How A Year of Working Changed Me, in the Form of Life Lessons

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One of the reasons I was unavailable to write a lot more- busy being a nerd at this lovely lavender garden at Shikisai No Oka ūüėČ

It’s official- I am so bad at this. I am such a bad blogger (still doesn’t give a nice ring by the way), leaving my self proclaimed baby to dust for the past nine months. Also, throughout my second last post (i.e the one about me rambling about not wanting to get married) I discovered one thing: Malaysians just love to talk about marriages all the time. It’s pretty amusing to be honest.

This is no excuse but if I have to be truly honest, work has been taking a toll on my schedule, and as much as I hate turning my work into my entire life, I was that person for quite some time.

During my job search, to be quite fair, I literally did not have a clue on what I wanted to do. However, I knew what I didn’t wanna do. Now, a naivete like myself would think “hey that makes things easier for you right? You just strike those that you don’t want, and choose from a pool of possibly okay jobs!”

Gurl, no.

In fact, I dare say not knowing what to do for the next five to ten years is one of the worst career advice I’d ever give anyone. Imagine settling for a job thinking that you’d eventually like it, and then realising that you in fact, don’t enjoy your job, which would honestly add up to your pool of bad choices.

Anyway, during my job search, I only had one determining factor that made me choose my place of work till today. I knew I wanted to be in the financial services industry. Something about financial services amuses and interests me, even though my exposure to it is little to none. To be more specific, I was more interested in investment banking or rather institutional banking- the idea of dealing with huge clients and corporations seemed like a very prestigious and glamorous picture at one point.

That reason, coupled with me not knowing what to do, lead me to applying for a management trainee program. It was one of the easiest ways to enter an investment bank as a fresh graduate (if you don’t consider insider connections as a way to get in as well oops). From an outsider’s point of view, management trainee programs seem very appealing. I won’t blame them to be quite honest- rotating within the company, trying to see if a job setting suits you, coupled with networking sessions with senior management because you are the cream of the crop does seem very, very appealing. However, people leave out the dirty details: nobody tells you that you might be unlucky enough to land into terrible rotations. Nobody tells you that you’ll be getting an intern’s job for the next 3 months to possibly a year (because the truth is, you’re a management trainee– italicised and bolded to create emphasis in case you’re not aware). Nobody tells you that you might not even find what you like- what are the odds you might not have a rotation that you truly like at the end of your tenure? (Seems highly unlikely, but believe me. I’ve got a friend or two that ended up feeling this way).

So I started work in October 2016 in a financial services company- an investment bank to be honest. Initially, I was intrigued with corporate finance: I was interested in mergers and acquisitions based on the very little exposure I got when I did my P4 paper in my ACCA module. I was also and still am interested in project financing as well. Being the naivete I was a year back, I told myself multiple times that this is for me. Corporate finance is for me. Investment banking is for me. During my official training sessions, even the investment banking module seems much easier for me than the treasury module or the credit module at that time. It seemed more straight forward- A merges with B to form AB and the rest is history.

Now here’s life lesson #1: Your job will be an entirely different experience than your classrooms back in university.

Unfortunately, it took me about six months down the road to realise that corporate finance and investment banking is truly not what I’m meant to do after all. Throughout my rotations, I realised that I cannot commit to extremely long hours at work, I cannot spend the rest of my days doing documentation and regulatory work, and I cannot sit in front of the computer trying to ensure that every document and paper sent to regulators are in the right order, alignment, spelling and detail. I do not have the patience for this. And this is exactly what corporate finance is all about, at least in your early years.

Here’s the thing: in university, the subject at hand, theories, concepts and ideologies will always be interesting. My lecturer did not tell me behind every acquisition are late nights, stained coffee cups and days without sunlight. He didn’t tell me how lengthy and tedious financial models can get, or how an analyst has to get down and dirty into the nitty gritty things when it comes to valuation. Truthfully, he didn’t even need to disclose that in class back then. It was up to me to find that out on my own- and unfortunately for me, I didn’t know that until I started working.

 

Now, I always believe I am coupled with a rather strong ego. Growing up, I’ve been a believer of finishing what I started, which honestly motivated me to finish my professional papers. Now, I started to get a feeling that corporate finance truly wasn’t for me much earlier than my sixth month as a trainee- in fact, it was right after my training sessions and during my first rotation. But then, I remembered the mantra I had during my first day of work, and that literally was the only reason why I still wanted to be in investment banking. At that time or any given situation, really, nothing is worse than wanting that one thing that is truly not meant for you. To me, if I’m not meant for investment banking, then there’s nothing else that I like or want to do. At that point, it felt like a waste. Why did I come here to find out that that one job I wanted is not meant for me?

See, life lesson #2: It’s okay to let go.

Considering my academic background and what I’m actually good at, I was talked into considering other options- and one of it was credit analysis. Sure, it doesn’t seem like the most glamorous banking job out there, and it requires a lot of writing and analysing numbers, but at that point, I was willing to give it a try. I stepped up, admitted my stubbornness and opted for a change. I chose to give credit a try, and what do you know? It was my best rotation out of all that I’ve gone through. Turns out I wasn’t too bad at it- at least decent enough for the boss to consider taking me in. I understand what I was doing the whole time, and I enjoy the luxury of giving opinions and managing stakeholders, despite them being internal staff rather than clients.

It’s truly okay if you cannot do what you intended to do in the first place. It’s definitely okay if your circumstances change, and you decided that this is not meant for you. True, your mistakes and mishaps can sometime cost you a bit of time, money, energy or patience. But if you ask me, I’d rather bear that cost and be truly fine with it, rather than swallow all the resentment, hate or dissatisfaction I have over my job and bear with it until I burst into flames. And besides, if you’re like me and you don’t like what you’re doing, chances are you might not be great at it, and you wouldn’t want to deal with that- at least not in the first few years of your career.

 

To be frank, I love my money. I love looking at the balances of my bank account on paycheck day as much as I love spending them on myself. Another factor that made me choose to work where I’m at was also because of the money. Well, I will be underpaid for the first year of my job, but the payoff would be worth it- or so I thought.

Next, life lesson¬†#3: It’s not always about the money.

I used to imagine myself as an investment banker, earning big bucks in my well pressed suit, living in a high end condominium with a trendy continental car. Of course, that would be the dream for me and a lot of other people, and who’s to say that it’s impossible to achieve? I’ve said this once and I shall say this again: having a realistic and reasonable view on your dreams is always a good thing to do. Now that I’m finally thinking straight for myself, I kept asking myself these questions- am I willing to let go of my physical and mental health for the money? Am I willing to let go of the ties I have with the rest of my family and friends? Am I willing to miss out on every birthday party, wedding reception and baby shower that I will be invited to? Am I willing to give up my sleep and rest? Am I willing to earn all that money but not have any time to spend it?

I realise that over and over again, the answer is no. And I am fine with it.

 

Now, here’s the thing about the corporate world, which I eventually came to learn about,

Life Lesson #4: Not everyone is your friend.

For many times, I never would have thought that the person or people that were supposed to nurture, advocate and invest in me would be the first to turn against me. I was naive, treating them in the nicest ways possible, in hopes that they will treat me the same way in return. Aha, was I terribly wrong.

They have tried to undermine me, making it seem like I didn’t belong. They nitpicked every little flaw I have and magnified it to make it seem like that was the only thing that mattered to them about me. They have certainly badmouthed me behind my back, telling others that I am ‘not good enough’ or I ‘don’t deserve a second chance’ to redeem myself from the mistake that I never knew I did. They did all this, with a wide smile in their faces whenever they have to face me.

