I TOOK the bus to Penang yesterday morning. It’s a short weekend trip to carry on the tradition of spending some time in my hometown during Chinese New Year.
Having settled down in the Klang Valley since moving down as a bachelor back in 1980, my own family is definitely not a Penang family.
But, as they say, you can take a Penangite out of Penang but you can never take the Penang out of a Penangite.
Since I no longer have to join in the reunion rush, I choose the less busy period to travel. It is also easier to catch up with family and friends after the busy first few days of the festivities.
Friends and relatives always ask why I would spend about 10 hours on a bus to and fro on my Penang trips when I could have saved a lot of time taking a flight instead.
Well, the time I spend on the bus is always time well spent.
It gives me the opportunity to finish off a novel, chat with a new-found friend, watch a movie or simply do nothing. In fact, I wrote this column on the bus yesterday.
Inspirational speaker Jonathan Lockwood Huie said, “Time, like life itself, has no inherent meaning. We give our own meaning to time as to life.”
I agree. Everyone’s concept of time is different even if we all have the same 24 hours in a day.
In your courting days, you would want every minute to be like an hour, but after 30 years of marriage, you might wonder why a minute with your spouse can sometimes feel like an hour.
Of course, in life, we often do not have full control of our own time. Other people, from bosses to family and friends, do have a stake in our time.
For many people in the workforce today, office hours are no longer nine to five.
The young, savvy executive who thinks life is cool when he is able to take off his tie and have a drink in Bangsar is jolted back to reality when his smartphone rings and his boss is on the line.
Freedom, ironically, is just an illusion.
The chains remain because we are too well-connected. But difficult though it may be, we can, and we must, protect our own time.
Time to ourselves for solitude and reflection is crucial for a well balanced life. And time shared with others for the right reasons is precious.
Who is really chipping away your time? Have you simply given them the permission to do so? Is attending a meeting more important than being at your daughter’s speech day?
Is your email inbox so packed with work mail that you do not even have time to reply to personal mail from friends anymore?
The bus was at Rawang as I penned this final paragraph. I am thankful for the time to reflect on these questions and more.
I brought with me a special photo album on this trip that covers the many precious moments of the loved one I am visiting.
I was teary-eyed as I flipped through the photos, because each reminded me that time is not about seconds, minutes or hours, but truly about meaning.