Out with the old, in with the new

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The most bitter pill for me to swallow as a woman in my 20s is that the friends you grew up with are not necessarily the ones you will grow with; that at some point in your life, you will lose even the closest of friends.

I used to pride myself in having a close-knit group of friends from school whom I could brand as the sisters I never had. We were there for each other in times of joy and sorrow, love and heartache. However, all that changed when I was in my 20s, and I evolved into the person I am today. It was a painful realization– knowing that not all friends grow in the same pace and way you do, and that sometimes, the people we become are different from the ones they have become. And most of the time, no matter how hard you try to work towards bridging those differences, it just isn’t the same anymore.

What used to bond us like glue suddenly becomes superficial, and we find ourselves just reminiscing on old times when we are together. There is nothing new to talk about, because it is just so difficult to understand each other now. Our conversations are reduced to small talk, and there just isn’t any substance in the conversations.

I dwelled on this situation for a long time, wondering if there was anything I could do to repair the situation; but as time passed and conversations went by, I found that it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with these friendships, and I am sure that it was a mutual feeling. As much as it was a struggle for me to grapple with this harsh reality in the beginning, I realize now that sometimes, these things happen without reason or rhyme.

The one takeaway I have from all of this is that life is not static, and therefore, our relationships shouldn’t be as well. It is only natural for us to evolve and change, and not all of these changes can be readily accepted by others in the way we hope. If we give in to the fact that things should always remain the same, then there will be no room for self-improvement.

That’s life, isn’t it? We win friends, we lose friends. Ultimately, as long as you stay true to yourself and do not falter, you will find friends who will readily accept who you are, and who you choose to be. There will always be friends who cannot grow with you, but that is all right– remember the other friends who can, and be yourself.

This too shall pass

Jeepers creepers Recently, I’ve been stuck in a rut of sorts. You can read all about it here, if you haven’t already.

It has come to a point where everything I do just goes back to the fact that with every step I try to make forward, I am being pushed ten steps back by the repressive system.

Everything about this is exhausting. It was supposed to be my final semester, my final push– before I begin my foray into the real world.

Being someone who is prefers instant gratification, it frustrates me that I am unable to reap what I sow as soon as I had hoped.

It definitely does not help that I am still putting in more effort than people who will be graduating before me, all for the sake of good group assignment marks.

Through it all, the phrase that keeps repeating itself in my subconscious is “this too shall pass”. I know that I am not alone in this, I know that there are people who are facing similar issues, and these four words are a source of comfort for me.

So if you are feeling the crushing weight of your workload; remember– this too shall pass.

If you are facing your quarter-life crisis and are unsure of what lies ahead of you; remember– this too shall pass.

If you are filled with doubt, anxiety, and fear; remember– this too shall pass.

Putting my dreams on hold

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A little over two weeks ago, I flew to Kuala Lumpur from my humble hometown, Kuching for my first ever job interview. Granted, it was only for an internship, but the promise of a real job as I was entering into adulthood made every inch of me tingle with excitement. I had been waiting for far too long to kick start my dreams of being a writer, and I was finally bestowed the chance to, albeit only for an interview. It was with a start-up advertising company, and I was eager to work with them because they boast an impressive portfolio. The best part of it all was that they were looking for a copywriter– and they were interested in me.

Undoubtedly, I was nervous, but being with my long-distance boyfriend over that same weekend helped to alleviate whatever jitters I had. Zero Hour arrived, and I was a bundle of nerves. I prepared my own portfolio of articles I had written over the recent years, my academic transcript, and even equipped myself with pseudo-confidence I did not know I was capable of, but on the inside, I was nervous and praying that I would get the job.

Lo and behold, after an hour of being interviewed, I was hired. Finally, after years of craving independence and freedom from the prying eyes of everyone at home, I secured a job that I was very much interested in. I was ecstatic, but somehow doubtful at the same time. Was I ready to leave home? Was I ready to start the rest of my life? It didn’t matter. All the years of slaving in university and having to deal with difficult group members paid off. I was going to kick start my career, and it felt amazing.

Fast forward to about nearly a week later. It was a Tuesday evening, and I had just ended a long day of classes. Something struck me, and it dawned on me that I had forgotten something important. I rushed to the administrative office, told the staff about my problem, and after nearly breaking out into an argument with them, they realized that it was a genuine mistake. I had forgotten to register for the subject that my entire degree depended on– my Final Year Project.

I was told to return the next day with a letter of appeal, stating my intentions, and present it to the dean of my faculty. And that, I did. Fortunately, I was endorsed by the dean, the dean’s office, and I was supplemented with a memorandum and a personal e-mail from the dean himself to be sent to the student affairs division in my university. I was then told to await their phone call to see if my appeal was successful. I felt rather confident, since I have been consistently performing every semester, I have a (rather) good CGPA, and I had only missed the registration deadline by a week anyway.

