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Revisiting And Rewriting My Bucket List

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ByFaizal Sohaimi
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It was just that almost a year ago, I could have hit the bucket! In the last two and a half years following the declaration of the Movement Control Order (MCO), the bucket came looking for me four times!

A friend said I had been using four of my lives already. Out of nine! Am I a cat? More like a “pussy” I guess…..

Bucket? What bucket?

Almost, probably hit the bucket twice actually in the non/misadventure. I was spared though, with “just” a few broken limbs. A few too many actually. I was now “The Titanium Man, n Steel”. I’ve had enough pieces of steel and titanium inserted into my limbs to put them back together.

At times though, I was tethering at the brink of letting go of dear life. Twice – at the accident and during the first operation, the orthopaedic surgeon told me (I had two operations). Something kept calling me back to “Planet Earth” and this realm.

Man of Steel – and Titanium too! I’m a nutcase!

Stainless steel into my left clavicle after a fall from cycling; not during Tour de France nor even Le Tour de Langkawi. It was just “Le Tour de Ara Damansara”…

Three pieces of titanium into my right femur which was broken in two places; into three pieces. Kind of straightforward this one; a titanium rod/bolt was inserted through the bones with a nut holding at each end. A confirmed “nutcase” now!

My right shoulder was a piece of (metal) art. I have a piece of a tapered titanium rod that was put in from the top of my bone, secured and holding a few pieces of my shoulder by seven screws. A triangular plate holds the bits and pieces of my left wrist, secured in place by seven titanium screws.

The number seven… Seven deadly sins, seven ways to win… seven… (part of Iron Maiden’s song Moonchild)

Light at the end of the hospital corridor err… tunnel

I was bedridden for almost a month in the hospital with no appetite at all. Friends brought my favorites – “nasi lemak sotong” and “nasi kandaq”. I only ate maybe three or four spoonfuls, fed by my wife. There was light at the end of the tunnel after twenty-eight days.

After having done a few sessions of physiotherapy, I was trained to stand, move a step, and sat in the wheelchair on my own. Then I trained to push the wheelchair and whizzed (more like crawled actually…) down the corridor on my own!

I also got back up onto the bed and started to go to the toilet on my own (with a nurse standing watch outside, in case…). Come to think of it, someone had to clean my butt(!), twenty-five out of the twenty-eight days I was in the hospital. I am forever grateful to those nurses!

Homeward bound

Having been satisfied with the physio-the-rapist report on my progress, I was allowed to go home. I was then wheelchair-bound at home for another one and a half months.

After about a week in the wheelchair, I made my first step with my atrophied uninjured left leg, to stand up and moved from my bed to the wheelchair, via the walking frame.

Many nights, semi-hallucinating, I woke up between 11 pm to 4 pm, wondering where I was and gradually moved to “What is the meaning of life?”

Who said smart-phone is no good?

Well, what else could I do but wonder and reach for my phone? You will not believe it! An iPad was still too heavy for both my hands to lift!

Nowhere to go and nothing to do otherwise. I was told that it would take about four months before I could walk again…

On the third day at home, I maneuvered myself into my home office, to my desk. Able to reach my laptop screen. Able to use the mouse and keyboard already, albeit a little awkward typing on my left hand. From my wrist on, it was at a weird and uncomfortable angle. But never mind.

Existence and achievements

In my fifty-three years of existence, I had to admit that I did not achieve very much, though I had done a lot. No, I’m not comparing myself against anyone, just comparing to what I had in mind when I was 16.

Well, I failed to make it to even the lead engineer at a base. Made it to be the “acting lead engineer” twice though.

Thirty-six years ago

Being the selected students of a certain top school, it was drummed into us that we could do this and that, achieve this and that. But as I met people throughout my life, I felt “meh”… with what I’ve achieved.

It’s not that what I achieved was shabby, far from that, but I felt “Is that all?”

I remember chatting with my friend and classmate from school, Johar, behind the dining hall, about the life I wanted, the lifestyle I wanted after finishing university. There was a certain picture that included romanticism and adventure in it.

As usual, Johar would go “This is planet earth”… bringing me back to solid ground. Though he sort of faltered at the end of school, he achieved a whole damn lot though!

The Dreamer

The dreamer in me persisted quite a bit though. Though we were taught as students “You do this, you get this” basically telling us to be well-behaved, then we would and could get all “A”s in our exams, we’ll be rewarded. Handsomely.

