Thanksgiving with a touch of November

My friends in the US still call me half-American. My ex-colleagues in Australia call me a third Australian/American/British. Strangers call me international. Identity crisis, much? Having now lived in 3 of the largest OECD countries (and also Shanghai for a few months as a fair comparison), I can comfortably confirm that identity issues are faced by most if not all Asians born, or arriving at a young age, in Western countries. I consider myself simply ABC – Australian Born Chinese (also works for American Born Chinese but I’m not sure what the UK equivalent is) and this creates a separate form of identity; it is colloquially progressive and creates a diverse community of Asians, not limited to just Chinese, who dress, speak, act and think differently from their motherland counterparts.

Growing up as an ABC kid was confusing. I had Caucasian friends whose parents gave them free reign over their life and constantly compared this to my own, where a school day was not considered finished without going to swimming squad practice, netball training, piano lesson, and math tutoring. This difference was incomprehensible for me at a young age. Why were my parents so difficult? So strict? So boring? I was later exposed to the concept of ‘asian pride’ in high school *queue anthem: got rice, bitch?* and became notoriously rebellious but eventually found my own feet and identity in understanding that I was always going to be different, but different isn’t always bad. After all, different is a relative term. Who is to say one is the norm/standard in comparison to their neighbour?

In retrospect, my parents were quite good at keeping an open mind about my choices and understood in a way that my upbringing could never be the same as theirs. Plus, they gave up on me early when they realised I was bad at math, liked sport activities, and had no patience in learning how to sight-read and therefore could not pass my piano examinations. Dreams of having a Doctor daughter: shattered.

So in Thanksgiving spirit, with everything that I am and who I am, because I was fortunate enough to be born in Australia, I thank my parents for their guts and pure determination it took to move to a foreign country – though not really by choice, and endurance in years of language barrier struggles, poverty and underwhelming working conditions. To fight through all that in becoming successful small business owners is no small feat and taught me at a young age invaluable lessons on the value of money and hard work. And thank you for having me, as I wouldn’t have been born should the both of you had stayed in Vietnam.

On a related, but separate note. November. Though not quite over yet, November has been my best and favourite month this year, for many reasons. It started with the solidification of my age increasing by 0.037% which I’d normally be bitter about, but sweet human beings have neutralised, if not completely offset and surpassed the effects of such quarter life age crises and I found myself focusing very little on the number and a lot more on the experiences I’m able to capture, some things planned and others certainly not, leading up to and at my age.

Alongside turning older on paper and younger at heart, I have also pondered upon the following: my word for 2017. Instead of new year’s resolutions, I assign a word to denominate my year ahead and try to stick as true to it as I can. 2015 was ‘free’. 2016 was ‘new’.

Working out what word 2017 will be for me exactly, is a thought in progress, though I hope it depicts something as lovely as November has been thus far.

Live more, aim for more, give more.
Power to you.

If not now, then when?

Hi again. I’m finding myself fastened to some type of rut this evening. We can blame this on me making the executive decision to skip training this morning; this resolve weighing heavily on the fact that it is freezing hence harder to wake up earlier in the morning and also the mere reasonable certainty that my lingering ailments of injuries won’t heal properly if I don’t rest enough. But now we have it – lack of physical exhaustion from gym equates to free time which equates to wandering thoughts.

Currently, we are looking at the following facts:

  • I’m fully qualified to practice accounting globally.
  • I worked as a tax specialist for 3 out of 4 years in public practice.
  • Now I’m a temporary financial controller for an investment bank.
  • What does the above mean to me? Other than looking good on paper, absolutely nothing.
  • Let me repeat that – nooothhinggg!

I received lots of personal and career advice during my time in public practice, but only 2 have stuck with me – probably the most important 2 things I learnt there in my time. Ha – I make it sound like I did “time” there as if it was jail, but trust me, sometimes it really did feel like it. The first piece of advice was given by a Tax Partner on my first day via an induction speech to all the new keen-bean fresh faced graduates. He told us that everyone, from graduates to partners have things that they are bad at and things they are good at. We’re human. To succeed, however, dedicate a little bit of time working on the things you’re bad at so that you can get by, but spend most of your energy getting better at the things you’re already good at so you can excel right out of the ballpark. There’s no point spending copious amounts of time trying to improve on the things you’re bad at, because there will already be people better than you by the time you play catch up. The second piece of advice was given to me by my Partner on one of my last days in the office. I respect him a lot. He was trying to convince me to take a one-year career break rather than resign, and in our conversations about future employment he told me that if ever I did not like what I was doing, or it didn’t feel right, then quit. Don’t waste time hanging around trying to like something thinking you’ll get better at it. (I almost feel like he was alluding to men and relationships, but let’s just stick with the professional point of view for now.)

