First 10 Days in New York

I have been putting off writing this for days! Partly because I had no wifi until last Wednesday, but partly also because I don’t even know where to start. It’s been a crazy 10 days.

I guess first of all, it was really sad to leave. Like I’ve said before, I’ve had so much fun at home especially in the recent months, despite the pandemic. Everyday kind of just felt like a family holiday because we’d cook, play badminton or Bananagrams or jigsaw puzzles and I didn’t have to think about making plans or rushing anywhere. So yeah, obviously I miss my family. I barely got to see my extended family this year, so that’s really sad too. I drove my beloved Volvo to the airport and obviously my dad came with me. I wish my mum and sister could have come too. Had to change my mask like three times at the airport because I cried so much every time someone texted or called me to say bye and my masks just kept getting soaked haha.

The flight itself was fine! I was a little nervous about it since I really haven’t done many flights, let alone long distance ones in the past year or so. But it was okay, I mean obviously I got kind of restless but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. It was totally full though. I think the Doha – New York leg of the flights was at maybe 99% capacity but I double-masked and wore a damn face shield the entire way (except during meals of course, but even then, I deliberately ate after everyone else finished their meals).

Also, as I was about to land, I was looking at the map on my screen. And for whatever reason, as soon as I saw Philadelphia appear on the map, I started to tear up a bit?? Washington DC too, but mostly Philly, even though I prefer DC. I think just because I think of Philly as like my ~origin story~ lol and the place where I really had to grow up and be on my own. So clearly it’s just a super important place to me.

One of my in-flight meals
Got super excited when I flew over my sister!!


I didn’t get much sleep on the plane — I think maybe 6 hours in total at most, and definitely not all at once. But after I landed at JFK, I had a really busy day ahead of me immediately so I had no time to rest at all. First, I had to unload all of my bags at my apartment which is about an hour away from the airport. Let me just tell you that a wave of dread washed over me as I realised the elevators were not working. I live on the sixth floor ok, it’s not even funny. And the staircases are REALLY steep that even when I walk down the steps without bags I feel scared that I might fall. Also, here might be a good place to point out that if Qatar Airways is really generous with luggage allowance for students. I had 75 kg of bags and a ukulele on me. On top of all of that, we were pretty much in a heat wave. And there’s no air conditioning or anything in the common spaces. It was an absolute nightmare!!!!! Luckily, one of my roommates helped me carry two of my bags up. But then it was about to be time for us to go to the leasing office to get our leases physically signed and everything, so we just left one bag under the staircase on the ground floor for a while (and just prayed nothing would happen…) while we got that done.

My first glimpse of Manhattan on the cab ride there
Super steep staircases!

On the way to the leasing office, which is just a few blocks away, I went to pick up some sushi which my kind friend Hanna — who isn’t even in New York!! — ordered for me because she knew I would have no food in the apartment (love you Hanna, if you’re reading this). After I finished signing the lease and all of that though, my roommate had to run back to work. I on the other hand, had to rush to go pick up a window AC unit I had arranged to buy from someone secondhand on Facebook (so glad I remembered to make this purchase before I arrived, tbh). So I walk over (in the blazing heat) to that person’s apartment and it’s on the 6th floor, and there’s no elevator. That’s fine… except the window AC unit was SO HEAVY. I wish the person I bought it from had mentioned in the listing that her building was a walk-up. There was no way I could carry it down by myself. The seller offered to help me carry it down but it was just really hard to coordinate and it felt really dangerous for one person to be walking down the stairs backwards carrying it. So instead, I said never mind, I’ll just “slide” it down the stairs while I supported it from the bottom of each step with my leg/hands. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe lol but I think you might know what I mean. I guess that was the worst part. But I still had to carry it over to the main street and there was no one around who could help me. I think it only weights about 15-20 kg, but it’s more so that the box is really bulky and hard to hold. Not to mention I STILL HAD THAT SUSHI ON ME!!! Finally I get it close enough to the main street and someone helped me carry it all the way to the curb where I would try to get a cab back to my apartment. Tough luck, no cabs around. So I look at my phone, see I have 6% of battery left and decide I would try to call a Lyft/Uber. But I hadn’t been in the US in years, so I needed to download those apps again, and input my account and card details all over again. Good thing I know all my numbers by heart. In the end I managed to call a Lyft to pick me up with like 2% left to spare. Fun fact: my charger stopped working on the plane somehow (!!), so I also had to go to Rite Aid to get a new one, but I couldn’t use my debit card because it’s been ages since I had used it, so I had to use my dad’s credit card, heh. In fact, I couldn’t even use Venmo to pay for the AC so Hanna had to Venmo that person for me, since my Venmo account was still tied to my old phone number and I can’t get into it.

Ok so then after that, as you might remember, the elevator was still not functioning. So I got my AC back to the building but I couldn’t carry it up to my apartment and my roommate wouldn’t be back for a while. And my phone was dead at this point, so I leave it downstairs and go back into my apartment to troubleshoot. I got out the new charging cable I bought, but couldn’t find the kepala to plug it into an outlet (it was somewhere in my mess of luggage), so I had to charge my phone on my laptop. And because it was SO HOT (there’s no fan no nothing in the apartment), I opened the fridge, placed my laptop there and finally ate some of the sushi Hanna bought me at like 2.45 pm (I hadn’t had anything to eat since like maybe 6 am or so, New York time, and that was just a bit of plane food).

I will never ever forget this day.

Eventually my phone comes back to life and I decide to call my dear, dear friend Ken to help me. He also goes to Columbia but that’s like at least 20 minutes away. I told him it’s fine if he couldn’t help, since I had a backup plan. I was staying downtown with some friends for the first few nights while I sorted out my room (my apartment came totally unfurnished). So if I ended up being able to carry everything up, I would just lug all of my stuff there — not ideal, since I don’t want to bring a dirty AC and a large suitcase to someone’s apartment but you know, tolerable. But Ken agreed to come anyway in the middle of a weekday!! He helped me lift both the last suitcase and the AC up. And he would tell me not to tell him what level we were at so that he could be pleasantly surprised when we reached my floor hahaha. Then I thanked him and told him I’ll see him soon, since I’m sure he had to get back to work but he insisted we have something to eat. So we had some chips and guac and Jarritos (!) at a Mexican restaurant nearby. Finally, after that, I went over to my friends’ place. I showered, had some dinner, and passed out by 8.30 pm. That’s early but honestly not bad — considering I travelled back 12 time zones and barely slept on the plane, I should have been a lot more jet-lagged than that.

Ken to the rescue!!!!!

DAY 2-4

The second day was a lot less dramatic, if I’m recalling correctly. I went to the bank to reset my pin, got a new phone number, ordered some furniture for my room. Bought some basic house stuff that I needed immediately like plates and bowls and hangers and stuff — luckily this time, I managed to get a cab, though it was still a struggle and a half to carry everything I bought onto the curb by myself and I had to do it bit by bit.

Oh but one cool thing did happen that day. It was really hot so I wanted to get an iced drink. I walked into the first coffee shop I saw and place my order. As I’m getting my card out to pay, the cashier goes like “oh are you from Malaysia?” and I said yes, and asked how he knew. He said he saw my IC in my purse. So we started chatting, talked about where in Malaysia we’re from. Long story short, we figured out that his wife kind of my aunt’s former student!! My aunt had even put me in contact with her before I came to New York, just in case I needed anything. Such a wild serendipitous moment.

Then when I got back, I mostly kemas kemas here and there, unpacked my suitcases and put my clothes in my closet. I couldn’t install the AC by myself though, and no one else was home (my roommates hadn’t moved in yet either at that point) but even just turning it on while leaving it on the floor helped so much. I would not have been able to function otherwise. I didn’t have a lamp, though. That meant I had to stop working by the time it got dark haha and I went back to my friends’ apartment downtown before dark. We had dinner together and just had a really nice time just hanging out. They also have a kid, who is just the absolute cutest and sweetest boy ever. I loved spending time with him.

Had to change subway lines on 50th St but accidentally got off at Times Square instead

So yeah, for the next few days, I just spent the first few days just commuting between my friends’ place downtown and mine uptown and buying stuff, cleaning up, unpacking and assembling furniture. Ken came again on Sunday to help me carry and assemble my bed frame. The delivery people carried it up all the way to my door step. I managed to bring in and assemble everything but the bed frame — it was simply too heavy. This time he even brought me diet coke! I would say that by Sunday night (the end of day 4) I was mostly settled. I could already eat, sleep and shower in my apartment. So that was the first night I slept at the new place. I am super super grateful for my friends’ hospitality though because that meant I could properly rest and all that while I got my room set up.

DAY 5-7

Orientation started on my fifth day in New York. Everyone around me was like wow you’re really getting all your stuff together so quickly! But it’s literally because I had only four days before orientation began and couldn’t afford to take my time.

It was so emotional, honestly! Exciting and scary and also just beautiful?? Because it’s been so long since I’ve been in school. It’s also the first thing I feel like I’m doing that is me taking myself seriously as a writer. And also I’ve just been so busy since July that I simply hadn’t had the time to process the fact that I was about to start school again. Plus, the campus is also just so pretty!!

Before the class started, people were mostly making small talk outside. I felt a bit self-conscious for a hot second because it’s hard not to be when everyone’s looking their best and trying to make a good impression. But I also kind of snapped out of it immediately because I remembered I’m nearly 30 and I have no patience with myself to be anything less than self-assured in social settings. I am super fine with sitting by myself and I don’t mind making small talk but I also don’t feel the pressure to be liked or try to make a lot of friends or to prove to myself or anyone that I deserve to be here. I don’t even feel a lot of impostor syndrome because I just feel like whatever, it matters less how qualified I am, and more how willing I am to learn. I’m not saying that other people are doing/feeling/thinking all of those things, but just that those are the usual sorts of dynamics in any new school year or workplace. It helps I guess that I already am friends with my roommates (who I met online, by the way), and that I have a good number of friends in New York. But also I don’t know… I just, feel older in that way. It’s hard to describe.

