Why girls are mean

My move to Texas when I was younger has become a blurred sequence of events with no memorable point of start and finish. I remember sitting on our letterbox watching my house being auctioned. I remember calling my friends on the landline to say goodbye for the fifth time on the day I was leaving. I remember packing all the memorabilia that my friends gifted me like painted rocks and a few pairs of socks… the things that 11 year olds give each other. I remember shopping for new clothes in preparation of my first day of elementary school in Texas, the concept of not having a uniform bewildering me.

I don’t recall whether my first day of fifth grade was at the beginning or middle of the school year, but I do remember that everyone already had their cliquey groups of friends when I arrived and that I hated the beginning of every class where the teacher would make me stand at the front of the class to introduce myself. For the first few days, the only time other kids would speak to me was just to hear my Australian accent and ask me to say certain words to humour them. As a kid, this didn’t really trouble me though, as I was a lot more outgoing than than I am now (lol, kind of kidding but true in that I’ve come to understand that I don’t need to be friends with everyone and in the same sense, not everyone wants to be friends with me – and that’s perfectly fine), and soon I found a bunch of friends who liked to sit on the top of the playground monkey bars during lunch time. School in Texas was different; not only did they not have a school uniform, it was my first time going to a co-ed school and friendship groups were largely determined by the type of extracurricular activity you joined. If you were a cheerleader (they start ’em young), you would mainly hang out with your cheer squad and male counterparts from the football team. Similar if you were in band, or orchestra. I was in a group that pretty much did nothing. Hence the monkey bar sessions.

At this particular school, there was only 1 other asian girl in my classes. I wanted to be friends with her, but she seemed quite aloof by my approaches. We had English together, and the focus at the time was creative writing. Tasked with creating an imaginative story, I went home to write excitedly, furrowing my brows in thought. When it was time to hand in our assignment, I was happy with my story, being about a magical blue coloured ball (like a bowling ball), that could be a blessing or a curse when handled by a human, depending if you were a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person. I’m sure the ideas behind it were naive as can be, but hey, fifth grade alright? A few days later, the teacher gave us back our stories with our marks, and I left it on my desk to do a class activity. When I got back to my desk, my paper was gone. I looked around for a few seconds thinking it may have dropped with people walking around, but then I heard a loud burst of laughter and the asian girl was looking at me whilst laughing and holding up a piece of paper.

“How’s your blue ball, Jenny?” She jeered. The group of people around her laughed in unison. Blood drained from my face and embarrassment crept up my throat. She made a few more undermining remarks about my story before waving it in front of me. I grabbed it and threw it into the bin as soon as I got home, despite the red marker ‘A’ written in the top right hand corner.

I ignored her existence from that day. When I started sitting with the cheerleaders some days at lunch (monkey bars on all other days – never forget where you started) and playing outside with the band nerds after school waiting to get picked up, she came up to me one day and asked if she could sit with me too. ‘No’, I said, ‘you’re mean’.

Why girls are mean? I have no idea, but these things stick to your memory for a lifetime.

Half Marathon

Last weekend I ran my first half marathon. If I were to tell my 1-year-ago self that I would have accomplished such a feat in my entire lifetime, I would have responded by giving you my awkwardly loud sarcastic scoff of a laugh, and then told you to come back with a better joke next time. I remember doing a 4km fun run in 2012, only signing up because all my friends were doing it and I was mainly lured in by the brunch we were planning to have afterwards at a cafe I had been wanting to go to for a long time. A horrible experience. That was probably the longest and last time I had run properly until this year. By ‘properly’, I mean stopping about 5 times along the 4km route and walking for 1/4 of it because it was too hard. Hard, being a relative term. So let’s just clarify and say I’ve never actually run properly until this year.

Taking the above into consideration, one would think that once I committed myself to this half marathon, I would have trained for it – 6 weeks, they say. Of one long run and a couple of short runs weekly to adequately prepare for a half marathon. Well… nope. I was running consistently for a few weeks leading up to my fights 2 months ago, but tapered off after they were done. Running for me is hard, it’s not enjoyable unless it’s social (i.e. doing it with other people) and the hit of endorphins and happy feels once I’ve finished a run is enough to make me say ‘hey, this isn’t too bad’, but not quite enough to make me willingly go ‘I can’t wait to run again!’. I wouldn’t recommend this as a formulated training plan for anyone’s half marathon, but trusting our current general fitness levels and from other sporting activities, we knew we would be ok. Just keep running innit?

