Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Case of Curious Coincidences (Part 5)

The new year may’ve been celebrated with the beautiful display of fireworks and resolutions, but it brought more challenges for Crystal to conquer. Not only was she emotionally drained from the intensity of working and studying, her academic timetable was in tatters. Accommodating her job, classes, and social time required her to devote more time than she desired on campus.

Her heart sank three feet further into her stomach and she buried her face in her hands at the revelation that Fate threw her and Ryan into the same tutorial yet again. It wasn’t the respite she hoped for because it strained and wore her patience out to have dealt with him for the entire year. Sure, she went to extreme lengths to convince herself that Ryan didn’t harbor any grudges against her. His erratic approach towards her was the result of his temperament and the continuous stress of excellence instead. But what was she fearful of? Her application for a study tour was approved and she’d be setting sail to the far east - to the snowy grounds of Edmonton next semester.

“Screw the bugger for choosing Auckland,” she had whinged once to Tracy. “He’s making me jealous with all of those pictures of Queen Street and Mount Victoria in Devonport.”

“You could still continue with your plan of studying a semester in AUT, though.” Tracy raised an eyebrow. “It’s not as if you’re doing in at the same time or campus as Ryan.”

“Come to think of it, I think I’ll be adventurous and head off to Canada instead while experiencing my first and only white Christmas.”

With a cheery smile that lit up the sombre aura of the room, Crystal made herself comfortable as she waited for the rest of the students and tutor to float into the area. Breathing the same air as Ryan for the umpteenth time made her nervous because there was a chance history would repeat itself. She sighed, recollecting that this was the same location for their morning class last year and how his guts almost spilled on the carpeted floor when he saw her neutral expression as he entered.

Snap out of it, a little voice reminded her. Just be yourself.

Little did Crystal expect the cards that Ryan would throw in the fire.

What made the class experience worse for Ryan was the fact that all of the students were required to present a topic of their choice from the course content. He was alright with class presentations, but his friend, who promised to join him in this course, withdrew at the eleventh hour for another subject. His friend’s decision left him in a dilemma because he didn’t have an alternative subject to enroll in and he didn’t know anyone - or so he thought. He breathed a sigh of relief when he spied Crystal minding her own business in the class. She must’ve been fixated on something because she hadn’t heard his entrance. He secretly observed her conduct for the first half of the class time and satisfied that she, like him, was a stranger to their peers, he swallowed his pride and went against his wishes. He gingerly approached her and asked whether she’d be willing to collaborate with him for the presentation as they were already familiar with each other’s work ethics.

His request must’ve shocked her into silence because he saw her eyes dilated with a mixture of shock and surprise.

“I guess it’s alright.” Crystal found her voice. “It’d make our lives easier if we work together again and there wouldn’t be any glitches.”

“Awesome! What topic would you like to do? I’ll leave the choice to you.”

“I’m alright with anything. Do you have something on mind?”

He rattled a couple of options. “Then again, it’s dependent on what the other groups have chosen.”

“We’ll see how it plays out. Who knows if we’d be lucky to nail the first option?”

Thursday, July 6, 2017

7/6/17

It's a wrap for me - or at least I'd like to think so.

Now that I've a limited form of freedom, it will allow me to tackle and digest the disappointing piece of news from home. Approaching it from a third party's standpoint would be better for my emotions, but there's too much at stake for me not to care. I can hear my heart cracking whenever I find myself thinking of it - with regrets, unfortunately. It almost knocked me off my feet when it first landed on my doormat, but I chose to mask the shock with the exam revisions (for my benefit). It's the season - where revision week has the ability to drown everyone in extra doses of stress. And I don't need heavier shoulders, so to speak.

I don't know how I performed on the paper. It's been a while since I've approached an exam with a resigned fate, so I don't know how I should react. I've either caught myself shaking with panic or crying to death the moment they allowed us out of the exam hall. For this particular paper, all I felt was ... relief. I didn't have any pre-exam stress (where I soiled my cheeks and exam paper with tears) either. Inasmuch as I need to let the body and brain take a couple of days off, I have to deal with it soon, sigh. I’ve hung on by a thread since the end of the semester. My concentration and patience were stretched to the breaking point by unwelcome distractions at ungodly hours. It’s a wonder how I managed to stay awake with about only 2-3 hours of sleep until after I was done with the exam. Oh well, it is what it is. It’s all done and dusted. Time to temporarily abandon my social media accounts and do my own thing until next semester.

