A Collection of Tiny Uncelebrated Victories Pt. 1

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I was originally thinking of titling this post, “Green Is Not My Colour.” It was supposed to be a ‘finale’ post consisting of a recap and reflection on my two years of National Service. 

But having had time to think and let all the thoughts evolve and feelings sink in, I think a positive spin on this post would be to recognise all my mini triumphs along the way. Victories that may seem ordinary to someone else – but were extraordinary to me – thus not warranting any real celebration. 


National Service has been a cause of worry for as long as I can remember. 

I even felt nervous watching Army Daze for the first time when I was in secondary school. It was a good movie but it made the whole idea of me having to go through what the characters in the movie are going through all the more ‘real.’ 

I would pass by certain army camps on the bus to school every morning. And the obstacle course at one of these camps always intimidated me. The balancing beams in particular, looked extremely narrow and high. But I would comfort myself with the fact that I had at least another five years before it was my turn.

Before I knew it, it was time for me to take a physical fitness test – the one that would determine my level of fitness for when I did enlist – in my third year of Polytechnic. And I dreaded it. How would I possibly do well enough to reduce the duration of my service by two months without any physical training in school – it is not like I had been exercising in my own time either. 

So predictably, I was not ready when I read my enlistment letter. 

Now, from this point on, I have written about the people and situations I have encountered in posts over the past two years. But I feel like what I am about to write now, are the things I failed to acknowledge. 

Things that I probably have not even told my family and friends about because they did not seem worthy of mentioning in the midst of everything else that was happening and everything else that I was feeling. 

So here we go…


The Basic Military Training (BMT) Victories

  1. Being comfortable half-naked.

For someone who was not comfortable being shirtless in front of anyone else, walking to and back from the shower fully clothed all the time would be ideal. But when everyone’s rushing, it’s not practical. 

People would expect you to come out of the shower in a towel as soon as you are done because we did not have the luxury of time. 

So as much as I changed in bunk and walked to and from the shower in a towel just like everyone else, it was something that took me time to be comfortable doing.

Even after BMT, as much as I got used to being half-naked in different environments, in front of different people, I would still always try to change or put something on quickly.

As much as I realised no one really cared about how my body looked, there were a time or two where someone felt the need to drop a comment. It might not have been malicious but it still made me feel more self-conscious. 

Regardless, I would say I am a lot more comfortable and happy with my body than I once was. And that makes me happy. 

2. Conquering Obstacles… Literally.

Now, almost everyone has done the Standard Obstacle Course (SOC) as part of their Basic Military Training.

I told myself to look at the obstacle course like something I have seen on Survivor or Big Brother. And that helped with like 10 out of 12 of the obstacles. Even the low rope which is something I could not do was not something I feared trying. 

It was the balancing beams and apex ladder that literally had me shaking. 

My fear of heights coupled with my terrible balance made it really difficult for me to take on both obstacles.

Climbing up the slope to the balancing beams was always a struggle. I was told to trust the grooves of my boot to lock onto these tiny rubber pads on the slope but I would end up dropping off to the sides either by losing balance or in fear of going any higher. When I did get to the top of the slope, taking that step onto the beams – the actual obstacle – seemed impossible. I would use my hands to support me – which was ‘wrong’ since we were supposed to be holding our rifle with both hands – and take it one step at a time on the beams.

Similarly taking that step over from the ‘up side’ to the ‘down side’ of the apex ladder was scary. I remember being stuck at the top for quite sometime. Every time I tried to move my foot over to the other side, it would return to its original position. I was up there long enough to feel my legs literally shaking like jelly. I would once again use my hands to support me – still ‘wrong’ – and slowly walk down the ‘down side.’

For both of those obstacles, the Sergeants or Instructors would either let me pass (because I already took so long and was holding up people) or get me to do it over again (only for me to end up doing them the ‘wrong’ way again.)

So even though I may never have officially completed the whole obstacle course, it feels like a victory to me because it has been something I have feared since I was really young.

  1. Doing my own thing: Pt. 1.

This is one victory that recurs throughout most of my NS journey – because it would have been way easier if I caved in and did what everyone else was doing to fit in. 

At that point it included things like playing Pokemon Go and being more involved in bunk banter and conversations. But I got frustrated, early on, by the herd mentality that most people around me demonstrated – in terms of the things they say and do.

And I preferred staying in my own space anyway – a lower bunk bed, in the corner of my bunk. I would read, listen to music or just lay there.

This was especially important to me in the early stages of my BMT as I was struggling to adapt to the new environment. 

I am proud that I knew myself well enough to take that time for myself and not give in to social pressures. 

Even my buddy, Jim, has acknowledged and reassured what I am saying right now. When I was telling him how I was struggling to connect with people in my Unit, months after BMT, he responded with “I thought not fitting in was your thing.”

Side note: Some tunes I remember listening to on repeat back then are:

  • ‘All My Friends’ by Snakehips feat. Tinashe, Chance The Rapper
  • ‘As You Are’ by Charlie Puth feat. Shy Carter
  • ‘Just Like Fire’ – P!nk

The Signal Institute (SI) Days

  1. Learning something new.

As happy I was to be given the Signaller vocation – from the little knowledge I had on all the vocations, it seemed to be the most fitting for me – I was unprepared for the amount of knowledge that I would have to absorb over the two month Signaller course.

Many of our days were spent in lessons on radio equipment. We had to know all the parts and how to operate them as well. Now, I definitely preferred spending time in those labs learning as opposed to out under the sun doing something physical.

But I felt lost at multiple points and that definitely affected my self-esteem. 

We took notes but I hated not understanding what I was writing down. Even if I took a minute or two to try to figure out what I just wrote, I would have missed the next few slides of information that I was supposed to take down.

There was a lot for us to learn and so lessons were fast-paced.