Reunited with Sweetgreen after so long!! And Vera told me to FT her while I’m out and about so I did during lunch on my first day

The speakers at orientation pretty much made it clear that it’s going to be a gruelling year, and that we’ll be made to work very very hard. We also discussed topics like ‘What Is Journalism’ and how individual journalists can work to improve the field which has had a hand for many years in enforcing stereotypes etc, like how do we make reporting more fair and all of that. I think for me something I always think about is how do we shed light on issues around the world but at the same time not do it in such a way that certain groups of people only ever get portrayed as victims. So yeah, those were really interesting conversations and I’m really looking forward to having more of those discussions in the next year.

We also heard from people like the career services centre and the Dean of Student Life about career stuff from day one. It’s kind of intense and pressuring, but it also makes sense since it’s such a short program and people really do enter with the aim of trying to land something good after. And that’s what I love about being at a school like Penn/Columbia — it’s just so insanely well resourced and connected that it has all the means of supporting students through processes like finding work.

We had some smaller sessions outside since people can only remove masks outdoors (but not me I never lol). This is the Dean of Student Life, he’s also had a long career at the NY Times!

I also had to get tested for COVID-19 on my first day of orientation. Testing at Columbia is free, we just have to make an appointment online. Everyone has to get tested when they first arrive, but after that we can do it voluntarily as we like or when we’re identified as a close contact. One thing that’s cool I think is that we are subjected to random testing. Apparently every week 10-20% of the Columbia community is selected for random testing to detect potential clusters. The COVID-19 restrictions on campus are quite comprehensive, I think. So far the school has managed to maintain a very, very low infectivity rate and hopefully with all these precautions in place it’ll stay that way.

The Covid-19 tests here are self administered and sooo much more pleasant lol

On the last day of orientation, we only had one session from about 1 – 2.30 pm so I had time that evening to go see my beloved friend Cristina. We’ve been friends since first semester of Penn because we took Arabic 001 together (Cristina went on to become fluent and translate poetry, and I… can introduce myself and say I hate the winter). We went to Milk Bar, I had my favourite cereal milk soft serve that I haven’t had in three years. We walked around and then went to TARGET!! I love Target lol. She helped me get some small things I need for the apartment. It was so nice to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in so long. We text and talk on the phone sometimes but it’s just different! She was actually supposed to come to Malaysia in April 2020 but we all know what happened then. Who would have thought that I would end up coming back to New York before she got to visit me.

At Target with Cristina

And earlier that morning, I went on my first run in New York along the Hudson River! That felt like a big milestone, haha. And speaking of milestones, it was also the very first time I visited the laundromat. I don’t have laundry inside my building, but thankfully there is a laundromat on the ground floor of my building.

Hudson River viewsss


On Thursday, I had my first day of class. We all start with Intro to Reporting. My class (about 16 of us) is going to cover Harlem, and we’re going to be publishing on a website later this semester. I have no idea what kind of stories I’m going to be doing yet, honestly. I guess we’ll find out. I’m excited about it though because I learned from DC that reporting about an area is an excellent way to feel at home and connected to a community beyond just your immediate circle of friends.

The morning of that first class day was just us going over how the course will go. In the afternoon, we went on a guided walking tour of Harlem. We saw lots of historical and cultural sites, including the first mosque that Malcolm X set up. After the tour though, we were given an assignment that was due that day itself. We had to walk around Harlem and interview people about their COVID-19 experiences. The idea was to get us into the groove of going up to people on the street to ask for information and to get comfortable with introducing ourselves, speaking to people, and taking notes. It was quite an experience. Several people turned me away, or would talk to me but were unwilling to share their names. Some told really interesting stories, and it was really cool. If you had told me 10 years ago, that someday I’d be doing this, I might not have believed you. 10 years ago I was still learning to tell the waiter my own order. I was scared to order pizza on the phone. I mean, yes, it’s been 10 years+ but it’s cool to see clearly what I already guessed — that I’m a much more capable and resilient person today than I was before and that’s such a nice feeling.

My class on the walking tour

I got feedback from my professor about the assignment the next day and immediately texted my friend Shahirah “WHY DID I DECIDE TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL” hahahaha because I did not miss the stomach-turning feeling of going over a professor’s comments. I don’t know why but it just feels so different from getting comments from a boss because that tends to be more collaborative, maybe?

For now, I only have this one class and I think this coming week I’ll start another called Investigative Techniques that’s all about using public records to find data and how else to gather information besides interviews. Later on in this half of the semester, I’ll have Journalism Law and Ethics. And in the second half of the semester, I’m taking one writing class and an “image and sound module” which basically means everyone takes a class in either data, audio or video. I chose data because video isn’t really my thing and I’ve already done a lot of audio. So I’m going to try a bit of data since it seems to be like the way journalism is headed these days.

These are kind of our “foundation classes.” Next semester we’ll get to choose classes that are a bit more specific to what we like — I’m hoping to take some sort of business/economics reporting class and maybe do more audio, we’ll see! I’m thinking I’ll explore more print this semester, and if I feel I still wanna do more audio next semester I’m going to look into it then.

DAY 9-10

The last of my roommates moved in on Friday, day 9. It was so exciting to have the apartment feel full and lively! I like both of my roommates a whole lot and am really pleased with how things turned out. We made trips to Target, Home Depot and Homegoods together. It was so nice to be able to do these trips with other people because before they moved in, I was doing them by myself and I really don’t mind that! But it is nice to have someone to get opinions from, and also to help you carry things.

My roommate and her friend on our way back from Home Depot

My favourite purchase in a long time are these makeshift blinds that are foldable and all you have to do is cut them to the length you need and stick them to the top of your window frame. I don’t even think I’ll need curtains now that I have these.

I also would have liked to do more fun things this weekend, since it’s my first proper weekend in New York. I had this grand idea that I’d rent a bike and cycle all of Central Park but a) I didn’t know who to do it with and b) Hurricane Henri came down on us. It’s been raining pretty much non-stop since Saturday night and it has just been so gross and humid outside.

And that’s it for my first (super eventful) 10 days! I’m not even including everything, mind you. I just can’t be bothered to go that much into detail and plus I just frankly don’t even remember all of it. It was really tough at times, and honestly New York just feels too big sometimes. In DC, it never takes that long to get anywhere. The metro stations are all air conditioned and equipped with escalators — plus they’re just so much cleaner. I mean, I literally saw a flattened rat on the 1 line earlier today. But I just feel super super blessed and grateful to be here, and hopefully now that I’m more settled in and soon when the weather becomes a lot more pleasant, I’m hoping things will get a lot more enjoyable here.


It’s been a while. Some life updates.

Hello! I know it’s been forever and a half since I wrote anything here (I barely even remembered how to navigate WordPress, to be honest). But it’s been quite a year for me, and I thought I’d take the time to share some of my recent life updates.

My first ‘adult’ resignation

I think most people who know me would have known that I spent the past two and a half years working at BFM as a producer on The Morning Run. Well, I resigned from that job several months ago.

I had been thinking of leaving because I felt like I had done what I wanted to do. Things day to day started to feel a little bit repetitive, and I just felt like I wasn’t challenged enough — like there wasn’t an avenue there for me to sufficiently grow in the ways I was looking to grow. So I took the plunge and left, before I even fully solidified my next steps (which, if you know how risk averse I am, is kind of surprising, but more on this later).

I’m very deeply grateful for my time there. I learned so much about Malaysia, about economics, how to tell stories through different mediums, how to learn new things quickly and how to work with others. Working on my microfinance piece and the one about the “lost generation” of COVID-19 were highlights. Helping create Season 3 of Rumit was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. And knowing that my work on The Morning Run day in and day out has helped keep thousands of Malaysians engaged and informed with the world around them every day has been tremendously meaningful to me — something that I know will stick with me for a long time.

I have always thought of my job at BFM as a form of public service and I know I’ll continue to seek that purpose in all my future work.

Me with my farewell cake that my friend Shin Yiing made for me!
Obligatory last day photo with some of my work pals!
Check out this amazing drawing my friend Lyn made of me! I’m never without my sunnies, so that was on point
The farewell cards I had commissioned for my team (my brother in law made them and I was super pleased with how they came out!!)
They’re gonna *kill* me for posting this but this was my last production meeting with my team ❤

My last day of work was May 24th. Coincidentally, it was also the day I received the first dose of my COVID-19 vaccination. It was such an emotional day! It just felt like such a benchmark of a new beginning.

After getting my first dose after my last day of work

Volunteering at a vaccine center

After leaving BFM (like, literally the next day) I began volunteering at the IDCC vaccination centre.

I had such a great time and I am not exaggerating at all when I say it has been an honour to have spent my time doing that. I think vaccinations are so important for us to be able to resume our lives safely and I’m humbled just to have been a tiny part of that effort. It makes me happy to know I have done a small part to help thousands of people stay healthy, and to make that process as pleasant as I possibly can.

Me at the IDCC vax center with the dorky government-supplied vest for volunteers lol

The other reason I loved the experience was that, in many ways, the life I lead is so segregated. My neighbourhood, my grocery store, my friends… they’re all within a bubble of this upper middle class, progressive Malaysia. But the people who come for vaccinations truly come from all walks of life — rich, poor, of every race, age and profession (teachers, hawkers, dato sris, business owners, fund managers, actors, Grab drivers, footballers, retirees, priests, even Latheefa Koya and Amy Search). It’s a little corny but my brief conversations with them have taught me so much and helped me appreciate the diversity around me. I even picked up a few words in Chinese. And it makes me so happy to be able to connect with such a wide range of Malaysians, which is something don’t get to do regularly.

