In My Head

852110236_13448670704630895532.jpgThe past three months have gone by pretty quickly and I love how it is already April. I did spend quite a lot of the time being in my head trying to figure things out. As much as I try to keep my sensitive and insecure moments to a minimum, sometimes I just cannot help myself.

But before I get to writing about those deeper moments – which are mostly in camp – I will start with the highlights from the weekends – when I am out of camp.

In February, I attended Jamie’s play, An Absolute Turkey and in March, Shaf’s play, The Illusionist. Now, I have told the both of them this – if our lives were a reality show, the ‘competition’ between the both of them over whose play is better would have been a driving force for drama the entire season. HAHA.

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Post-Show Happiness Pt. 1

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Post-Show Happiness Pt. 2

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Post-Show Happiness Pt. 3

But no, in all seriousness, it was fun supporting the both of them. I feel like they both stepped out of their comfort zones – in different ways – and it made me proud, sitting there in the audience, watching them and being there with a flower or candy bouquet after the show. I hope to see them in action again soon.

The All In! Young Writers’ Festival was held in March too. I only attended one screening of a few short films including, I Love You More, a short film that I was involved in producing as part of a group project for a filmmaking module over a year ago.

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Forgot to mention that they were both late.

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But it’s okay, I forgive ya’ll.

It was nice that this project brought me, Dalene and Minyi back together a year later. (The other group members, Rachel, Sherlyn and Chels couldn’t make it.) I held off from re-watching the short film leading up to the screening because I thought that seeing it again after a long time during the screening would make it more ‘special.’ After the screening, we had lunch where we gave each other life updates and rehashed certain things that happened back during our three years in Poly. We also did some window shopping so it was some simple fun.

Later in March, I also attended a secondary school reunion with Azfar, Rosydi and Gina. It was hosted at one of our schoolmate’s house. Although I really appreciated the invite, I was hesitant and reluctant to attend from the get go. Secondary school just does not bring back the best of memories for me – I did not really fit in and back then it was quite a struggle. So it was a last minute decision to attend.

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I think it has been close to two years since the four of us were last together?

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I hope not another two years go by before we’re together again. *Glares at Gina*

Rosydi and Azfar could totally see how nervous I was on the bus to the reunion. And honestly, I would not have attended the reunion if they were not attending with me. I think it was just the uncertainty as to who was going to be there and how they were going to act that made me nervous. I knew Gina would be there too and since she has not been the easiest person to meet up with, seeing her there – though she showed up two hours late – was an added bonus.

The three of them were able to interact with these people that we had not seen in forever pretty easily but for me, it was awkward. Of course there was the typical army talk with the guys but none of the girls I used to be close to were there. (I believe that the invitations did not reach everyone… Oops.)

I also feel like I have evolved from who I used to be back in secondary school and so these people who did not really know me on a deeper level back then – to begin with – did not have much to say to me and likewise I did not have much to say to most of them either. After all, I was quite the wallflower for a bulk of those four years.

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At least I won’t have to worry about FOMO now.

I cannot really say that I regret attending but at the same time, I cannot say I am glad I attended either.

And last night, I attended Fifth Harmony’s 7/27 Tour concert after buying the tickets way back in January. I was lucky that Khairul – a friend that I made during the two month Signals course after BMT – was willing to go with me.

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Gotta thank the concert buddy for groovin’ along.

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April may have only just started but this concert is most definitely a highlight. I found myself letting loose as I sang and danced my heart out. It was totally worth the wait and money and the girls were gorgeous! I felt really happy when Normani noticed and reciprocated my wave. If life was a reality show, attending this concert would have made for a perfect season finale.

In between all these key events, I think I have been doing an okay job at balancing my weekends with meet-ups and ‘me’ time. I think there was only one weekend where I contemplated between going out and staying home but I decided to go out anyway.

Life in camp has been generally alright. I tend to forget how lucky I am to have ended up in this camp and unit, in terms of workload and location. But finding my place and people, is still an issue.

A new batch of about 20 Signallers came in a month ago – a larger amount than expected. I took a genuine interest in getting to know most of them because we would have to decide who to keep with us after a two week ‘orientation’ programme – the rest would be posted out to different ‘departments’ within our unit. And since I would be working with whoever stays until next May when I leave, it was an important decision too.

We kept about a third of them. It was exciting having new people around. They were people who were easy to talk to and did work. But when you look at the big picture, the newbies did not exactly shake up the office dynamics like I had hoped.