Thankfully, I had friends and peers who could explain things to me. So that way, I was more prepared for the tests that came along the way.

All this radio and telecommunication stuff is what my grandfather used to teach my brother when we were really young but I never had any interest. So I liked to think that my grandfather was looking down at me and laughing as I tried to figure it all out.

This is a victory for me because having to learn something you have never had any interest in is no easy feat. 


I am choosing to end this part of the post here because the rest of what I have written seems to be just about as long as this post.

So this would be the natural break.

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.

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These Are Not My People

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I shall start by saying that I kept from writing another post any earlier because I have had the whole month of April off before I complete my two year National Service journey on the 17th of May.

This break has been a good time to reflect on the things that have happened over the past four months and to figure out how I feel as well. And trust me, there’s been quite a bit going on in my mind.

Let me kick things off by giving an update on one of the things that I had alluded to in my previous post, ‘RESET. REVAMP. RELAX’:

“On top of all that stress, there was a lot of uncertainty when it came to the plans I had with my friends during these last two weeks of the year. There were all these things that I had wanted to do but of course, everyone else’s schedules do not revolve around mine nor do I expect it to.

But it is frustrating that I cannot even lock in plans because of how busy my friends are – some by choice and others by circumstance.”

As much as I tried to control the uncertainty and disappointment that was building up in me, I eventually told my friends how I felt. Sure, some friends coerced it out of me because they could tell something was off with me but others had no clue. And their responses ranged from understanding to nonchalant.

To be honest, I don’t know if this feeling will ever completely go away. I would like to think that it has been magnified lately because I spend five days a week in an environment where I don’t quite feel comfortable in – that’s why spending time with people who I want to spend time with, when I can, matters so much to me.

But it is also uncertain whether I will feel the same way even after I move onto the university phase of my life. I do not know if I will find people I can forge meaningful connections with – I have not exactly been hearing the most promising things. And so it is not unrealistic for me to expect that this feeling may persist.

And if anything, I am realising that there is nothing anyone else can do to help me fix this. It is all starts and ends with me. I just need to be independent and for that I will need more time.

With that being said, I was glad to be able to get it off my chest and so now, everyone who needs to know, knows… Moving on!

The next thing I want to address requires me to pull up various excerpts from different posts of mine to give you a summary or ‘story arc.’ Basically, it is about how I feel about the people that I have spent the past one and a half years with.

First up, I have to go all the way back to my post from January 2017,  ‘A Quarter of a Third’:

“When it comes to the people around me at this unit, I would say that the dynamics are not exactly in my favour. Sure, the people are nice, for the most part but there are some subtle and understandable divisions. Maybe, I just have not gotten used to how things work here – the usual office politics that will come with almost every job.

However, almost everyone will be leaving the unit before I do. That means that I will be seeing a lot of people coming and leaving – many changes in the supporting cast, if you will. So there is the chance that the dynamics could shift in my favour or stay against me.”

And next, from April 2017, ‘In My Head’:

“For now, there are only about two to three individuals in camp who I ‘trust.’ It being really easy to rub me the wrong way could be one reason for this low number. But I guess, there just is not that much in common to forge strong bonds over. And with everyone on their phones most of the time, there is barely any attempt at conversation to find common topics either.

Sure, they bond over playing the same mobile games. And so it would be a lot easier if I just downloaded this game and played along. But I told myself back in secondary school that I was not going to change just to fit in and I still want to keep that promise to myself. Call me stubborn or difficult but I am not going to do something that I would not normally do just to get by.”

From June 2017, ‘The First 365’:

“Because like I mentioned earlier, I have been dealing with not being able to connect with the people around me in camp.

I am beginning to understand it could be because I am expecting more than surface level connections from people who are likely not keen on making such connections – at least with me. But still I put in the effort and then start questioning what is wrong with myself when the effort is not reciprocated. I have also been noting the passing comments people have made to me about myself. And it is just exhausting when it’s almost always negative.

I feel misunderstood. And to be really honest, it is affecting me more than it should.”

From August 2017, a day before my 21st birthday, ’21 Before 21′:

“6. When people make you feel like they are tolerating you as opposed to appreciating you on a daily basis, it can be quite damaging to your morale and soul.”

A long one from September 2017, ‘Not That Deep’:

“Then it hit me.

I may have become too invested in some of these people I see five days a week, that I feel like I became a recurring character in my own life. In other words, if life was a reality show, I feel like I had subconsciously demoted myself to ‘friend of main cast member’ instead of actually being a part of the main cast. And that sucks.

I just could not seem to help how much I care about some of these people and what they think of me. And it is exhausting not knowing how much effort to put in with people when you do not know how they feel about you or how long they are actually going to stick around. I found myself overthinking even the simple things.

The truth is, I know that is not the way it should be. My mind – just like everyone else – tells me how I am being irrational. But my heart just did not seem to acknowledge or believe that…

Until now.

I realise that as of right now, everything is actually cool. The way I have left things with everyone is actually pretty normal. It is just my high expectations that make me feel like things are bad.

It is really not that deep.

And lastly, my most recent post after returning from Australia, ‘RESET. REVAMP. RELAX’:

“Throughout the week, I felt anxious about returning to camp the following week. I was not sure how everyone was going to receive me after not seeing me for two months. And granted, the first week back was a little rocky for me.

I felt a disconnect and a little resentment or coldness. But at the same time, being away made me care less. I reminded myself to be less invested in what the people at work think, say and do. So it all worked out, after a reset, I guess.”

Wow.

I’m honestly amazed at how these excerpts give you an accurate representation of how I have felt over the past year and (almost) a half. And it really shows me the arc of my personal growth (and lack thereof at times…) as well.

I went from hoping things will be better to having one or two confidantes and not being able to connect with the rest to feeling bad about not being able to connect with the rest to being made to feel awful about not being able to connect with the rest to realising that I care too much and finally realising that they don’t matter.