Morning briefing with all the volunteers

I tested positive for COVID-19

And if you kept up with the news, I think you probably know what happened next. I unfortunately was one of the more-than-200 volunteers who caught the virus in early July. Anyone I worked with there would have been able to tell you that I took all the precautions — I double masked, wore a face shield everyday and sanitised my hands ’til they cracked. And yet I still got it.

Alhamdulillah, I was asymptomatic and felt perfectly healthy the entire time I spent quarantining. My viral load was really low, too. In fact, the evening I found out my results, I had just spent over an hour playing badminton and Active Arcade with my family. I even climbed onto my roof to grab a shuttlecock. I am certain that being partly vaccinated helped. I’m also confident that’s what helped ensure I didn’t pass it to any of my family members, despite the fact that we live together, eat together and spend quite a lot of time together. That was a huge relief, and I’m super grateful for that.

Checking my oxygen levels everyday

Despite getting infected though, if given a choice to go back in time and decide again whether or not to volunteer, I would have made the same choice. It was unfortunate that I had to quarantine, but I am also privileged with good health and ample space at home. Plus, I am financially secure enough to be able to volunteer my time and spend 10 days at home without work. I believe it’s my responsibility to use these privileges to benefit others, and I think the risk was worth it for me, given my specific circumstances. And again, like I said, being able to help other Malaysians get vaxxed was really an honour for me.

I also want to say sorry to all the people I didn’t tell. I really didn’t want to answer questions about it, or have anyone take pity on me. It really bothered me to think that other people would be discussing my condition, or just talking about me. I really just didn’t want anyone to be talking about me and I hope you understand! COVID is such a tricky thing because with contact tracing and the need for support (because the rules can be so confusing and whatnot) it can be so difficult to maintain privacy, but I really really just wanted as much privacy (and normalcy, honestly!) during that time.

I am really thankful to my parents and my sister Julia who kept me fed and comfortable all the days I spent locked up in my room. Thank you also to everyone who sent me snacks and treats while we were stuck at home. Some people did small rounds of groceries for us. I’m also grateful for each one of my friends and family members who video called me, sent me tiktoks, Netflix partied with me or sent me songs to play on my ukulele I really can’t repay everyone enough. Your generosity means so much to me.

Modern Family was my best friend
Had to set up a mini desk in my room because I had no where else to work
I really cried tears laughing during this game of
My *pathetic* drawing skills
At the Covid Assessment Center
What I looked like when I went to the CAC to get my release letter from home quarantine lol

I’m going to attend Columbia Journalism School

In March, I was accepted into Columbia to do an M.S. in Journalism. If you knew me in 2017, you might know I’ve been saying I wanted to do it for ages. At first, it was supposed to happen a year after I moved back to Malaysia. But a year slowly turned into two, and then three. When the December 2020 deadline rolled around, I nearly didn’t apply just because I was lazy to write a few essays. It sounds silly, but I was so tired with work and all of that. Plus, I had actually gotten into another program in the UK earlier that month. In the end, I wound up deciding to give it a shot anyway so I put together the entire application in less than a day (!) and I’m so glad I did.

Columbia when I visited a few years ago

I’m really excited and I think in the end it happened at the right time. I found out that I got accepted on March 17th. But after that, it was a long stressful few months while I tried to figure out my funding situation. Columbia provided me with some financial aid and while I am grateful for it, at the end of the day, it was a tiny fraction. And without sponsorship I would honestly have had to turn it down. I applied for scholarships, sat for round after round of tests and interviews and for a while, I didn’t know if it would come together. Khazanah turned me down after a few rounds. I did Yayasan Dayadiri and got pretty far along but they were only going to give me a decision by mid-July, but I would have needed to start my visa application process by late June in order to arrive in time for the program. I didn’t qualify for many other scholarships because so few of them were willing to sponsor a Journalism student. In the end, alhamdulillah, I managed to get MARA’s help (again, I might add — without them, I also would not have been able to go to Penn).

It came to the point where I was ready to let it go, honestly. I was concurrently applying for jobs in case it didn’t work out (since I had already quit my BFM job earlier in the year) and some of those other options were actually quite exciting! Also, I had really come to love my life in Malaysia… and with that life being more or less on hold for the past year or so due to lockdown after lockdown, I really just missed it and wanted to see all my friends again.

Ultimately though, I’m glad I decided to do my Masters at a time when I was actually pretty satisfied with life here because that helped me feel quite prepared to accept whatever the eventual outcome might have been. I’m glad I’m not making this decision out of an urge to run away from my job, or because I was unhappy here for whatever reason, or to run back to an old life — it just simply felt like the right thing to do at the right time.

Those closest to me will know it took a village to make this happen. My parents and sisters helped me a lot with my Visa applications, logistics of getting my passport renewed in the middle of a total lockdown, taking a passport photo at home since all the shops were closed. I’m deeply grateful for my Uncle Asaraf — without his help, I wouldn’t have been able to apply for a visa since MARA’s letter came quite late. I’m grateful to my former bosses, Shou Ning, Noelle, Melisa, Caroline etc for taking a chance on me and nurturing me these past 3 years – I’m absolutely certain the experience made me a stronger candidate. My former editor, Neva, political science professor Mark Pollack and most recent supervisor Wong Shou Ning graciously wrote my recommendation letters. My friend Q helped me so much in navigating the scholarship application process and I’m so grateful I had her on my side.

You need to bring proof that you have a valid reason to renew your passport but if you can do that, I recommend doing it now because usually the Immigration HQ office is so packed but there was only one other family there that day!

My mum’s cousin, my Mak Long Eza and my neighbour/friend’s mum, Aunty Raz, helped me tremendously with completing my MARA agreement in the middle of a lockdown when I can’t easily get documents certified. I really really hate COVID for making errands that were annoying before (like going to the post office, LHDN, or commissioner of oath) a pure pain now. But we managed to get all my documentation done with everyone’s help.

So many people also talked to me about job opportunities that I might have liked to take had the Columbia thing fallen through — the potential of these backup plans helped me sleep at night while I navigated the uncertainties. Philip See and Rahmah Pauzi were some of my best supporters. And I know that all my family members and dearest friends (I can’t name everyone! And anyway this isn’t the Oscars!) kept me in their prayers during this stressful time, and I really just cannot thank them enough for that.

Moving to New York

I also want to shoutout to … myself, honestly (lol) for juggling all the nightmarish logistics of moving across the world amidst a global pandemic.

No one ever told me how difficult it is to rent an apartment in New York City. It’s so unlike anything I saw in DC or Philly, where I lived previously. You have to be able to prove (with tax returns, bank statements, employment letters and pay slips) that you have an annual income 40x the monthly rent. So naturally, most students won’t be able to do that and have to rely on a guarantor. Guarantors need to prove that they make 80x the monthly rent in annual income (with all the same documentation). The catch is that if you’re an international student, you likely won’t have someone in the US who would be able to do that for you. There were third party guarantors (corporate ones) that would act as a guarantor on people’s behalf, but in the end you wind up paying more and that sucks when you’re on a student budget, right. Anyway, I’m super lucky and grateful because a dear friend of mine (who I guess I won’t name just for privacy?) agreed to help me out and be my guarantor.

But the pinning down an apartment was a whole lot of work too. I spent hours and hours in the middle of the night (yay 12 hour time difference!) viewing apartments virtually and doing roommate interviews. There was lots of nights while I was on quarantine where I was up at 3 a.m. discussing security deposits and all that good stuff. It took me 3 weeks before I found a place but I’m very happy with how things worked out.

My unamused face at 1 a.m. doing an apartment viewing

Getting a US Visa in the middle of a pandemic was also a concern, because I needed to cross district lines to make my appointment, and I wasn’t even sure I could get an appointment on such short notice since I had heard that the embassy was taking emergency/citizen appointments only. But that all worked out too, alhamdulillah.

The only photo I took in KL on the way to my US embassy appointment and probably my last in a long time 😦

Of course these are just the main things. But that’s pretty much all the updates I wanted to share today!

It’s pretty downright sucky that I have to leave in the middle of a pandemic. My friend Fahmida said recently “I don’t want to make new friends, I just want to see the friends and family I already have” and I totally feel the same way right now. I already miss all my friends and family. To miss them more now, just sucks. But inshaAllah I’ll be home before long and I’m praying those will be better times for us all.

All in all, 2020 was a time of a lot of stagnation. And 2021, in some ways, brought even more grief and heartbreak but thankfully, also a lot of hope. It’s crazy for me to think about how much has changed for me in the past 6 months or so. I guess sometimes a bit of stagnation can really get you going, no? This is the most hopeful, excited and optimistic I’ve felt in a very long time and I honestly pray the same for all of you.

Two Ends Of The Same Decade

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I think this whole “end of the decade” thing is quite silly because in a way, time is arbitrary. Who decided that January has to be the start of the year? And you can pick any two dates ten years apart and call it a decade. And you can make resolutions for the next 365 days any day you want! But as it turns out, my brain is very good at partitioning the part of my mind that thinks all of this is ridiculous from the part of my mind that has been absolutely fixated on how overwhelming it feels to close out these 10 years in particular.

I suppose part of this stems from the realisation that I am not the same person I was at the start of it. Granted, this was also true the last time we wrapped up a socially-agreed-upon definition of a decade. I was most certainly very different at six and 16. But I think that’s why this has been on my mind. Because at 16, I didn’t really have a lot of memories of what my life was like in the ten years prior. I couldn’t compare the way I saw the world in Form 4 with the way I did when I was in kindergarten. I didn’t have a comprehensive body of knowledge of cringe-worthy things I said or funny things I did when I was six. Six-year-old and 16-year-old me felt like completely distinct people in that regard.

But I do actually remember what it was like to be 16. I mean, I still think about that year from time to time. And when I do, it doesn’t even feel like that long ago.