I guess, if God wants to reveal someone’s true intentions to you, He will do it, regardless of the ways it’s been revealed. I could still remember the anger I had when I heard of the things that was inflicted upon me without me knowing. I was seething, in so much pent up anger that I had to walk it out before taking the train back home. Then came the sense of betrayal. And then it was regret- why did I choose this program when I had better options back then? But that was how I learned that particular life lesson.

In the corporate world, it seemed to me like every nice gesture is a calculated move. Every greeting in the header of every email is just a polite gesture, a common business practice. Every team lunch or invitation to dinner is just a nicety- or worse, a valid reason to eat out at someplace nice. Everything was fabricated or carried out in hopes to get a favour done- “hey remember to be nice to this lady, because she’s going to help us get that deal approved,” was something I’ve heard coming out of a Head of Department’s mouth during one of my rotations. Back then, I thought he was nothing but a superficial rich man. Now, I can’t even separate the genuine ones from the pool of superficiality that I have the pleasure to deal with day by day.

 

Now, there’s not to say that there are absolutely no nice people at work- besides the nasty ones, I am also surrounded by really nice folks who truly want the best for you. Throughout my one year in this company, I found several good friends whom has made my days better countless of times. They reminded me that a job is just a job, and the sucky parts of it should not drain my whole life out of me. There were the hour long gossip sessions during lunch, window shopping during the fasting month, ridiculous Whatsapp groups like Lunchtime Shopping and Stalker and Friends (p.s. guess who’s the stalker), and a good shoulder to cry on or a listening ear whenever I needed them.

When I first started work, I wasn’t quite sure if I would be able to make any friends at all. It was a bit scary, entering a new workplace without knowing anyone from school or university. I kept telling myself that this is one stop closer to adulthood, and it shouldn’t bother me that I might not have any friends at all, but it still remained to be a tiny insecurity of mine. Turns out I was just being ridiculous and nonsensical because: a) according to my friends I am always the one to make friends first, and b) the first bunch of people I first met at work are one of the most genuine ones around that it was impossible not to befriend at least one of them.

Hence, Life Lesson #5: Hold on to your true friends at work.

 

Once upon a time, my continuity for a job at my current workplace was possibly threatened. There was the scare that I might not be able to be there anymore, and don’t get me wrong- there were a lot of bumps getting to where I’m at now, but I do love the place I’m working at. At that point in time, it felt like my world was about to end. What am I going to do if I lose this? What kind of jobs should I take? Who would want to hire me? What if I can’t find a job out there?

It was a thousand of what-ifs, and a very overwhelming uncertainty that was certainly unhealthy for me. At that point, it seemed like my whole life is indeed my job, and I do not know how to function without it. I had no survival skills, I was too dependent and desperate for this job, and I let it define me. As a result, I became constantly worried, paranoid and consumed with what I could’ve done better, what should’ve been done, what I did wrong.

I think my turning point was definitely during my sixth month in, when I finally admitted defeat to my ego- I decided that I’ve done my best and I’ve given my best. I was tired of worrying, and I chose to have a little bit of faith, and let things run its course. Naturally, my job mattered less to me- it’s still of great importance to me, but should I be stripped away from it, I reckoned I’d live. It would be a huge blow to myself, especially with all that time, energy and emotions wasted, but I would’ve been able to look past it and move on.

This, to me was the most valuable lesson throughout my one year of working.

Life Lesson #6: A job is what it is: just a job.

My boss taught me something very important- which is to separate my work from my personal life. She taught me to establish solid boundaries, and make sure that they are not crossed by any means. It’s an acquired skill, leaving all work matters in the office, and going back home with a clear mind. However, after what I did to myself, I find that it is a dire need to acquire that skill, for the betterment of my physical and mental health.

 

Now, my one year anniversary of working is coming exactly in a week, and this post is meant to celebrate all the smiles, laughter and tears that were spent throughout this time. Regardless, I’ve never been prouder of myself for finishing this working year on a bittersweet note.

Here’s to more opportunities, life lessons and moments of self reflection! (and hopefully blog posts too cause I apparently prefer sleeping in during weekends rather than being productive and writing something up for this empty space.)

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What Happened In 2016

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My blog (internally cringing at the usage of this word) operates on trends. I like starting my posts with the generic 1H4Ws (who, when, what, why, how), so whenever someone clicks on a specific post, the title goes ‘Of Word Dumps and Why Am I Still Miserably Single’, for instance.

Secondly, this very post is a trend. I’m not sure if having two ‘What Happened in 201X’ posts is considered valid to be a trend, but I’m planning to keep it. If one day, I get too busy to even think about writing posts, I would at least make time for this trend. It’s only one post per year- wouldn’t be too hard, ainnit?

Can we all ignore the fact that I just love to digress and hop on to what really happened in 2016-

In a nutshell, 2016 was my recovery period. It’s not an easy year (though I’ve said the same about 2015 but oh well, life is not meant to get any easier, according to realists), but this was the year that I started out and came out of as two different people.

In 2016, I sat for four out of four sittings of ACCA exams. It was, for the lack of a better word, insane. To begin with, I am terrible in exams. I simply don’t have the art of memorising topics just to vomit them out in structured answers. I learn things better the practical way- projects, case studies, on the job trainings… you name it. Considering that ACCA was already an expensive and not a retractable mistake, I simply had to go through with it. I can’t even recall the amount of tears I’ve shed, the amount of weight I’ve gained (and lost), and the amount of anxiety I have to deal with just thinking about ACCA. The fatigue that follows sitting for a major paper every once in three months is practically indescribable. Yes, it was one hell of an experience. I learned a lot of things- learned to be more patient with myself, to persevere, to accept and swallow the taste of failure, and of course, to not let all of the stress and pressure consume me. And hey, it’s already the end of December and I’m not exactly proud of my journey, but I’ve just finished my last ACCA paper and I’m still here. I survived!

This year was also the first time I had a taste of what adulthood feels like: job hunting. Job hunting is not easy. I started searching for jobs way back in February, and I was juggling between ACCA classes and attending interviews at the same time (job interviews have multiple stages these days), and as a result, my weekends are sacrificed because I had to replace the classes I’ve missed during the weekdays. It was a tiring period for me, and as if that wasn’t enough, dealing with the dilemma of picking between jobs was even worse. I guess I was fortunate enough to land myself between a few jobs that I really wanted. Picking CIMB over the other two jobs took me a long process of weighing out the yesses, nos and what-ifs.¬†To add more complications to my already complicated life, I failed an ACCA paper. Also, I got the overseas job that I casually applied that one time (but ended up turning down as well). But eh, I’m still working at CIMB- still alive, well, and living. This should be another story for another time, but let’s just say that if something’s meant for you, no one else can take that away from you.

Speaking of CIMB, I’ve just completed my third month as an employee, and despite the stress, the long nights, the stale McDonalds, Subways and KFCs (we only buy them whenever we have to stay late in the office), I have to say that it has been enjoyable thus far. I came in as a naivete, thinking about how hard can work be from my horrendous exam papers. And if there’s one thing I should learn in 2017, it’s definitely the art of not underestimating a challenge. I don’t even know where to begin about how much of a challenge work has been. My first two months were the toughest for me- besides the technical knowledge I was supposed to grasp in such a short span of time, there was also the tight deadlines, the competition, and making sure I didn’t drown in the pressure. On top of that, there was a lot of ‘making sure you survive till the end’. Again, this needs a post on its own (And guess where’s my progress? Nowhere, obviously.)

