Friday, 28 December 2012
2012: The Year of ...

2012 was quite a year, wasn't it?

At the end of every year, I like to summarise my experiences over the course of the year and to remember what the highs and lows were, and I thought this year shouldn't be any different even though my life has changed dramatically.

But how do I go about this, really? There is so much to say.

Chinese New Year- couldn't find a photo of myself but here's an adorable one of my cousin giving my grandpa a big hug!
I started the year in Shanghai. Then I went home. Then I came to Melbourne to start another academic year. Even travel-wise it's been quite a busy year for me- I visited Tasmania and stepped foot in Africa for the very first time. But it all came at quite a cost- I find myself struggling sometimes to understand this, but this year has made me quite a different person, in so many ways.

The pits
One of the biggest achievements of my life happened this year- I graduated from uni! But you've already known that, I'm assuming. But I might not have written about how tired I was of university this year. Although I was still doing relatively well, I was not as motivated as before and I think it definitely showed. In many assignments I was taking a very laid back approach and didn't seem to bother whether or not I did well.

Spinning in the water during Easter break
And when you add in AIESEC and everything else, life suddenly becomes quite exhausting. The moment I had finished uni I just spent weeks sleeping in and recovering. It's quite amazing how when you overexert yourself you don't realise just how thinly spread you are. Well, towards the end of the year I did realise this, and I did consider that perhaps I'm burnt out (symptoms I displayed: Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy - You’re exhausted all the time - The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming).

That was probably one of the worst things to happen this year- knowing that I had virtually lost my motivation for so many things and still have to continue. I knew then that I could not go back to university anytime soon- I need other pursuits now. I need something fresh and new that would make me feel alive and make me burn with enthusiasm and passion.

I love this picture- at a safari at the Nairobi National Park with a Pakistani, Uzbek, Spaniard, Panamanian and Egyptian. 
But whether or not it was an accurate diagnosis, I will not know. I am now putting it all behind me and just focusing on finding something that I can be passionate about again. And resting, of course.

The peaks
Having said all that, I must say this was still one of the best years for me. Even though I did say that I became a less motivated person, I did think that I became a happier person. And this was all because of the people that I've met this year- they all shaped me in their own ways. The coworkers in Shanghai, the supervisors in Melbourne, my uni friends and people I met in Kenya all helped in this process.

Kenya was pretty good, too- even though I was only there for 10 or 11 days, I still saw a lot of things and experienced quite a bit. I had never been to Africa before, and to suddenly go alone was quite daunting at first, but perhaps it was my self-diagnosed burnout but I wasn't too worried about what might happen. I was careful, of course, and nothing happened. The conference I attended was filled with people so inspirational that it really did make me feel like I can do so much more with my life.

Conference time! - with the South East Asian (plus Australian) delegation
And gosh, travelling! I get so excited by travel. Including Kenya, I had 3 trips this year. Earlier in the year I just travelled around the state, where I snorkelled and dived with dolphins and hiked in a national park (amazing!). Then I visited Kenya and saw for myself how life is for people there- opened my eyes quite a bit after being in Australia for so long. And finally, recently I got the chance to go to Tasmania. It's quite a nice place, and if I wouldn't mind going back so long as I don't have to visit the same attractions.

Finishing uni would also be one of the sweetest achievements of my life, and one of the best things that happened to me this year. I did not feel it much during graduation as I'd already been living the life of a graduate for more than a month by then, but in the first few weeks of me being done with uni I was happy. I was so proud of myself for persevering through it all. I was happy that I can finally call myself a university graduate. But I was also saddened at the thought of me having to graduate and leave schooling life as it meant that I'm now getting older.

But if I had to sum up the year, I'd say that 2012 for me was the year of achievements and milestones.

Graduation attire while travelling! 
Aspirations for the coming year
One of my goals is to definitely get a job and be financially independent. But I also hope that my visa application goes through and I'll be able to stay for a little while more. I also hope to find more meaning with my life and to discover my passion. I also want to live a life of no regrets, and be more optimistic about everything. I just finished that travel book and throughout the entire book, I was really struck by how the author constantly talked about how he wanted to live life to the fullest and would rather die saying 'I did that' rather than 'I wish I did that', so that's how I hope to live this year- try new things and make the best of every situation.

On a cruise in Tasmania
To conclude, I shall leave you with a quote that the author constantly mentioned throughout:

'Regrets over yesterday and worries about tomorrow are the twin thieves that rob you of the moment'
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Tuesday, 25 December 2012
1 Year

I didn't plan to write anything today but when I remembered I felt that I just had to!

