Just A Minute In October

gonna be upfront and say this is a copy. somehow these block gradients kept creeping into my mind earlier this month but if look it up on Pinterest and you can see many pretty block gradients there. only that I wanted one with colours that I like so I redo myself. :P also… I bought myself a gradient puzzle. <3

anyway, just wanted to share a quick update before I dive into writing long posts in the upcoming few months. so what happened is that I got sick after a nap on my flight home (talk about good timing) and on top of the jet lag, all the catch-ups were pushed forward… and now I’m swamped.

dreaming | of a pair of ankle boots. just wishful thinking. what the hell am I gonna do with them in this tropical heat?

listening | to Dancing by Mellow Fellow (the more I listen to it, the sadder everything becomes) and Coldplay’s Shiver (hands down best Coldplay song).

feeling | a little bit blue. not the post-travel kinda blue. more like I’ve been observing time and they make me feel blue??? shit what am I talking.

thinking | about death. no, wait, calm down. I’m not suicidal. instead, I’m processing the fact that death is a part of life and the last part of life in this world and thinking about people embracing it during their last breaths.

catching | up with a few movies - Along With The Gods: The Last 49 Days, Searching (one-of-its-kind presentation method and several plot twists), Loving Vincent (I’ve never cried in a cinema for so much and so long before - all the way till the credits ended. his story is moving).

watching | Kim’s Convenience and people. also, I’ve been meeting old and new friends and watching how they go about everyday is pretty new to me. .___. you know they say you can either learn from books, experiences or people… I wasn’t that learn-from-people kinda people.

reading… Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

I’m back to my bed at home… and I’m back to insomnia. and I’m back to dreaming after four months of nothing.


USA: A Guide To Work and Travel USA

Work and Travel USA Malaysia Application Guide | A Beautiful Distraction by Ruo Ling Lu

so… I’m back from the Work and Travel USA summer season program after spending three months working in a water park in Virginia and one month travelling to places like New York City and San Francisco.

I’m just gonna cut through the chase and write what I know about the Work and Travel USA program. but before you read on, please know that this is based solely on my experience. you can still ask me about my opinions on simple things but for any important pieces of advice like things regarding money or safety, please consult an agent. also, if there’s anything that I got it wrong here, let me know! :)

Jump to any sections:

Introduction

What is Work and Travel USA

basically, if you’re eligible, you can get a J1 Visa allowing you to work for the summer or winter season in places like theme parks, restaurants, hotels or retails in USA and then another 30 days to explore.

Who can participate?

  • Full-time university student or recently graduated

  • Between the age of 18 and 30

  • Able to stay in the United States for the duration of your program

  • Able to work and live in an English-speaking environment

  • Have approximately 800 USD to support yourself in the first few weeks

  • Capable of performing the tasks in your job description

How long was the program?

including training, I worked for 13 weeks. usually the requirement by employers is to work at least 10 weeks. naturally, the longer period you work, the more money you’ll make.

after your working period, you’re allowed to stay in the United States for another 30 days. some of my peers continued on with their travels to other countries after that 30 days. so, you could be away from home for as long as 5 months. I mean… if you want to escape from your evil witch mother or something… you could consider that. XD

Process

How was the process?

you can sign up yourself without an agent but I reckon it’ll be troublesome. I signed up through Out Of The Box which my friend did too the previous year so I felt that they’re reliable.

as far as I know, there are three agencies in Malaysia, which are:

my experience with Out Of The Box was good. they’re helpful with my concerns, communication with them was clear, and Yeen never forgot to look out for us when we were in the US.

I had an initial interview with OOTB via Skype basically to see how prepared I am to leave home, financially as well as mentally and if my family is well aware of the details.

then, when I’ve signed up with, I’m provided with a list of employers and their details such as hourly wage, location, job description, etc. I was allowed to pick three, just in case I couldn’t make it for the first on my list.

after that, there’s another face-to-face interview with my employer Busch Gardens Williamsburg / Water Country USA.

after I got my job offer, there was the visa interview and an orientation session by OOTB before we headed off.