For a start, I still feel like I lack a true confidante and ally in camp. You know, that one person that I can complain and vent to without worrying about what I said being repeated. And also the kind of person that I can make eye contact with and smile when something happens in the office because we both know that we are thinking the same thing.

I miss having that kind of connection with someone.

So I end up bottling things up in camp. Occasionally, I do let things slip because I can only hold so much in. But then I question if I should have said anything at all because I get asked if I have ‘anger issues’ or am told that I am ‘oversensitive.’

Do not get me wrong. I am still able to be myself in camp. I disturb and annoy almost everyone around me. And this is an indication that I have reached a certain level of comfort around these people. But there are different layers to every relationship and with these people, it is most definitely on the surface.

It doesn’t help that they do not really get me. I am a lot of things but these people know me best to be ‘annoying.’ I can own that but it does get exhausting when that seems to be the only word people associate you with – even if lightheartedly.

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.

There are also other things that have happened or been said that got the wheels in my head turning. But at the end of the day, I know I can’t let what people think, say or do affect my spirit. It is just hard to remember at times especially when there is no one in your environment to remind you of that.

So I am going to try to care less and not add up the nothings into something. I know it is not going to be easy and I will probably be in my head again by the end of the week – after all, it does keep me occupied. But I will be working on it. Whatever happens, happens.

Fifth Harmony sang in their song, ‘Brave Honest Beautiful’:

“Don’t go and waste your precious time with all that nonsense on your mind.”

And this reminder is why I feel like the Fifth Harmony concert is a perfect finale.

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.

A Quarter of a Third

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January is over. That means that a quarter of the first third of 2017 is over. And I am completely fine with that.

2017 for me, is set to be a full – and rather stagnant – year of serving the nation. So I have been trying to set little milestones and create things to look forward to, to get through the year. And so far it has been working.

Somehow I have at least one ‘key’ event to look forward to over the next three months: Jamie’s play, An Absolute Turkey in February, All In! Young Writers Festival and Shaf’s play, The Illusionist in March and last but certainly not the least, Fifth Harmony’s 7/27 Tour concert in April. Add to this the plans yet to be made and I think the first third of 2017 is looking pretty good.

And not to forget all the TV shows and movies to look forward to each month. There are already five reality shows premiering in February and the Power Rangers movie is coming up in March. Having a new episode of Celebrity Big Brother UK to watch every day in January definitely had an impact on how I felt like the month flew by. So having all this daily entertainment will definitely help too.

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Of course, all these plans are only for the weekends. On the weekdays, I am still stuck in camp. I have been at my post-vocational training unit for over two months now. After two weeks undergoing a type of orientation programme in November and a laid-back time with not much to do in December, I was worried about how intense things would get starting from 2017. The people around me gave me the impression that things were going to get a lot busier so that fed my paranoia. And I guess the paranoia was justified because the first week of 2017 felt like a really long one.

But first, before the work week officially started, I had a reunion with my Poly friends. It is no secret that the new groups of people that I have encountered and met since enlisting only made me miss the comforting presence of the people around me during my three-year diploma course. So I missed them dearly and wanted to catch up with them.

The plan for a reunion originally surfaced back in November during a dinner with Jamie, Chels and Shaf. I was wondering if there should even be one since it seemed like everyone with the exception of myself has been able to see each other every now and then or have at least crossed paths since graduation. So my doubt was whether the reunion would be as special for everyone as it would be for me. But with a little encouragement from the girls, I decided to go ahead with attempting to plan the reunion.

Finding a day that accommodated everyone was the first obstacle. I was hoping to meet before 2016 ended so that it would be a Christmas gathering just like the last one (this might have also been me trying to get a Christmas tradition started.) However, we could not find a date that suited everyone so it got pushed to the first week of 2017, on the 2nd of January. Vera being able to host us at her place solved the problem of finding a suitable location. And for food we turned to Domino’s. So I guess everything sort of fell into place eventually.

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EVERYONE looks great in this picture.

When the day finally came, we met up in two groups. After exchanging hugs, the first group of us (Hus, Alicia, Chels, Jamie, Shantel, Vera, Sam and myself) headed to Vera’s house where we took turns playing Exploding Kittens and another card game with poker cards (that I don’t remember the name of) while music was playing in the background. And later when the second group (Minyi, Nica, Dalene, Jes and Shaf) arrived, (and after exchanging hugs) I rushed us to take a picture because Jamie had to leave. We then introduced Exploding Kittens to the new arrivals until the pizza arrived (late). (I should also mention that I really missed these hugs)

We all sat around the table, eating for a couple of minutes until I started with a recount of the highlights (mention-worthy moments, people, complaints and complaints about people) in my life since graduation. And then we all went in a circle sharing the juicy moments from over the past seven months. Even if someone thought that they did not have anything juicy to share, we squeezed the juice out of them and I thought that was really nice. I felt like we were all genuinely interested and present, listening to each other without being on our phones and laughing not only at each other but together too. What more could I ask for from a reunion, right?

