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Why I’ve Stopped Embroidering

Last year during the lockdown, I found a new hobby.

It was one that surprised me, because I never envisioned myself as having the traits associated with that sort of activity; namely patience, meticulousness, and tenacity. I’m talking, of course, about embroidery.

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Even my loved ones were surprised. Embroidery is, to them, a ‘girly’ thing, and I’ve always been, well… not. But there’s just something so therapeutic about the repeated motions of poking your needle in and out of the fabric, and watching the threads fill up a blank space with colourful patterns and shapes.

Sadly, I’ve stopped embroidering consistently since August last year. And it’s not because I grew bored or anything, or that I don’t have money to buy materials.

It’s because of the COVID vaccine.

How is it related, you ask?

First and foremost, let me clarify – I am NOT an anti-vaxxer. I got my Human Papillovirus (HPV) vaccine when it was still relatively new on the market. I was also one of the first people to sign up for the COVID AstraZeneca vaccine, because I live with my elderly parents, and I wanted to keep them safe. I still hold the belief that there are vaccines that people should get in order to protect themselves from diseases.

But ever since getting my first COVID vaccine shot, my body has been showing undeniable long-term side effects, namely persistent atopic dermatitis and eczema that mainly manifests on my hands (fingers/palm) and my legs.

It’s not exaggeration to say that I’ve not had any relief since August 2021, because these tiny fluid-filled vesicles would pop up all over my hands, causing intense itching (I have on occasions, felt like it would be better to just chop my hands off – that’s how bad it can get). I would inevitably scratch them (doctors always say “don’t scratch” as if it was easy – you ever experience an itch you couldn’t scratch? It drives you insane), which would cause my skin to bleed. It would then be extremely painful, until it crusts over, and my hands would look like Chupacabra’s paws.

Even when I will myself not to scratch, my skin would still get so swollen with fluid underneath, it would literally burst open (I shall not regale you with photos because even they gross me out), and deep cuts would appear as if someone had made small incisions into the surface of my palm and fingers.

Of course, like any person who believes in science and medicine, I’ve gone to several doctors and dermatologists. Is it something I’ve been eating? Something I’ve been touching? Or perhaps, possibly, the vaccine? Because I have a history of eczema, but it has never been this severe nor long lasting, and usually resolves after a week or two. NOT an entire year, with only a few days of break in between at most before a fresh wave of vesicles start popping out again.

But in every scenario and every doctor I’ve gone to, they just wave it off and say “no, it’s not the vaccine, it’s just your immune system being hyperactive” (without telling me what would cause my immune system to be this way. It’s just “one of those things that happens”). They then prescribe me with topical steroids, and send me on my merry way. Long term use of topical steroids is known to cause side effects, but that’s Western medicine for you – treat the symptoms, not the underlying cause – and if you have another symptom resulting from that prolonged use, we’ll treat that instead!

Having vented my frustrations at friends and family, some have also told me about how they’ve had skin problems (mostly in the form of persistent rashes) since they got the vaccine – so I know mine is not an isolated case.

The thing is, unlike very SEVERE side effects from the vaccine (they always say these are ‘rare’, but who tf cares if they’re rare or not if YOU are the one suffering from them? Like hey, look! I won the unlucky lottery!), such as myocarditis or blood clotting, I would say skin problems are considered a ‘minor inconvenience’ in comparison, which is probably why a lot of it goes unreported.

I did not initially make this link – I thought that I was probably eating or doing something that was triggering the condition. So I tested cutting out dairy from my diet, then seafood, then beans, and a variety of other foods, none of which helped. I cleaned all my often-touched surfaces and resorted to wearing gloves around the house to avoid touching stuff. NONE of which worked.

Again, it’s not a life threatening thing – but it certainly is bothersome not being able to do chores involving washing, and having to live with a bothersome, irritating condition that limits your hand movements, is itchy as hell, and causes you pain. Oh, and not being able to embroider is a bummer too, just when I discovered a passion for it.

But you know what the funny thing is? My mom was having a conversation with her doctor about how I was having these symptoms after getting my vaccine, and he, like all the doctors I’ve been to, simply waved it off as “coincidence”.

See, this is the thing I hate about some of our doctors. It’s a classic example of them dismissing your pain and symptoms as being ‘all in your mind’. I’ve seen this bias in action when my mom had her eye surgery and felt like something was terribly wrong during the recovery stage, but her specialist told her “It’s like that, it’s in the recovery stage, you have to expect it”. A month of suffering later, she went back, and the doctor admitted that she was FUCKING RIGHT – there had been a problem with the surgery, and they would need to do a corrective procedure. LISTEN TO YOUR FUCKING PATIENTS WHEN THEY TELL YOU BECAUSE THEY KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THEIR BODIES GODDAMIT

Wow, that turned into quite a lengthy, pointless rant, didn’t it?