We woke at 6:40 on marathon day. 6:40 on a Sunday! Comparing this to the morning of a fight, I wasn’t nervous or anxious at all. But when we arrived at the marathon gathering point, I felt a little silly being there – an imposter of sorts, arriving at the wrong job interview, seeing all these run crews and people obviously dedicated to the sport milling around. They dressed the part, looked the part; real runners. Coffee helped the sleepiness. Pre-run pee helped the slight sense of panic I was starting to feel. Tactful organisation of the event definitely helped keep me calm. The horn signalling the beginning of the event went off at 9am, whilst I was still in queue for my pre-run pee but there was no rush to get to the start line since the timer attached to my bib only started counting once I crossed the beginning point. We started around 15 minutes after the race had officially commenced, at the back of the herd but definitely not the last.

The next 2 hours and 25 minutes went by so slow and fast at the same time, but what I left the event and think fondly about when I do look back wasn’t my running, but the atmosphere created by the spectators and event organisers – residents, families, charities standing alongside the road cheering each individual on throughout the whole 13.1 miles, the hi-5’s that H collected, the live DJs and bands and choirs that were performing to keep the runner’s spirits high, even though we could only experience them for the mere couple of seconds while running past. It was a really good choice for my first half marathon, and I’m really happy that I got to do this one amongst the many there are to choose from in London.

The run itself! I will have to commentate on that, so let me break it down for you:

Mile 1‘Only 12 more of these to go, I got this.’ The one tip I received from seasoned runners was to pace myself, so I did for my first mile. Nice, slow and easy. My breathing was even and I didn’t need to take any deeper breaths than one would during a walk. I lost H somewhere along this first mile.

Mile 2‘These miles are LONG. How am I only up to 2? Oh no, I can feel my ankle. It’s not pain, but I feel it each time I put weight on it like it’s telling me, woman I’m still recovering so take it easy yeah.’

Mile 3 ‘I need to use a bathroom. But I am kind of 1/4 of the way through, so I’m just going to hold it. Yes, water stop, let me have some of that even though it will not help my toilet situation.’

Mile 4 – ‘Let’s play a game. Chase the pacers. Pass 2:30, pass 2:20 (note we started 15 minutes late), passing a lot of runners here and not even short of breath yet, keep going.’

Mile 5 – ‘My bathroom situation is getting to critical but damn that port-a-loo queue is long.’ 

Mile 6 – ‘Halfway point and feeling okay. This is long but I am feeling okay so just keep going.’ H caught up to me. I told him I couldn’t hold in my toilet urges any longer.

Mile 7‘Is that gummy bears and sport drinks you’re handing out? Yes please!’

Mile 8 – ‘Woohoo!’ Found a toilet, now relieved and ready to rock and roll comfortably once more. Legs were not prepared for me to suddenly stop the running movement to wait in the toilet queue and the sensation felt odd, but I shaked them out a little bit before I commenced running again and the transition wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Mile 9 – Legs started to feel heavy and took more effort with each lift off the ground. Lactic acid build up was definitely happening down there.

Mile 10‘We are so close yet so far.’ Crowds and entertainment kept my mind off how much further I still had to go even though I reached 2 digits. I was really proud of myself already, and knew that I would be able to finish the half marathon without needing to walk.

Mile 11 – ‘Everything hurts’. Things started to hurt throughout my lower body. My legs were heavy a few miles back, but now they felt like they were on fire. The pain went from my thighs all the way down to my feet.

Mile 12‘We are not quitting now, only 1 more to go.’ This was a difficult mile both physically and mentally, because it was on hilly terrain on the outskirts of the stadium, and I noticed my ‘running pace’ going up the hill was the same as H’s walking pace. How’s that for motivation. Also, since we were running on the outskirts of the stadium, the crowds were most sparse it had been the whole way since it was on a highway, as opposed to residential streets, parks, and cafes. If there was a time to dig deep, it was here.

Mile 13 ‘DID IT BABY!’ Knowing this was the last mile made it easy. My legs still didn’t agree with what I was putting them through but they carried on anyway. We sped up in the last 500m, so clearly energy deficiency and cardio wasn’t an issue for us. Stepping over that finishing line was a whole other level accomplishment. Unexplainable.

And there was my experience of my first half marathon! It was so much fun and I can’t recommend it enough. I couldn’t walk for the next 24 hours right after I finished the run, but that’s ok, cause I did it!!