So what did I feel as I started my month long break away from everyone at work?

As much as I cared less, there was a melancholic feeling about leaving everyone behind and ending this two year journey which gave me a sort of existential crisis.

I felt like I have nothing or rather, no one to show for the past one and a half years. I do not think I have made ‘lifelong friendships’ like most people do and there is no sense of a ‘Brotherhood’ that I am part of either.

And I wondered if it is my fault.

Most of the time, I resented the herd mentality that most people had adopted but there were also times where I wondered if I should have made more of an effort to fit in with that same herd.

On top of that, like I anticipated and hoped for in the first excerpt, the dynamics have been shifting in my favour in 2018. In January, I got to know some of the new guys who had been posted in to my platoon. We had a couple of things in common but what I appreciated the most is how they were willing to have conversations as opposed to playing mobiles games and being on their phones the whole time. Sure, they had conversations about things I knew nothing about at times – like Soccer – but I would then just politely leave the conversation or room.

And it was another plus that these newbies did their own thing instead of following the rest – who to be honest, were all following one person.

Honestly, I actually liked being around them that it feels like a cruel joke that God is playing on me, introducing them to me just as I am about to leave.

Yes, I know, I do feel silly for feeling this way because all I have been waiting for ever since I started my National Service is for this journey to end. So why am I feeling this way now? Why am I caring so much now?

I had written down all these thoughts that bothered me at the start of April hoping to publish the post within the first week of my break. I craved some sort of closure.

But certain things that people have done (or not done) over the past month has solidified how I feel about everything – so this is where the title of the post, comes in.

These. Are. Not. My. People.

In going back and forth, I have hovered over that idea but this time, I have landed on it.

I used to wonder how long these people will stick around in my life but I failed to realise that I have a say in that too. Actually, I have the only say in that.

There is so much frustration, disappointment and anger that I need to heal from once this journey ends. And in order to do that, I will need to rid my life – and social media – of some of these people.

But I do still have another five and a half working days before I can get to all that.

And I think I want to get through that and finish the journey before I say any more.

PEACE OUT.

RESET. REVAMP. RELAX.

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The content in this post was actually supposed to be divided into three separate posts about three different weeks over the past three months.

Each week was about one of the ‘R’s in the title of this post.

But considering how I forgot about what exactly went down in ‘Reset Week’, I thought why not just give brief summaries and combine all three into one.

RESET

I had a whole week off after returning home from Australia. I used this week to get back into the swing of things.

This included simple things like catching up on all the TV shows that I put on hold while away because I watched them with my Mom. Mainly Big Brother US, Project Runway, Shahs of Sunset and Dance Moms.

Side note: Somehow I had not come across any spoilers about who won Big Brother US so I did not entirely dread watching the remainder of the season.

I also tried to make up for all the exercise I had planned to but not actually done in Australia – I only ran once during those 49 days. So I ‘reset’ my exercise routine and have been trying to run three times a week ever since. 10 weeks have passed successfully and I hope to keep this going – it makes me feel productive and healthy for the most part.

I caught up with friends and family too. I passed everyone the personalized souvenirs I got them and then gave them a brief summary of how the trip was.

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I was glad to be back also because I missed local food!

Throughout the week, I felt anxious about returning to camp the following week. I was not sure how everyone was going to receive me after not seeing me for two months. And granted, the first week back was a little rocky for me.

I felt a disconnect and a little resentment or coldness. But at the same time, being away made me care less. I reminded myself to be less invested in what the people at work think, say and do. So it all worked out, after a reset, I guess.

REVAMP

I was on leave a whole week in the later part of November too.

I used this week to revamp my room – a plan that I have had since a year ago after painting the walls blue.

I had divided the revamping into three parts:
1. My bookshelf and display cabinet
2. My wardrobe
3. My study table & chair

My plan at first was only to work on one thing on the list that week. So I was constantly trying to figure out which one of those three options would be most practical. But even up until I was at IKEA with my Mom, I was unsure of what I wanted to do.

My Mom then suggested just doing all three components at once. I was hesitant and reluctant because I was already thinking about all the work that would have to be done.

For example, in order to switch out my bookshelf, I would have to:

1. Empty my current bookshelf
2. Find a temporary space for the books
3. Dismantle the old bookshelf
4. Move out the old bookshelf

I know it sounds simple but this was just one part of what I would have to do. Imagine then doing the same for my wardrobe and study table as well.

But we were at IKEA on Monday and my Mom reassured me that we would be able to throw out all the old furniture and make room for the new ones in time. So I decided to do all three parts of the revamp at once.

Thankfully, the delivery was scheduled for Friday that week. So my Mom and I had three to four days to figure it out.

Most of the big action happened on Thursday. I put all the clothes from my wardrobe neatly on my bed and the books from the shelf in large stacks on the floor in my room. We then slowly moved out the furniture one by one. I was really impressed with my Mom.

Side note: It was yet another blessing that Town Council was doing the collection of unwanted furniture that day too.

I made sure that there was space for all the new furniture in the spots that I had intended for them to be placed. And that night, I squeezed into the little empty space that I had left on my bed. I was afraid I would wake up in the morning to find all my folded clothes on the floor because I would have knocked everything over in my sleep but fret not, everything was in neatly stacked piles in the morning.

By late-afternoon on Friday, most of the furniture was set up with the exception of my study table and office chair – my Brother was supposed to help with those.

So I put the clothes into my new wardrobe and my books into my new bookshelf. I went out for dinner and by the time I got back, my Brother had set up the table and chair too.

In no way was it an easy week. It was a lot more stress than I had expected when I first thought of revamping a part of my room. I was really overwhelmed.

But now that I have come out on the other side, I am really thankful.

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It was really hard to take nice pictures of my room.

