Missing things

One morning in June last year I woke up and found out that the side table outside our house along Elgin Street was gone. Being outside our house, it was most probably mistaken as a giveaway by a passerby. In Melbourne, when you want to give out stuff – hand-me-downs, half-broken appliances or things that take up space, you leave them outside the house for anyone to take. There was nothing particular about how the side table looked – it had four varnished legs, a cushion to sit on and a drawer filled with Christmas balls and lighters. And yet finding out that it was gone upset me.

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I messaged my housemate-turned-best friend Andrea, who was at that time doing his trip around Australia before leaving for good. It was our chair, he told me. There we sat for more than a hundred nights during our ritual pre-bedtime cigarette sessions, when we would talk about how our day went – mine at school and his at work, which party to go to on the weekend, or what we think about our housemates and people we know. It knew about what we thought of our small world – it was the spot of our smoke-filled Australian meditations. I take pride in telling my friends that I never get attached to things, so when it went missing I asked myself why I was grieving for a piece of furniture. When Andrea left for Switzerland in August, there were nights when I would still go outside and smoke on the spot where it used to be, until one day I decided to smoke in the backyard instead.

I left Australia last December, and I’ve shifted from furniture grief to missing the entire brick house on Elgin Street. I think about the people I cooked food for, the boring nights spent watching forgettable movies, the songs sung in a spell of drunken confidence and the quick friendships forged in the shortest of infinities. I wonder when I’ll be able to move on from this, but then I remind myself that the house and all the things it stood for are still where they’re supposed to be. No reason to grieve for things that stay.

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27 years

I knew I was going to be a journalist when I was eleven. One clear day in January, sixteen years ago, I was sitting at the back of the classroom, reading three different broadsheets, ignoring whatever the lesson was for the day. I was preparing for a national news writing competition, and it was in between reading reports and staring blankly at the quadrangle outside that I realized what I was going to be after school: a reporter. I like writing in general, so I started writing articles about inter-school competitions, people who held Guinness World Records, made-up stories about young love and horror stories where I killed classmates I didn’t like. My father encouraged me to take engineering in college, or something that would lead me to law or medicine. When I was doing my college application, however, he was abroad, so I made the decision to take journalism instead. My mother did not disagree, but she encouraged me to do well enough so they could all see me on television, maybe delivering a news report in the middle of a storm, trying my best to look professional and magnificent.

Sixteen years have passed since then – I went to university in the big city, moved away from home and started paying my own bills. After graduation, I took a job as a business reporter, trying my hardest to meet daily story quotas while learning about finance and economics as quickly as I could. I worked six days a week, and a huge chunk of my modest salary went to buying medicines for my father, who was slowly dying from cancer. I wasn’t earning enough, and I’ve never felt so defeated. I thought I made a mistake choosing what I wanted to do, and I felt ashamed being a victim of my own choices. I went out partying with friends on some nights to take my mind off things, and I would go to sleep thinking about people, the enormity of their problems, and how they manage to go on with life everyday pretending they’re not dying inside. One of my favorite authors once said that “we are all the walking wounded, your pain is no worse than everyone else’s.” I hated this line because it’s true, but just the same, I lick my own wounds and I feel my own pain.

Whenever I go into deep conversations with my friends about the story of my life, I’d tell them that those were my darkest years, sounding like a twentysomething trapped inside an old, jaded man. I started doing horribly in my work, got shouted at by my bosses and had to quit and change jobs because I couldn’t take it all in. Back at home, my brother got someone accidentally pregnant, my sister was separating from her husband, I got rejected from a scholarship application and I lost my best friend. My annus horribilis was in plural form. I started having the most horrendous pimple breakouts and I hated how I look. I started picking my face until it bled. Friends would ask me what happened to my face, and I was torn between narrating my life story and telling them to mind their own faces. I had cigarettes for meals and started binge-watching tv shows about funny people with fucked-up lives, and I thought about how long it would take for my own personal dramas to end. My horror stories reached their climax in February 2014, when my father died. I lost it.