Do I regret getting the vaccine? Not really. I had COVID in March this year, and I believe that if I hadn’t, the symptoms would have been much more severe. In retrospect, even with the knowledge that I might suffer these side effects, I would still do it again to protect myself and my loved ones.

But having contracted the virus and gaining natural immunity, I will NOT be getting a fourth booster. Because how many more iterations will there be? With many vaccines, they were developed after years of testing and clinical trials. I just feel that the COVID vaccine has been rushed in order to curb an onslaught of a global pandemic – and these effects, however minor they may be, may only manifest years later – with us as guinea pigs.

PS: This is me sharing my opinion/experiences, and should not be taken as fact or conclusion that vaccines = problems. Do not take this as medical advice or what not.

28.3.22 – Thoughts

The term ‘brain fog’ has been—pardon the pun—on everyone’s mind lately, no thanks to COVID. Although not an official medical condition, enough patients have reported similar symptoms to warrant research, like this one by Chinese researchers which seems to show persistent impairment in sustained attention in patients that have otherwise recovered from COVID.

So what is brain fog? Popular health website Healthline describes it as:

A type of cognitive dysfunction involving memory problems, lack of mental clarity, poor concentration, and the inability to focus.

Aside from a possible lingering effect of COVID, there can be many other causes to brain fog, including stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, and chronic fatigue disorder.

So.

I now have a term for something that has been affecting my life for the past two years.

Even before I got COVID a couple of weeks ago (which only made it worse), I’ve been having all the aforementioned problems: I can’t seem to concentrate or focus on anything unless I force myself to do so to the point of exhaustion; and I tend to forget what I’m saying mid-sentence, especially if someone interrupts my train of thought. This from someone who’s only in her early 30s lol.

I think initially, a lot of it had to do with stress and burnout: the pandemic back then seemed never ending, the husband was stuck in the Philippines, I had to deal with family issues which brought out internalized trauma, and I was in a job with little to no progression in terms of stability and growth. It was also very isolating — I was the only employee left in the Malaysia office, my husband could only offer me emotional support through a screen, and I had no one to talk to, basically. It felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, but as someone who grew up doing almost everything on my own, this inability to take things on made me feel like a failure.

Fast forward to 2022 and things have been looking up the past couple of months. Husband finally got here to Malaysia, and I landed a new job that’s pretty challenging but with lots of room for growth. Fam shit is the same, with some added challenges thrown in, but I’m trying to work through it. And hey, 2/3 is still a pretty good deal, right?

Wrong.

I’m still feeling stressed and burned out, and now I have feelings of inadequacy thrown into the mix. Maybe it’s because I’ve been stagnant for so long, my brain now seems incapable of focusing or thinking properly. It’s like a never-ending sea of mental blocks that require monumental efforts to jump over—and it leaves me exhausted, even though I feel like I didn’t do much. Which is frustrating, because it never used to be like this and I can’t comprehend why I can’t just work through this shit.

Even blogging has lost its sparkle. I post less these days. I used to be super excited to pen down my thoughts, but for the last two years, it has been an uphill struggle to find the same joy in writing for myself — because I allocate so much of what mental capacity I have for work, I’m left with nothing at the end of the day.

I also find myself ‘calculating’ and filtering things subconsciously. Back then, I used to post whatever I felt like, because this is my personal space online, where I could truly be myself. These days, I tend to go, “Would people actually find this useful? Do they really want to read about my random thoughts? Why does this sound like an angst-filled teenage diary? Should I really post this? Would I offend anyone? People don’t find you funny or engaging, stop embarrassing yourself”. I know these are unhealthy thoughts that are a manifestation of my emotional struggles, but I can’t stop myself from having them.

Maybe what I really need with my blog right now is to go back to how it was before. Just posting my thoughts without inhibition, without feeling like I need to filter what I say, without overthinking about whether what I’m putting out is productive/useful or whether this or that content adds value to other people’s lives. Maybe that’s what I need to find pleasure again in writing. And maybe that would help with the brain fog too; act as an outlet for catharsis.

You know what the irony is? My blog traffic has actually doubled in the last year or so, because people find some reviews and guides helpful (I guess? lol). Which is great, and I’m happy that those posts are useful. I know people don’t want to read about “whiny shit”, coz everyone has their own problems, and they’re only turning to articles/blogs online to solve a problem/entertain.

But if this is what it takes to get my mojo back and help my process of healing, I guess you’ll all just have to put up with my emo sht for awhile.