Good career, good money, good life, and all that jazz

My mindset and I believe Johar’s (he didn’t get that many “A”s though) too, was “I want that, what would I have to do?” – Stephen Covey wrote, “Begin with the end in mind”. This book became popular in the year that we started working.

The Wanderer

Admittedly, my mind wandered from one thing to another. From being married to not. From having a pious obedient wife to who needs a wife and kids???

I just wanted a great life. Adventurous life. Full of fun. Full of challenges. Makes the best of you. Outdoorsy. See the world. Experience what most people do not. The prospect of a “regular” life not just bored me, but scared me!

Why would I want a regular career, a regular “career” wife, two to three kids, a house in the suburbs, a family sedan (an MPV scared me!), etc  Regular stuff?

Look at David Attenborough, Diane Fossey, Jane Goodall, Richard Branson, David Doubilet, Rodney Fox,  Charley Boorman etc. What a life! And maybe Marco Polo too!

Yet at the same time, we were told to take responsibility or responsibilities. Your parents sacrificed for you. Your siblings look up to you. Can’t deny that I love my parents, my siblings, and my grandma to bits! Wanted to give what I could to them too.

So, what did I do?

I did these…

1. Got decent grades.

2. Got a scholarship.

3. Studied overseas.

4. Travelled Europe by Inter-Rail – if I recalled correctly, 13 countries, 29 cities in 30 days while subsisting on baguettes, Nutella, Maggi mee, and the wild fruits we found at public parks…

5. Been an engineer.

6. Worked at a power plant (BORED ME TO DEATH!!!)

7. Worked in the oilfield.

8. Worked offshore.

9. Worked in frontier China.

10. Worked in the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts.

11. Work overseas as long as I could.

12. Travel to as many places as I could.

13. Met as many women…err… I said met…

What became of me

I decided to become an engineer – standard achievement then would be many “A”s in my SPM exams to get a scholarship to study engineering overseas. I was awarded a scholarship (not a loan, mind you, a little “eksyen” here…) together with some top people in the country now, to read engineering at a great college and university – Brighton and Cardiff, in the UK. No slouch for a lazy bastard.

Contracted to a job for 10 years after graduation. This was the part I was not too happy about. Being a mechanical engineer with a power company, I knew I would be stuck in a power plant in the middle of nowhere.

Is that all? Work and life I mean…

I started to look out and around.

Got a job with an oilfield service company. Stuck in the middle of nowhere too! But the money was 10 times better and I got to work in a few countries.

The worldwide downturn in 1998-1998 cut my overseas, particularly in New Zealand really short. Otherwise, I could have been a Hobbit extra!

I was retrenched and had to fly back to Malaysia soonest! I was already married, with my then-wife almost seven months pregnant. We had less than a week before it was a “no-fly” for her. We were short of cash too. So we had to leave as there was no time to look for another job in New Zealand. International adventure cut short.

Moved on

By this time I had dabbled into photography, mountain biking n scuba diving. Busy with work

and baby, dabbled with writing too. At that time notebooks/pc/Macs were work stuff. Not too enamored with them while many colleagues went gaga with Mac! The Internet was new.

Wrote some articles about life in China but left them in the laptop which was returned to the company when I was released.

No bucket list but life had to reboot when I had a little baby.

Adventure vs…

Lusted after a few bikes earlier but being a responsible son n brother, couldn’t afford them. Never mind. Now, with some cash, had to make sure the baby got to eat.

I took on a sales job, with a bucket list and dreams buried somewhere… Restarting life as a fresh sales engineer.

Moving on, again

I became a sales professional for twenty years before someone decides that there was a mismatch between what the company wanted me to do, and what I had actually achieved. Thus, despite securing two multi-year and multi-million contracts, I was asked to leave.

I gladly did so as my mind was already on the track of a freelancing trainer.

Why freelance?

I only wanted only a few days a week and a month. I am revisiting my bucket list. I am rebuilding my bucket list though.

I consider myself to be in my third quarter (of a century). Yes, the first twenty-five years – learning, the second twenty-five years – working (primarily for other people), and then the third twenty-five years – working for me and whatever I want to do.

Freelancing allowed me to free up most of my time, and take up only the work I want to do when I want to do it. I now have less than twenty-five years (well, maybe less) to do that, and catch up (or fill up) my bucket list!

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