Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fern

Taking a creative writing class this year is a big breather for me. After all those math classes, finally getting to indulge in something that I have wanted to do for a long time was amazing. I wish I had taken it earlier in my school years. But it's never too late right? (Unless I die lah tomorrow)

But I have to admit that with all the pleasures it brought me, it also stripped me of all the protection I enclosed myself in. It's like a virus alert on your laptop went off, notifying your laptop's being threatened by Trojan except I'm the laptop and insecurities is Trojan.  And forgetting the very bad analogy, what I mean to say is: I've been hit with insecurities.

When I started writing again this semester, I had to read a lot. But I didn't read in the way that I used to, I didn't read to immerse myself in the authors' different worlds. I started reading into the way authors' used to words and how they stringed them into art. I started seeing the technicalities of it. Word usage, how she began the story, how he introduced his character. I need to do this so I can write as beautiful as they do, I thought. But after a while, it became tiring. Because the fact is, is that imitation is difficult. To imitate someone's style of writing is like stepping into a pair of Timberlands when you are a Nike Air person. And forgetting the very bad analogy again, but, to try and write in a way that is not you - it's just not your style.

And now I'm starting to learn to use my own voice... except I don't exactly know who and what she is. What happened was, when I started writing, the voice that came out (name of voice: Fern) was unfamiliar. I didn't know her. But every time I tried to write in the voice I thought I was, Fern took over again.
Discovering Fern created a conflict within me. I've always lived knowing exactly who I was and what type of person I am. I know my faults and strengths. I know that my favourite food is durian and I hate (HATE) tomatoes. So it was hard to admit there was a big part of me that I didn't know.

And it makes it even more difficult to discover that Fern is not who I want her to be. That Fern is not like Brontë or Rowling. That Fern is not the voice I wanted to write in.  I'm still trying to love Fern.





(That would have been the perfect ending to this post but I'm going to ruin it by telling y'alls that I'M DONE WITH JUNIOR YEAR!!!! Emotional? Excited? Confused? Yes. Yes and yes. And also still sleepy from unrecovered sleep)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Reignited

Tick tock is going faster and faster now. Or I probably just have more to do now.

Second semester of my junior year, already! So much has happened, or so I believe. Passed my FM and P papers, and now soldiering on for MFE and C, which is just horrible. Not the papers. But horrible, the fact that I am dedicating my life to passing papers. Done with this one? On you go to the next. 
Not sure if this is the life I want to live. The papers are supposed to add knowledge, prepare me for my supposed actuarial career. 
I suspect it's actually due to the pressure I feel to do well in a place where everyone does well. Pressure from myself, specifically. Because the papers signify my value to the world. And it shouldn't. But I'm currently submitting to it. For now I am content with submitting to it, but I hope one day I snap out of it (probably after I finish passing the papers).

Besides the little introspection I've done on my goals and dreams, life has been very average lately. I've been doing the usual study, work, study, watch some Netflix, travel during breaks, back to studying. School has been the usual, 
Struggle to pass my math classes (decided Math 523 is the next worst thing after Linear Algebra)
Exhaustion throughout the whole semester
Always feeling like you're not good enough cause you're surrounded by brainiacs

I managed to find myself in East Coast (New York, Boston, Niagara Falls, Washington DC), Hong Kong, Japan, Texas, Florida over the past few months which is all very very exciting! Every trip, I discover something new, about people about places, sometimes about myself. I've always wanted to actually blog about my trips but time is just trickling away from me...



Finally going to Niagara was... blissful. Going to Niagara was something I dreamt of as a 13-year-old. Those days when it was all just talk with my parents about travelling around the United States and finally 7/8 years later it wasn't just talk anymore. Seeing Niagara with my own eyes was nothing less than astounding. There's just something about realising a childhood dream... 
(next up is Santorini, I've always wanted to go there ever since I read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants)

The reason I brought up Niagara was bc I wanted to share: 
I recently submitted a short story entry for Buku Fixi, which is edited by Anwar Hadi and (for some reason but Alhamdulillah) one of my short stories was chosen to be in the book. So my work will actually be published in a book that will be sold which is uber weird.
But I was so ecstatic when I found out last night!!

