Before I turn 40

As I approach the big Four Zero in 2016, it’s getting harder to write blog posts like this. I’ve actually deleted and rewritten this post four times already because I cannot decide how much to say. But write, I must.

Turning 40 is fascinating yet dreadful – I know more things than before, yet realize how little I know about many other things. I’ve gotten to know many people, and also realized most of them shouldn’t know too much about me.

The things I used to scoff at when I was younger, now appear to be true-er than I would like them to be. For example, whether you are highly skilled or unskilled in your 40s, you really are easier to displace for a variety of reasons (some within your control, many not).

Anyway, for the record and to close off an exciting 2015, here’s the little of what I have learned before my 40s.

The Christian life is an adventurous and tumultous journey with Christ. For the person living in the city, the greater struggle is against the hypocrisy of oneself. Many Christians profess the faith but find it easier to be concerned about materialistic pursuits rather than the abandonment of materialism. I’ve written much about my thoughts on Christians and Christian living on this site but I’ve decided to spend more time demonstrating my actions instead.

Death, disease or disaster is really at one’s door. You just have no idea when they’ll knock, but you should no longer be surprised when it happens. That’s why you really have to do what you want to do today, because tomorrow may be too late. I worked 8 long years in Microsoft (even longer than the 6 years of full-time at SPH!) and it was not easy to move on to something totally unfamiliar and uncharted at Andios, but when the opportunity comes, it may never appear again.

A prayer journal will demonstrate the true power of God very quickly. I tried my best to keep a prayer journal on OneNote this year, and every few months I would file the answered prayers to another section. To my wonder, God answered so many requests! The reason why we often forget the power of God is because we don’t remember them. And when you do make a proper record, the vast impact of His work is staggering.

My journal also reminded me of how quickly we forget big tragedies like the Nepal and Kota Kinabalu earthquakes and the people still suffering from them. People are just too caught up with navel-gazing online or talking about silly stuff that would have never made the news just a few years back.

Many people choose the path of least resistance in their career and that’s not necessarily wrong for them. I constantly question why I chose a more complicated path for myself, but largely because I get bored easily. What’s problematic is that if a person’s true potential is smothered out because he is made to believe that he should choose the path of least resistance (ie. just take orders) by ignorant or small-hearted managers.

People can only make sense of the world from their limited perspectives. Many years ago, Goy introduced me to The Little Prince, and early in the book is this quote:

If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all. You would have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $20,000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”

No matter how much you stay away from people who want to judge you from a few slices of information they can barely see or process, it’s impossible to avoid them altogether. I’ve tried explaining myself several times to such people, but I usually give up because if they would listen to your explanation, they wouldn’t judge you this way to begin with. So just shrug and move on.

If you’re not succeeding for the longest time, it’s probably because you were taught wrongly. For the past three decades, I’ve struggled to swim longer than two 50m laps continously. I thought it was my body physiology, or the lack of constant training. This year I finally got fed up and asked around a few friends who pointed me to proper swimming techniques online. Within just a few months of practice, I could swim 20 laps (1km) without stopping and I was astounded. Throughout my youth, school teachers or swim coaches had not taught me the right technique at all and I was too lazy to find out if that was the case. 30 years sure is a long time to correct one’s ignorance, and I won’t repeat that mistake again.

Or sometimes, you’re just not cut out for it. I finally quit my violin lessons after 14 years because I just didn’t have enough time to practice and I was not improving at the pace I was supposed to. It had become more stressful than enjoyable or aspirational (the ABRSM exams were a nightmare to endure), and as part of my decluttering campaign, I stopped my lessons. I also told my teacher that I could no longer afford the lessons as I was planning to quit my job, and that was true too. I hope to get back to the violin later in my life, but I suspect I’m better off getting back to drawing.