A year ago today, I was about one third through my internship in Shanghai. Thinking back, I couldn't believe that I had flew there in early December for six weeks. It was six very stressful and occasionally lonely weeks. But it was also six very enlightening and insightful weeks.

It really doesn't feel like that much time have passed. I still remember quite vividly most of the things that I did while I was there. I remember that Christmas wasn't a public holiday there, so I still had to show up to work. But I did feel a little celebratory, partly because I was alone, and also partly because Christmas reminds me so much of the Western world and everything I was familiar with that I missed at the moment, and so I decided to cook a meal.

Christmas in a Shanghai shopping mall... wish I remembered its name!
After work, I dropped by the nearest hypermarket and bought ingredients for an extremely yummy pasta (I had searched the recipe online beforehand). So I went home, and began creating my masterpiece. Sadly, it didn't taste as good as I'd hoped- I blame the bacon (seriously!). It tasted quite bad. Maybe I just selected the wrong one.

Along with the television, my laptop and a good drink, my Christmas was complete. Yes, I know it sounds rather lonely but for a lone traveller it didn't sound so bad.

This year has been quite different. Since my parents are still here, I get to spend my Christmas with my loved ones. While it's unfortunate that I can't spend it with some close friends as well, I suppose this will have to suffice. I'm immensely grateful that I don't have to spend Christmas alone in a country where Christmas is a time to be with family.

What're you doing this Christmas?
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Sunday, 23 December 2012
Christmas, And Another Chapter

Put simply, December has been an extremely busy time for me! So many things have happened and I have been kept busy so have been unable to update this space as much. But here's the lowdown of what went down.

1. I graduated! 
This feels great actually. The last three years have been the most trying and formative time of my life, and I have definitely seen myself grown so much and when the time came for me to step forward and claim that scroll with my name and qualification on it, I really felt great (even though at the time all I was concentrating on was not to trip).

I definitely felt like this is a significant achievement, and I am definitely proud of myself for getting this far.

2. I completed my AIESEC term
Now I have never really mentioned this much before in my blog, though I struggle to come up with a reason for this. The 30th of November marked the last day of my term in AIESEC. Although I did feel that I could've done better, I was just really relieved that it's now over (more on this next time).

3. My family came to visit! 
Well, Mum, Dad and an aunt anyway. They came to attend my graduation (of course), but it's also great to be surrounded by family. I don't know, being away from home and your loved ones can be taxing sometimes. Although I have learned to adapt and appreciate Melbourne, I was definitely glad to see some very familiar faces.

Now why is this important?

4. I'm not going home 
I've made a decision to stay in Melbourne. I've enjoyed my time here and think that it's a great place to start my career. It's definitely a big decision, as it really means that I'm deciding to put my entire life in Malaysia on hold and to have a new beginning here. It means leaving behind everything, especially my family, friends and loved ones. But having said that, I recognise that this is a unique opportunity that I have and that I should try to seize it, so I had submitted my application for a temporary visa- it'll allow me to stay here as I try to look for a job. Hopefully, it'll work out. If it doesn't, then I'll have to head somewhere else.

Mount Wellington in Tasmania.. yes I'm rocking a pair of bright red jeans.

5. I travelled! 
I took the opportunity of my family being here to go travelling. It was great, I even managed to visit Tasmania, which means that now the only state in Australia that I have not visited is the Northern Territory. Tasmania's still very much like the rest of Australia ('the mainland') even though they are constantly the butt of Aussie jokes, except that it was rather quiet. The natural scenery was great, though! More to come in future posts.

And now, unbelievably, it's almost time for Christmas and the New Year. I think this will be a time for family and friends so if I can find the motivation to get my laptop to blog then maybe I will.

Merry Christmas!
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Tuesday, 4 December 2012
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Fresh off reading my previous travel book, I am reading another one, 'Hap Working The World'. It's about this guy, Hap, a New Zealander, who has a dream of travelling and working in every continent of the world before he turns 30. 

I found it a much better read than the previous book, simply because I connected with the author much more. He was a university graduate at the time, and was faced with a big decision- should he focus on his 'career' and settle down, or to travel and work around the world? He decided to pursue his dream, obviously, and I found his experience quite enlightening for several reasons. 

First off, there were several times when he considered whether or not this was worth it. There was once when he explicitly mentioned that for all he know, he could be stuck crashing at friends' couches while they were busy with their careers, dressed up in suits and who would pretty soon have kids. And there he was, still jobless and broke and living on someone's couch. 

He also had a huge scare when he was involved in an accident. He reconsidered his dream then, too. But realised that at the end of the day, he would rather say that he lived his dream than he wished he lived his dream. 