Those days when I left the stories I wrote all around the house, and my parents encouraging me to write more after they found the papers I wrote on. 
Those days when my teachers at the the school I went to in Holland encouraged me to improve my writing. When Ms McCracken introduced me to new styles of writing. And that time Mrs. Gardella asked a few of us, including me, to write stories for her to put in the library. 

But those days when I dreamt of becoming an author died.
Returning to Malaysia, it was all exam life. No more encouragements. Exams, studying.  I did manage to get published in the school magazine but that was it. I forgot about those days I sat writing whatever story I wanted to tell. Those days I read about how an author got to be where he/she is now. 

And now they have somewhat been realised. And heck I know it's a not a big popular book but to actually have my work published is just unbelievable. 
But I think the main thing I'm taking from this is that. Dreams don't just die. And they're not impossible to achieve. 
I think finding the right opportunity and not wasting it is important. 

I'm eternally thankful for this moment, not because I think it's a great feat, but because of how it has reminded me that you shouldn't just throw your dreams, because it's def possible as long as you work for it. 
And yes you hear cliche stuff like this all the time, but actually going through it myself has made me finally believe that it's true. 

You could say I'm reignited now. And I hope none of us will think that we can't do whatever we've wanted and let our flames die. You have so much in you to make it work. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Sophomore Year

Craaaaaaazzzyyyyyy.
It's already the end of sophomore year! Well technically it ended last month, but I'm currently taking spring classes (summer for y'alls), so I'm still not quite done with the year.

Ugh. I still can't get over how fast time has been moving. The seniors have warned me that it's just going to get worse in junior year. So yep, got that to look forward to!
I was thinking about the past year, and it surprised me how much has happened since I came back to America in September.

Sophomore year in review:

Linear Algebra 
I think if you asked me what the highlight of my 3rd semester here was - it is definitely linear algebra. God. Linear Algebra. I swear that was the worst thing I've had to face. The weekly homework that I could just NEVER understand much less actually do it. And getting back 1/5 mark for my quizzes every week? Not fun. I admit, I've always been an overachiever, so going through something like that felt torturous.
I tried though, I really did. I studied a lootttt, did so much exercises, I went to office hours EVERY WEEK, I went to additional tutoring sessions - but I guess sometimes you gotta accept that you just don't have the brains for some things. For me it's conceptual subjects I guess.

I still remember after getting back the results for my second test, I cried the whole night. And it wasn't just little tears that slid down your cheeks, it was the full on hiccupy crying. That was a wreck. I felt like giving up at one point. My head actually felt numb cause I just could not do it.
But I still tried.
I kept meeting with my lecturer (who was also my supervisor at my job at the math lab lol), and he helped me a whole lot. My finals actually did improve (albeit by 6 marks), but I was content in the end. Didn't matter that I just was not good at it, I think what mattered most was how much I tried.

It was depressing. No kidding, every day during that semester was hard for me. With having to face other things in my life, it was just... hard. But I managed (with the help of my friends of course). Sometimes gotta bear through a little rainstorm to see that rainbow - cliche, but true haha.

Malaysian Cultural Night 
Oooooo this was challenging. Being appointed as Assistant Director of MCN was scaaary. Can't imagine what Zaryff (Director) was feeling.
MCN is big here in Umich (to us Malaysians at least), and being part of the organizing team wasn't easy. I had to make a few sacrifices here and there (including my sanity) (jokes, just my sleeping time). But I guess it was good for me.