Amidst all that, I also tried to slot in some travelling into my schedule. It was of course difficult: already juggling classes, interviews and study sessions, also wanting to travel at the same time? Ha, funny.¬†But, I believe that if I really do want something, I’ll make it happen. And it did!¬†I managed to visit a few cities before I started work, and despite the time and financial constraints I was under, it wasn’t too bad of a try too. Currently, I am saving for Melbourne since a really good friend of mine, E is residing down there and has been telling us to visit her for ages. The current state of my ‘travel tabung’ is rather sad, but it’s always good to have aspirations, they say.

Also, I decided to put my guard and inflated ego down, and admit that moving on can be quite hard, and 2016 taught me just that. There were a few things- people, events and opportunities that I had no choice but to move on from. Before, I guess I never regarded the things I’ve lost being truly important to me, and I was proud of it. I guess God wanted to teach me a lesson. One of the reasons why it was hard was also because moving on is easier when that person or thing or memory is out of plain sight. But what happens if that person is right there? What if that person is just a call away, a text away? What if that thing you’ve always wanted is just there for you to grasp, but you can’t cause that would hurt others in any form? So many times, my fingers hovered over that Call or Send button, silently gathering all of my guts to bite the bullet and just send that goddamn “hey how are you?” message, but my ego and pride took over. Albeit that being the right thing to do, it honestly hurt.

2016 was also the year I vowed to spoil myself more than anyone else. 2016 was the year I became selfish and put myself before anyone else. I think I’ve spent too much time hurting myself to fix others besides dealing with a mental health that was going nowhere but spiraling down south, and as much as I don’t want to, this did affect me. So, I did my best to put myself first. I traveled, made new friends, tried new things- I tried my best to find things to make myself happy. And let me tell you: the payoff was great. At the end of the day, I soon realised that no one else can make me happy but myself, as cliche as that sounds. I stopped being so reliant on others to make me feel wanted or needed, and this, I dare say, is the biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout 2016.

It’s near the end of page 1/365 of 2017, but I guess it’s not too late to make resolutions for the new year. What’s in store for 2017?

Most seem to have a tough 2016, myself included. Here’s to a wonderful 2017!

“Why Is Everyone Getting Married?”

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetThis was the backdrop of my friend Nia’s pelamin during her wedding in 2015. Weddings are so pretty to watch! (But can we ignore that awkward smile oh dear god)

An overview of my current love life: after the end of that long 4 year relationship back in 2014, I was and still am pretty much single- met with a few unfriendly bumps (read: men) along the way, in which none came to fruition. Needless to say, right now my love life is nonexistent.

So of course, the idea of marriage is something that’s¬†far, far away from where I am right now.

Sadly to say, I’ve got a very pessimistic view on marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I am the product of a very happy marriage- my parents are happily married for twenty five years, but I simply can’t fathom the idea of getting to know a person for x number of years before deciding that he/she is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. How does one decide that? Is that a yardstick, or a check list somewhere? How long do you need to know someone to decide if you want to marry that person? What made you so sure that that person is someone deserving enough to spend the rest of your life with you?

I’ve posed this question to some married people. I asked “How do you know if you’d want to marry that person?” The answer I got was “Oh, you’ll know. You just know,” Now, the last time I heard or read something like that was back when I was into Harry Potter fanfiction. How am I supposed to just know? What am I supposed to do, wait for that revelation? I’m the kind of person who likes things concrete and clear- anything as vague as “you’ll just know” bothers me to a certain extent.

I’ve also asked “How long do you need to know someone to know if he/she’s right for you to marry?” Of course, the answer I got was “Oh, you’ll know. You just know,”¬†I’ve watched marriages that happened after more than eight years of relationship. There were also those who got married after knowing one another for a year, or even less than a year. I’ve watched those marriages sailed through, and I’ve watched some of them crumbled in the end, ending in an ugly divorce. Naturally, the idea of ‘just knowing when the time is right’ is a very unsure prospect for me, and truth be told, can be quite unsettling.

Going back to that question, I find that these days, the people around me are ridiculously single or ridiculously married. There’s nothing wrong with being either one, but when you’re ridiculously single and alone most of the time, you can’t help but feel that tiny tinge of longing or want- wouldn’t it be nice if I’m married? And I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a couple of husbands or wives who may have undoubtedly say that they miss their single, unmarried days.

However, I’m luckier than most people. I don’t get questions about when am I going to marry, strangely enough. My parents are in no way pressuring me to get married as soon as possible, and my circle of friends are pretty much too busy carrying on with their own lives to commit to a relationship. Hence, all this pressure to “get married” is none other than the pressure I put on myself.

It doesn’t quite help when you’re in your twenties, and in a society where getting married at this age is pretty much ideal. No one is honestly pushing you, but you’ve got this imaginary social obligation to get settled down, just because you see everyone else doing it. I think it’s very easy to fall into that trap, where you got married not because you pretty much want to live the rest of your life with that person, but rather because your sister, neighbour or cousin is doing it.

I’ve also been told for a couple of times really, that I am ‘picky‘. I refuse to admit that I am such, but I believe that I do indeed have specific requirements in some areas. I mean, just in case you didn’t realise, I’m about to live the rest of my life with this person, so of course it would help to be, well in their words, ‘picky’ about my life partner. To be fair, the things I seek for in a guy are pretty reasonable. There’s no harm in preferring someone intelligent and able to carry out a decent, quality conversation with me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be someone who wouldn’t bore me to death, or someone who can get along well with my friends and family. Well, this may sound superficial to some (since I’m gonna admit that I do like certain¬†physical traits in a man), but I don’t think it’ll hurt to want to be with someone taller, or someone with nice teeth, for instance. And besides, some even make out being picky as something bad- honest to heart that it’s not. You’re allowed to be picky- realistically picky, that is (don’t search for a twenty five year old prince from an oil-rich country who’s got more qualifications than your fingers can count, and a part time modelling contract on the side, cause girl- that ain’t happening).

Also, I never used to think that this would be me back then, but after being single for quite some time, I’m accustomed to doing things on my own and only sharing my deepest troubles to my family and closest friends. I can’t believe I’m pretty much used to being alone now and deal with things on my own.¬†I’m not used to the idea of sharing my life problems other than them- to a stranger, another person, a man. I’m going to have to reveal my secrets, my fears, my flaws, my bad habits and the things I’m not proud of to someone else, and truth be told, the idea of that is pretty scary to me.¬†This is an analogy I’ve used to describe how I feel about this to someone, and it would be me who has been pretty comfortable in my own shell and now I’m going to have to share this particular ‘shell’ with someone else- with the assumption that this person will see the worst of me and would be able to keep his damn mouth shut about it.

However, I think the subject of love in general, works in funny ways. My mother and a really good friend of mine always remind me that in some cases, we might not get what we want, and instead what we got might be what’s best for us. In this context, this person may not earn a tick in every box in my ‘checklist’, but that person might just give me what I needed. In a way, I am grateful for their words and how they remind me that sometimes, I try to search for something in circles, which pretty much ends up in haste. I search for the unattainable at times- this applies to a lot of aspects of my life, not just love, and end up in disappointment pretty much all the time. They pretty much tell me that maybe the better things in life are right in front of me, and it’s pretty much up to me to accept it wholeheartedly.¬†Wow, I’m not going to lie – that sounded less naive in my head than when written down in words. Or maybe it is a naive thought. What can I say, I’m pretty naive in love, which explains the bad choices.

