December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014

Here we are saying goodbye to 2014. Ah how time flies so fast. Well, I didn't achieve much this year. But I must say that 2014 is the year of so many firsts. I spent the whole year teaching primary and high school kids. It's one of the best things I've ever done in my life, a wonderful job and I love those kids. I also bought my first iPhone as the reward for my own effort and I think it's gonna be my last phone (or not. Lol.). And this year, Ifo got his first job at Essem Corp. ^^ Annnnnnddd this year, on 23rd December, marks our 6th anniversary of being together. 6 years and counting. ;)

Also, since my mother has retired from the government in September, we started a small family business: catering. We cater for any events or occasions that require some food. We had our first experience on catering for 2-days Islamic Program in our neighborhood which went so well. We've also signed contract with soldier camp at Lokkawi and now we're catering for the army field commanders and some officers (I don't know what to call them) everyday during breakfast. It's been great so far. I don't mind getting up at dawn to work at the kitchen with my mom. Cooking is a fun thing to do anytime anywhere. 

Besides, I have another reason to get up before sunrise: fitness routine. I've been running and doing some workouts that I learned from Youtube; squats, sit-ups, push-ups and burpees. Morning is the perfect time to do my fitness workout. Well I don't quite know why I start doing it, I just do it, you know. Even my mom says I'm not too fat to exercise. But it's not the matter of losing weight actually (I'm underweight, for the record), maybe I just want to be fit, maybe I want a body like Jennifer Lawrence, maybe I want to climb Mount Kinabalu in 2015, or maybe I don't need reasons at all. Just do it. 

I don't want to write about my new resolutions. Apart from being too mainstream, it never works. I mean for me..please, don't let my words ruin your spirit. I do think about my goals..short term and long terms, but I'm not gonna write it down here. While we're all faced with different circumstances, our journey of trying to feel whole, improve and face our trials is the same. No matter what goals you may have for this new year, may I suggest that you look at your life and your beautiful self with gratitude. And depending on where you are in your life right now, even if you can't think of much to be grateful for, be grateful for the opportunity you have to change. Even if your circumstances are not changeable, YOU can always change and become something greater than you are.

And, as we work to improve ourselves, may we not dwell in negativity because of any weakness, flaw or inadequacy we have now.  May we go after our goals with all our hearts? Yes! But dismiss that harmful script in our head that says, "we aren't good enough."  Instead, as hard as it may seem, let's accept that our weaknesses are necessary for us to improve, and embrace them and be grateful for them. That tiny change in perspective is huge. Have faith and be patient. That's what I've learned in 2014. 

Have an awesome 2015. Happy New Year!

December 22, 2014

Blog Manifesto

I'm learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me. - Tracee Ellis Ross

I was 17 when I started blogging, nearly 18. I was fresh out of school and unclear on how-to-live-my-life-and-live-it-well.

There's something really joyous about blogging then (oh do I sound old?). Blogs were sort of deliciously imperfect. And I needed that in my life. That joy, that delicious imperfection. Very quickly, blogging became a lens through which I could see the world: the details, the absurdity, both the loneliness and loveliness of everyday life. And it became a way to reach in the direction of the future at a time when my personal future felt very tenuous. I couldn't imagine life beyond 20, couldn't imagine getting better, or growing up, or anything after.

There's an Elizabeth Gilbert's quote I think of often:
Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing.

Some part of me knew that at 20, ill as I was, my life's changing. And If could recognize it as it's happening, bear witness to it, then I could transform the most heartbreaking moments of my life into the most meaningful. So the purpose of blogging, for me, was to document the in-between-ness of my life. To document this difficult, but important, events.

For the record, I realize I'm still in the in-between. But I feel a hell of a lot closer to one end than the other. I didn't know that I'd like writing so much, find so much meaning in it. Didn't know I'd fall so hard for words and their endless variations. I like blogging. But I don't know if I like what has become of it. Can I say that? I'm gonna say that. Let me explain. It seems to me that as blogging has evolved it's become far more commercial, but what this means is that more and more blogs look the same, feel the same; similar content, similar interface, and a sort of homogeneous cultural refrain: happiness as the ultimate end.

We're bombarded with images all day, every day, on television, the internet, in magazines, that make the desirable life seem just beyond reach. Images that make us want things we have no use for. It's a pretty simple formula actually: put something that has no immediate value to the consumer, next to something beautiful (the aesthetics of beauty having a higher value than almost anything else) and suddenly it becomes important, desirable.