Got to learn a thing or two about organization skills, about handling different types of people, got to learn the fan dance. And one thing I mostly remember is learning to stand up for your rights when you've been f***ed over.
Will not go into details, but had a little disagreement with a restaurant owner, but I learnt to solve it (maybe not nicely, but who would wanna be nice if you've been manipulated). I was proud of myself though! I have never had to do that, but I did. And I got what we wanted in the end so *pats myself on the back.

Other than that, MCN was a success! Thanks to all the people in the committee :D

 
Jama and Amirah made beautiful posters for this year's MCN!

Ya daz me dancin' guys.

Winter Break
I guess the last highlight of my sophomore year would be my winter break trip. I went on a trip with my close friends from Intec and we were planning for a road trip that included California, Oregon and Seattle.
Unfortunately, due to things that were out of our control, our trip looked like this:


It was specifically due to a snowstorm that hit us when we were driving up from Hoover Dam to Portland, Oregon (very very bad timing). It was a hell of a drive man. We were in two cars, and both cars skid separately. To imagine this: you must first know that we were basically in the middle of nowhere, driving through a mountain pass and it was really really dark (there are no lights on American highways). The first car skid into snow. That was scary cause I was in it. And there was a pole but Faris somehow managed to avoid it. So then the guys pushed the car out and stuff. Then around 1 or 2 hours later, the second car skid. It just, wouldn't move forward because of how icy the road was. And everytime it did, it moved to the side - where there was a gaung (idk what that is in English, ditch??? gorge??? beats me). 
One word: frightening.

We tried to stay calm and called 911 and etc. Stayed in the car for a few hours in the end until Highway Patrol came and helped us out. Idk what happened really cause I was in the other car, but the skidded car finally moved. And by that time, they already salted the road so that was good. We stopped by at a small town and ate breakfast and the guys bought snowchains for the cars and I was changing plans with hotels and stuff. Tense but it was alright. 
The nice thing is how nobody got cranky and everybody stayed calm and we talked things through. (Love my friends for that haha). 

So after things were settled, we up and went cause of a rumour that a snowstorm was gonna hit the town soon. It wasn't over yet though, cause from Reno to San Francisco, we had to go through another mountain pass and there was another snowstorm. Like a I-can't-see-beyond-5 feet snowstorm. It was just so tense and I think I was reciting different surahs the whole way. The fear was real people!!

Anywho, we finally passed through it and FINALLY ARRIVED IN SAN FRANCISCO. 
After that, there was no more snow for us and everyday was a sunny day in California (exaggeration but it felt sunny everyday after that horrible snowstorm).

Our drive basically 

Thankfully nothing else happened during the trip, except very minor ones like Najiy booking us rooms at what looked like a hotel prostitutes used (the shower didn't even work guys), me getting attacked by seagulls at the Fisherman's wharf, getting parking tickets, not getting to see Grand Canyon cause of the weather even though we spent a day driving up there. Oh and cannot miss about the time when I dropped Garret's popcorn on the floor at the Las Vegas airport minutes before boarding the flight back to Cleveland and also made a scene when I said that I left my phone at a shop, causing Aiman and Ariff to run back to the shop to look for it - only to realize 30 seconds later that my I was charging my phone at the seat in front of me. 

It was a nice trip. We caught up after a year plus of being apart, and we were definitely too chill, spending an hour to eat even though we were supposed to be somewhere. Idk how the heck we even became a group in Intec, but however it was, it's nice to have them now. 
It's nice that we got into only minor arguments (especially at the grocery store... especially the grocery store. Imagine 10 people deciding what to buy...), and we became closer than ever.

Knowing that I have 9 other people to help me out when I'm not okay or when I'm in trouble makes me feel happy :)

my patooties

One funny thing though was how during New Year's Eve, we went to Downtown Los Angeles with hopes of seeing fireworks. So we waited there and got really excited when the countdown started.
There were fireworks alright - but on a frickin screen. ON A SCREEN. No fireworks at all!!!
But it's okay cause they sparkle more than fireworks ha ha ha.
___________________________________________________________________________

It has been a great year. Compared to how last year ended, life has definitely taken turn for the better (and I'm hoping it doesn't go too downhill again). 
I guess the most important lesson I've learnt that it always gets better again. Even if it isn't completely better, as long as you try to find the small joys in life, there's always something to smile about. 