I thought to myself, these are kinda things that I thought about too- actually putting my dreams in action. I've always had a long-time dream of travelling around America, so maybe that's something I should do. But then again, unlike the author who chose to travel, I opted to choose my career first. Travel might come in later when I've some financial independence. While I've always wanted to travel and take a gap year before beginning life in the 'real world' like him, I know that it's not feasible given my reality. So, hello desk job! (or hopefully not a desk job but one that I'd like)
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Sunday, 2 December 2012
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So the 30th of November has passed, and I realised that I have actually not touched my writing in... quite awhile. I've just been too preoccupied. But I did check how many words I managed to write. In total, I had completed 14,291 words.

What do I think of this? Nothing much. It's far from half the 50,000 word goal. But along the way I think I have learned some valuable lessons. Here's three that I can think of now.

Lesson 1: 50,000 words is a lot of words
At the beginning, I really thought that 50,000 wasn't too much and that I would easily pass the mark. But of course, this is not the case, proven evidently by my failure. And writing 50,000 words is no easy feat- there's a lot of planning that goes into it.

Lesson 2: Authors deserve so much praise
I read somewhere once that authors should never abandon their day job, until they are a John Grisham or J.K Rowling and could be assured of an income. Basically, 90% of authors should keep their day jobs. Now I find this intriguing because since I have my own life, I had a 'day job' as well, and I found it excruciating having to think about writing as well, particularly according to a schedule. I now have a lot of respect for these people. I mean, they come home from a stressful day at work and sit down and write. That's amazing. And for established authors, doing it every day is really impressive too.

Lesson 3: I'm not as disciplined as I thought
Yes, I admit it- there were times when I could've opened the story and start writing, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it because I either wasn't feeling it or was distracted. This is probably a fault of mine that I should seriously change if I want to get a novel near publication.
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Saturday, 24 November 2012
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I feel bad. No really, I feel really bad. I feel bad about abandoning my story at this point. I feel bad because I made a commitment, and had high hopes on myself for finishing. In fact, when I started I honestly did not have doubts that I couldn't finish- after all, I was on my holidays and I already had an idea that I know would be great.

So why did I stop?

To put things simply, other things came up, and I shifted my attention away from my writing and spent less time worrying about plots or how many words I've written that day or how far along the story I am. I stopped thinking about the 30th of November and what it would feel like when I fail to complete the 50,000 words.

Sure, it sucks. But I also know that all this other stuff that have surfaced takes precedence. Until then, I simply can't focus on this story that I am so excited about anyway.

Now, I'm starting to doubt if I will ever finish writing this. Perhaps I don't have the discipline to be a writer after all. Perhaps I'm just making excuses. I don't know- but I do still hope that I will be able to finish it at some point next year!
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Thursday, 15 November 2012
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Today I realised that despite all the progress in my writing, the possibility of me completing it thins as each day passes. Tomorrow it will be the 15th, the half way mark, which means that I should supposedly have completed 25,000 words. Alas, I am far from that goal. Perhaps I really do need to speed up.

But in terms of the story’s progress I must say that I am happy with it so far. I’m very slowly introducing this character that I really like, and it is slowly becoming more and more exciting. Maybe this would be able to spur me to write at a feverish pace in order to catch up and make that November 30th deadline.

But I’m finding it harder and harder to balance my other work- with job applications and visa considerations I really need to spend more time on those, so writing can sometimes be neglected, which is not the ideal. But I would prefer to be employed and financially independent, so there’s that. 
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Wednesday, 14 November 2012
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I'm writing more now, which is great- I still hope to be able to finish this by the end of the month. Having said that, I have come to realise just how crippling a few days' break can be- you start finding other things to do and then you ignore your current project. I think since I took the few days' break I've been quite neglectful of this story, and that's not good.

But one of my other current pursuits is reading, and one particularly interesting one is '5 Ways to Carry a Goat' by Ben Groundwater. It's a travel memoir, of a blogger who decided to live at the places his readers lived in while having them show him around. He hopes to travel the world. Reading it really brought two things to mind. The first, is that perhaps I could find a job like that, where I can write and travel. After all, travelling the world has always been my dream, so maybe I could also do the same thing and find a way to get paid? Then I can call it a 'job'.

The second, was that I really should write about my trip to Nairobi. There were so many interesting things I encountered and I thought I should really jot them down, even if I don't publish them here. Maybe this could be my December pet project?
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Monday, 12 November 2012
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Sadly, today was another day where I was not productive writing-wise. I'm starting to worry about whether I will actually complete this novel by the end of the month. Although I've reached that quite remarkable 10,000 word mark, there's 40,000 more to go, and since I've slowed down a little I'm a little worried that I won't finish in time.