But then, whenever I let my thoughts sail through in this subject, I keep asking the most important question to myself: am I ready for marriage? Of course not. I’m admittedly selfish- I’ve got a lot of other things to do and achieve. I still can’t see myself taking care of another full grown man who’s supposed to be my husband, let alone my child. I don’t know how to be selfless, or how to live together with another person and accept the little quirks and bumps without feeling irked along the way. I know marriage means¬†so much more than what we see other married couples try to portray- it’s much more than relationship goals, honeymoon trips, or weekend dates to every chic place in the city (though I have to admit, all of those does sound pretty nice). It’s a huge responsibility and a commitment, and the biggest mistake regarding something as significant as this, I feel, is when people rush into things or underestimate the kind of responsibility that carries alongside the concept of marriage.

To save myself from sounding bitter, which I’m afraid is the impression I might leave by the end of this post, I do want to get married. It’s not because everyone else is doing so, or because of beautiful weddings. I want to get married because as much of a scary thought that is, I want to live with someone, and go through ups and downs with him. I want support, and I want to support. I’m afraid of the thought of dying alone, without the presence of my loved ones. I want to grow with someone, to have a partner-in-crime, and¬†stick through the rough times.

Now, going back to the title of this post, which is a question I ask myself whenever I see lots of pictures of weddings on Instagram, or numerous wedding invitations on my Facebook: is it necessarily bad that everyone else around you but yourself is getting married? No, not at all. I’ve watched enough How I Met Your Mother episodes and have read numerous Tumblr posts to understand and digest this, but let’s just say that everyone has got different lives, and of course, we might lack in certain areas, and are lucky in other things. I shouldn’t feel the need to follow others just because it’s the right time or good men seem to run out pretty fast, or because of some other ridiculous reason (like how I’m a ‘biological clock’ and I shouldn’t wait too long). Meanwhile, I believe what’s best for me right now is to wait it out, for good things are bound to come at some point. And oh, maybe develop a crush on that cute boy on social media because crushes are fun to have.

Honestly though, if anyone¬†could explain how the whole ‘you’ll just know’ concept works, please reach out for me and enlighten me. I hope you know where to find me!

What The Ramblings of a Twenty Something Sounds Like

(Please keep in mind that this is very unstructured and long winded- written to relieve this writing itch I’ve been having lately. It’s not important. There’s nothing substantial here. Move along now.)

So, it still didn’t hit me that I’m 24. Twenty four- almost a quarter century old. Sure, I might be overreacting here (actually, I’m pretty sure I am) but there’s nothing fun about being twenty four. It’s such an awkward age- I find that those who were born in the same year as me are now in so many different walks of life.

At this age, I believe that I am miserably lost. I want so many things in my life right now. I want a spunky job, a job that I can be absolutely proud of. At the same time, I want to¬†see the world as much as I can. I want to be financially dependent- I want assets for myself, tangible and something I can be proud of. I want to live life young and free, being the very twenty-four year old woman my younger self used to envision. I want to get married and happily raise a family of my own, just like some of my peers from highschool. At the same time, I don’t want to be held back by familial responsibilities.

At first, I thought I was just being a brat, and smartly coined all of this as the ‘quarter life crisis’. Some believe that this is just a make-believe theory, and that we milennials are too spoiled into thinking that life is too hard for us. However, after much reading and talking to people of my age, I’m beginning to think that this is real. The quarter life crisis is actually real.

Now, when talking to those who feel the same way I do, I notice a common trend- their parents tend to compare our lives with their own, i.e “when I was your age, there was no such thing. Habis belajar, terus kerja la, nak bagi duit dekat mak bapak kat kampung,”. I can’t speak for them as I will never understand what they went through back then (bless me and my privileged ass, it seems) but I understand how frustrating it gets for people like me dealing with these kind of comments. Our problems differ from our parents’- same goes to our needs and priorities. It’s simply unfair to put all of that side by side, I feel.

Our generation, the baby boomers are constantly living in this vicious cycle of competition and expectations. We are expected to achieve what our forefathers achieved. We are expected to be more savvy, to be more knowledgeable, since, well- “back then we don’t have this thing called the Internet. Our resources were very limited, but we still make do with what we had and look at where we are now,” Now, of course, that sentence is indeed true to a certain extent. Yes, our parents (or at least mine) grew up in the early post-independence days: things were starting to pick up, civilisation was beginning to boom, and the country was indeed beginning to grow. It is indeed safe to say that our parents were part of the reason Malaysia is where it is now (albeit our political and economical woes, now that’s a whole new subject to talk about). But is it entirely fair to place us, the aforementioned baby boomers in such a pedestal?

Now, this is exactly one of the few dilemmas I’m currently going through as well. Many of us think “oh, I want to be like my father/mother!” Many, me included, put our parents as our role model, and our definition of success is when we’ve achieved what our parents did, or even better, if we achieved more than what they could. Of course, things are easier said than done these days. When I think about it, how can I achieve what my dad achieve? My dad came from a very humble kampung of Rengit in Johor, with a father working as a laborer and a mother who had to take care of his five other siblings, so naturally things weren’t easy for him. He, to me was the definition of a jaguh kampung- did good enough to earn a scholarship to study engineering in the States (he didn’t even want to be an engineer, but he did whatever it takes to get out of Rengit), came back with a Dean’s List degree and worked really hard to get to where he is right now.

Now, if that is what it takes to be a jaguh kampung, then I wonder what makes you stand out from the rest at this age and day? What do we milennials have to do to achieve such a title? Nowadays, everyone seems to get out of the house at one point. Everyone earns a degree, and in fact, we’ve come to the age where having a degree alone is not enough. Everyone wants more, and more qualifications means more opportunities. We’ve come to an age where something is never enough, and it’s always more, more, more. Settling down doesn’t seem like the idealistic way of living if you’re in your twenties, sadly to say.

That aside, a part of my quarter life crisis also stemmed from the way I see the idealistic world others around me seem to live in. I have to say, social media in general is the devil behind this. I’m pretty sure everyone, just like me, only shows the nice parts of their lives on Instagram. The ‘young corporate executive’ would always want to show his business class boarding passes on business trips, and not the towering stacks of documents and workload that eventually broke the camel’s (or in this context, his own’s) back. The ‘social media ambassador’ endorsing the #wanderlust hashtag would always want to show you the spectacular views she woke up to, but never the state of her bank account. The ‘young parents’ would always show you their cute baby’s videos and pictures, but never the sleepless nights or the mistakes they make in getting a good grip of simply being parents. I’ve got this embedded in my head as I grew older- I knew that I knew of this fact, but you can’t help but be in envy, wishing that your life is as good as theirs’, or rather the lives they show on social media. Then again, everyone loves success stories, the good parts. Nobody hardly wants to hear the uglier side of things, do they?

Honestly, what kind of life do I lead then? A boring one. I go to class on Mondays and Wednesdays. I ponder my decision to pursue ACCA. I spend a lot of time staying at home and watch as many tv shows as I can, since my friends are busy with school, family or work. To be honest, it’s nothing to be proud of when you’re a¬†twenty-something couch potato, without anything else to do. Every single day, I wish I could get up and actually do something productive, and even with the aid of the ‘Productive Things To Do When You’re Bored’ list, I found it really hard to make myself to good use. There is no substantial motivation or excitement. My younger self would be really disappointed in me to find out that the twenty-something me is already dried out from excitement or determination.

Nevertheless, despite this self-claimed crisis I’m going through, I’ve got many things to be grateful for. I’ve got two healthy parents who are very attentive to my needs. I’ve got friends who still make time for one another despite our busy and conflicting schedules.I managed to secure a good enough job. There was never a day where I had to make ends meet. I guess that’s good enough, for now.

