What I Learnt in 2016

I would just like to start by saying that 2016 was a hell of a ride, and that I honestly mean it when I said I feel that I’ve grown a lot this year.

At the start of 2016, I didn’t know that going to junior college would have such an immense impact on my life. I thought junior college was just going to be another school, and that life will be more or less the same. I couldn’t be more wrong.

Everything became more difficult this year. This really affected me. I was already used to failures, but still, I was not prepared for everything that life threw at me this year. Homework was tough to complete, and I lost motivation to do work. Project Work tested my patience and resilience. Research really tested me intellectually and emotionally, and made me question who I am, what I like and what my future holds.

What this year really taught me was this: Grades matter really little in this world. What matters more is your attitude and personality – how you view things and how you approach them. Whether you have the perseverance, courage and emotional strength to endure all that life throws at you.

It really made me think: Am I really ready to be an adult and step into the real world? Next year, I will be 18, but somehow, as I grow older, I become more unprepared to be a fully fledged adult. If you ask 15-year-old me, she would be confident in her ability that no matter what obstacles she face, she will always find a way to conquer it and succeed. Now, I’m not sure.

I realise that I’m not as independent as I think. I always need people’s assurances, and I hardly make a decision on my own.

I also learnt that I crave for others’ approval and liking. I hate it when I know someone doesn’t like me, and don’t approve of my ability, which made my research journey so upsetting for me, because my mentor deemed me incapable and didn’t show approval of me. I was so used to being good at things, and having teachers and relatives like you for being quiet, good, hardworking, intelligent, but now that this is not the case. But I realise that this is life, and in life, not everybody will like you and fawn over you like in primary school. I realise that I do not need to earn the approval of everybody, but only those that matters. Still, this bothers me and will be something I need to work on in the future.

I also learnt that I am good at studying, but is that necessarily a good thing? I realise that I do well in examinations, but when it comes to daily life, I have nonexistent common sense, and I cannot recall and apply what I learnt in school to real life. This worries me. Why am I stressing out and studying for assessments if I am going to fail at my biggest, lifelong test – my life? I need to learn how to stop and think before doing, think before saying, and just think, and not be the clumsy fool bumbling around.

This year also made me question my life choices. Am I really suited for a career in science (biology or medicine), seeing how clumsy and stupid I was in research, or should I go for a more arts related career like psychology, sociology, education or business? I do well in the former, but I really take initiative to explore the latter in my leisure. Next year, I will have to make decisions on my career choices and what universities I want to go to, but I’m so not ready for this. How can adults expect barely-18-year-olds to choose what they want to do for the rest of their lives when they don’t even know what each career truly entails? Such a flaw in this system.

2016 was also filled with so much calamities. Brexit. Donald Trump. Berlin Christmas market shooting. Orlando nightclub shooting. Many other terror attacks and gun shootings. The Syrian crisis. Carrier Fisher. Debbie Reynolds. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. So many lives lost.

That being said, 2016 wasn’t all bad.

I experienced new firsts: stand up paddling, doing my first online transaction, placing 3rd in a lion dance competition, ranking 13th in my cohort for my Biology block test, doing a research project, having a sleepover with my friends for Halloween Horror Night. I made new friends, and shared experiences with them, and I fell more in love with old friends and tried to keep those friendships as well. I went to Japan for the first time ever. I watched so many great films, television shows, read so many great books and listened to so much great music. I got into Korean dramas, variety shows and music, and learnt how to read Korean Hangeul.

I am super grateful for the opportunities and gifts that I have received in 2016, and for the opportunities and gifts I will receive in 2017. While I complain and whine about all my worries and obstacles that I face, I also know that I am super fortunate to be allowed to worry about these things, and not about whether I have enough food for the day, whether I have a roof over my head or whether the next airstrike would hit me. I will keep this in mind, and live my life to the fullest in 2017 and face each day with courage and determination.

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017.

What I Learnt in 2016

#PushThrough

It’s been a long time since I posted here. But I felt like this is the age where life starts to get confusing and difficult, and I wanted a online diary (of sorts) to document all the ups and downs of this wondrous life.

I’m going to be 17 in a few weeks. In one year, I will take my A Level examinations, and then I will go to university and work towards a career of my own.

As exciting as that sounds, I am so confused as to what I want. Before this year, I thought I knew what I wanted to do in life. I was going to do medicine, and be an oncologist. I was so convinced this is what my future holds.

