Sorry about your mum

It’s been 454 days, or 1 year 2 months 27 days, since I last saw my mum. Today isn’t a special occasion; not an anniversary or birthday, or worst of them all, Mother’s Day. No, today is an ordinary day and it’s on ordinary days that I miss my mummabear the most.

I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve attempted to make myself sit down to write about my feelings and thoughts about last year. I didn’t want to lose these in the myriad of life’s memories; in all the bad and good experiences that I’ve made in her absence, wishing she was here for me to tell them to. I haven’t been able to write anything remotely close to the topic until today. After all, writing about death is hard.

If you asked me to write about the 6 weeks in-between finding out that she had cancer to that last day in hospital where she waited for me and my dad to arrive before passing after having been in a coma and non-responsive for the past 5 days – if you asked me to write about this and everything in between, I don’t think I could. To be honest, given my memory, I thought I would have forgotten how those 6 weeks felt by now. The fear, the hope, the anger, the guilt, the anxiety; oh god, the anxiety of not knowing when your mother was going to stop breathing – wishing the pain you knew she was experiencing but not showing was yours instead, not understanding why she wouldn’t talk anymore. Anxiety was by far the worst feeling to have because it lasted the longest. Those 6 weeks tested every fibre of my being and I don’t think I can ever forget how it felt.

I have an innate ability to control my emotions. It’s been conditioned by my personal experiences, my tolerance, my character of always wanting to be there for my friends during their highs and lows but preferring not to exude anything other than positivity around others. Bad memories get internalised, stored in a far away place and eventually forgotten. In other words, I’m stubborn and avoid giving the time of day to things that upset me. It irritates those close to me sometimes and fascinates those not so close to me. I guess it’s just how I deal, and there’s not much I can do to change that because it works for me.

I think I cried more when I broke up with one of my ex-boyfriends years ago than when my mum passed. This, of course, isn’t a testament of the extent to how much I loved those individuals but how much I’ve grown up since. I’ve never been much of a crier, but even less so now. I remember coming home that night after a long drive back, going straight to my room and sitting at my desk with a box of tissues attempting to suppress my wailing to pathetic whimpers to not wake my parents. Alas, mum’s seem to have a sixth sense of knowing when you’re lying or when something is wrong so she came into my room, saw the blubbering mess that I was and proceeded to hug me, wipe my tears away and tell me that everything would be ok. These are the kind of memories that I have with my mum, because she’s not defined by the last 6 weeks of her life. She is going to be defined as being the toughest, most caring and generous woman that I am so proud to have grown up with. She carried a beautiful reassuring aura that attracted flocks of people towards her. She’s not perfect but she loved me perfectly.

You know how they say traumatic events in your life change you? Make you a better person, maybe, or give you a newfound purpose like some enlightening? That didn’t happen for me. Other than feeling numb and a bit reckless for a while, I don’t think I changed. I’m still trying to be a better person everyday; a better daughter, a better friend, a better fighter, a better companion. The path doesn’t just split once something bad happens, it widens and presents more opportunities with your broader range of perception  and mindset.

Last year after the event it made me uncomfortable for people to tiptoe around me and watch their words. Now, it makes me uncomfortable at the awkwardness that eventuates after someone asks me a question about my family, finds out, and says “I’m sorry about your mum”. I know it’s the ‘right thing’ to say under the circumstances, but instead of zooming past the topic like the plague, ask about her. Ask how she influenced my life, ask about how much I used to annoy her, ask about how much she annoyed me when I took her on a holiday to Japan and Korea, ask about how she always hugged me but I didn’t return them properly because I was too ‘grown up’ (so stupid), ask about the last 6 weeks, ask about anything. I seldom talk about my mum, but if we’ve stumbled across it somehow then let’s stay there for a little while. Saying sorry is sympathetic, but it doesn’t really translate as sympathy when it’s left at that.

It keeps her alive for me.

I miss her, she was my best friend and I wish everyday that the last time I saw her wasn’t when I was reading her eulogy. But, I am okay and I will continue to be. Move past sorry.

Finding The One

Travelling is great to do by yourself, with a friend and with a group of friends. I can attest to all being a mix of different experiences, where you learn more about yourself or your friends, or even both, along the way.

Obviously one would be more confident and likely to paint the town red when they’re out with a group of their closest friends – it’s all about having a good time and getting kicked out of clubs, sprawled on the side of a curb in sub-zero temperatures with a pile of vomit next to you and a hotdog in your hand. When travelling with only one other person, going out is somewhat still high on the agenda, but other things such as culinary experiences, cultural monuments and shopping (depending on the country) take equal first place in priority. I tend to be more conservative when it comes to drink choices and never get to the point of intoxication where I can’t take care of my friend or get ourselves home safely. And then we get to travelling by yourself, which is something I would recommend everyone to do at least once in their lifetime. Jump out of that comfort zone of yours and discover the world in your own eyes, be greedy and don’t share the sights with a companion; make them yours. Colours somehow manage to shine brighter.