 

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Today after work I had mad cravings for Malaysian food. My tastebuds must truly be feeling its Asian food withdrawals, of various Chinese/Vietnamese/Japanese/Korean/Malaysian and Taiwanese varieties . Makes sense, as it’s been 11 months since I’ve departed the accessible food haven of Melbourne. It doesn’t help that the only thing my Australian colleague and I do all day is send each other photos of food; the theme of the past 2 days being Malaysian. So, onwards I marched towards getting my fix, roti being my first step in rehab and char kway teow being my second.

Still uncomfortable with dining out alone without something to read or occupy my attention away from the fact that I am indeed dining by myself, I had a local magazine with me and dived straight into it after I ordered my feast (including takeaway for later). It was themed around Mother’s Day gifts and restaurants that the writer swore every mother would absolutely adore for the upcoming occasion this weekend. Not usually sensitive to the insinuations attached to these type of occasions – being every type of celebratory day centred on family, it surprised me when I felt my heart clench and my breath draw short. It was briefly on my mind during the day when I accidentally scrolled too far back through photos on my phone to chemotherapy proof. But it surprised me that my feelings didn’t switch off. It surprised me that it’s been almost exactly 2 years since my mum was last conscious, since I said bye to her that morning and went to work despite what was going on because I wanted to be strong and do normal things and pretend everything was ok. 2 years since my dad called to tell me he had to take my mum back to hospital because she was tired, just so tired, and wouldn’t open her eyes. I spent the next 5 days unable to sleep, on the verge of panic attacks, because I was scared every time my phone light blinked that it was the hospital calling in the middle of the night to tell me my mum had died alone and I wouldn’t be there for her. 5 days later she passed in front of my eyes. I felt her leave. It surprised me to remember these things, but at the same time, realise that I am slowly forgetting as well.

What if I forget the sound of her voice, or the way her hugs felt. What if I forget the rhythm of her footsteps, or how much I secretly loved to listen to her stories, or how good she used to look in white and red.

What if I forget what it’s like to have a mum.

Safe to say the excitement of my Malaysian feast ended abruptly. I came home and re-watched for the first time since her funeral the slideshow I made in her memory, creating impressive fountains in the process.

This will be a hard week, but I promise to treasure better ones to come.

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My Fight Part 2

I am back! 2 fights later and largely unscathed, with the only battle scar to show for my efforts being a blotchy foot-sized bruise on my left thigh. Really though, I have walked away with much, much more.

Hold up, wait a minute. Two, you say?! Let me explain.

I ended my last blog post with the day of my first fight. Surprisingly (maybe not for those who know me), I slept perfectly fine the night before. My coach had warned to expect a sleepless night of anxious tossing and turning, but 8 hours later I woke to my alarm reminding me I had somewhere to be. Unable to eat or drink in fear of not making weight, I sat mostly in silence on the car ride there trying both to conserve energy and figure out why I still wasn’t feeling anything. Hello-  nerves, fear, anxiety, excitement, is anyone home?

We arrived at the venue right on time at 10am, whole team huddled outside the doors to greet us. Once pleasantries were exchanged and I started to feel the cold seeping through my jumper, I started suspecting something was not right with this venue. Doors were locked, lights off and there was no-one else in sight other than our team. Coach went to ask the hotel reception next door whether they had access to a key – and came back telling us that we were at the wrong venue. Excellent start. Half an hour later we all made it to the right place and the first thing I noticed was that it was filled with children. Seems we were the only non-local team to come with a group of adults rather than adolescents. Nonetheless, we had all been matched. Unfortunately our girls, except for me, had been matched with 15-year olds (champ level, this wasn’t bullying by a long shot) so no headshot were allowed in their fights. Difficult with an art like MT.

Weigh-ins were over by 11:30 and it was just a waiting game from then. I was last in my team to fight, so all in all waiting time added up to about 6 hours. I started to become nervous when one of our girls had her front tooth knocked out during her fight. Yes, by a 15 year old. Not much could unsettle me more than thinking about losing any of my teeth. A rush of feelings came to me at the same time when my gloves were put on and I was standing in the back waiting for my name to be called, I forced my breathing to become longer and deeper and tried to concentrate on my game plan and drills I had practiced in the weeks beforehand.

My fight itself was a bit of a blur, I became overly excited after the first 30 seconds when I realised she wasn’t hitting back and started throwing wild and long combinations. Some landed, some didn’t, but the lesson I took away from that was that I needed to keep my hands tight, always. Even if I’m excited and my opponent is less skilled or experienced, I can’t accept bad habits to be formed in fights because one swift head kick could have KO’d me. In my flurry, I remember gasping for air in my corner after each round and becoming really tired by the 4th (4/5). I couldn’t have asked for anything more in my first fight, with my match-up being the same height as me, and LFF eagle team, coach and HD in my corner. It fared me well for confidence and I went home pleased with my experience, but most importantly uninjured.