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Why It Can Be Hard To “KonMari” Your Stuff

This month has been pretty bad for blogging – it’s already the 17th and I’ve only made two posts. Partly it’s because Malaysia is currently undergoing another ‘lockdown’ due to the rising number of cases (and deaths, which is worrying), so I haven’t been able to go out much; but it’s also because I’m in a writing slump again.

We had a four-day weekend for Hari Raya, but celebrations have been subdued as people have not been able to go home to visit their loved ones, some for the second year in a row. As for my fam and I, we took the time to rest. My mom has been very worried throughout this entire pandemic, and with cases on the rise, she won’t even let us go out to buy food unless it’s absolutely necessary, preferring to cook all of our meals instead.

But enough gloom and doom – I did something productive over the break, ie cleaned my workspace!

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I am currently working from home full-time, so having a proper workspace is important. But I’m also not the most organised person in the world and my workspaces (even when I had an office) tend to get messy with bits of paper and notes. To tidy up, I took some of my books to the shelf outside so there’d be more space, wiped down the dust, and put away smaller accessories that were contributing to the clutter. Also gave away two Apple mouse units that I’ve been keeping for the office (company told me to get rid of them coz they didn’t want to ship it to Singapore, but I didn’t want to throw them).

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While cleaning up, I sorted out my accessories and trinkets, thinking to throw away the older ones that I no longer use.

I ended up keeping everything lol.

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of hype over the KonMari method, attributed to Japanese consultant Marie Kondo. In her approach, Kondo advised people to keep only the things that ‘spark joy’, and let everything else go.

The thing is, all of these things have sparked joy to me at one point in my life, and in some small way, they still do. I still feel nostalgic and happy when I look at them and think back on the memories associated with each object. I know some people would call it silly and sentimental, and maybe it is, but it’s also vulnerably human.

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Some people enjoy collecting fridge magnets or keychains as souvenirs from the places they’ve traveled to. For me – and I did not realise this until I looked over my ‘collection’ – I apparently enjoyed collecting accessories. Some of these were given as gifts, which makes them even more meaningful.

On the left is a bead necklace that was gifted to me by my hosts on a trip to Siniawan, aka the Cowboy Town of Borneo. The ‘town’ is really not more than a dozen traditional wooden shoplots along a main street, a town hall and a nearby temple – but I enjoyed the experience tremendously. I got to ride a sampan across the river (which has crocodiles, by the way!), experience a Gawai festival with the local Bidayuh community, eat amazing kolo mee that was just RM3 ffs, and take in the sight of a gorgeous pink sunset for a few nights in a row.

On the right is also a bead necklace, which I bought from Auntie Sina Rang at the Bario longhouse where I was staying. This trip was an unforgettable one because I got stuck on a hike for 11 hours in the Borneo rainforest, and the longhouse residents were so worried they sent a search and rescue team because it was already dark and we were supposed to have been back like 6 hours ago lol. You can read about it here.

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Me and my fellow members of the media before everything went to hell (for me).
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Hardcore hiking
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Siniawan, the Cowboy Town of Borneo.
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Also from the Bario trip: woven bracelets which I bought from a visiting Penan tribe. They are nomadic and only come to the longhouse occasionally so it was fortunate timing!
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Coconut shell bracelet from a 2014 Bali trip. It was my first time visiting Indonesia. Since then I’ve been to Bandung and Yogyakarta. Can’t wait for the pandemic to be over so I can travel, to different parts this time.

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Decorative necklaces from Venice, from my 2012 graduation trip to Europe. Venice was gorgeous in is own way, but it was also extremely crowded with tourists, and the canals smelled. Still glad I got to see it in my lifetime, before the city sinks.
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A brooch from Fuhu, Genting. Also a Sarubobo doll from Japan, which Japanese grandmothers make for their grandchildren for their safety and wellbeing. On a trip to Tokyo, I got to write my own well wishes for the sarubobo’s clothing and pin it onto the doll.
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A Catholic necklace with wooden crosses and a carving of Jesus, which I got from a shop outside Antipolo Church in the Philippines. I was there with my ex on Ash Wednesday, and it was interesting to see the rituals and sit in on mass. I didn’t get the necklace because of religious reasons, but because one of the ladies manning the shops insisted we buy something, I didn’t know how to say no lol.

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A necklace inspired by Aboriginal art. Got this from the shop at Tower Hill Reserve in Victoria, where we saw a bunch of koalas hiding in trees, and encountered a rogue emu blocking the van that we were travelling in.
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Of course, travel memories aren’t the only things that makes it difficult for me to throw stuff away. I also have a lot of random accessories that I have fond feelings for – like these wooden bracelets. One of them is falling apart, but I can’t find it in me to just dump it because it was my favourite bracelet to wear in college and through the early years of my adult life (back when lots of accessories were a thing).

