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.

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LOCUST WALK!!!!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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BIRTHDAY GIRL

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!