I took my first fight very seriously in the 4 week lead-up to it, disciplined in training and eating and feeling apprehensive about my opponent because I knew nothing about her other than her having more fight experience than me.

The day after my first fight, coach messaged me asking if I wanted to do another one the coming weekend. “I know this is what you want to do, so that’s why I’m asking so soon.” Ok sure, I told him; I will relax this time round, I told myself. Because of the short notice, it didn’t give my mind much time to start freaking out about the fight itself until Thursday. Then it went into overly freak-out mode when I found out my opponent was taller than me and trained with a really established MT team in London. They have something like 10-15 ranked worldwide fighters and my gym has a big fat record of zero.

When I walked into the stadium on Sunday and saw the set-up of audience seats, DJ booth, cameras and elevated ring, my stomach went queasy and I realised that the week before was a mere warm-up. Weigh ins were done efficiently, although with zero privacy. Everyone (20+ guys plus me as the only girl at the time) stripped in the locker room and stepped on the scales in the middle of the room like it was nothing.

I was the first to fight in my team this time, so waiting time reduced significantly. By the time we got back from eating, I started getting changed, coach wrapped my hands professionally with gauze and tape and then rubbed my legs down with Thai oil. A quick warmup was done and I sat waiting for about half an hour before we went downstairs to the ring. My warmup was done a bit prematurely, but I guess that’s the thing with these kind of events at such a large venue – it’s hard to keep a tab on what fight is on and how many there are to go until your own. I saw my opponent warming up, and she looked sharp, but after 10 seconds of staring I decided to put on my headphones and keep my head in its own space. Breathe, relax. My body didn’t seem to want to comply as my leg started shaking as I was sitting there and didn’t stop until it was time for me to get up. Coach taped my gloves secure, and put vaseline on my face before bringing me downstairs. This is the turning point for your mind – when it starts to really focus on what’s ahead, making exterior noise and surroundings fade.

Waiting ringside for your name to be called is nerve-racking, but nothing can be worse for your self confidence than toppling over the ropes and falling into the ring onto your backside in front of the whole crowd – and opponent. Though it was excruciatingly embarrassing, I still found it funny and laughed at myself because something like that could only happen to me.

Standing in my corner the few seconds before my fight, I could feel that this atmosphere was completely different from the last. The crowd, the quality of fights I’d seen earlier, the seriousness of the fighters, the traditional Thai music playing. Whilst my coach was cramming last minute advice to me, I desperately tried to find the zen within, though all that was came back a slight sense of panic. However in my last seconds before the bell, I dug deeper and found my confidence – I knew my pain threshold could take hits, I knew I had skills to strike and I knew how to use footwork to my advantage. As the ref called us into the middle and I stared at my opponent straight in the eyes, I knew I could do this.

When the fight started, nerves and any sense of anxiety disappeared. I didn’t feel an adrenaline rush in my second fight – I felt focused, alive and determined to make my shots count. The fight was a really tough one from the start to the end and it was a huge step up from the week before. This girl had reach, she was a pure MT fighter (unlike me), and landed many good kicks. The ref told me 3 times to go lighter on my punches, I’d never hit another person – guy or girl, with so much intention before. I’m not a masochist – I didn’t feel good when I landed a punch and saw her head snap back, I don’t think I feel anything at the time as my brain processes this is just how it had to be – survive. When the fight ended, I was happy with my performance and how many strikes I landed, but it wasn’t until my coach and team were literally buzzing with excitement at how well I did and my coach especially, at how proud he was with me and reenacting parts of my fight, that I felt really happy about the last 6 minutes.

And that’s it. 6 minutes is short but so much can be accomplished. Facing someone that actually wants to hurt you and being ok with it is a concept I’m still trying to grasp, but I feel comfortable in the ring. Thoughts get left behind leaving you with instinct and muscle memory. The most rewarding part is knowing that I trained hard and prepared as best I could, and then coming to face a very worthy opponent to test these skills. No easy fights from here on out.

Let’s do it again.