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But I included these pictures just to give a rough idea of what my room looks like now.

On the other hand, that week, I felt a little guilty because apparently it was pre-audit week at work. This meant that while everyone was running around trying to make sure everything was in place and ready to be checked, I was on leave.

I had no idea beforehand but I worried that that is not what some people might have chosen to believe. And of course, me not being around came up the following week in what I would call ‘passive-aggressive friendly banter’ with one individual.

I admit, I usually start these things to get a reaction – because I find it funny and entertaining – but then it gets more intense when the other party raises their voice to get their point across thus alarming everyone else in the room and making me feel self-conscious.

But all this does is force me to ‘win’ the argument or situation in any way necessary.

With that being said, when I returned to work the following week, there was still stuff that had to be done. So I helped out where I could.

RELAX

I had planned to claim the rest of my leaves the last two weeks of the year. I have been looking forward to it ever since it got approved by my superior.

I was excited to take a break, laze around and hangout with my friends and family. Christmas was coming! And 2018 too!

But contrary to the ‘theme’ of these last two weeks of the year, I have been getting worked up about certain things.

Firstly, the search for the perfect Christmas gifts was really frustrating. It is really hard to not recycle the same gift ideas for my family members who are honestly, really difficult to shop for. It even made me think of sitting out of Christmas next year – I am still considering it. But I just got them gifts that I was generally satisfied with.

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With that being said, it started to look a lot like Christmas closer to the actual day.

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The Christmas tree at home. A part of me didn’t want to open up the presents because I loved the cozy look and vibe it gave me.

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This was at my Aunt’s. I had a little sleepover with my cousins.

On top of all that stress, there was a lot of uncertainty when it came to the plans I had with my friends during these last two weeks of the year. There were all these things that I had wanted to do but of course, everyone else’s schedules do not revolve around mine nor do I expect it to.

But it is frustrating that I cannot even lock in plans because of how busy my friends are – some by choice and others by circumstance.

I get that we are all at different points in our lives and our priorities are not the same.

And I totally understand that it is also not my role to be telling people what their priorities should be.

But you cannot fault me for feeling this way. And you cannot fault me for feeling disappointed.

For some silly reason, I always thought we would have more time to hang out as we became adults. Why? Because as adults, we have more control over our time, right?

We are not restricted with a school timetable telling us where to be five days a week. But I guess I got it wrong.

This whole ‘all my friends are busy’ thing has been recurring lately and it really makes me question certain things that I thought I was over feeling skeptical about.

I am not sure if it is because I have all this free time that my mind starts to speculate and find something to worry about.

And trust me, I have tried discounting how I feel. But it feels wrong to discount my feelings especially when they have been bothering me so much lately.

Writing this post has also shown me that I am at a different point than I usually am because I am missing the silver lining that I am usually able to find by the end of my post.

You know, I usually talk about everything that is going on and how I know that I will be fine because XYZ. But now, it feels like my XYZ has been compromised or I do not even know what my XYZ is anymore that I need to adapt.

After all, this might all be a sign telling me to be more independent from this point forward. If my friends seem to be doing just fine on their own then maybe it is about time I do the same.

So I might be stumbling into 2018 but trust me – I don’t know how or when but – once I find my footing, I will be doing more than just fine, I will be doing great.

“My life might have been on pause for two years but that just means that I will be back at twice the speed.”

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.

The Spin-Off

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spin-off

ˈspɪnɒf/

noun

something that is imitative or derivative of an earlier work, product, or establishment; especially :a television show starring a character popular in a secondary role of an earlier show


I have been back home for four weeks now, after spending 49 days away in Rockhampton, Queensland for Exercise Wallaby (XWB) 2017 – an overseas military exercise.

While there, I wrote a post about something that had happened before I left for Australia. And now I am back to tell you all about what went down during the 49 days.

Let me start by saying that I have no regrets about participating in XWB and that was one of the main goals for me – to not have any regrets about my participation once it was all over.

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For XWB, I was part of the communications team. There was about 20 people on the team and our role was to help with the setting up and distribution – & later tear down and return – of relevant communication equipment to the various departments and units that were involved in the exercise.

Like I had anticipated in one of my previous posts, we also had to man radio equipment in pairs, at remote locations, in 4D3N shifts and other times, manage the drawing and returning of store equipment in daily shifts.

The first week was pretty intense. The equipment we had to set up came in days later than expected. So there was a lot of waiting around before scrambling to get things done when everything finally arrived.

I remember returning back to the apartment everyday, the first week, slightly worried about the next day. It always seemed like there was a lot more to get done.

But the team pulled together – even staying on site, within the camp one night to save time and the trouble of having to travel to and from our apartments the following morning.

The drive from our apartments to the camp took about 90 minutes. And it’s an additional 30 to 60 minutes to get to the remote locations. So I definitely have a lot of respect and appreciation for our drivers – who were all senior members of our team.

After the initial set-up phase, there were issues with how functional the communication equipment were.

You could compare it to a game of whack-a-mole. We were constantly troubleshooting the equipment and ensuring that everything was smooth but there would always be another issue or complaint popping up every now and then.

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While there, we lived in comfortable apartments – each apartment had two to four people – fully equipped with a kitchen, washing machine, dryer, TV and air conditioning.

My roommates were the one guy I came into this whole process knowing, back from camp and the admin guy.

Since we were responsible for our own meals I ended up eating a lot of fried rice from Noodle Paradise – a Chinese takeout place – and burritos from Zambrero – a Mexican restaurant. Those were my go-to meals because they were really filling.

Below are a pictures of some of my favourite meals while there:

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There were days where I felt like making my own meals but they often were failed attempts. I had trouble cooking my pasta just right and ensuring my wrap did not fall apart. I even melted a plastic skillet after leaving it in the frying pan for too long.

