Lessons learned

photo_2017-04-25_17-29-05As I write this, I am on my flight back to Kuala Lumpur.

What an amazing weekend it has been – the perfect break from reality.

I never thought I would be one to crave for the comfort of home, but over the course of the past 6 months, so much has changed – and all I needed was the warm embrace of home to remedy the aching in my heart.

My foray into the world of adulthood has been tumultuous, to say the least. It has been an arduous journey of self-discovery, albeit a short one. During my trip home, I managed to spend some time by the beach doing the one thing I’ve been craving for a long time: reflect.

With my toes in the sand and the salty sea breeze blowing gently, I realized that in the past 6 months, I learned more about myself than I ever had in my entire life.

I learned that although I am in pursuit of stability and a career I am passionate about, I am impulsive and I am more likely to succumb to societal pressures than the average millennial.

I learned that although I would like to deny it, financial security takes precedence in any career path that I choose.

I learned that sometimes, people are disguised as friends, but they turn out to be the ones who pull the rug beneath you – and sometimes, those who appear to be against you, are the ones who are rooting for you the most.

I learned that it is easy to lose yourself in your own path, and dwelling on your problems can be much easier than getting up and doing something about it.

I learned that maybe, I am not as strong as I would like to think I am.

Nonetheless, I have made my decision: to put myself first, to care for my own well-being, and finally chart the path I have been wanting to chart since the day I realized my life’s mission. It took me all of 6 months to realize this, and I am glad that I have been blessed with the ability to see it sooner, rather than later.

Today, I will do something for me, and there is no turning back now.

Ending a chapter

DSC08658.jpgI flew home for a week in November, slightly over a week into my new job, for two reasons — because it was my birthday, and because I was about to graduate. Going home this time was the best trip I have had to date, because I had plenty of time to spend with my loved ones, and because I knew that I was about to go home to say goodbye to an incredibly significant chapter in my life.

I had been looking forward to graduation (literally!) since I first started studying in university, but during the days leading up to it, I felt indifferent simply because I had just started my career and was grappling with the long hours I had to put in, but I’ll save that for another day.

The day came, and I had to wake up at 5am for the ceremony. Everything went by in a blur. There were so many people there, so many eyes on me as I approached the stage… And I received my mock scroll. Three years of hard work, literal blood, sweat, and tears were all condensed into one piece of paper.

After the ceremony, I parted ways with my friends and it hit me — I was a superstar for a few hours that day, with my first class honours degree in a field I am passionate about… And the next day, I had to fly back to KL to a job I was struggling to get used to, and a life without my family by my side. It was then that I realized — all along, I was dreaming of an idealized version of adulthood. This is what life after graduation was like. Difficult and lonely.

I had a deep craving for independence, to go out and pave my own path, and to create my own legacy… But I honestly did not expect it to be this difficult. Some days, I wish I had taken the easier route, but strength and resilience come from adversity… Or at least, that’s what I tell myself every day.

Making choices

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It was a Tuesday, and I was in the office, slumped in my seat. I was staring at my computer with multiple tabs open– one on iBilik, another on my Internet banking, another on my bills, and a few on my work. What I was paying attention to, though, was bills. My landlady failed to tell me how much I owed in utilities (presumably because she’s trying to shortchange me, but I digress), and I had been hounding her for weeks on end. I finally got my answer while I was at work, and it was a three-digit figure I never imagined I could accumulate over the course of slightly over one month. I checked my calendar– payday was more than a week away. However, my conscience did not allow me to be in debt, so I settled my bills on the spot. It hurt me to have to do it, but I did it anyway; knowing that although I would not be able to spend lavishly for the next week, I could be rest assured that I was not in debt.

It was a Sunday, and I had never felt more demotivated to work. I resented having to go to work on a public holiday, and working for 6 days straight. I was due to go on air, and my lack of enthusiasm showed while I was announcing my reports.  Undoubtedly, my poor performance came to bite me in the ass, and it all just went downhill from there. It was high stakes– working in the country’s top radio network and announcing reports to millions of listeners who were tuning in just made me feel so much worse about my job. Don’t get me wrong; people’s assumptions about working in radio is, for the most part, accurate– I get to meet well-known media personalities (I’ve met so many celebrities that I lost count), rub shoulders with key players in the industry, and get to go on air… But behind the glitz and glamour lies all the hard work that goes unseen… And because I knew, deep down, that broadcasting is not my calling, I knew I wanted out come the end of my internship.