 

 

 

How ‘Cincai’ Were My School Teachers Anyway?

Throughout my life, even until now, I was brought up to pay utmost respect to my teachers and lecturers. I grew up thinking that my teachers are always right (though honestly… not necessarily) and I owe it to my teachers for helping me score As back then. I was always fed with the “cikgu buat ini semua sebab cikgu sayang awak,” whenever we get too much homework and I remember the only thing that went through my head was… well, I’m not exactly your daughter, so how in the world does that work?

Anyway, moving on.

There are several teachers whom I’ll always appreciate and thank their existence for. When I was in Primary 1,¬†I had some sort of a speech impairment whereby mouthing out words felt different because my thoughts didn’t necessarily correlate with what came out of my mouth. From what I can remember, my late class teacher, Pn. Rozi was one of the first adult figures that tried her best to understand what I was saying, and gradually helped me build confidence to speak out in normal conversations. I really owe that much to her.

There was also my Physics teacher back when I was in Sri Aman- Pn Ngau. Essentially Pn Ngau is whom I’ll consider strict- you can’t be late to her class, you can’t sleep in her class, and you can’t talk in her class (cause she’ll either poke rulers into your sides or throw DD batteries at you with purposefully terrible aim, whichever’s the nearest). But then again, she made Physics decipherable. Heck, she even made me realise that I actually like Physics more than I give myself credit for. She made it fun (and despite her strict ways, she can be quite a funny lady too) so hence, when I got an A+ in Physics for my SPM, besides my parents and probably my tuition teacher, I really have no one else to thank for but Pn Ngau. Until today, she does post snippets of motivation on my Facebook whenever I’m sitting for exams or that one time where I finally graduated (okay I was on time, but it kind of felt forever if I have to be honest). Never thought I’d actually miss the “tug your hair to activate brain cells!” remark.

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Then again, throughout my life, I’ve also met several teachers who are a living nightmare. There was one Pendidikan Islam teacher back in my primary school who was notorious for being ridiculously strict. I had her as my teacher when I was in Primary Four, and as much as I want to deny it, I’ve never had such a strong dislike for a teacher as much as I did for her. I used to get so angry at how degrading she was to some students (me included), and then turn into a pretentious, caring authority figure when she needed to.¬†I’ve had quite a few beatings from her before (for stupid reasons- my Khat wasn’t neat enough, I didn’t skip enough lines etc.) and teachers like her made me work extra hard just to seek their approval. Just what did I need to do for her to maybe consider liking me? What did the teacher’s pet have that I didn’t? For a year, I was constantly figuring that out, just so I don’t have to go to class anticipating a beating every now and then.

What I’m trying to say is that there are bound to be bad apples in a system, community or society. There are such things as good teachers and bad teachers, regardless of what kind of schools they are teaching in. I came from entirely public schools, with no exposure to a private institution only after high school, and I like to think I came out fine. I’ve met really good teachers, and probably a couple of bad ones along the way. The good teachers I’ve met taught me more than what was taught in classrooms. They¬†were there when my parents weren’t and I respect them just as much- that is how much I value my teachers.

Hence, when a certain younger sister of a Malaysian celebrity comes forth and says that public school teachers do ‘cincai’ work and that they’re ‘not qualified enough’, I can definitely see why everyone else was furious with her. Well, granted- all of her statements were based on ‘her own experience’ of what, moving schools five times? But her act of generalising public school teachers in such a light is unfair and an insult to those¬†I value so much- me, alongside many others whose lives were graced by the presence of such teachers.

She may not have met the kind of teachers I used to study with growing up, but that does not justify the need to generalise that all public school teachers do ‘cincai’ work. Teaching is probably one of the few noble professions to take up (well teachers do need to deal with kids alongside handle other school stuff besides being mostly underpaid, hence they actually do deserve that title), and her making such statements do not give any justice to these teachers. Teachers never get by with cincai work. Teachers make sure you excel, teachers shape you into being decent people, and some teachers are like your parents in school, so I’m pretty sure they are ‘qualified enough’ to teach you.

But eh, last I heard she apologised for making such statements. Good for her, her certainly qualified teachers definitely taught her something right.

And to answer the question I posed as the title of this article- no, they were definitely not ‘cincai’.

*For the record, cincai according to Urban Dictionary means doing work in a simple or casual fashion, not giving¬†thought to it. Don’t worry- my ‘under qualified’ teacher didn’t teach me this.

What Is Life Before The iPhone?

This one time, I accidentally left my phone at home when I was in campus. It was a long day of classes, from 8 am till 5.30 pm or so. In conclusion, let’s just say that the best¬†way to describe that day was that it was torturous and painstakingly slow.

My first experience with a smartphone was when I was about nineteen years old (now, everyone’s definition of a ‘smartphone’ is different- to me, a phone that enabled me to use Whatsapp, post pictures on Instagram and play Temple Run back then was good enough). I used a Blackberry before that, but that device of mine was horrendous in general and gradually became a piece of junk that I can’t come to terms with it being my ‘smartphone’.

Sometimes, I try to imagine what life must’ve been like for my parents- when in truth, I don’t even need to go that far. Imagining what my life was like before I turned nineteen was good enough. What was life like before I used my phone to distract myself? What did I fill my time in the few minutes between tucking myself in bed and finally going to sleep? How did I keep in touch with my best friends? How on Earth did I navigate from one place to another (but hey, I had Papago though it was basically crap- so that’s irrelevant, I suppose)?

Nowadays, I can pretty much conclude that most of my daily schedules have got to do with social media, or at least my handheld device. I start my day waking up to the numerous alarms I turned on on my iPhone. I’d scroll through my Instagram feed for a few minutes before realising that I could use that wasted time to get a good meal for breakfast. I still sometimes use the qiblaat app just to reassure myself that I’m praying facing the right direction. I hook myself onto Spotify or Apple Music whenever I’m in the car. Nowadays, there’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to help me kill time whenever I have to wait or line up for something. My main news source is shamefully Twitter (in my defense, Twitter really is instantaneous micro blogging- just search up a rumour and see what comes up). Each time I discover a new dining place or hang out with a friend, I’d be planning the best Instagram shot and a caption to match for said event. Nowadays, I exercise only because my fitness app told me to do so. Editing a picture on vscocam is almost like a ritual¬†before I post anything up on Instagram.

I can go on and on with this but I think at this point, you’d probably understand where I’m coming from.

I used to think that humans depending on something so much is a bizarre idea, kind of like how a person depends on a machine to stay alive? In that kind of situation, all power is stripped off of that person and he is indirectly dependent on the person manning the machine to ensure his life. I know it might be too dramatic to compare such a situation to this, but when you think about it… imagine a day without your phone- would your day be as similar as compared to you carrying your device around? If nothing hardly changes, then congratulations- you can most probably live without a working mobile phone.

Sometimes, I want to know how it feels like to live back in the days, when there were no such thing as smartphones, tablets, laptops or even the very concept of an email. I imagine how it must’ve been for my parents back when they were dating- what happens when one misses the other and feels the need to text each other? What do you do when you need to call someone urgently in a time where the only phones that exist are the landline ones?

I want to experience getting handwritten letters instead of measly “hi, what’s up?” Whatsapp messages. I want to discover diaries, thoughts scribbled onto paper instead of typing them out within a 140 character platform. I want to look at physical photographs that turn yellow with age, the ones that when you find them lying in a box somewhere years later, nothing but nostalgia fills your heart. I want to get birthday wishes in cards, when people actually remember your birthday out of their courtesy and not because Facebook reminded them. These little things were the kind of things my parents had the privilege to experience, and something tells me that I’m missing out.