It has been a great year, and here's to hopefully 2 more great years ~(^_^)~

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Critical thinking?

A cliche topic when it comes to a fundamental weakness in Malaysian (& others) education.
But I think it's something that has been addressed countless times and solutions have of course been proposed - in theory, at least. Actually practising it is another story.

I think many have noticed this: students coming out of the Malaysian education system generally face an issue where we fail to think 'out of the box', fail to discuss issues without fearing being in the wrong, fail to think critically of a topic instead of spitting out facts and details.

It's not a new issue, but when you go through it yourself, it will actually hit you. Lately I've noticed that I've been failing to do well in discussion-based classes, or to do well in exams that require me to write essays that compare/contrast/discuss issues rather than narrating/spitting out details (particularly history).

Ever since I arrived in the U.S. and had to attend discussion-based classes, I've realized how fearful it is to talk in class. I've realized how inferior I felt to everyone. I was really scared that whatever I was going to say would be deemed ridiculous or stupid.

And of course I blame myself for this, but why do Westerners generally fare well in these type of classes compared to us? And God I know that you have probably come across this discussion topic countless times, and I know the answer is always the same: our education system just does not raise us to be outspoken, to talk about our opinions/ideas but instead gives us the answers and prefers us to be good, quiet kids in class who listens to the teacher.

I know efforts have been made to gradually change this, especially for history which is good. And I am aware a drastic change might be too much. Not only that, I personally think the teachers are also not sufficiently equipped yet to handle such education systems. But I do believe that more needs to be done about it.

It's not only the education system, but our deeply rooted culture of being very respectful to those above us also restricts our willingness to question ideas, shaping us to be very dependent on our teachers and parents. And I think the 'jangan banyak tanya' culture is also a very big contributing factor to how we turned out.

What I think we ourselves can do to change this bit by bit is to start at home - don't restrict questions, but encourage them. Don't only feed them with facts, but discuss them. I actually found it hard to think about my own opinions or to question things because I was so used to having the answers handed to me. I didn't find the need to think before (and it was actually very tiring for me at first to have to think about things). Training kids to think when they're growing up actually will raise them to be more critical of issues presented to them.

A lot of people argue though that raising our kids to be like this would be at the expense of losing our respect-the-elders culture (which I highly appreciate). But I think we could still raise them to question ideas & formulate their own opinions and still have them be respectful.

The point of having people grow up to be more critical thinkers is not to have them becoming people who argues all the time, but rather becoming people who can discuss things to reach a better conclusion. To give a specific example: deciding on should/should not we enact a policy, or even something silly like what food should we produce more (to make the general population happy) - having people critically discuss this would probably conclude to an answer that would be inclusive of a lot of aspects/sides of arguments. Imagine having just one person giving out opinions on this - one person can not possibly see all aspects.

But, TL;DR, I think raising critical thinkers is of importance - for a better nation. Easier said than done of course - but I think if we all try to change it within us first, we could probably get somewhere.
(Longer post than I actually planned I think)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sighs

I hate talking about my issues. I hate confronting people. I hate admitting how sad or angry I actually am.
And I know how bad it is that instead of doing what I should do - being honest and confronting my issues - I instead bottle them up or tell others which again would make me feel bad.

And I don't know how to fix it. I'm tired of not telling people how I feel. And I can't even blame them for making me angry or sad cause I don't tell them and they would forever not know.

But I hate conflicts. I'm aware that I 'need' them in order to grow etc. but I hate conflicts and I try to avoid them, which is what leads me to more problems I guess. No closure and those bottled feelings don't just fade, it turns into grudges.

And I'll just turn into a bitter old lady if I don't change.