I left slightly earlier because I had to book in to camp that night and I did feel emotional – though I didn’t quite show it. It was probably the uncertainty as to when we were all going to be together again. It is only going to get harder for us to stick together, isn’t it? I hope we do though. It might not be a Christmas tradition but could a year-end reunion be a ‘thing’ for this group of friends? Only time will tell.

Now, back to serving the nation. On the Wednesday and Friday of the first week of January, I went ‘outfield’. ‘Outfield’ basically means doing what we do in camp or using our knowledge and skills out in the real world as a form of exercise. So this ‘outfield’ was a simulation exercise for an overseas exercise that was coming up – which I am not involved in but was brought along anyway for exposure and experience, I guess.

We travelled to the site on Tuesday night and had to sleep there overnight. And I was so unprepared for what was in store for me that night. The plan was to sleep in the OUV that we travelled there in but because of ‘technical difficulties’, we were left to sleep on safari beds… Until strong currents of wind made that difficult. It was so cold that night, we moved into one of those large tents where there were some extra benches for us to sleep on… Until it started raining really heavily. And since our benches were close to the opening of the tent, it was impossible to lay flat on the bench without getting wet. So, I sat on the end of the bench that was further away from the opening of the tent, trying to keep myself warm. It was pretty bad and I barely got any sleep.

During the day, I helped out when needed. Due to the nature of my job scope, my ‘outfield’ experiences are not as physically exhausting as what others might experience. But I guess you could say it was mentally exhausting waiting around when not needed and keeping track of all our equipment. I was literally counting down the minutes to the end of the day.

We travelled back to camp on Wednesday night and then left for the outfield site again on Thursday night. This time, we were able to sleep in the OUV so that was better. When we returned to camp on Friday at midnight, I was able to go home.

One of my Sergeants (who was also on site with me) told me that this would probably be the most tiring ‘outfield’ I would have to go through. So I am glad that it is out of the way.

And it was not all that bad. I met some new people and got to know others better. 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.

As for the work load back at camp, I would say it has been manageable thus far. My practical way of doings things might come across as me being lazy. So whenever that happens, I find myself having to do some damage control.

Since I will be spending the rest of my National Service at this unit, I have plenty of time to get used to how things work here. Whatever happens, I am taking it one day at a time.

Other highlights:

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The end of my Christmas weekend was spent annoying these two

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Tried Marble Slab for the first time

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New Year’s Eve Eve was spent sleeping over at Chels’

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Games. Food. Drinks. Conversations.

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Guest appearance by Eden

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Did some outlet mall shopping and airport visiting on New Year’s Eve with the dudes.

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Spontaneously caught up with Hus mid-January where he also served as my one-for-one Starbucks buddy

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Chels’ friends from two different points in her life met up again

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Interesting choice of drinks and conversation topics

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.

More Goodbyes Than Hellos

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As 2016 is coming to a close, I am realising that it has been a year with more ‘official’ exits than entrances – more goodbyes than hellos.

Granted, most of these goodbyes were not really ‘goodbye forever’… They were mostly ‘see you later.’ But it is still upsetting that that is just how life works – like a revolving door with people entering and leaving all the time.

I know, I know… It has always been this way. Why am I being dramatic like its a new revelation? Well maybe because it has become more evident this year.

From my internship to graduation to basic military training (BMT) and the most recent vocational training, I have had to say goodbye to many different groups of people over the year. Some were easier than others cough BMT cough but I still wish that I did not have to officially say goodbye to that many groups of people… In less than a year.  It certainly does not feel normal especially for a creature of habit like myself.

Now, I am not writing about this to dwell on it but rather because I wanted to acknowledge the feeling and thought. Now that I have done that I can move on to telling you about the eight weeks of vocational training that I underwent from mid-September to mid-November.

But first, after BMT ended, I had a week and a half-long break. I used that time to regroup and reorganise, catch up with friends and family and of course, laze at home with daily doses of reality TV and sitcoms – same ol’, same ol’.