Both pieces of advice have a similar tone, and it’s funny how they came at the beginning and end of my career at that place.

Both pieces of advice conflict with my personality – I’m not a quitter, if tested, I will work at something until I understand it.

However, what I’ve come to realise on this cold, cold Autumn evening (it feels like Winter)… actually no, I take the world ‘realise’ back. This isn’t a new thought by any means, it’s more like a consolidated action plan. Spending 45-60 hours a week doing something I’m only mediocre at, is a lot of time wasted. My accounting expiry date is coming up real soon. Sitting in front of a computer screen deciphering which way debits and credits are meant to go burns a scorching hole through both my heart and creative membranes.

Perhaps I need to spend a little less time training and a little more time sorting my life out. It’s not a mess, nothing is wrong with it per se. I’m so grateful to have the people that I do around me, and to have the opportunity to be in London – which I know, couldn’t have been done with accounting behind me. It’s all about the journey and I just think it’s time for the next adventure. I don’t want to just be content, to plod along in the rat race trying to elicit the same sort of passion my peers have. It’s not for me. I want fire.  So here’s me, at the beginning of figuring out how to change this for a better me, and hopefully those I impact from my future decisions.

Alternatively, I should never skip training again. Teehee.

No, seriously.

Screw your excuses Jen, they’re not good enough for me anymore.

Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

6 months

It only occurred to me whilst looking at the calendar for potential travel dates with AY for the rest of the year that it has been 6 months (+ 6 days) since our move to London. Though the first month was travelling so there’s still technically another month to go until we can say we’ve lived here for 6 months, I’d say it’s a momentous occasion regardless!

Cliche as this is, there’s no other way to put it – time has flown by. It feels like only a month ago that I left home, but that’s okay, because there’s only a month to go before I’m back for a whirlwind visit. The excitement is real. I’ve met some incredible people here, but I don’t think I’m crazy retarded around them yet, which is duly my natural habitat. It just takes a lot of time when everything, from stores to suburbs are so unfamiliar. Did you know that you could buy hot ready-to-eat jerk chicken from a supermarket? Neither did I. London Fight Factory (#lffteam) has been ever so welcoming in becoming my second home and I think my mma game has really stepped up with the detailed coaching I’m receiving. It’s a bit awkward when the guys you’ve been training with on the daily, at ultimately my most unattractive state ever, send you messages asking to go out sometime. After my gentle delicate declines, I really dread the next time I see them because I  coincidently always seem to get paired with them with them after this happens. Hardcore mma fighter, no. Queen of awkward, check. Staaahhhppp it.

Getting back to the main point of this post, I can say I’ve picked up a few things in my 6 months. Here are 6 things that have stood out to me/surprised me the most about London.

  1. Chivalry is not dead
    Australian men need to come here for a crash course on mannerisms. This point is proven with the simplest of examples (because I haven’t experienced anything Mr. Darcy-like) – men, regardless of age, race or professional status, always hold the door. They will almost always let a girl/woman board a bus first even if they’re ahead in line, and also wait until last to enter or leave a lift. I’m not sure if this a product of the schooling system, society standards, or home upbringing – maybe a combination of these, but it’s nice to see and something new to be appreciative of.
  2. Greenery
    Being one of the biggest economic hubs of the world, a concrete jungle of sorts, I did not expect London to have such a large array of parks and greenery. They take their parks seriously, and the vibes are so positive within them during summer.
  3. “You alright? You okay?”
    Whenever I was asked this in my first couple of months here, it left me completely baffled. One would think that this question would be posed if I looked like I was in trouble, or about to burst into tears. Alas, this is the local equivalent of asking “how are you/how are you going?” Even though I know this now, I still struggle with my responses and normally reply with a meek “..yeah..”. I mean, I don’t know, is it rhetorical? Are you meant to ask it back? Oh, the mysteries of the English language.
  4. Fashion
    I would describe London’s fashion as street. Comfort, a bit of urban attitude, and decent accessories to seal the package. I really like this, but again, it surprised me. I was expecting more high heels, more red lipstick and definitely more of a Vogue-esque dress sense.
  5. Coffee
    Contrary to popular belief – I’m looking at all of you back home who said I wouldn’t be able to survive here because of this, London does have good coffee spots! People here love coffee and competition here is fierce. Most of the big commercial coffee chains ie. Costa, Nero, Pret offer convenience rather than quality coffee, but independent stores make them just as good as back home. Starbucks has just introduced green tea lattes here (about time, London!) for Winter, though I hope it’s here to stay. As my go-to comfort drink on cold days, I am super happy about this! I’m going to slip another one in here because I’m running out of points, but I have to mention how amazing their fast food selection is. Move aside Subway, coming in hot are Wasabi, Itsu, Pret, Eat, Pod, Leon, ah I’m too spoilt for choice.
  6. The roads are very easy to drive on
    *Disclaimer – outside of central London only. Central London loves its narrow one-way roads and one lane roads that go both ways, I don’t even know how this makes sense, but there is a lot of giving way and patience involved. I would be very hesitant to drive in central London. However, what I’ve learnt in my experience of driving 10-ish hours on the outskirts of London and into the UK countryside is that you can’t escape traffic. You think there’ll be no cars driving in the country on the weekend? Think again. Road sign font sizes are much larger than necessary, but it makes for no excuses in missing an exit. There are a lot of roundabouts, and roundabouts with traffic lights, which again doesn’t make sense to me. But all in all, I think roads and signage here are very similar to back home (yay to left side driving) and it was really fun to drive and have the luxury of a car again for a weekend instead of relying on public transport. The speed limits here are quite lenient too, as the highways I drove on had a limit of 70-80 MPH which is like 110-130km!

