I started delivering food last week. At first I wanted to keep it private, but I didn’t want the hassle of having to explain myself if I ever bumped into someone familiar, so I wrote about it on social media.
One of the reasons I felt secure enough to come back to Singapore was because the standard of living is much lower compared to the US (there are many ethical prices to pay, like there is no minimum wage here) and with the emerging gig economy I knew I had more options for work. I figured if I kept my expenses low I could survive with a reasonably paid part-time job – I wouldn’t have to be forced to return to tech again, and I could preserve my creative energy for things important to me: such as this website.
We know that Einstein was a patent clerk, and it turns out that the creator of Stardew Valley worked as a part-time usher for four years before publishing the game:
While I was developing Stardew Valley, I worked part-time as a theater usher, and also lived with my girlfriend who received a grad school stipend. So with our combined income from that we got by. I purposely took a non-coding/art type job so that I could devote all my mental & creative energy to Stardew Valley – source
The point I am trying to make is not that I am aiming to be Einstein or a “success”, but rather that having a creative job sounds like a dream come true, however the reality is most of the time it disproportionately benefits someone else’s profit margins and/or political agenda while we end up burnt out.
I don’t have the stomach to play political games, but unfortunately that is required to do anything of consequence. Having to deal with people’s emotions, psyche and motivations stressed me out so much that I developed chronic physical symptoms.
I choose my health over anything else. Even if the martyr in me doesn’t mind being physically sick, the depression that comes along it doesn’t only affect me, it is toxic to the people around me. I now believe it is not ethical to be in a position of power if we don’t have our psyches sorted out, because every single decision we make ripples far and wide.
So I am now delivering food. At first it was just an experiment to satisfy my curiosity, but now it feels like something I wish to do regularly. It is physically exhausting: the first day I did it I delivered only 3 orders and I felt like I was about to collapse – I walk, by the way.
Yet I feel alive. I feel alive because I am now interacting with so many different people every day, it gives me a visceral feeling that I am an interactive node in the giant web of humanity. I encounter kindness and generosity. There seems to be a shared understanding that we are all facing similar challenges in the work we do, so people try to help each other out. A friend tells me that this seems to be also anthropological for me.
For me, there is also a theme of ableness. For years I struggled with disability as I developed painful migraines, anxiety and eye pain whenever I worked with the screen. It was very disempowering to not be able to work, especially when I really wanted to. It felt to me like it was the only outcome I had to accept, that I may never be able to work for the rest of my life. But apart from physical soreness, I seem to not be exhibiting any of my chronic pain symptoms. Yet. I tend to jinx myself. For now it feels good to be walking 12-20km every day without waking up feeling like I want to die. I think my months of running helped.
I am still dealing with the physical fatigue, but I hope to get my body acclimatised and get into a sensible rhythm where I can split my time between food delivery and my creative projects.
Another unexpected side effect is that this seems to have a positive effect on my depression and anxiety. Obviously there is the physical exercise aspect, there is also a meditative aspect where I am too focused on getting from point to point instead of spiralling into my over-thinking. I was never really aware how much of my overthinking is toxic to me, but somehow this year I have developed the capacity to catch myself in these thought spirals and how much they paralyse me.
I also spend less time on screens and social media now, which helps my mental health too. I am slightly worried that this physical exertion will disrupt my fragile hormonal balance. I’ll be having my monthly cycle soon, so I will know.
Ironically there is a sense of freedom, delivering to these gated tall offices made me keenly aware of how much I don’t want to be in them again. I may be profusely sweating, carrying a big thermal bag of food for a fee that will never be anywhere close to my previous rate per hour even if I worked 10-hour shifts, but in return I am free from being somebody’s political pawn and a desk binding me. My eyes are thankful.
I am not sure how long this will last, but even a short-lived romance is worth documenting. I am also aware that I am privileged to be able to have these choices. I am not romanticising a job that is physically demanding and requires long hours if one needs a full-time wage to feed a family, but I am still grateful that there are options like these now, whereas previously I would be limited to inflexible part-time shift work that is location-binding. From the group chats that I am participating in, this is a sentiment shared by many others, they are earning more than they had in previous work, with the added flexibility of choosing how much they wanted to work.
(There are issues like the protection of workers etc, but we have limited protection here in Singapore anyway…since this is an emerging industry I hope it will continue to develop in a humanistic direction. What if the food delivery industry collapse one day? Well, in my opinion there wouldn’t be safe industries any longer because of climate change, so we have to do whatever we can to adapt.)
Do I care about what people think? Honestly, I did. But I choose myself: the choice that would allow me to expand wider in my becoming. Perhaps more about that in another post.