It was a Wednesday, and I had just signed a contract with one of the top advertising agencies in the world to be their in-house copywriter… But as much as the word ‘writer’ appealed to me, I had a deep-seeded innate fear that maybe I’m not good enough for the role. Yes, I was headhunted; but will I be able to constantly develop creative copy, and for one of the most demanding clients in the industry?

It was a Friday, and it was a long work week. I was looking forward to finally going home and spend some time out, since I was cooped up in the office and at home for far too long. It was then that I received a call from my boyfriend, and he broke the news to me; shit hit the fan and there were problems I had to single-handedly fix with my living arrangement here. I ended up spending another night being trapped in my condo, and consequently, blew up at him. It was irrational of me, I admit… But it was far from unjustified. My inner voice told me that I needed a time out, and as an introvert, what I really needed was time alone to focus on myself. I then realized that I romanticized the whole idea of having a live-in boyfriend, and it really isn’t as easy as it looks; especially not for someone like me who enjoys regular time alone.

Those two weeks were one of the most tumultuous times for me since I got here. For years, I fought against my parents’ wishes for me to build a career back home. I stubbornly insisted on coming to the big city to pave my career (or at least, the start of it) pursuing what nobody and nothing else could offer me at home. I forcibly made my way here, fought tooth and nail to graduate, and now… I am living my dreams, way out of my comfort zone. There is a catch, though. The utopia of living my dreams was all in my head. Everything is much harder to do once you’re out on your own; when you’re forced to make life choices in the snap of a finger.

Every day is a difficult choice for me here– I’ve had days when I contemplated packing up my bags and going home at the end of my internship. I would earn significantly less working at home, but at least I would have the comfort of those around me. It’s those days, then, that remind me of why this choice was already made that many years ago… Dreams don’t come easy, but I sure as hell want to persist.

I have a long way to go, but I am happy with where I started… And that, in itself, is enough to justify my choices.

The (short-lived) Homecoming

HOME

It has been a month since my big move into the city, and after four weeks of grappling with the complete solitude, I finally feel like I have assimilated into my workplace and adapted to life alone.

This is why the thought of going home did not feel as exciting as it did when I first booked my flight tickets. Don’t get me wrong, going home was something I looked forward to– but for the first time, I felt like I was going to be all right even if I did not get to go home this weekend.

In typical Sarawakian fashion, I darted into a chocolate store at the airport to buy imported chocolate back home for my family and his. There, the excitement started building up. I thought to myself, I can’t wait for them to have all these things.

However, I boarded the flight feeling indifferent. The excitement wore off as quickly as it came. In the departure hall, I could hear people speaking in Sarawakian Hokkien and Bahasa Sarawak. Oh, the familiar comfort, I thought. I didn’t need to be excited; that comfort was all that I needed.

Upon boarding, I looked out the window to watch the beautiful Kuching skyline pass me by. Of course, that is nothing compared to what I get living in KL, but somehow– Kuching beamed with a quiet pride that KL just can’t seem to compare to.

Finally, as I watched the plane descend into Kuching, it hit me. I am home. I rushed out of the plane and into the immigration hall, and promptly jogged my way into the arrivals lounge, where I was greeted by the familiar faces which I call home.

Traveling the narrow roads in Kuching at a snail’s pace and seeing Sarawakian car plates brought a surge of nostalgia, and a little unfamiliarity. It’s funny how being gone for only a month can turn you into a stranger in your own home.

It was amazing to be greeted by faces that were happy to see me, and seeing places that are all-too-familiar. That night, I went to bed feeling immensely loved. I was finally in the warm embrace of home.

I woke up the next morning in my own bed, and it truly felt like I had never left. The familiar sounds of birds chirping and construction noises from across my balcony replaced the silence I normally hear as I awake at 5am every day– and it suddenly felt like it was a privilege that I could listen to a medley of sounds as I wake.

That weekend was one of the best weekends I had in the past month or so. I got to spend time with my family, I managed to help my love out with his stall, and most of all, I finally felt a sense of home and belonging after a long month of adjusting and adapting.
More than ever, I have been rejuvenated, and now I am ready to face the next three weeks ahead of me.