Now, I’m not so sure. I was advised that I need to start thinking about career and university plans, and as I was doing my research for that, all my plans began to unravel. Am I really capable of medicine, when I’m so careless and incapable in mere lab sessions? Or was I really drawn to it because of the glamour and excitement it brings? Am I really interested in medicine? Because while biology is my favourite subject and I do good in it, I don’t read up on medicine articles and books as fervently as my friends.

I was told to see what I am interested in. The thing is, I am a Jack of all trades, but really, master of none. I like reading articles on human affairs and education, I like watching vlogs on Youtube, I like seeing the editing and the videography of videos. I love films, I love television shows, I love books and stories. Maybe what I liked about medicine was the human interaction.

Then, I came across Boston University’s College of Communications, and I felt like that was everything I was interested in.

But what if this is a rash impulse? How do I know for sure that that is really what I wanted? The only thing I knew I wanted was that I want to study overseas. I want to experience independence, no matter how terrifying that seems, and I want that freshmen experience that I can get in the United States.

This itself opens another Pandora’s box. I want that experience so much, but I feel so bad to let my parents pay for such an expensive education. If I knew what I wanted, I could convince myself that it is a worthy investment, but alas, I don’t even know what I want. I don’t even know if going overseas is even feasible.

Another thing I know about myself is that I don’t want to do research. I’m currently on a research attachment, and I’m finding out more and more that this is definitely not a career path I want and am suited for. It’s so stuffy and rigid, and I’m just not that type of girl that can regurgitate Chemistry facts or do calculations at the top of my head.

I got scolded today for showing illogical experimental design, and it is true. I made so many stupid mistakes, but I still feel weird about making mistakes and getting scolded. Not bitter, but just weird. Unaccustomed. This made me realise that there’s a lot for me to learn for the future, and I realised that life will not be as smooth sailing and as successful as school is, and I have to learn to accept it. I have to learn to accept that mistakes are inevitable, however embarrassing and ridiculous my mistakes always turn out to be, and that I have to learn to be out of my comfort zone and be able to move on from my mistakes. I need to learn that it’s not my mistakes that define me, but my attitude and actions that follows. As long as I am responsible and honest and do my utmost best, I must have faith that I will turn out fine. I must also learn to not grovel and please everyone. There will be people will not like me no matter how hard I try, and that’s okay. That’s life. I haven’t learnt all these lessons yet, not yet, but I will repeat this to myself whenever I face any hard days over the next month or so. I will be fine, as long as I work hard and show that I am willing to learn from my mistakes.

I will end off this really rambling post with this beautiful video that fills me with hope, optimism, determination and tears. This is the mantra that Jasmyn Wright, an American educator, teaches her third-grade students to say everyday before lessons. I urge anyone reading this to check out the video and this news article written on it. It is really worth it.

If they can do it, I can do it too. #PushThrough

Video

Take me back

I miss New Zealand. I guess as I was trudging down the corridor at school with a heavy bag and a slight breeze fanning my face, I felt a bit of nostalgia. I miss looking out the window to see beautiful, wintry trees and cloud-capped mountains, and to see the sun rise and set majestically. I miss feeling the cold breeze blow, and shivering in cold. I miss the daily ice cream cones, and the car rides filled with “spot-the-car/sheep/motorbike” games and country / rock music. I miss the fries, and salads, and pork ribs and fish and chips; and also the supermarkets and the beautiful towns. I miss the friendly people. I miss the scenery and the care-free atmosphere. I miss the flowers and the gardens. I miss their Salvation Army store. I miss watching their ads and news in fascination, and watching sit-coms and movies while on carpeted floors. I miss sinking slowly to blissful slumber into heated pillows after a good read. I miss New Zealand.

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Take me back

It’s at times like this that I feel truly alone. I don’t feel like I have anyone really to talk to anymore. Talk as in bare your soul out. Maybe it’s not having anyone, because I can talk to her, the rebel, but I feel stifled. I feel afraid to speak my mind and be an open book for people to judge me. And while this is okay for me, for now it’s not okay. Even though it’s just a little thing, I feel like I’m going to burst and there’s no one there for me, right now.

2013 in review

2013 was a good year.

I got to spend more time with my classmates. I did pretty well in my academics. I did something a little extra with my time by helping out with Project Esperenza, which allows me to tutor younger kids. I watched more movies and television shows. I managed my time much better. 2013 was also a year of many firsts. In 2013, it was my first time acting, albeit a rather weak one in drama class (or should I call it “not-acting-but-more-like-reciting-lines”). In 2013, it was my first time directing a play, though I had lots of help with all my classmates. It was definitely a class effort. In 2013, it was my first time riding a horse. It was my first time playing golf. It was my first time riding a jet boat.

