2014: A Year in Review

heck yes

SourceDesign Love Fest

Despite the fact that we’re over a quarter of the way through 2015, I still feel that this post is important and relevant. It’s important not only because it represents my ‘return’ to blogging after a long nine months, but also, because I feel that 2014 was a pretty significant year.

I really like doing these ‘Year in Review’ posts. It’s obviously impossible to summarise an entire year’s worth of experiences in one post, but in musing over everything that happened, from highs to lows, you really do walk away with a sense of perspective that otherwise, can be difficult to gain. (Of course, Hollywood would tell you that spending some time with a guru at a spiritual retreat in Asia would give you the same ‘(re)finding yourself’ experience – but I digress.)

At the close of 2013, when I was reflecting over everything that had happened over the past year, there was one quote that really struck out to me.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

2013 was a year that asked questions. There were a number of question marks in my life – there was uncertainty, apprehensiveness, self-doubt, and perhaps a little fear too.

But what about 2014? Many of the questions of 2013 were answered in 2014, some in ways I had never imagined. At the same time though, I came to understand the value of being asked these kind of questions. Your life isn’t and shouldn’t be dictated by the expectations others have towards themselves, or the expectations others have for you. You don’t have to have everything ‘figured out’ before you finish university and step into the ‘real’ world. You don’t need to give an interesting, convincing yet realistic answer to the much dreaded ‘where do you see yourself in five years time’ question.

For me, 2014 was such an exciting and fulfilling year. It was a year where I really challenged myself both mentally and physically, stepped outside of my comfort zone, and wholeheartedly embraced new ideas, experiences and opportunities. I can’t emphasise how important it is to simply say ‘YES!’ sometimes. Say yes to opportunities that will broaden your mind. Say yes to applying for jobs that you (for some reason or another) feel that you’re not good enough for. Say yes to meeting new people. Say yes to coffee/dinner/drinks with people who are different – people who are outside your immediate social circle. Say yes to listening to different perspectives on life and ideas about the world. Say yes to travelling. And say yes even when a little voice in your head is saying ‘maybe’… or asking ‘what if’.

Here’s to the rest of 2015!

Waiting

Lemony Snicket

Source: Flickr

Sometimes, this quote really resonates with me. We spend so much time telling ourselves that we’ll make a commitment or decision about something important when we’re ‘ready’. But who knows… what separates us from being who or where we want to be could just be a leap of faith…  

Life is like riding a bicycle

Life is like riding a bicycle

Source: Tumblr

Ironically, I don’t know how to ride a bicycle. But you get the gist, right? (Don’t worry, it’s on my bucket list – I hope I have the opportunity to tick it off in the very near future!) 

I can’t believe that we’re already about to wrap up week 3 of uni – which is, if you think about it, almost a quarter of the way through the semester. I can hear the resounding WHAT?! in the room. Yes. Time sure flies by very quickly. #statingtheobvious

This week has been a very busy week for me, and I think it’s only going to get busier from next week onwards. I’ve been spending a lot of my time and energy refining resumes, writing cover letters, researching, and answering application questions for a number of graduate programs. Deadlines are approaching and (as usual), I’ve fallen prey to the wicked temptation of Procrastination. But it’s time to face reality, and right now, the reality is that I have to keep moving forward. Luckily, now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling, it’s definitely starting to feel easier and less stressful. That first step is never easy!

This one is going to be a short one – but I wish all my fellow final year students the best of luck! :)

Mid-week inspiration

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for

Source: Tumblr

I love this quote. And not just because of the pretty typography and watercolour details – though admittedly, that definitely played a role in piquing my attention during one of my Pinterest browsing sessions.

There are so, so many quotes out there. Quotes from writers, poets, celebrities, philanthropists, business people, world leaders… to your average Tumblr teenager. But there are only a handful that seem to speak to you directly. And for me, this is one of them. These are the right words, at the right time…

What are some of your favourite quotes?