What happened next is something I will never forget. My appeal was rejected. This meant that I had to extend my studies for another year, and that, consequently, meant that my entire future was put on hold. I could only graduate in November 2017. They did not even give me a valid reason for it, but what I found out was that it was too much for said department to open the e-registration system and deal with the paperwork come auditing. I was, without a shadow of a doubt, crushed.

I worked three long years to get to where I am today, with one of the highest CGPAs in my class. I have never missed an assignment deadline, and I have never failed a single paper. Yet, I was being penalized for one mistake simply because it was more important to avoid paperwork than to let a top student graduate on time.

The rollercoaster of emotions I felt over the next two days was the most polarized I have ever felt. Firstly, I was devastated. The moment I entered this university, I knew that I wanted to leave as soon as I could. I hate(d) it there, I hate(d) everything about it. I worked incredibly hard for three years, and because of one minor error, my dreams of graduating this November were dashed.

And then, I became angry. Angry that the system failed the people. This bureaucracy prioritized their workload over their students’ welfare. Was it really so important to avoid paperwork, and as a result, stop a first-class student from graduating on time? What the fuck. A lot of my anger also stemmed from the fact that it was so unfair that I, the one who picked everyone up for the past six semesters, would be left behind, and free-riders would graduate before I did.

I prayed for many nights to God so that He would grant me the strength to accept His fate for me. If I could not change the circumstances I was in, I at least needed to equip myself with emotional resilience. It took a few days, but I then realized that it was all for a reason. I have yet to see what that reason is, but I am sure that I will soon.

As soon as I heard the news, I devised a plan for myself for the next few months, perhaps even a year. Plans which will reveal itself in due time, but because I am naturally inclined to plan my life down to a T, I could not leave anything up to chance anymore.

Two weeks on, I am still trying to figure out what this all means. Maybe I wasn’t truly ready to leave. Maybe there is a mission for me here at home. Maybe I needed to repair a lot of my relationships before I leave. There are so many maybes, so much uncertainty.

Through it all, this has been an extremely humbling experience for me. I realize where I went wrong in all of this– letting my workload come in the way of me and my personal responsibilities, and allowing myself to be consumed with self-pity once I was told of my fate. I have, since then, felt different. I have a new resolve, and this saga makes me more determined than ever to achieve everything I’ve always wanted to achieve. It’s like dangling a piece of meat in front of an animal and then taking it away. At the end of all this, what I’ve developed (other than a deep hate and distrust towards my university) is the hunger and desire for what I want.

I will not let this break me. Not now, not ever.

Of learning that patience is a virtue

SkyThe last time I wrote anything was two months ago. I always tell people that writing is my first love, my true love; but nothing ever prepares me for the torrent of distractions that are hurled at me come the new semester. I am currently approaching Week 5 of my final semester, and it has been nothing but stressful, to say the least. Every day is a test of my patience, my emotional strength and my physical capabilities. I rarely ever get a night of uninterrupted sleep anymore because once I close my eyes, I feel guilty that I am not working. When I actually get to fall asleep, it is barely a deep sleep– I am merely drifting in and out of consciousness until my alarm rings. I forget to drink enough water regularly, and even forget to have my meals because I come home every day just to start work on everything I have to do.

Why is it such a struggle? People are going to argue that being a student is easy, and is more stress-free than the working world. Between co-directing a campaign, I find myself designing all the artwork with what little Adobe skills I have, manning the frontline, and making executive decisions for said campaign. I am also editing articles for my church youth group’s annual magazine, looking for internships and full-time employment, on top of fieldwork, academic essays, and my thesis. Every day, I question myself, “why does it have to be so difficult? I just want to graduate.”

The most important lesson that I am learning through this journey is that patience is a virtue. When my phone is ringing non-stop and I have to entertain inquiries even when I am busy, I learn patience, because they do not know any better. When my superiors are demanding for me to drop everything to make changes to my design on the spot even though I submitted them much earlier in advance, I learn patience, because they are my superiors and I am in no place to challenge their autonomy. When my group mates are not replying texts about assigned tasks and leave it all up to me, I learn patience, because this is nothing new to me anymore.

Normally, patience does not come easy to me. I am a person who prefers instant gratification– I work hard now, and I want to see results now. I do not enjoy waiting around for others, and I do not like it when people disrespect the time I invest into doing things. This whole ordeal is teaching me that sometimes, delayed gratification is the best reward to hard work; because sometimes, the richest and most plentiful harvest takes time to grow.

The best reminder comes from my favourite Bible verse that gets me through times like this, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people” (Colossians 3:23). In three months, this will all be over.

Being alone and enjoying it

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I can’t speak for everyone, but I find that there is beauty in solitude. I attribute this to my introversion, but over the years, I’ve found myself to enjoy being alone more and more.