The thing about blogs now is that they seem to be selling a way of life, one in which nothing bad happens. In which everyone's always cheery and smiling and dressed in impeccable and expensive clothes. This is nothing new of course, we as a culture and country seem to have cornered the market on happily-ever-after. But the thing about blogs is we think of them as non-fiction. And that's where it gets tricky. We mistake a very small, very edited slice of life as the whole of the thing. And few things are as they seem. Images flatten, words distort, and photo filters enhance.

I like fashion blog as much as the next person, I really do. The pictures are like candy, immediately satisfying. But here's what I wanna know: who can really afford to wear Jovian dress, carry a Chanel bag, and dress their arms in Tiffany & Co jewelry day after day? Certainly, I can't. And do I need to feel bad that I can't? It's that second question I worry about, because that's the question that sticks around longer than the immediate hit of pleasure. And that's the question that, if I'm not paying attention, sort of chips away at my self-worth.

Perhaps other people don't have the same experience. But what if they do?

I understand that depicting total realism is impossible and not the point of blogging. I've heard time and time again bloggers explain that their corner of the internet is their space and therefore they have the right to choose what they share. But we don't live in a vacuum. And shared content goes into the world and has an effect. Free speech is sort of a misnomer, isn't it? Because it's free to a point. There's always a cost..we just don't always know what that cost is.

Of course I believe in personal responsibility and accountability, that we can't entirely control how what we say is received. "Perception is reality" is one of those principles that drives me nuts because it's such a lazy way of unimaginative. And let's be honest, you can't reason with crazy. And if a crazy person perceives you as crazy, does that make you crazy? But the thing is, much evidence exists to prove that the onslaught of doctored images in favor of "flawless" bodies is extremely damaging. So what about "flawless" lives?

I took this blogging break to work on other things, but also to give myself some time to figure out if I wanted to continue. And the thing is, I do. Because I actually quite love it. But for the last few years I've attempted to reconcile what I love about blogging with what has come to be expected from the medium. And I'm not sure I can. Or that I need to. But what I did feel like I needed to do was create a governing set of principles to remind me of what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

 A Blog Manifesto

1. This is a writing blog. Not a lifestyle blog.

2. I do this because I love it and it has meaning for me but if I stop loving it, I will stop doing it.

3. I'll occasionally be abstract and private, but I'll do my very best to never paint my life as something it's not.

4. This space is a part of my life, but only a part. If it ever gets in the way of living, then enough.

5. My purpose here is to document what has happened (and occasionally dream of what might be). I believe the moment I do something specifically for the purpose of blogging about it, it cheapens the experience and undermines the content.

6. I have no interest in distilling my life into a three-sentence-bio.

 7. I believe in women. I believe in women who speak up for themselves and ask for what they want and demand more out of life. I believe in a woman's brand of intelligence and wit and grace. I think we need more of it in the world. I want to see more women in leadership positions, more women who aren't afraid to ruffle a few feathers. And I believe because we live in a world that is tremendously connected, the bonus is on each and every one of us to encourage the full realm of a woman's potential.

8. I'd love to say that I'll blog every day. But it's just not possible. There's only one of me and I can't generate that much worthy content. So I'll blog when I can.

9. I'm not interested in more content for the sake of more content (or more clicks).

10. If you're uninterested, move on, I'm not counting numbers.

11. And if you come here and then head elsewhere with the sole intent of gossiping amongst internet strangers...well, I just don't get that. And for the people who run and moderate those blogs, I'd like to ask what value you think you're adding to the larger world?

12. Maybe that's the question I want everyone to ask: what value are we adding?

13. I've met more than a few internet mavens whose lives seem far cooler and more vibrant online than they do in person. They have secured a niche and figured out what works for them and that's great. But my goal is, and will always be, that if someone were to meet me offline they'd think me just as they imagined. I'll very often fail at this, but it's nonetheless my intent.

14. I write the best version of myself, always. But I do believe that's a very different thing than writing a different and better version of myself.

That's what I got. And hopefully it's still a little deliciously imperfect.
Too long? Sorry.

December 16, 2014

Run Baby Run

It's been interesting for me to see what keeps popping up on the blog, the topics I return to again and again: writing and places and spaces, colors and lists, tiny moments from the everyday. For whatever reason, though, I never wrote about running. Well, I used to be an avid jogger. I'm not an athlete but running was a big part of my life when I was 18, 19, 20..the center of my sanity, really. Those great moments..went to sport track every evening (that's where I met Ifo for the first time. Hah.) and ran like my whole life depends on it. But then I went to college and stopped going to track even it's just few minutes walking from my hostel.