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The evolution of my earrings – from a sharp, rebellious-looking stud in my college days, to the ‘elegant’ ones that I wear for social outings today. By today I mean like two years ago, when we could still go out for gatherings. lol
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And other, assorted bracelets.

So you see, it’s not easy to KonMari your stuff, when there is so much to reminisce on each time you look at them. I think this is also why people find it difficult to let go or throw things away. They are all reminders of a happier time, and form a part of your life’s story.

I guess I’ll be holding on to some of these things for a bit longer.

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Celebrating Chinese New Year In The Middle Of A Pandemic

Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year, is set to fall on 12 February this year. It marks the beginning of a new year according to the traditional lunar calendar, and heralds the arrival of spring. 

Here in Malaysia, Chinese New Year is a pretty big thing, since people of Chinese descent make up more than 20% of the population (about 6 million people). If this was any other year, CNY decor in malls would have already been up right after Christmas. There’d be cookie displays flooding bakery shelves; Padini/Uniqlo would be packed with shoppers buying new clothes on sale, and we’d all be subjected to the torture of loud, repetitive dong dong chiang music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across all TV and radio channels. 

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Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a pandemic – and like all the other people who made sacrifices last year for Christmas, Deepavali and Hari Raya, it is now our turn to give up the freedom that we often take for granted: the ability to travel home to see our loved ones.

On 13 January 2021, the Malaysian government implemented a second targeted Movement Control Order (MCO), restricting travel to and from red zone states. Workers in non-essential services are required to work from home, travel is restricted to a 10 kilometre radius to buy groceries and essentials, and eateries are only allowed to run on a take-away/delivery basis. Of course, celebrations of any kind are no longer allowed, as are things like weddings and other events. (Adding to the whole hullabaloo is the national Emergency which was declared by our King because of political in-fighting, but that’s for another entry lol.) 

The last time we had an MCO was back in March 2020, and it lasted for two months. Although the current MCO has only been announced for the next two weeks, many people are foreseeing an extension, at least for a further two weeks. With thousands of cases daily in Malaysia (at the time of this writing, there have been over 100 deaths in the last two weeks), most (sane) people understand that this is necessary to break the infection chain and ensure public health and safety. 

Since no events are allowed and travel is restricted, many of us will have to make do with a quiet celebration at home this year. While we won’t be able to observe certain traditions, I think that technology has allowed us to adapt (and innovate) in ways that would not have been possible 20 or 30 years ago – and we can use that to make CNY 2021 a memorable one. 

Reunion Dinner 

The reunion dinner on the eve of CNY is an integral part of CNY celebrations – some even consider it to be even more important than New Year’s Day.Traditionally, it’s when everyone gathers to feast and wish for a prosperous year ahead, whilst enjoying dishes with auspicious meanings (usually fish, pork, prawn and chicken – since back in the days meat was difficult to come by and would only be eaten on special occasions).

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Fam reunion dinner from 2018

The food for reunion dinners used to be prepared at home by the women folk. More than just preparing a meal, it was a way for people to bond. When my grandparents were still alive, the kitchen on CNY eve was a battlefield, and my grandma commandeered it like a general: slicing, dicing and supervising her helpers (my aunties). I kind of missed that after she passed away. In the last few years, eating out has become a trend, since nobody wants to go through the hassle of cooking and washing up for 20 people. Now that there are once again dine-in restrictions at restaurants, perhaps it’s time we went back to the drawing board and rediscover what it means to cook, and eat, together. 

For those who aren’t able to attend the reunion dinner night, I think it would be a good idea to set up some sort of Skype or Zoom call with family, so that you’d still be able to ‘eat’ together –  sort of like what I did with the hubs for our anniversary last year. It won’t replace being there in person, but in these unprecedented times, we have to make do with what we can – and it will hopefully stave off some of the loneliness that people who live away from home will undoubtedly feel during the festive season. 

Ang Pau Mali

Another tradition synonymous with CNY is the giving of red packets (ang pau) containing money to unmarried members of the family. As a kid, I was always super excited to receive ang paus (RM100 was a lot of money for a kid in the 90s). Funny thing though: at the end of each visit, the money would go to my mom, who’d keep it for ‘investment’…. And I’d never see it again lol. (Just kidding, I love you mom.) 

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Now that I’m married, I’ll no longer be on the receiving end, sadly. Under normal circumstances, it’s understandable not to give an angpau if you’re not visiting a particular relative. Unfortunately for married folk, the emergence of e-wallet apps and e-angpaus means that some of us won’t be able to wriggle out of it with the in absentia excuse: your nephews and nieces will probably say, “Aiya auntie, send it through e-angpau lah!” 