A couple of years ago, being alone was something I struggled with– I always felt the need to be with someone, and I mean this in the literal sense. I always preferred to be flanked by at least one human being; and it did not matter if he or she was a friend or a family member. Being alone used to affect my mood in the most negative way possible, and I would feel awkward without anyone by my side. It was especially difficult for me to be alone because I still live at home, and there would always be someone to keep me company.

At the end of 2014, I penned my list of resolutions for the following year as usual, and I listed “learn to be alone and like it” as one of them. I wanted to be self-reliant, and I wanted to achieve that by year’s end. For one, it was meant to be practice for when I venture out into the real world without parental supervision. I also wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and learn the value of independence.

It began as a gradual change. I first started by running errands alone, and then to taking long drives at night just to clear my head. I went on a solo vacation to Shanghai, China in April, where I took several flights alone, and maneuvered around Pu Dong Airport by myself with little to no knowledge of Mandarin. It also helped that my family took several vacations without me in 2015 (it’s really not as bad as it sounds), and I had to do everything on my own– especially make and have meals alone.

By the time the year came to a close, I found that I was comfortable with the silence that comes with being alone. The beauty of being by yourself is that although there can be noise in your surroundings, there is silence in that noise. With this silence came a lot of self-reflection, and much of the inspiration behind my most popular blog posts came from being alone.

Being alone has taught me to be more observant, although I get lost in my own thoughts more often than not. However, there is tranquility in watching other people; their behaviour, interactions and their mannerisms. The silence, then, becomes something I enjoy.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I have amounted to becoming a hermit. From time to time, I enjoy the company of groups of people, but it is now rare that I do. I have just learnt to appreciate being by myself, and learning a lot out of it.

I closed 2015 off with my bedroom curtains drawn and lights dimmed– all while watching the display of fireworks in utter silence. It was at that moment that I realized; there is an incomprehensible beauty in solitude. You will learn that the world has so much to offer you– only if you’re willing to be still and enjoy the silence.

A year in lessons

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There’s something melancholic about the sound of raindrops falling steadily on the roof. It’s 2:30am, and I am sitting face-to-face with my Communications Law notes, poring over the legal definition and various elements of the Defamation Act. I don’t know if it’s the rain, the time or the silence, but it leaves me to reflect on the year that has passed.

2015 was just going to be any other year for me– I was still in my second year of university, and had no immediate plans for anything life-changing, and definitely nothing that warranted a paradigm shift. As usual, I had penned down a list of 14 resolutions I had wanted to achieve by year’s end, and in summation, what I had wanted to achieve out of it was personal growth.

In retrospect, I achieved all I intended to, and maybe more. I learnt a lot over the past year; about myself, about people, and about life. It was undoubtedly a year characterized by change; so much so that I feel like a new person entering 2016.

 

1)  Happiness is a choice that stems from self-love

I speak for people like me, of (relatively) sound mind; not plagued by mental health issues like depression or anxiety. I used to let the people around me dictate my happiness, and I surrounded myself with people who had boundless amounts of negative energy, which in turn, sapped the positivity out of me. It did not take much to trigger a highly emotional response from me at that time– I snapped easily, and I found myself to be very angry on the inside, even if I did not show it. It was only until I exited certain relationships that made me feel that way, that I began to realize that there is no one else who can look out for your well-being much like yourself. People can always say, “no one is going to love you like I do”, but it does not matter. You will love yourself. You have to.

 

2)  Good things can happen if you push yourself 

I never cared much for academics when I was in secondary school–especially in Form Six, because I knew what I wanted to achieve in life; and that had nothing to do with what I was forced by the education system to learn. I knew that I was not going to utilize the Chemistry and Pure Math lessons I suffered for, so I took it for granted. Thankfully, I was bestowed a chance for self-redemption when I got to university, and since then, I have not stopped pushing myself. I entered university in 2013, and 2015 was no different. This time, my goal was clearer. When I was in my first year, I was too absorbed in finding my footing and learning how to cope with the pressures of being in university. Being in my second year, on the other hand, proved to me that there was no room for tomfoolery anymore. I made sure to put in consistent effort in everything I did, and watching it all pay off at the end of every semester just reaffirmed my conviction that hard work gets you to wherever you want to go.

 

3)  It’s all right to be different

A good friend of mine recently told me that I can be a little insecure at times. Although I knew that about myself, I did not truly understand what it meant to be insecure. It was only recently that I learnt why– because I am different; maybe even a little weird. I would much rather hole myself up at home than to make new friends. A good book would interest me more than any social event. I do not talk about the things other people talk about. I think a lot about everything, to the extent that I have had friends say I have “too much time on my hands”. These were the same friends whom I spent years with in secondary school– the most formative years of my life. That’s why hearing that from a majority of them gave me the belief that maybe there is something wrong with me. Turns out, the friends you grow up with aren’t necessarily the ones you will grow into when you’re older, which brings me to the next point.

