Tag Archives: travels

A FISHBOWL & A HEAVY HEART

3 things that I’m thankful for:
A shoebox of my own in just under a week
An inspiring church that’s just a 10-minute walk away
A job interview

Yes, I took a leap of faith and upped and came to New Zealand, just as I’ve said that I probably would in my previous post. I’ve loved every moment of it since my arrival – the temperature (a steady 14 – 18 degrees), the sights and sounds, and just the convenience of moving about. Oh, and the public library!

But the real struggle is when you’re here on a mission, and not just for a vacation – the game changes. It’s been 17 days in to my little adventure but I am still trying to find that spot of calm, that peacefulness of knowing that ‘everything will be OK’. I knew it would be tough to attempt settling into a foreign environment, but I didn’t have a gauge on the extent of it until I embarked on a job hunt for a full-time position. It’s been tough. Sending out more than 10 applications only to hear back from just a couple sure leaves a dent in your self-confidence. But on the flip side, it has also reminded me of how blessed I’ve been for all these years. Back in Malaysia, I had jobs that were waiting for me. While I was in the midst of my college degree, I was referred to a small creative consultancy that did amazing works for one of the world’s largest shopping malls. I interned with them and eventually became a full-time hire. I worked there for seven years, and when I resigned, I immediately had something else to take on. I did not actually have to go through a job hunt.

So here I am now, actually experiencing what would be my first job hunt in 29 years of my life.

While the calm is taking a while to set in, I have made conscious effort to try things I otherwise would never even think of – applying for an assistant store manager role with kikki.K, for instance. Haha! Yes! I am very aware that I do not have the experience for that role, but what the heck, right? It could only go two ways – a. they won’t hire me, or b. they’d love my enthusiasm and train me for it. (ps: I’ll give an update to this if they reply me.) Also, I’m practising letting go of things and events that I really just have no control over – whatever happens after I hit the ‘Submit’ button on every application I send out. I’m almost a control freak, if not one already. I don’t like the feeling of not being in control of things be it my finances, schedules, or my future. And this leap to Hobbit Land has definitely stretched me in a lot of somewhat uncomfortable ways. But, I try.

I try to look on the bright side. I feel very grateful for everything I’ve achieved so far and know that other people have to struggle up much bigger hills than my own. But sometimes, gratitude and optimism can only get you so far. Gratitude and optimism can’t satisfy lingering doubts, or tell you what it all adds up to – or if it is meant to add up to anything at all. They don’t soothe the voice that keeps prodding and asking, “What are you doing? Do you think any of it really matters?

The voice wants answers, but I haven’t got any. I just keep going, ploughing ahead, and hoping to God I can pay my bills, while I watch the days and weeks flit past. These 17 days have sometimes felt like an exercise in contortion. They have sometimes felt like I have twisted and wrapped myself into strange shapes to continue on. Sometimes I have felt like I have become someone else entirely: the kind of person who doesn’t think about anything other than the achievement of goals, not their meaning. The kind of person who is committed and confident and sure. The kind of person who believes, intrinsically, in what they are doing. The kind of person who is not afraid.

When you go to bed after hours of being someone else, your head feels as full as a fishbowl and your shoulders feel as heavy as your heart. Instead of relaxing, you find yourself trying to reconcile the distance between who you think you are and who you need to become to get by. I have tried letting go. I have tried resigning every conceit I have about myself and just accepting that I need to become someone else for good. But every time I have tried to let go, I’ve found some small part of myself clinging determinedly to the remaining strands of who I imagine I am, or who I imagine I should be.

So I carry on and hope that, in the end, it all works out.

17 days in to this adventure have definitely done a very good job of pushing me out of my comfort zone, right into something I knew very little of. I’ve got a loooooong way ahead of me, and a lot of praying (and crying. Haha!) to do, so wish me luck and keep me in your prayers.

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LIFE, AS IT IS.

The hiatus has been a long one but I’m glad to be back, with the greater hope that I’d be able to keep up with the thoughts in my head, and translate them into posts right here.

THE LEAP OF FAITH
The past two months have been rough on me, mentally. It was a mashup of exhaustion and exhilaration, both at once, and you can only imagine how draining that would have possibly been.

Plans to go abroad are in the works, and with the year coming to an end too quickly, it has almost if not already forced me to fast forward a lot of my other plans on hand. There’s that fear of making it, or not making it, and the dealing with it afterwards, whichever the outcome may be.