In With The New 

People usually buy new things for CNY (especially clothes), as it signifies a fresh start. Many clothing retailers are not able to open their brick and mortar shops, so more have gone online to provide for their customers. You can also find nice clothes on platforms like Shopee and Lazada for super cheap.

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There are pros and cons to shopping online. While it’s certainly more convenient and safer (no hour-long queue to get into the changing room, no fighting with another auntie for the same shirt you both have your eyes on at the sale rack), it can also be challenging for people with unusual body shapes/sizes, since they can’t see or feel the material/ cutting prior to their purchase. (Like yours truly. I have huge… shoulders. winkwink.) If you’re going to buy stuff online, best do it early to avoid disappointment, in case your item comes late in the mail. 

Chinese New Year foods in Malaysia

*Photo: evelynquek, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Buying gift hampers for associates, or cookies / treats for friends and family is another long standing CNY practice, and again, online shopping makes it convenient to have your items shipped directly to the doorstep of your recipient. As for treats for personal consumption, if you have the time, it might be a good idea to try your hand at baking/making your own. If you’re enterprising, you can even make a larger batch to sell and earn some extra money on the side. 

Cleaning / Decorating the House

People often underestimate the importance of decorating one’s personal space to elevate the mood. I believe it’s crucial; not to show off, but to re-centre yourself and your frame of mind. It’s one of the reasons why I wear office clothes even while working from home, because it kicks my mind into ‘work mode’. Lounging in pyjamas all day is comfy, but it also makes me more inclined to go roll around on the bed every 10 minutes. Similarly, just because no one is visiting for CNY doesn’t mean your house shouldn’t be clean and tidy.  

Unfortunately, technology has not yet evolved to the point where I’m able to kick back with a nice cup of coffee and a book, while my robot assistant does everything for me. So, manual labour it is.

CNY in 2021 will certainly be different, but if you put it into perspective, it’s not all doom and gloom. Traditions are meant to be kept and preserved, but if that isn’t possible due to circumstances beyond our control, then perhaps it’s time to innovate some new traditions. 

That being said, McD’s Prosperity Burger is back on the menu. 

Some things just never change. 

If you enjoyed reading this post, consider giving me a figurative angpau. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

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The Sales and Marketing Trap – How Companies Get You To Buy More Than You Actually Need

Ah, capitalism. 

No matter how vigilant we try to be against the tricks of the trade, I’m pretty sure we’ve all fallen victim to seemingly ‘innocent’ marketing traps at one time or other. It’s the .99$ promos, the membership discounts, the buy-1-free-1 deals. We think we’re getting a bargain; that we’ve outsmarted the game. In reality, we’re all just suckers in a system designed to separate us from our money by playing on our wants – and turning them into ‘needs’. 

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Case in point: despite being well aware of all of the above, I still fell victim during the recent year-end sale. I didn’t NEED a bunch of body butters in various scents when I already had some at home that would have lasted me for at least two months. I just FELT like I needed them, and because “it would be a shame not to buy them at a discounted price”. But the loser at the end? Me. Because I ended up spending more. Score one for corporations, zilch for Eris. 

So how exactly do companies get you to, in sales speak, ‘go through the purchase funnel’ ? (ie buy their stuff) ?  Let’s take a look: 

Relentless Advertising

Ever searched up something online, then got constantly bombarded by advertisements of related products and services? This is because despite all the assurances of privacy and etc., companies DO collect data about you and your browsing habits – to be used or sold to potential advertisers to create targeted ads. Some websites give you a heads up that they ‘collect cookies’, but it’s all just a show to appear transparent – because many of these sites do so without asking for permission anyway, and there is no way to regulate this. This is probably why you’re seeing a lot of hotel deals on Facebook, after looking up airfares to Langkawi. They can wrap it in fancy terms like  ‘tailoring a more personalised experience’, but I’ll call it what it is: digital stalking. And they’ll keep showing you ads – until you finally cave in. 

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I recently shopped for items on The Body Shop online, since they had a promo and were giving away freebies (another way of sucking you in to buying stuff…coz who doesn’t like free stuff?). For the next few days, I kept seeing ads for body creams, lotions and fragrances. Inadvertently, it weakened my resolve – and I ended up buying more items from Bath and Body Works, which I did not actually need. Was it my fault for succumbing? Partly yes – but that’s how companies target your psyche, and ultimately push you into action. 

Free, But…

Behold the magic word. 