 

4)  Losing friends is inevitable

Sometimes, you fall out of touch with your friends, and other times, you fall out of friendships. However, it is important to remember that the friends you used to spend all day in school with are not necessarily the friends you can connect with in the same way when you’re older. Time and geography will shape us in different ways, and people evolve into different individuals. As for myself, I feel very disconnected with many of the friends who were once my best friends– which is not a bad thing. It just means we are different people now. How I best deal with this is to let the tides take me to wherever they desire, and even if those friends do not understand that I am a different person, that is completely fine. Friends come and go, and a lot of the time, it is necessary to let go of friendships that are destructive. At the same time, though, new and better friendships will evolve along the way, so it’s not all bad.

 

5)  Even if you’re an introvert, go out and meet new people anyway

This year, I accepted the fact that I am more introverted than I would like to think. Social events perplex me and I am uncomfortable in crowds, especially unfamiliar ones. One night, as I was out for drinks with two of my girlfriends, I said jokingly that I wanted to be introduced to a guy friend of theirs. They took me seriously and the next thing I knew, they organized a meetup with that friend. I wanted to back out of it, but by then, it was too late. When the day came, I was my natural, awkward self. I did not want to meet new people, because small talk bothers me and stresses me out. What resulted, though was something amazing.

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I met the man who would later become by boyfriend. No one listens to me or understands me quite like he does. We have similar eccentricities, and he can make me laugh without force (which is hard for anyone to do)– but that’s a story for another day. Bottom line is, I’m glad that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone that night.

2016 is less than a day away, and next year is going to be a big one for me. I will graduate, find a job, and hopefully anchor myself in a new city. If 2015 was already so life-changing for me, I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings. Happy New Year, everyone. 🙂

 

 

Coming clean

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About a week ago, I did the one thing I have always feared doing– which is tell my dad that I have a boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I deliberately hide these things from him, but it’s only because I always worry about how he would react to certain things.

You see, I am his only daughter, and I am his first child. He is protective over me, and he genuinely looks out for my best interests. The one reason why I always hold myself back from being completely honest with him is because he always warned me to only enter into a romantic relationship when I start working, lest I get distracted and lose focus on my studies. He has always been particularly strict on me, so yes. Growing up, I was always afraid of him.

I cannot even begin to describe how nervous I was as tried to word what I had wanted to tell him for a long time. I know, it sounds ludicrous; the fact that I am 22, and still too afraid to broach the topic of relationships with my father. I was cutting the cores off apple slices as I stuttered to him, “Pa, I have something to tell you.” He answered with a nonchalant, “what?” and I lost it. I burst into a fit of giggles.

I know, totally not the reaction people would expect from someone making a potentially life-threatening confession, but that was my instinctual reaction… Laughter. Uncontrollable laughter, tinged with evident nervousness.

As I struggled to maintain composure, I had thoughts of backing out and just saying, “oh, nothing important” and brushing it off. I realized, however, that it was too late, because who backs out after someone says “I have something to tell you”? Only the cruel, that’s who.

I mustered up all the courage I had (which, at that time, wasn’t much) and just told him straight up, “I have someone”. I studied his facial cues carefully, and if he was surprised, he did not show it.  He replied with a curt, “… And?” And I burst out laughing again.

Oh, God. I am an embarrassment.

After a brief description about the guy I’m currently seeing, he just said “okay” and proceeded to give me advice about how I shouldn’t let my emotions cloud my judgment and focus. One quote he gave that has been ingrained in my memory is, “Emotions come and go. Just don’t let them cause you to lose sight of your goals in life,” and then it hit me…

He was only looking out for me this entire time. I pride myself in having my life planned out to a T. I know that I want to pursue my master’s degree, I know I want to get married at 30, and I know that I want to achieve annually in terms of personal growth. He knows that, and his only concern was that I would allow petty things to sway my judgment. I reassured him that I am sure-footed and determined to achieve what I want to achieve, and that is that.

I told him, then, that he would not be able to meet my boyfriend anytime soon because he’s studying away from home. I said to him, “He’s coming back in January, maybe I’ll bring him home then.” His only response? “What do you mean maybe?” “Okay, okay. I will bring him home in January.”

I learned so many things about my dad that night. For so many years, I lived in fear of how he would react to things only because he is more conservative than my mother is, so he set a benchmark that was rather high– in my eyes at least.

That night, I learned of my father’s love for me– unconditional, albeit in the most silent of ways. I learned that he is more supportive of my dreams than I ever realized. I learned also that above all, my dad is irreplaceable, despite his flaws.. And I wouldn’t trade him for the world.