What documents did I prepare?

  • Proof of study / graduate

  • Passport

  • Bank statement

  • Visa application photo

  • Simple resume

the process was quite hassle-free to me. basically, OOTB would let me know what to prepare and my job was just to get it and then hand it to them. if you’ve passed the interview, you’ll get your DS-2019 form, which is one of the most important documents that will allow you to enter the United States.

What was I asked during the job interview?

it was a simple face-to-face group interview with 5 others. the questions were pretty basic like self-introduction, reason for participating in the program, previous work or co-curricular activity experience. the interview was mainly to see our attitude and English speaking level. all of us passed it.

What was I asked during the visa interview?

it was also a group interview. we were asked about our employer and our rights. I got asked who is funding me and if I was going to consider getting a job there as I’m already done with school.

other questions to expect are questions such as your wages, employer, where are you staying, etc. we weren’t asked to present any documents but it’s always wise to bring them along.

Money

How much did I spend?

I spent roughly a total of RM14,600 upfront. here’s the breakdown of the expenditures:

I paid a total of RM5,450 to OOTB, some of which are subjected to currency rate, which includes:

  • Initial fees: RM420

  • Programme fees: RM4,250

  • SEVIS Fees: RM140 (35 USD)

  • Visa Fee: RM640

I paid RM3,150 for my round-trip air tickets for KUL > NRT > NEW > RIC and then LAX > SIN > KUL.

it was RM2,700+ from United Airline’s promotion but because there were three of us who wanted to fly together, we paid a little extra and let a travel agency to handle that.

I couldn’t remember the currency rate and also I exchanged a number of times but it’s roughly RM6,000 (1,500 USD) for my pocket money. it is actually almost double of what is required (800 USD).

How much did I make from my work?

I earned a total of 4,200 USD after tax. my pay for the first couple of weeks was 9.30 USD and then I got a raise to 9.55 USD after I attended alcohol training, which was provided by my employer. the total hours I worked per week ranged from 30 to 50 hours, depending on the weather, because it’s a water park. I don’t get OT pay because it is a seasonal business.

Did I recover the upfront payment?

I’m just gonna be truthful and say: no.

before you feel disheartened by the news, here’s what you should note:

  • I wasn’t hardworking enough to look for a second job

  • there wasn’t OT pay

  • the rental for my entire period of stay was about 1,000 USD

  • I didn’t travel in a, uhm, budget friendly way

for the one month of travel, I spent about 3,500 USD, which explains why I couldn’t recover the upfront money. the rest of the money went to my living expenses and some shopping. the premium outlet near where I stayed wasn’t helping me much in saving money. :P

I could’ve spent the same amount of money to just travel and not work, so why did I work?

I thought of this too before I went. does Work and Travel USA make a difference? yes.

making money apart, the other thing that I made within those three months are friends and memories. I remember many people crying during my last few weeks there as we parted ways. that’s the kind of one of a lifetime experience you’re gonna have.

the other reason is exposure. I know myself pretty damn well enough to know that I wouldn’t work in a theme park in Malaysia or move out of my house without any strong reason. so it’s a time for me to learn to manage my own money and be independent. it’s also an opportunity for me to improve my interpersonal skills.

that three months were also for me to familiarize myself with the US. with the amount of American media we’re exposed to, there wouldn’t be any huge culture shock lah but there are still those little things like tips, pedestrian crossing, cashless payment, stuffs like that that I’m sure would pretty much make me info overload if I just bam, landed in America and started travelling. and oh, jetlag. it solves the problem.

besides, I wouldn’t make it for my one month of travel if I hadn’t spent the previous 3 months standing at least 8 hours a day and walking so much. the working beat my body up so hard that it can take walking 15,000 steps a day while carrying my camera gears like a breeze.

lastly, the bonus work perk is that I got to enter both the theme park and water park whenever I want, which was quite fun and pretty much what we usually did on our days off. kinda missing the rides now. ;___;

Work

Where did I work and what’s my job scope?

