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Of grades and warts April 15, 2016

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Since Day One of graduate school, “Grades don’t matter”  has been the mantra drilled into us by the professors, faculty members and alumni. In addition, there’s also been some variation of…”The worse you will ever get is a B+” or “All that is important is the capital accumulation.”

Of course, as any student from Asia will tell you…that’s impossible. How can you confidently accumulate knowledge, but fare horribly on tests? It just doesn’t make sense. To know something, is to explain and apply the concepts or theory when asked.

Only…I am 33-years-old, unused to having to explain academic concepts after so long and totally flabbergasted by the American situational-style of questioning. And let’s not factor in that there is always that one professor each semester that expects you to churn out answers just like him that reading his answer keys makes your head spin.

Suffice it to say that I have been consistently disappointed with my test scores. For two semesters, I have turned in quality papers and problem sets – but have been completely tanking my tests. And I mean completely. My primary, secondary and undergraduate selves would be horrified to know that they turned out this way.

And here is now where – to borrow a hot phrase among my American friends – I check my privilege. I suppose this inability to push myself that much more – and for the record, I already spend most of my time working on just keeping up with the workload and these crazy 20-something youngsters who are nearly a decade younger than me – is likely influenced by the fact that I have a secure job waiting for me back home. Yes, I want to do well in class. Yes, I’d like to be technically sound. And yes, the things I have learned over the past year are useful and have definitely changed my views about how I approach my work.

It’s just that…I also know that balance is key. Although I am back in school, I know that there are other lessons in life that I am suppose to learn, beyond what is in the classroom. Also, I am no longer the same youngster who prioritises studies above all else. Being half a globe away from family and close friends, I have learned to take the time out to take care of – both physically and emotionally – myself and the people close to my heart. And I can do this because my career prospects are not purely dependent on my academic grades. For the past 10 years, I have worked my butt off and sacrificed parts of myself (some of which I am unable to retrieve) to the rat race. It is my privilege and it is also my flaw – and I own that.

So truly, “grades don’t matter”. What does matter is putting your best foot forward everyday and making peace with what is right for you, warts and all.


If2: Week 4 [BACKDATED] January 25, 2014

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41) If you could say (or have said) one thing to your father on his deathbed, what would it be?
Thank you for everything.

42) If you could have one thing made of pure gold, what would you choose?
A crown. Gold, to me, is the most practical the way it is most commonly admired now – as jewellery. In this respect, a crown is something I do not presently have.

43) If you could have only one part of your body massaged every day, what part would you choose?
My shoulders. Being desk-bound almost the entire day, there is not a day that goes by whilst I am in office that I do not have kinks in my shoulders that take a really serious rubdown to loosen up.

44) If you could be the character in any spy novel, who would you choose to be?
I would be James Bond. But only because he’s the most prominent spy, and I have never read any spy novel before.

45) If you had to name the time when you came closest to death, when would it have been?
Summer camp – 1992. We were swimming in a creek of some sort and I remember being pulled into an undercurrent. I tried to surface several times for air, but kept on being pulled down and away from my fellow campers. Finally, one of my would-be fifth grade classmates pulled me out of the water.

46) If you could make anyone in the world do something each day, who would it be, and what you have them do?
I would make children of the world say “I love you” and hug their parents everyday. No matter how old they get and whatever the argument they may be having.

47) If you could reverse a single policy of the pope, what would you change?
The quiet handling of clergyman who had allegedly molested young children. Whatever the outcome, it would have safeguarded public opinion and won more faithfuls – convicting the guilty would have shown the Church’s seriousness in addressing acts frowned upon by God and proving the innocence would have shown the dark hearts of the accusers of clergymen who have pledged themselves in the service of others.

48) If you were to choose the breed you would be if you were a dog, which type would best suit you?
Golden retriever. Not because I have one, but because it’s a dog that is amiable with children and loves the water.

49) If you had to name the one thing that repeatedly makes you angriest, what would it be?
Cutting queues. Be it in traffic, or at the supermarket. It cheeses me off that a person does not have the simplest of considerations for others.

50) If you could organise a family reunion with all of your dead relatives, where would you hold it?
In a 1970s styled bungalow in Cameron Highlands, owned by the organisation I work for. It has ample space, has a beautiful scenery and cool weather – something I think would be universally appealing.

WoW16 June 30, 2013

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The only way to know how strong, is to keep testing your limits.

Man of Steel

WoW15 January 8, 2013

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“Karma is a tricky thing. To serve Karma, one must repay good Karma to others. To serve Karma well, one must sometimes deliver bad Karma where it is due.”
― M.R. Mathias

First Time in 8 Years… November 25, 2012

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First time in 8 years:

1) Adjourning after a dress-up event with an intimate bonding session with acquaintances
2) Using my elephant memory to dig up old stories over 12 years ago
3) Slipping into bed with my “prettified” hair

In short, I had my faith in humankind restored (somewhat) tonight. I haven’t felt this good in a long while…and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

Aqua Athletes October 4, 2012

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I know this is a couple months outdated, but I suppose better late than never!

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this was clearly the case for me last month! Never before in my near three decades of living have I ever been gripped with such enthusiasm to watch the Olympics, specifically swimming. In the week leading into the 2012 London Olympics, I:

1) Knew which of the cable channels dedicated to the Olympics was broadcasting swimming and at what times;
2) Figured out how to adjust my sleeping patterns so I could watch the semi- and final events LIVE in the early morning and still make it into the office thereafter; and
3) Even kept a Safari page on my iPhone open to the webpage of USASwimming that listed down of the members of Swim Team USA and the events each swimmer was competing in.

