Hello! We’re fast approaching the end of June, the end of the second quarter of the year, and we’re two-thirds through the month of Ramadhan (sadface), so I guess it’s mid-year performance season! I did a Q1 Expenses Round-up at the end of March, where I crunched my Wally data for the first three months of 2016 and pulled out some general trends and observations (like my average monthly spend over the various categories, and how Q1 2016 compared to Q1 2015 when I had first started tracking). So I’ll be issuing a Q2 update very soon, and I also intend to look at how this first half of the year (H1) compares to the first half of 2015. Have I spent more between January and June of this year compared to last year? Am I spending more on eating out and coffee, or have I reeled in that habit a little bit? Is my lifestyle inflating to exorbitant levels? Or has my spending kind of stayed the same?
Before we get to that, I just want to say I truly hope you’re having a wonderful and blessed Ramadhan. Even if you’re not a celebrant, I hope you’re having a great month nonetheless! While I’m not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions per se (because I think we should consistently aim to better ourselves without having to wait for January 1st to roll around), it’s halfway through the year and I hope you’re still working on whatever goals you may have laid out for yourself at the start. (Cue cliched lamentation: how is it already almost July, where does all the time go?!?)
If you’re not doing so well, or you didn’t manage to lay out any goals for yourself on New Year’s, July 1st (or 2nd if you want to get technical) is the exact midway point in the year – which will be just as convenient as a reset button, so there’s still time to start fresh if you need to 🙂
For those who follow the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is often seen as the ultimate reset. I had said in a previous post that Ramadan is always a quieter, more mindful time and that’s because it’s the one month of the year where Muslims are encouraged to shift their focus away from their worldly, material lifestyles (burning hours on the daily at the 9-to-5 grind, chasing paper and indulging in insatiable hedonistic wants and pleasures) and instead, are asked to turn inwards in contemplation and reflection.
This is the time of the year where we should induce an existential crisis and ask ourselves: What is the point of all this? Am I living a life that makes me happy? Where am I going? What do I want, and how do I get there? At the root of it, Ramadan is about consciously pushing aside the noise and distraction in order to refocus our lives and re-calibrate to make sure we’re not losing ourselves in the materialistic maelstrom.
Deliberately fasting between sunrise and sunset allows us to feel the very basic human condition of hunger and deprivation, which is often not something we allow ourselves to feel in our middle-class lives of abundance (and wastage). It reminds us of our vulnerabilities – how easy it is to feel deprived, how easy it is to feel hunger and suffering; it reminds us to be grateful for what we have, and it reminds us that millions of people across the world exist every day without the same comforts and privileges that we are fortunate enough to receive. Deliberately depriving ourselves – even if it’s only for half a day – should be a rude awakening: we’re not better, stronger, smarter; we’re human and we’re just as susceptible to the harsh realities of life and poverty as anyone else. It’s literally as simple as taking away our breakfasts, our coffees, and our lunches; that’s all that separates us from our concept of “them”. Take away our paychecks and our ability to provide ourselves with limitless comfort; the chasm that separates “us” from the “deprived” is not a canyon – it’s a crack.
A month spent in quiet prayer allows us to be more alone. They’re called mass prayers only because crowds flock to the mosque to assemble in neat rows and pray in unison. Nevertheless, each and every person conducts their own prayer alone throughout; you don’t talk to the people next to you, you don’t discuss, you don’t even make eye contact until the prayers are done. And the time spent alone (but surrounded by others) is a strangely comforting feeling; you may be on your own but everyone else is on their own with you too. On a day to day basis, we often forget to prioritize spending time with ourselves; we’re too busy getting distracted by our buzzing smartphones; always running errands, things to do, people to see, putting out one fire, and then the next, until you’ve collapsed unconscious in bed.
And ultimately, Ramadan encourages charity. And by charity, I don’t only mean the narrow definition of giving food or money to the less fortunate. I mean charity in the form of kindness and respect. Fasting is also about holding in your anger and making the conscious decision to be more patient, more compassionate, more understanding. Hold your tongue and avoid gossip. Try not to be judgmental. And at the end of it, be charitable towards yourself too. Be kind to yourself, spend time with yourself in prayer and reflection, and owe it to yourself to always try to be a better version of who you were yesterday.
We’ve got less than two weeks till the end of Ramadan, and a week before the midpoint of 2016 – all the best for your own (personal) mid-year performance review 🙂
(And I will catch up with you on my personal finance review very soon!)