Lessons of a Fight

I was asked to fight exactly 4 weeks prior to the event. I hadn’t trained muay thai (MT) before, only going to classes intermittently to practice my striking for mma since we seldom do it in mma; my coach is a grappler – and I like doing pad work. My urge to fight had been brewing for a good 6 months now, and an interclub would be a good platform to test my skills (or lack thereof). As soon as I read the message from my coach, I knew I would say yes, but pretended to consider it anyway. Before accepting officially, I voiced my concerns about not being a technical MT fighter but he negated my thoughts with his confidence in my immediate abilities. I was matched with an opponent as soon as I was put forward, so there was no room for second thoughts.

Week 1 was cram week. I tried to get as many hours in the gym as I could, partnering myself with other fighters in the event who had years of experience in MT over me. I hadn’t mingled with the MT team previously, and they probably thought this new girl was in over her head in attempting to fight but they remained understanding, patient, and coached me so well over the next 4 weeks. By the end of week 1, muscles that I didn’t even know existed were sore.

Week 2 was interrupted by a cheeky holiday to beautiful Portugal, but this was well-timed, as I was starting to overthink and over-train so the half-week off did a lot more good than harm to my training. It was here that I learnt mental prep is equally as important as physical. Your body alone cannot take you to great places without the mind.

Week 3 was getting real and a rollercoaster of sudden internal and external confidence boosts and then a flurry of lows and doubts when I couldn’t make the appropriate angles during sparring with people who had a far longer reach than me, or when I’d be thrown on the mat time and time again in the clinch.

 Week 4/fight week started with (kind of) minor injuries that prohibited full movement of my hand and shoulder, I still have my lingering ankle flexibility issues and, just because this is my blog space and I can complain all I like – my right shin was severely bruised from my tiny little shin bones breaking and mending themselves. Expected, I know. I fit in a few more days of specific training, but was given strict instructions to stay away from the gym from 4 days before the fight. Rest and recovery. What is that!?  Nailed it anyway.

During fight week I was anxious, nervous, going through scenarios and combinations nonstop in my head, trying to imagine what my opponent would look like and wondering how I’d go back to face my team and myself if I were to be completely smashed during my first fight. With the weight of hard training off my shoulders, I deferred to these unproductive thoughts, but was kept predominantly on track by thoughtful reminders morning and night that I was a beast and that I would be okay.

The day before my fight I became exceptionally calm – going about my day picking up errands, shopping and getting my fight hair do. A brilliant job was done, I really loved it and wish I could have left my hair in for longer.

Fight day is finally here – story TBC tomorrow because I am tired hahahaha.

The Chosen Club

My first taste of Europe came in the form of a 27-day, 13 country tour of sun, sea and breath taking scenery accompanied with a mixed 40-count array of (mostly) young Australian thrill seekers, alcoholics and drama queens. Not quite fitting into any of the afore-mentioned categories, I found quick companionship in the only other coloured person on the tour. I wish to note that race had nothing to do with this friendship, we bonded over other things such as completing higher education and not hooking up with other people on the tour (ohh no she didn’t!) – and were dubbed Harold and Kumar for the duration of the trip.

After the tour ended, I planned to stay in London for a few more days to explore the city solo and see if I liked it enough to move here the next year. Taste before you buy, you know? It was evening by the time our tour got back to London, and we were completely shattered from sitting on a bus/ferry for the past 8 hours from Amsterdam, not to mention all the drinking that had been consumed the night before. Nonetheless we decided to make the most of our one night since Kumar was leaving to go back home the next day. The plan was firmly established: go back to our respective hotels to freshen up and more importantly, find somewhere to go. My extensive tourist google search of the London clubbing scene came up with lots of results from tripadvisor, etc, and not knowing any better, decided that DSTRKT in central London was the winner.

As we approached DSTRKT, we watched from afar as a couple were refused entry for reasons obviously unclear to them by the looks on their faces. The venue itself looked plain from the outside other than a red carpet presumptuously laid out on the sidewalk. There was no line, so we walked straight up to the host not really knowing what to expect. “Guestlist?” he asked. I shook my head, “we don’t have one, we’re not from here.” “You need a guestlist to come in”, he replied curtly, followed by a more piped up “Australian?”, as though just recognising my accent. Kumar and I exchanged some friendly conversation with him, which led to him letting us in. Not sure which worked more to our favour, our short dresses or our accents, but either way it was a win. After being shooed inside by the bouncers, the door girls asked expectantly for the entrance fee of £20. “Let these girls in for free”, the host chimed in behind us, he then gave us a free drink card each. Now this, I was used to in Melbourne, but very unexpected for London.

