Imagining 2031 Nurul: From Time-Bound to Unbound Growth
Creative Chronicles is a series of articles exploring the lives of four Singaporean Creatives. Previously in Series 2, our Creatives wrote a heartfelt letter to their younger selves. In this Series 3, they explore the question, What would I want my life to be like in 2031?
First, they acknowledged a challenge that they are facing today. Then, they reimagined alternate possible futures regarding those challenges through a Futures Thinking technique called Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) with the Studio Dojo team. Delving deep into a perspective, CLA comprises 4 levels: litany, systemic, worldview & story. CLA suggests that in order to make sustained changes, we need to look into deeper layers of meaning to create new stories that support our preferred future.
In this article, we chat with Nurul, Founder of The Codette Project. Her main challenge is in managing all her responsibilities while still continuing to care for and develop herself. Through this exercise, Nurul shifts her story of herself from being time-bound and having to navigate all her different responsibilities, to one of continued and unbounded growth. To shift, she builds a strong community around her and proposes universal basic income, allowing us all more time to connect with others and ourselves.
Studio Dojo: What is a challenge that you are currently facing?
The question I have for myself is: How do I manage my responsibilities and continue to care for and develop myself?
Recently, I took leave for about 10 days and I spent those days not doing any work, neither my day job nor Codette. That was really nice because I had a lot of time to explore new things – did some crafts, went out into nature – which was very peaceful and healing. But somehow, that experience seems at odds with what good satisfying work entails and all the responsibilities that I have to fulfil. Honestly, that is a tension that I’m unsure how to balance.
Studio Dojo: What is the story you currently hold regarding this challenge?
There’s this sense of stuckness I experience. I’m really stuck on how to manage all of my different work and responsibilities but also have time for my hobbies and to discover new things. It definitely seems like there’s always a lot to do in so little time and this stuckness is quite the struggle for me.
I feel like I’ve had to create such strong boundaries in my life, especially around work, because work really doesn’t stop. In creating those boundaries, what comes out strongly for me is the belief that home should be a big part of people’s lives because life should be lived at home, not at work.
The controlling Now
I think the idea that work – whether good work or not – should be what you structure your life around is actually something that needs to be challenged a bit more. There was the thinking that with more productivity and automation, people would work fewer hours and we would have more time to ourselves but that clearly has not happened. I find the idealisation of work as important and doing more work being a good thing, to be problematic. To fully live life, it involves other parts of life that are not considered work. If we think of life as a garden, the weeding of life requires activities like resting, creating, cleaning, and these are all important. People need more time to do it.
Living is complex in today’s modern context. There are very old ways of living that are actually more beneficial for health but I struggle with how perhaps these old ways are sometimes not very aligned with modern ways of living. For example, I enjoy communicating with people. I then question, if that’s the case, why don’t I make the time to actually write letters or postcards to all these people? What is the nature of the communication that we’re actually participating in?
Stuck on infinite scrolling
I actually really want to stop consuming Instagram but it’s definitely hard to stop scrolling on Instagram. I’m really torn on this because while I do enjoy not being on social media, I feel like I’m missing out on communicating with others and getting updates on people that I am fond of. I don’t think it’s possible to do a lot of the work that needs to be done without social media but I also can’t deny the books that talk about how social media is addictive and how the nature of it changes our brain patterns and the way that we pay attention.
I’m quite a scheduled person. So my routine on workdays is: I get up, I exercise in the morning, I make breakfast for my husband and I, water my plants, do work, prepare lunch and then I do more work. There’s just a lot of work, a lot, and it’s hard to create boundaries around it. I basically work two jobs – my regular work and Codette – and it’s been really hard to get everything done on time in a way that makes sense. That explains why I’ve been trying to squeeze out as much as possible within the time limits of a day. I work on Codette on Saturday mornings as well so I have to be in work mode for at least part of the weekend. I know that Saturdays are when a lot of my team gets work done, so I do want to support them during that time. Overall, it gets challenging because of how tiring it is.