I wonder what else London will teach me in the next 6 months.

 

Haiku

The first leaf drops with
Fleeting ethereal moments;
Autumn has arrived.

I hope I counted my syllables correctly.

The hours of daylight have shortened exponentially over the course of the past two weeks. What was 5am-9pm hours of daylight have now reduced to 6:30am-7:30pm and will eventually reach its peak (or low?) of 8am-3pm. That’s just crazy. I’ve started pulling out coats from my closet already. London winter, I am so unprepared for you, but come at me. I haven’t disliked anything about you yet and I’m not going to start now.

Greece: Rhodes Island

**Updated with video at the end!

Upon stepping out of the airport into the blazing sunlight and mountainous backdrop, I thought that my inhibitions about Rhodes Island being a little boring fisherman village was to much of my dismay, true. We trudged along the footpath following a blue ‘Bus Stop’ sign that pointed in that direction. If we hadn’t seen a man sitting on the small bench with his luggage, we wouldn’t have suspected the run down shelter with torn casino and club promotional posters semi-glued to the wall behind was where we were meant to wait. There was no timetable, no bus numbers, no other indication that it was a bus stop other than a rusty ‘bus stop’ sign on the side. Surely there would be better maintenance of an airport bus stop? Apparently not.

The bus driver was our first exchange with a Greek local, and he set the precedence for my vote of the friendliest, nicest country of people that I’ve encountered on my Europe travels thus far. Of course, I’m saying this only in terms of hospitality since we didn’t actually mingle with locals properly, but through my people-watching moments, I think that the Greek people’s demeanour is this: have a good time now and worry later. It is a place that believes in siestas and fiestas (I could get used to this), which may go a fair way in explaining their EU-bail out fiasco last year, but they don’t seem to be affected by it at all. Perhaps the bigger cities are. I feel as if they do what they need to do but continue with their siesta and fiesta lifestyle assuming politicians and the EU will sort the economy out. This gives me a flashback of a photo I saw last year in the news of an old Greek man sitting on the ground next to an ATM, helplessly crying in despair because there was a shut-down of Greek banks and citizens weren’t able to withdraw any of their money. He could have needed it for medicine, food, school fees, debt – who knows. Sad times.

Onto happier times, on our first night AY and I stumbled to the front of a cocktail bar that we had read about which played rnb/contemporary music. Perfect, right? Well, on that specific night they were playing classical live Greek music. Not so perfect. But the place was packed, and everyone looked like they were having such a good time so we had to go inside and check it out. For some reason, the only free seat was right in front of the dance floor and band where everyone faces, and so we were seated there. To sum up the experience: the bar’s decoration was out of this world, old Greek ladies can really bust a move and there is a threshold to the number of times a singer can serenade you, throw tissues at you (a Greek tradition) and make you step onto the dance floor before you want to run away in embarrassment.

I quickly discovered that Rhodes Island wasn’t a little fisherman village. Restaurants, from cafes to tavernas were all very clean and modern with each having unique Greek-inspired decorations all around. The pebble beaches, though not my favourite and littered with cigarette butts, had really warm blue water. The Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site, was fun to walk around, layered with little shops and stalls along all the alleyways to peek into. Going up and walking along the city walls is a main to-do thing on the island, but to no one’s surprise, AY and I couldn’t find it and got distracted by a visit to the Grand Master’s palace instead, during which AY self-pronounced herself to be the Grand Master in the flesh and transformed into an absolute comedian. We laughed all the way back to our hotel where she had major bladder hold issues.