Travelling is short-term. Whatever annoying traits about your travel companion(s) that you have found only by living with them in hostels/hotels, or however lonely you can get by yourself, can only last that couple of weeks before the return back home to the serenity of home-cooked meals, our own beds and privacy. With this in mind, I’d say everything is tolerable whilst on holiday. What’s not short term, however, is moving across the world for 1-2 years.

It has now been a month since AY and I have settled into London properly. Congratulations to us! Prior to this, neither of us had lived out of home before nor been without our parents for an extended period of time. Both of us are also only-childs. Probably should have taken some baby steps, I know. But we did it anyway.

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Pretty much

It’s not that I ever had any hesitations, but I’m certain now that I found the perfect person to do this with. Perfect is a subjective word, but AY defines the word for me. Here are my top 8 points in making sure you’ll be ok with your moving-across-the-world-with-buddy.

  1. Have the same taste
    When it comes to living together, having similar food preferences is important because it would be a pain to cook everything separately or consider all the things the other person likes/dislikes/refuses to eat. Find someone who is just as comfortable eating mashed up brown rice, avocado and tuna, or soup and bread, as an elaborate roast feast. Find someone that doesn’t mind all the carb-loading meals despite our honest attempts at eating healthy. Find someone that likes noodles cooked as soft as you do, or veggies not overly-boiled leaving a crunch at the bite, and someone who remembers your trivial preferences such as having things served as a soup or dry. Better yet, find someone who notes the weird things you don’t eat, such as baby animals, accepts that they aren’t able to eat it at home but doesn’t complain and simply orders it when they go to a restaurant instead. That girl likes to eat, and I’m not complaining.
  2. Friend time vs alone time
    Being an only child, I’ve always grown up wishing I had a sibling to play with. Someone around my age, perhaps, to share my secrets and wild imaginative stories. Having never lived in a dorm during university apart from my brief stunt in Shanghai during 2009/10, I have now determined that moving out of home with a friend is fun. There’s always someone to talk to, and I love jumping into her bed or have her in mine and talk nonsense. Nonetheless, we need a balance and as such, we also largely respect our own time too. We are comfortable sitting at home not speaking to each other because we are doing our own thing (until I get bored and go annoy her).
  3. Quirks
    Things that you don’t find out until you live with someone are their individual quirks and things that make them unique. For example; what their usual toilet times are, how long they spend on there, how much hair they shed when they wash, how they wash their underwear, how long it takes them to decide what to wear, crazy dances they perform in the living room to warm themselves up, the ridiculous number of layers they wear as pyjamas when it’s hot taking into account her duvet is 3x thicker than mine, them keeping every plastic bowl, container, and bottle that they accumulate from Deliveroo. This list can go on, but really the majority of it makes me laugh and the rest is about compromise. After all, she has to put up with me too – all the noises I make around the house while prancing around and the loud music that I play because I don’t like long periods of silence, having to always wait for me to go out because I always forget something, having to stand beside me when I make loud noises or gestures in public which tend to gather some attention, clogging the toilet (it happens to the best of us), being permanently attached to my phone, and having to see my morning wake-up face daily. I assure you my list can go on too.
  4. PMS
    Neither of us have mood swings. No tip-toeing around each other or random bursts of tears. It makes for good vibes all year round. End of story.
  5. Money splitting
    Now, money can always be a delicate issue. I think though, with the same kind of mentality and being in similar stages in life where money isn’t a scarce resource since we’ve been working for quite a few years now, but still an asset class that we are working towards preserving and growing for our future, that money splitting isn’t an issue because we are not trying to take advantage of eachother. AY found an app for our phones, Splittable, which keeps track of items owed to each other and makes money splitting even easier. It’s a relief being with someone who appreciates the worth in money, but isn’t reluctant to spend it on a nice meal or night out.
  6. Domestication splitting
    I think it would suck to live with someone who was really lazy and unhelpful around the house. Luckily I am not in that situation. We take the rubbish out together on Thursday nights (and make quite a scene of it along the way), clean when appropriate and free, and have an unspoken understanding that if one of us cooks, the other one will clean up and wash the dishes subsequently. Laundry is done independently but we try to wash a few days apart since there’s limited drying room. It just works naturally like family.
  7. Communication
    This one is intertwined with all the previous points, but important enough to get its own paragraph too. Communication is key to any type of relationship, much less one with a housemate. The first time I went to a 7:15am morning class at the gym, AY woke up to my empty bedroom and freaked out a little bit since I hadn’t told her where I was going. Small example, but letting each other know when we’ll be late home or of plans to eat with other people goes a long way. Even communication about things we can change around the house, though can be awkward, is vital to a long and happy relationship. A mature one too. AY told me off once for not squeezing the washing sponge dry before putting it back in the box, resulting in the box being constantly wet all the time. Oops, noted and thank you.
  8. Friendship stays
    Even though we live together, our friendship remains the same. We text each other during the day, are excited when we see each other (even if we’ve only been away for a few hours), and share all our laughter, fears and problems. Our geography skills have not improved in the slightest, which isn’t ideal when living in Europe. Friendship doesn’t and shouldn’t lose its essence when you start living together.

