her mouth. “It’s little I know, but many people live with less, and this here is all I really need.”
I’ve always received comments on how ratchet I am for living off a 24L bag for a month, so meeting Eileen was like seeing a unicorn for the first time. Before this, onebaggers were only myths on the internet to me, and I’m the only light-packer I know among my friends. It was great to finally see one in the flesh, but that wasn’t the point. It was what she said that struck a chord in me.
You see, I’ve been screwing up in the opportunity costs department. That’s why I haven’t been updating this blog. I forgot just how much work goes into nurturing a full-time job. Having rode the freelance wagon prior to this, I was used to having the downtime to pursue other interests. Now, all my time after work is spent preparing for the next day, with only the weekends to provide respite from the routine.
There’s also the fact that I have way too many hobbies on my hands. Some are just for fun, but others, like climbing, have been a major presence in my life. So it was a great slap to the face when I returned to Camp 5 after a hiatus, and found that I couldn’t complete the routes I was used to breezing through.
It might be my job and its 80 kilometre commute to the gym, or it might be my other pursuits like running and spin classes, but it was true. I was regressing in climbing. I didn’t want years of effort to go down the drain, so I drew up damage control.
I figured that I would’ve needed to give up my other hobbies, and whatever precious few hours I had left after work. I’d also need to spend another couple of hours for commute, and pay for said commute in petrol and time.
But I wasn’t ready for that. I had so many things to explore. What if I get good at this yoga thing? Why would I deny myself the prospect of flexibility? What if I wanted to join a marathon sometime soon? And I haven’t even started on my writing goals yet.
So the days before I met Eileen were spent slotting whatever I could into any free time that I had. Then came our talk, and as we parted ways to return to our own lives, a part our encounter lingered in me. “It’s all I need.”
There’s just so many things in this world that even a few lifetimes could not accommodate them. I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse, but I enjoy learning new things. Naturally, I’d love to be good at those things, but mastery doesn’t come without time.
Let’s take the fabled 10,000 hours as a benchmark. If you wanted to master something, you’d need 417 days of constant effort for that to happen. That’s excluding eating and sleeping, mind you. So while I could scratch the surface of numerous activities, that meant also sucking at them all.
And it’s these curious encounters that sometimes set my mind straight. It’s one of life’s little nudges to get me going in the right direction again.
When I choose to pursue my passions, I’ll have to accept everything else that comes along with it. If that means not having the cardio to blaze a trail run, so be it. If it means not being able to touch my toes, tough luck. I might not even get good at dancing, coding, or surfing, but I can be great at the few things that I really love.
And one of those things happen to be the article you’re reading now. I’ve forgone today’s run and tomorrow’s home-packed lunch to finish this piece, but writing is what really matters to me, and frankly, it’s all I really need.