To end off this year, I decided to do a little summary of one of my happiest moments this year: my vacation in New Zealand. Here are Instagram-inspired collages of my iPhone shot.

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Top (from left to right): my airplane stopping at Melbourne for a transition; Fernhill, Queenstown, NZ; outside the supermarket at Remarkables, Queenstown, NZ
Middle: the lake in Queenstown, NZ, from my balcony’s view; first sunset in NZ; first jetboating experience at Shotover Bridge
Bottom: a lovely quaint café at Arrowtown, NZ; an old storefront; an old, deserted town

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Top (from left to right): simply love the never ending roads I see as we travel from town to town; a shed selling honey that is based on honesty; inside a fruit store
Middle: by the road outside the fruit store (finally got to take a picture like this that I always see on tumblr!); rainbow that I was fortunate to see on my first few days in Queenstown; paragliders with Queenstown as the background
Bottom: the Salvation Army’s store in Queenstown where I got two books really cheap; in the maze at Puzzling World; puzzles in Puzzling World

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Top (from left to right): Fox Glacier, NZ; light ray at Fox Glacier; double rainbows at Fox Glaciers
Middle: Kea (which we illegally fed); feeding this really cute and greedy goat; trees at Uncle’s farm
Bottom: pulling out radishes at Uncle’s farm; lots and lots of flowers at the farm; sheep and lambs (mehh)

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Top (from left to right): by the sea picking rocks; picture of my sneakers and rocks by the rapids; cheeky little parade that likes to show off
Middle: one of the many mountains; at the beautiful golf course; at the pier at Queenstown, NZ
Top: at town, Queenstown, NZ; one-legged seabird that posed for us; at town, Queenstown, NZ

Of course, not forgetting all the food photographs I took:

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Top (from left to right): coffee at the airport at Melbourne, Australia; pasta at Arrowtown, NZ; the famous Fergburger at Queenstown, NZ
2nd row: soup, salad and ribs at this lovely vintage restaurant at Fox Glacier, NZ; hokey pokey ice cream while on the road; a cappuccino at a café during one of our breaks
3rd row: breakfast at the farm; hokey pokey ice cream again at this cute store; salmon at a pub in Queenstown, NZ
4th row: cappuccino at the salmon farm; Asian food to our relief (and it was really good because of the Indonesian/Asian chefs!); my birthday cake (celebrated my birthday overseas for the 3rd time!)

I still have many regrets: not paragliding, not taking a picture of the gorgeous sunset on the plane, not being daring and asking the ballet dancers their name, not bringing my camera and taking photographs of the dancers, not taking pictures with LY. But I also had many good memories: performing with my CCA for Chinese New Year, BSE, DramaFest, participating in IvP, performing with my CCA with the dance school, helping out with LeAP, just to name a few.

I hope that 2014 will be as brilliant as this year, and that I may make more friends, do well in school, improve on my photography, try to do as many thing as I can and strive to do the best that I can. And I hope that whoever who’s reading this, may 2014 be an amazing year for you as well.

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write an interesting one.”

— unknown

2013 in review

An Eventful Day

Today was uneventful. I woke up at 7am (much, much earlier than I would normally do during the holidays) and then went to school for CCA training. It was fun and exhausting, and I was really glad to catch up with my batchmates and spend more time with my juniors. Then I took the MRT home and listened to the Catching Fire motion picture soundtrack and all was well.
Until the train stopped at Serangoon. If you take the circle line regularly, you’ll know that Serangoon is one of the stops where there’s lots of human traffic going in and out of the train. Just as the train doors were closing, I heard this young lady trying to rush through the doors. The only thing I saw was this grey umbrella flying through the small space between the door. I picked it up and looked at the girl through the window, raising the umbrella and giving her “what-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-your-umbrella” look. She just smiled like she was so amused and signaled me to just keep it.
But… Being the person I am, I decided to alight at the next stop (Bartley) and board the next train and try and look for that girl to return the umbrella to. As I was alighting, this disposable water bottle rolled to my feet, so I picked it up thinking I’ll throw it away at Bartley. Of course I didn’t realise there weren’t any dustbins in the MRT itself, so I just held on to that disposable bottle instead. There I was, standing in the almost deserted MRT station carrying two bags and holding an umbrella that wasn’t mine and a water bottle I just picked up.
I waited for 6 mins (oh, the agony!) and finally the next train came, which I boarded with relief. I looked around trying to find that young lady with a pretty smile in a black blouse, but to no avail. In the end, I went home with that grey umbrella and the water bottle (which I threw away at home). My mom and brother all thought I was weird to do that, but it made me feel better instead of feel guilty if I just didn’t care, so I’m very happy with myself (haha).