The alternative to eating out and cooking your own meal was to go over to another apartment where someone else was cooking for a group. So I did that a couple of times too.

I also picked up the habit of having cereal for breakfast again. It had been some time since I last had Froot Loops. But after the third week or so, I ditched the cereal for muffin bars. And three weeks later, I ditched the muffin bars for cereal bars. So maybe three weeks is the limit to my ‘creature of habit’ food tendencies.


So depending on our tasking for the day, we would either be staying overnight within the camp as part of our 4D3N duties or be back at the apartment in the afternoon or night after the daily morning/afternoon shift to handle the logistics at the ‘HQ’ near the airport.

During our 4D3N duties we slept on safari beds in a large tentage. And within the tentage there would also be a fridge for us to keep our frozen food and a microwave to heat it up.

Microwave meals were the most practical and convenient option when on duty. I got the same meals for all my duties during the six weeks – chicken carbonara, chicken & mushroom fettuccine, creamy tuna bake – with a couple of wildcards thrown in here and there. But I eventually got sick of everything in the final week.


I had a total of three 4D3N duties while others had four or five. So people were constantly passive aggressively pointing that out.

Even though I had nothing to do with planning the schedule, a part of me did feel guilty. So when impromptu 2D1N duties popped up for an additional site, I passively volunteered to do more of those when the schedule was being planned, to shut people up.

The 2D1N duties were solo ones instead of in pairs. So it was easier to do your own thing instead of feeling pressured to communicate with whoever you were on duty with or do as much work as they seem to be doing.

We basically had to ensure that the equipment was working and that communication was possible. And if not we would have to change the settings or troubleshoot.

I had downloaded a couple of movies and episodes of Terrace House: Aloha State to watch offline on Netflix. So that was how I killed most of my time.

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Alternatively I listened to music or read a book.

My roommate ended up taking on my second 4D3N duty because he wanted to ‘explore’ the site and catch the sunrise with the person I was supposed to be doing the duty with. So I ended up only doing two 4D3N duties.

I had no qualms with that.


The people I worked with out there were definitely a good change from the people in camp back here. I felt a lot less pressure or need to make meaningful connections with them. Probably because I knew at the back of my mind that everything was just for 49 days.

But of course, there were people that I gravitated towards more. As well as those that were harder to click with. Some situations did bring me back to the same feeling I felt back in camp of being misunderstood. It would make me question if I was the problem. However, I already addressed this in my previous post – it was not that deep.

It was really not that deep to begin with, back in camp. And I certainly was not about to overthink whatever was going on with these new people during the 49 days into something deep either.

Furthermore, at the end of week three, there was a ‘cast change.’ 10 people were swapped out for 10 new people. And I was worried about the change in dynamic especially since there were some people coming in that I had not previously interacted with at all.

But it was all good, as there seemed to be more of a laidback vibe. Maybe because there were lesser issues popping up by then.

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On our off days, we were free to do whatever as long as superiors were informed.

Side note: Not informing our superiors and going on a stroll to a café nearby, got five of us in trouble. Our punishment was to clean the vehicles that drove us into the camp everyday.

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The cafe we got into trouble for going to without waiting for permission to be granted.

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I’ll admit that sometimes I bought the coffee just because the cup looked pretty. But the coffee was really good too!

If you were feeling lazy or thrifty, you could stay in your apartment all day. Or if not, you could go over to the shopping mall that was a 15 minute drive away from the apartment or walk 15 minutes to the nearby Target. I did not have high expectations of the mall after my online research. Which is maybe why I was not disappointed – there was actually quite a lot to explore, thus exceeding my expectations.

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Thank god, this fit in my luggage.

I loved this shop called EB Games which had games, toys and other collectibles. Just walking around aimlessly in there brought me happiness. I often felt like I was burdening whoever was with me. That is probably why I preempted the people that by telling them that spending 30 minutes there during my last visit to the shopping mall was on my to-do list.

I also splurged on Dusk candles for friends, family and myself. At first I thought I could just get Yankee candles back in Singapore but when I realized that Dusk was an Australian brand, I thought it was worth it.

And I bought a total of eight WWE action figures. They were definitely considerably cheaper than what I was used to seeing on Carousell. So I started with two. And then another two. And then I got the last four during my final visit. It made me happy.

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YAY.

Throughout my shopping visits, I had this mental checklist of people to buy things for. And checking people off this checklist genuinely made me happy.

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There was also a little exploring here and there. I wasn’t a fan though. I wanted to shop!

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OMG, me too!

Back at the apartments, we had a couple of game and movie nights. It started with the Exploding Kittens cards I brought. And then I expanded by buying travel versions of Monopoly, Game of Life and Cluedo while I was there – they were on sale!

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I don’t think I won this one.

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The game never ended. Everyone was confused.

As for movies, it was hard to find something that everyone wanted to watch. So I suggested Riverdale because I had been meaning to catch it myself. So there were four of us who watched the first nine episodes together.

Sidenote: I have given up on Riverdale after completing the first season. I just do not feel much for the characters or storylines.

And I also tried to keep up with my weekly to-watch list on my off days and whenever I got to stay at my apartment. Thankfully, there was WIFI!


The tear down phase during the final week felt a lot less stressful than the set up phase. It is just like how the journey to always feels longer than the journey back.

Accounting for all the logistics was problematic at times. But whoever was in charge did a great job with keeping tabs on everything and knowing what was where or what should be where.

And once all that was settled, it was time to head home.


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I remember halfway through, I was talking to someone – who was leaving at the end of week 3 – about the likelihood of either of us getting too attached to anyone out there. And I could not give an answer to that question.

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Of course, there were some people I felt more comfortable with that I opened up to and others I could have potentially opened up to if we continued to be friends after this experience. But I think somehow I just knew that was not likely.

