Sunday, December 3, 2017

Crying all alone under the stars

Note: the title post is part of the lyrics of 'Travelin' Soldier' by Dixie Chicks.

After a torturous semester, I now have updates - let’s make that two - for you guys.

#1: Now that I’m reflecting on the semester, there were some moments that I loved and disliked. The course that I wanted to enroll in was finally offered. I knew that it would be hectic, but I went for it with full confidence that it won’t get any worse than that. I mean, having three rest days to catch up on the backdated work and take a breather could have easily compensated me for the bullet train speed.

And worse, it did.

The first half of the semester drained me so much that I struggled to convince myself to attend the Corporate tutorials. The expression on his face was similar to the one that I saw in someone’s eyes before college graduation: a masked annoyance at the coincidence. I’m always able to suppress the fears or worries whenever I’m in class, but this safety blanket barely worked for Corporate. Let’s just say that my emotions and the lack of adequate diversion suddenly got in the way of the academic goals. I looked at the formative assessment with such confusion that I told myself not to hope for much for the overall grade. It was better to work for the best that I can get while expecting the unexpected.

I definitely pushed myself a little over the breaking point - until the ADR presentation took a beating. Although I survived the battle (in short, I passed everything), I didn’t emerge unscathed. My psyche feels such weighed down that I’m in need for any type of vacation that allows me a quiet environment to crash for 12 - 14+ hours. I’m also in need for some cardio exercise that will clear the congested brain in preparation for the final year’s crazy schedule.

#2: I’m sure you’d have seen snippets of it splashed on the blog and Twitter account, but let’s make this the official announcement, shall we? What took me 5 - 6 years of writing and two plot changes has finally arrived to this. What saw me swimming in memories and left me with an aching heart has also finally arrived to this.

Remember how I mentioned in a couple of posts ago that I’m tying up the loose ends for my e-book? Here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/760802 . Some elements of my time in college has been woven into certain parts of the plot, but in a fictional way. The plot involves a slight twinge of heartbreak, a dash of betrayal, and a splash of the unexpected.

I’m not going to reveal anything more than that, so if you’d like to read more (i.e. the blurb, short summary and a sample of the manuscript) or purchase the e-book in its entirety, head on over to the link - and let me know what you think about it.

Depending on how things go, I might continue moonlighting as a writer.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

11/29/2017

I’m sure the dream had an introduction to it, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember what it was about. What I can remember is that the dream began from the middle onwards.

I dreamt that we toured a place in the middle of the city. While my mother was in another part doing her own thing, I was on the first floor of a shop, browsing through the merchandises that they offered. It was divided into two smaller spaces with a wooden fence. The wooden fences were behind low two-tier shelves. While shoppers and employees could talk with each other over the fence, we had to use the main entrance if we wanted to go from space to space - or at least that was what one of the shop assistants mentioned to me when I inquired about the presence of the wooden fences. The camera then panned to the corner, where there was boxes arranged in a neat line, before I saw the traces of an escalator bringing the shoppers from ground floor to the first floor.

Somewhere along the way, I met an adult who had a toddler son sleeping in the back and a baby daughter in the car seat at the front. He offered me a ride and since it was someone whom I knew well, I decided to take up on his offer. He removed the car seat and I ended up carrying the infant in my arms. The infant slept peacefully and didn’t break into a screaming match. When my phone finally connected to his hotspot, the notification exploded in my face, but my attention was scaled in on the WhatsApp messages from my Mom. As the place where she was became a crime scene, she told me to meet her at the McD near there.

When we arrived there, she was talking to a female stranger before she climbed up the 4WD that the adult drove. She asked me to look at the infant child’s legs. One of the legs were swollen and red - as if the poor child suffered from water retention - but there were no traces of blood. She said to drive us to somewhere safe and she’d reveal the reason behind her questions and what had truly transpired there and then.

Well… I sense an ongoing theme here: someone else is behind the wheel with me being in the shotgun seat without any indication of the driver’s facial features. Although I can see from the outline that it is a male, that’s as many hints as I can get. The wooden fences. Fences should symbolise a barrier to something. You know, like dividing the main roads and pedestrian walkways. Garden plots. Applying to the context of the scene, maybe it’s the intention/warning not to let people any closer than they should be. Have intellectual conversations, but never allowing anyone to see the inner depths of my heart. Or was it influenced by that book’s protagonist? As for the boxes, it might be the fact that I am boxing up my emotions and thoughts for the fear of revealing too much about myself.

I’ll admit that the sleeping toddler son in the dream was so adorable - to the point where if it were to occur in real life, I’d have to stop myself from pinching the kiddo’s cheeks. This scene reminds me of something that happened when I was about 5. The context is fuzzy in my brain; I only remember that my godfather had fetched us from some place in Chinatown and my godbrother was asleep on the front passenger seat, which was reclined to 75% of its maximum. I don’t bond very well with infants in real life. In fact, I make sure that I keep an arm’s distance from them, especially whenever they are crying their hearts out. For me to be willing to carry an infant throughout the car journey, who still remained quiet in my arms, it has to mean something significant. This definitely stretches things, but I’m guessing that as I’m growing older, I’ll learn to tune out their cries? Or my thoughts towards children will change after I’m married? *holds head in hands*

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

This is all of me

"The closer you keep what’s in your head, to what’s in your heart. The better your life will be."
-William Chapman

I know that something in me must’ve changed in the past twelve weeks, but inasmuch as I’d love to pinpoint the exact reasons for it, I’m unable to. All I’m aware is that I’ve been rather harsh towards myself and withdrawing from the things that I once loved instead. I mean, look at the semesters for a comparison. In the last semester, it was a manageable time although I had a jam-packed schedule that left me wanting to pull my hair in displeasure. For this semester, I’ve been sitting at the edge of the cliff, more than ready to let myself go at any minute. My face was a canvas for the negative emotions that I felt (talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve, ugh). It numbed my feelings with such ferocity that I was in a daze for 75% of the time. If I felt something, it was only relief and worry. My confidence slipped through the cracks between my fingers and I had doubts about my choice of degree and career path.

There were a couple of occasions when I didn’t feel like attending my tutorials/lectures and wanted to hide under the blanket instead. The truth is, I’m not sure if I can hold it out any longer. My heart already feels weighed down by the emotional burdens that I’ll never share with friends and my shaky academic performance. It also feels like I won’t be able to achieve my full potential, especially after what happened during the Corporate exam. I’m sure the folks at the back of the hall would’ve heard the loud thud in the silent area. Although no one paid any attention to it, my heart raced with embarrassment.

You might argue that me dropping my notes was an accident and I shouldn’t blame myself for it. I could’ve prevented it from occurring, you see, by maybe leaving it on the chair next to me. For unknown reasons, I lost concentration for the next hour or so while I struggled to find my mojo and didn’t even know what I wrote for the directors’ duties question about the interstate mining venture. In hindsight, I actually knew what it hinted at when I read it, but I just couldn’t get it out onto the exam booklet.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m losing control of things - or merely unable to cope with the stress on a sleep-deprived mode after the whirlwind dates with research essays. I hope it’s the latter. Things aren’t rosy if it’s the first one… because it’s sending me straight into the path of a burnout.

Since I’m done with the exams, I know that I should take the time off now to clear my congested psyche somewhere out of town (or even out of the country), but I can’t travel in peace until the results are released. Thinking about it has left me with sleepless nights and an onset of headache. I know I shouldn’t worry as I’ve done my best, but I know I could’ve done better and the waiting game is killing me. I also don’t like the idea of air travels. My yearly flights are done out of necessity, not by choice. I can’t travel in peace without knowing my official results either.

I don’t know why I keep getting flashbacks of a certain someone. Two of the events have always stood out in my mind: 1) him flipping through my floral folder that contained the English assignment sheets before our mentor-mentee meeting, as if I had granted him an advance consent and; 2) him perching against the wall in a daze with raw, rimmed eyes. He looked so … broken, like someone threw him into a hole and he couldn’t find any reason or strength to come out of it.