See, there might be those who are glad that technology has grown at a scarily vast pace, and that life gets easier by the minute. It makes sense- now everything is doable within one device, and that makes things easy for everyone. It would be extremely hypocritical of me to oppose any of this- I have benefited a lot from the usage of a single mobile phone itself. But at the end of the day, how long will it be until all of this becomes too saturated? How long will it be until the society practically does nothing because the machines are there to do work for them?

(See, this is what thoughts in the shower does to me.)

 

What Went Down in 2015

 

 

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So hey, four¬†days down the road in 2016 and what’s left of any form of excitement for the new year is practically gone. Well, to begin with- I don’t exactly look forward to the new year for a very long time now. There’s no particular reason- I simply choose to find excitement in other things, I guess.

Looking back at all these years, it’s safe to say that 2015 wasn’t exactly an entirely good year for me- and instead, it was a year that I needed most. I learned so much and experienced quite a number of things too. Don’t think I’ll ever forget 2015.

I started 2015 being emotionally fragile. What went down at the end of 2014 was a very ugly breakup, which prompted me to write about it in my very first post (and I have thoughts on deleting it over many, many reasons though) but I discovered that I learned a lot of things from that. Heartbreak and grief are as normal as joy and happiness- it’s just people don’t want to go through that as often. I also learned to realise that some things are not meant to work out, and there’s always a silver lining in every cloud. I got out of an unhealthy relationship, and both he and I probably deserved better. ¬†Though that fact took me about half a year to realise and come to terms with, I am in a way glad that it happened. I couldn’t wish for anything better.

In 2015, I was also sitting for my worst nightmare ever- I had a number of core subjects all crammed up in one semester. Throughout my years as an accounting student, I dare say that it was a breeze compared to this particular semester. It wasn’t entirely easy (in fact, it was really hard), but it was doable. The combination of subjects for this particular semester was simply wrong- I had hardcore subjects like Corporate Accounting and Advanced Tax and heavy duty reading subjects like Strategy and Accounting Theory (which still made no sense today if I have to be honest), and my days towards the end of the semester were nothing but fatigue, stress and a whole lot of anxiety. I came out of that semester with all passes. It wasn’t my best results yet, but I’ve never felt prouder of myself. I walked out of¬†what I thought was impossible- in fact, I was so prepared to fail that I actually had a draft for a scholarship extension.

I graduated in 2015 as well! The completion process was really long and taxing, but hey, on the 6th of September last year, I managed to walk onto the stage donning a graduation robe to receive my scroll. I used to think graduation seems like a very long journey from where I was, and five years down the road, I was already doing what I used to see my seniors do. The experience was surreal- although I walked on the stage for about ten seconds or so, but¬†its significance left me feeling something indescribable. It was that one time I actually felt that my parents were proud of one of my milestones. It really felt like a life achievement- after five, long years, I am finally a degree holder, in a field I never thought I’d pursue. (But this was before I was introduced to ACCA. Internal crying starts right about now.)

I like to think I was¬†going through a rather awkward stage of my life after graduating. I had nothing to do, I didn’t get any jobs that I truly liked, and I was bored to death sitting at home doing nothing. I don’t even know how my parents managed to persuade me, but in July last year, I actually enrolled myself to study ACCA as a full time student. It felt nice, living back the life as a student, but let’s just say I wasn’t mentally prepared for what I signed up for. What I thought was the worst in my degree days is basically child’s play now. All I have to do is shut my eyes for about five minutes and I couldn’t comprehend what was taught in class for the next three hours. Back in my degree days, I dare say that the competition was tough- everyone seemed to care more about what grades everyone else but them got. Now that I’ve passed that stage and sitting for professional exams, it seems as though the only¬†person I have to compete with is myself. It doesn’t really matter if the person next to me got a 30 or 70 for the recent test- what matters more is definitely how I’d fare in the actual examinations.

It was definitely slightly demotivating whenever I look at my school friends who have achieved more than me- some have settled down with beautiful families, secured wonderful jobs, and even travel the world. And here I am, incapable of achieving all of that. I’m turning 24 this year, with nothing but a measly degree certificate, and still awkwardly living off my parents. I am definitely not what I imagined myself would be in my 20s back when I was younger. I didn’t understand why I wanted to grow up so fast back then- if only I knew how living the adult life is not as wonderful as I thought, I definitely would not want to rush any of this.

2015 was also the year I met a lot of people- both good and bad ones. The good ones remained as friends, and I still don’t know what to do with the bad apples. I don’t really have the guts to leave people- or basically embracing the idea of leaving in general, which is something I need to overcome eventually. But what’s for sure is that meeting these bad apples definitely taught me something- kind of like a slap to the face, in fact. They remind me that I can’t exactly make friends with everyone- there are bound to be people I can’t please no matter how much I try.

So what’s in store for 2016? I’m not quite sure. I don’t like expecting too much for the new year because you know what they say… expect too much and you’ll only get disappointment. I know I want to pass my exams so badly, that’s for sure. I also want a good job, a job I can be proud of. I want to continue meeting new people in my life and possibly make as many connections as I can, whilst retain and improve the current relationships I have. I want to settle for things I truly deserve and not just what I could find at a particular time. I want to spend more time with my family and make up for all the time lost living away from them for the past five years. I want to do things I’ve always wanted to try but never had the guts to do so. I want more coffee dates, more deep talks. I want to learn as much as I could before I embark into another major step of adulthood. And lastly, if it’s not too much to ask, I also want to meet someone good- someone whom I can have mad respect and trust for, and be there for me when I need him the most. (Now that I’m rereading this, I’m definitely having a lot of expectations for 2016. The irony, ha.)

Nevertheless, I hope it’s not too late to wish everyone a happy new year! Have a great 2016!

 

Why I’m Against Polygamy

Do you know what ticks me off? When some men actually had the nerve to pompously announce to the rest of the world that “Hey, I have the right to marry more than one!” whenever the topic of polygamy is touched upon.

Before I carry on, I’m gladly announcing that I do not believe in the practice of polygamy in today’s society.

Knowing how controversial my statement is in a religious perspective, let me just reflect on how I learned about polygamy and how I see it in today’s society.

Everyone knew Prophet Muhammad was a polygamist- he had a total of 13 wives (correct me if I’m wrong) throughout his life. We’ve all watched how islamophobes and those who are generally against Islam twist this information and call Muhammad a sex-crazed pedophile (which is a very overused insult- you’d think by now these people would’ve come up with a better clause). Many quotations from many sources have clarified the true intentions behind his multiple marriages; he was doing so¬†primarily to help widows- all of them except for Aisha Abu Bakr and Khadija Khuwaylid were widows until they got married to Muhammad. He wanted to unite different clans together (example: Safiyyah Huyeiy Ibn Akhtab’s marriage). None of them were outlined by any intentions of lust or the desire to ‘complete his quota’, unlike many men today.

Now let’s be real- out of ten men who practice polygamy, how many of them marry to be true to Muhammad’s cause? How many of them are actually out there to help widows and single mothers out there? Of course it’s ridiculous to stereotype polygamists on a general stigma, but separate the one or two good chaps from that particular pool, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Most marry because they found another girl whom they unfortunately fell for, and has thus decided maybe it’s better to come clean and marry her instead of probably considering his wife’s feelings and maybe work on whatever’s wrong with their marriage. Generally, when these men were asked should the situations change and his wife is the one who fell for someone else… do tell me if any husband is actually alright with that.