The VIP high, however, only lasted a short while once we realised every person in there had a clique which belonged to a table and were not interested in socialising with others. There was no dance floor, just a floor filled with half-moon shaped tables and people talking, drinking and occasionally swaying in their little respective circles. It was classy and glamourous, but definitely somewhere you’d visit with a group rather than your other coloured half. I was wearing heels but I still felt underdressed. Alcohol would loosen us up, I determined. Maybe it was still too early. After using up our one free drink, I ordered us 2 jagerbombs which cost a whopping £40 each. £40!? Ridiculous.

With my wallet very unhappy with me, we went to the bathroom to reassess our dire situation. In there, I started talking to this girl who invited us back to her table – a friend’s birthday we were told. We were poured some drinks and chatted for a little while, but like us, they weren’t really feeling the vibe of the place either so we left as a group for a club that was more on the ‘chill’ spectrum of the scale, had some fun there, became stranded at 3am wandering up and down the M&M store waiting for the tube to start its services for the day, ended up in a casino because Harold didn’t bring a jacket, got given £20 to play on a machine by a random gambler man (we lost it all) and eventually, with the full force of the sun shining outside, I nestled into the comfort of my hotel bed and slept for the next 12 hours.

Thanks, DSTRKT. You were my first.

The Great Flood

At 5:45 on a Monday morning, I woke to our door buzzer being pressed, a faint but persistent banging on the front door and sounds of muffled voices 3 levels below me. Drunkards, I thought sleepily, not impractical for our home being a corner away from the high street and pubs, though odd, it being a Monday and not the weekend. I drifted back to sleep for a few minutes (could have been 10) before the door bell buzzing started again, more aggressively this time. I was annoyed now, and briefly considered the outcome of stomping downstairs and yelling at these people to go away – with heavy hesitation, of course, as drunk people are not ones to consider logic reasoning. I decided to glance out my window to see what size composition my hypothetical opponents were, only to see the flashing blue lights of police car sirens and hear the gushing sound of a heavy rain storm. Ah bless the UK, I thought, police in this country respond so quickly to public intoxication. But wait. Rain? I didn’t see rain. Where is the sound of this strong water current coming from?  My sleepy mind fog wasn’t helping the effectiveness of my thought process. Rubbing my eyes, I heard the distant shout of, “POLICE, open the door, we need to evacuate you immediately!” Followed by another ‘thud thud thud’ on the front door. I opened my door simultaneously with AY whose deep slumber was also awoken by the same disturbance. Both with sleepy confusion masked on our faces, we knew that the other had no idea what was going on. I opened our flat door tentatively only to be greeted by a huffed police officer (too many donuts for you, sir) telling us that he’d been trying to get us to open the door for a very long time. He told us to come out immediately as our street was flooding. Due to such urgent persuasion, AY and I grabbed a jacket to put over our pjs, took our phones and ran downstairs. When I opened the door, I realised the rain storm I heard from my bedroom was in fact a gushing stream that was flowing down our street, caused by a burst main pipe from the main street. The water came up to halfway up my knees as I waded through with police instruction to get to the pub across the road which was open and giving out teas to us refugees. AY, on the other hand, was clinging onto the front porch fence as a desperate attempt to not get wet, but the police were not in the mood to entertain and pulled her off, telling her ‘it’s only water’. More like an angry river ready to consume any unfortunate puppy or small creature in its path.

We managed to reach the pub a little after 6am, cold, with miserably wet feet, still confused with what had just happened but gained solace from other fellow refugees who had also been evacuated from their homes. We met the ogre from our upstairs flat for the first time, and despite friendly neighbour to neighbour conversation being the last thing I wanted to engage in at the time, he would not stop talking to me. By 8am, the water pipe still pumping out gallons of water per second, AY and I accepted that we wouldn’t be going to work anytime soon and messaged our respective managers to let them know, though still hoping we would make it in by noon.

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I was getting hungry by this time, and could not believe we were the only ones who ran out of our homes without bringing our wallets. Or changing, for that matter. All the other refugees were either dressed for a fancy afternoon tea or ready for work. AY and I looked at eachother multiple times, in our unflattering pjs and mismatched shoes, noting for future reference that unless our lives were in immediate danger with a fire or the likes, we would take our sweet ass time ‘evacuating’.