I worked under culinary operations at Water Country USA, a water park under the SeaWorld family in Williamsburg, Virginia. at the beginning we were everywhere in the park but after things settled down, I mainly worked as a cashier selling food. sometimes I sell Dippin’ Dots and sometimes I made food like pretzels, churros and corn dogs. pretty easy stuff - just let the oven handle it. some of my friends ended up serving burgers or frying funnel cakes. it really depends on where each one of us ended up. apart from that, other internationals also worked as lifeguards, area hosts or ride operators at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Why did I choose Busch Gardens Williamsburg?

mainly because I signed up alone so it’s better to look for an employer that provides lodging. my first choice was actually to work in a hotel at Salt Lake City where no lodging is provided. so OOTB had to hook me up with other participants, if there were any to begin with and we had to do our own research and da da da there’s just too much trouble.

another reason would be me not being able to live three months in the nature like national parks. HAHA. Williamsburg is a historical town where there’re chain restaurants, banks and department stores that are easily accessible with public transport, Uber or Lyft. it’s usually about 1 USD - 2 USD each trip if four of us shared a car. we even have a club!

other than that, Busch Gardens Williamsburg hires more than a hundred internationals every year so it’s a great opportunity to make new friends.

generally, the thing I looked out for were things like lodging, location, transportation and weather. the biggest concern to me was being alone.

Insurance and Bank

Was I covered by any insurance?

yes. the type of insurance you’ll get varies from sponsor to sponsor and I didn’t need to pay any extra for mine. I was sponsored by GeoVisions and was covered from when I left Malaysia, including my travel period. as far as I know, the same batch of participants with me who were sponsored by CIEE was covered only during their work period. however, you can always obtain extra insurance on your own or seek advice from your agent.

Which bank did I use?

I opened a BB&T account which is available at my area, but not nationwide. it’s a student checking account that I did not have to close so hopefully there wouldn’t be any problem for my tax refunds. fingers crossed.

before I left Williamsburg, I wanted to have another bank account where the ATMs are pretty much anywhere because ATM charges for withdrawing from a different bank is 3 USD. pretty expensive compared to our RM1 huh. so, I opened a Wells Fargo account, for when I travel but I actually didn’t really need it. it’s more of a just-in-case thing. I had to close the account before leaving the United States because they would start charging me after 90 days upon opening the account.

I don’t know much about other bank services - like if you have to close them or not before leaving, or if there’s any monthly charges, etc. but if you’re looking for one that’s available almost anywhere there’s Bank of America and Chase Bank. I saw Chase everywhere I go but it was until my very last days in the US that I realized they’re not a car company, but a bank. LOL.

another thing I was warned to watch out for is bank overdraft. my friend got into trouble with overdrafts and the bank almost charged him. I almost got into trouble too even though I’ve made sure that my checking account doesn’t allow me to do so. but problem solved, whew.

Travel

Where did I go after the work part ended?

if you want a more detailed guide, you can teleport to my guide to USA. here’s a quick list of places I’ve visited during my 26 days travel:

  • Washington, DC

  • New York City, New York

  • Niagara Falls, New York

  • Chicago, Illinois

  • San Francisco, California

  • Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

  • Antelope Canyon, Arizona

  • Horseshoe Bend, Arizonaa

  • Zion National Park, Utah

  • Death Valley National Park, California

  • San Diego, California

  • Los Angeles, California

Suggestions:

  • Orlando, Florida

  • Miami, Florida

  • Seattle, Washington

  • Portland, Oregon

  • Boston, Massachusetts

  • Yosemite National Park

  • Glacier National Park

  • Yellowstone National Park

  • Arches National Park

some of my international friends even went to Canada and Mexico during their work period. I’m not sure how our Malaysian passport can allow us to do so but it’s a great opportunity. start saving places of interest to your Google Maps or Pinterest! it helps when you’re planning for your travels.

Miscellaneous

What did I regret bringing? What did I regret not bringing?