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Just two of the people I felt more comfortable with.

Regardless, I expected myself to be emotional during the last couple of days but the excitement of returning home just overpowered whatever little emotions I had about the experience ending. So there were no tears at the airport.

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The ‘It’s a wrap!’ selfie.

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And speaking of the airport, there was some drama with the luggage situation. Turns out that a couple of our luggages were delayed when we arrived in Singapore. Somehow they were placed on a different flight? So after the initial confusion and denial, we all made a report and were told that we would be informed when our luggages have been found.

I was disappointed at first for two reasons:

1.     I had this plan to unpack everything that night I got back home.

2.     I had things in my luggage that I wanted to give the people I had planned to meet the week after my return.

It took me a while to be okay with not having my luggage. It meant that I did not have to get all worked up about unpacking that night. I could start with my backpack and duffel bag – this itself stressed me out and took up quite a bit of time.

So maybe this was better?

Of course, I was worried about the possibility of never seeing my luggage again. But I kept the faith and stayed positive.

And the next morning, I got a call that my luggage would be delivered to me before noon. I got it around 11am. I unpacked. And everything just worked out great.


Since I came back on a Sunday evening, I requested to be on off the following week because Wednesday was Deepavali, a public holiday. And thankfully my superior was agreeable. So I had time to reset and get everything in order – I will write about this Reset Week in my next post.


All in all, my XWB experience was a pleasant one. I coped a lot better with being away from my friends and family than I expected but I still missed them dearly.

And I feel like this time away from the things that were bothering me allowed me to regroup and remember what was really important. In a way, it helped me find myself after getting lost in other people and negativity.

I could just be myself for the most part.

It reminded me how I enjoy being me.

And it reminded me that I am pretty damn awesome.

So there you have it, my summary of my 49 days away – something I never would have thought of doing when I started my National Service last May.

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.

P.S: I know this is a pretty long post but I tried my best to condense everything that I can without having to go into the details, like names.

Not That Deep

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It has not exactly been too long since my last post but I do feel like I have a lot to write about.

I have been in Rockhampton, away from family, friends and home for over a month – 34 days to be exact – for an overseas military exercise. And even though there is a lot to write about being out here itself, this post is about something that happened about a week after my 21st birthday – eight weeks ago.

As much as participating in this overseas military exercise was supposed to help take my mind off of everything and everyone that was bothering me back in Singapore, some situations and people out here do take me back to thinking about those same things every now and again.

Despite my many previous attempts, I just could not seem to find the best way to explain what happened and express how I feel without sounding petty and feeling like a victim.

A part of not being able to write about it might also be because I had not really figured out how I truly feel. But I think I have a better grasp of things now.

And my conscience will not allow me to write another post without addressing what happened – something about being honest with myself, I guess. So here goes…

In summary:

  • Someone I grew to trust and felt I had a connection with finally decided to tell me everything about me that bothers them after seven months of knowing me.
  • Some of these issues being me sexualizing everything, having a big ego and being arrogant.
  • They spoke on behalf of everyone else and so I challenged the idea that ‘everyone’ felt the same way.
  • We both then asked the other people that were around what issues they had with me.
  • And when no one seemed to have anything to say, the person then continued to encourage the rest to be honest and not worry about hurting my feelings.
  • Some of the others did join in, adding their two cents thinking the whole thing was a joke.
  • I agreed with some of the points brought up while also defending myself for the parts I disagreed with.
  • This incident made me feel alone – like no one had my back. I kept to myself for a couple of days and it was the lowest I have felt in a long time.
  • Over time, I made slight adjustments to my behavior and things seemed to be better.

So, now that you know what happened, let me tell you how I feel.

Firstly, to be fair, I did welcome the criticism thinking it was our usual passive-aggressive banter. So I am not vilifying the person who decided to be honest with me.

And let’s be clear – it was also not the criticism that hurt me. It was how and when the criticism was delivered to me – in front of a group and seven months after knowing me – that deeply hurt me.

In their defense, they acknowledged the fact that the way they did what they did – in front of a group – might not have been well thought out. They also reminded me that we have had similar conversations one-on-one but I did not seem to… Change?

Well, I have always been pretty clear about not changing who I am and how I am for anyone. Plus, I had not known they had a ‘real issue’ with me when they pointed out certain things when we were talking one-on-one. So I guess it was a miscommunication.

Secondly, it is also important to mention that out of the five people that were there the night of this ‘intervention’, two people have told me that they cannot be bothered to have any ‘issues’ with me and another apologized for adding his two cents – as a joke – after realizing that I felt hurt.

So the whole ‘everybody feels this way about you’ theory has been debunked.

Now, when I say that things got better, I mean things seemed better on the surface. Everyone interacted with me normally.

But internally, I still felt really hurt. And I am sure you would be too if you were in my shoes.

Before I got the confirmation that not everyone had the same issues with me, it felt like I had to walk on eggshells around everyone. I could not figure out why I felt so hurt by people that I have only known for seven months. And I also started to question if I was really the problem.

Then it hit me.

I may have become too invested in some of these people I see five days a week, that I feel like I became a recurring character in my own life. In other words, if life was a reality show, I feel like I had subconsciously demoted myself to ‘friend of main cast member’ instead of actually being a part of the main cast. And that sucks.

I just could not seem to help how much I care about some of these people and what they think of me. And it is exhausting not knowing how much effort to put in with people when you do not know how they feel about you or how long they are actually going to stick around. I found myself overthinking even the simple things.

The truth is, I know that is not the way it should be. My mind – just like everyone else – tells me how I am being irrational. But my heart just did not seem to acknowledge or believe that…

Until now.

I realise that as of right now, everything is actually cool. The way I have left things with everyone is actually pretty normal. It is just my high expectations that make me feel like things are bad.

It is really not that deep.