These men probably do not realise how big of a responsibility marrying one, let alone two, women at the same time. Of course, everyone’s really quick to step up and claim their rights and what they’re entitled to.

“I deserve the right to marry up to four women! My prophet did it too!”

– A polygamist’s stereotypical statement

(I swear this statement is getting more annoying the more I type it out)

However, whenever someone touches the topic of responsibilities, which let me remind you, are much bigger now that said polygamist has decided to marry more than one, watch how many of them are still brave enough to step up and list their responsibilities one by one.¬†Sure, he can claim that he’s capable of being fair to all of his wives, but get this- we’re all human. Even parents cannot be absolutely fair to their children, what makes them think that they’ll be fair to all their wives? There’s a reason why they somehow seek for another companion. Naturally, more attention would be given to the second wife (or third or fourth- you get the drift), because she’s rekindled love. She reminded him what it felt like to be loved. And don’t we humans like to be reminded all the time? We like the good things- we want them as something constant in our lives. Not to say that the older wife/wives aren’t capable of providing tender love and care to her husband, but it’s never the same.

While thinking about this in the shower (my greatest thoughts come when I’m in the shower by the way), a thought struck me- whatever happened to the promises made to the wife before she was betrothed to his husband? During the nikah, it is compulsory for the husband to declare that he will take care of his wife, both physically and emotionally. No woman I know would willingly let herself be subjected to polygamy, no matter how vast the false hadith about the ‘payung emas’ circulates. By putting herself in that situation, wouldn’t he hurt her feelings? Wouldn’t it be damaging to her emotions as a wife and a woman, to know that her husband has found love in another person?

When I was much younger, I once asked my dad, “Don’t you want to get married to two women?” My dad simply replied, “Why should I, when I already have Mama? I’m enough with one,” I’ve never heard wiser words coming from a man in regards to polygamy. He doesn’t need to marry another. He doesn’t need the love from another person- instead, he found it in my mother. That’s how I view marriage- if you can’t find the love in your spouse, you search for it. There must be a reason why you married him/her in the first place, hence, find that reason. Don’t neglect it and choose to settle for another person who could provide you what you’ve been missing. Most polygamists don’t¬†need to marry another person. Most of them want to marry another person.

Of course, all of this was outlined on the basis of one single reason behind polygamy. I’ve heard of several reasons behind a man marrying more than one. Some practice polygamy with pure intentions to help women. Some do so because they were unable to conceive children in their first marriages (which is still somewhat a weak reason if you ask me). I’ve also heard about men who were victims of black magic and somehow ended up marrying the woman behind¬†such a doing. Nevertheless, I still feel that besides the aligned intention of the Prophet behind practicing polygamy, I believe there’s no concrete reason for me to condone it.

I once touched this subject with someone, and after hearing my stand on it, he said, “Wow, your significant other’s going to have a tough time once he hears the things you said about polygamy,”. Dear, if he believes in polygamy, he wouldn’t be my significant other in the first place.

What I Learned From My University Years

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About two months ago, this happened. And oh, that’s Aishah- an ex housemate as well as a Bachelor of Financial Engineering degree holder, as well as one of the smartest people I know.

I’ve always wondered how my life would different should I not continue my studies at MMU. Sure, my last five years would’ve been really convenient, since knowing me, I’d opt for a school much closer to home. My set of friends would’ve been vastly different, and my ideologies might’ve been totally foreign to me today.

See, back when I was eighteen, I was one of the ‘rejects’- or in other simpler terms, I was one of the JPA applicants who couldn’t get an overseas university placement but was given a second chance. Apparently, this second chance also consisted of me being shipped to Cyberjaya (well, this is me being dramatic- Cyberjaya and Shah Alam is approximately 30 km in distance).

It would be a ridiculously far stretch to say that I was one of the pioneer residents of that university town, but let’s just say that when I settled down in that place back in 2010, it was nothing but a barren wasteland. There were only a handful places to eat at that time- a few mamak stalls, a Malay shop, and KFC. The nearest cinema was a town away, and being a disheartened eighteen year old student without a car, after classes, I basically had no sort of entertainment besides downloading movies (at least one good thing came out from studying at Cyberjaya- bearable internet connection!). However, I was there to watch Cyberjaya grow from a deadbeat town to an actual liveable place. I watched condominiums rise from flat lands and now there’s a decent mall with actually decent shops next to the campus.

MMU, to sum it all up, wasn’t exactly a smooth sailing experience for me. Up until today, I still think the management drives me up the wall. This used to be a joke between my friends and I- the Faculty of Management (which is of course, my faculty) is that one faculty with the most management issues. The campus had very limited parking spots, and it came to the point where I would come to an afternoon class half an hour earlier, just so I could find a spot during lunch hour. Food, in general was terrible, and the facilities weren’t always in tip top condition. However, all of that only adds up as bittersweet memories to me. And¬†I seriously can’t believe how much I miss that place.

Throughout the five years of studies, it was safe to say that I was many versions of myself. I was once the kid who tried to fit in- I once had a fear of being alone, and I was the only Sri Amanian so the need to make friends and stick to one social group was somewhat crucial at that point. I met several friends who seemed worthwhile to spend more time and attention for (whom later became very good friends of mine), and since then, I sailed my year through. I was also the first year who thought degree life was similar to high school- I wasn’t quite sure how I made it through first year with a decent enough CGPA. I was the girl who had questionable roommates. I was the girl who had the best roommates I could ever ask for. I was the girl who used to ‘lepak’ at mamak stalls every night because there’s nothing better to do, or so I thought. I was that girl who might’ve strayed away from my studies at one point (but I consider myself very lucky that it took me a very rude awakening for me to get back on track). I was the girl who put too much stress and expectations on myself that it was beyond exhausting and damaging. I was once the girl who used to go hellbent for her friends, only to have them turn their backs on me. By the start of my fourth year, I guess I was already tired. I wanted to be nothing more than a final year student who had nothing else in mind but to graduate successfully.

In MMU, I definitely met a whole lot of people, the first batch being my fellow JPA scholars. We started out as very naive teenagers, and it was nice to see that most of us made it out together, receiving all our scrolls on the same year. I’ve met people from states I’ve never even been to. It was an eye-opening experience considering that students from¬†my highschool, in general came from stable income families, and according to my highschool teacher, we were notorious of correcting our English teachers’ grammar (in other words, our command of the English language was rather substantial lah). MMU was where I picked up my heavy Chinese-accented English, which is a skill I have a prominent love-hate relationship with. I’ve also met a few students who were just as brilliant as the ones I know who flew overseas, but unfortunately did not get as much opportunities. If there’s one thing I wish I could inherit from them besides their brilliance, it would most probably be their take on life after uni as well as what kind of opportunities lie ahead- “Hey, so what if we didn’t get to escape this hellbent of a place? It’s not the end of the world!”

Since I mentioned that there was that one time where I was swayed off course for a short while, I guess I have no one else to blame but myself (and hey, maybe the people I meet along the way had something to do with it). Amongst the brilliant people I befriended, I also met spoiled ones. I met the ones who literally had no pressure to finish uni, and to relieve their parents the obligation of financing their studies. Well, of course, not everything about them are entirely bad things but of course, what I picked up from them were the bad stuff. A sudden drop in my grades (which was also during the semester before applying for an internship placement- aka not a good way to market yourself to future employers) felt like a slap across my face at that time, and that was when I realised- these friends I made were not going to take responsibility for my grades, and I believed my lecturers were doing a rather decent job at teaching me. It was basically me- I was the reason behind the grades. I faced the consequences the next semesters onward, by forcing myself to put double the effort just to make up for the CGPA drop. I guess everyone has that one mistake that lead to long lasting consequences, and one of mine just so happens to be that.

