2012 – The Year That Was…



Its really hard to quantify the flood of raw emotions and feelings over 2012. It was a tough year, and tough is probably an understatement. The kind of tough that Pi had experienced with Richard Parker in their tiny little boat. It managed to break me down completely with my hand tied behind my back for the first half of the year, unable to do anything. Watching your previous life, hopes, dreams, financial stability and relationship go down in flames so fast will break most of anyone.

During the first three months of the year, i was literally fighting for my existence. My relationship with a girl i had a lot of hopes in had turned sour. A close relative of my family had passed away. My family main line of business had suffered its biggest yearly loss since it begins 12 years ago, and was still holding a rather substantial stock of raw material that was already underwater. My father, himself usually a spirited man, was battling a back pain that requires an urgent operation and is now unable to take care of the business as well as he could in the past. I myself was battling to apply for the rights of permanent residence in Australia, the right of which i was entitled of at least a year before, but of which after 22 lawyers and migration agents later, I found out was no longer available to me.

By the 12th of March this year, I had to pack my bags and belongings and bid farewell to my home of 7 years in Melbourne, a city that i loved very, very much till this day. I still harbor a dream to return and settle in Melbourne one day. Of the many dear friends that i have, I only had the opportunity to say goodbye to very few among them. For someone who had owed so many friends in so many years of growing up, not being able to see them and say goodbye is heartbreaking.I can only hope bit by bit, i will be able to meet my old friends again.

Yet my time to dwell on a personal sorrow is short, as I have to be strong for my father operations the next morning when i touched down in Singapore. I did all the paperwork, talked to the doctors, find lodgings and accompany my mother. Fortunately the operations was a huge success and my father was discharged three days later after the spinal fusion operation. Full recovery is expected to take at least 8 months to a year. Unfortunately, the operation costed a lot of money. The hospital also refused credit cards, and accept only cash payment, and it was the first time in my life i seen so many Singapore’s $10,000 dollar bills taken away from me so swiftly into the dark recesses of the hospital pocket. Apparently my mom and dad had no health insurance, was still skeptical about insurance in general. The only insurance we have is apparently a car insurance. Suffice to say this is an extremely expensive lesson, especially when we had just taken a huge hit from the business problem.

By the end of March, the loss from our main line of business, and expected downfall in future earnings means our family makes only a third of the income from this compared to the previous year. That’s a 60% of downfall in revenue. Along with the raw materials loss and my dad one-time operation charge, it had wiped nearly a quarter of our wealth. I had reasons to be extremely worried

In April, the damage from my family situation is starting to affect my relationship rather badly. I was almost always a confident man in my 2 years of masters. I always have a plan, and it almost always worked well. I knew i had the brain and the resources to make my dream comes true. But at that moment, even though i technically speaking, i still have resources, just not as much, everything become sort of muddy. For the next two months or so, i became a lost man, friendless, in a country that feels foreign to me thou it was and still is my home country. When i visited my then girlfriend family, they understandably doesn’t feel very confident about how i bring myself, and also i did notice the particularly large gap in current income and lifestyle. I sort of knew from then on, it was only a matter of time before we would fall apart. The difference in lifestyle was just too big, and both dads are a proud man. This would never turn out well. A month or so later we broke up, although in a relatively peaceful manner.

We still communicate with each other sometimes, and I know owe her a great deal, not least because she stuck with me who had lost confidence and hopes for so many months. Although she can sometimes be mental,  she is a brilliant, resilient and relentless woman, like a diamond in the rough, waiting for the right artisan to shape. Nevertheless, i knew i am not the right person.

In July my father got admitted into a Singapore hospital again for sciatica, or nerve pain, somewhat related to the surgery problem. That was another 6 days @ 1500 SGD a night. Singapore hospital are painfully expensive.

In August, after a relatively short family meeting, we decided my sister isn’t going to study in Australia as planned the year before. The money for her education is still there, but maybe she will use it for master or to start a business later on.

Settling back home is a very tough experience for me. Being friendless was difficult, and it was only because of work that i find some serenity and sanity. Working kept me occupied, as I worked Monday to Saturday. I do whatever job that I feel are suitable for the company, and it didn’t take me long to find stuff that needs fixing. Between April and August i hadn’t made any friend, the longest i have ever been physically friendless. I miss Melbourne dearly. It wasn’t until September that i began joining the local church and signed up as a volunteer.

My new friends i met at the local church was mostly of people who had never lived (lived not visited) in other countries, and generally work at a local company, so understandably their income is lower than my friends back in Melbourne. This makes it a little difficult, because i have to actively go out of my comfort zone. I begin eating at cheaper eateries, and ordered at smaller quantity. That is not so hard. The hard part is finding someone who can argue with me over global issue or economic topics. Although i am now no longer friendless, the part of my brain that needs sharpening and enjoyment still feel deprived. I cant even began to fathom when the time comes again that i feel ready to try a new relationship (could be another 2 years), how would i even start. Where would i look for somebody who comes with the same level of education? It sounds a bit snob, but i feel education level and intelligence is an important criteria, the rest can be compromised.

The rest of the year fortunately turns somewhat better. Business at the rental firm was good, so it kept me busy. We added one employee after another. We expanded our buildings and made record investment this year to focus on domestic market. When i recently done the consolidated financial statement, my family’s rental firm business increased revenue by 84% and profit by 68%. It sound like a big number, but when you were small and not well looked after for so long, i guess that kind of growth was relatively easy.

I seek to try to use as much of my education I used in Uni at my business. It was almost always met with some resistance, most often from my father. Although he was the person who had built the business from the ground up, i think at 50+ years old, his vision had already peaked, whereas I have just begun. Most frequent of his complaint that were levelled against me was that while my ideas were good, a lot of them would be hard to implement. Of course being the stubborn man i am, I tried anyway. He was right on some of them, it is difficult for some, but others were not that hard. If we were to grow big, we have to change and change fast. As they often said, in business, time is indeed money. I took on the role of marketing, procurement, public relations, IT, financial officer and salesman. For the first time i feel glad that i took on so many business subject and is also a computer hobbyist. My only experience as a door-to-door salesman of an energy company in Melbourne lasted only three days and it was horrible. In this one, i had done sales only a few times and all of them was relatively pleasant. It didnt take me long to realize that the business is something that a lot of people need. Sometime i get to meet contractors and engineers from out of town, and when i gave them the sales pitch, they were like ‘this is just what we were looking for’. So it kind of encourage me that my family had unknowingly sat on an abandoned opportunities for so long. It is a viable business with a solid demand.

When the end of the year came round, i treated myself to two massive lego sets that i couldnt afford before. I also went to a local tourist destination with my friends. Turns out Indonesia still has a lot of great tourist attractions to offer, its just not managed very well. Two of the photos are here:

P1180236 P1180243

Thus, after surviving the end of the world (for me) in 2012, I was just glad it was over, and I came away hopefully stronger than before. Although if it is possible, i hope the Almighty will never heap upon me again the kind of trial i went through in 2012.

I will end this post with a few quotes from Life of Pi, my favourite movie of the year:

“Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching. Even when he seemed indifferent to my suffering, he was watching. And when I was beyond all hope of saving, he gave me rest. Then he gave me a sign to continue my journey.”
― Yann MartelLife of Pi

And that folks, is how 2012 ends.



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