But it was also during this short break that I finally started the process of revamping my room. I had a light blue and gold aesthetic in mind and so the first step was naturally to paint my dull purple walls blue. My Mum was kind enough to help me and we managed to finish it in a day.

The end-result turned out better than I expected. The blue gave the room a sort of natural-reflective glow when light shines in through the window. And my room definitely felt fresher. It was also one of the rare times that I actually followed through on one of my impulses so that was nice too.

Over the next few weekends I continued the room revamping process by printing polaroids and putting them up in photo frames. As of right now, the room is still lacking gold decor and a couple of things lying around need to be either removed or upgraded. I plan on taking my time to complete the revamping process as I only have my weekends to spare. At the very least, it will serve as a creative outlet for me over the weekends – a break from the daily mundane military activities.

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Printed polaroids of people who inspire me (And yes, that includes the Kardashian/Jenner women)

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This little area on my wall is unofficially known as my ‘Inspiration Station’

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Also framed up polaroids of pictures I took at WWE Live in Singapore last year. It was a memorable night.

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Before

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After (To be honest, I didn’t really know what I was doing)

The morning of the Friday before the break ended was when everyone found out which vocation, camp and unit they got posted to. Now, most people have a rough idea of what vocation they want after BMT. As for me, I had little to no knowledge on the different vocations.

I knew I had no chance of going to command school – I had not expressed interest. So that was one less possibility I had to worry about. For the most part, I was not feeling nervous. I was feeling hopeful. Hopeful for something decent and reasonable compared to BMT. So I was satisfied to find out that my vocation would be Signals.

Back in BMT, my buddy who was a Signals regular, had given me the impression that the Signals job scope was more technical than physical. Upon further Googling, I learnt that a Signaller basically ensures that communication is possible during times of war – using antennas, radios, satellites, etc. And most people on forums also felt that the eight week vocational training I was about to start was pretty relaxed. So with all this gathered information, I felt pretty calm.

I remember this weird feeling I had during the first two days at the new camp surrounded by new people. Every single person I met reminded me of someone I already knew – either from BMT or school. It felt like no one was original but rather just rip-offs. I wondered if I had reached the maximum capacity of new people I could meet in a year. But soon, I started seeing people for who they were instead of comparing them to people I already knew.

Now, two months later, I am happy to say that there are a couple of cool people that I plan on keeping in touch with. I connected with people thanks to Marvel comics, being able to appreciate the Kardashians and shared opinions on people and situations in camp. I also met like-minded individuals who I connected with on a whole ‘nother level and I had conversations with them that I have never had before.

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Nights Out No. 1

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Nights Out No. 2

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Nights Out No. 3

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Nights Out No. 5 (No. 4 was with people who didn’t really take selfies)

With these people around, time spent in camp flew by pretty fast. It did not take me too long to adapt to this new lifestyle. We had a night out almost every week which allowed me to settle my cravings. Other times, we would order in discreetly.

Physical trainings were scheduled for only twice a week and they were pretty decent in intensity compared to BMT. I did not mind that our training schedule had our days filled with lessons as I definitely prefer studying compared to doing something physical – especially in the army.

This meant that our days often ended around three to four in the afternoon. And we had brought in card and board games like Scrabble, Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens and Uno to pass time.

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Sunday Folks Pt. 1 (Recently caught up with some of them over waffles and ice cream)

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Sunday Folks Pt .2

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Sunday Folks Pt. 3

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Sunday Folks Pt. 4

You would think that it was all sunshine and rainbows but it was around the halfway mark when I felt my morale was really low. I got frustrated trying to understand the theories behind what we were being taught – it had to do with physics which for a media student like myself is so four years ago. There was quite a lot to memorise for weekly tests and I hated not understanding what I was trying to remember.

It is really damaging to your morale when you find yourself having to attempt things that you are not good at week after week. This feeling had probably been building up since the BMT days.

On top of that, I started to wonder if I had become too comfortable around my platoon mates that I started rubbing them the wrong way with my constant barrage of energy that might come across as annoying.

The dip in morale really made me miss the poly days and the people who came with that. I missed being creative. I missed working with a group of people to bring ideas to life. I missed being around people who I knew loved – or at least liked – me for who I am.

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I was trying to find a picture that represented the ‘Poly Days’ and I found this on Facebook

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But I ended up going with this picture on Instagram

But it all came down to me having to care a little less.

  1. Now that I am at my post-vocational training unit, I know that about 75% of what we learnt is irrelevant to my new unit.
  2. Those who mind don’t matter, those who matter don’t mind. Only time will tell who sticks around.