I regretted bringing too many contact lens solution. haha! I ended up carrying two extra travelling bottles back. apart from all that Malaysian food, whatever that you can get in Tesco / Jusco here, you can get from Walmart / Target there. we also get some things for dirt cheap price at secondhand store like Goodwill and Dollar Tree.

as for anything I regretted not bringing… I think I’m pretty well-packed. XD but if you’re a shutterbug like me, don’t forget your lens hood like I did. :(

What useful apps did I use when I was there?

  • U by BB&T - banking

  • Wells Fargo - banking

  • Venmo - money transfer

  • Splitwise - splitting money with friends

  • Yelp - food recommendations

  • 7- Eleven - convenient store

  • Target - department store

  • Walmart - department store

  • Food Lion - department store

  • Amazon - online shopping

  • Uber - e-hailing

  • Lyft - e-hailing

I’ll put together another list for apps I used for travel purpose in the coming post.

How did I survive there?

well… “survive” would be too strong a word. but the number one tip is: don’t be stupid. if you know there’s a risk in doing something, do some calculations beforehand. if you feel like something is wrong, always follow your intuition. there are also all the general travelling safety tips like keep a copy of all of your documents, let your friends and family know your current status, keep in mind who to go to if you’re in trouble, etc.

also, make friends! there’s a Chinese saying that goes “rely on your family when you’re at home and rely on your friends when you’re out.” look out for each other and let your family know who they are and their contacts and you should be fine.

What is my takeaway from this program?

it would be silly to say that I changed. I mean, even if you sit at home and do nothing for four months you’re definitely bound to change too.

jokingly, it would be learning that everyone cusses and calculates in their mother tongue. I know the melting pot culture in Malaysia makes us cuss mostly in English but try doing Maths, your true colours will appear. XD

jokes apart, I always believe that if you want to learn to swim, then you have to jump into the ocean. reading about people’s journeys and experiences will never beat going out and doing it yourself because you’ll never know what you can do until you meet all sorts of challenges, just like I never knew I am a lot more independent than I let myself to be back at home.

so, good luck in applying, fellow adventurers! I hope this post helps you. :)


2017: Metamorphosis

 

Metamorphosis (n.)

a change of the form or nature of a thing or a person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.

 

artwork by Kyan.

you know how although it's called "new year", there's always almost nothing new on the first few days? it usually starts with you falling back into the same old routine. the stars somehow aligned this year.

within the first week of the new year, not completely knowing what lies ahead, I walked into my first proper job, with a desk and a pantry and all, after an hour of laying down in my car snacking on Nature Valley, still not used to waking up before the Sun does.

working a job where things are constantly changing (what ain’t though) actually changed my perspective on time and luck. Murphy's law, you know, "anything that can go wrong will go wrong" really stopped me from being such a control freak.

I can carry an umbrella all the time. wear a raincoat too, just in case the umbrella malfunctions, but if the sky decides to turn grey and the rain finds a way to soak me up either way, I might as well just fuck it. there’s no point in pushing myself to the brink of sanity trying to keep myself dry. it's not like the weather listens to me anyway. knowing that I underestimated my ability and creativity in the past, I'm much better at keeping my cool now.

whenever I’m unsure of a choice, I’m always reminded of that time I downed a glass of whiskey, someone clearly cheering my name amidst the noise. I've never had one up till that point in my life. all I know is that it's strong and I’m not gonna die. heck, I didn't even know that it burns. then, I realize that this recklessness is me, it’s my trademark in doing things. as long as nobody’s gonna get hurt or I won’t end up in a prison, I would down whatever drink that’s given to me and have faith that things would turn out okay. hopefully more than okay. it’s not necessarily a bad thing to embrace because there are only some things that only the devil can do. thankfully, most decisions ended up worthwhile. I guess, ignorance is sometimes, indeed, bliss.

getting a dip in the industry often makes us wonder if a tertiary education is worth it - 30K worth of debt for a glorified toilet paper roll. of course, who am I to say? right? I haven't actually used it yet. I don't know how much power (or lack thereof) it holds.