Malaysians love freebies and discounts. It’s the reason why many of us don’t mind lining up for hours on end just to get a free bag which would probably have cost 5 bucks. Was it actually worth it? Maybe not, but hey. It’s free, right? 

But is it really? 

Here’s an example, again from my experience at The Body Shop. So aside from buying online, I also bought from their physical store, to get Christmas gifts for friends. The sales person suggested that I sign up as a member, which would entitle me to a 20% discount. But to be eligible for a member, I had to purchase a minimum of RM80, and my gifts were like RM20 short. I ended up getting body butter for another 80 bucks. -___- 

Did I actually NEED the body butter? No. But my brain basically rationalised the purchase, saying ‘Hey, you got that for a 20% discount!’ 

Upgrades

Related to the above. I also commonly see this at Starbucks, where the barista will ask if you’d like to upsize your drink for an additional 1 or 2 bucks. Question is, do you actually need to drink that much ? Or are you just upsizing because you think that you’re getting much more ‘value’? 

“Unbeatable” Deals

I can’t remember where I read this, but I once came across this saying that companies don’t sell products; they sell FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Buyer’s psychology is such that we feel the need to one-up, to get (or at least believe that we got) the best value from our purchase.

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The sales tactic works extremely well for this. The end of the year is especially brutal, what with the 10.10, 11.11, 12.12, Christmas and new year’s sales. Yours truly can testify, having held out for all of them except for Christmas, and more recently, Bath and Body Works new year sale (bought another body butter and a candle for RM39 each). Speaking of which, the .9 tactic is another way companies make you believe that you’re spending less, and that you’re getting a deal. Because again, buyer’s psychology is such that RM39 seems much more appealing than RM40, despite it being just a RM1 difference. 

While I’m sure many people are well aware of all these little marketing traps, it can still be difficult to resist at times – especially in this day and age where we’re constantly exposed to marketing messages of buy more, spend more. Unless, of course you have a willpower of steel.  For the rest of us, we’ll just have to be more conscious about our purchasing habits, and be more intuitive in our spending. 

Now excuse me while I go apply some of those damn body butters I don’t actually need.

Hello!

If you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting my website. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

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Mid-October Update

Hey guys!

It’s 12/10 and the gov just announced that we’re having another CMCO (for the benefit of my foreign readers, that’s a Conditional Movement Control Order – kinda like a ‘loose’ quarantine but not a total lockdown) in my area: which means no interstate travel allowed, plus restrictions on the operating hours of some businesses, for two weeks. Schools will be closed, as well as parks and entertainment centres. Only two people from each household are allowed out for essentials, and if you have to work across the border (in my case, Puchong – KL) you’ll need a letter from your employer – similar to how it was back in March/April when the whole nation was under lockdown.

I’m not gonna go into deets (because it’ll become a rant lol) on why we’re having a third wave when we were doing pretty okay. let’s just say politicians are shit and they only care about power – as they always do anywhere else in the world. Funny how we ‘learn’ about history and yet take no lessons from them.

Since this blog is mostly about food and travel experiences, I guess I’ll just have to write about other things again for awhile – that is, if I can find the time. As much as I’d like to post and write more often, there’s a crazy amount of work to do on a daily basis. What with pay cuts and staff layoffs left and right, many people who still have a job are forced to take on additional work loads, myself included. It hasn’t been good for my mental health, but I’m trying to power through because I understand that times are hard and no company is a charity case. I might whine about my problems online because it’s the only outlet I have – but at the end of the day, I guess it’s still about getting things done.

I hope everyone is doing safe and well, wherever you are!

Too bad we don’t have autumn in Malaysia lol

**PS: If you’re not already subscribed, I have a Patreon! You can subscribe here. You can also follow me on other social media channels on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Your support would mean the world to me! 🙂

Nurture Your Introverts to Harness Their Superpowers

introvert
noun
/ˈɪntrəvəːt/
  1. a shy, reticent person.

Mention introvert and the image that comes to mind is of a person sitting quietly in a corner, surrounded by a mountain of books. They might enjoy hobbies like knitting, drawing, video games, or going for long walks on the beach on their own.

Extroverts, by comparison, are the ones who are forward and ‘think on their feet’; social butterflies who enjoy meeting people. If these terms ring any bells, it’s because they are traits companies use to describe desirable employees. Everyone loves the party animals, because they’re fun-loving, engaging, charismatic. Introverts, on the other hand, get a lot less love. The corporate world is setup to value speed and aggression, and there seems to be little to no space for introspection.

I am here to tell you why introverts matter, and why companies shouldn’t dismiss an employee’s potential, simply because we don’t fit into the conventional mold of what society deems a quote unquote, ‘good’ employee.