I do think that those two months of vocational training I underwent might just be the best two months of my National Service.

On book-in days, I only felt nervous about my Uber arriving on time instead of what the week ahead had in store for me. This is a huge contrast to the BMT days when I felt anxious every book-in day – from the morning at home until night in camp, when we could retreat to our bunks.

Now, I am at my post-vocational training unit. Things are… Same, same but different? It’s been three weeks but I still feel like I have not been around long enough to figure out how I feel about the way things work here. It is probably because December is not the busy period and so I am cautiously waiting for things to get hectic before I finalise how I feel. But of course, when I have it figured out, you know you can read all about it here.

Other highlights:

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The cousins were all together again this Deepavali which is rare

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Caught up with two people who made my internship a little easier by having lunch with me every now and then

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Spontaneously watched Marvel’s Doctor Strange with Rosydi and Azfar one Saturday night

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Caught Disney’s Moana with Shaf before meeting Jamie and Chels for dinner and drinks

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.

P.S: I have tried inserting this portion into the post above but it just ruined the flow. When I started writing this post I was not expecting to reflect on the passing of a relative. It definitely adds a darker layer to this post so I decided to insert it at the end.

My uncle passed away this past week and the funeral was held yesterday. I was not very close to him but seeing the people you love cry, is heartbreaking. It definitely hurts to see the people you love hurting. At the same time, seeing how family came together and stayed strong at different points for each other was really beautiful and admirable.

Now, I am generally feeling okay. But the pessimist in me makes me worry by looking at the bigger picture. This is not the last funeral I am going to have to attend. Everyone is only getting older and death is an inevitable part of growing up and growing old. As an emotional person, the thought of losing loved ones is something that has kept me up on random nights. The optimist in me has yet to find a way to defeat the pessimist when it comes to dealing with ‘loss.’

 

Where Do I Even Begin? Pt. 2


Alright it’s finally time to write about how I feel about the army. My previous post should have given you a very brief summary of what I have to say. I will try to keep this post short and sweet as I do not have many pictures to accompany the text due to the no in-camp photos policy. (And just for the record, I was not planning such a big gap between part 1 and 2… It just happened.)

I was hoping to be a wallflower throughout my army journey. I just wanted to be in the background. You could say it was my strategy. Why? Because it did not take me too long to figure out that the army never has and never will be my thing. In other words, I just did not have any ambition in the army.

Going to command school and becoming a commander might be prestigious and a productive way to spend the two years for most but for me, it was not going to mean anything. So I tried my best not to stand out for any good or bad reasons. But my plan went down the drain when everyone in my platoon started knowing me as the guy with the same name as the Platoon Sergeant.

Having not passed my physical fitness test prior to my enlistment, I had an extra two months of physical training before the basic military training (BMT) phase began. So in total, I went through four months of training. The physical training phase which included running, conditioning circuits, strength training and gym sessions reminded me a lot of The Biggest Loser.

Even though I started my journey having a long list of worries, the first week made me realise that it was not being able to cope with the intensity of physical trainings that I was most worried about. However, that was not much of a problem as the training was progressive. As the weeks passed, I not only lost weight but I felt healthier and fitter and eventually I passed my physical fitness test too. 

These extra two months also meant that activities were more spaced out over the whole four months as compared to the training the enhanced batch of recruits (those who passed their fitness test prior to their enlistment) have to go through in their two months. I remember one of my section mates complaining that the two extra months was a waste of time and that he would have worked harder to pass his fitness test if he could go back in time. But I disagree. The two extra months really gave me more time to adapt to the change in environment.

This new environment I was forced to be in – five days a week – was a pretty negative one. With heavy emphasis on discipline and regimentation, there was a lot of yelling and punishments when standards and expectations were not met. Even when we were not getting punished, people would speculate that something bad was about to happen. And other times, there would be constant talk about feeling ‘shagged.’ 

As for me, I tried to keep the complaining to a minimum in camp – I preferred to save it for my friends and family on the outside. I felt that such negativity could spread very easily and I wanted no part of it. It was not who I am. Things were bad enough as they were and I really did not feel like we had to add on to it with our paranoia and whining. I chose to be hopeful and optimistic. But granted, it was tough to keep it up. 

It was around week four that I start to doubt the practicality of my positivity. Am I just being foolish and silly? What exactly was I trying to achieve? I remember talking to Shaf about this and she gave me simple advice that I plan to live by for the rest of my life. 