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The umbrella and water bottle from today.

Today was an eventful day.

An Eventful Day

The Lovely Bones

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This book has been (sort of) haunting me since I’ve finished the book and I thought I would just write my thoughts down just like Ruth in the book does.

The Lovely Bones was something I picked up from the school library on a whim. I had heard of the movie, and when I saw the book I spared no thought and just added it onto the pile I was going to check out. It was very difficult and challenging to read this book.
The crime itself, the rape and murder of Susie Salmon, was the least harrowing of all. In fact, it was the easiest to comprehend for me, but I cannot really fathom why. One thing I find it hard to understand was the heaven or the afterlife, whatever you choose to call it. I am not the most religious person – I don’t even know what I believe in. For now I still call myself an agnostic. My idea of life is like a virtual game. We are all avatars or characters being controlled by a larger being, and all we achieve or lost is basically based on our skills, talent, hard work, determination and a fluctuating amount of luck. I don’t believe in heaven or afterlife. My idea of death is that after your last breath, you will close your eyes to darkness, darkness that is eternal and forever. And maybe, just maybe, you might be reborned later on, but I believe that your memories will be wiped out and you start fresh. So reading Susie’s perspective from Heaven was difficult, yet comforting. Comforting to read that Heaven is safe and comfortable for the dead.
I think what I really love about this book is that it gives you snippets and snapshots of all the different people’s lives, and how they carry on with their life and cope with Susie’s death. I love how realistic the book is, how in reality people don’t just pick up their lives from where they stop and continue on after a death like nothing happened. I love how the book touches on the issues all the different characters face, and how they struggle to cope. I love how Jack (Susie’s father) loves his late daughter so much that he never let goes of her memories, and how that impedes on his life and his family’s life. I love how Susie’s death made Jack love and protect his remaining daughter and son more, and how Lindsey and Buckley in turn be more protective and love their father more. I love the relationship between Lindsey and Samuel, how gentle and realistic and beautiful it was. I love how Hal and Samuel was somehow slowly incorporated into the Salmon family, and how they just seem to belong them. I love watching Buckley grow up, so mature yet nerdish and precious at the same time.
One of the things I couldn’t understand was Abigail (Susie’s mother). I don’t get how she could suddenly be attracted to Len in the immediate aftermath of her daughter’s death. I don’t get how she didn’t like her life as a mother and wife and always want to leave this life. If that was so, why didn’t she leave earlier? Why only after Susie’s death? But I really like how the author wrote in Abigail running away from her fears or old life, because I think that is something a lot of people do, run away. I like Abigail the most when she came back from San Franciso, back to her old life. I respect her strength and her courage. I also like how Lindsey’s and Buckley’s reactions was so realistic and blunt and how the author didn’t turn it into some sappy happily every after thing. And I am so envious of the love between Jack and Abigail, how distant yet close this relationship was and is.
I also don’t get how Ray started to love Susie, and Susie started to love Ray when they don’t know each other well. To me, that’s a crush and nothing more. I don’t believe in love at first sight (I only believe in adoration or attraction at first sight) and they were fourteen! Isn’t that too young to know surely if you’re in love?
Ruth is a complex character. Till now I still don’t know if she can see the dead. I don’t understand what she does in New York, finding people’s death site and stuff like that. And I completely dislike the part where she and Susie exchanged roles. Again, I don’t believe in an afterlife.
I love how cleverly Alice Sebold, the author, weaves in even the finest detail about the most minor characters. Mr Botte’s daughter’s death. Artie in the gifted sypnosium. Joe Ellis being affected about being misunderstand end by everyone. Ruana Singh’s marriage falling apart. Len coping with his life. Grandma Lynn and her drinking and craziness and loving her daughter and gaining her daughter’s acceptance finally. Mr Harvey and his childhood with his mother. I only wish that she had touched on more about George Harvey, about how he killed his other victims and Susie, and why.
Alice Sebold’s musings about the bones was complicated. To say I understood everything will be a lie. I don’t understand the book fully, and I admit I will never pick up this book again for a re-read. This book was depressing yet hopeful, complicated yet simple and it put me in emotional turmoil. There are certain parts where I felt like crying or actually teared up a bit, and there were parts where I smiled, and I think those parts was the loveliest bits of the book.

I guess these are my thoughts. I think writing this out probably allowed me to accept the fact that I loved and disliked this book at the same time, and that I never really truly understood this book.

The Lovely Bones