Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in advance! Just a couple of days left til we welcome 2019, and I’ll be a year shy from the big 30 (gasp)!
I still don’t feel like an adult sometimes, or that I’ve achieved anything meaningful with life, but heck, every new day just being alive with a warm bed and a roof over my head is a blessing.The important thing is I try my best, right?
There aren’t many moments in my life that I’d call ‘life changing’ – but my trip to Bario, in the interiors of Sarawak, was one of them.
I was part of a media group tasked to cover a story on shelters built along the ancestral trail of the Kelabit people who make Bario their home. What was supposed to be a four to five hour hike (for the locals) turned into a deep jungle excursion that lasted 11 hours, because expectations of the hike were not communicated well before we went in.
Prior to this, I had zero hiking experience – and this was an extremely challenging hike, even for pro hikers. About seven or eight hours in, I broke down completely – exhausted, lethargic, burning up from the exertion and covered in leeches. The most frustrating part was that my legs weren’t listening to my commands, no matter how much I told them to hold steady. The sky had turned dark and there was no way to communicate to the longhouse (they actually send a search party after us lol)
^This is how steep it was and we had to go through dozens of hills like these
The relief I felt when we finally made it out was overwhelming. I’ll never forget how beautiful the stars were up in the highlands – the sky was so clear, it was like you could reach out and grab them. But the trip also taught me a few things about myself. Even though I was in pain (both my toenails fell out), I finished it because I knew if I didn’t, someone else would have to haul my ass out, and I did not want that. I only thought of putting one foot in front of the other. A fellow media member summed it up the best – “you cried, but you never stopped.” Which gave me a tiny sense of pride – never mind the embarrassment.
The trip to Bario also taught me a lot about this place I called home, and how little I know of it beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone. I was charmed by the hospitality and warmth of the Kelabit people and how they welcomed us into their homes so openly. The aunties who made food for us and treated us like their own nephews and nieces, the uncles who would exchange stories with us over the kitchen fire, the hard work the people put into their agricultural livelihood. Mostly, I admired how in tune with nature they are, and how even the smallest things can give great joy. Rising early, toiling in the fields, returning to a home cooked dinner, playing music while watching the stars. No traffic jams, fresh mountain air and wholesome food, no worries, no stress. It puts things in perspective for us city dwellers – is the life of materialism that we chase – the ‘better’ life – truly better?
Chinese New Year means the annual reunion with relatives in Ipoh. Stayed at the cousin’s place for the first time – it had lovely views of the limestone hills ringing the city. Also played tourist to pass the time, visiting various popular eateries around town, as well as temples and the Taiping Zoo.
Won’t be able to enjoy the laidback vibe for long – apparently new flight routes have opened direct from Singapore to Ipoh. Small town won’t be so small town anymore. Already hawkers are raising their prices because of the influx of tourists.
Not much travelling in March, but it was a busy time at work. I produced my first magazine as deputy editor.
A much needed short break to Penang! I love beaches, so it was a welcome escape.
The 14th general elections rolled around, and citizens turned up in droves to cast their votes, yours truly included. If you’re Malaysian, you’ll know how that turned out. For my non-Malaysian readers – we basically showed that democracy was not dead in this country. After years of nepotism, abuse of power and embezzlement, the corrupt regime that had held its power for over 60 years was finally dethroned. In May, we welcomed a new Malaysia, and it was done peacefully and without bloodshed. The former prime minister and his wife are currently under investigation, and the aftermath saw hundreds of luxury bags, jewelry and goods seized.
Also had a short work trip to Perlis – the smallest state in Malaysia, far to the north bordering Thailand. I got to interview the Perlis royals for a story (at their official residence, no less) ! Fked up my salutations. They were nice people and apparently they liked how I wrote the piece – not everyday that you get a crown prince to like your stuff. #achievement unlocked
Again, I was thankful I got to explore and see a different part of Malaysia. Perlis is a chill place with lots of paddy fields. In town, most shops are closed after 8pm. They have a beautiful coast – must be nice to get off work and just chill by the seaside.