And so at 26, I have just realised I am suddenly a person with… I suppose you can say a person with a past. I know that sounds like dark and mysterious or whatever, but I don’t mean it in that way. I guess it just dawned on me that I’m now a person who actually has a consciousness of the prior iterations of myself, which I can always refer to and compare my present self with. I’m now a person who has made consequential, deliberate choices for myself. A person who can say I have memories that have stuck with me for over 10 years.


I don’t think many people stay the same in their twenties as they were in their teens because the years in between are often monumental. I’m no exception. Yet, I find the difference to be exceptionally salient and sobering.

The thing is, 10 years ago, the same bedroom I live in now was lavender and covered with notes on chemical equations and physics formulas and labelled drawings of organs that I was really proud of. I had just turned 16, and was about to enter the most important year of schooling for Malaysians. I was going to take the seemingly-life-defining SPM. Things felt clear cut: it seemed as though I just needed to ace the national exam, get a scholarship, get into a good university… and that would be it. It felt to me at the time like all I needed was to just steer my ship right, and I would be off on the right course for life.

The SPM exam was done and dusted with more As than I had hoped for. The scholarship was generous. Then I spent half the decade halfway around the world, where the good university gave me a very good degree.

But just over a year ago, I returned to where the decade began for me.

So 2019 was my first full year living back in Malaysia. And not just in Malaysia, but in the same neighbourhood, in the very same bedroom I grew up in. The walls are different now. I made sure of that. The school girl notes have been scrapped and the super girly lavender painted over in … I don’t even know what this whiteish greyish blueish colour is called.

But because I had vacated this place for so many years, when I came back, it took a really long time for me to be able see it as it really is in the present, since I didn’t really have a current, active life here. Everything I saw, I felt was tinted by the lens of my adolescence. Because that made up some of the last working memories I had of this place — some of the best memories I had of living here before I left. And in the years I was away, my mental images of this place became stuck in time.

In this way, I felt like I’ve been forced to get reacquainted with the old version me ever since I came back. I catch myself not only thinking about my life as a 16-year-old at the start of the decade but also, on occasion, even occupying her headspace. Think of it like returning to a room for the first time in a long time, and recognizing a lingering scent — but instead of taking in an old smell, I got a whiff of an old frame of mind.

I think wistfully from time to time about who I might have been had I never left this town. If you knew me back then, you might know I never really dreamt of living abroad and had more than half a mind to stay close to home and study at UM. I also picture what my life might’ve looked like if I had gotten married to a nice Malay guy with a super respectable profession, like 16-year-old me imagined I would’ve been by now (I used to think I would meet my significant other the same way and time my parents did, which is in university, married by 24).

And what gets me is not just the comparison with who I thought I’d be by now… it’s also this sort of longing I have to reconnect with parts of that self which I miss. I try to draw from 16-year-old me’s sense of connection to a community. I scour for the openness and generosity to give and receive warmth to others less discriminately, which I feel like I had and lost. I try to remember my sense of hopefulness (I wanted to “help the country” and all that good stuff), as well as feeling of accomplishment (an A+ for add maths for example, felt so tangible, so enviable, so promising).

But the decade had a lot in store for me which I hadn’t and simply couldn’t have anticipated. I wonder what I would’ve said if someone told me at 16 that this is who I’d end up being in 10 years. Maybe old me would be proud of current me since I went to an ~ivy league~ school or whatever (I don’t think I even knew what those were in 2009) and worked abroad and travelled to lots of different places and met people from all over the world. But I also think maybe that’s just because the me at 16 just thought that less was possible to accomplish.

In some ways I envy that old version of myself. It was easier to feel good or like I was ahead of the curve in measurable ways: by looking at what number I placed in class, how many extracurriculars I did, how many people said they had crushes on me. It’s more difficult for me to say whether 2009 me would be proud of me today because I didn’t really have a particular ambition. Many of my friends back then wanted to be doctors or lawyers or accountants. And they can now look back, pat themselves on the back and say, I’m a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant.

But me, I can’t really draw a line between where I was at the start and the end of the decade. For better or for worse. Not only in terms of ambition but also my sense of self and the world around me. The only thing that seems to help tie the two ends of the decade is this room, this town, this place.


Just a few weeks ago, I was rummaging through my old things. I’ve always liked to keep little memorabilia like ticket stubs, letters, photos, filter paper from my high school laboratory, chipped pieces of wood from floors of past apartments and hardened rubber bands from I don’t even know what. But this also applies to remnants of my life online.

Hidden among MySpace and MSN messenger screenshots and old photos and poems in .txt files was, to my surprise, a folder of nearly 50 minutes of voice recordings which I completely forgot I even had from 10 years ago. I listened to all the excerpts of conversations with people I don’t speak to anymore. They were the most inane, innocent conversations. (Why are penguins’ bellies white? What phrase of Malay would you teach to a foreigner?) But I was rapt.

I think a lot of times when we remember our old memories, we really only remember fragments. Our brain’s strong desire to form coherent narratives automatically fills in the blanks. So when I see photos of myself from 2009, or think back to my own memories from 10 years ago, I recognise with a tinge of regret that I’ll never know how true to life my images from those times were.

And yet when I listened to those old conversation recordings, I was startled when I discovered that at several points, I coincidentally thought of some of the same responses I said out loud in the voice note. It was like anticipating the responses of a friend you know really well. I even laughed at many of the same moments I did on the phone call. The same laugh at the same times.

That voice — my own voice! — felt like the most unfiltered account of who I was back then. And there I was in 2019, laughing in cross-decade unison.

With a deep ache in my belly, I missed 16-year-old me and the simplicity of the life I was living. I miss that version of me like you might miss an old friend you had lost touch with but often think fondly of. But I was comforted at least by the fact that there was still a tiny part of me from 2009 that persisted through the decade, and will probably always be embedded in me.

It fit like a glove.

My 11 months in Washington, D.C. was nothing short of magical.

I love the rows of houses in this city.

It started in September. Hanna picked me up in Philadelphia bright and early with a trunk full of the boxes I stored at her house over the summer. I had that first-day-of-school feeling. I kept joking that it felt like she was dropping me off at sleep away camp. I didn’t have a lot of things and I pretty much finished unpacking by the time she arrived back in Philly. 

I didn’t start working until a week after I got there so that first week was mostly me watching Netflix in bed and eating maggi. I was too jet lagged to do anything most of the time. But I had google mapped 14th St long before I got to D.C., and was itching to see it for real so one morning, I decided to get out of the apartment and walk 10 mins down to Trader Joe’s to start stocking up my empty kitchen cabinets. There’s something about using the keys to your own apartment for the first time that feels like staking a claim. And there’s something special about walking down your street for the first time that feels like a ribbon cutting ceremony in the privacy your own mind. It was hot, but not too. It was a moment. I had a bit of a strut in my step. I felt good. Instantly. 

It was never like that in Philly. There, I took many timid steps and tentative trips for years. I resisted making it feel like home somehow. But in my senior year, I don’t know, something changed. I think I’ve said that on here before. I just felt like whatever anchor I was dragging for a long time was cut loose. I regretted not loving it there more, or not trying harder to love it. When I was just about to graduate college, I desperately felt like I wanted a bit more time. A bit of a do-over.

And that was partly why I could jump in so wholeheartedly into life in D.C. It was like my second chance. Even back in October I had gotten that sense… it was like I came back to the U.S. after spending the summer after senior year in Malaysia with a voice in my head that said “okay, go again, and love it this time.” And I did.

And nothing has ever fit like a glove the way Washington, D.C. did.

I learned which route on the Metro I liked taking best. I frequented old and new favourite coffee shops around this new city (to me, it was a sign of Mercy that La Colombe—a Philly fav of mine—on Florida Ave was only a 5 min walk from my apartment). I started going to restaurants and ice cream shops with the wonderful people in my intern class. I went through the annoying process of getting health insurance on the D.C. exchange and paying for it myself every month. I learned the roads, the rivers, the suburbs. There was always a wholesome activity to do, whether it was the museums or walking in Rock Creek Park, kayaking on the Potomac, watching movies with MoviePass, or watching The Moth or a comedy show. With the help of my former NPR colleagues, I advocated for myself for a job at D.C.’s NPR member station, WAMU, when my NPR internship ended.


And that was other thing. Both of my jobs were a huge part of why D.C. was so special. Back in April, when I found out I got a summer internship with How I Built This, I realised there was a little bit of a wrinkle in my plan. I knew I would have to apply for a post-college work visa. I didn’t realise when I applied that it wouldn’t come through in time for the internship (if it came through at all). So I had to call my would-be supervisor, Jeff, to tell him about my sticky little situation. He had every right to just revoke the opportunity from me, or tell me to reapply. But instead, he deferred me to the Fall internship, which ended up working better for me because I was then able to spend raya at home—it was going to be my sister Aida’s last raya at home in Malaysia for a while, so that was a big deal. In the end if the visa situation wasn’t an issue and I didn’t get deferred, I would’ve had to go 17 months without going back to Malaysia. I would’ve had to spend raya in D.C. before I really got to form any roots. I wouldn’t have gotten to work with Benjamin, who has been one of the biggest joys from the past year. In hindsight, it feels like a pure act of divine intervention. A miracle.


When my stint at NPR was coming to an end in January, I was mired with quite a bit of apprehension about being unemployed. On my visa, you’re not allowed to be unemployed for a certain amount of time and I really didn’t want to eat into that time. And it’s kinda hard to get a job in radio/media. I wasn’t restricting myself to that necessarily, but it was definitely difficult to find a job at all. My time at NPR was ending on the 26th of January. I was introduced to someone at WAMU just one or two weeks before that and just happened to have someone on their team leaving on the 26th. The timing worked perfectly. It was for a job on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, a daily talk-show about local goings-on—in politics, health, culture, transportation, the schools, the environment. It was very intimidating because everything about it was both difficult and unfamiliar for me. I didn’t know D.C. very well (other than where my favourite restaurants and spots were) and I had no experience producing a daily show that was live.