I still have a lot of stories to write about in the future, but I’m grateful this chapter’s denouement is already unfolding. My brother is now married and a father to a wonderful, lovely boy, my sister is starting anew with her boyfriend and my mother, well, I’d like to think she’s always been strong. I sent her money last month to get a new set of dentures – my Christmas gift. I’m still in touch with old friends I love, and I’m making unforgettable, meaningful memories with new ones. A few weeks ago I read an article about happiness, and it said something about not forcing every day to be a happy day, but by making every waking moment a struggle to weather through every pimple-inducing shitstorm. “There is no love of life without despair of life,” Albert Camus once said. Happiness is in the daily fight to be happy despite everything. Happiness is a battle.

As I type this on the eve of my twenty-seventh birthday, I’m sitting in my room in a brick house in Melbourne, just outside the university where I’m currently taking my master’s degree in social policy. Whenever people ask me what my course is about, I tell them that I’m changing careers because I want to make world a better place for everyone. For all the walking wounded. There are times, though, when I still look back at that idealistic grade school kid at the back of the classroom who wanted to be a professional journalist. Things have gone differently since that clear January day: I did not become the television reporter my parents imagined me to be. But whatever the hell happened, I can still see myself in the middle of the storm, this time dancing.

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Happy New Year everybody

There isn’t any yearend list this time. The year 2015 has been a pretty uneventful one, and if I were forced to pick a highlight it would be that week I had to go to the hospital at 7 a.m. for three days straight because the doctors in charge of my Australian visa thought I had tuberculosis. Didn’t get the visa, but also didn’t get tuberculosis. Fair enough. I’ll get it next time. The visa.

I think the fact 2015 has been relatively ok is already a triumph in itself, considering how insane the previous years were. I’ll take what I can.

Anyway, 2016 is upon is, (in less than an hour as of posting) and I wish that the new year treats us all well.

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Photo by Christian Schnettelker

Continue reading “Happy New Year everybody”

Here we go again

My last post was about myself talking about how lucky I was and how I’m supposed to be in Melbourne right now drinking obscene amounts of flat whites, watching gigs of obscure bands and also studying for an important, potentially life-changing postgraduate degree woah. But I got a bit of a problem with my visa, so a few weeks before I was supposed to fly out, I learned that I had to be screened for tuberculosis because the doctors at the medical panel found something funny in my lungs. Australians are understandably horrified by tuberculosis, so I had to be subjected to a test that’s about two months long – to find out whether or not I have TB or it’s just a bunch of weird non-TB stuff in my lung. Regardless, I had to miss the first day of school, and right now I’m just hoping I get cleared and will have the chance to still study abroad. Hopefully next year.

Shut up, Anne.
Shut up, Anne.

Fortunately, the initial results of the sputum test turned out negative, but I still have to wait til August to be really, really, really cleared. I am currently drowning in a pool of existential uncertainty but this is somewhat familiar territory anyway so bring it on, motherfathers. Loljk help me Papa Jesus.

Surprise!

I’ve always wanted to take graduate studies abroad, so two years ago, I started sending out applications to various universities and scholarships. It’s not always fun coming up with lengthy essays detailing how unique and deserving I am (lol) to get a grant, and satisfying the long list of requirements was very challenging to say the least. I’m poor, so there’s no way I can go to universities without a scholarship. That’s why when I got accepted to universities I wanted but got rejected by three scholarships, it hurt a great deal. It’s like getting the grandslam of self-doubt and disappointments. It’s also quite humbling.

So I tried again, this time for an Australian scholarship. I made it to the interview phase, and a month later found out I got in, but as a reserve candidate. I was in scholarship limbo and it was frustrating, because I really wanted the scholarship but I was unsure if I could make it. At that point I just decided to wait for the universe to do its job. The waiting game was a bit torturous, so when I found out a while ago that I made it and will be leaving this June (and that I need to basically sort my life out in two months), I was shocked and stressed out. In a nice way.