“You being positive is the only thing that will get you through without damaging you as a person.” 

I felt as though this simple advice was catered specially for me because being positive is something that I would like to think I am known for. It reminded me that I was doing the right thing and the people that know me, know that sometimes reassurance is all I need to keep on going. So I did just that. But just as I was beginning to adapt the BMT phase began in week eight. 

BMT gave me something new to worry about each week. Every week introduced a different aspect of being a soldier. From rifles to hand grenades to the standard obstacle course and of course, field camp, these were all things I had to check off the to-do list. There was definitely a lot of uncertainty. I had to remind myself every now and again that worrying was not going to change anything. So as much worrying as I did, eventually I got through it all.

Like the obstacle course and field camp, for example. Both these things reminded me of Survivor. Stumbling through the course for the third or fourth time was what triggered me to begin writing my previous post. It was a day before my birthday and having to take on the balancing beam and apex ladder despite my fear of heights had me feeling extra anxious. Even though I passed both obstacles by ‘cheating’ – using my hands to help me – I felt really upset after. It might have been a combination of things that were going on that day – I struggled to swim during swim lesson that day like always because I was afraid to get my feet off the ground for more than half a second. I was also feeling emotional about spending my birthday in camp. I was so upset that I started tearing up as I walked back with Jim and Shan – two of the people I was closest to in camp. 

“Im so sick of being scared of everything. I couldn’t swim earlier and I can’t do this now.”

That’s what I told them as they walked with me while I was crying. They knew how nervous I felt about taking on the balancing beam and apex ladder. So naturally, they told me not to be too hard on myself. I really appreciated their support – they even waited by the sidelines for me to finish the course. But it took me a while to pull myself together after that. 

I did some thinking that night and I told myself that I have come a long way. I told myself that I had to give myself some credit for always pushing through. Up until that point – even up until the present day – I have never fallen out from participating in an activity in the army. So I might have been scared and I might not have done as well as everyone else but I tried. 

And this made me realise that many of my victories over the past four months came in the form of just tackling whatever is thrown my way. Many of my victories came in the form of just trying. I definitely wasn’t the best at anything over the four months – other than maybe cleaning bird shit off of our bunk corridor (being a corridor cleaner was my role on the duty roster) and memorising the names of everyone in my platoon (a challenge that was issued by one of our Sergeants to the whole platoon that I voluntarily took on) – but that was okay. The fact that I stumbled through it and made it to the other side knowing how miserable I felt at various points is satisfactory amazing. I am proud of myself.

“Just remember everyone goes through the same shit and you will feel better.” 

That’s exactly what one of my lecturers told me when he asked me how I was coping with my national service. And it makes sense because the people around you are one of the factors that make or break your experiences.

Sharing living quarters with 15 very different individuals has definitely been an interesting experience – almost like Big Brother. 

Meet Section One


For those who don’t know, you sleep in a bunk with your section – which is usually a quarter of the platoon you belong to. The size of a section or platoon varies but my section was made up of 16 people. It’s natural for you to stick to these people because well, they are almost always around. And because of that same reason, these people are also the ones very likely to see you at your worst. 

As for me, I tended to be ‘anti-social’ because I really cherished the peace and quiet I get away from everyone in camp. You barely get any alone time and the only real private space we had access to is a toilet cubicle. So while most people were sitting around in the middle of the bunk socialising and using their phones, I preferred to lay on my bed – which was in a corner – and listen to music. (I know it’s not exactly ‘quiet’ if I’m listening to music but I think you get what I’m trying to say – I just wanted to get away from all the army talk or well, talk in general.)

Don’t get me wrong, I did talk to people and make friends. I definitely made more of an effort once I had more or less adapted to my new environment. I tried getting to know everyone. I would go from bunk to bunk talking to people. But after a while, I just got tired.

I did find two people who I could talk to about almost anything. My buddy, Jim and my section mate, Shan. These two definitely made the four months a little easier by providing me with the mental and emotional support that I needed. 

Meet Jim

Jim and I were opposites from day one. But like Jim would say, this meant that our strengths made up for each other’s weaknesses. He was the messy one who left things lying around and did things last minute while I was the one who rushed to get things done way ahead of time. He was the more social one who is almost always in a conversation laughing and joking around with people while I preferred my peace and quiet. He was more carefree and go with the flow while I wanted to have everything planned and figured out. I’m sure we pissed each other off every now and then but we were always there for there each other when it mattered. 