We run this town

Sydney Tower

One of my New Year Resolutions for 2014 was to incorporate running into my week. However, the problem was (and always has been) that I’ve never particularly enjoyed running. How can I describe my antipathy towards running? Well, at best, running feels like a pesky chore that admittedly, gives me a sense of accomplishment when I’m finished.  At worst, it feels like some kind of self-imposed hell and, running through my mind on loop is why-am-I-doing-this-what-am-I-doing-I-can’t-breathe-maybe-I-have-asthma-no-my-legs-are-about-to-collapse-beneath-me. Back in Year 7, when my P.E. teacher asked me if I was a ‘runner’, I responded with a look of mild shock. Me, a runner? Are you kidding? Later on in high school, I did go through a running phase though. I went for a run every morning before school. But no, I never found it fun or relaxing. It was a chore. Now, the running I do is mainly on the treadmill at the gym and I spend the time either glued on the display, anticipating the end of my short (but sweet – or at least I tell myself) obligatory run, or praying that no one steps on the treadmill next to me, because we all know that really means. Race time.

So after a few half-hearted attempts at running over the last couple of months, I finally decided to join a friend at the Nike+ Run Club on Monday and attempted the beginner’s 5k.  As we ran through the Royal Botanic Gardens and down Mrs. Macquarie’s Road, passing Lady Macquarie’s Chair, I savoured the fresh sea breeze and the scenic views of the harbour at dusk. Who thought running could be relaxing? The first 3, pushing to 4 kilometres were surprisingly comfortable. I could breathe! My legs weren’t complaining! Maybe I am a runner after all, I thought. But then came the last kilometre. Suddenly, everything felt uncomfortable. I was huffing and puffing as we ran up and down the small slopes along the shore. The soles of my feet were on fire. My whole body was heating up. My legs wanted to fold under. And the fact that the last stretch was down the length of Hyde Park and back along its diagonal made it extra painful. There was no hiding – I was completely exposed here. It started to sprinkle a little. I winced. Getting wet was not part of the plan. Then our run leader told us to sprint the last couple hundred of metres… and so I mustered the little energy I had left, picked up my jelly legs and ran for my life to the finishing point. And I completed my 5k run!  

I limped back to the meeting point with my friend and sister, feeling mighty proud of myself. I did it! This is the longest distance I have ever run before. In my life. And I have to thank my friend for providing moral support and reminding me to keep running, as slow as I need – as long as I don’t stop and walk.

We generally think of running as a solo activity, but it’s quite a different experience when you do it as a group, sans earphones and the playlist of workout-only, trashy tunes. There were close to a hundred of us on the beginner’s run I believe, and even though we did not know each other, a strange sense of camaraderie is formed when you participate in a group run like this.

And while I can’t say that I love running (yet)… I do love the feeling afterwards. Running really does give you a sense of empowerment. Every little challenge you conquer reaffirms the entire mind over body philosophy. That you are capable. You are stronger than you think.

Maybe, one day I will grow to enjoy running – who knows?

Recent Reads: Gone Girl and Dark Places

gonegirl_darkplaces

1. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

Gone Girl begins with the sudden disappearance of Amy Dunne on her fifth wedding anniversary. Her husband Nick becomes a prime suspect when the local detectives and the small community learn of his financial dependence on her and her well-off parents. Moreover, his stoic appearance and calm composure on camera is interpreted as a clear image of guilt. As the story unfolds, the narration alternates between Amy’s diary entries from the day she meets Nick to Nick’s present-day accounts after his wife’s mysterious disappearance. With each chapter, our sympathy and allegiance shifts between Nick and Amy. What is the truth? But it turns out that the truth is never quite so simple, and nor does it bring us any comfort. The characters are dangerous and deranged, and their behaviour is disturbingly narcissistic and sociopathic. Yet, Flynn manages to allow the reader to feel a strange sense of empathy towards them. Beneath their deep flaws, there is something about their behaviour as a couple that evokes a visceral response – there is an element of raw humanness about it.

I think that by setting the story in a small, dying Midwest town, Flynn appears to give another reason for the deep flaws of the characters. The economy is down and jobs have been lost. Everything has been ‘hollowed out: businesses and investment, the natural environment, and even morals. The ‘wasteland’ in which the characters live in is a place devoid of any real purpose or meaning.

Gone Girl was a very interesting read and even though I usually stay away from the mystery/crime/thriller genre (no, not for any particular reason), I found it very enjoyable. Definitely a page-turner and well worth the hype.