Slowing down to speed up
Responding to WhatsApp and emails adds to the challenge because they are like growing to-do lists. With work, I find emails challenging because of the sheer number that I receive, I see a lot of them, thus managing the number can be quite challenging. Similarly, WhatsApp was supposed to help speed up communication but now people WhatsApp literally anything.
Today, a lot of us communicate through social media but I’m not a big fan of it. To be fair, I think social media is a tool that is uncontrolled, and now it has become controlling. I don’t have a TV at home. We’re quite screenless actually, I don’t have screens in my bedroom, and I think that’s important for me.
I try to cut down on social media and instead spend the time on books and playlists. I like exploring playlists, I have a playlists for different times and occasions and I find that quite enjoyable. I also have a small collection of plants that I try to look at, water everyday and talk to them like Hey, how are you doing? All these form my environment and I do think it’s important to curate and clean your environment in order to be productive. That takes some effort and time, I didn’t realise how much cleaning is required for a house until I moved into my own. The moment you finish doing laundry, you’re practically starting on another load! But it’s hard to care for yourself if you’re not living in a comfortable environment. Caring for your space is definitely both a responsibility and something done to care for and develop yourself.
Studio Dojo: What is the story you would like to hold regarding this challenge?
I would like the story to be about continued growth, to see myself in a space that’s different from 2021. It would be nice to see myself doing something totally different or even if it’s similar, to be doing it in a different way. I would like to be pleasantly surprised. 10 years ago, I would never have imagined myself doing the things I’m doing now, so I’m looking forward to that feeling.
Currently, I’m growing a lemon plant and I think that could be the metaphor for this continued growth. It started out as an experiment really, I had extra soil and was eating a lemon, so I tried planting four different lemon seeds. I thought they had all failed but I realised this morning that one of them started growing. They take a while to bear fruits so maybe in 5-7 years, I would have a lemon tree. Well, it may or may not fruit, so similar to my future story, I guess this will be one of the surprising things I figure out. Let’s see what happens.
A community rooted in deep connections
For continued growth, I definitely think that building a strong community is important. And this community is made up of both family and non-family. To have very strong and deep connections with people whom you can really trust and rely on, is key to me. That is something I would really like to have in 10 years’ time.
Nutrients for every individual to bloom
To build strong communities in 2031, hopefully we will have universal basic income for everyone by then. I strongly believe in it because I think it would really help a lot to people, especially women, to create the life that we want where we don’t have to worry as much about financial constraints. With it, it frees up time for you to do things that are very human, good and creative, but may not have direct economic value. For example, the unpaid work that women do that adds billions to the global economy. Maybe in 10 years’ time, everyone gets to benefit from universal basic income, parents get to spend more time with their kids and in general, we will all work and still have more time for ourselves.
With more time, I would really like to exercise everyday. That’s actually something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time and it’s been difficult because it’s always the first part of my schedule to go. Connecting with others is also something that I would like to enjoy everyday, whether it’s writing to people, calling them or having people over for meals. I think connecting as a daily habit is something I would want to practice.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett
I imagine a very large table in my home, with large sharing plates in the middle of it, and people sitting around while enjoying a meal. And who knows what new kinds of food we’ll be eating in 2031? I enjoy this current movement towards indigenous food where it is reimagined and prepared in new and intelligent ways. There are people in the US that are doing it and I would really love to see more of that in Singapore. I know that something similar is being done here with Orang Laut dishes!
I imagine there would be new ways to play music as well and the music would create the mood as we, myself and the people I like, enjoy the meal. Ultimately, I would like to be in a high-trust environment, where the things I hear and experience are coming from sources that I trust. That’s a nice way to live because then I am not really impacted by a lot of temporary trends and issues and I get to deal with longer-term concerns. That would be quite lovely.
Catch up on Nurul’s articles