It took me quite some time to settle into a rhythm there but once I did, it just made me love the city 50 times more. When I started learning about the graduation rates, new healthcare policies, elections and the history of the city for the job, I just felt so much more acquainted with it and so much more connected to where I lived. I could walk around with an awareness of what was going on in the neighbourhoods and spheres that I had no personal stake in. I felt integrated and involved, like a real adult who lived in this real city. I loved getting into a Lyft in D.C. and hearing people listen to WAMU—once I even got in and someone was listening to a show I produced! And because Kojo is a local show, people have a much stronger connection to it. I was proud and happy that I was helping people get their stories told and I got a deeper appreciation for local journalism that I had never really thought about before.

Our studio at WAMU.

Me ~on the job~

So, living in D.C. wasn’t just fun because it was fun. It was fun because I felt like I grew up here. I was invested. I had to swim or I might’ve sunk.

But that isn’t to say that living in D.C. wasn’t fun. It was so, so, so much fun. It’s a great place to be in your early 20s. I loved where I lived. The apartment was so lovely. It’s a little intimidating to move into an apartment with someone you found on Craigslist and only spoke to over Google Hangouts for like 15 minutes. But I really enjoyed living with my roommate so much—a bonus was that she was pescatarian (!) and didn’t eat meat so I never had to worry about bacon/pork/sharing pots etc, haha.

Me and my roommate, Sally.

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My fav corner of the apartment.

Plus, I loved the friends I made. They are some of the most amazing people I know. A lot of people move to a new city and have trouble growing roots but coming into D.C. with an intern class of 50-60 people was so much fun. Having a group of Malaysians in D.C. to have home-cooked dinner with every few weeks really made me feel comforted. And when my friend Clare who I knew from Penn moved to D.C., it just kept getting better. It was also nice to have people who I could say to people in D.C., “I knew them from before.” (I also liked that in D.C., I had a “before.” I came from somewhere in the U.S., and I had a history.) Plus, people were always visiting D.C. and I loved getting to see my friends like Busra, Jamie and Cristina as they passed through town.



Most of the Tania dinner club crew.

Nadia & Jin getting the shot for the ‘gram at Tania’s.

Swee Ee’s tong yuen + bananagrams.


And the neighbourhoods are so wonderful. I can’t even fully say how much. D.C. is so small and so dense but it is built of so many distinct neighbourhoods. With a 30 min walk within D.C., you can feel like you’re in a whole other city because each area is so different. And the neighbourhoods all push against each other and they’re always changing and growing. Something is always happening. There is always something to discover and rediscover.



I also love that most tourists come for the weekend and they don’t see much other than the Mall and the monuments. And maybe they go downtown. Or they venture to U Street. But not everyone knows the amazing scrappy little restaurants in Columbia Heights or Petworth. Or the more sterile Tenleytown. Or historic Shaw. It’s like there’s D.C. the government city, the capital. And then there’s a little Narnia cupboard that you walk through if you live here and it’s D.C., a real, vibrant city.


My life in D.C. is hard to walk away from. I wouldn’t have made that choice had I had a choice. It’s funny how something can fit easily like a glove but can difficult to remove.


As I write this, I’m at the Doha airport and I don’t know how many more of these 24-hour journeys are ahead of me, but by the time you read this, I would probably have braved the entirety of my day-long journey. I will probably be home in my childhood bedroom, with its lavender walls, zoo-animal-themed ceiling light and finger-painted bathroom door. I have absolutely no idea what’s ahead of me, and I know I must resist the urge to keep looking back. But the one thing I know for sure at this point is that that when I do glance backwards, the image in the rear view mirror will be full of magic.

Young, Growing, Glowing

I’m writing this at the tail end of what has been the. best. week. ever.

Like, how do I even tell you? Ok I guess I’ll start by saying that we had a 4-day weekend for Thanksgiving break. Work-wise, that meant the past couple of weeks were rough—we only worked 3 days this past week and I kinda only had 2 proper days of work the week prior because I did the bootcamp program thing. And that’s pretty much why I didn’t blog last week: I was just so groggy and tired. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but one night, I came home at about 11 pm. Meals were skipped. Sleep was sacrificed.

I think that’s something I didn’t expect from the job but makes total sense… that is, no matter what, an episode comes out on Monday and all the work that goes into putting out an episode has to be done by Monday, regardless of what’s going on. Obviously all this “cramming” can be avoided with planning ahead but you can only do so much planning when your work also relies on other people, etc.

So yeah, that meant this 4-day weekend came at a REALLY good time and it turned out amazingly well. I spent it in Philly, which was just such a good decision on my part. On Thursday morning, before I left for Union Station, I did kinda feel a little lazy to travel… I felt like maybe I should’ve just vegged out at home. But I am beyond glad I went. It was just like a “balik kampung” feeling.

First of all, it was just surreal to be back in Philadelphia. Honestly, part of me felt like I never left. To top it all off, I stayed at my friend Oliver’s place while he was out of town for the holiday and he lives literally across the hall from my old apartment. So walking into that building, pressing the elevator button and trekking down the hall just felt so natural and automated. It was a bizarre feeling, to say the least. And walking through campus was just overwhelming. As I walked up Walnut Street, it just sent flashes of memories through my mind like a bunch of scenes from a long film spliced together. I don’t know how else to explain this other than to say it was magical. It felt like home. Really, it felt the same way as when I go back to KL for summers. It was intoxicating and confusing. I especially appreciated this because the feelings weren’t purely saccharine; they were complex and tinged with the bitterness I felt every time I landed at the Philly airport. As I rode through campus, I couldn’t help remembering all the times I’ve gone down that same street at the beginning of the semester, feeling groggy and annoyed that I had to be back on campus and now those memories of resentment just make me chuckle a little. It’s funny.


And of course, it was amazing to see my friends again. Ken and Vera both came to Philly for the holiday, and our friend Selina is still at Penn so we all hung out together. It made me really miss Shahirah, May May and Hui Jie though. On Thursday night, we got dinner at Banana Leaf (and had kangkung belacan!!!!) in lieu of a “proper” Thanksgiving dinner (we all didn’t have kitchens so like, can you blame us). That night, we decided to go to the Philadelphia Premium Outlet mall thing for Black Friday shopping—something I’ve never done but have always wanted to try for the sake of it. PPO is only like ~30-40 minutes away from Penn but my goodness, the traffic!! We were stuck in the car for 2.5 hours! I have to say though, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it because it felt like we were on a real road trip and I appreciated the length of the drive since it meant we almost went through Taylor Swift’s entire discography.

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MayMay wasn’t there but Ken and I got to talk to her for like 2 hours, which was nice ❤


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Shopping was kinda fun and I’d say it was worth it because I got some insane deals for things I actually needed, so I’m not complaining. It was pretty cold though and by the time we left PPO it was like… 5 am or something. We got back at 6 and by that point it had been like 24 hours since I woke up the morning before. I slept ASAP but if you’ve ever fallen asleep as the sun is rising (and if you’re a normal college student, I know you probably have…) you’d know that it’s not that easy. Like, your body is trained to get up with the sun… so by 8.30 I was having trouble staying asleep. I fought it for a bit but eventually I decided to go get Federal Donuts. Because here’s the other thing about my trip to Philly: I had a mission. And that was to cross off all the items on my craving list. I kid you not, last week, I even called all the restaurants I wanted to go to during my trip and checked what their holiday schedule was like. So yeah, I had fed nuts for breakfast, and then I had brunch at Beijing (where I was reunited with my all time fav, walnut shrimp) lol.



And then soon after, I had to get ready to leave because we were heading out of town to Wissahickon Valley Park for some hiking. I gotta say, I was a teensy bit nervous about it because I am not athletic but it was like…….. not even a hike. It was just us walking for 2+ hours. The view. was. beautiful. It was nice to be in nature after spending 5 hours participating in senseless consumerism the night before, you know? Plus, I had been yapping to Ken about wanting to see golden trees, so I was super happy when I got what I wanted. The park had the lingering autumn leaves in all its glorious colours and we had so many laughs going through the trail, taking pictures, telling stories. It was serene, the weather was absolutely ideal for hiking and the company was perfect. It’s one of those things I know I’ll remember for a very, very long time.




Then, for dinner, we had Korean food and I had some reeeeaaaal good dukbokki. We talked at dinner for hours and it felt just like college again. I loved that the conversations weren’t about like… “so where do you work? What do you do?” and it’s not because they already necessarily know what I do at work, but it’s because they know me, and they have more to talk about with me than jobs and what it’s like living in DC, etc. Over dinner, we talked about some of the things we were grateful for throughout our time at Penn and it made me realize again what I already knew: we had a good thing going. As much as I didn’t like school, I loved my friends and I loved that we had a community. I’ve said it a few times on here already, but that’s what I so sorely miss now that I’ve left school. It really is so easy when you have a group of people who feel like family and for that brief day, it felt like I had it again.

That night, I came back to Oliver’s place and I. just. crashed. I mean, at that point, I had gone shopping and hiking on very minimal sleep so really, it was inevitable that I fell asleep at 9 pm. I woke up almost 12 hours later and I just felt utterly renewed. It was beautiful.

On Saturday morning, our last day there, Selina hosted a cute little brunch thing at her lovely apartment. She had a cheese board and grapes, which I always appreciate, and she served us old town white coffee + kaya toast. It doesn’t really get any better than that. At brunch, I also got to see my dear Kimmy, who’s now a sophomore!! Recall that I met her in a creative writing seminar when she was a freshman and we became fast friends. I was so excited to see her again and I spent pretty much the rest of the day with her. We played air hockey and ping pong on Selina’s roof top for a while, which was insanely fun (Kim and I won air hockey!!) but I was still on my quest to cross things off my craving list, so after brunch, Kim and I went to Han Dynasty for some good ol’ veggie dan dan noodles. We caught up, talked about everything under sun… and then we went back to the Ludlow house to take a nap hahaha.