And when I get back, the process of reintegrating myself into the platoon will really be the deciding factor as to how the rest of my seven months serving the nation will play out.

If it is easy, I guess I can continue working on the friendships. But hopefully this time, I will be doing that part time instead of giving it so much importance.

If it is tough, I will have to activate lone wolf mode and do my own thing.

At the end of the day, I just need to remember that it is not that deep.

But until I get back, I am going to make the most of the time I have left here in Rockhampton. I shall return as not a changed man but an evolved one.

PEACE OUT.

21 Before 21

Here are 21 thoughts I’m having right now before I turn 21. Don’t judge, they’re kind of random. 

1. I wish I didn’t feel as much. When you feel as much as I do, it’s hard to keep it all in. 

2. And when you are in an environment like I am, you end up letting it out to the wrong people. 

3. As I’m typing this, I’m listening to Alan Walker’s ‘Tired’ and I want to cry. 

4. But I can’t because there are people around in my bunk. I don’t really feel like talking to anyone. It’s been a long day, I feel emotional and I am tired. 

5. It’s not like anyone here understands me, anyway. 

6. When people make you feel like they are tolerating you as opposed to appreciating you on a daily basis, it can be quite damaging to your morale and soul. 

7. How is it only Tuesday? 

8. I start off my days feeling so full of happiness and energy and positivity but by the end of it, I am drained. 

9. I met up with some Poly classmates-turned-friends yesterday. It’s funny and interesting how even though not everyone is able to make it each time, I get to see at least two or three different people every time we meet up.  

10. As we were hugging goodbye, I felt emotional. Some of them wished me a happy birthday in advance yesterday. I didn’t think they would remember. 

11. Speaking of my friends, I really miss them. And as much as I wish I could go back in time, I need to acknowledge the fact that we’re all doing our own thing with our own plans out in the real world and I need to remember that moving forward and progressing is a good thing. 

12. Sometimes I wish cameras were filming everything so my friends could see what exactly is happening on my National Service journey. Maybe I can’t convey everything I experience in words and so they don’t get how I exactly feel. 

13. I hope tomorrow is a good day. I don’t expect a lot. I just want it to be significantly less hectic than any day last week or this past week. 

14. My shaky hands are acting up. I’m not sure if it was hunger, my anxiety or something else. 

15. I have a little less than half an hour to finish up this list before getting back to work and I’m only two-thirds through. 

16. Australia is coming up. And I really hope it’s a break from all this hard work (I would like to think I’ve been doing in camp) and overthinking (I know I’ve been doing in camp).

17. I have a new episode of Bigg Boss Tamil to watch but I doubt I’ll have the time or energy to do so tonight. 

18. I wish I knew the time of my birth. That would be the official start of my birthday, no? 

19. I know I will bounce back from whatever I’m feeling right now. That’s just how I am. Especially since I’ll be working with someone who has little to nothing to do with why I am feeling the way I am right now – for three hours – I just have to be ‘normal.’ 

20. I have to be up early tomorrow though. But I’ll pay my dues. I believe in karma. And I don’t mean like bad things happening to bad people but more of good things happening to good people. 

21. Am I stuck up for thinking I’m a ‘good person’? 

This was an unexpected and spontaneous post. So until next time… 

PEACE OUT. 

The First 365

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Since my last post, I reached the halfway point in my National Service journey, attended Lilly Singh’s, How To Be A Bawse Tour and have officially began the preparation for an upcoming overseas exercise to Australia.

First, completing 50 percent of my National Service means it has been one full year since I enlisted. And as much as the celebration of this ‘milestone’ can be diminished by bringing up the fact that I have another whole year to serve – I cannot help but feel proud of myself for getting through the first 365.

I do not want to go too much into the details of how I am feeling and why – I think I should save that for when I actually reach the finishing line. But I will say that it feels kind of surreal that it has been one whole year. On the 18th of May (the date I enlisted), I even messaged Shan and Jim – two of my buddies from BMT – that we met exactly one year ago.

I feel like I have been coping and getting through this phase of my life by making the most of my weekends. And I will continue to do just that. Especially now since I am starting to feel a disconnect between myself and the people around me in camp – the importance of the people outside of camp has become more apparent (but more on that later.)

Next, Lilly Singh a.k.a iiSuperwomanii is one of the few Youtubers I actually follow. Most of her videos are relatable and funny. And after watching her documentary, A Trip to Unicorn Island, I gained a lot of respect for how hard she works. And she does inspire me to work just as hard.

So when I found out she was making a stop in Singapore to promote her book, I was initially most excited for Shaf cause she is a huge fan. And knowing that the UFC and WWE were coming to Singapore as well, I already mentally prioritised those two events over Bawse. But then the people I was supposed to attend WWE Live with pulled out and I realised that I actually did not know any other UFC fans so all signs pointed me towards Bawse. And having attended the show with Shaf, I have no regrets.

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#BAWSE.

The event was on a Wednesday, the 24th of May – right in the middle of one of the worst weeks I have had in a while. I was down with a fusion of fever, flu, sore throat and headache that week. I did not want to report sick in camp because I valued my no MC (or medical status) streak up to that point. So I basically turned to Strepsils and Panadol, both of which only temporarily soothed me. (Long story short, I ended up caving in and visiting the Medical Centre in camp on Friday, that week, and the Medical Officer diagnosed with me ‘Upper Respiratory Tract Infection’ and I did not receive an MC or status. Later that day, I coughed up some thick phlegm (twice) that I deduced had been responsible for my sore throat and I started feeling better over the weekend after taking my meds.)

So Bawse was exactly the mid-week pick-me-up that I needed. Everyone who bought a ticket to the show got a copy of the book – which I thought was a brilliant way to sell the book. (Is that how all book tour shows work?) The book not only looks pretty with colourful pictures but feels good with it’s hardback cover and school textbook-like pages. And with all the positivity and wisdom across its pages – I am glad I have my own copy of it.