except from a few lecturers, there’s no substantial knowledge from my modules anymore. there's not much damn left from me to give, hiding at the back row of class reading No Film School articles or watching Adobe tutorials helped me way more than classes did. my watchlist grew considerably and seeing what I read being applied on these films is a much better lesson than classes anyway.

you see, I’m good at two things: 1. getting interested quickly, and 2. getting bored quickly. it seems great to be able to pick things up fast, when tough times don't disheartened but are instead, welcomed. that is, until I got stuck. it's that phase that I'm so familiar with - after getting bored, before getting interested.

I do have a list as long as a fresh toilet paper roll of things I wanna try, but I don't know where to start. maybe the curiosity ain’t enough, maybe the appetite is weak. I don't want to start. I was in limbo. I thought I should no longer be in this cycle where I take months to turn from doing something really badly to making some satisfying result (to me, at least), only to abandon it to start doing something really badly again.

I didn’t know what to do. I decided that time will help me decide and started binge watching films. I enjoyed it. it didn't make me feel guilty, because I wasn't exactly not improving, right? I was actually learning. but it was the "not doing" that bothers me. it's when I thought, damn, am I depressed?

the thought of launching Photoshop or Illustrator itself tired the hell out of me. I’d choose movie over anything that I used to spend hours doing. and, I’d choose sleep over anything. god, was I really exhausted. a little part of me was actually glad that I’m getting all that sleep that I lost the previous year.

at one point it got so bad that I holed up in my apartment for three days, living off tuna sandwich and takeaways from my housemates. I wasn't lost, but I didn't know what exactly to do either. at the least, I was clearly aware what was going on and what I should do if it worsens. but the people around me wouldn't understand, and the people who would... they weren't here. it was lonely. it was knowing all the words in the Oxford English dictionary but the whole damn world doesn't understand English.

the worst of that lasted for less than a couple of weeks. during that period, I questioned myself a lot on picking up the camera in the first place. I realized that Instagram is the creative killer. there’s a booming of similar, albeit pretty work out there. (thanks, YouTube and presets.) so, I went back to Tumblr and saw that, I didn’t look at photos as photos, I lived in them. I was 8, 16 and 32, wind in my hair in Byron Bay, stepping crunchy leaves in New York City, making clack-clack-clack sound on the cobblestoned street in Paris and taking in all the crazy neons in Tokyo, in 1990, 2000 and 2010 all on the same day. the convenience of Instagram filling idle time successfully killed that. I knew I needed to get the hell out of it and I have a better sense of what I want to do with my camera.

I picked things up here and there. it's okay to scatter my energy and my focus around this time. it's okay. it's something. eventually, the emptiness left, but the loneliness stayed.

I probably have ninety-nine problems but loneliness definitely ain’t one. well, that’s what I thought. being alone has always been freedom in disguise for me. heck, I love being alone because nobody's gonna sulk if I spend too much time in Kinokuniya or complain about the books I decide to buy.

how foolish am I, right? to only learn now that loneliness is a whole other thing from solitude. yeah, sure, solitude is drooling over the thousands of beautiful book covers alone for hours but loneliness is finding a line from one of those books that resonates so well with me to only look up and realize that there's no one to read the words out aloud to, (maybe because none of them understand English), and watch them give you a face that says "I get it". I thought all along I knew how to deal with it. but boy, was I wrong. they don't get it. no, they don’t. they listened, yes, but that's only because I was shouting.

ultimately, it's a shout into the void. so, why shout?