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I just want to take a moment to say that I love the Ludlow house. It started off a couple of years ago as Shaun, Lian Han and Ken’s scrappy lil home. Later, May May moved in when Shaun graduated and Hui Jie moved in when Lian Han graduated the semester after. So that house just became more and more so a home base for me and my friends. I love that the “legacy” of the house is kinda still being continued now that Kim and a few other Malaysian/Singaporeans are living there. It just makes me feel so happy. When Ken, Selina and I talked about the house with Vera the other day, Vera pointed out that if this was a novel, the house would really be like a character in and of itself… and she’s right. And that’s really cool.

But anyway, I loved that I got to hang out there again. The place looks and feels really different, but still the same in some ways. It’s cleaner and nicer and more packed but still really homey. I took a nap in Kim’s room which was nice because it’s the kind of hang out you’d have with someone if you had an abundance of time… even though we didn’t.

Then, for dinner, just before my bus, I saw Jamie at Zavino’s. At first I thought I wasn’t going to get to see her since she usually visits family for break but she got back in time for me to catch her and I loved that we got to split some ricotta + rosemary flatbread together because that meal and that restaurant is just super special to me and I have many fond memories of being there with Jamie. She’s a senior now and it’s such a strange feeling seeing her go through some of the things I went through just a year ago… it’s funny how much things can change in a year.


But yeah, then I had to head out to catch my bus at 6.45 and head back to DC. It was a pleasant ride back and I’m thankful I didn’t get motion sickness either on my way to or from Philly—that’s usually a big problem for me.

Today was mostly just recuperating and relaxing, enjoying the last of the weekend before I head back to the grind tomorrow morning. I would’ve loved to spend a bit more time in Philly but a) Ken had left anyway and b) the last time I returned to DC on a Sunday evening, I felt like shit the rest of the week so I’m definitely glad I came back on Saturday night.

I had the loveliest day today, though. I got copious amounts of sleep. I did my laundry. I went to the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall, which was really nice because even though I’ve been in DC for a couple of months now, I haven’t been back there since I first visited DC with Shahirah over 3 years ago. I watched people ice skate at the sculpture garden, and it made me really excited for winter holidays with my family again. I saw the sunset as I walked back up town. I got groceries at Trader Joe’s. I came back and made the. most. delicious. loaf of banana and chocolate chip bread while watching X Factor UK with my roommate. And now I’m just winding down preparing to sleep and writing this.



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I really am so thankful for this weekend and for where I am in life right now. Weekend trips with 3-hour bus rides, karaoke drives with friends, shopping til 5 am, fitting 10 people in a tiny little living room, taking long walks alone in the city without having to answer to anyone… it’s the kinds of things you can only really do when you’re young. That confusing feeling of not having a “home” anymore? That’s what it’s like when you’re young and rootless and growing. And sometimes it’s scary or just flat out annoying but there are moments that just feel like pure gold—like your heart is glowing.

What I’m about to say is so cheesy, but a few weeks ago, I was on my commute home from work and I was changing lines on the Metro at Gallery Place when I thought about how insanely lucky I am that things worked out the way they did. A year ago I felt kinda lost. Graduating felt like jumping off a cliff and freefalling. But I realized that day that you only fear falling if you don’t know you can fly. (Told you it was cheesy.) But it’s true. I still am rootless and a little bit aimless but I’ve figured it out before and I can figure it out again, and again, and again. This weekend really felt like everything will always turn out ok and even if it doesn’t, there will be moments of pure gold in the midst of everything. That’s just what it feels like to be young and growing.


Ok can we skip to the part where we become BFFs already?

I’ve been in DC for over 2 months now and in some ways, it just keeps getting better. I know neighbourhoods, grocery stores I like, bus routes and coffee places I prefer. I no longer struggle to wriggle my keys into and out of my apartment door. I no longer have to read the signs when I’m changing lines on the Metro on my daily commutes and I figured out the best places to consistently keep my work ID and Metro card. These kinds of things make me really happy.

But I miss the depth of my life in Philly. I don’t consider myself a person who gets lonely much. I rarely feel like I need people, or a certain person to be around me. But maybe that’s what I’m feeling right now? As in, I miss making extra pancakes for my friends. I made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast on Saturday and was like… these would be great to share but guess I’ll just make them for myself?? I miss texting my friends when I have baked goods and have them just walk over quickly. I miss how those quick visits sometimes turn into late nights on the couch talking about every and anything.

I have a birthday coming up and as much as I have enjoyed the company of my new friends (I honestly cannot stress this enough—some of the people I’ve met these past few months are the nicest, most talented people I have ever met) I just want to be with the people who already know me really well.

I don’t really feeling like throwing a party with “nice to meet you” and “what do you do?” and “I just moved here from Houston in September”. I want “I was at Hubbub and I moved seats twice to move closer to my usual spot with the power outlet”. I want “this wedding photographer just requested to follow me on Instagram for the fourth time”. I want granularity. I want inside jokes. I want people who know where Damansara is and what cendol is. I want 2 a.m. conversations in Manglish.

I think that the kinds of friends I miss are the ones with a shared history. And I know that a shared history can be developed over time, but I guess right now I feel a little impatient. I also know I have my all my friends at my fingertips. I text May May and Sha all the time. But they’re not here.

Anyway, like I said, I don’t mean to suggest that I’m making no headway or that I don’t have fun because I do! I love it here and I absolutely adore the friends I’ve made in DC (though I’d appreciate it if we could become BFFs quicker because I’m bored, y’know?). Last night I made nasi lemak and invited Ken’s friend Vera over for dinner. I met Vera during Thanksgiving a couple of years ago while she was visiting Ken in Philly and we reconnected during Ken’s recent visits to DC. I totally knew we would get along, and I was right. We hung out just the two of us for the first time last night and I had such a nice time.

I could’ve talked to her all night, but I also wanted to go to Claire’s birthday thing the same night so I decided to bring Vera with me, and I’m glad I did! Vera is so good with new people and it was so much more fun having her with me. It’s also nice to hang out with work people like Claire, Benjamin and Rachel outside of the office. Claire is a huge denim enthusiast so she had a denim theme and I have to say, it’s such a good one because people always have so many opinions about colours and not everyone has polka dots or whatever. So props to Claire for picking a pretty accessible and fun theme haha. I also met a couple of people who did Fulbright in Malaysia in the past and it was SO EXCITING. We bonded over laksa and char kuey teow and it brought out all the –lahs in me instantly.


Vera and Benjamin turn parties into French lessons.

I’ve also been reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in ages. Yesterday, I saw Bu for coffee. I know Bu from following my dad to work when he was training BNM’s fresh grads. I’ve kept in touch with a number of the people I met there, and Bu is one of them. He’s living in DC now and we talked for like two hours. It’s sometimes nice to see someone who has a lot of mutual friends with you, especially when you’re in a new city. The familiarity is lovely. He also has been here for a bit longer than I have so he gave me advice about the city and you know, working and life and all that.


Today, I had lunch with Alya. She’s my parents’ friends’ daughter and she was probably my first friend ever in my whole life? Or at least, the first friend I remember having. We have quite a few pictures together of us as kids. But I haven’t seen her since… we couldn’t even remember when. More than 10 years, for sure. It was cool to catch up now that we’re both living in the same city! We had veggie ramen at this cute place in Adams Morgan (I love that neighbourhood) and it was amazing.


So yeah. It’s all good. In fact, it’s great. It’s just not home, but that’s ok. We did it once and we can do it again (did I ever tell you that when I talk to myself, I refer to myself as “we”? It’s like the me who’s speaking is different than the me I’m speaking to).

Until next time 🙂

Butterscotch Blondies, Bootcamp and… Being Bad at Blogging

I love me a good alliteration, y’know?

I just made some black pepper tofu stir fry thing and am now just chilling while Pitch Perfect 2 is on (you know how much I love movies with songs and coordinated dances!!). Work was pretty chill this week so I’m trying to use the downtime to kinda frontload stuff and get ahead.

This morning, I brought my butterscotch blondies to work because they were so good and I know if I didn’t share them, I would’ve end up eating it all myself… and that would’ve been so bad. I think people liked them but they weren’t as amazing as they were yesterday. I was FaceTiming May May yesterday while the blondies were in the oven and when I took them out she witnessed my sheer surprise when I tasted them for the first time. I liked that May May was at least “there” for that because I definitely miss baking stuff and just texting my friends saying like “hey guys, I made this, come over to try some if you’re free”. So it was at least nice to share it with people at work.

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Got a chance to try out this snazzy new toy I just got ON SALE AT TARGET!! I’ve ALWAYS wanted a Kitchen Aid.

Also, this week, I’m hoping to hear back about whether or not I got into this audio production bootcamp program thing that NPR has for interns. It’s this 2.5-day program where we get like a crash course in audio production from some senior editors and at the end of it we get paired with a mentor from the newsroom or something like that. Everyone who was interested had to take this test of audio proficiency last and out of the 20 or so people who took it, only 8 people will get in. I’m kind of not a fan of the competitiveness it adds but it is what it is, I guess and if I get it, cool, and if not, it won’t make or break anything.

We (we as in the How I Built This team) also just announced that we’re putting on a couple more live shows this year, which is exciting! The next one is on 30th Nov in DC. Guy will be interviewing Robert L. Johnson, who founded BET and I’m so excited that it’s local because I’ll get to go!!

In other recent updates, Ken came to visit again! We went to Thip Khao, which was that Laotian place I took Jamie when she came a couple of weeks ago, and it did not disappoint. The fried catfish and tofu laab were just amazing. Before dinner though, I took Ken to NPR to see the studio and my office and he seemed to really enjoy it, which made me really happy! I loved getting to share my “new world” to an old(er) friend.