I think what really affects me here, is the idea that I don’t seem to have much time left to do a lot of things I initially set out for myself. Or more possibly, having to postpone my next dive trip. Haha. Yes, I hate when that happens. But on a serious note, it does feel like a severe case of “too much to do, too little time”. This is nonetheless a step closer to my dream, to say the least. So it’s alright, perhaps.

The collating of my portfolio has also been a rather arduous one, if I may add. I have had to painstakingly sieve and sample what felt like a million portfolio hosting sites only to return to good ol’ WordPress and Behance. And then there’s the LinkedIn profile that needed dusting, and lots of refining. Did I mention that I suck at beefing up a personal profile? Lol. I could so do someone else’s but mine.

I’ll be visiting that place abroad in November, for the first time. It’s going to be my chance to fall in love with that new ground, that unfamiliar space, with absolutely no strings attached. It was a fairly spontaneous decision to book that flight out, but I’m glad I did it. It’s going to be a really good holiday. I can feel it already.

I’ve had big dreams before, but none thus far that have required such attention to the life changing details, up until now. “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough,” so I read somewhere.

At this rate, yup! It’s safe to say that my dream is officially big enough.

THE BOOK JOB
I am a storyteller, a blogger, and a writer. What I’m definitely not, is a copywriter.

The difference, you ask? I don’t like writing to sell. I enjoy writing in hopes of promoting something that I believe in.

Part of the worry that I had about going abroad was simply, not knowing what I should sell myself as, and what sort of jobs I would/could/should land. Should I be a writer, or a photo stylist? How about an editor? Oh, what about a graphic designer? It always felt like I was half-baked in every way despite the endorsements I’ve received. It felt like I was a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of none. It was tougher than I had thought it to be. It became a personal battle – a constant one that made me question if I was ever good enough to make the career cut out there.

It was during this time that someone reminded me of the other side to it. Much like how David saw Goliath, the giant – too big to miss, I had ample skills under my belt to at least land one job out of all the possible writing/styling/designing vacancies out there. I found myself breathing a little easier after that, really.

About three weeks ago, I was briefly in touch with a publishing house – more specifically, a publishing division of the renowned Penguin Books. We spoke about my manuscript (which still is a work in progress and a far cry from completion), about its illustrations, colours, paginations, cover finishing of choice, and we even got to the part about marketing and royalties!

The whole conversation was amazing, and I loved how alive the idea was that I would be able to publish a book of my own, eventually. It did come with a relatively huge (but affordable) price tag, but I’m just really glad that I had the opportunity to be in touch with the young lady on the other line, and to discuss all the possibilities that we could put together, especially under such a prestigious publishing label that I grew up with reading its titles.

It’s not everyday that I get these kicks that make me feel like I can take on the world, with words. And it’s also things like this that reminds me that my writing carries weight, if I allow it to. It pushes me out of a zone of disbelief that I have inevitably created for myself along the way, and helps me realize that there are a lot of things that could be well within my reach, if I would only stretch a little further and grasp for a little more than what I think I’m comfortable with.

It’s one of those life-changing experiences, you know? The kind that comes right when you need it, and right where you need it.

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LET ME SELL YOU A PEN

I watched Wolf of Wall Street just a few days back, and I have got to say that Leonardo DiCaprio made selling those stocks look like tossing candies to a kid.

I came across a book in a store some time ago, something about how our everyday lives revolve around selling. From selling an idea, to selling a suggestion, to selling an actual something or just selling a lie, for that matter. I didn’t flip through the book, if you were wondering. I didn’t even read the synopsis on the back. I just stood there and thought to myself, “Okay. Maybe it isn’t really that hard. I just need to try harder I guess?”

You see, I’m a Project Editor, or so stated by the professional name that is printed on my stack of business cards. But in my reality, I do just about everything imaginable within a small company of four full-time hire. I churn copy, edit, proofread, check designs, art direct, style shoots, sort out the accounts, and I sell ads. I loathe the final one.

It’s bad enough that I somehow got suckered into many of these job descriptions that I didn’t initially sign up for, but the final one – selling ads, takes the cake of assignments I hate.