I thought I should use all that energy for myself and to peek at what people are interested in. so, I read whatever I like silently, because hey, everyone's got their nose deep into their book, right? or their phones, whatever. anyway, it's this keeping to myself that I learn a lot more about myself; another thing that makes me go "boy, was I wrong all this time". I love and cherish myself much more. I see this gap between who I am and who I can be. I understand myself well enough to know what I like, and what I actually don't. I'm clearer with the difference between what I want and what someone else think I should have.

and the toughest part of it all? learning and accepting my own flaws. it’s difficult to be the one grabbing your own skull and turning it to face your own dark, ugly sides. it’s different when someone else is doing it for you because then, you can kick and scream, and they are gonna tell you what to do or what not to do. undoubtedly, it's daunting to stand face front of my mistakes alone. what’s worse, when I was unsure if a mistake is a mistake. on one hand, it’s liberating when you know no one can take advantage of your feelings anymore. on the other, it’s terribly hard when you’re your own god.

it’s much better this way though. I only got myself to blame if I burnt myself from playing with fire, not because I stupidly listen to someone else’s dumb piece of advice. also, I’m the one who gets to say what I should change, and what I shouldn’t, even though people may hate it. at least I understand why I did what I did. free will, baby, free will.

still, it felt pretty much like the famous 52-hertz whale this way. and I can’t help thinking of the other people who feel the same. so I thought, if you don’t read the book I read, we’re never gonna know each other well, unless I read the book that you read. so, fine, this time, I’ll give it a try.

it’s surprising to see a big, big world outside of my own bubble. things I’d never imagine exist, exists. I stopped putting people into these boxes. I didn’t even know these boxes existed. you’re probably thinking that I’m such an asshole to stereotype people in the 21st century. now, try to think the last time you took a train and you saw all these strangers and you started to imagine how they came to be here. that’s the kind of box I’m talking about. you’d probably done that too. but when you learnt their story, you realized it’s completely different from the version that you had imagined.

when I looked closely at the book that others were reading, I got a slap in my face waking me up from trying to talk about Magritte to someone reading biography, or discussing Plato with someone reading a cookbook. but, what intrigued me most is why people read the books they read. despite that, I understand perfectly well that just because what they’re reading is different from me, I shouldn’t stop reading what I like.

living at the outskirts meant many long drives alone (toldja, I have no problem being alone for a long, long period). one day I got so bored of those long, long drives I started talking to myself. out loud. yeah...

I’m a lunatic. I know. but this helped me to articulate myself better, and I know, when you’re a confident person you’re comfortable in your own skin bla, bla, bla, but try to listen to your own voice for half an hour continuously. YIKES.

being a shy and quiet person around new people, I thought New-Friendship-After-I’m-Twenty-One - Rest In Peace, you’ll never see the face of the Sun. having a resting bitch face definitely doesn’t help. thankfully, those solo talking sessions turned into How To Make Friends 101. no, in fact, another reason I talked to myself is to practice better response at Human Interaction instead of freezing or smiling awkwardly when I’m in a conversation.

I’m an impatient person. when making friends, I always couldn’t wait to jump to the part where we get each other's humour, judge each other’s taste, insult each other's music preference, and tolerate each other's lousy puns. I tried to change that by staying interested as long as possible instead of regarding someone as “full of shit” after like, what, three minutes of conversation. what I didn’t know then, my patience rewarded me with many beautiful souls whom I ended up building valuable relationships with.

and speaking of people, this year is packed with exceptionally many goodbyes. most of them to my favourite people and they’re hard. yeah, I know there’s Skype and all, and they’re not leaving for good. yet, deep down everyone knows it’s different. at one point in life, after saying enough goodbyes, you know, you know that things won’t stand still with time. but life goes on, man. I’m glad that at least I got to properly farewell.

like I said, I’m an awfully impatient person, but some gems I’ve bumped into taught me that it’s okay to always give time some time. here’s this crazy story: I spent thirteen years looking (on and off) for a movie based on a five-second swimming pool shot I’ve seen on the TV when I was about eight years old. guess what, one day it was just there on Facebook. you see what I’m sayin’? the pieces will fall into place someday. if it isn’t, it doesn’t mean it won’t. so, relax. time will do it’s thang. this year, fortunately, it happened to me a lot.

