From then on, Naihan found new passions and nurtured old ones: fermentation, painting, swimming, plant-caring, hole-digging, walking through forests, and so much more. She splits her time between work projects and passion projects, and sometimes work and passion collide, like at ALT EFF – a film festival and platform that inspires and mobilises communities to take action towards creating a sustainable future – where Naihan works all things communications! This alternate lifestyle is a reality that Naihan has worked hard to bring alive – with two part-time jobs (Senior Copywriter at The Invisible Paintbrush and Communications Lead at ALT EFF), building frameworks for managing living expenses in a sustainable manner, and asking herself what tradeoffs she’s prepared to make. “How much money do we need for household groceries every week? How much does my lifestyle allow me to save? What do I need to cut down on if I want to say, support a local artist’s work or pay monthly to support an independent news agency? I’m pretty sure that financial management boils down to observation, documentation, compartmentalisation and exercising control, which I’m not very good at yet, actually!”
“I splurge on books. It brings me this sense of calm to see my bookshelves stacked up. Sometimes I’ll buy the odd natural product (most recent was a Tamarind hair mask by Earth Rhythm). I also (remorsefully) hoard clothes. But I have resisted buying them for a while now and have just resorted to grabbing things from my mum or sister’s cupboards – and swapping with friends. This sort of financial control is important in the long run, although I’m not the best at identifying that or utilizing that control as of now…” says Naihan.
Retirement and long-term financial planning can be scary and Naihan is no stranger to this fear. “I don’t have concrete long term financial goals. I just know that I would like to have ‘enough’. Enough is naturally different for everybody. For me, it means enough for my partner and I to support our families in the future if need be, enough to ensure our own good health, and enough for emergency or leisure travel. But it’s not like I want to change how I travel. What I’m trying to say is – I’m not keen on growing wealth in order to “upgrade” my personal lifestyle choices.”On advice for people trying to chart their own unconventional path away from the corporate juggernaut, Naihan says, “I figured there is struggle no matter where you are and what you do, so might as well choose what serves joy along with that struggle! I heard somebody say recently that ‘It’s brave to be scared’ – and I agree – don’t fear the fear… Just keep the energy level high, and forgive yourself, when it must stoop low.
What does an ideal day in Naihan’s life look like?
I’ve woken up early, around 6.30 am. It’s Sunday and it’s summer but the mornings are soft and cool. I sip on hot water, eat a mango. Nobody else in the house is awake, so the morning feels like it’s only mine. Maybe I will have a cup of chai. I check on my fermenting children, ideally my dogs are around and not being total menaces. I walk around the garden (which is lush and abundant) and plonk myself in an outdoor shed we built last summer, contemplating what minimal work I can do in the mud this morning. I head to the kitchen, cook breakfast and finish prep for preferably both lunch and dinner. It’d be nice if a lot of what we are eating is from the garden itself. The rest of the day would include painting, reading, working, yoga and maybe some fermentation experiments. Note that this is an ideal day in my imagined future-life. Some things I do today, but some not yet!
*The interview has been re-written and edited for clarity.