Just as and when I am penning this post, a flashback from my sojourn in Taipei has returned to visit me. I can’t remember the street names, but we ventured far from the hotel to land ourselves in the subway stalls and a large shopping mall.

I’ve scheduled a couple of posts in my absence. I’ll try to visit and leave comments on your blogs - but this is dependent on the space in my schedule.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Borrowed Time

Time is slipping through my fingers. I can feel it. Being with these two lovely amigos will always remind me that we’re hanging out on borrowed time. Depending on how I play with my deck of cards, there is a chance that we’ll have limited face-to-face contact in the future. It makes me sigh whenever I think of that day. I don’t know what would happen or how things would be, but I don’t want them to send me off with raw, rimmed eyes. Including me. Trust me, it would be embarrassing when the flight passenger next to me taps me on the forearm with a tissue.



Why such a somber note, you may ask. The reason is this. In my years of undergraduate studies, it’s hard to find true friends who will have your best interests. I’ve hidden beneath the rigid facade to avoid landing on my face. These two lovely amigos strove in their own ways to ensure that I don’t fall back on my mask. We have an implied agreement to bask in each other’s presence as a group of three - and this involves all topics under the sun.

It is with this in mind that we arranged for a burger date. Yes, you read that right. A burger date, but with three stressed and sleep deprived musketeers in the middle of exam revisions. I was a tad bit hesitant on this because their exams were much earlier than mine, but we went ahead with it since we had our separate after-exams plans. As we entered the cafe, my brain had a laugh when we snatched each other’s floor and said the same thing at the same time. It’s like we read each other’s mind and I thought I heard my sister’s faint chuckle at the coincidence. I remembered the awkwardness that descended upon me. It was a moment of silence before he answered my question, but I narrowly and gently pried my way out of answering it. I guess I was thankful that I didn’t turn cherry red, thanks. I don’t need to be a walking tomato in front of them again, lol.

I know I craved for burgers. I’ll be happier if someone transported me to Big Hug instead. But I’ll be satisfied with what I have. A cheeseburger. Truth be told, I struggled to finish the one on my plate - and we’re talking about a burger the size of my palm - when my hand stole French fries and a basket of sweet potato fritters. Okay, not steal per se. More like pinched. Call it habitual. I love French fries but things did not turn out well the last time I ate an entire box of it. God knows what he thought, but moments after I pinched a couple of fries, he offered us - my sister and I - his plate. I suspected it’s because he was aware that both of us have no qualms about eating it.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re catching up over lunch or on campus. It is always with these two that I laugh the hardest. I laugh until I whimper with tears… and it’ll be tough for me to maintain a straight face. A mere glance at either one of them is enough to send my stomach rolling with glee. I don’t know why; a sense of warmth is what I feel with these two. It’s like i feel the most relaxed with them. Sweet like oranges, they are but what I admire the most about them is their spines of steel.

This is something that I will miss, regardless of whether the day of my departure arrives.

If I play my deck of cards with the right amount of accuracy, time, and luck, I might be able to maintain the frequency of our hangouts. Heck, we could have those Friday dinners after work monthly!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

6/21/17

I dreamt that I was revising for an exam while having lunch at a cafe. I chose the table facing the wall for better concentration and I don’t have to look at faces. Scattered around me was my textbook, a folder of notes, and sticky tabs. An acquaintance from Criminal Law came over and scared the lights out of me when he slid on the empty chair next to me. He pulled my leg with a joke, which caused me to lightly slap on his shoulder instead. I then placed my head on his shoulder as I welcomed the temporary distraction. The camera then panned to someone else - a female whose jaw slammed to the floor in shock at our conduct.

He then wrote my address on a half-completed envelope that bore my name. I have to admit that he had a beautiful handwriting, much better than mine. It was after this that he excused himself and departed the cafe with his pal. 

My Mom waited outside the cafe and asked why I wasn’t in college for the revision. I replied that I decided to kill two birds with one stone - I was hungry and didn’t want to waste the time returning to the building. Plus, I couldn’t study in the air of stress radiated by the frazzled students. I asked her to pick me up from the cafe because it was closer to the place where she was and easier to exit the bottleneck suburb of ours. 

It was later that evening when I decided to indulge in my favourite TV drama. The plot for that episode included a couple with a boy. I presumed that they were a family as they were discussing about something. Their dog was sitting on the chair like a regal next to the mother. A girl burst out of the bush in ninja style with the goal of delivering the fatal blow to the dog, but instead stabbed the mother in the neck. The boy chased the girl away in horror. The dad asked what happened when he noticed the deathly silence. The mother looks at the boy with despair as she tried to stop the bleeding by applying pressure on the wound. 