So what triggered this massive over-preparedness? To be honest, it had a lot to do with (1) the unceremonious ending to my Olympic swimming experience the last time around (click here for a recap); and (2) Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

I should emphasize that swimming has long been a staple Olympic event of mine, so I would have watched it regardless of the presence of such fine men. However, I will admit my attachment for the sport has deepened after spotting both (and Aaron Piersol for that matter) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Not only were they both a dominating presence in the pool, they had the looks to flash on the podium. OF COURSE I was beyond excited to see them again – older and stronger – making another splash and creating even more history!

(Before the 2012 London Olympics even began, media reports were already prevalent about how the serious Michael Phelps was set to become the most decorated Olympian of all time and the easy-going Ryan Lochte was his most severe competition throughout the pursuit of)

And y’know what? I was not the least bit disappointed – far from it, in fact! For eight days straight, I was thoroughly entertained watching these men go the distance in more ways than one – individually (2 -3 events), as friendly rivals (2 events) and even as teammates (2 events), as well as across different strokes too (freestyle, butterfly, backstroke and medley)! Truly, their place in athletic history is well deserved!

On top of that and what elevated enjoyment from watching swimming to exceed my expectations was:

(1) the many heart-warming occasions directly involving either Phelps or Lochte i.e. the last international hurrah of familiar faces, crazy comebacks of the older wimmers and the jaw-dropping feats of the younger ones (a number of whom comprised of members from my unofficial adoptive country, the United States); and

(2) sharing the experience with my colleagues. It didn’t take much convincing to get them both to join me in my Olympic swimming craze, yet there was just so much win for us. To their credit, they really elevated the Olympic swimming fever to a whole new level. Not only were we furiously exchanging electronic commentary on Whatsapp between swims in the wee hours of the morning, but my incessant need to know the proceedings of all the swimming events and to read up on all things Phelps and Lochte, was negated by their giddy, stalker-like tendencies towards their respective favourite swimmers. I cannot even begin to attempt to quantify how many photos and links to online articles, random blog entries as well as tweets from our favourite swimmers, had been exchanged between ourselves!

In short, all the ingredients – incredible athletes, entertaining shows, great company and access to technology – critical in maximising a sports fan’s spectator experience just happened to present itself this year. As a result, I have never, ever enjoyed myself watching a sport…ever!

While I do mourn for the retirement of Michael Phelps, I am heartened by my positive experience and am excited for the upcoming swimmers and I really do hope to be at the aquatic centre to witness firsthand swimming events at the 2016 Rio Olympics. I’m coming for ya, Rio de Janeiro!

Fabulous Thirties September 27, 2012

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Dear Future Me,

It is I, the 29-year-old version of us. In these last few minutes before the I turn a little “older” and “wiser”, I just wanna remind you how excited I am to be entering the next decade of our lives. We know how several of our female (and male!) friends have been lamenting about turning the big 3-0. But you would also remember how since mad4manu hit the same milestone half a year ago, I have had this sense that our thirties are going to be simply fabulous.

Admittedly, the twenties haven’t been easy on us. We’ve grown up so much, learning to make tough choices, dealing with the reprecussions and juggling life’s responsibilities. I can’t say I enjoyed discovering who we had become when we weren’t looking – at times it was like I couldn’t even recognise ourselves.

Nevertheless, as I sit here, I cannot adequately describe how good I feel about who we are now. And while there is much left to grow and do, but nevertheless, I feel we are going to enjoy the ride more now that we know ourselves better. We are stronger, we are wiser and right now, I have the innocence of the present to my benefit!

So keep on moving forth, Future Me and bring forth our Fabulous Thirties!

(1-minute-left) 29-year-old Me

Changing of Roles – Part Deux June 29, 2012

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I’ve dreaded this day for nearly three weeks now – the day when a good friend, confidant and colleague of 8-years closes another yet chapter to the complicated, fast-paced story of our Department. While this is nothing new – in this year alone, 4 people have left with a couple more tipped to do so in the next few months – her exit has easily been the dearest to the Department in a long while. And on a personal level, stings a fair bit for me because this is the second time I’ve had to part ways with someone close whose been a part of my life since I started the rat race. 😦

But anyway, back to her. Not only is her expertise unrivaled, but more importantly her outstanding character and geniality really helped to make our workplace just that more nicer and tolerable. Taking into account the numerous past exits, no other person has received visits throughout the week people from other Departments. Neither has anyone else on their last day made fellow Department colleagues break out into tears (including yours truly – who completely lost it in the car after dropping her off) nor induce younger, opposite gender colleagues to give hugs.

I’ve said it so many times, you’re probably sick of hearing it – but HLL, it’s only been a couple of hours but we are already missing you and will continue to do so very much! It was clear today how greatly you’ve effected us all, particularly the newbies who have looked up to and trusted you very much.

You are a brave woman to have stuck to your guns and pursue what you know to be be the right thing for you. I wish every success and happiness and hope that one day, if the time ever comes, that I will be able to do the same!

30-Day Song Challenge: A Song That You Know All The Words To May 8, 2012

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As Long As You Love Me: In my personal video, this is one of the better videos from the Backstreet Boys…which is why I usually pick this (hence memorising the lyrics) during Karaoke when I’m feeling the 1990s boy band groupie in me is nostalgic for a group sing-a-long.

30-Day Song Challenge: A Song That Reminds You Of A Certain Event May 7, 2012

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Waterfalls: Omg…I was 13-years-old at the school hall with mad4manu (hahah…I’m bringing you down with me!) and three other schoolmates and it was…during Assembly for the afternoon session!!! Enough said.