I’m sure there is a reason to it. I just have to dig deeper into the subconscious to find out what it is. Maybe it’s a warning to be cautious and observant of my environment, seeing that I still can’t blend in after three years. I discovered the truth last semester and it has nothing to do with the life here. If it is, I’ll be losing more weight and scaring the lights out of everyone around me. For all I know, I’m torn between returning to good ole Subang or remaining in Adelaide. Both decisions have its pros and cons: heading back will afford me the comfort and familiarity that I now crave, but at the expense of losing friends and reverse culture shock. Staying back will give me a shot at a new life, but at the expense of starting afresh - for the second time.

We’ll see which one I’ll choose when the time comes.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

11/25/2017

The camera panned to the end of the first scene in my dream. A wrapped wine bottle rolled on the floor and before we could do anything, it slipped through the hole on the balcony. I hope it didn’t cause any damage to the building or to the occupants on the lower floors (well, maybe except spillage and broken glass).

In the second scene, my younger brother was bullied and kept mum about it. It took me a while to pry the details from him and I instantly knew who was behind the bullying. Relying on my knowledge of the person, I found her and her friend in the toilet, adjusting their makeup. As I confronted her, I could see, from the side of her face, that she was giving me an evil grin.

Anger overcame me and I pinned the girl to the wall with my forearm at her throat. She still didn’t budge; it was only when I threatened to do the same with her brother, who I’d be able to stalk, that her eyes widened with horror and pleas for mercy.

All along, a name kept surfacing in my mind: Thomas.

First of all, let me reiterate the fact that I don’t believe in violence whenever I confront anyone. I just find that it will make things worse than it already is. As for the dream, I saw the girl’s facial features, but I couldn’t place her to anyone whom I know in real life. I might have seen her on the streets, but who know? She’s just a stranger. Although the dream interpretation suggested that there is a desire of change and frustration with them, I can’t quite connect the dots on this one.

Why that particular name, I’m not sure. It’s not like I’m close with anyone who has been christened Thomas.

In the third scene, we were in a room that resembled a classroom attending a presentation. There was a blackboard at the front with two columns and a line of three chairs and tables on each row. After what seemed like an eventful night that involved someone leaving deep in the night to avoid being caught, I struggled to stay awake as I knelt on my knees to talk to another friend seated behind me. A male student resembling Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai entered at the eleventh hour and, noticing that there was no more vacant seat, ends up taking the one next to me. I shoved my knapsack under the table, careful not to whack my fellow seat companion to my right with it.

It is pretty evident that I’m worried. As results day inch closer and closer by the day, I’m more and more nervous with the grades. This falls in nicely with the dream interpretation. The subconscious might be trying to settle the academic anxiety, judging from the place where I sat, unlike the folks who sat away from the front.

As for the celebrity doppelganger, the interpretation is simple: I might be inspired by the Hong Kong actor’s attributes.

Friday, November 24, 2017

11/24/2017

And so, I dreamt that we travelled on a familiar yet quiet highway that was surrounded by trees after a trip into the suburbs. Not too long into the journey, we stumbled upon a crossroads with two exits. One was up a ramp. The other was down a ramp. Both led to somewhere away from the highway, but it’s a place I didn’t know. Since we weren’t sure which exit we wanted, we stopped in the middle of the road and discussed about it.

The ramps. At the top of my head, the dream might be insinuating that I have to make a decision from two options - both with consequences that I wouldn’t like because there won’t be relief. There will be a sense of something missing. Maybe the reason why I’m at a crossroads in my decision making is related to the driver. Seeing that the identity was not revealed, I’ll presume that it is a guy. Whatever I decide in the end, it will probably affect him - in some way or another. This definitely points to a specific matter in my life. If you’ve read one of the previous posts, where I talked about being torn in two directions, you’d know why.

The camera panned to something that happened hours earlier, before the sun went to bed. I spoke to a female assistant manning a counter. I don’t remember why I was there or her position, but all I remembered was that she had lost two teeth on her bottom palette. Although it was only evident when she grinned, it still scared the lights out of me. The loss of her teeth didn’t seem to affect her charisma or confidence. It was like she didn’t give a care in the world about it.

Just a random scene that my subconscious inserted to make things interesting? Maybe. Maybe she has something that I need in real life: confidence. Again, I may have indicated my worry about the confidence slipping through the cracks of my fingers in one of the previous posts.

If it’s a sign that I should beat the obstacles until it turns blue in the face, it’s spelling trouble for me. I’m already tired of taking the bull by its horns - when almost everything is piled against me.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

11/15/2017

I dreamt that there was a small circuit fire in the house that threatened to engulf the entire structure at any minute. I panicked and didn’t know what to do.

The scene repeated itself with me reacting differently to it. Surprising myself, I didn’t panic and instead asked the fellow occupant to gather all or most of their important belongings before we collapsed from smoke inhalation. After I called the emergency hotline for the fire brigade, I rushed to my room and shoved my wallet, my passport, and a couple of full water bottles into my tote bag.

As I looked back at the scene behind us, the firefighters battled to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading to our neighbors.

In the second scene, when things were much better, we scouted the area for food. We found ourselves in a bright yet quiet hawker centre selling Chinese food. The moment I entered the place, it felt like I have visited it before in real life.

There are a couple of ways that I can look at the dream - with the help of the online interpretations, that is. Let’s use the part where I saw the fire first. One suggestion is that I might be battling intense emotions over something that I can’t ignore any more - or rather, I’m nose-deep in stress that my subconscious is pleading for me to take the time off.

Maybe the intense emotions part is skating the surface of my perception about things that have occurred around me. It might also mean that I’m no longer able to avoid a particular person and should take the bull by its horns, resolving the low-level conflict once and for all. As I have mentioned in a handful of posts, this semester has been challenging emotionally and physically. I’ve suppressed my thoughts and emotions in the hopes that I’ll be able to focus on what is ahead of me, but it hasn’t worked in my favor at all times.

Maybe I’ve pushed myself so hard that it’s tearing my mind into pieces.

On the contrary, me seeing the firefighter adds a divergent twist to the interpretation. It is indicative of me cleansing and purifying myself. My subconscious might be asking me to rid myself of the earthly burdens and focus on myself. It doesn’t want to be weighed down with exhaustion anymore.

I initially thought the scene was a result of my craving for Chinese food, especially char siew fan and wan tan mee. I guess I’ve been proven wrong by the context of the scene. Since the food came in a soup, I can only assume that it is wan tan mee. The online interpretation suggested that I have a ‘deep desire to understand a different point of view.’ I’m not sure how to relate to this - unless it’s pointing me to consider a past situation. I’ll keep the identity confidential, but truth be told, I still don’t know what led the person to arrive at the decisions that he did. Maybe the dream is reminding me to look at the situation from his eye and understand the reasons behind his choices and eventual departure.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Case of Curious Incidences (Part 9 - The Finale)

It was two and a half hours later that Crystal was able to rid herself of the weighted robe and swapped into a more comfortable attire. Instead of her smart formal dress and heels, she was in a knee-length striped dress with a cardigan and wedges. She ditched her purse for a backpack. She observed as the next batch of cohorts gathered outside with their family members and the student volunteers ensuring that all went well. She smiled to herself, relieved that she was able to freeze today’s event with her peers on digital. It had been another reason for attending the graduation in person - with her friend, Harry. Although they were of the same degree, he arranged his study plan in such a way that she graduated earlier than him. In fact, she was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to take time out from his schedule to watch her graduation. She looked at the clouds around her while she waited for Harry to leave his tutorial. Much to her dismay, it was gloomier - as if it was sad to see her and her cohort go.

I’ll wait at the phone charging area of the library, she texted him.

She then made her way into the law building and easily assumed the role of a continuing student. With her frazzled look and concentration on her laptop, she’d have fooled anyone into thinking that she was under the stress of the killer subject. Which was why she chose the seat to the wall. No one could see what she was doing.

“You changed clothes,” a voice commented above her forty-five minutes later. It was Harry.

“Yes, I did,” she replied as the person took a seat next to her. “How was Politics of Law? Are you hungry?”

“It was good. Yes, can we have tea instead?”

“Now you know why I recommended you to enroll in it. It fits you like a glove. Let’s go to the beachside cafe then.”

*

Something is not right, he thought. This girl never visited the beach unless she was emotionally occupied with something. He knew better than to ask her and waited with patience instead. If there was one thing he learnt about her, it’s that she will share her thoughts only when she wanted to. He followed her cue after she parked her car and killed the engine. After a short distance of awkward silence that was accentuated by the waves splashing against the rocks, she stopped and gestured to the seats ahead of them.