For the first part of the dream, I’m baffled as to why I dreamt of that specific person. I mean, the way he took the chair was indicative of him, but the context does not make full sense. We’re not friends in real life. I don’t think we’re even acquaintances either. It is possible from the online interpretation that I’m seeking consolation from someone. This is possible because I didn’t obtain a distinction for one of the courses, but I’m not disappointed. Just resigned to my fate. Alternatively, it might mean that I need someone to hear me out after I received an unexpected news from home.

Me laughing in the dream can be defined in two manners. One is the elaboration that it could be a sign of chest-deep stress for either myself or a close friend. Alternatively, it could be me looking for an outlet to express the pent-up sufferings.

Seeing the envelope, I believe, might have been the result of my anticipation in real life… or the fear of knowing the truth.

For the second part of the dream, I don't think I want to decipher the context of the dream or interpret it. It is onerous and leans towards the dark side of things.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Case of Curious Coincidences (Part 4)

Although there was nothing different with Crystal in the way she carried herself, Ryan couldn’t help but suspect that something changed within her. It was as if her confidence grew over the summer break, making her prettier than the sunset. Her hair was also cropped to a length that fell below her ears. When she walked past him on her way out after the tutorial ended, he observed that a smile crept on her lips at something on her phone.

He kept his breathing steady as he exited moments later. Her conduct made him jealous, even worse than when he saw her in chatters with their mutual course mate last year. It was eating him that she barely cracked a smile in his presence yet her face was now coated with exuberance. Her demeanor confused him more than he wanted to admit. He thought that the summer break was long enough for him to simmer over his impression of her. Sure, he admired her professionalism and her honesty. Unbeknowst to her, he arrived at this conclusion that she knew how to wriggle her hips and have fun outside campus after stalking her Instagram and Twitter accounts for an insight into her life. A particular picture posted to her Instagram a couple of weeks ago - before the commencement of a new semester - irked him to the point of annoyance. There was nothing to incriminate either one of them but he felt himself turning green with envy. It was a framed photograph of her and another guy - whom Brendan reckoned was a friend from college or a university peer - at a Christmas event. Each of them held a glass of alcohol and had their hand on each other’s waists while they grinned for the camera. What was worse, for him, was that there wasn’t any accompanying caption to distinguish if these two were lovebirds or close friends. No matter how much it irritated him, he wasn’t a buddy of hers.

When Tracy caught up with her over the weekend, Crystal looked as if someone dragged her through the lower levels of Hell and back to Earth in one day.

“How was the first week of classes?”

“Ugh, Trace, I don’t know.” Crystal shook her head. “Don’t even get me started.”

Tracy raised an eyebrow as she sipped her long black. “Why, what happened?”

“Do you know who I bumped into in one of my tutorials? Ryan. We’ve even collaborated for a group presentation again.”

“You don’t sound enthusiastic about it. If you analyze it from a different perspective, it’s good that you two are working together for another time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it’ll increase his chances of being closer to you, if that’s his ultimate wish, but there’s a sense of familiarity and trust between you two. You don’t have to chase him down North Terrace with a hammer, shooting requests for him to pull his weight. He wouldn’t have to do the same either.”

Crystal sighed.

“Tell me something. How’s the fellow’s conduct? Still the same? Or, has he changed?”

“Well, based on what I’ve noticed today, he’s… softer now. He seems approachable, like he’s lowered his guard towards me. His eyes are friendlier and no longer suspicious of my presence.” Crystal gulped her flat white. “So yeah, I guess that means there’s a change.”

“Only time will tell, my dear.”

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

6/6/17

I dreamt that it was a full house for one of my classes. It was not a language course, but some of the students spoke in Japanese and the rest in attendance did their own thing. I was bumped to the front not because I was earlier, but because I was later than usual and my seat was snapped up. I knew that I was too close to the whiteboard for comfort, but there was not much I could do. Another friend sat diagonally opposite me. She entered the class from the front and was able to snatch her seat before someone else took it. The room was reminiscent of the one where we had the MQE classes in Taylor's.

I received a phone call from the hospital later that day about my paternal grandmother's condition taking a turn for the worse. I messaged the boyfriend and we rushed there as soon as we pulled ourselves out of tutorials. The moment we arrived at the spot that she wanted us to meet her, I knew that she was in a touch and go situation. I had to make the mental preparations to say goodbye. She smiled weakly at us when we approached her. Her sun-kissed complexion was replaced by a shade paler than the white walls. Her eye socket were hollow. She was in a wheelchair looking at the garden outside the hospital. Next to her was an IV drip. It was a downward spiral from now onwards.