Meet Shan

Then we have Shan. It was easy for us to click because we shared the same sentiments about serving the nation and we were both from the media field as well. Shan knew more about me than anyone else in camp because I felt comfortable enough to confide in him and I would like to think he felt the same way too. We would uber home together every book out and we spent quite a lot of time together in camp. I will always remember the laughs we had because it was laughing that took my mind off the things that were bothering me. 

Of course, as much as the people inside camp were a factor in my experience so were my friends and family on the outside. It was tough having only two days a week to spend with friends and family and of course, I had to balance it with my TV shows and ‘me’ time too. As though I didn’t already cherish them enough, this experience made me appreciate them so much more. Sometimes knowing I will get to see them at the end of the week is the only thing that helped me get through – even up to the very last day during the 24 KM route march.

POP Pt. 1

POP Pt. 2

 

POP Pt. 3

About halfway through when I was beginning to feel the exhaustion, I started to think what my friends and family would tell me to encourage me if they were walking by my side. It made me emotional and if I was a little less tired and on my own, I’m sure I would have started crying . 

Even during field camp, the tears started streaming down my face when we received our letters from home – and it was only day three! Knowing they were proud of me and that I will get to see them the following week gave me strength. 

 So there you have it. A summary of what went down over the four months. I filtered out the most relevant incidents and moments to give you something as close to the whole story as possible. But of course there are things I left out because it was hard enough trying to find a way to make this post flow naturally. If you are curious, let me know and I’ll spill the cold tea – because it’s old. 

 Until next time, 

PEACE OUT. 

Where Do I Even Begin? Pt. 1

Going three months without updating my blog might seem like I have abandoned it completely especially when I do have mention-worthy experiences to write about and things to reflect upon. For example, I didn’t write about the tiny things I wished to accomplish and managed to accomplish during the last few weeks before my enlistment. Neither did I write about the two graduation trips that I went on back in May to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. And I also haven’t exactly said much about my army journey even though it started 16 weeks ago.Yet every time I started writing a new blog post, the same two reasons would stop me.

  1. Lack of free time meant not having enough time to blog which in turn led to me feeling like whatever happened before my enlistment was no longer relevant and timely, with every week that passed.
  2. I didn’t want it to seem like I have transformed into a product of my current (forced) environment by writing about my army experiences. I know I don’t have a choice and a part of me admires and respects the people who have accepted or embraced their current circumstance and decided to make the most of their time here but at the same time I also resent them for giving in and changing to fit the mould so easily. However, I can’t control how they think and what they do. I just know that for now, I am still pretty resistant to certain aspects of this experience and I did not want the army to be the only thing I had left to talk about. I do not want these two years to have a role in defining who I am. Because the army has never been and will never be my ‘thing.’ Now, whether this resistance is working in my favour or not is something I’ll ponder over with you later. (In Pt. 2, probably)

With that being said, I was sitting around in my bunk after completing (or at least attempting) one of the obstacles in the standard obstacle course that I had been nervous about for three weeks when I felt an urge to write and translate my thoughts and emotions into words. And that’s what brought me here.

It would make most sense for me to go in a chronological order. So before I tell you what the past 16 weeks have been like, let’s go back to April & May – the weeks leading up to my enlistment. The list of things I wanted to do were pretty simple.

  • Meet up and spend time with anyone I would normally hang out with. (Including family, of course)
  • Attempt to prepare myself physically – and thereby, mentally – for my enlistment.
  • Laze at home and watch TV shows.
  • Try not to worry about my impending enlistment with every week that passed.

I managed to accomplish the first point – including the people who were usually hard to get a hold of. For example, my younger cousins who I used to have sleepovers with my at my Aunt’s and one of my close secondary school friends, Gina. The cousins have become increasingly busy with school as they grow up and Gina on the other hand is always either working or having other plans. Thereby, it felt good to meet up and spend time with them while I still could fit myself into their schedule. Add visiting my grandparents to that list and it just made me feel more complete as I checked these people off my mental checklist of people I wanted to see before my enlistment.

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A short sleepover with the younger cousins.

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Caught up with Gina over Bingsu and window shopping.

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I’ve only ever tried  Nunsongyee’s Cheesecake Bingsu so I decided to try an Oreo Bingsu this time.

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It was alright. Nunsongyee’s Cheesecake Bingsu is still my favourite though!

  • Meet up and spend time with anyone I would normally hang out with. (Including family, of course)
  • Attempt to prepare myself physically – and thereby, mentally – for my enlistment.
  • Laze at home and watch TV shows.
  • Try not to worry about my impending enlistment with every week that passed.