It was moments later that they made themselves comfortable in the beachside cafe after the waitress took their orders. She trained her eyes on the waves splashing on the rocks outside. Now that she was alone with Harry out of campus, it’d be easier to speak her mind and relieve her heart of the burden that lodged itself in the abyss since last year. The one that threw her into a state of dilemma. So, why was she struggling to let the words roll her tongue? It wasn’t like she needed to confess to a crime either.

“Is something going on?”

“No,” she lied. “What’s up?”

He peeked at his surroundings. “You’re worrying me. It should be a joyous day, but I sense hesitance instead.”

“I don’t know. I’ve mulled over this since the start of last year, but I don’t know how you’d react to this…” She took a breath and avoided eye contact. “It was obvious that you wanted me to remain in town and you’d do anything possible to prevent my departure. But I can’t stay. This place has continuously forced me to revisit the dark days of my past. At every corner, I see memories or triggers of what I’ve endured. Yes, my home is here, but I’m itching to run. It’s good that you came along for the ride because there is something I have to give you.”

“Okay?”

She rummaged through her backpack and found the item she looked for. A sealed envelope addressed in Harry’s name. “Here you go.”

“Thanks.” He fiddled with it and debated whether he should read it now or later. There was a twinge of urgency in Crystal’s voice, which made him antsy. He knew her long enough to expect sporadic letters - be it one of comfort or gratitude - from her. He just wasn’t sure of his emotions once he opened the letter.

She misconstrued his hesitance as fear. “There’s nothing and no one to incriminate us. Me, maybe, but definitely not you.”

There was a long silence, in which he tore open the envelope and perused the three page long letter. Peppered in the content were her fears of leaving their friendship for a better opportunity interstate. An elaboration of her dark days. Suicide attempts. Mistrusts. Personality changes. “I wish you told me earlier,’ he whispered.

“Sorry, Harry, but I didn’t want to show my vulnerability until I could fully trust you.”

Sunday, November 12, 2017

11/12/2017



I dreamt that I was in a furniture store with a male companion. The camera in my dream didn't pan to him, so I couldn't see his features or have a rough gauge of his identity. We were guided towards the furnishing department by one of the employees. On our way down the escalator, we found the person whom we wanted to see.

As we sat opposite the person in charge of the brightly-lit furnishing department, I noticed that some of the pathways were blocked with wooden dividers. It was a sign that the place was in the midst of a renovation. When he saw our initial drawings for the house furnishing, he said that it would be difficult and proceeded to write down the name of a real estate agent on our paper. Mind you, he did it secretly. I immediately knew that there was a conflict of interest for him and wondered if he disclosed it to his superiors the moment it occurred.

I know that my subconscious is still thinking about the corporate law exam because of two reasons. The first one is my confidence. Although it's now a done and dusted thing, I'm not confident in what I wrote on the exam booklet. Watching the kiddo in front of me asking for a second booklet from the invigilator didn't help much. The second one is embarrassment. I kind of embarrassed myself when the file containing my notes crashed onto the floor with a loud thud in the silent exam hall. Although no one cared about it, I felt that I was turning beet red and losing concentration to the point where I wanted to get out of there in that instant.

I'm definitely going bonkers.

On flipside of the dream, I'm about to break out into laughter even thinking about the possibility. It might be an indication into the future when it's time to purchase furniture for a new house that my significant other and I have bought. It could be, seeing that I couldn't see the person's facial features.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

11/8/17

Okay, so this is it, I suppose.

This unofficially marks the end of my penultimate year, which begs the question of whether I am worried about job vacancies. It doesn’t help that I’m wondering whether I’ve learned enough skills to handle the real world - but I guess we won’t know until it actually happens.

After an intense fortnight of slogging past midnight, yesterday was the last of my papers - and I’ve already done my best for it. The rest is up to the written content on the exam booklets. It also depends whether I’ve regurgitated as much as I could and linked enough concepts to get me across the lines. The answer for the second one is a definite no. I knew that I can kiss the credit goodbye the moment I looked at the questions during the reading time. Although I revised most of what I could, something possessed my entire being towards the middle of the exam - and I wondered if I’ve made the right choice of enrolling in this degree. Ironic, right? Self-doubts while in the examination hall.

Or a sign of burnout on the way?

I’m only confident for a pass, but I guess I won’t know for sure until I either attend the viewing session or wait until the release of the official result. A miracle would be needed now if I want a credit. Then again, I shouldn’t think too much about the final grades and focus more on sleeping the exhaustion off instead. I’ve blown out both my brain and emotions this semester in such a way that I’m more of a zombie than a homo sapien.

Maybe I’ll have to take up on my lecturer’s offer after all.

Reflecting on this semester, I knew what I was getting myself into, but the constructive knowledge wasn’t enough to save me from drowning, so to speak. Although the stress may have died down towards the fourth week of the semester, it flared up as the time got closer to the exam period. I felt like someone struggling to stay above water and the workload dragging me down like an anchor. The headache persisted so much that I christened it ‘my death sentence’. At least, the comforting side is that I’ve one more year to complete before I’m able to smell the roses.

If this is the life of a practicing barrister, I’m definitely considering my options here. I don’t know if I can weather the storm and argue for my client’s benefit in front of the judge without feeling like I’m about to pass out.

Maybe I contemplated that it will arrive at this stage sooner than later, but I didn’t want to believe that it might explode in my face. I mean, what were the odds? I’m always surrounded with anxiety and worry over the performance on my assignments and exams. It’s eventually bound to spill over and leave a trail of blood, sweat, and tears.

There was a flashback of me in the middle of a street in Taipei - in search of a particular store when we stumbled across two shops: one specializing in items made out of bamboo and wood and the other sold specialty cooking oil that ranged from sesame to flaxseed. I vaguely remembered the packaging of the bottle - and let me just say that the labels were beautifully designed. Too bad I didn’t keep the address - otherwise, I’d definitely swing there if I ever return to visit Taipei.

It might be a small city, but if you look hard enough, there are places to visit and the best is that it ain’t touristy either.

And before I forget, I have news for everyone. Remember the little side project that I have been working on and off for the last years? Well, it’s been finished - at least for the last couple of months. Now you see why I’ve been slogging like a mad woman away from the blogosphere. Although it couldn’t have been published as a paperback inasmuch as I’d love it to be, I’m now ready to release it as an e-book.

If you’re keen on purchasing it, stay tuned for more details (including the method of purchase and delivery).

Until then, I’m off to take a breather and soothe the racing mind.

Friday, November 3, 2017

11/3/2017

This is the second time that I’ve dreamt of pelicans. Although it is in a different location with a slightly varying context, I’m sensing that there is an occurring theme as well. The timing is also … too accurate - almost a year to this day, to be exact. As always, there was much more information in the dream, but I could only remember some of it due to sleep deprivation and exam revision.

I dreamt that I was leaning against a wooden bridge that connected the mainland to somewhere in the middle of the sea. My peripheral vision did not allow me to see where the bridge ended. As I allowed my thoughts to drift away, I noticed 3 pelicans waiting at the riverbank before another 3 swam over to join them. I remember feeling peaceful and relaxed at seeing this occurrence.

The online interpretation suggested sacrifice, charity, and nurturance. I’m not sure if it’s a 100% applicable, but certain elements of it seem to be. It does sound like I’ve sacrificed something without being aware of it, though. If I were to reflect on the past semester, the only thing that I have sacrificed is social time.

If we are also to discuss about nurturance, then the dream makes full sense. I was fully aware that things weren’t rosy as it seemed. A part of me feels like I need some nurturing, especially after what has transpired. It has made me question myself if this is the right choice and whether I should still follow the path. Or whether a divergent path would prove to be much more successful?

In addition, it might serve as a reminder to trust in the process and not to panic at the way things have turned out. When I first read this interpretation, I wanted to burst out laughing because that’s what I’ve not done. Although I know that I should have faith on what is to come, I’ve successfully scared myself with the prospects of next semester instead. I’m sure that I’ll be crazy soon at the rate I’m going.

I’ve forced myself not to blame myself if I don’t get the desired score because there are variables that led to such a result, but it is hard to trust blindly in the process and see the positive side of things.