She asked him to come closer to her and when he did, he took her hands in his. My breath caught in my throat when I saw this action. She whispered her thanks for his presence in my life and believed I was in good hands. He swore that he'll cherish me like raspberries. The three of us cried our hearts out at this piece of news. It cemented the prospects of me losing my beloved grandmother.

I was more perplexed than annoyed when I woke up from the dream.  Both sets of grandparents are on their permanent voyage, so it is either the brain entertaining itself or my subconscious living out the scenes from my Creative Writing assignment.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Movie Night Essentials - with Pure Flix

In today’s demanding and hectic world, there is nothing more comfortable than a perfect movie to unwind after a stressful day at the office or on campus. Trust me, even I’m tempted to snuggle on a couch to watch my favorite movie after the advocacy and research essays. Alas, the priorities of life and other important matters like studies are in the way.

Together with Pure Flix, we have curated the top three movie night essentials (and movies of choice) that I believe everyone must have for a relaxing experience.



In addition to the aforementioned checklist, I have a couple more recommendations that you could incorporate for your next movie night.

I know that I’ve included popcorn in the checklist, but please allow me the opportunity to elaborate on this. You don’t necessarily need to cave into the norm and have popcorn only. You can have a variety of finger food or munchies on the coffee table, depending on the number of people watching the movie with you. It can even be a bowl of mixed nuts or a plate of biscuits or cookies. What’s the use of food when there are no drinks available, right? On top of the snacks, you can treat yourself to a glass of bubbles or, if you have under 18s around, free-flowing fizzy drinks.

A pair of comfortable attire is another important item that you need. Unlike the cinemas, where you need to be in a neat attire to be admitted into the showing rooms, the beauty of watching movies at home is that you can be carefree about your apparel of choice. It doesn’t matter whether your go-to cozy clothes just happen to be a pair of pajamas, onesie, or T-shirt and shorts. My personal favorite is actually pajamas – although it’s more commonly associated with night and sleep – because it relaxes me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching movies at home, the ‘right’ apparel plays a significant role in your viewing experience.

As this post was done in collaboration with Pure Flix, Pure Flix will like to reward all of you, my readers in North America, with a free one-month trial for their family-friendly streaming services. Head on over to their website for more information. For more information, feel free to flick them an email here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

I'm drowning in silence

Warning: this might come across as an emotional post, so continue reading at your own discretion.



Let’s just put it this way – I am tired.

I’m tired of everything around me.

I’m exhausting of feigning that life is devoid of any hiccups and those what nots.

No amount of words can describe my current frustration. It doesn’t help that it has clouded my clarity with traces of anger. I chose to slow down the pace in my academic journey after Taylor’s to prioritise my health because healthcare is expensive in Australia and my usual TCM practitioner is back home. It’s not like I can afford to take the flight out the moment I’m under the weather – my parents will give me an earful for it. I’m regretting this decision with a stab to the heart. I’m no longer the high achiever that I once was although the prospects of me landing a job solely rests on my GPA. It’s adding more stress into the mix – and I don’t need any extra – since I’ve reduced my social life to a bare minimum to focus on me-time and ensure that my head doesn’t cave in from the pressure around me.

If there’s one thing, I guess I’m still fortunate that I can mask my truest thoughts under the façade that I wear. You’ll find it ironic; whenever I’m in a crowd, I can laugh along with others or even slide a comical response and make the other party burst into a smile or laughter – all when I’m feeling like crap inside.

The crazy schedule that I forced my body to adapt to the sudden pile of workload has messed with my head. My psyche has created a form of self-comfort, in which I’m running from the chores of life and living my life in an alternate universe. I’m catching every word of the songs that I listen to like it’s a lifeline, like it’s air to me. I won’t throw in the towel because that’s not my style. I don’t surrender without a fight, but it sure as hell feels like I’m fighting a losing battle with my mind and heart. I know that I’m working with the other half of me buried somewhere in KL or Perth, I’m not sure. And I hate knowing that I could’ve been a better student who knows what in the world she’s doing.

Have I overestimated my capabilities or have I signed myself up for a long stay in the pressure cooker?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Broken Dream

Although it's a creative piece that I wrote during my time in Taylor's, I feel that certain stanzas of it are applicable to my current state of mind.



