Goodbye, 2016

As we march into the new year, I’m recounting some of my favourite 2016 bits. I hate doing this just because I haven’t made a conscious effort to keep track of it all year, and I, as a psychology major, know that looking back at the year on its last day just has strong recency bias—we tend to remember more vividly the things that most recently happened. But I’ll try. And I’ll start with something somewhat quantifiable: music!

I love that Spotify gives me a list of my top 2016 songs because by December, I always forget what I was crazy about in like March, even. They did however give me 100 songs, which is way too many, some of which I don’t really care too much about… so I narrowed them down and these were my favourite songs of the year, roughly in order.

Another huge 2016 thing for me was podcasts. Ugh, I love them so much. Start Up, Millennial, 2 Dope Queens, Reply All, On the Media, Freakonomics Radio, Planet Money, More Perfect, How I Built This, Invisibilia, Homecoming, Heavyweight, Code Switch, Open for Business are only some of my favourites. They are so informative!!! I feel like I’ve learned so much about race, politics, popular cultures, economics, psychology and general storytelling while being entertained at the same time. I love being affirmed of the power of storytelling and sharing information and I think podcasts are so amazing for that particular reason.

I also looked back on the year and realised I managed to read 14 books this year. Isn’t that amazing?! That’s so many more than I thought I did; it’s 1.167 books a month, haha! Granted, most of them were read over the summer, during which I read 3 a month. I really hope I’ll be able to keep this up as I… you know… *whispers* graduate.

Which means, this year also marked my last full year at Penn. I was thinking about how much I’ll miss all the opportunities being in college gives me. For example, in 2016 alone, I got to see all these people speak at Penn: actress Anna Kendrick, author Michael Lewis, journalist Shaun King, actor Omi Vaidya and freakin’ former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke.

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I also had wonderful—like beyond wonderful—professors at Penn this past year. Delphine Dahan was so kind and gracious to me as I’ve worked at her Psycholinguistics lab. Mark Pollack put together an amazing course on International Political Economy and has been a great resource for me as I sought recommendations on extra readings. Felicity Paxton and her class on pop culture gave me so much to think about how we navigate media. Jamie-Lee Josselyn, my creative writing professor, was a fantastic person to be around beyond being a fantastically supportive teacher.

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Jamie-Lee ❤

I think one of the ways I’ve grown most at Penn has been by embracing my creative side. It was such an honour, honestly, to have my writing encouraged, workshopped and commented on by people I respected and whose writing I admired. Taking the creative writing class was a huge leap on my end because I had been so put off by sharing writing that I actually tried hard on and I’m really glad I did it because now I have some semblance of an idea as to what to improve on. I also started participating in my school newspaper’s podcast, Quite Frankly which has been interesting. It’s cool to see the process of putting together an informative story for the public.

Outside of school, I’ve been lucky enough to travel. This year, I was home in Malaysia twice! I was home in January, and then again later in May, when I surprised my parents (which was definitely a huge highlight). That makes a total of about 4-ish months there which was of course, nice (simply put). I also saw Singapore, Hong Kong, Copenhagen and London, not to forget good old Port Dickson, Kuching, Penang and Melaka. It’s a privilege to be able to see that much of the world, even if it doesn’t always seem like much and I should never forget that.

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Lastly, I am reminded of the friendships that defined the year. I want to always remember that Hui Jie sat with me all night at the ER in May, that Shahirah is reliably there for me to share my ridiculous stories and thoughts (and is also a fantastic supplier of hilarious memes and tweets), May May has always picked up the phone when I freak out about anything, Jamie came by with a hug the morning after a terrible interview and Kimberly is definitely one of the best people I’ve met all year. I cannot thank them enough for being part of my life this past year.

On the whole, this year… I don’t know? It seemed to be like any other year. Maybe that’s a result of age? I was thinking earlier that I feel as if I’ve reached a point where I’m unaware of time: I frequently forget what age I am. It’s hard to say whether it was a good year or a bad year… I almost don’t believe it can be either. We have good moments and bad moments every day. There was that week I was sick, busy and lost my keys—it sucked. But there was also the time I aced all my exams even though I binge-watched Jane the Virgin for 2 days straight, I loved that! There were also all those moments in between that make us who we are, even though they leave us with nothing to remember.