Now, before we dive deeper, let me just put it on the table that I have nothing against extroverts. Extroverts are awesome and I envy them their ease at fostering connections and their ability to bring people together. But just like everything in life, I believe in balance – and I think the world would be a better place if we can tap into the strengths of both extroverts AND introverts.

Many people assume that I’m antisocial, because I’m only good to ‘hangout’ for short periods –  and even then it’s usually with a small and intimate group. This is untrue. I do not hate meeting people. Being an introvert simply means that I need time to recharge my batteries. Unlike extroverts, who get their energy from being around people and bouncing their ideas off others, introverts are like sponges – we absorb information and process them within. Think of a sponge that has soaked up too much water: it needs to be squeezed and emptied before it can be used again.

An ex-boss once told me not to be ‘antisocial’, when I politely declined another glass of beer at an office gathering. “You’re so uptight. Chill lah. Open up,” he said, while waving a bottle of Heineken in my face. “Live a little.” This is a very extraverted way of thinking.  Live in the moment. Enjoy a bottle of beer, preferably while it’s cold, in the company of colleagues. And I’m not saying that’s wrong or anything, but introverts tend to take a bit more time to process things. Mine went like this: Another beer will get me drunk = I will have difficulty driving back home = Endangering others = let’s not have a beer, even if everyone else is and they call it ‘socialising’.  Needless to say, the way he delivered his well-intentioned (?) remark did not help me to ‘open up’. If anything, I grew to dread office gatherings because I felt like a total freak, even when I was trying to socialise with others.

The Value of Introspection

“Spur of the moment” is used to describe something that happens without advance planning. Extroverts tend to have this way of thinking – speak one’s mind / get something going first, then work out the deets later. And while it can be a good thing in some cases, other decisions require deliberate and thoughtful introspection. Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men, is a famous introvert, and has said before in interviews that he often takes time off to do his own research and deliberate on decisions.

In a meeting, extroverts tend to dominate conversations, as they are more outspoken and willing to share,  while introverts tend to be sidelined as they might only speak up when they feel that they have something valuable to add. This might lead people to believe that they do not have any good ideas at all, when in reality, they are simply taking their time to analyse and process the information, before they share their thoughts. If you need someone to create a report or summarise the minutes – I can guarantee you that introverts will excel nine times out of ten, because of the way our minds are wired. Remember = sponge.

Meaningful Connections 

Introverts are often chastised for their inability to socialise or network well. If you base success on the number of people you manage to pass your phone number to at an event, then sure – introverts are probably not as good as extroverts. But I disagree that we don’t connect well with people. It just takes us longer to find that one person who is worth spending our precious time and energy, because to introverts, this is a very limited resource that has to be spent wisely. We may not be naturally charismatic, but it is precisely because of this that many introverts place a high value on their relationships, both personal and professional, and work hard to maintain these r/ships. These deep and loyal bonds can be a great asset to a company, and friendships for that matter.

The Quiet Sweet Potato Is Filling 

The above is a literal translation of the Malay saying, “diam-diam ubi berisi” lol.

There’s nothing fancy or particularly appealing about a sweet potato’s appearance. And yet, this humble root vegetable fills you up. It means that just because someone doesn’t outwardly say or appear to fit into a certain mold, that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything of value to add, or that they’re stupid. The closest equivalent to this proverb that I can think of is ’empty barrels make the most noise’, although it doesn’t capture the simplicity and essence of diam-diam ubi berisi.

There is a common misconception that leaders have to be outspoken, pushy go-getters. This setup means that charming, charismatic people, regardless of whether they can actually do a job well, are often given leadership positions.  I have personally worked with and met people in leadership positions who are all air and no action: nice to look at at first glance, but with no substance within.

In contrast, quieter, less outgoing leaders are usually more focused on getting a job done rather than gaining approval from their employees and peers – which means that they can be more efficient. I have worked with several introverted bosses, and they are some of the best leaders I’ve had the chance to work with. And because their personalities gelled with mine, they understood how to bring out the best in me.

Many of the world’s most gifted creatives and analysts – from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to Einstein – are introverts. Magic happens in the space between solitude and monotony, because creating a work of art, whether it’s writing, drawing, painting, etc. is often an introspective activity. We may be inspired by our surroundings, but creativity is drawn from within. We are no lesser, nor stranger, than the rest of the world. There is strength in being an introvert, and we should embrace who we are and work to realise our full potential.

Signing off with a very insightful Ted Talk by Susan Cain !

**PS: You can read more stuff like this on Patreon!  Subscribe here. You can also follow me on other social media channels on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Your support would mean the world to me! 🙂 

 

 

Patreon?

Hey guys!