Nightlife is limited to a few long streets, either around Old Town or a street close to our hotel. Energetic, bright lights, loud music, games, free drinks, promoters asking you to drink and party with them. We both felt a Thailand-like vibe, albeit much less busy.

In our 2.5 days there, AY and I managed to eat every single traditional Greek dish there is. It was a constant cycle of overeating and eating some more. Our most memorable meal though, was a seafood taverna that we liked the look of, so decided to venture into randomly. The restaurant wasn’t very busy, so we were a bit hesitant but the waiter was so friendly and confident in his recommendations that we were put to ease quite soon. Prawns, mussels, grilled fish,  grilled calamari. So. Damn. Good. Our experience was heightened by the attentive customer service we received, so much so that we left a tip of an extraordinary amount (for our standards anyway).

We had such a relaxing and chill weekend in Rhodes Island. Can’t say there’s an exorbitant number of things to do there, as people generally stay for longer and island hop around Greece. But how can one fault sunshine, nice people and the beach? After my short experience, I really cannot wait for the opportunity to go to other Greece islands – perhaps next summer? Yes please!

Oh, I also GoPro’d our weekend. We discovered through this experience that I am camera shy and AY can talk into a camera non-stop (to compensate, she says). I’ll post it soon!

Injuries suck..

..But are part of the journey. Ride it.

Light drills today to get movement in the ankle going again. No power, just a focus on getting an extra inch or two of reach with my jabs. Then sparring afterwards because I couldn’t help myself. Note to self: let it heal, JP, have some patience goddamn it.

I bought a GoPro and this is my first video taken on it! It’s mostly of my coach’s ass, probably not the best view but not the worst either. Hopefully both my video taking and video editing skills, or lack thereof, will improve by the time I get to Greece. I’m still learning what all the buttons do and there’s only 3.

Can you believe it’s 2016 and I didn’t have a youtube account until today?

 

 

The time I almost died at work

Being (relatively) new to London and not having the cohort of my friends here really brings tame me out of the dusty closet. Friday/Saturday nights normally involve either lining our waistlines with glorious food, travelling or occasionally a free cocktail that AY likes to source from a handy phone app we use. For my leaving present, one of the items generously given by BC and my team was an eye shadow palette that smells like chocolate. I was asked recently how many times I’ve used it and had to admit it’s been a big fat T-W-O. In essence, I haven’t been anywhere that requires more than my 3-minute makeup face.

A friend of mine from the US is currently doing a Euro trip with his girl and law school friends and they were here for a couple of nights. We went to junior high school together but I left to go back to Australia in 2004 and have only seen him once since. He asked me to go to a pub crawl the other night since it would be their last night in London and I was instructed to get to Picadilly by 9:30. At 8:55 I was sitting on the couch in my pyjamas typing out a message on my phone with an excuse of why I wasn’t going to go. I didn’t need one really, as my ankle is still sore, but what was really going through my head was:

  • It’s a Thursday night
  • I have work tomorrow
  • I already had dinner with them the night before so I wouldn’t be that bad of a friend for bailing now
  • I’m comfortable here
  • I really don’t want to move

Somehow 2 minutes later I was running around home pulling on jeans with one hand and applying eyeliner with the other (sorry, I didn’t use the eye shadow. I’ll use it soon I swear!). 5 minutes later I was out the door.

The good thing is I didn’t pass out an hour in. The bad thing is because my alcohol tolerance decided to be so strong that night, the drunkeness set in very late, probably beginning its full effect as I was making my way home.

I don’t know how I managed to wake up the next day, transform into some clothes and make it to the office. What’s more impressive is I got to work earlier than I normally do, but my accomplishments for the day came to an end here. Upon arrival I proceeded to head straight to the toilet because I felt sick and realised that for the whole journey into work my fly wasn’t done up nor was my bb cream evenly applied on my face – blotches everywhere bro. I then vomited my guts out and was an inch away from passing out in that toilet stall. I sat at my desk for the first 3 hours of the day trying to keep myself composed and telepathically sent out radars to people not to approach me. I must’ve succeeded in keeping too low a profile, as my manager asked if I was okay.

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Yes, yes I’m super.

During this episode, I was going through a hot-cold sweat, my head was exploding, and I smelled like a combination of whisky and vomit. It was unpleasant to say the least. I heeded advice from friends telling me to get Gatorade and munch on ice, which comforted the drunk me but didn’t really help with the drunkenness itself. I don’t think I sobered up until midday and didn’t get over the hangover until 4pm after which I got so sleepy I seriously considered going back to my toilet stall for a nap.

