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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