when you’ve experienced something like this, your perception of time changes. a photographer, on his third anniversary with his girlfriend, wrote that three years seem long, yet is short compared to the rest of the years they’re gonna spend together.

now now, I haven't lived much, but I reckoned that twenty turning twenty-one and then going on twenty-two is definitely one of those toughest years. my peers are constantly agitated about their future. I don’t blame them. I mean, it’s hard not to, especially at this age, when we have to make a lot of “big” decisions that may greatly change the course of our lives in the next five or ten years.

but you see, we reach like, what, only a quarter of our lifetime. I know it’s important to not make any major fuckups. but there’s an infinite number of versions of life that you may lead. life is made up of happenstance. what I think, the what-ifs will always find its way to you. in the movie Before Sunrise, Jesse said, “you can consider this traveling back in time, to see what you are missing.” that’s why, yes, let your brain talk, listen to your heart as well, take that leap. there’s no need to fret too much. because...

nothing is permanent. don’t believe me? just look around. lovebirds who proudly declare their love for their partner five years ago no longer has the same partner now.

upon realizing this, I became hyperaware of my surrounding. I can actually feel time passing. it’s one of those things like the putting in the box that I mentioned before. it’s not looking back at secondary school days and sticking up one and another finger to count that five years has passed and how much I missed the old days. it’s more like, looking at how twenty-one of these one years are forming something greater, and I can finally see it now. all of a sudden, the details caught my eye. I noticed these changes around me. small change, big change, small change that led to big change.

I figured, if this is a quarter of my life, I have another three quarters to go. three twenty years is hella long and many things are bound to change. what started out bad could turn good, what turned bad from good, well... just give it some time. it's not the end. it's never the end. what we're seeing is a cacat Waze map with lousy connection. as we move on, the map will slowly load. just when we thought the map is fully loaded, we get a notification to update the app.

so, I learnt that with time, I change, people change. no one is always the same.

there are times when I thought of a friend, and how much they’ve changed over the years to become a better person. it always breaks my heart to think that it must have taken a lot of pain for them to grow into such a person. and I always have this urge to go back in time to hold them tightly and tell them it’s okay. to tell them I’m sorry I wasn’t there when they’re in their hardest time. it almost feels like I don’t deserve the person they are today.

I now learnt that while people are at their best, cherish them and let them know. while they’re not, be kind, be patient and be there like I would want them to if I’m in their shoes. because sometimes people do hurtful things and they don’t even know why and sometimes I do too. many times we’re just lost and confused. so, stay. because some things take time. despite the damages, there is always beauty in seeing people around me grow to become better people.

coming of age is mostly like standing in the middle of a tunnel where both ends can't see each other, yet from where I stand, I can see perfectly well what’s happening at both ends. something like this hallway.

one day, I found bullshit that would come from a shitty adult coming out from me. one day, I found myself agreeing to some shitty opinion from some shitty adults. one day, I am doing something that ten-year-old me would be shaking her head when she sees it.

slowly, I understood why adults are so fucked up. why, a lot of times, they couldn’t just blurt out what’s bothering them. why do they have to always complicate things. still, I understand how kids don’t see why adults are so fucked up. how they don’t see how some things are never as simple as it seems.

on one hand, it suits me fine, because I can see from both points of view. bonus, I can choose to pretend I’m a kid or an adult depending on the situation (yeah, taking full advantage of this). on the other hand, there’s this frustration that I guess only those at this stage in life can understand. I sometimes want to grab people and throw them to the opposite end. I wish I have that superpower. but sadly I don’t, so the best thing I can do is to never forget how it is at the kid’s end while I slowly march towards the adult end.

reminiscing old days through our adult eyes to see how young, dumb and… well, broke too but I was gonna say stubborn - how young, dumb and stubborn we were, often, I find myself wishing we could go back in time, but wiser, like now, so that we can save all that pain we inflicted on others. but what’s the point? it’s a paradox.

one day, I saw a friend fell off the cliff. another day, I saw another friend fell off the cliff. dammit, Holden, are you doing your job? I kept telling myself to look out for the border of the cliff because I don’t ever want to leave. but it’s hard. for a long time, I kept feeling I’m at the part of the story where Maurice and Sunny came to take another five dollars from me.