Chatting with a couple of my teammates sans my boss, I discovered the partial reason why I hate selling ads with every inch of my being – I don’t believe in my product. I am project editor to a mall magazine that is doing great. GREAT. It’s not even just doing mediocre. The publication on itself is doing great, going places (we have done fashion spreads in Tokyo, Shanghai, NYC, Siem Reap – to name a few, and we’ve got London, Milan and much more in the pipeline), and even making it on the iPad, like Harrods or Net-a-Porter. But the only problem is in its reach. It is pathetic, if I may say. Despite the fact that our titles turn 10 this year, people are still always surprised to know that I work for this particular huge-ass mall, with a supposedly awesome mall magazine that has not the slightest resemblance to your cheap product catalogues. You see, the problem is…nobody knows.

And the amount of lies I am taught to tell our clients so that they believe our publication is the way to chuck (oh, I meant “invest”) their dough, and that we are doing ‘absolutely well’ is really getting to me. We tell clients of our non-existent five-figured circulation, and please don’t even get me started on the amount of work we put in, for what seems like a sole play of self-gratification.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a new found respect for the people who sell things as a profession. I really do. I just hate that the product I’m selling is dusted with so much lies, and self-gratifying works, and the amount of effort put into every issue doesn’t justify its outcome; not to mention the purpose of all we’ve been doing since day one.

It’s been six years now. And I am tired. I didn’t see this coming, really. This ad-selling assignment with a meagrely commission (which I’m not even hard up for) was offered to me at the beginning as a ‘thing to do if I can find the time to’. But now, I’m pressed on every side to get paid ads in as if it was what I was hired to do. And FML that I don’t even know how to tell my boss I don’t want to do it anymore.

I was at Publika for lunch today. I walked the aisles of Ben’s grocer and I thought out loud, “I want to do their designs, or stack their gorgeous, gorgeous shelves. No. I want to own a grocer. My grocer.”

I just want to do something I love.
And earn a decent living from it.

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27 LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED AT 27

This year, I turn 27. I’ve learnt so many lessons I’m thankful for, and will never trade them for anything. I know a lesson or two awaits us all at every different phase of our lives, these are mine. What’s yours?

1. NO MATTER HOW BROKEN YOU ARE, YOU WILL HEAL There were two relationships in my life, at two very different phases of my life that caused me to doubt any possibility of getting better. But I’m glad I’m standing. Bruised, but standing. No matter how broken you can be, if healing and getting better is what you want for yourself, it will happen.

2. PEOPLE SHOULD CHANGE, BUT SOME DON’T People should change, and they almost always do, for better or worse. But then there are those who’d rather live in the past ways, never intending to move forward – those are the people you have got to leave behind as you progress in life, whether you like it or not. They’ll drown you out at sea, you know.

3. EVERY FAMILY HAS ITS STRUGGLES Mine, included. And I will never take for granted the strength behind families who put aside their differences to hold each other together, to make forgiveness felt within their household, and above all, to love one another all the same regardless of their shortcomings.

4. WORK-LIFE BALANCE SHOULD BE EVERYTHING Having worked for close to six years now, I have realised that the one thing I don’t want to do without is a work-life balance. It is easy to overlook that balance when you’ve got a fat paycheque coming your way every month, but paying your bills is really just as far as your job would go to sustain you. You only start living when your bills are paid, and you have a life beside work to love.

5. IT’S OKAY TO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU WANT IN LIFE Sometimes, we look far and wide trying to figure out what we want in life, failing to see that occasionally it is good enough for us to know what we do not want in life, and take life in all its possibilities, from there.

6. IT MATTERS WHO YOU ARE WITH Friends or partners alike, it matters. They inevitably contribute to who you become, adding and subtracting along the way. The good ones, they build you. The bad ones, they tear you down. I’m not saying you should size up anyone, but it’s good to take a look at the people you spend a lot of your time with and decide if letting go some would do you more good than harm.

7. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE A SPACE TO CALL YOUR OWN Whether it’s a home, or just a room, having a space you can, in my very own words ‘crawl into and die’ makes a difference to a crappy week. Paint it in your favourite colours, and decorate it any way you like it, like I did. It’s where you will go and find sanity in the midst of insanity.

8. PEOPLE CAN LEARN TO BE KIND They can, but more often that not, only because someone showed them what kindness is. I’ve learnt to pay it forward, in the things I do and say.

9. LIVING, IS THE BEST REVENGE I have realised that sometimes, living is perhaps the best revenge to anyone who has ever hurt you. Just living for yourself and knowing that you’re doing great, not just OK but great, without them and all the shit they’ve been giving you feels like everything you need and more, from a revenge.

10. THERE WILL NEVER BE TOO MANY TATTOOS Never let anyone or anything determine if you should start or stop having tattoos – and in my opinion, not even your faith or the people associated with it.