By 8am we made it onto the news and saw reporters conducting several interviews inside the pub. By 8:30am, Thames Water had finally arrived to fix the problem, and the council had organised a proper refugee camp at a hall inside the Business Design Centre a few steps away from our current stakeout. At least they provided unlimited platters of biscuits. I don’t think I’ve eaten that many biscuits at one sitting in my life. We were given updates sporadically by the heads of police, council, fire brigade and Thames Water; the main messages being that they couldn’t figure out how to turn off the pipe, and hours later once they had, they would need more hours to get rid of the water in basement flats which were flooded to their ceilings, and then a few hours after that to assess the building and electrical safety of each flat. Greeeeaattttt. Our fellow refugees trickled in and out of the centre, buying new clothes to replace their wet ones, going to work, socialising with eachother, and there AY and I were, misplaced and stuck.

What I did appreciate was the sense of community around, with people sharing their stories of being woken by water trickling into their homes and business stock, a majority of it being antique goods, being destroyed from the flooding. Businesses that weren’t affected, such as the local sushi shop, came by giving out boxes of fresh sushi to everyone (I took full advantage of this even though I was already full from eating refugee soup they handed out). In addition, the store manager of the local Tesco offered their store fridge/freezer for anyone who needed to use it, in addition to groceries. We couldn’t work out whether they were offering groceries for free, so we did not take advantage of this offer, but it was nice of them regardless.

By 3:30pm, people were clearly starting to get impatient, especially since they made us fill out all this repetitive paperwork for police reports and insurance claims. There was a lot of talk about finding alternate accommodation for us if our homes were deemed unsafe. Lots of council staff were drifting around organising medication for people, especially the elderly, who had left theirs behind. We understood safety was a priority and we weren’t the worst off refugees there by far, but all AY and I wanted to do was get out of our embarrassing pjs and regain access to money. We were finally given a string of hope when the police offered to escort us back to our flat for us to ‘only take a look at the damages’. Upon arrival, we slammed the door closed, checked that everything was working, got changed, and escaped from the refugee life by sneaking off to the tube station.

And that folks, was the Great Flood of Central London that I had the displeasure of experiencing.

2016, you did alright

I normally post a NYE photo on the gram, but decided my shout out to this year would be too long for the description, and, well, TL;DR.

Let’s go, short and sweet.

Notably 2015 was the worst year of my life. Still, I had no expectations of the next year being better because even with a seemingly empty soul, I already had so much and my heart was full. A part of me was content, thinking I could peak there and be satisfied for the rest of my years. Did I want more? Sure. But when you wake up and witness how fragile life can be – and it’s not even your own that scares you, it’s the ones you love, the ones you have always assumed to be there to scold you about coming home for dinner every night before they walk you down the aisle, the one who will crawl into bed next to you in the mornings to wake you up and give you back rubs until you fall back asleep, the one you thought would mind your child for you while you go to work and teach them all the good things they taught you – it’s then that more feels synonymous to a guilty indulgence. No, Jen, you don’t deserve that.

So, did I want more? No. Did I get more? Oh my god, yes.

2016 was happiness. 2016 was about me. 2016 was about confidence, about stepping outside of comfort zones, about travel, sunshine and perspective. 2016 was about smiling.

2017. May we continue to find happiness in the little things and joy in the company we choose to keep.

And may I, find something that I love to do (and be paid for it, need to put this disclaimer in as I can hear my coach’s voice going ‘you need to quit your day job and be a professional fighter’). I’ve somehow committed to writing a blog a week – more stories, less diary. By writing this out and confessing, it means I’ll try. I stopped reading for a better half of 6 months now. Shock. Horror. I started reading a novel on my laptop whilst sitting in a cafe the other day and realised how much I’d missed it. The quality of my writing has seen an impact to this too. Many things to do. Dreams aren’t for kids.

Her First Christmas

Homesickness hath no such fury like being away from home during Christmas.

I think as we get older, materialistic things become nothing more than a mere formality during the holiday season; happiness, family, friends, love and health – all things you can’t put a price on, are increasingly important to each of us. Buying presents is fun, and giving is euphoric, but if I could wrap a box of good health to give away instead, I would choose that, no matter the age of the recipient.

Now, I have been away travelling during Christmas before. In fact, I travelled most years when I started working full-time since we were forced to take 3 weeks leave over the Christmas period and I felt it was such a waste to spend that time in Melbourne. It was something to look forward to since work was depresso, especially coming up to the end of the year where all your clients wanted everything finished for them and your managers became slavedrivers to keep themselves looking good. I digress. I can’t help but ramble when I start talking about my previous job and the demons (and occasional angels) associated with it. Anyway, for some reason, even though I’ve been away from home in previous years during Christmas, I’ve never felt homesick in quite the same way before. Perhaps my current home is more permanent than a hotel/hostel room. Permanency does a lot to your mindset. Perhaps I’ve been away from my friends and family for an elongated period of time now. Perhaps snapchat wasn’t so prominent in the past, where videos and photos of people and places that you can see yourself at but aren’t physically are being sent to you every 5 minutes over 48 hours. Perhaps I’ve never felt so dependant on someone else’s plans before.