After NPR, we came back to my neighbourhood to get dinner and the wait for the restaurant was like an HOUR. It was raining so we couldn’t just walk around and there weren’t any restaurants in the area that were nearly as good so we just went to this random place nearby to wait. At first, Ken suggested we go to Five Guys to split some fries but then I was like no lah, and suggested we go to this place called Z Burger??? because a sign said they had milkshakes and I had been craving milkshakes. But we walked in and I got distracted by onion rings!!!! Hahahaha. So we ended up getting onion rings and… fries. It was good though! I grilled the guy at the cashier over what kind of onion rings they had (breadcrumbs? floury? big? small? how many do you get? etc) and he seemed very amused by my indecision haha. But he gave us “Z sauce” which was thousand island + cajun and was just amazing with onion rings….. and….. this paragraph has evolved into a paragraph about food and isn’t about Ken anymore but um… basically it was a fun weekend. Here’s a picture of me and my preferred ring that Ken took:

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Anyway, I think that’ll be all for this week, haha. I’m going to febreeze the hell out of this apartment to tone down the black pepper smell lol byeeee!


I just got back to my apartment after a good dinner with some fellow Malaysians. It’s been raining in DC all day and it was so good to cosy up with some asian food and speak Manglish about like, places to eat in Damansara or whatever. Now I’m curled up in a chair while X Factor UK is on—my roommate absolutely loves this show and she’s so animated that I feel like part of the fun of watching TV with her is just watching her reactions.

Anyway! Guys! October is coming to a close and it’s been such a fun month so I figured I’d just go through some highlights that I’ve been meaning to write about BUT I’M SO BEHIND, I KNOW. So let’s catch up:

Lunch with Guy

In the beginning of October, Guy (the host of the show I work on) had a couple of hours suddenly free up in his calendar so he asked Benjamin and I, his two interns, out to lunch. First of all, we went to Indigo, which is this amazing indian restaurant 10 minutes away from the office. When I first moved to DC, I was totally aching to find good east asian and indian food so I was thrilled to find one so close to the office! He gave us some advice: don’t wait for permission, everyone sucks when they start out at something. Talked about how things are going for us, our families, what we studied in school etc. It was just a nice time. He’s SUCH a busy person that I’m so grateful he chose to spend a whole hour of his time with me and Benjamin.

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John Green

This is a little nerdy but I’ve been watching John and Hank Green on their Vlogbrothers YouTube channel for a really long time (here’s one of my favs) on and off and I’ve read all of John Green’s books. I still remember reading “Looking for Alaska” for the first time with my friend Nabilah and totally loving it. I think the best thing about them is that they created a corner of the internet where it was cool to care about your grades, to like poetry/science… and when there were a lot of articles online about how silly teenage girls are for liking Twilight (and even still today… all those disparaging articles about millennials!) or whatever, John and Hank Green always stood by young girls and young people and I think that’s really cool. They also created CrashCourse and SciShow and all these things on the internet that encourages kids to learn about science and economics and health care and history! Ok, you get it. I think they’re super cool.

So yeah. John Green is an author and he just came out with his newest young adult book, “Turtles All The Way Down” and at the center of the story is this girl who deals with her mental health. The book explores themes of what it means to be and still manages to keep it relatively light. Overall, it made me realize I’m definitely not in the demographic of “young adult books” anymore. It felt a bit too young for me for sure (plot lines were not airtight and dialogue was quite annoying) but I still enjoyed it. “Turtles” was very John Green in that it is chock-full of Tumblr-esque metaphors and spot on descriptions of emotions.

Anyway! So, John went on a book tour with his brother Hank and I was so pleased that DC was one of their stops. Philly was not! So this is just another reason that DC is an upgrade from Philly haha. He did a reading, Hank (dressed in a Turtle suit) gave a presentation on some animals lol and they performed some songs (one of which was about quarks! told you: nerdy!) together. My favourite part of the night was when John read a letter dedicated to his late mentor and friend, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who died earlier this year. In the letter, he talked about how Amy told him about British soldiers in World War 1 who sang “we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne before the Battle of the Somme. And after the letter, he had us all sing that together and it was such a beautiful moment of togetherness. It was just such a good night, full of wholesome fun.

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Improv night

All the NPR interns this semester are on this group chat and it’s like a good way to get people together for events and stuff. Last Tuesday, (actually maybe it was the Tuesday before that?) the Washington Improv Theatre has free performances and a bunch of people were planning to go. I don’t usually hang out with the other interns just because… I like to just come home and cook after work lol but the Invisibilia intern was coincidentally performing that night so I decided to come out! I’m pretty glad I did, because it was a lot of fun. The show wasn’t the best improv I’ve seen, but it’s always fun to see someone you know perform live. After the show, I went to get ice cream with some of the girls and I really liked getting to know them better. It made me realize that before this, I feel as if I wasn’t really “living” in America, and then now I am… which is interesting. Ice cream was really good too!! I got lavender and coffee from Jeni’s and I think it’s definitely worth the hype.


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Jamie’s visit

My super good friend Jamie was in town last weekend and it made me so happy to have her around! I missed having the kinds of conversations you have with people who know you really well. I mean, I love all the people I work with now but I’ve still just met them. So it was nice to kind of “let loose” a little bit? She was only here for the night, though. I picked her up from Union Station, we went to the Mac there for a bit and then went to dinner in my neighbourhood at this Laotian restaurant called Thip Khao. I kid you not, it was the best asian food I’ve ever had in the US. It really reminded me of traditional Malay food while being really distinct at the same time.

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My fav pic of Jamie!!

Then, later that night, we went back out again for ice cream and walked around 14th St, which is probably my favourite part of DC. The next morning, we took a nice stroll down 14th St and got brunch. We walked all the way down to Mt Vernon Square, and had coffee and at A Baked Joint. I had the most delicious rosemary and goat cheese biscuit with an egg and some hot sauce. It was AMAZING. And after walking around a bit more, we came back to my apartment in the afternoon and… took a nap LOL. Jamie had an event at the Singaporean embassy that evening so she left after getting some rest. She said she felt like she has completely rediscovered DC and Jamie can be tough to impress so I take that as a job well done for me as a newly-minted DC host!! Hehe.

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Instagram takeover

One of the ways I learned about life as an NPR intern before I even applied was by following the NPR interns’ Instagram account, @nprinterns. It was so cool to see all these people go to Tiny Desk concerts and make new friends and discover DC together and this past week, I got to do a “takeover” myself!!! It felt like… getting your own star on the Walk of Fame hahaha L O L. Here are some of the things I posted, including HIBT’s guac-off! We had a guacamole competition last week, and it was amazing.

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Two weeks ago, I went to New York

I put fun in inverted commas because work is actually pretty fun and I want to be very careful about defining my life as only what happens outside of work, which is where I spend most of my time (and vice versa).

Anyway, my recent New York trip was two weeks ago now but I still want to immortalize it on here. It was the ever-so-controversial Columbus Day weekend, and we had Monday the 9th off of work so I decided to take the Megabus up to the city since tickets were also pretty cheap. I basically spent the whole time just meeting my friends and catching up with people. First, I met my friend Eliza who was one of my hallmates in the Quad during my freshman year. Then, I had dinner with Ken near Columbia, where he’s a first year PhD candidate!!!! (Sorry, I just get really excited about that still) He had two friends visiting him that week, so we all had dinner together at this pizza place and I absolutely loved the food and how quiet it was around the Columbia area. It was really nice to see Ken and I got to see his apartment as well, which was cool. It felt a little strange to be in a dorm with my college friend—just in a different city. Made me miss all my friends a bit more.



That weekend, I was staying with my friend Sarah, who I met earlier this year in January. You might recall (if you’re a loyal reader, I guess? I think I have like what, 7 of those?haha hello!) that she took me to see WNYC, where they produce some of my favourite podcasts like Radiolab, More Perfect and Freakonomics. I absolutely enjoyed staying with her because, like I said the last time, I feel like I’ve been friends with her for ages even though I’ve only kind of hung out with her 2-3 times. That first night I was there, I met her at the 42nd St subway stop and we were supposed to go to Brooklyn together but there was a power outage on Canal St that night so we ended up stopping at the next station for like 20-30 mins!! At the next station after that, we got stuck for a bit longer so Sarah and I were just like… ok, no way, we have to change trains. Everyone was just like running around trying to find an alternate route home. And it was so humid, we were all just like, totally drenched down there. It sounds awful, and it most definitely was, but it was also a hilarious bonding experience. Sarah kept apologizing to me on behalf of the city of New York and I was just like “meh, I’m young” LOL.

Me (in my PJs) and Sarah before she headed out for work

The next day, I had brunch with Iman, Keyan and Zohair. Keyan was visiting from Harvard, Zohair works in New York and Iman is at NYU Law. I felt so unbelievably happy to see my MSA friends again because they were really like an extended extended family for me at Penn. Really, I’d say it just felt super cosy to get together with them again. A few years ago, I thought I wouldn’t be able to see all my friends again after graduation so it really just feels so good to hang out with them post-school.

Keyan, me, Iman and Zo

After that, I went to the Glossier showroom!! I’ve been curious about Glossier for over a year now, ever since I heard Emily Weiss, Glossier founder, on a podcast. I’m a no-make-up kind of ~gal~ but lately, I’ve been a bit braver and rajin-er so I’ve really been trying out a no-make-up make-up look haha and Glossier is totally perfect for that but I was too scared to make the investment without trying stuff out first. I absolutely loved the Invisible Shield and Generation G lip stick/balm things buuuuut I guess they’re just going to have to wait for my birthday hehe.


Stumbled upon this sign in Chinatown!!!! Made me miss home a lil bit more

I was walking around after going to Glossier and stumbled upon an Outdoor Voices store and they were giving away free Stumptown cold brews!!

I also stumbled upon Canal St Market near Glossier and it was full of all these cute little bits and bobs—this is literally the best thing about New York, there are gems at every corner.