11. QUITING ISN’T NECESSARILY ALWAYS BAD People always associate quitting with the negative, but in fact, it could just save your life. If it keeps you from burning out, quit. If it keeps your health from deteriorating, quit. If it brings you down, quit. Calling it quits from the right things might save you your sanity.

12. FEAR IS INEVITABLE EVEN WHEN YOU’RE GOOD I had a crazy week that just passed – meetings, shoots and lots of planning. Despite having done all that for the past six years and believing I’m reasonably good at them, I still know what it is like to fear being under-prepared nonetheless.

13. WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS This rings truer than ever for me. I think when one door closes, it actually pushes you out into this open space of everything-ness, or vulnerability that forces you to meet new people and accept new possibilities, and more often than not, it is good.

14. ACCEPTANCE COMES TO YOU WHEN YOU LEARN TO ACCEPT YOURSELF It’s absolutely noble to believe that acceptance will come to you when you learn to accept others, but what about accepting yourself first? I realise I tend to push people away because of the way I see the flaws in myself, and while it isn’t fair to them, it is definitely not fair to myself either. Self-acceptance isn’t preached enough, if I must say.

15. NO AMOUNT OF PREPARATION WILL PREPARE YOU FOR LIFE To the parents or parents-to-be out there, believe this. No amount of teaching and telling will beat allowing your kids to go out there, live their lives and learn from their mistakes. Don’t spare the rod, but don’t keep them in a bubble either.

16. CHURCH IS GOOD FOR YOU, BUT NOT ALWAYS I grew up going to church every Sunday and sometimes, I inevitably feel like it becomes a little society that we enrol ourselves in at. Instead of going out there and being real, we relinquish our fate to a higher being and sit on our laurels praying and hoping for change to happen. There are so many rules and regulations within just four walls, and a whole bunch of judgemental Christian people that sometimes, it just gets too much. Take a breather, and know that it’s okay to walk away from church once in a while.

17. GIVE AS MUCH, AND TAKE AS LITTLE The world is accustomed to giving little and taking a lot. But as cliché as it probably sounds like, it really does feel good to give, more than take. Looking back, my life has its richness it has today, all because I gave. There’s no doubt you’d get taken advantage of, but trust me, it still is much more fulfilling being a giver than a taker.

18. EATING MAKES A LOT OF THINGS BETTER Feast like there is no tomorrow. Eating makes people happier. And I believe that is precisely why they serve food at almost every occasion imaginable – funerals, weddings, parties, and gatherings…you name it. So eat, and eat hearty.

19. BE CRAZY, EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE I was told once before that I took myself too seriously, and I believed it. But I found out the hard way that craziness really sets in with being around the right people – those who allow you to be crazy, and in fact, even encourage it without judging you based on your level of lameness. Everyone needs to let loose.

20. SEE THE WORLD, EVERY CHANCE YOU GET Travel. Every chance you get, travel. Whether you have a lot, or a little, travel. It throws you out into somebody else’s world and culture, and leaves you experiencing a lot more than your world would have offered on its own.

21. FALL IN LOVE AGAIN, NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU GET HURT We all say we’ll never love again when a heartbreak strikes, but I’ve come to learn that love can happen when you allow it to. I’ve learn to not stop falling in love, and above all, to not stop trusting people.

22. MAKE YOUR PARENTS YOUR PRIORITY Every time I sit down with my parents, I’ll notice that they’ve aged a little here and there. It scares me to think I’d lose them some day and so, I try hard to put them before everything else, and to spend as much time with them as I possibly can. They deserve to be a priority.

23. FALL IN LOVE WITH BOOKS “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R. R. Martin. Enough said.

24. WAKE EARLY ON THE WEEKENDS My weekends are scarce. There are weeks that I feel like I’ve gone through without a weekend and it sucks big time, frankly. It’s a simple gesture – waking early, but it really makes a difference when you feel like your weekend’s been maximised and not the slightest bit wasted.

25. WRITE Whether it’s a book, or a journal, a blog or a Question-A-Day rant, write. Writing gives you a certain freedom that nothing else can give – the freedom to confide, to think, to deliberate and to reflect.

26. LEARN TO SAY NO Because this will help you not get burnt out, wear thin or get walked all over. Learning to say ‘no’ has helped me keep a healthy balance between time, effort, people and the matters that truly matter.

27. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN HAPPINESS No one else will truly be interested in your happiness but yourself. There’s only just so much that people can do for you, and I’ve learnt that you’ve really got to go out there and build your happiness. That’s really just how it works.

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ADIEU MR. OCTOPUS!

Astrid-TasksTo-do-List-big-icon_2542

Today, I noticed an email in my inbox – “Reminder: Astrid Winding Down”.

As messy of a person I am, I surprise myself at being rather organized with everything else besides clutter. I have three apps to keep my finances in check, two for my bills, two for my task lists, two just for reminders of all sorts, a passbook for flight bookings and a password keeper on each phone (I carry two phones by the way). All these apps have kept me on track with well, my life as a whole.

To receive that email announcing that Astrid is closing down, thank you for being an Astrid user over these years, please download your data and check these other sites out for migration…brought an unexpected gush of disappointment, and a sense of lost.

I picked out Astrid of all the other task list apps because it was aesthetically awesome. Well, at least to me, it was; that ever-smiling Octopus waved me in at iTunes App Store and I was hooked. Download.

…and now, it is unfortunately, time to wave the ever-smiling Octopus out of my device.

Dear People at Astrid,
Your team and the app has been amazing. Maybe not perfect, but it has been a great deal of help to someone who lives almost out of her suitcase, lugs two phones, an iPad and a laptop to be on top of her job and attempts to find time for oysters and champagne in between those hours spent with her family, friends and work. Your app has made it easier for her to remember her meetings, and not to mention her parking lot when her head’s wrapped around a million other thoughts. Sorry if she hadn’t written you enough of a thumbs up review or given you a 5-star marking to keep you in the market. She will forever miss that ever-smiling Octopus and if ever, Mr. Astrid the Octopus (assuming that is his name) decides to make a comeback, she’ll be the first to flip your download counter. All the best hereon, Team Astrid.

Sincerely,
Girl who first downloaded Astrid because of the cute Octopus.

{Mr. Octopus of Astrid.com}

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BABY STEPS!

So, I opened a Facebook account for my still currently non-existent web shop, and also a separate Gmail account to go with it. Baby steps!

I have been hunting online and on my travels, making purchases in teeny tiny quantities to add to the shop’s list of items sold. I haven’t gotten to working out the pricing (the large, scary part), and most definitely haven’t gotten to photographing them but I’d like to do so soon, perhaps after my big NYC trip.

I’m gearing up and hopeful to get the web shop up and in time for Christmas. I know with such a niche of a market I am looking at, I might not get the response I am hoping for at first but well, it’s got to start somewhere. And I will keep on keeping at it until perhaps, I’m too broke to fund my shop or something. Boohoo.

But well, all will be good.(: Now, a muffin for dinner and back to my work, and web shop planning.

Cheers to a good evening!

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A MILLION BRILLIANT THINGS

Everyday, a stranger does, says or writes something that changes the way I look at life.

Today, I went to Starbucks to grab a drink for lunch. Thought of checking my mails, followed by some blogs. It’s the first time a barista actually said ‘have a nice day!’ when he handed me my drink.(: While it’s a really simple gesture, it is apparently too simple a gesture that we often overlook it anyway. And it made me realize that sometimes, people really don’t need your money. Or time. Or help. But a simple gesture like a wish, sure goes a long way.

Then, there are these amazing shots that were taken by fellow blogger, Patrick Latter. I’ve always had this warped idea that before I die, I’d have to go to all the amazing places like NYC, London, Paris and stuffs- the commercialized places that the whole world would suggest you visit. But when I saw Latter’s shots of Bermuda, above everywhere else, I now wish to go there. Correction- to be there. And instead of being all prim and proper, I wish to have on a pair of flipflops and walk the shoreline of Bermuda’s beaches, or even snowboots to tread the snow covered slopes of Chester Lake.(:

Last but definitely not least for the day, there’s One7 on Chris Martin’s blog. Three years ago, I prayed and asked for a car. I even inserted the exact colour/specs/model that I had wanted into the prayer. I made a pact with Him, that if He provided me with the discipline to save up for the car (I am very bad with my finances), I will in return use it to be a blessing by fetching my youths (who don’t drive), to and fro for church services. And it happened. Three years after, I got the car- in the exact colour/specs/model, which I then conveniently forgot about the pact. That was, until today. It might be a really small matter, but big enough for Him to see that I get the car, and on my part, that I keep my pact. And I will.(: If the least I can do is to serve His people well, then I will. His entries are like gentle reminders of the grace of God.

{photos by Patrick Latter}

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