I believe that sports were the relief of the day, the cutting loose after hours and hours spent sitting at a desk. But I don't really do sports, so I turned to running. Well now I'm not an overly enthusiastic runner. Not really a consistent one, either. Because, well, let's face it: some days it's just not happening. Some days, sleep feels better than any run ever could. But when those days turn into weeks, that's usually a sign of my disposition and I can say with confidence that running is the marker of my state of mind.

When I look back on the roughest patches of my life, the times that I lost myself, or someone else, I realize that running was absent. Whether it's because I didn't have the energy, or the time, or the drive, it just didn't happen. As soon as my feet hit the pavement again, things began to turn around, each and every time.

If I had to say why I love running, if I had to explain what it does for me, I think it has something to do with the memories it carries. When I run, I sometimes feel a bit like a kid again. Like I might be part of a police-and-thieves game, or playing tag, or on the soccer field. My senses bring me back to those moments: steady breathing, aching legs, sweaty face. I love running because of this: for once, and for one heavenly hour of my day, my mind moves from the mental to the physical. I stop worrying, stop over-thinking, stop planning and re-planning, stop making mental lists of everything under the sun.

Instead, I listen to my breath. The pounding of my feet. My heartbeat. And it's listening to my own heart, I think, that saves me, that brings me back to myself. It's the only thing that keeps me present. And isn't that the best way to be?

Since I've got a pair of new shoes (thanks, bae), I've been running a lot. I'll take that as a good sign. So let's run.

December 15, 2014

One Night at Circus

The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones. - Erin M., The Night Circus

The Great British Circus is in town!!! 

I went to the circus with my friends on Saturday night at Likas Sport Complex. It was my first experience ever and it's truly amazing! Oh what's not to love? There were funny clowns, acrobats, wheel of death, globe of death, flying trapeze, etc. Mesmerizing! You should pay a visit too! It's worth every penny. Even now it brings a big smile to my face. Plus, we got the chance to greet and take pictures with the performers. They're so friendly! 

The fun didn't just stop there because we headed to Escapee after having some McDonald. Yes, we played the escape game again! Since we're still in the mood of circus, we chose to play in The Circus room. It's the hardest among all the rooms. We challenged ourselves to win or break the record. But damn, we lost the game. We're already at the end of the puzzles, we're on the verge of the last door but we ran out of time and didn't make it. I think if we had 10 more minutes or so, we could win. You see, fighting against time is one of the hardest battle in the world. Time couldn't be kept at bay huh. Still, we had so much fun!!

December 4, 2014

Always Betting on You

As you might already know, Paramore has released a Selt-Titled Deluxe album recently and I'm truly psyched about it! I dropped by at Hayley's blog just now and read one of her entries. Well, as a fan, I sort of cried reading it..I don't know, it's like she wrote me a letter. Hahah. Here it is:

Embarrassingly, it’s been a little while since the last time I did any sort of bloggin’ whatsoever. Now, I find myself near the very end of a long year having said nearly nothing about it! What a year it’s been for Paramore. Taylor and Jeremy and I are so thankful, so exhausted, and so satisfied. Thinking back on everything from The Self Titled Tour in OZ to launching “Ain’t It Fun” on one of the biggest pop stations in the country, to Parahoy and Monumentour… I just don’t know that there’s been another year in our career that has felt both this sentimental (like show #2 on the cruise) AND this triumphant (like having our first top 10 single at top 40 radio) all at the same time. It just keeps getting better, you guys.

2014 really changed me in a lot of ways. I guess it’s one reason I kept away from blogging and sharing as much as I usually feel inclined to. I grew up a lot and the process wasn’t really expected, nor was it always fun. Since the top of the year, I’ve gone through a “break-up”, a “make-up” (YAYWOOHOOO!), had a really promising hair-dye business opportunity completely fall through, got sick a TON of times on Monumentour and had to cancel shows, and just got plain tired. Well, we all did! Oh, I also got a dog (YAYWOOHOO!). The reason I’m saying all this is to show you that even when things look simple or wonderful on the surface, there’s always a battle to be fought. Don’t let it stop you from getting where you want to be. It’s not about where you think you should be, or even where you think you deserve to be. Where do you want to be? 