On a more realistic view, it might also mean that I have a lot of errands to tick off my to-do list as well as carrying a lot of baggage. A wave of anxiety would always envelope me whenever it is the exam season because I have to tick off the list of revision methods. I feel that there’s too many things to do with little time to spare before it’s time to face the papers.

As for carrying a lot of baggage, I wonder if the interpretation refers to both the physical and emotional ones. Based on the reasonable person’s understanding of the term, I’d say that it’s probably hinting at the emotional baggage. Ah, this one is a bit arduous to write about - because I thought that I’ve buried it. Everyone has their own load of emotional baggage that they choose to speak of or keep secret about - it’s understandable.

I just don’t want to talk about it in public.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

10/31/17

I dreamt that it was an event held in a building located in a quiet area. A bunch of us were there to celebrate a festival, which I reckon was Halloween, since we were all dressed up in costumes. My eyes widened with shock and my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw that friend. He seemed like his usual self as he turned up in his costume - as if time never passed between us - and asked how I was before he went his way. Although we were much older, we somehow recognized each other after all these years. It left me with a surprise because I never expected him to remember me.

When I returned from a toilet break, I gave a visual cue to my fellow friends to let them know that we should probably make a move. It was late into the night as we made our way out of the building. For reasons that I don’t know, I got lost from the entourage and found myself struggling to catch up with them and exit out of the building. I kept running into stairs and walking down more flights of stairs with shady characters at certain corners. Although my heart raced with fear and panic, the chilly air was somehow peaceful with its bright stars - if only I learned to relax and enjoy the scenery before me.

The friend in the dream is someone whom I haven’t seen since college graduation. In fact, none of us know his current location or his well -being. It’s as if he vanished without a trace. I don’t know what brought him up in the dream, but I’m aware that I’ve been thinking about him lately. Certain things have also reminded me of him - in a platonic way, mind you. Maybe it’s a sign that I miss him as a friend? Or reminiscing on the good old days where we used to throw each other under the bus?

Oh, yes, even a particular mutual friend of ours has said the same thing.

A quick reference online suggested that his 'appearance can also be a metaphor for some forgotten aspect of yourself that you'd like to reconnect with'. The two most common words used to describe me by my college peers were confidence and strong. The same applies to this friend, so it could be another hint that I admire his confidence and ability to take the bull by its horns all the time - something that I’m losing, drip after drip.

I also sense an ongoing theme with the part of me getting lost. It is similar to one of the earlier dreams but with a different context. The online interpretation suggested that I want stability or a normalcy - or rather crave the need for it. In addition, ‘to dream of being lost in the dark may represent feelings of being desperate to do anything all with no way to. Feeling unable to control anything that is happening to you. Feeling that you are completely on your own with no answers or help in sight. Alternatively, it may also reflect powerful feelings of isolation or loneliness.’

It is suggestive that I feel a sense of abandonment - in some ways. At the current state of mind, it feels like I’m floating in two territories - between my home country and current location - with no sense of belonging. Kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t thing. Maybe this scene is cementing my fear that I’m at a disadvantage. Ever since I started this semester, I already know that I’ve lost control of something. It didn’t help that my displeasure at the occurrences plus the academic stress have given me a hue of charcoal more than once. Somehow, I believe that although I take the courage and ask for help, it’s not going to necessarily work because 1) it’s not something that any Tom, Dick or Harry is able to assist with me; and 2) I’m worried sick about not just passing the exams, but attaining the grade that I want.

Stairs. I don’t know what to make of it because I’ve never dreamt of climbing or seeing stairs, but this is what the online interpretation said: ‘To dream that you are upstairs of a building refers to your higher level of understanding. It symbolizes your rational thinking and objectivity. Alternatively, being upstairs means that you hold yourself in high regard. To dream that you are walking down a flight of stairs represents your repressed thoughts. You are regressing back into your subconscious. It also refers to the setbacks that you are experiencing in your life.’

Let’s break the two interpretations into a more understandable element.

Interpretation #1: it characterizes a safety net, where I know that I can fall back on them should anything occur. I’m more confident and able to reason out with people, if they cross their boundaries and invade my personal space.

Interpretation #2: this is a little tricky. The costume might be a facade for me to ditch my insecurities and play someone else, even for the night. It could be a change of thoughts, where I just want to be myself since confidence has landed me into a muddy pile of mess (and jealousy-infused glares, if I may add). I’ve also suppressed my thoughts because I want to fade into the crowd and not stand out of them. I want to be treated like one of the invisible folks and left alone to do my own thing. What’s the point of speaking up when it’s not going to work in your favor?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10/25/2017

I don’t know whether it was a full blown exposure to a burnout, but it felt as such. Once all is done, I’ll have to take my lecturer’s advice and give myself some break. I’ll be honest with you. For someone who attends the weekly lectures and tutorials, you know that something is fishy when she decides to only attend her tutorials. She only emerges from her hideout on campus when it is closer towards the end of an academic day to grab air and food or to make her way home.

Not only am I overwhelmed with the workload and the clashing deadlines (which, in all honesty, should be bearable since that I’ve had worse in college), I’m suffering from a severe sleep deprivation brought on by external factors - including noise pollution. This explains why I haven’t been active on the blogosphere - most of the posts you’ve read have been scheduled in advance. There’s too much on my plate for me to carve the time to update the blog. Spend some time with me or have a peek at my timetable and you’ll know why. With that being said, I’m still taking the time out to focus on the rest of my assignments and the much-feared Corporate exam… at least for me.

I can’t believe that the second semester of my penultimate year is now a done and dusted thing. Just like that, with the snap of my fingers. I guess it’s now time to straighten some priorities (including working towards a credit for all of the courses) and focus on the summer holidays, where I can hide somewhere for an x number of weeks. Oh, God knows the temptation to ditch my social media accounts on the backburner and finally have some self-care. I know that I might be in for a rude awakening if I do that. Concerned messages will explode in my face, asking where the hell I have been and why I have ignored texts and calls. But it doesn’t really bother me because I need to get away from everyone for a while.

Speaking of summer break, I can’t wait. It’s been a wild ride this semester, especially with the crazy twists and divine intervention. I mean, I had an inkling of what was to come as a result of my decisions, but I never expected it to have such an impact on my psyche. I kept to my fair share of the promise because 1) I don’t want to explain to anyone the reasons behind my absence; 2) a promise is a promise; 3) there will be an awkward aura when you’re not in your class; and 4) the real world stinks more than this. If I can’t handle it now, I’ll definitely struggle when I’m in the workforce.

At least there is some breathing room now than it’s almost the end. 12 weeks in that little room packed with familiar peers was more than I could handle. The fact that there are other known players [players, as in students, not in the video game sense] didn’t make things any easier on my part. There are even a couple of folks that I never expected to see again. I don’t even know how I even survived the experience, but now that the exam schedule has been released, it’ll be easier for me to plan a hangout with all of the friends whom I haven’t met in ages. Not to mention, I want to visit a couple of places - and digitally freeze those memories!

As for peers, I’m not sure what would happen in the final year, but I guess I’m better prepared and equipped for the possibility that we might share the same classes again. I might roll my eyes with a sigh before I continue with my own things. Three years of breathing and living law has taught me how to deal with future colleagues while keeping my own emotions checked. As one of my friends has said, law school is smaller than you think. You are bound to run into familiar faces at some point or another if you’re unlucky, which is true. Not everyone in the same batch will be in the same courses - some are doing a double degree, some might decide to take a semester off, some may even add another degree to their studies along the way, or some might even add some spice to their study plan (which was what I did with criminal law and the arts electives. I won’t go into much details to save you from the confusion). All of which will throw some mix and delay the students by a year or so. As such, the probability is there.

On the bright side, next year’s my final year in law. I might consider staying and obtain the certificate/diploma to be admitted into the Bar. We’ll see what happens then. Anything can happen in the span of twelve months, but one thing is for sure. Although I’ll be surrounded by familiar faces, it’ll be a relief to graduate in the robe with that elusive parchment.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

10/22/2017

This has to be one of the weirdest dreams that I ever had.