Moral of this story: I’m a great mate and I don’t know what ‘drinking responsibility’ means.

I didn’t go home in the morning because I didn’t believe I would be able to coordinate myself out the building, onto a correct bus, and home from the bus stop without mishap. I would probably have tripped up the stairs to my flat and broken my other ankle. The safer option was definitely to stay put at work; although I’m not sure I’ll still have a job on Monday.  By lunch time I was feeling better and the option of going home ceased to outweigh the opportunity cost of lost wages to support my frappuccino and burger needs.

I can safely say I can leave the big Thursday benders to London locals who seem to do this on a weekly basis. For me: never again.

10 things that make you happy

Apologies about the hiatus. No excuses, just a lack of accountability (no pun intended) on my part despite the consistent pestering by my dearest AY, whom I can’t escape, and others. I am alive, and funemployment is no more.

I have done more travelling since I last wrote a travel-focused blog; being day trips to both Cambridge and Bournemouth not far out from London, soaking in some Barcelona and Ibiza sunshine, and spending cheeky weekends in Paris and Edinburgh. Coming up next: Birmingham and Greece!

I wanted to write about something light-hearted after my last post and had 3 drafts written up discussing arbitrary topics of sorts, but upon reflection they all seemed dull.  I don’t fancy dull, so they went straight to the trash bin.

BC (@https://miriadic.wordpress.com) came up with the perfect solution for me: make a list! 10 things that make you happy… I think this needs to be taken with a grain of salt because these things can change in a day, a month, a year as we grow and change as individuals. I recall making a similar list when I was 19, and can confidently say that I can relate to only half of those things at most now. Alright, now that disclaimers are out of the way, I’m going to list 10 things that make me happy at this very point in time – JP, 11:44pm Tuesday 16 August 2016, in no particular order of favouritism.

  1. Sleeping. Trust the sleeping queen to list this as her first point, but there is some complexity to this simple pleasure. Certain slumbers possess an extra element of wonderful – for example, the smell of clean bedsheets; going to bed happy; waking up on weekends with the sun peeking into your bedroom from the corners of your curtains; waking up on weekends thinking you’re late for work but realising what day it is; waking up before your alarm knowing you have an extra 15 minutes of sleep; or waking up with something to look forward to that day. Ok who am I kidding, I love every nights sleep. I also brought up this point because it’s past my bedtime and therefore all the above points will not apply to me tomorrow morning.
  2. MMA. Despite the obvious surrounding the grind, the training, and the new levels of fitness it pushes me into, I think it teaches me lessons that I apply to everyday life. To persevere when you want to give up; to turn up on time, and keep turning up; and to find your plus, minus and equal. I read an article recently of a mma coach that makes his fighters train with people better than them for improvement, less experienced than them so they can teach, and equal to them for comparison. +, -, =. I apply this to leadership and I like it.
  3. Editing. Give me words, let me edit it and give it back to you. It will make my day.
  4. Being able to buy things for my parents. The last time they gave me anything material was when I was 18, but they gave me a lifetime of love and made sacrifices for me to have the upbringing that I did. It’s nice being able to repay back a fraction of that through taking care of all household bills, holidays, presents etc. Due to this, unfortunately funemployment is non sustainable.
  5. Ice-cream and cookies.
  6. Music keeps me going on and on and on and on. There is a genre for any occasion. I’m open with my music selection as long as it makes me pumped and jolly.
  7. Clean ironed clothes. Short of underwear, which I have done before, I iron everything! I have slight self-diagnosed OCD with laundry and hygiene.
  8. Meeting people who aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves (since I find it hard to take myself seriously); who are humble, walk with an aura of positivity, are geniune and understand that humility can bring out the best in the worst of times. If you know me, then you know that I don’t really like meeting people. I’m anti-social and shy and awkward and all these faltering attributes around people I don’t know – but get to know me, and I will probably be the one making you uncomfortable with the embarrassing antics I get up to – just ask AY. Maybe meet me when I’m intoxicated, I’m much friendlier then. I digress, what I’m trying to say is I guess meeting certain types of people allows this side of me to come out faster. If we’re friends, and you would know this, then I think you’re pretty special in one way or another.
  9. Cafes. The buzz of cafes and smell of caffeine and freshly baked bread makes my heart sing. Add free wifi and my macbook with me for company and I’ve got a perfect morning/afternoon planned.
  10. Making others happy.

BC was right, compressing this to 10 specific things was hard. I could’ve gone to 100!

I’m easily amused, and it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

I hope YOU have a splendid day ahead.

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.