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One of the only decent photos I snapped because Lilly was always overexposed.

While waiting for the show to start, me and Shaf observed that there were many brown people around – including brown Moms who were there with their children too. It was sweet.

But then the show started, and the fans were screaming and cheering after every sentence Lilly spoke. And the people at the front standing up – blocking the view of the people behind them – started this chain reaction of people standing up until Lilly told everyone not to waste their energy standing. I literally shouted, ‘Thank you!’ when Lilly said that which prompted a Mom sitting in front of me to look back at me with an awkward smile. So I guess me and Shaf found the ‘over-excited’ fans annoying.

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One Bawse with two Bawses-In-Progress.

But other than that… It was fun, funny and inspirational.

Now, only a few people actually know that I am partaking in an upcoming overseas exercise. I had not mentioned it previously because I did not know much of the details and my participation was not confirmed. And I know, participating in this contradicts my whole concept of wanting to be a wallflower during my National Service. So I was trying to justify it to myself. But it sort of just happened because I did not want to say no to the opportunity.

Now that it has been confirmed, I can share what I know.

I will be away in Rockhampton, Queensland from end-August to mid-October – a little less than two months with a group of about twenty to thirty people – only one person I already knew.

From what I understand, my purpose there is to help set up and man relevant radio equipment at remote locations, in three to four day shifts and other times manage the drawing and returning of store equipment.

Of course, I had my reservations from the first time I entertained the idea of participating. Being in a foreign country away from close friends and family for a relatively long period of time is going to be a challenge and I can already foresee at least one emotional meltdown. But the pros of going on this trip definitely outweigh the cons.

And I have already made comparisons between the different aspects of this trip and reality shows to make it fun for myself. If life was a reality show, this would be like filming a spin-off – with new people in a new setting.

Leading up to the exercise, I had to report to another camp to learn how to use relevant equipment, clean and then pack them neatly into shipping containers. It took about two weeks and during that time, I got to know some of the people I will be travelling with. I loved observing the group dynamics. But some people will be only going for the first frame, others the second frame and the rest – like myself – will be there for both. So the group dynamics will be different when we are actually there.

I have also given thought to how going on this exercise means people in camp will get used to not having me around. Having to reintegrate myself into the platoon after being away for two months is definitely one of my irrational concerns. Because like I mentioned earlier, I have been dealing with not being able to connect with the people around me in camp.

I am beginning to understand it could be because I am expecting more than surface level connections from people who are likely not keen on making such connections – at least with me. But still I put in the effort and then start questioning what is wrong with myself when the effort is not reciprocated. I have also been noting the passing comments people have made to me about myself. And it is just exhausting when it’s almost always negative.

I feel misunderstood. And to be really honest, it is affecting me more than it should. I would say I have been myself. I use jokes as a way to break the ice which usually works out fine. But then when I continue to do so when there is no ice left to melt, I end up coming across ‘mean’ or ‘annoying’ – this is something that I am only just acknowledging as I am writing it.

It has been quite the struggle not having ‘that one person.’ So maybe going on this trip would be just the break I needed?

In other news:

Birthdays, birthdays and more birthdays.


Shaf, Jamie and I celebrated Chelsea’s birthday with lunch and dessert before we explored the Bugis/Raffles City area taking polaroids. It reminded me of some of the challenges they had on Asia’s Next Top Model. We definitely need to do that again. We presented Chels with a ‘Art of Mass Effect‘ book and I am glad she liked it.


Shantel came back from the UK recently and so I joined in on the plan with Jesleen, Sam, Minyi, Shaf, Jamie and Chels to surprise her on her Birthday at her house. We bought balloons and the bus trip over with all the balloons was quite hilarious. The surprise was a success, there were tears and hugs. After we spent dinner grilling Shantel and Sam (mostly Sam) about their lives, we played burning bridges while having some drinks.


Sydi and I celebrated Azfar’s birthday with dinner and dessert. We got him a Sprezza Box – which is basically a subscription box for Men’s fashion and grooming accessories. We knew there was the possibility that Azfar might end up not liking any of the five to seven items in the box but we took our chances. Sydi wanted to get him a bag but we could not agree on a bag… Until, Azfar told me on a train ride about three bags he had his eyes on – I swear, I could not tell if he was dropping last minute hints. So I passed the info on to Sydi and we agreed on a bag.


Speaking of Sydi, he recently commissioned after nine months. I am really proud of how far he has come. I believe that the worst part of his NS journey is over but he is pretty skeptical. Regardless, I know that he will pull through no matter what is thrown in his way.


There was also an alumni gathering at school for all DTVM students. I felt extra awkward at this event. There were just too many layers to things that were happening. There were the friends you came with (Nica, Minyi, Jamie, Shaf and Chels), the people you actually want to catch up with, the people you say ‘Hi’ or ‘Bye’ to, to be polite and then the lecturers. It was chaotic but it was very reality TV chaotic. Like we were all having our own side bars because we all had our own connections to the different people in the room and there was indeed quite a lot to discuss or at least catch up on.


I also recently caught up with Yamunah and Ili. It has been quite sometime since we headed out. And this time more than ever before, I acknowledged this feeling of  ‘it’s us versus the world’ which made me feel at ease.

In conclusion, I know that everything that is bothering me right now will not be a problem in 10 months when I complete my NS. But I do not want to spend every day looking forward to that. I want to be able to make my weekdays count too. And in order to do that, I either have to find a way to connect with the people around me in camp OR I have to learn how to be content with doing my own thing and being on my own.

It is going take me a while to figure things out but hey, if it takes shorter than 10 months, then great, I will have a little time to make the most of whatever time is left. And if it takes longer then 10 months then great, I would not have to worry about it anymore.

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.