I dreamt that it was the Christmas season - hence the beautifully gold decoratuons in the hotel ballroom. When I noticed it, I told my friends to wait for me while I rushed over to take a couple of pictures of it. Once I was satisfied with the number of photographs, I ran down the steps in my heels and made my way to the foyer where they waited for me. We were all dressed up, about to attend a formal event somewhere in town.

As two of our college friends were residents of this place, we decided to call them out for dinner. I received the phone call from someone about this and made my way to the appointed restaurant. Because it was just the average family-owned one, I turned up in a casual attire and styled my hair with a pencil. (This is something that I might dress in real life if I’m going for dinner with my parents.) When I saw that the two college friends had arrived, I guided them to the table where our mutual friend was waiting.

It was sometime during the dinner that I learnt that the world was smaller than it seemed. One of our course mates, who was in Canada, knew the committee member of the university’s law student society. I can’t remember who, but someone even rattled the course mate's nickname. The same one that leaves him wincing each time his friends use it in real life.

I honestly don't know how or what to interpret from this particular dream, especially the dinner part. Although both the college course mate and committee member are of acquaintance in real life, I don't think they even know each other or have common grounds with each other. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Case of Curious Coincidences (Part 8)

His breath caught in his throat when his peripheral vision spotted a familiar figure sitting on one of the concrete blocks that protected their graduation hall from oncoming traffic. Although she was surrounded by their cohorts, she stood out in the crowd like a shining diamond in her attire. Her lips stretched upwards when he saw her. His earlier searches on her Instagram account may have revealed pictures of her in formal attire, but seeing it with his own eyes was a different story. Her bushy hair was pushed back behind her ears and landed a tad bit lower than her shoulders. She ditched her glasses in favor of contact lenses that accentuated her round eyes. There was only a blush on her cheeks and a light pink lipstick.

“Mind if I join you, Crystal?”

He saw that Crystal jumped in shock at his question. It wasn’t until she turned in his direction that she gave him a side glance. “You scared the lights out of me, Ryan.”

“Aren’t you with your parents?”

“Oh, they’re abroad, but insisted that I graduate in person. I’m waiting for a friend to come.” She observed that his eyes flashed with disappointment. “What about you?”

“My old folks are on their way. What time is your friend going to arrive?”

“What’s up?”

“I was thinking … whether you’d like to take a couple of pictures with me and kill time. I mean, instead of drowning in your thoughts.”

“Sure, why not?” She slid down the boulder and wiped the imaginary dust off the robe. “Any place in mind?”

“Perhaps the courtyard?” He suggested. “Since we’re both from law?”

“Okay, that’s a quieter place with enough natural light for photography.”

*

He breathed a sigh of relief when one of the students waiting on the round concrete seats agreed to help them to take a picture. His heart sank deeper into the ocean when he felt Crystal’s body stiffened as he placed a hand on her waist for the photography session. It indicated that she was still uncomfortable with him or experienced something so terrible that he wished he could wipe clean from her memory. He couldn’t place the feeling that she experienced: a comfort that washed over him to have her close to him. Yet, she reciprocated with an arm over his shoulder like a sibling.

“Thanks a lot,” he mentioned as the person returned his phone.

“Not to worry,” came the reply. “I took a couple more shots for you to choose. Congratulations on your graduation!”

“Thanks a lot,” Ryan answered while Crystal nodded with a smile.

She waited for the person to be out of earshot before she approached Ryan. “So, how are the pictures?” she asked. “I’m trusting your eyes. So, it better look good!”

“It should be okay. I hope.”

Just ahead of them, Crystal spotted the caricature of her friend entering the campus and cleared her throat. “Look, I’ve to split. My friend’s here.”

“Oh, sure thing. If I don’t see you later, congrats on the graduation!”

“Thanks. And you too.” She shot a grin before she dashed off in another direction.

*

“Thanks for coming!” Crystal scooped her friend into an embrace outside the graduation hall. “You’ve no idea how much I appreciate it, Harry.”

Her lips stretched upwards when she mentally analyzed his fashion sense. He wore smart casual attire - light blue checkered shirt and black working pants - and a pair of expensive-looking R.M. Williams shoes. Had it been in another dimension, she could foresee herself falling for his charms and personality. She loved how his eyes crinkled whenever he laughed and how relaxed he was whenever they were together. He was a kind soul who loved to help people and craved for his close ones to be happy - even if it meant pushing his own feelings aside. In essence, he was willing to place others before him.

Harry laughed out loud. “I’ll obviously be in attendance. It’ll be the last time that we’ll be able to regularly hang out. I’d have accommodated your graduation time into my schedule, even if it meant missing my tute.”

Her eyes widened with horror. “No, no. Did you skip classes?”

“Nah, we’re in luck that my tutorial is after your ceremony. The downside is that i’ve rush off for it right after it ends. So, we can’t take pictures with you in the robe.”

“I’d have asked you to go for your classes after all. I only care about who the pictures are with, not the freaking attire.”

“Awesome. Can we do late lunch or early dinner after that?”

“Sure, why not? It’d be glad to end the day with food … and wine.”

*

As there was a couple of moments before the start of the convocation, Crystal caught herself admiring the handiwork and decoration of the majestic hall hosting their graduation. Ahead of her was the stage with three chairs in the middle. Towards the left and right were more chairs of the same kind, which she suspected was for the academic administrative employees and the rest of her lecturers. Or at least those who were able to squeeze some time out from their busy schedules. The place never failed to amaze her, no matter how many times she was given access through her role as a graduation volunteer or as an orientation host.

“This is a surprise,” she heard a voice and turned in that direction. Her jaw slammed to the floor. It was Ryan standing in front of her with the pamphlet in his head. “Yeah, I know. I wasn’t expecting to be sitting next to you for the ceremony either.”

“How did this happen?!”

He shrugged as he sat next to her. “I don’t know. Maybe our scores are similar to each other. Maybe we have similar last names."

"Oh, please. I'm not as intelligent as you are."

"My dear friend, the possibilities are endless.”

This is not good, she thought. She stole a glance at Ryan, whose concentration was glued on the pamphlet with the list of the graduates, and closed her eyes. Although this was something that Trace and she discussed as a probability, never once in her wildest dream did she expect to occur. Back then, she figured that there would be someone else sitting in between them. Back then, she wanted that person to block her view of Ryan to afford her some sense of peace. But in the end, her worst nightmare became a reality.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

9/28/2017

I dreamt that I attended an event that was held in a large area. Whether it was a ballroom or a convention centre, I couldn’t tell. The person - let’s call him an emcee - stood at the centre of the stage and introduced something to the attendees.

As I heard someone introducing herself, my ears perked up when she said the magic name. I had been looking for that person for a while. During the break time, I walked over to the table where she was seated and asked her about this. She refused to meet my eyes and told me to meet her at the back in 15 minutes to have a private conversation on this. She apparently was with other people and didn’t want them to know the nature of our conversation topic.

Interpretation: A quick check with the dream website indicated that there is a hidden aspect of myself that I have never seen before. In the dream, there were lots of people, but none of whom I knew in reality. My best guess is that the worries I have now, I’ve never experienced them before. Not even in Taylor’s. Oddly enough, even though I struggled with History, I knew that I’d be able to pass the course - just not at the grade that I wanted.

At the corner of my eye, I saw that the police had arrived to arrest someone. Who, I wasn’t sure, but the shiny silver handcuffs stood out in the dimly lit area. I made my way to the toilet on the pretext of seeing who it was, but the emcee told me to use the toilet at the back instead. I didn’t pick up on his reasoning.

Interpretation: I’ll split this piece into three parts:

a) The place that we were in was a dimly lit room. You could even say that it was a dark room with lights from the back, the projectors, and people’s laptop screens. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why I’d even have such a dream, but I digress. A quick check with the aforementioned website gave me a couple of ideas to work with. The first one is the possibility of something dangerous about to occur in my life. Let’s see - if you consider my hesitance on my capabilities of completing this semester without breaking down, then it might be the precarious thing that the subconscious is warning me about. The second one is where I’m stuck in a situation and having to make do with what I have. This one seems to be more realistic, seeing that I’m about to pull my hairs out.

b) The police arresting someone. Now, this could be a signal that feelings of change are being placed on me. It is either that or my presence brings a sense of security or calmness to a situation. Hah, I wish. I don’t think I’m that capable to defuse a low-level conflict before it explodes into a dispute.

c) Someone being handcuffed. Mind you, there are times when I feel like i’m reaching the limits of my mental and emotions. I’m forced to adopt the role of someone else, where I can’t express myself for the fear of aggravating or complicating a tender situation. I won’t be surprised if the situation that I’ve landed myself into that is the cause. You could say that my environment has forced me to adapt. I get glares/stares directed at me whenever I choose to express myself in Mandarin due to the stereotype and misassumptions. I’m not as fluent in Bahasa Malaysia as I am in English, so I only speak Malay when I’m within the four walls or back home in the good ole KL.

