Trying something worse

In 2015, I went through several experiences that were “worse” than what I was used to. This included living in a crappy place, having to commute for the first time, working at a company without free food (gasp!), and trying out a new diet. In all these situations, I gained or learned something that I never expected to.

All these experiences I describe are very much first world problems. The purpose of this post is not for me to complain (I know I have no right to grumble about not receiving free lunch at work). Rather, I’m giving examples of how trying something not as good as I was used to had a positive impact on my life.

Living

Before 2015, I’ve always had a comfortable place to live. “Comfortable” might be an understatement; a better term might be “near-luxurious”. My homes have been spacious, clean, fully-furnished, relatively new, within walking distance from school/work, and I’ve never had to deal with problems with facilities or landlords.

At the start of this year, I lived in Singapore for four months, and my perfect record of immaculate housing was broken. The sole reason for my unhappiness of my living situation was the fact that I did not have air conditioning. I am not someone who loves the heat, and being in 32°C plus humidity everyday without AC was something I did not get used to. Sitting still in my room for a couple minutes made me drenched with sweat. I made sure that I was out the entire day, and I only went back to my room to sleep. It was a manageable lifestyle, but I hated that I didn’t have a comfortable, private area where I could lazily lie in bed the whole day if I wanted to.

What did I gain?

It made my next “bad” living experience not so bad.

After Singapore, I lived in London for a couple months. Since housing in London is so expensive, my roommates and I picked the cheapest place we could find on Airbnb, which had no prior reviews (that was our mistake). The house ended up being dirty, reeked of smoke, and had unreliable central heating and hot water. If I hadn’t had my experience in Singapore, I would have thought that this place was horrendous, and demand that we move out right away. Instead, I was grateful that I was able to wake up every morning without my whole body feeling sticky from sweating. The place wasn’t great, but after experiencing living in a boiler in Singapore, I was pleased that I had my own, comfortable room.

Commuting

Before living in London, I’ve never had to commute more than 10 minutes to get to work. I had heard so many of my friends complaining about their 1-2 hour commutes, so I knew that it was something I never wanted to experience. Yet, because of the tight housing situation in London, the best place we could find was 50 minutes away by public transportation. I was very against this at first, but it was impossible to find a place closer to the city within a reasonable price range. (The place we ended up living in with a “reasonable” price was £850/month.)

What did I gain?

Through commuting, I discovered reading. I read on my kindle while on the bus and subway, and I ended up reading, on average, one book a week. Before London, I had almost never read; previously, if I ever had free time, I would just spend it on my laptop. Obviously since I couldn’t browse on my laptop while being cramped during rush hour on the subway, all I could do was read. I am not implying that reading is much more “productive” than browsing the Internet on my laptop; rather, reading is just something that I enjoy doing, and I would have not discovered this fact had it not been for the commute.

In the future, if I am ever looking for a place to live, I will not be as adamant in finding a place that is walking distance to work. Although I would still prefer living closer, I learned that commuting is not as bad as I thought it would be.

Working

Bear with me for this complaint: the company I worked at in the fall did not have as many perks as the other tech companies I’d worked at previously. They did not have free lunches/dinners, they did not give me corporate housing, they had regular working hours (as opposed to the “work whenever you want” culture in Silicon Valley), and they dressed somewhat more formally.

What did I gain?

It was a pretty good reality check for my perception of a “workplace”. If I ever end up working at another company with free food, I will be much more grateful.

Eating

Two months ago, I became a pescatarian (vegetarian + seafood). It’s probably not something that I’ll keep up permanently; I am just trying it out for the heck of it.

What did I gain?

I learned is that pescetarianism is much easier than I thought it would be. I used to have meat in every meal; but it hasn’t been too difficult to keep up my diet so far. Vegetarianism is prevalent enough that there are a ton of veggie options at every eatery. For most dishes I eat, I can eat the same dish simply without the meat, or replacing the meat with fish, tofu, or egg.

All of these “worse” situations were not as bad as I predicted them to be, and I am glad that I had these opportunities to experience them. In the future, I will be more open-minded about trying something that may not seem as good as what I am used to.