I suppose I’ll admit it didn’t feel easy, but I don’t think it quite matters whether it was a “good” or “bad” year. We’re tested regardless, and we—I like to think—grow regardless of good or bad days and years. And I did grow in 2016, in ways I both expected and did not expect to. That’s for sure. So here’s to more of that.

Happy new year, everyone.

COPENHAGEN

I went to Copenhagen with my sister Aida and my cousin Alesya last week and it was so much fun. I said this on Instagram but Denmark is really one of those places I’ve never really thought of going to because it seems cold and stuff but ugh I loved it and it really reminded me how much I’ve missed seeing new places.

I made a poorly-edited video of Copenhagen vignettes and here it is, if you’d like to see it!

Quizmas & London

SO ME RN.

I’m in London again, and it’s nice. 10-degree weather. Crossword puzzles. Harry Potter movies. Sporcle flags-of-the-world quiz. Watching The Chaser on TV. Cycling the relatively-empty streets at night. Doing the dishes while watching Narcos. Sleeping in until 10.30 am. Finishing book after book. Journaling before bed.

Between the World and Me ❤

Life feels slow. It feels easy. I had a nice day today. We went for a stroll along River Thames, came back to the apartment, watched some TV and then my sisters and I cooked dinner.

There were a bunch of things I had seen recipes of and have been wanting to try, so I decided we make stuffed mushrooms, mashed cauliflower and creamy tomato pasta. Cooking with my sisters is always so much fun because somehow or rather, we always end up laughing hysterically about something. You know the kind where you laugh so much you don’t make anymore sound? Yeah, like that. Today, for example, we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the dishwasher—it started overflowing bubbles and for some reason that was just hilarious to us. Anyway! I think dinner turned out well, or at least, I was really happy with it and it actually wasn’t too difficult at all. I’m definitely going to try to make mashed cauliflower again when I go back to Penn.

The best part of being on holiday is probably family; playing Sporcle quizzes (which, if you know me, you know I just love) with other people is always 10x more fun. Julia and I played this Harry Potter logic quiz which is kind of like a Sudoku-style logic game and oh my god, we were hooked. We legit spent like 2 hours playing 3 of them (this one was our favourite!) and then we played the flags of the world quiz which for some reason is just always so satisfying. My sisters and I also have been toying around with this crossword puzzle book my mom bought recently but it’s so hard. I’ve only ever done one crossword puzzle in my life and that was Monday’s + with a help of a really smart friend (and, admittedly, a bit of googling). But yeah somehow we still really enjoyed playing them and as I described it yesterday, it “feels like I’m trying to save the universe by cracking some code” (except I was failing which was kinda stressful).

When you’re a visual thinker and you can’t write on your Sporcle screen…

I’m starting to see a puzzle/game-related trend with the stuff we’ve been doing on this holiday which is actually pretty funny although not entirely surprising because I do love a good puzzle game. We’ve also been watching The Chase which is a trivia-ish game show that’s been playing on TV a lot today (the TV says it’s for Quizmas, haha I love it). I don’t quite know how to describe the show but I think trivia is always fun to watch because it’s crazy the sorts of various little things people know!!!

But ok we haven’t just been doing puzzley things. My cousins and I also went cycling around London yesterday night which was a little scary but pretty nice because a lot of the roads were quite empty. We got to see little nooks and crannies of London I had never seen before because we took little back alleys and stuff (some creepy, some pretty). And of course, it’s always always always a good time with my cousins.

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You’re welcome Santander, for the advertising labour.

On the whole though, it doesn’t really feel like vacation. It feels like an alternate version of everyday life where everything is easy and good… or is that what vacations were meant to feel like? I like that for once, my to-do list consists of: read 2 chapters of book of choice, edit pictures on VSCO, wash hair, moisturise/lotion, buy presents. No meetings. No frantically getting from one place to another. No beating myself up for not getting something right. No waking up in the morning to 20 emails (in fact, I got NO emails today, it was beautiful).

I really like it.