Instead of being myself, why not observe more than I speak?

I walked into the toilet cubicles and instantly felt fearful. The air was colder than I expected, and it left me thinking that I have company. It wasn’t until I met a four-legged fellow that my fear was soothed. I saw its name written on a tag that was hammered next to the main door. I whispered the dog’s name. The furkid waited outside the cubicle and its presence somehow managed to give me the peace and safety that I needed.

Interpretation: I’ll split this piece into three parts:

a) Walking into the toilet. Let's just say that I need the opportunity to rid myself of a negative situation, two of which I'm currently facing. I won't say much about the first one, but I can elaborate more about the second one. The fact that I haven't been able to study to the best of my abilities has tested my patience since the beginning of penultimate year. I feel like I'm being overwhelmed and am more than ready to drop everything, if it means having a breather.

I just need to let go and find my old self while trusting the process.

b) The fear that I felt in the toilet. The online dream interpretation suggested that a situation in real life is giving me the creeps. Sure, I am anxious about the little side project that I've just completed as I don't know whether the time spent on it would be a waste or success. I am also anxious about obtaining a credit for all of my courses this semester.

I just don't know whether I've done enough... which is ironic.

Where has all my confidence gone to?

c) Seeing the dog tag. Seriously, this is a description that is more suited for my good friend, not me. I've observed him - and his method of confronting a negative situation is different from mine. He doesn't speak of it and relies on himself to get things done. Me? I've to give myself some pep-talk to keep the rising fear and anger at bay.

Maybe the sudden loss of confidence is related to this. I've chosen to wear a happy mask in front of everyone to protect myself from the harsh effects of words or actions. I try not to rely on others for help - even though I'm drowning - and prefer to do it myself. Could that be an indication that I am emotionally protective of my work?

Some people had left my table when I returned from the toilet. We were seated near the projection screen on a long table. I was also tempted to do the same thing since it was getting late. I asked a fellow friend to walk me to my car after the event. He replied that it would’ve been something that he’d do even if I hadn’t asked him. He reasoned that he wanted to make sure that he saw me off safely.

Interpretation: a) Me talking to the girl and my friend. Oh, how in the world did my fears and insecurities slip into the dream? I don't like to air my grievances, because, let's face it, it could be used as a revenge or a way to get back to me if someone wants to see me suffer.

Hell, I even feel the traces of jealousy in some people.

Ugh, humans. 


b) The friend agreeing to walk me to my car. Seeing that none of the attendees are people whom I know in real life, this might be the subconscious way of having a friend who is there for me. Sure, I know some of my friends would be there for me, but I'm not going to splash their inbox with paragraphs after paragraphs of rants and vents when I don't feel confident that it'll be kept as a secret. Maybe the dream is creating a mirror image of myself but with better qualities and tools to keep me going. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

9/26/2017

Only God knows how exhausted I feel.

It looks like I have the bad habit of suppressing everything and not raising a hand when I need help. No matter how swamped or tired I am, you’ll see me waddling through the mountainous load of academic and non-academic things. That’s how I roll since college, but I have noticed something different in the recent weeks.

I always have flashbacks of past memories whenever I am in the midst of doing something. Even at the time of penning this post, I am reminded of a particular moment in time when we were visiting a docked cruise ship - Star Cruises, if I’ve correctly remembered the name - in Port Klang before we had dinner at the local seafood restaurant on our way back. Our travel companion chose Coconut Tree Seafood Restaurant. I can even be finishing my assessment when I suddenly catch myself thinking about my time in Fremantle, where I almost lost my way in the University of Notre Dame campus.

I’m excited that my penultimate year is a done and dealt thing after that Corporate Law exam. I want - no, scratch that, I need - to put a challenging year, personally and academically, behind me and focus on the end goal. The sigh of relief at having another year to complete. The prospect of graduating with the elusive degree which has made me lost ⅓ of my body size and continuously left me on the edge of the cliff. Lost ⅓ of the my body size? Yes, you read that right. Some of my college friends were unable to recognize me when I caught up with them last year. For reasons that only God knows, the aura has been different. I don’t even know what it is that I want out of life. I feel like I’m losing base with my academic knowledge and skill. With my mind having taken a leave of its own absence, I can’t fully concentrate and have the desire of retreating into my shell. Not just the shell; it’s the deep dark abyss of it, where I’m comforted by the soothing effects of the silence and darkness.

Maybe, who knows, I’ll be able to find that mojo again after the summer break.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

9/23/2017

I dreamt that my sister and the good friend joked with each other at the far corner of the cafe. Although I was resigned to the fact that I wasn’t invited, I wasn’t annoyed because I wanted them to spend some time together. I was also sure that he told her some of the news that I already knew: one of which was him volunteering as a peer tutor for one of the law courses that he excelled in. With a sigh, I pretended that I didn’t see them and went my own way. It wouldn’t be fair for me to interrupt their private conversation.

When I saw them - or at least two people who looked like them - a couple of days later in another place, it irked me because you don’t consciously forget to invite another person twice in a row. I suspected that there was an intention to alienate me, so I asked my college friend to look after my backpack while I took my phone and went to them to say hello.

Interpretation: A quick look at the online website suggested that I might not have prioritised myself over everything else hence the feeling of being ignored in the dream. Now that I think back, it does make a tad bit of sense. My focus these couple of weeks have been divided between my personal undertakings and the assignments, leaving me with little to no time for some alone time.

The next scene involved me dreaming that one side of the intersection ahead of us was blocked for a cycling event. As my college friend and I waited to cross the road at the traffic lights, we were surrounded by four grumpy old men. Let’s just say that they were so pissed off that they hurled their displeasure at the inconvenience as they overtook us. My college friend and I stopped at the sidewalk and had a couple of last words before we went our separate ways.

I had booked a night in an exquisite hotel and made my way there. It was busier than I expected and after waiting for quite a while, I asked the hotel receptionist what had happened. She answered that the hotel was playing host to an entourage from abroad for an upcoming festival. It would be jam-packed with people for the next couple of days and if I was lucky enough, I might run into a handful of celebrities who stayed there. As I took the lift to the allocated hotel room, it involved me changing lifts at a certain floor.

Interpretation: A visit to the dream website gave an interpretation to this scene. It highlights my subconscious scream for help. I won’t know whether it is accurate because college has taught me to be independent. With that being said, I do feel like I’m at the stage where I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. My heart wants to abandon everything momentarily and run somewhere for a respite, away from the hustle and bustle of academia. Maybe this is what a burnout feels like.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Case of Curious Coincidences (Part 7)

Crystal’s lips stretched thinly as she emerged at the arrival hall of Adelaide Airport with her luggage. She resembled a zombie with her pale complexion and swollen eyes. She gulped with sadness when she saw a crowd of people waiting with exuberance to embrace their loved ones and immediately turned away. She took a deep breath to stabilize her emotions. The scene reminded her of her last night in Edmonton and how she turned down her roommate’s request to send her to the airport. If she didn’t exercise self-control, this could spiral into a full blown crying episode and it was in her best interest to avoid it. Her body was already in urgent need of sleep, especially after she endured cross-country flights that included brief stops in Vancouver and Sydney, two time zones, and a severe jet lag waiting to pounce on her.

“I am out of my mind,” she muttered under her breath.

The last four months or so that she spent in University of Alberta opened her eyes to a new horizon, but an important question lingered. How was she to resume her studies in Adelaide after this? She had panicked the moment she received the momentous news as it meant that there was no turning back. But her common sense had prevailed. A semester without Ryan’s presence would allow her to think and live a portion of her dream, which was to further her education in Canada. Make that two semesters - since he would be in good ole Auckland this time.