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There was this one time, about 4 years ago, where I introduced AY to my friends as my ‘colleague’. She wasn’t too happy with me about that and reminded me for weeks but we are a long way from that now.

Friends like her make the good times better and the hard times easier.

Here is our story, where two idiots become one.

Gym review: Urban Kings Gym

Short intro: As you may already know, or will soon find out once I start posting less travel-related posts and more everyday-related posts, I’m a bit of a fitness junkie (without the daily half naked motivational Instagram posts and gym selfies – I try to be a bit less annoying and use snapchat for those purposes. Keyword: try). I was always quite sporty and active growing up, participating in as many sports as school would offer, but I weaned off this as I approached year 10 in high school because boys, makeup, underage clubbing and the occasional test to study for became increasingly easy to prioritise. I only started becoming more consistent with exercise when I joined Absolute MMA a couple of years back, initially for fitness. Even in my first year or two there, I made excuses to skip classes. I was too tired from work. I had to get up early for work. I had to have dinner with friends. I had to go home and sit on the couch because the Earth would stop moving if I didn’t. What changed just over a year ago is finding a coach that is encouraging, personable and believes in your abilities more than you do yourself. He pushed me to become better, fitter, stronger hence I started taking MMA and fitness in general more seriously, literally dragging myself out of bed in the mornings to get my face punched in sparring.

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He can throw me like a fly, but always has my back.

Another distinguishing factor Absolute had is its no-ego community. No room for attitude here, please move along. I also formed solid friendships with the people I saw everyday there who were there to train hard but have a laugh at the same time. It also helps to have an amazing fitness training partner and inspirational girl sparring partners. With the move to London, it was important for me to find another gym where I receive quality training in a welcoming environment, so I signed myself up to as many trials as possible at different gyms.

Urban Kings didn’t offer free trials, so I had to pay 10 pounds or so to attend a trial class but would get this offset against my membership cost should I join. This seemed reasonable, so I signed myself up to a Muay Thai class on a Saturday since most classes, such as mma,  were member-only and there wasn’t an option to trial them. They told me I didn’t need to bring anything, so I didn’t, but when I got there they said I needed hand wraps so ended up purchasing a pair (of really, really bad quality) for a couple of pounds. No big deal, I guess. As expected, the class was male dominated but there were 2 other girls there which was positive. They weren’t friendly though, which was disappointing. My hand wraps were wrapped embarrassingly badly because the quality of them made it really hard (Ok, it was probably more me than the wraps) so the coach had to redo them for me. I don’t know why, but I love it when someone does my hand wraps for me. It just warms my heart and creates so much respect and trust between me and that person. Good start already. The coach introduced himself and asked about my Muay Thai history before passing me a skipping rope. We did some warmup drills and paired off to do more technical combinations that he showed in the middle of the mat. The coach paired me with a guy who was advanced at Muay Thai, but very friendly and didn’t give me any attitude about having to partner with a girl. I appreciated this.

The coach was strict and demanding but attentive. He walked around the mat giving people instructions to better their stance, footwork or speed. I felt most, if not all, people in the class were experienced and had I not trained before, I would’ve felt like a stupid fish out of water. The instructed combinations weren’t too difficult, the more challenging aspect was the minor adjustments needed in footwork and kicks from mma to muay thai. I needed the most guidance with elbows as I wasn’t too used to throwing these. Overall, learnt heaps and felt positive vibes coming out of that class, bar the unfriendly girls, ugh a smile has never killed anyone.

The gym describes itself as a ‘luxury mma gym’, and that it really is. It has the biggest changing/shower rooms I’ve ever seen in a fight gym, and has towel service! It’s also fully equipped with amenities such as soap, shampoo, hair dryers/straighteners and lotion. I felt their staff were very commercial and knew how to sell their product (i.e. gym membership). Due to this, I was a bit wary that the gym was too commercial, and not all that serious about coaching quality. This was proven wrong, however, in the trial class I did. The gym area itself is huge, with a bag area, weights area, cardio area, 3 mats (including a boxing ring) for training and a smoothie bar.

Its membership price is a bit pricier than other mma gyms I’d researched around London (about 115 pounds per month), probably due to its ‘luxuriousness’ and location, being centrally located a few minutes walk from King’s Cross station. It was clean though, no bad smells coming from dirty mats or any sign of unhygienic rituals, so I would highly recommend Urban Kings Gym if cashflow isn’t a problem and you would take full advantage of the change room benefits. They also have a plethora of different types of classes, including yoga, pilates, and spin if that’s of interest. The coaching I experienced is top notch and people (most anyway) are friendly and helpful.

http://urbankingsgym.com