2. Dark Places (Gillian Flynn)

Libby Day, the sole survivor of a horrific family massacre during her childhood, has been playing the role of victim throughout her life. She has lived off the donations made by well-wishers over the years, but as her funds are beginning to dry up, Libby reluctantly accepts an invitation from The Kill Club, a hobbyist group who are obsessed with crimes. The members are convinced in the innocence of her elder brother Ben, and encourage her to gain emotional closure. Their fervent belief in Ben’s innocence leads Libby to question her own testimony – one that provided the damning evidence that sent Ben to prison. Slowly, with the support of the Club, Libby reconnects with people from the past to recreate the events of the night that would change her life forever.

Like Gone Girl, Dark Places relies on different voices, alternating between present-day Libby and the events of 1985 from the main characters. I think that this is probably Flynn’s strongest writing talent – the ability to weave multiple narratives and perspectives together to create multi-faceted characters and a sense of ongoing suspense. Also, in dealing deftly with complex themes such as class, poverty and grief in her writing, Flynn paints an incredibly sympathetic picture of a single-parent family struggling to get by.

Having read Gone Girl first, I must admit that it took me a while to get into Dark Places. I just couldn’t connect with the characters or the setting. Maybe because (if I recall correctly), the fourth wall isn’t broken in Dark Places. However, now that I have finished the two, I think that Dark Places is a little bit better. The social commentary that runs throughout the story and the ending (oh, such a surprise, but so touching) really did it for me.

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Looking forward to the 2014 film adaptations for Gone Girl and Dark Places now! :)

Good bye, summer break

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Source: Pinterest

I feel that this post, published at the start of the summer break, was written just yesterday. How did three months fly by so quickly? There are days when I realise I’ve forgotten to cross off any dates on my calendar for a week. 2014 has its foot firmly on the accelerator, and is zooming by, leaving me shrouded on the roadside in dust and smoke. And now that uni is starting in less than two weeks, I can’t help but focus on what I’ve achieved, or rather, failed to achieve over the break.

Maybe I wasn’t as productive or as innovative as I could be with my time. But does that make me a ‘loser’? Sometimes, it does feel that way. Partly because it’s far too easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves with other people. And even when we are completely aware that we are trying to live up to someone else’s expectations, live someone else’s life – rather than our own – nothing really changes. Because we have a tendency to focus on the bigger, ‘glitzier’ experiences. When someone asks us What did you get up to?, we automatically devalue and brush aside the day-to-day and more mundane life experiences. Instead, a little part of us wishes we could talk about something like travelling across three different continents, completing a much-coveted internship, or something bold like volunteering in a developing country. 

I am, by no means, trying to promote or condone a particular lifestyle or set of ambitions and goals. I simply think that a lot of the time, we have become so removed from the actual experiences themselves. Rather than focusing on the various opportunities for personal development and the valuable life lessons that entail these experiences, the emphasis is often wrongly placed on the presentation and packaging of these experiences. I talked about this in my earlier post on social media. We spend so much time thinking about how we can frame these experiences in a particular way and in a particular aesthetic. The direct corollary to this is that we have a broad platform for comparison. It’s no longer through the spread of gossip via a third party, like the way Mrs. Bates waxes lyrical about the virtues of Jane Fairfax in Emma (couldn’t help but include an Austen reference!) – it is direct and immediate, whether it be in the form of a Facebook check-in, an Instagram picture, or perhaps even a LinkedIn update. We have become more sensitive towards the way we are perceived by our peers. Alain de Botton terms this ‘status anxiety’ – giving shape and form to that often far-too-familiar feeling of personal inadequacy when we find ourselves envying (or questioning) the success achieved by someone. And not just anyone, but most importantly, someone who could just be us. Our peers. 

Comparison is the thief of joy

Source: Pinterest

This quote really succinctly describes how I feel at times. The more we compare ourselves to others, the more miserable we are likely to feel. We gradually lose our sense of self-worth because we become so obsessed with the value we believe others confer on us. But we can choose to lead our own lives. We can choose to be happy. :)

P.S. I’m not sure why my recent posts seem to be going down the ‘self-help’ direction. More variety in the weeks to come, I promise!