But if that's the case, then I can follow John Grisham's technique of writing a few pages every day and then maybe, just maybe, I'll finish it in not too long. But I know that I really want to finish it by the deadline because:

1) It would be a remarkable achievement to say that I've written 50,000 words in 30 days

2) I might not continue writing after the challenge is over and it might take me ages to complete this novel.

But let's hope it does not come to that.
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Sunday, 11 November 2012
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These two days were still as unproductive for my novel as before- I didn't actually manage to get any writing done seeing as I was actually busy. But while checking up on some news I came across an article on John Grisham.

Now, you know that I absolutely love reading about writers, simply because nothing much is ever written about them (ironic, I know) and also because I actually am rather interested in the routines that they have.

In this article on John Grisham, approximately one paragraph is dedicated to his writing routine:
Every morning at seven John Grisham sits down at the computer in his farmhouse in rural Virginia with a strong cup of coffee. It’s the same computer he’s used to bash out 25 bestsellers, and the same brand of organic coffee he’s drunk for the past 20 years. 

“I’ll have two cups and then switch to decaf,” he says in his deep southern drawl. “My office is dark, warm and cosy with no phones and no internet because I’m terrified my stuff will be hacked into. I’ll get five or six pages done before lunch, then at around 12.30pm I’ll drive into town for lunch. If you get into a rhythm of doing that every day, with a few days off here and there, those pages pile up and you can get one book done a year.”

Honestly, it did make me feel better that he doesn't write for a whole day, and that he takes breaks!
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Friday, 9 November 2012
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Day 8 was, sadly- nonexistent. As you might be able to tell, I did not actually pre-write this blog post. The reason for this is that I've actually taken a break from writing, at least for the next few days. Believe me, I wouldn't do this if I could, but at the moment there are other things that I need to sort out first, other things in my life that take priority- in short, I actually have work to do now.

But fear not, I shall endeavour to still write this journal while I'm not writing, since it is after all a journal of my experience during this month.

At times, I do feel as if I'm giving up on this challenge, but I know that this is not everything- at the end of the day, I actually am not throwing the towel, I just simply am experiencing a temporary increase in responsibilities and I do not want to overload myself.

But hopefully I'll get my groove on in the next few days!
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Thursday, 8 November 2012
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I took a break from writing today- was just too distracted. I’m finding that although I do enjoy writing this story, at times it does take a back seat, especially when I’m just fresh off finishing uni and just want to enjoy my holidays. In some ways I sometimes see this as a 30-day restriction.

I’m sensing that I might be at a crossroads, in my first week only- either I continue on as it is, you know, to fully immerse myself in the life of a writer, or I become less focused on the goal but just on the writing itself- and aim to simply write as much as possible by the end of the month. Of course, this is not ideal since then it would be fine to not complete it by the end of the month.

Maybe today is just one of those days where you simply got up and did not feel like working. As it is 11pm, I really do not want to write at this hour. Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after.  
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Wednesday, 7 November 2012
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Today’s entry will be a little different- it won’t be as much about the writing.

I think most of you would know that I’m a very solitary writer- I rarely share my writing with anyone. In fact, I barely even talk about my ideas. That’s why until now, I haven’t given away spoilers on what my story is about. Today, I was catching up with a friend who really did insist that when I’m done, I should publish this story, even if it’s just for friends.

Honestly, that made me jump a little- I just never like sharing my stories, with people I know anyway. I’m not sure how you would react to my imagination- I’m sure some would like it, and some wouldn’t. But in general I just feel very weird having my friends read my work. It’s just like how I would feel weird if I were an A-list actor and were to hold special screenings of my movies with my friends. It’s just weird seeing yourself that way, and it’s weird seeing your friends see you that way. But it did get me thinking- maybe I could give it a go. As of now, I definitely have no plans on publishing it, to anyone, but who knows? I might give it a go.

As for my writing, I worked at a slower pace today (probably because I actually went out with people), but still got a good portion of it done. Now, 23 days to go!

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Tuesday, 6 November 2012
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I passed the 10,000-word mark! I can’t believe it. I spent the majority of the day writing, with the aim of reaching this specific period of the story. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I haven’t felt as motivated- this specific part I’ve reached is the start of the excitement of the story, so I got really pumped when I did get to that part. The start was just introduction to the wider plot, so I must say it wasn’t very… juicy.

But it is getting very interesting! The story has reached a point where I am slowly going to be able to introduce a character that I am very excited about. This character is someone that I have envisioned from the very start and just couldn’t wait to bring into the story. In many ways I do see this character as the main character, but due to the circumstances of the story had to wait till certain details were introduced.

Sounds juicy, doesn’t it? I’m terribly excited at what’s coming next! 
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