It hurts when you don't look back,
Not even to say a word of Goodbye.
I am standing under the rain;
The raindrops are piercing my heart
Through and through.
I can feel its sharp blade against it.
It is slicing the core of my soul,
Coating my emotions with blood.
Is that still rain clouding my vision?
Or are those tears blinding me,
Shielding me from the reality of dreams?

Dropping my knees onto the ground,
I hide my face.
I cannot deal with it anymore.
Dreams are supposed to brighten my life,
And not strangle me like a noose.

Like a candle in the dark,
It defines you.
Your entrance brings nothing but radiance.
It paints smiles on my face.
Your departure is melting all of my happiness.
You are transitioning me from a warm-blooded mortal
Into an icy cold human.
An emotionless person with nothing to care about,
It is who I am becoming.
The heartwarming grin that I am known for;
No, it's no longer there.
What is replacing it is the freezing glare
That burns into the bones.

I am looking out the window,
Looking back on the changes in my life.
Is this part of the dream I had?
Sadly, it is far from it.
No amount of words can describe it.
Dreams? What dreams are there?
Like the shattering of the snowball,
That is how my dreams have become,
Nothing but pieces of artificial flurry bits,
Floating around an enclosed area.
A lifeless person that I now am,
I am dead in my heart.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Unexplained Change

If this is what most practicing barristers will have to endure in their line of work, consider it my luck that I'm exposed to the amount of paperwork and preparation now - rather than while in the workforce. The original intention is to be a criminal law barrister after I've slogged for a number of years, but that possibility is vanishing in the same fashion as my confidence of nailing a credit for the mooting.

I know that something's changed yet I can't pinpoint the difference. I've been the type of child who loves the challenges of presentation in college, but my heart races whenever I need to do it in university. Some of the college friends have frowned at the negative changes. In their eyes, they've assumed that I'm a confident person with persistence. Now, if you give me a chance to remain behind the scenes, I'll take it in a heartbeat.

Maybe it's just me adjusting to the environment?



The practice moot was alright, but the amount of research that we needed to conduct for the written submission almost spun me in circles. There was a sense of peace when I laid the foundations for our team. It was as if, don't worry, I'll emerge from this scathed, but I'll survive - or maybe it's because the chunk that I had was the easiest to argue.

That can't be said of the second one - and part one of our graded moot. I'm not sure why, but I lost my coherence shortly before the other team concluded their arguments. It spelt trouble for me when the papers in my hand shook with fury. It also didn't help that a shovel emptied the contents of my brain too.

Could it have been anxiety attacks?

Could it have been nerves spanning from the lack of preparation?

Could it have been something else?

All questions with not an obvious answer in sight.

It faded for a split second when I addressed the de facto bench (on a side note, here's a shout out to the person who presided over our mooting: thanks for the attempt to soothe the nerves. I say 'attempt' because I was losing it internally). It was at the second half - when the questions were peppered in my direction - that my brain threw in the towel and rebelled. There was no panic per se, but more like a desire to hide in a corner of a dark room and breathe. Most folks who've worked with me in group assignments know that it's not a positive occurrence when my eyes shine as bright as the stars. I'm sure that it would've been evident from my body language when we exited the room that I didn't perform as well as I should (and craved). I mean, who exits the place shaking her head with a sigh unless there's defeat or disappointment?

It was with great effort that I pushed the emotional thoughts away - hell if I'm going to let those folks have a glance of the inner workings of my mind, especially when there's a chance that we could be on opposite teams for the final mooting. Thanks, but no, thanks. I instead focused on the fact that I did my best and there's nothing more that I could do about it, except to hope that whoever marked my oral will exercise some discretion instead of slaughtering me into pieces like a butcher. My mooting partner eventually told me that it was obvious to one of the tutors that I wasn't elated at all from his facial expression.

Oh well, the finishing line is in sight - and time to focus on nailing this. If I'm able to maintain my calmness - or at least project to everyone that I am confident, things should improve for the better. I don't have time to allow myself some breathing space because it's a wild ride there - and as long as I don't fall on my face from the high demands/expectations of myself, I'll be fine. Fingers crossed.

I really should consider joining Adelaide's version of KLPAC to strengthen the confidence and eradicate (or at least reduce) the fear of public speaking, but time is as precious as glassware to me. You wouldn't want to see how I behave when I don't have enough me-time. Trust me on that because I don't thrive under pressure.

The bright side is that winter break is in less than 4 weeks. Assuming that I don’t fall under the weather from sleep deprivation and stress, I think I’ll have to reduce the frequency of my social media use and learn simple breathing techniques on the side.

Maybe that'll help to prepare me for the intensity of Semester 2.
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