That evening, I went to Gong Cha and got my utmost fav winter melon bubble tea and caught up with my friend Andrew, who I worked with on a club called Sangam back at Penn. I really looked up to him in college and it was nice to see him again after over a year. We talked about growing up and stuff and it was just really nice to catch up. Sarah and I had dinner after that at this Malaysian restaurant and it was so absurdly mediocre but I still enjoyed it. Part of it, I think, was getting to speak Malay with the waitress haha. Since I don’t live with Shahirah anymore, I never speak Malay anymore and I had no idea that I kinda missed it. (Btw pa, if you decide to FaceTime me speaking bahasa baku, my reaction is going to be -_- because that’s such a lame dad jokey thing to do lol)

The best mediocrity I’ve ever experienced

Thankfully, the second night, Sarah and I had no problems on the MTA. We got back to Brooklyn in the perfectly decent amount of time. I hung out with her and her roommate/cousin and it was just a nice chilled night. I was honestly glad to stay in because the weather was so crap that whole time. It was most certainly crap the next morning as well. I got breakfast with fellow NPR intern, Alice that Monday morning in Brooklyn because she lived not far away from Sarah’s place. I weathered an awfully windy gloomy humid morning to meet her at this cute breakfast place (probably the most reasonably priced sit-down meal I’ve ever had in New York). I met Alice at the internship orientation thing last month and she’s working on probably the most successful NPR podcast, Planet Money so I was really interested to hear how she’s doing and what she’s learning and all of that.

Me and Alice in crappy weather

After breakfast, I just cleaned up at Sarah’s and made my way to Penn Station to head back to DC. I managed to snag one last New York goodie there—a slice of cake at Magnolia! Then I had to suffer through the 5-hour bus ride back. Let me just tell you, that I sometimes get car sick on a half an hour car ride so me being on long bus rides is always a….. story. I’m always equipped with Panadol, some vapour rub, some mints and snacks, a drink. It didn’t help that I sat close-ish to the bathroom, where the smell was… well, you know. Ugh. Could not sleep the entire time, either. And let me just add that I was already damp because I was stuck in a drizzle while waiting 45 minutes to board the bus. It is a TRUE WONDER how I did not get sick that week. But I made it back to my apartment and right after a good scrub, I made myself a good bowl of maggi kari and went to bed.

This is what the weather looked like the whole time I was in New York

I honestly don’t think I wanna do many more weekend trips haha, wow, I guess I’m getting old. It’s just that, when you’re working, a weekend trip feels like you actually lose the weekend. You always feel like you need a holiday to recover from your holiday, you know? And I was just so tired that whole week! It wasn’t like in school where like if I arrived Sunday night, I could go to class on Monday from let’s say 10-3 and then just curl up in bed. I was actually debating going back to Philly for Homecoming in November but a) I don’t want to spend that money and b) I like spending the weekends resting these days because I’m officially old and boring. Just at this very moment, I got struck by a strong craving for a Hokkaido cheese tart. Sigh.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like spending weekends resting. This weekend was perfect. I slept in on Saturday, spent the afternoon doing my groceries and then had Jamie come visit me that evening for a night. I initially was going to write a short thing about New York and continue to write about Jamie’s visit but we’re at 1300+ words right now so I guess that’ll just have to wait! Haha. Be back soon! 🙂

Anthony Bourdain in Sarawak, and then some thoughts on work

It’s Friday night and my roommate is out of town so I have the TV to myself. I was scrolling through Netflix for something to watch and after giving up on a crappy Jennifer Aniston, I found Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series. I initially was looking for the episode on Tehran because I was told by people at work that it’s really good. Then, I saw there was an episode about Borneo… so like, there was no competition. I had to watch that one. I thought it was going to be something about the Indonesia part of it but was so pleasantly surprised that it was actually about the Malaysian side of Borneo. Sarawak in particular. He even started out the episode in KL… with a plate of char kuey teow! And then he went off to Kuching, for some Laksa Sarawak, which just left me in fetal position on the couch.

IT WAS TORTUROUS. I did not expect that at all, but man, I was writhing in pain. I don’t think about home that much anymore… I don’t spend a lot of time fantasizing about the food or places as much. I wasn’t sure if I just loved it less or if I just got better at being present wherever I was. I guess it’s really hard to tease those two apart. But I really felt it in my gut when I saw vignettes of home: everything from the penambangs to the twin towers. It’s like the US is on my skin, but home is deep in my bones.

But umm, since I’ve started writing this… Bourdain has gone to visit his orang asli friends deep in the Sarawak forests and they’re now celebrating Gawai with pork and tattoos and alcohol and I can’t relate to it anymore HAHA so let’s change the subject!

Work was good this week. Another featurette squared away in 4 days! Monday was off and honestly, I’m not such a fan of public holidays anymore just ’cause no matter how many days we work, an episode comes out every Monday morning so a day off doesn’t mean less work, it just means less time.

Ok now here’s the thing about me and working on these featurettes. I thought I’d feel a bit better at it because it’s my second time helping to produce a segment of the show but the story was a little different this week and I quickly realized that even though to a listener, most of the How I Built This stories sound the same… to a producer, especially a severely inexperienced one, it’s a slightly different challenge everytime. So it wasn’t a lot easier. It actually wasn’t any easier at all. And I think that’s annoying just because I desperately want to get better… of course, part of it was wanting to get better for myself, but a huge part of it, I’m not gonna lie, was just about wanting to get better so that I can stop taking so much of other people’s time!

I know everyone says it’s not a burden when I ask for help… and I believe them. Truly, I do. But the objective fact is also that I’m doing something they could do in half the time—maybe even less than that. And I just, ugh, that just annoys me y’know? Working with my editor is getting a bit more painful not because she’s gotten more strict or garang or whatever… she’s as nice as ever but I think in my head it’s like “ok, it’s been a month and I still haven’t totally got this.” So, every criticism is a bit more annoying not because it’s harsher, but rather, because I have quickly-rising expectations for myself.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that my high expectations for myself have always both been a hindrance and a propeller. I don’t like doing things I don’t do well. That sometimes means I go all out with the things I do. But that also sometimes means I don’t try. My editor told me to take a stab at the first draft of our featurette this past week and my first impulse was to shy away from the chance. I agreed to do it of course, because I hate being a coward and because I knew it was good for me… but I have to acknowledge that I felt a strong urge to decline responsibility. I think she noticed my reluctance and she was very understanding. She gave a nod to how intimidating the task seems but encouraged me to try. At that very moment, I almost laughed out loud, because I remembered the time I got into the car for a driving lesson and the instructor told me to switch seats with him and drive the car and I was like “no, thanks”—because everyone knows the best way to learn to drive is by watching from a passenger seat, right? LOL.

This week, only 1 or 2 lines of the draft I wrote actually made it into the final edit. Only a few of the clips I chose survived my editor’s scrutiny. I don’t take it personally and I respect her every decision and I see her reasoning. But when I continue to miss the mark, it can feel like I’m not learning. I know the truth is that I’m probably just not learning as fast as I want to, but that I am still learning. I guess sometimes it doesn’t feel like that.

I want to be good, you know? I want to be really good. I know these things don’t come quickly. I know I should be patient but the fast pace at which things move at makes it difficult to tolerate inefficiency. I find myself wishing I could learn new things now the way I learned new things back in school. And I don’t mean Penn school. I mean like… Form 1 school. You learned everything part by part. I remember being asked to do countless fraction problems, and on a separate part of the exercise book, there were just factorisation problems or whatever. And then on yet another part of the exercise book, they’d give me a word problem and in trying to solve it I’d realise, OH, the solution involves both factorisation and fractions, that’s why they drilled us on the basics first. It’s kind of like how in Karate Kid, Jackie Chan made Jaden Smith take his jacket off and on constantly. It felt so pointless, and then when he got into a fight, he realised he had really gotten down all the tools he needed.

I guess in an exercise-book version of learning to do my job, I’d be asked to first do nothing but practice cutting tape in a way that “preserves natural breaths” for a whole day. Then the next day, I’d spend the whole day learning how to balance sound levels. Then the next day, aligning music. The next day, adjusting the gaps between sound bites/making sure the pace sounds right. And the next day another thing, and so on. I think I grew up learning by drilling in the basics until it became so painfully tedious, and now part of me still clings on to that system. Maybe because when I was a kid, I tended to be a bit “ahead” in my classes; I got so used to not moving on from one concept until I got totally bored of it. So in college, and now at work, being thrown into new things at such a rapid pace and expecting to learn and improvise on the go kinda puts me out of my comfort zone. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve been out of school—high school—for years now and I still get so insecure about trying new things and not being perfect… but there’s no point denying it.

But here’s what I know I have picked up from my schooling years (all my life, basically). I know I have a feel for how to work with people: update the people I’m accountable to on where I am with my work, give them a sense of what to expect from me in the coming days or weeks or whatever so we’re on the same page, make sure I’m clear about what I can and can’t do. I also know I’m able to plan ahead and manage my timelines. I always ask myself “have I taken the fish out of the freezer?” and I don’t mean it literally. When I first started learning how to cook, I kept making the mistake of forgetting to defrost my fish and come home excited to cook/eat dinner… only to remember my salmon is still frozen. It’s such a good metaphor I think, for how sometimes you have to do something now so that you can do the thing you have to do next week. And I’m definitely not great at that, but at least it’s something I’m quite aware of. So far, at work, there have been a couple of times at least where I’ve been glad I was looking ahead and avoided getting stuck.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense, honestly haha. It makes sense in my head, I swear. So yeah. That’s my thoughts on the week. I don’t know how long I can keep this up honestly, because the things I’m doing are quite repetitive and this first month, I’ve always had new things to say about the job because of this steep learning curve but as things progress, I’m curious to see what I’ll have to say (or if I’ll still have things to say).

Ok, I was planning to write more about some stuff I did outside of work this past week but this is getting a bit lengthy as it is so I’ll get to that next time. Until then, thanks for reading!