Took a long leave over the Raya holidays to visit N in Manila. This was my fourth time back, and the love-hate continues. I hate the traffic, how bad and uncomfortable commuting is, and how polluted parts of the city can be. On the other hand, there are always interesting things to see and do, and I love the museums / churches / historical places.
I also experienced a Manila flash flood for the first time – after a bout of heavy rain, we had to slosh our way calf-high through dirty flood waters to reach a mall to get a ride home. Left the museum at 6PM and arrived back at the hotel at midnight lmao. Needless to say, N being a hypochondriac, he was pretty traumatised lol. But I guess having gone through the whole experience, I’m practically a local now?
One of the places on my bucket list is Borobudur in Yogyakarta – and I finally ticked it off the list – watching the sunrise, no less. It. Was. Phenomenal. The sight of the golden rays washing over the thousand year old monument nearly moved me to tears, and I’ve only felt like that once before – when I was a student in the Uk and I entered the 1000-year-old York Minster for the first time.
I thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to Yogya – it’s so full of history and culture. Would definitely go back in the near future, this time to explore the ancient Hindu temples of Prambanan, which unfortunately I could not slot into this visit.
Stayed at a fancy hotel in Genting for a media review. Brought the Moo along. One of the few times I’m glad they let media bring a +1 because A) I’m scared of ghosts. B) It’s nice to bring her for a treat
Went to an indigenous arts festival
Birthday month! Best gift? N came to visit for three weeks. ❤ Did the usual touristy stuff and brought him sightseeing, but the long visit was also so he could get accustomed to how things are before moving here for good. Went to an arts festival in a 100-year-old depot, brought him to a night market, explored museums and science centres, went to a flower and garden fest, explored an arts building, ate a lot of food.
Joined a soap making class for cold process soaps.
Roadtrip to Sg Pelek.
The last few months of the year were extremely challenging at work. Still is, actually. I wasn’t able to cope with the stress, and had to battle my anxiety and depression. Just to get out of bed and get to work everyday. Literally wrestle and smack that shit down. Hasn’t been easy. And I know what a lot of you would say: you get to travel and do all these amazing things! I know, but it still isn’t easy, so fuck your judgmental bullshit.
Life dissolves into a manic cycle of overwork and pressure. Company gets new business, but no new hires or increase in salary. I do deputy editor duties for one, editor duties for another (deputy editor in name but I literally do what the editor does), as well as being the social media manager and online writer/editor. Then I go home and do part time work because I need the money as a buffer for when the bf comes here (Malaysian immi laws don’t allow for foreign spouses to work for a year, which is complete and utter bs). Literally working 12 hours a day + a couple of hours on weekends. Body and mind in constant, heightened state of stress and pressure.
A short reprieve to Rompin for a media trip. I couldn’t fully appreciate it though because I was constantly thinking / worrying about work. Being an extreme perfectionist, I can never do a half assed job – but it also means I have a real problem delegating things.
I broke down at work. I’ve had episodes, but this was probably the worst as I couldn’t hold it in or make it to the toilet in time. The editor and I had a talk about the work load and she said she’d help me with things – but I know she has a pretty extreme workload too, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s burdening other people. I’m not sure how long this arrangement can last, and I’m also feeling pressured because of the whole bf-migrating-here thing. I know I shouldn’t feel like I have to shoulder the burden alone – but that’s just how I am. I hate relying on people for things.
I guess I’m ending the year feeling pretty lost. I know I’m not yet 30, but I’ve already been in the work force for a good 6 years, and I’m still so unsure of the path to take. Career wise, on paper, I feel like I’m making good progress – a deputy editor at 28 for a reputable magazine. But inside I’m not sure what path to take. I don’t know if managing is something I enjoy doing – I much prefer writing. Then again, can I still write and not ‘move’ up the ladder til I’m 40? 50?
I don’t know if 2019 will have the answers, but I certainly learned a lot of lessons in 2018.
Here’s to a better year ahead.