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not very diligent when it comes to sharing personal posts or motivational (?) stuff like ‘Lessons I’ve learned from… etc.’  There are a few reasons for this:

A) It Takes A Buttload of Time 

Unlike lifestyle / food posts, which are based on experiences (ie, ‘tangible’ stuff  – you can write about how food tastes, how the service at a resto is like, what went on at an event, etc.) thoughts are much harder to present in a cohesive manner.  It usually takes, on average, a couple of days for me to write a ‘serious’ topic, as compared to a food post which I can bang out within an hour. Oftentimes, when I have a good idea, I run out of steam before it comes to fruition and I end up abandoning the whole thing lol. Also, despite being a writer, I am not the best when it comes to articulating what I feel or think. It’s like running Red Dead Redemption II on a potato graphics card.

True story

B) I Am My Own (Worst) Gatekeeper 

As a former newspaper journalist, self-censorship is almost second nature. Writing and rewriting, reading and rereading each sentence before it is deemed ‘fit’ for publication, is just something that I do unconsciously. But this also comes at a cost: I am often hyper-aware of how some words/ opinions may come off as ‘controversial’… so I avoid writing about them entirely.  I know it’s a shame because this is where discussion stems from, but I dislike conflict, and I feel it isn’t worth the trouble of potentially getting into a fight or getting ‘cancelled’ for my opinions. There are plenty of nasty, spiteful people out there on the net, and I don’t want to see my face Photoshopped over a naked body and uploaded to a porn site just coz someone isn’t happy about my opinions about the new Disney’s Mulan. @-@ There is also the possibility that I might write something a future employer deems offensive and controversial, which might affect my job prospects or other future projects.

C) Separating Content 

Most of the stuff on here relates to food/ travel and lifestyle, so it’s kinda odd that there are random personal posts in them. I want to try and separate the two, because I doubt anyone would be interested in reading about my struggles with anxiety and depression, when all they came on here to find out was how much a bowl of curry noodles from X restaurant costs.

D) Conflict Avoidance 

Perhaps the primary reason why I don’t do a lot of personal posts – is because I don’t want drama. My family reads my blog occasionally (my own fault coz I have them on my soc-med and I share my blog links there too), which has effectively prevented me from sharing too much about my personal life.

I don’t live in a perfect household. I believe every family has problems, and in no way am I saying I don’t love them or care for them. But there are times when I just want an outlet for release – or share my thoughts and connect to others with similar experiences – and I simply cannot do that by talking to them about it. Some might ask, “why are you airing dirty laundry?”, and “why is it easier for you to share things with strangers?” Because surprisingly, many strangers and friends DON’T judge, and even if they do, I don’t care as much, as compared to if it comes from someone close to me. I just want to say my piece, and be done with it. Does that make sense?

Case in point: I once wrote a personal story about my experience during a CNY reunion dinner. An uncle decided it was his place to tell me that “I had a pretty face, but it would be better if I lost some weight.” I didn’t want to cause a scene coz my parents were there, but I went home and wrote a scathing piece on my blog – which somehow went viral (because nosy, rude relatives are a fixture in every Chinese family and I’m sure a lot of people can relate). The BBC even contacted me to write a lifestyle piece for them on a somewhat related topic, which I think was the pinnacle(?) of my career as a writer lol.

But the result was that it somehow got back to the fam. That uncle has not spoken to me ever since, and my mom now uses this as arsenal whenever we have an argument and I say I don’t care (“oh but you do, you wrote that piece about uncle X, didn’t you?”)

See what I mean?

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing Patreon for some time now, because I’m writing stuff on this blog anyway – why not have a dedicated space for more personal topics? So I’ve decided that I’ll be putting up all my personal posts on Patreon. This way, I can write – no-holds barred – and really share my thoughts on things. Maybe I won’t have any readers – or the community interaction I enjoy here on WordPress –  but it will sure be a load off my chest, and I’ll have the freedom to write whatever I want.

I realise this must sound like a very poor pitch – I’ve never been good at sales pitches or asking people to do things – but if you like, please subscribe to my Patreon. I already have a couple of posts and good ideas lined up, and it would mean the world to me to earn a little from this otherwise expensive hobby (been blogging for eight years, never earned more than 400 USD). That comes up to about 50 USD a year, or around 10 cents a day. (If that isn’t the embodiment of the starving, melancholic writer stereotype, I don’t know what is.) But whether or not you’ve been following this blog for some time, or if you’re new, or just stumbled on this by accident, I just want to say a big thank you for spending your precious time to read whatever I have to say. Thank you, and I hope you continue to support this channel, and if you don’t like the content, let me know what I can improve on.

Til the next post!