Or, perhaps, there is a greater emphasis on Christmas in London. A real Christmas as such, with ice skating rinks and pretty lights and festive sweaters, as opposed to wife beaters, bbq and beaches. And I wish my close ones could be here experiencing this with me too.

It’s the trade-off in deciding to pick up my bags and move across the world by myself (somewhat, and definitely soon to be), I understand it and it will pass. I guess I just thought technology at times like these would make distance a concept of past generation woes, but alas, it doesn’t.

I am thankful for your calls and messages from back home, I’m thankful for the thought behind surprise delivered gifts, I’m thankful AY, for your little book of happiness, I’m thankful for encouragement from coaches to gym buddies and being able to push my body to new limits this year and it staying mainly injury-free. I’m thankful to learn that boys in any country, not just my friends, can sit and play cod/fifa for 3 hours straight, and I’m extremely thankful beyond words to have been present in my first Christmas here (it’s a present in itself), to have been welcome into warm homes and not having to had actually spend these nights alone. See, priceless things.

Merry Christmas world and happy birthday J-boy.

Goals, bro

As a response to suggestion-turned-pressure from a certain individual to consider and decide on my word soon to take precedence over my forthcoming year, here I am. Other than having to dig deeply into the complicated depths of my soul (not really) and as a result, sleep later than I could have by 45 minutes (this is true), it’s probably a good thing that this didn’t become an addition to the list of procrastinated tasks I have on hand.

What will 2017 be?

Last Christmas with the first without my mum. It was a struggle, as Christmas is always about family and was ruined for me without a complete one, but the extended family pulled through and invited everyone over for a bbq. I was sprawled out on my cousin’s bed that day, the both of us catching up on each other’s lives, which girl he liked, and plans for the next year. It was there that he told me about the week-long retreats he’d been attending of late, the purpose of them being self-discovery, confidence; in essence, understanding and accepting yourself. My cousin, being quiet and reserved, has battled with insecurities since we were kids. Although I was younger, it was always me who would berate his bullies to the pits of the earth and be there for an overall confidence boost whenever he was down. I thought it was amazing that he did something so proactive for himself. As I questioned more about what he learnt at these retreats (just performing my due diligence to ensure my cousin wasn’t joining a cult), he told me they did tests that explored difference avenues of life itself. Ok, interesting. An example of these being the love language test, which my curiosity led to me jumping on his computer and completing the series of questions right there and then. http://www.5lovelanguages.com  for those who haven’t had the pleasure of finding out which of ‘words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch’ are most important to you. Like all personality tests, zodiacs and star sign readings that supposedly tell me about myself, I instinctively rejected my results ‘nahhhhh that’s not me’.

Another group discussion that was key to the retreat was on the topic of fear. Not topical fears such as heights, or spiders, or confined spaces. Real fears, what you perceive your biggest weakness to be that is holding you back from taking the world by its balls. My cousin had attended enough of these retreats by now to sense that I wanted to weasel my way out of this question. I only came to stuff myself with bbq food, I complained. He didn’t let me off the hook. ‘It’s something that you’ve grown up with and have always had at the back of your head’, he explained, ‘not a new anxiety that has come from adulthood’. I begrudgingly listened to him talk about his own discovery and sat there stumped on mine. I was about to admit defeat when the realisation came to me. Not being good enough. This fear hasn’t dictated my life in any significant way, I just think it may be a reason why I’ve never tried hard enough to be the best at anything and why my own expectations of myself are set so high, yet I don’t congratulate myself with achievements and when I do attain first place, attributing these things to luck rather than skill or effort.

With that little story behind me and a whole lot ahead of me, 2017 is win.

I feel it’s unnecessary in this space, and also too boring, to venture into discussing my goals, abstract meanings and why exactly I felt the stars align when I chose this word. I’m not of the belief that my year will not have its setbacks, that it will not have times of loneliness, frustration and sadness. However, winning is high on my agenda and that is what I’m going to do; individually and with any team I’m on. Maybe not quite at DJ Khaled’s level, but close to. Let’s do this.