That time we bridged our long distance relationship

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After 58 long days of waiting, it was finally time to pick him up from the airport. It was way too long since we last saw each other, and what I really needed at that point in my semester was him by my side so that he could remedy all my stresses and sorrows with his hugs. By then, we had been Skyping nearly every night– probably because the distance was getting too overwhelming, and knowing that we were close to bridging our long distance relationship made us all the more impatient.

… And the day finally came. It felt surreal, much like it always does after an extended period of not seeing each other. We enveloped each other in the biggest hugs we could possibly give, and never let go of each other’s hands. This was going to be the most amazing 8 months together, because to me, 8 months of long distance definitely warranted 8 months of being together thereafter.

His return did not fall short of amazing. We spent every day together, from doing mundane things like errands, to taking road trips. We got to know each other and each other’s families better, and we spent a generous amount of time in deep conversations about anything and everything under the sun; sharing laughter and creating new memories together.

Two weeks later, I got a call from Astro Radio, offering me an internship position at their headquarters in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur. I was ecstatic, of course. Astro Group is one of the biggest media conglomerates in the region, and to be offered any position with them is rarely ever heard of, so much so that when I brought this up to an administrative assistant in my university, they asked me if I was certain that I got it. Around the same time, my graduation problem solved itself; and I was slated to finish everything come June, and leave in early July.

But then, it dawned on me that this would mean I would be due to leave 6 months earlier than I had initially planned, and if you know me, you would know that things that do not go according to plan vex me. However, he was extremely supportive of me and was genuinely happy for my success, which is more than I could ever ask for.

Two months went by more quickly than I had ever imagined. In between, we got to share a lot of laughter and tears– and then reality dawned on us. I was leaving.

The morning of my departure was the toughest on the both of us. While this was an opportunity I was waiting for nearly my whole life, it was also difficult to part with my hometown that I have been familiar with for the past 23 years, and to leave the arms that I called home for 8 months. But we have to do what we have to do.

While we are still unsure of our plans together, we are working towards a common future. Such is the fate of us in long distance relationships– although the days in between feel like an eternity, we are indeed lucky to have met someone that is worth the wait, and until then– I will be waiting.

I am an INTJ with self-esteem issues

IMG_3084[1]A while ago, I wrote a little about my MBTI personality type; which is INTJ. INTJ stands for Introvert (I), Intuitive (N), Thinking (T), and Judging (J). I blogged about it and how it applies to me here. In its essence, being an INTJ means that I am what they call an ‘architect’ — a perfectionist, a control freak, someone who is extremely logical, and to a certain extent; even having a superiority complex over everyone else because of our high self-confidence.

For the most part, I think that this personality test describes me rather accurately, and out of the many times I have re-taken this test, it has yielded the same results. The only anomaly is the part about INTJs having high self-confidence, because I, like many others, suffer from deep-seated insecurities.

Of course, it is a given– everyone has insecurities; some bigger than others. As someone who has been labeled a perfectionist on many occasions, something that I struggle with is inadequacy. To see someone who strives in a field I am particularly weak at makes me feel inferior to everybody else. I do not discount my own abilities, but I find myself dwelling in the things that I cannot do. It brings me down, and I replay my shortcomings in my head countless times until it really gets to me. It doesn’t matter– it could be my physical capabilities, the way I look, writing, or my studies– once I feel inadequate, it becomes permanent.

It definitely does not help that I am very introspective. I think a lot. I am often lost in my own thoughts, and a lot of things are built in my head. It gets to a point where I find it difficult to accept compliments because of how absurd I think they sound in my head.

However, if there’s one thing that I learnt about confidence, is that no amount of praise from even the most significant person in your life can fix that for you. As cliched as it sounds, confidence comes from within. Our thoughts are a powerful thing– we are beings that are capable of thinking things into existence. Once you think that you are inadequate, you become inadequate, because you let that feeling manifest in your thoughts.

Every day is a struggle to feel like I am good enough, much like everyone else. I need to learn how to control my thoughts, but I am grateful for the people around me who remind me of my worth. Some days I believe them, some days I don’t. What is important, though, is that it does not reach a point where I become self-destructive; and nobody ever should get to that point because that is when you should seek help.

As for my MBTI– I believe that personality types are not a ‘one size fits all’ thing. There is no one type that perfectly encapsulates your personality; but it can come close. As for me, I am happy being an INTJ, regardless of the stigma and backlash surrounding it. After all, being an INTJ places me in the ranks of Jane Austen and C. S. Lewis– and that is the greatest honour of all.