She stole a peek at her watch at this thought, which read that it was already hitting noon, and patiently indulged in her book while she waited for her mother to collect her. Thank God classes start in a fortnight, she rationalized. Or I’ll be a dead woman walking.

*

Her head ached with the fury of someone deprived of sleep the moment she neared the tutorial room for her core course. If she thought that she was able to mentally snap back into shape in a fortnight, she was proven wrong. The obstreperous volume of multiple conversations between the students flowed into the hallway. An indication that most of the students were present and waited for the tutor to show his or her face. The sight of a table and desktop computer welcomed her as she made her way in. It was a smaller room with little space for movements without trampling over each other. She instantly recognized a couple of faces in the crowd and fixed a smile with her focus on Trace, who was seated at the far end of the room and doodling on her notepad. It didn’t matter if she was a familiar face to them either. To her, they were all students churning their own grades.

“Trace,” Crystal greeted.

“Hey,” Trace replied and transferred her bag to the floor. “Thank God you arrived on time. I was worried that you’d be late… especially after such a long flight.”

“Oh, I was already back since a fortnight ago. It gave me enough time to recuperate from the jet lag. How’s things?”

“Quite okay. How was Edmonton?”

“Yeah, it was manageable. Experienced my first and only snow. An eye-opener of all sorts.”

“You know, Fate threw me in the same tutorial as him for Administrative Law.” Trace shook her head with a sigh. “The poor chap looked like someone extinguished the fire in his candle. Couldn’t help but think that you were the reason.”

“Oh, please. As if.”

“You never know…”

*

Her hands shook with trepidation the moment she entered the law building for her final semester. A few more months, and she’d be done with the entirety of her degree. But there was something else waiting for her at the finish line: the prospect of running into Ryan at the graduation ceremony. She hadn’t given him much thought during her sophomore year, but Fate served her with ideas of its own. Her smile was wiped off her face when she caught sight of Ryan entering the room with his mate. She hunched over and discreetly hid her face behind her Mac, pretending that her concentration was on her computer screen. History part two, she thought. Fate is definitely screwing with me again. Tracy will have fun with this. For sure.

She knew that she needed a change of plans when her tutor entered the room with a large folder. An indication that class was about to start. She decided to give Ryan the cold shoulder and feigned that he was a stranger to her. It was a tactic that he once used on her and she accidentally snapped in his face with the same method. She focused on her own things … until he approached her during the tutorial break.

“Hello, Crystal. It’s a surprise to see you here.”

Crystal forced a laugh. “Yeah, I wasn’t expecting to share a class with you again either. How’s Auckland?”

“You remembered. It was better than I imagined. There is something comforting and welcoming about the aura that makes you want to return again.”

“I know that feeling. It’s a smaller country, but you won’t feel constricted.”

His eyes widened with shock. “How’d you know?”

“Come.” She gingerly closed her laptop and rose to her full height. “We’ve another eight minutes. Let’s continue this conversation outside.”

It was moment later when they were out of earshot that she answered Ryan - although he noticed that she folded her arms and crossed her legs as she leaned against the wall for stability. “I’ve lived there for a while.”

She was uncomfortable, but over what, he was unsure. “Too bad you couldn’t be there then,” he muttered. “You’d have been the perfect tour guide then.”

She raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”

“It’s nothing,” he backtracked. “I was just thinking that if I knew that you visited Auckland before, I would’ve asked you for recommendations and tips.”

“Oh.”

“Since it’s just us, can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“Can we start over as friends? My time in Auckland has made me realized that we weren’t exactly fair to each other. For all of the grief that I may’ve caused you as a burro estupido, I am sincerely sorry.”

It meant stupid donkey in Spanish. Why he, as a French speaker, would refer to Spanish words in his apology was something she didn’t understood, but one thing was clear in her mind. Now that he made the first move of admitting his sins, she was more than willing to bury the hatchet and start over.

“Apology accepted. And I’m sorry for what I’ve done too.” She offered a handshake. “A truce?”

He took her proffered hand - smoother than tofu - in a heartbeat. “Yes.”

“Let’s return inside then. I don’t want our peers to frown at our late return.”

“Sure.” He pulled the door open and held it for her. “After you.”

“Thanks.”

Monday, August 21, 2017

To do or not to do, that's the question

It’s only Week 5 of the semester … and I honestly feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with the placement of tutorials. Or maybe I’ve arrived at the stage where I’m forced out of my comfort zone. You know it spells disaster for a perfectionist when she feels inept and incapable of doing anything right. Nope, I’m not whining - just stating an obvious fact about me. I’d rather divert the complaints into the hauntingly emotional songs that I love. It’s not just that; I’m easily agitated and annoyed to the point where I’m not keen in spending more time on campus (unless it’s necessary, such as group projects/meetings or extra classes to catch up on the course content).


The recent holiday exposed a lot of uncertainties in my future plans that I’ll need to resolve asap. I’m having second thoughts about staying back for a postgraduate in creative writing. Someone will be happier than the shining lights if I do. More chances of spending time together. But my heart wants to leave. It wants to let the brain recover from the continuous pressures that I’ve subjected it to. At the rate I’m going, I don’t even know if I want to continue with the creative writing degree. No matter how much I love creative arts, stress will impede the creative flow. Looking at my current state of mind, I don’t think being a barrister could be a viable option either. I mean, the advocacy that I did as part of the course last semester left me wailing under the weather. Imagine if it has to be done on a professional basis. Barristers have to persuade the judge with their arguments that are referenced to statutes and case law. Something that I’m not a 100% confident in. You see, the last I debated with an acquaintance - in English class - in Taylor’s, emotions were thrown into the mix. I understand that it’ll be good to continue with the chambering, but the lights are dimming on it. It’s not helping my case that I’ve a couple more months before final year rolls around. And scaring me with the prospects of entering the workforce in a foreign place.

Should I be relieved? Yes and no. I can’t wait to be done, that’s for sure. My studies have definitely caused some personality changes. But in the event that things don’t go as planned, what am I to do? Rot under the sun and curse my luck? I’m a firm believer in that action will lead to changes. Not complaints. Just not sure if it’s true anymore.

Should I be apprehensive? A resounding yes. A lot is at stakes now. Miss one step - and it won’t just be me landing on my face in tears. (Okay, that could be an overstatement, but it is a possibility.) It’ll be my GPA who’ll accompany me this time. I must’ve buried my intelligence and common sense somewhere in the Malaysian soil before my university studies. Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel like I’m a stupid child running head first into an obstacle. A sign that I’m not in the right environment?


Believe it or not, the fact that I’ve crammed my Tuesdays with tutorials has upped my stress levels. It’s on the verge of testing my patience. I’m okay with the chosen courses, but it’s the timing that I’ve an issue with now. If someone warned me right after Administrative Law that things will slide at a rapid level and test my patience to the maximum, I’d have heeded the advice and approach penultimate year with caution. Can’t cry over spilt milk, can I? The only way around it to take the bull by its horns and ride with it.

From the way I look at it, this arrangement has led me to jump head-first into a sinkhole and a divine arrangement in more ways than one. Us breathing the same air again is not a mere coincidence - when it’s happened before and repeatedly. Truth be told, I think we’re exhausted from seeing each other’s faces all the time. It’ll be a matter of time before we snap each other’s necks in irritation. No wonder they said to be careful with what you wish for - because the opposite can happen instead.

And it did, sigh.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Case of Curious Coincidences (Part 6)

The topics of ethical issues in a fair trial was the choice that they wanted for the class presentation.. Because it was a complicated topic that required countless research, the other groups dropped this in favor of other ones. This allowed Crystal and Ryan to work as a team with another two students on this.

Once their presentation was done and dealt with, she breathed a sigh of relief and returned to her seat. She felt the nerves strangling her throat and shaking her alive towards the end of her piece, as if she could’ve engaged with her materials in a confident manner. It was after the tutor announced that the seminar was done for the weeks that she slid to the front and gathered the handouts that her peers left behind. It would’ve gone to waste if she didn't bring it home with her as rough papers.