*five-second koala dance*

So this post, aside from being an obvious humblebrag, is basically a huge thanks to people who have helped me from Day 1. Thanks Ma’am Chua, thanks Neeks for my recommendation letters; thank you Jess and Claire (see you soon!!!) for your scholarship tips; and thank you to all my close friends who’ve been very patient sounding boards. Thank you to everyone who told me I’d get it even if in my head I was saying “How do you know?” and most of all, thank you to the Australian taxpayers who are basically paying for my education. Long live mighty Australia, tbh.

I’ll be leaving in two months so if I suddenly get clingier than usual and ask you to have coffee or dinner, see a movie or play Resistance please know that: it’s not a date and I’m not a multi-level marketer trying to recruit you to sell products. Hopefully I get to see all of you friends before I leave.

Lastly, if you’re planning on getting a scholarship abroad, it isn’t always easy. I got rejected thrice but decided to try it out one more time. Try and try and try; cry a little, then do it again. It will work. 😉

Millennial pains, simple pleasures and a metaphorical lump of coal: My 2014 in review

In the future, when I get really, really old, barring Alzheimer’s or dementia, I’d look back at one particular year, equal parts tumultuous and agonizing, but nonetheless full of insights that will make me nod meaningfully while I stare blankly across a porch, gingerly clutching my urine bag. Gross.

2014 was, for me, an ECG chart, a roller coaster, a mercury in a thermometer, or a dick. It went up and down, up and down, and it made me want to scream at God while I cry and dramatically pull weed from the ground. 2014 was life’s harsh way of telling me that I’m already an adult, and that I needed to experience more adult things aside from watching porn if I were to grow up into a proper man.

Pondering some serious shit
Pondering some serious shit

Starting the year with a heartbreak, because life
In February this year, just weeks after I posted on Facebook a post that read ‘February: no doubt the best month of the year,’ my father died from prostate cancer. It sounded like something straight out of a tv series that involved angsty millennials and divine irony. It was the ultimate buzzkill to end all buzzkills, because February is also my birth month. And Facebook’s algorithm had the gall to tell me ‘It’s been a great year; thanks for being a part of it.’ Fuck you, Mark Zuckerberg. Continue reading “Millennial pains, simple pleasures and a metaphorical lump of coal: My 2014 in review”

April Fools’

I woke early up on April Fools’ Day, checked my email and found out I didn’t get the scholarship I applied for to finance my postgraduate course in the UK. Last year I found out I got into the University of Bristol where they shot Skins and the wedding scene in Sherlock so I was really excited and hoped I could get funding through a scholarship so I can take photos of myself in campus.

But those dreams are now gone. I was looking for another email with a subject LOLJK YOU ACTUALLY GOT IN HAPPY APRIL FOOLS YOU CUCKING FUNT but the email wasn’t a joke. I didn’t make it. Looks like I won’t be going to Bristol, unless I win in the lottery, find out I’m the long-lost prince of some kleptocratic monarchy, or Ellen DeGeneres’s producers find me and make me beg and cry on tv.

So I tried to be cool about it but later that day the University of Bristol thought it was nice to email me information about campus accommodations. Hey there buddy, here are places you can stay at while you’re studying here but damn you just got rejected by the scholarships secretariat too bad lol. I just decided to listen to The Killers’ Battle Born album and silently emote in my work station. It stung. Before Bristol, I got into the University of Auckland, but that didn’t push through as well because I missed the deadline for the scholarship. I apparently have a new hobby- frustrating myself by getting into university admissions without proper funding.

But yeah I’m more or less okay now. I’m still hopeful though, and with my irrational Kierkegaardian faith in the universe I will still find a way to study abroad.

Here’s a really inspirational video to psych me up.

I hope your problems are less irritating than mine! xx