One of the few things that affected me during the last five years were actually the words of a fellow senior from my course. He blatantly said, “You must realise that we’re from a local university- realise that we’re not as prestigious as LSE, or Cambridge. We’re just accounting graduates from a corporate university. You need to strive harder- you need to do better than these people,” He had no idea how demotivating that was, as an aforementioned ‘reject’. I used to envision myself studying in LSE, doing something inventive like Economics, and there’s him telling me that I’m basically second choice, should I not have anything different to offer because of my shortcomings.

What changed my mind and my stand on his opinion was actually my internship. Well, since my internship technically wasn’t a university experience, but I dare say that it was a very humbling experience, which changed my mind for the better. I was an intern for six months at a Big 4 audit firm, and dare I say that it not only opened my eyes as to where my social standing lies, but there’s also this- where you come from is basically surface level. My work was just as sucky as the other intern from LSE, and he didn’t know his academic stuff just as much as I did. We were just as insignificant as the other, having nothing better to do than photocopying files and files of documents, and we were still as cheap as labour can be (I was paid one third of a fresh executive, but did just as much work- if not, more). Some self advice? There’s no need to feel inferior to the next Cambridge graduate. You both would probably end up doing the most mundane jobs together anyway.

These past few days, my thoughts have been flying back to Cyberjaya, the town I left for almost five months now. As much as I would hate saying this back then, I believe that I miss that place. My post-Cyberjaya withdrawals are finally kicking in now after a prolonged period of denial. Now that I’m studying in Sunway, a place that’s much closer to home and absolutely convenient, but none of all that beats Cyberjaya and my alma mater, MMU.

To make me feel better, my mother used to tell me, “there’s a reason why you’re here and not there,”. I failed to understand what she meant throughout the five years, but now that I’m here, it all made perfect sense. There is indeed a reason, and it’s definitely something worthwhile. Those five years were definitely worthwhile.

And this might be late, but congratulations to my fellow classmates who graduated as well! We actually made it ūüôā

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“What’s Wrong With Your Face?”

1929382_62512443350_1128014_nYou do not understand how much guts it takes for me to upload this picture.
Amira at seventeen.

For those who may know me from a while back (I’m talking from a really while back- imagine my Sri Aman days), I was remembered by a few things and only these things- gangly stature, awkward persona, and acne. I was at that age where I wanted to hang around boys all the time, and I wanted nothing more than a boyfriend, and I wanted to be fawn over. However, puberty wasn’t quite as generous with me as compared to my other peers- I had quite a late kickstart, hence at sixteen, I was nothing more than an overgrown kid with severe acne.

It wasn’t nice being the odd one out. It wasn’t a nice feeling when you seem to be the only one amongst your friends to be dealing with something you can’t seem to do anything about. Most, if not all of my friends are blessed with flawless skin, and then there’s me- the one with giant blotches and blemishes until it came to a point where going out of the house seemed like a terrible choice.

Albeit the various names people used to call me (imagine Pizza Face, Pimply etc.), I remember the first impression I got whenever people look at my face- “oh, she must’ve not taken good care of her face,”. It takes someone ignorant enough to understand acne prone skin to actually say that, in my opinion. I was born with it- my mother used to deal with acne, and naturally all four of my siblings have dealt or are currently dealing with acne problems. I was a product of apparent hormone imbalance, and acne was just another side effect from it. None of that spelled low skincare maintenance. Ask anyone who shares the same plight as me and you’ll most likely hear that this is obviously not a choice, and we’re doing the best we can to fix whatever that’s wrong with our face.

From what I can remember, the most asked question throughout this phase of my life was “Are you doing anything about your face?” See, people don’t really know what this does to a person with terrible acne. If it makes it any simpler, try asking an overweight person “So are you planning to lose any weight?” Yes, it’s that offensive. As an unattractive teenager at that time with such a condition, my insecurities were definitely at an all time high, whatnot with people blatantly staring at my face as though it’s a disease as well as having to deal with numerous skincare regimes. Everyone asked me that question- schoolmates, uni mates, teachers, lecturers… and what made me feel worse was when salesgirls came up to me to recommend¬†various types of facial washes to use seconds after taking a short glance on my skin complexion when they didn’t understand that I can’t simply try whatever that’s in store just because it worked for everybody else. Well, then again,¬†they probably had the best intention to help me or they just needed to sell something for the day… but it still wasn’t a nice feeling, to be honest.

Anyway, in reference to that particular question, of course I’ve tried everything. I switched from one skincare product to another- from the off the shelf ones at Watsons to expensive ones at the beauty salons to prescribed external medication for my skin. I went for facials for about a year before I decided that I can’t deal with the pain during extraction (aka submitting myself to a beautician to successfully extract all of my pimples and blackheads for two hours aka not fun). I tried cupping, and I also tried traditional herbal scrubs. Surprise surprise- nothing worked.

The next best thing I could resort myself to was actually makeup. Well, my makeup skills are basically subpar, but over the years of learning and picking up trends here and there, I think I’ve gotten a good hang of it, and how to make myself somewhat presentable. It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I’ve taken an actual interest in makeup. I enjoy hiding my facial flaws behind layers of creams and powder. I like looking at myself all made up. I like putting different colours on my eyelids and cheeks and lips. I like looking pretty for myself. Hence, when some irrelevant douchebag comes by and says something smart like “Well, I like girls who look naturally beautiful,” or “Sans makeup is definitely my kind of makeup,” to my face with no other intentions but to degrade me,¬†I have nothing else to say but for them to probably have a taste of what I went through throughout my teenage hood, or they should just get out of my face. (In fact, I actually am writing a post about how makeup makes me feel, and some parts of it basically circulate around this, but that’s going to be a whole different story).

The condition of my skin has been a roller coaster ride since I was sixteen. There were days where I wish I wear nothing but a mask everywhere I go, and there were days where it’s bearable to look at me. There were days where I feel beautiful and flawless, and there were days where I hated what I was born with. Things started to turn out better just last year, where acne breakouts don’t seem to happen as frequent, and my acne scars were beginning to fade. That was when I started to get a sense of self victory- my six year long battle with my deepest insecurities was finally coming to an end.

Today, I woke up and the first thing I did was look at myself in the mirror. There were no pimples, no cringe-worthy blemishes- just scars, or rather marks I have learned to embrace. I can finally walk out of the house without putting a single ounce of powder or concealer and not feel terrible entirely naked without them. I can finally converse to people without worrying whether they’ll ask me that very question I hate answering. I can finally appreciate beautiful skin without comparing it to mine. That was what prompted me to write this lengthy post.

You can be the prettiest person to ever walk this earth. You can be blessed with good physiques. You can be the person everyone wishes to be or be with. However, at the end of the day, everyone is wired with insecurities- or rather, things about themselves that they hate or would want to change, and as long as we don’t learn how to accept this and look past it and maybe focus on the better things about ourselves, nothing will ever make us feel good about our bodies. I definitely learned this the hard way- through many trials for six long years. Was I entirely happy about it? Of course not. Who would want terrible skin to begin with? But was I in need of it? Definitely.

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This was taken just last week- definitely not what I want to settle with, but it’s good progress ūüôā
(also, this is definitely not an excuse for me to unnecessarily post a selfie shh what even)