Her breath caught in her throat when she spied Ryan loitering outside the smaller lecture theatre. He was waiting for someone. It’s just that she didn't know who. She rearranged the folder that she carried like a baby and tried to pass him unnoticed. Dealing with him on academic matters was alright, but she ensured that she was out of his way whenever they were out of class. She rationalised that it was probably a friend he waited for and lowered her head, not wanting him to notice her. It was their final week of classes and he was probably relieved that he’d see the back of her for the semester.

“Crystal!”

She stopped in her tracks when she heard her name. With a deep breath, she turned to face him with a smile. “Hey, Ryan.”

“Thank you so much for making the presentation a success. You were the last presenter and the execution rested solely on your shoulders.”

“Thanks. You weren’t too shabby either. In fact, you did better than myself.”

“You think so?”

She nodded. She finally saw him for who he was in that instant. Behind all the facade and seriousness was someone friendly and warm. The air of tension that wrapped him melted into one of easiness, as if they were friends since young. The notion that he called her name was indicative of it. It dawned on her that he allowed her to see another side of him - one that only his close friends know - without the presence of their friends. He wore a grin that not even a scouring pad could wipe off. His eyes were softer and friendlier although it was in the direction of the staircase behind her. “Let’s make a move.”

“Sure.” As they walked down together, he continued speaking. “There’s something I am curious on.”

“Okay?”

“What made you bolt out of the lecture all of a sudden? You looked as if someone dipped you in hot sauce.”

She sighed. Although he didn’t explicitly refer to a certain week of lectures, she knew which one he referred to. It was the only time that they sat in close distance, almost side by side. She moved a couple of seats away from her original one when it was occupied by a straggler. He sat towards the back row and in the middle seat. She never expected him to have noticed her quick departure. By this time, they arrived at the ground floor foyer, where he continued to wait for her response.

He sensed her hesitance and in a crowded area like this, she would never spill. “It’s okay,” he whispered, “if you don’t want to talk about it.”

She saw the concern etched in his eyes, but she never spoke of it. Not even to Trace. “It reminded me of a touchy situation,” she simply replied. “I’ve a brunch date to catch, Good luck for the exams and I’ll see you around.”

“Thanks. You too.”

She nodded again and took her leave.

As Ryan watched her rushing out of the building faster than lightning, he couldn’t help but shake his head. The more he thought that he finally understood her, the more she never failed to amaze him with another side of her. Although her Instagram and Twitter accounts illustrated nothing negative in her life, she flinched when he innocently scraped the surface of a scab. It must’ve been something bad or she wouldn’t have signed and paled.

He had to give her the credit. He never could decipher her true thoughts in their limited time working together. It was as if he was looking at his reflection in the mirror, which only fuelled his desire to know the Crystal off-campus. He craved to know her core courses next semester because he wanted to be in the same presentation group as her. There was no motive there; in fact, it served as mutual benefit due to their familiarity with each other’s work ethics.

*

His lips curled into a smile when he saw her sitting on the table near the locked doors of the exhibition hall six weeks later. Papers were strewn around her with a folder in front of her. She frowned with annoyance and stress at the prospect of a difficult paper. Although she looked like she wanted to be left alone, he gambled with the risk and headed in her direction.

“Excuse me, Crystal. Can I have a word with you?”

Crystal looked up at the voice in front of her. “Yeah, I guess. Let me push the papers -”

“It’s fine, i’ll be quick. Are you taking any core courses next semester?”

“Wow. You really can’t wait.” A half-smile emerged on her face. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no. I’m doing my electives abroad.”

A flash of sadness swept through his face. “Oh, okay. Where, if I may ask?”

“Edmonton, Canada.”

“That’s half a world away! You should have considered Auckland.”

That was my first choice, she thought. You made a decision for me without me even having a chance to say anything. “Well,” she answered. “I did, but …. I figured since it was only for a semester, it’s alright to live a little on the dangerous side. Hence the choice of Edmonton. Why, are you going to Auckland?”

Her answer threw him off-guard. “I -”

“It’s okay, Ryan. I overheard your conversation with your friend. You’re going there next year.”

“I didn't expect our conversation to be that loud."

She forced a laugh. "It's hard not to ignore when it's so close to your ears."

He sighed. "In that case, I think I better let you return to your revision. Keep in touch via Facebook, yeah?”

“Will do.”

“Good luck for the paper!”

“Thanks.” She smiled. “All the best!”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Welcome back!

Hello guys, I’m back!

Never will I consider an early morning flight again. I understand that it might be much cheaper (the difference is minimal; what’s more important is the timing that you purchase it), but I'm just not an avid lover of it. It took me longer than expected - my entire weekend!!! - to recuperate from the sleep deprivation and time difference. Imagine that I almost missed my first tutorial because of this!

I personally don’t have any issues with the hours spent on the flight (well, only the narrowed space) because I know how to entertain myself. My peeve lies with selfish passengers who either forgot their manners or treat the seat like they own it. Paying for it doesn’t mean buying it. The passenger seated in front of me decided to invade my space by reclining his seat to the maximum. This conduct almost knocked me on the head because I was using the tray for my notepad, grr. Like dude, I understand that you want to catch your beauty sleep, but … limits! You wouldn’t like it if I confront you on this, so please spare a thought for neighbor behind you on your next flight.

If there’s something that I’ve learnt from my frequent travels, it’s never to drink beer or wine without food. The alcohol percentage went straight to my brain and knocked me out cold… to the point where I sprained my neck while I slept. I didn’t even know it happened until the cabin lights shone at me. (It didn’t help; the effects were worsened the minute I left the airport. To cut a long story short, I slept. And slept until mid-afternoon.)

The short time spent abroad was alright. Three weeks is not enough for a relaxing holiday. I don’t do well when I’m cooped up in boredom. I won’t say that it melted all of the stress in my cells. In fact, I dreaded the return flight for reasons I can’t divulge. You could probably say that I want to run from my responsibilities. There’s too much on my plate this semester (no thanks to workload and familiar faces) and I don’t know if I’ve the patience to deal with everything. I intentionally skipped the first week of lectures due to this… and I wasn’t even bothered by it. It was enough to minimize the scope of the stress levels, I guess. I’ve to think thrice about following my heart when it comes to traveling. It’s not fun at all…

So, here’s to hoping that the semester treats me well and I don’t land on my face!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Layered Dream

Okay, this was a dream that occurred a couple of weeks, but I forgot to write about this because my head caved in from the stress of exam results. A lot rode on my performance on the paper… and it led me to alternate between fear and relief. Fear of failing. Relief at being done with another semester.

I dreamt that the three of us were in a room, attending either a lecture or a tutorial. There were no specific indicators on the location. The person who spoke wore glasses… and resembled a lecturer. My sister and I were seated together in the middle row. As he rambled on the weekly course contents and nature of the topics with the speed of a bullet train, I struggled to transcribe each word that was thrown at us. My heart froze when I spied the caricature of someone familiar behind us.

It wasn’t until the break time that I gained the courage to turn my back and sustained a loss of speech. It was him. The person I never expected to meet again. Even my sister repeated that it was impossible. He leaned against the swivel chair and adopted a relaxed aura as his focus was on something else. He looked exceptionally carefree. This revelation made me uneasy as I didn’t want to be in such close proximity as him. Whatever crap I did on the screen, he’d be able to notice.

In the next scene, I loitered in a shaded area as other people minded their business with grocery shopping. A wave of awkwardness washed over me when my phone pierced the simultaneous conversations with its cries. I had left it with the cashier to borrow her phone charger while I killed time. I muttered my excuse and apologies for the interruption. My eyes furrowed when it was a notification, informing me that a friend shared ‘something from the past’. What past, I didn't know. I didn’t have the privacy or time to take a peek at it.

Although the person’s identity was revealed in the dream, I’ll not name him on the public sphere to accord some protection to him. As I later found out, it was indeed a premonition of what was to come. The stranger is in the same stream of core course as me and we’re bound to cross paths again. I had my suspicions late last year… but I guess it is what it is now. Plus, he’ll only know about it on the day itself.

For the second scene, I’d like to think that it's a case of randomness. Knowing how notifications work, you’re only informed if you’ve been tagged or if it concerns you. ‘Something from the past’ could be anything from the sun to the moon… unless it’s years in the future when we’re reflecting on our past and friendship. If that’s the case, then maybe it’s the group hangouts that he might be missing. Again, it’s vaguer than a tinted window for me to interpret.

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!
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