I’m so eternally 100% absolutely ridiculously grateful for people like you who have given my life, as well as Jeremy’s and Taylor’s, a major purpose. We are constantly learning along with you. Existing along with you. Singing along with you. But more than that we are always FOR you. This is so cheesy, omg… but you can’t water down the truth and when you do, it loses all its power.

I hope that, at the end of this year, you realize how the hard times made you. I hope for you that you allowed those times to make you better. I would bet that you’re better. 

You already know about this but, to bid 2014 goodbye, we’re leaving you with a re-release of our Self-Titled album. The re-release includes tracks from our favorite show on Monumentour, which took place at Red Rocks in Colorado. We didn’t originally intend to ever do anything with the recordings. It wasn’t planned. We just loved the show so much and felt it embodied the rawness and the fun that we had with you over the summer. The songs we chose to include from that show are mostly ones that weren’t on The Final Riot (save for “LTFB”, which we just HAD to have since we played that and “Part ll” back to back!). These recordings are un-touched and though they’re not perfect, we are psyched that we caught it on a recording because it was so special for us.

The re-release also has ALL 3 B-sides! Maybe you’ve already heard “Escape Route” and “Native Tongue” but there is noooo way you’ve ever had the pleasure of “Tell Me It’s Okay”. It’s such a cool song. I’m so happy we finally found a home for it. For whatever reason, at the time, it just didn’t fit the album. We never even finished recording it! This is the scratch demo that we recorded all in one take while Ilan was tracking drums at Sunset Sound. I later added some harmonies, Taylor threw an extra guitar bit here and there, and that’s pretty much it! The lyrics were always important to me and very true to that particular time in our band’s life. Maybe I’m giving too much away here but… it IS okay to be happy NOW. 

Lastly, there’s the duet I did with Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars) on “Hate To See Your Heart Break”. We recorded our vocals (to the original track) in Santa Monica, CA about a week after the Monumentour ended. Joy has been a friend and a mentor of mine since I was just 12 years old. I met her, by fate, about a month into moving to Franklin, TN. She was on her own musical journey and I was chomping at the bit to start my own… (little did I know I would meet the guys like 6 months later). Joy has been an incredible example of strength, perseverance, faith, and grace throughout all the years that I’ve known her. I always wanted to be able to sing like her and being able to duet with her actually felt like an amazing tribute to the inspiration she’s given me. Taylor and his family are also close with Joy and he is actually the one who brought up having her on the song. It’s the first time we’ve ever collaborated with anyone as a band and we’re all really really proud we were able to invite someone into Paramore’s world who completely understands multiple aspects of who we are. Whether you’re a Paramore fan, a Civil Wars fan, or you just like pretty songs… This one will satisfy, I swear! 

Alright, this is long. I’ve typed for DAYS. My fingers hurt. I’m a little rusty! I won’t take any more of your time, except for to say this: we love you and we can’t wait for what’s next.

Always always always betting on you, 

*shedding tears*

Now I leave you with 2 of Paramore's songs from Self-Titled Deluxe.

December 2, 2014

Escape and Evade

Yay! My friends and I got a chance to play escape game at Escapee, KK! There are 3 different rooms: The Circus, Time Travel and Prison Break. We chose Prison Break. We had to solve a series of puzzles to escape the room within 1 hour.

First of all, 1 hour goes ungodly fast when you're in an escape game. You know all of those times when you wished that time would go faster? You never have that problem in these games. By the time the clock is running down you'll be begging for more minutes like you've never begged before.

Secondly, the puzzles challenge your brain in ways that not many attractions can offer. You're forced to think and work with your team to solve challenges that you don't normally face. We did so hard to try to figure out the locks combinations in order to unveil the next clue.

We had a complete blast playing this room as it was challenging enough to keep you completely engrossed in the game play, but not challenging enough to be discouraging. We learned a lot in our first escape game experience, including the fact that you really need to work as a team in order to be successful. Another thing we came to realize is that you can't look at the same object for too long. It's a waste of time! Get fresh eyes to look at something if you're stuck. They were inventive and really made us think outside the box, which was very fun. The clues led to a code to unlock the next step of your game, but how the clues were put together was totally different, so it was lucky that we had some "geniuses" in our team.

It's not easy, but we made it! We escaped the room in 52 minutes, just 8 minutes before the time's up. Ultimately, it's a great way to spend time with friends. And teamwork is the key. We had so much fun. It tests your intellect without making you feel stupid. We'll definitely be coming back to play again!


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