I've seen lots of disgusting, hideous things this year. sure, there’s the far length someone would go to take advantage of someone or something, which is something I saw a lot on TV, but this time in real life. it seems the only way to counter is to jump off the cliff and become that sort of person as well. I had to keep reminding myself that that doesn’t mean I should.

however, that’s not the scariest of all. the scariest ones are the ones who are completely indifference and cold towards anything; those who, even though they know they could and should, don’t give a flying fuck because they don’t think that every action and decision they make creates a ripple. they thought that it doesn’t matter because they come and they go, and that the ones who should care are the ones who have the money and time to.

one time, I had this conversation with my close friend about the small, happy thing that seeps through the gap of our daily routine. like the perfectly saturated gradient of a certain day’s sunset, unexpectedly finding a pen that’s so smooth for writing, the right song playing in a shopping mall car park, things like that. even the mundane conversations like when to buy new toilet paper rolls sounds interesting to me. we’re crazy, we know. it’s always nice to have friend who’s just as crazy as yourself.

we laughed and asked ourselves, have our lives really become so dull that even these silly, little things could make our heart dance? nevertheless, we are glad. we are glad that happiness comes so easily for us when the people around us constantly need one more branded bag, one more luxurious vacation, one more latest tech-gadget.

I enjoyed the year.

I wasn't sure why is that so at first. as I reflected, I came to see that it's because I didn't have any regrets. it wasn't a I-carped-every-fucking-diem no regrets, it also wasn't an all-of-my-choices-was-so-wise no regrets (I mean, NO RAGRETS). rather, it was becoming accepting of the cause-and-effects of whatever that happens in life, regardless of my voluntarily putting them into motion or pure luck. it also wasn't picking a path that I realized was wrong halfway through it, only to suck it up and hopelessly follow it until I reached somewhere great. okay, there was a bit of suck-it-ups (*coughs* 30K debt *coughs*), nevertheless I love each and everything I saw along the path that led me to where I am now. I mean, c'est la vie, no?

maybe I’ve become an adult, you know, like feeling happy for a new sponge, no more having my mom explain to the doctor my medical condition, always being prepared to be disappointed and so on. things rarely caught me off guard anymore. I've become pretty calm, huh? if I had to pick the best transformation this year, this is it.

that said, I wasn't all so cool that I just accept any shit that's shoved into my way. I’m talking about shit that I have the power to change, because excuse me, I ain’t born a rational robot devoid of sensitivity and concern. I will still yell until my lungs burst for the things that I care for. Time is never going to polish my stubborness away.

I don't know how to put this feeling into words. I say it every year: this year was like a roller coaster ride. this year was all the more so. I'm at the end of the ride - flat ground - where people are starting to unbuckle their safety belts, and I thought, "well, the ride wasn't that scary at all", only to leave the ride and take in the giant and be like "WHOAH, I actually rode that?!"

the more I think about it, the more it becomes like the last night of an exhausting but fruitful road trip, or the end credits of an epic movie. it's like the time when I finished three months of marathon-reading Harry Potter.

what. an. adventure.


just another day on set. | January - March

loved going to the the movies alone and picking not-so-popular titles so I can have the whole hall to myself. utter peace.

that’s Ah Tay waving goodbye to us. | September

Mayday’s Concert. | October

watching my first play. it was well done! | July

welcomed a new, tiny family member. | June

Hyukoh’s Concert. | May

The Temper Trap’s Concert. | March

friends. | September


this year’s best discovery

music

Ujico / Snail's House
In Love With A Ghost
Bo En
Honne
Lukas Graham
Eye In The Sky by The Alan Parsons Project
alive by Alextbh

books / magazine

Magazine B

films

Lacoste - Timeless, The Film
Before Sunrise
Sing Street
The Dreamers
Lost In Translation