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Live Your Questions Now

LIFE FOR BEGINNERS

Written by Kenny Mah

Ed Sheeran and the Art of the Traffic Jam

There is a sea, a terrible ocean of cars, trucks and kamikaze bikers. Barely moving, barely edging forward. Soon some idiot will start the cacophony of honking, not that it changes a damn thing. The traffic lights are indifferent to our suffering.

If this is where you find yourself, let me share a secret. Listen closely now.

Ed Sheeran.

Yes, Ed Sheeran will save the day. I put on my earphones and play any of his songs — but in particular “Runaway” from his album X — and everything melts away. First I start humming, then nodding my head. Nod left, nod right. Shoulders sway. I might even snap my fingers, but you didn’t see that.

Once, just as I (well, Mr Sheeran) was singing the chorus line — “There’s nothing to say cos he knows I’ll just run away and be on my own” — I turned and smiled and the lady at the car next to me smiled back. She was probably wondering what I was on.

It’s soul music, lady, the sort that speaks to your soul. Put that Traffic Jam on.

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Too many tasks

More often than not, I list down too many tasks, too many to-do items, that I’m unable to complete all of them in a single day. Worse still, I probably know this as I list them. I overestimate how much I can accomplish and, in the end, accomplish much less than I’d like or could.

You’d be forgiven if you imagine a well-meaning (if not incredibly original) How to Better Manage Your To-Do List article follows the above paragraph. But: No, thank you.

So much is wasted in this world, in this life, I think, that to squander more time to contemplate it further would be an even greater waste. Better to just accept what we did cross out from that list, be thankful for that, and relish the time remaining.

Lists don’t make us happy, nor do ticking items off them (not for long anyway). Choosing to be happy makes us happy. (Is it really that simple, you ask? Why shouldn’t it be?)

•••

Never trust a chocolate tart

I baked a chocolate tart over the weekend. My first attempt so it wasn’t really good, I thought. The crust was perhaps too short, a little greasier than I would like it to be. The chocolate ganache filling was too sweet; too much milk chocolate and not enough dark. (I should have trusted my gut and gone wild with the bar of 90%.)

Then I cut some slices, put them into containers and gave them to my friends. One immediately asked me what I used for the crust; it was so buttery she swooned. Another had his slice in the wee hours of the morning, while watching soccer on cable.

Who do I trust, their opinion or mine?

I had the very last slice, letting it come to room temperature after removing it from the fridge. It tasted pretty awesome, I had to admit. Maybe it’s because of what my friends said. Maybe it’s because I’m simply eating it and not making (that was a couple of days earlier) – how you approach something colours it, yes?

Or maybe it just tasted better once I stopped thinking so much and I simply enjoyed it. Chocolate tarts are meant to be savoured, girls and boys, not to be analysed.

I can’t wait to make it again.

•••

Take the time

Taking the time takes guts.

I mean, who takes the time to do things right? Takes the time to be generous and gentle and polite? Takes the time to say sorry, and mean it? Takes the time to find the perfect gift, especially when you realise the perfect gift is something you make or something you do, not just a one time selection at a shop in the mall?

Who takes the time? Courageous women and men, is who. Because choosing not to take the easy way out? That’s brave to me.

Believe you are brave enough. Take the time.

•••

A tree would grow inside of me

When I was a little boy, my mom told me that if I accidentally swallowed the seed of an apple – if I chewed too closely to its core, if I munched too greedily – the seed would stay lodged inside my belly. It would germinate, push forth roots and dig deep. Branches and leaves would follow. A tree would grow inside of me.

For some reason, this did not frighten me.

Instead I imagined tiny twigs sprouting from the ends of my stubby fingers, young leaves unfurling, green and new. I would not bear fruit, I knew this, but I would still become a tree. That counted for something.

It didn’t seem such a terrible thing. Maybe because I knew I wasn’t really really becoming a tree. (Mom, have you seen any tree-people walking around, hmm?) Maybe not, but I was experiencing the sheer magic of imagining things.

Sheer magic I made for myself.

Needless to say, I was hooked for life. Magic making. Imagining things.

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