Always look at the skies to understand change. Too many people spend their time looking in front of them or at their phones. I’m fortunate to live on the 15th floor of a HDB apartment, so I get a good view of the sunrise. Over the past 8 years, I’ve photographed over 90 photos of the skyline at different times and in different seasons to put up on Facebook. What’s remarkable is how I’m still discovering different variations of cloud formations or sunlight effects. Change is constant, change is unbridled. And sometimes, when haze strikes, you just have to close the window and endure the dark period ๐Ÿ™‚ You can click on my Facebook album here (and also notice how low-res the early FB photos were in the late 2000s, compared to the high-res uploads they allow now):

Various views from my window at different times of the day. This album will be periodically updated as I take more pix.

Posted by Ian Tan onย Sunday, April 5, 2009


Simplicity is the path I’ve chosen. While most people might imagine that I lead a life of adventure, which is true at work, I do strive to lead a simple, quiet and unchanging personal life. I listen to the same 80s music from my youth, I spend my weekends avoiding crowds or activity. I don’t desire to shop because there’s nothing left to buy after all that decluttering. I exercise regularly but not too much, and I eat the same boring economy rice dishes or soup noodles all the time to keep my weight at a constant. My marriage and family life are also constants but the kids do complain why they don’t get to go on overseas holidays often.

I sometimes wonder where do people find the energy to do so many different weekend activities, but I guess I’ve expended most of my energy on office work or housework.

Should I be investing more, or trying to figure out how to own a second property? Are there more countries to explore? Which dishes have I not tried? Should my children be going for extra lessons?

I don’t know whether it’s a Christian thing or a consequence of my diet and decluttering, or all of them coming together. I feel an odd detachment towards so many things that people are concerned with.

I do sometimes wonder if it’s me who is missing out and I’ll regret this in my 50s and 60s by not following the crowd. But that’s a rhetorical statement, because you know I’m not that kind of guy.

In any case, goodbye 2015, and here I come, the fourth decade of my life.

Postscript A : Pop Culture Analysis of 2015: Star Wars – The Force Awakens was an expensive and unnecessary rehash of A New Hope and for me, possibly the most disappointing Star Wars movie ever. Even the poorly-acted prequels generated more wonder and new developments about the SW universe. The fact that so many movie reviewers raved about it, also reflects the poor standards of movie critique today. I miss Roger Ebert.

Postscript B: I just came back from a long-awaited and long-delayed family trip to Tokyo. It was a good chance to brush up on my photography skills and feel free to download the photos for your own device wallpaper.

We walked a lot during our family vacation in Tokyo in Dec 2015, and there were many beautiful scenes to take in.

Posted by Ian Tan onย Friday, December 25, 2015

7 Replies to “Before I turn 40”

  1. This is a beautiful succinct post. All the best to beginning your fourth decade of life. I turned 30 earlier in 2015, and I wonder how my third decade will unfold, especially if I’m starting to feel strangely detached to certain materialistic pursuits. Haha.

    Anyhow, just wanted to say that I started out lurking around this blog checking out (for the lack of a better phrase) your motorcycling posts when I wanted to learn how to ride back in 2012/2013, but strangely enough, I’m starting to enjoy posts like these much more ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Thanks for reading, RB35. This blog was really never meant to be a motorcycling blog, but as I wrote less about personal stuff over the years, I decided to write more about bikes. The site is now popular for its motorcycling articles more than anything else, indicating the growing interest, and also because no other SG biker is bothered enough to write such articles (and I do wish they would).

  2. That was probably why, a while ago there was a Straits Times article saying how more parents were letting their kids take music lessons without going for exams… It’s much less stressful and still can maintain the recreational aspect to it!

  3. Hello Ian, my name is Cheun Meng. I started reading your blog recently because I was taking and just got my 2B license (1st Dec 15), and was reading up on info online. I have also benefitted much from your weight lost book and other Christianity related posts.

    I turned 40 in July15 and the year been full of changes for me but intentional ones. May or may not be mid-life crisis but in any case, I have enjoyed all the experiences I had in the calendar year of 2015.

    I want to wish you the best in your writing, and safety in riding. God bless you and your family, brother. Happy New Year!

  4. Hi Ian, you probably don’t remember me but we used to work with you as the corp comm team from the old PacNet. It had been more than 15 years and we still hadn’t have the chance to have the durian feast. Your blogs are a pleasure to read. May God continues to bless you and your family.


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