Now, I know the second and third points might contradict one another but I think I found a way to make it work. I tried to run every two days and then take a break on the third. It was pretty difficult to stick to this routine so I had to include a couple of cheat days too. I didn’t exactly feel fitter from all the exercise – especially since my running timing fluctuated regardless of how often I ran – but the effort I put in was what made me feel better and more prepared.

  • Meet up and spend time with anyone I would normally hang out with. (Including family, of course)
  • Attempt to prepare myself physically – and thereby, mentally – for my enlistment.
  • Laze at home and watch TV shows.
  • Try not to worry about my impending enlistment with every week that passed.

On the other hand, point four was pretty difficult to follow through with. I adopted this habit of feeling progressively worried or down as the day turned to night. It was just the realisation that yet another day had passed which meant I was a day closer to my enlistment. And you can imagine how this feeling only worsened with every week that passed. It was bitter sweet because me dreading time flying by made me have mixed feelings about my graduation trips too. Because looking forward to my graduation trips meant looking forward to the week or two before my enlistment.

I remember speaking to my Brother – who lately has been great at helping me worry less whenever I present him with something that’s bothering me – about this and he told me to enjoy the trips without thinking about my enlistment. Simple advice? Yes. But it might have been the reassurance that what I was feeling is justified that made me feel better.

Because I’m sure from the outside looking in, I might come across dramatic with all this talk about wanting to spend time with people while I still can and dreading enlistment. It’s not like I’m travelling overseas and never coming back nor have I been sentenced to life imprisonment. But if you actually know me, you would know that I have been worried about this next phase for the longest time. It just represents a lot of change to me. (More on that later, I guess)

As I accomplished these tiny things on my to-do list, time flew by and eventually it was time for my first graduation trip.

On some of my favourite reality shows like Shahs of Sunset and The Real Housewives, the cast goes on at least one trip every season. (I assume the producers love these trips as when people are forced to spend time together, it’s never smooth sailing – especially when the ‘people’ are reality TV personalities.) So that’s what I actually compared my graduation trips to – without the drama, of course. My graduation trips occupied the week and a half before my enlistment – with my graduation falling right smack in the middle. Thereby, I knew these trips would serve as one last hurrah with my closest friends before it became harder for us to meet as often as we used to.

The #BKKBabes 7D6N trip to Bangkok (just incase the hashtag wasn’t clear enough) with Shafna, Jamie and Chelsea was the first trip. A lot of planning went into the trip. We had conflicting ideas when it came to activities – the cultural, nature-ish side and the shop ’til you drop in the city side. And we also had to overcome a few obstacles like work schedules and my impending enlistment before everything fell into place. As for me, I was looking forward to the shopping as well as living in an Airbnb apartment with the girls for six nights.

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This has to be one of my favourite pictures from the trip.

 Highlight of the Trip: I want to say that all the shopping we did were highlight-worthy since I was there for the shopping but visiting True Love Cafe with Chelsea would be the main highlight because it was something different that I enjoyed. When Chels first presented me with this idea, I was pretty reluctant. I’ve always feared getting bitten by cats and dogs which is exactly why I hadn’t visited any cat or dog cafes up until True Love. It turned out to be a pretty zen environment and I managed to hang out with a couple of huskies and a shih tzu named ‘Momo’ who was quite the diva.

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#PreBKKBabesTexts Pt. 1

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They were so excited and fluffy!

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We had to have the bowl with ice cubes so they would come to us.

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I remember Chels laughing at how I am being side-eyed in this picture.

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The slice of cake and drink were an added bonus for me.

Best Buy: A navy blue cap with the letter ‘A’ on the front, simply because of how much I have used it lately. I remember telling Shaf two months in advance of our trip that I was looking for a cap with an ‘A’ on it and we decided that Bangkok was our best bet. I wanted ‘A’ because it’s the first letter of my name and it gives the cap a little character without being over the top.

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#PreBKKBabesTexts Pt. 2

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This is what the cap actually looks like. 

Most Dramatic Moment: There was one night when we had drinks at the Blue Sky Rooftop Bar. The pricing of the drinks and snacks wasn’t as pretty as the view from the top. We contemplated leaving but I’m glad we didn’t because we ended up opening up about things that not everyone at the table knew. It got a little emotional too and I think that’s why I’m calling it ‘dramatic’ – not in a mean way but because this wouldn’t have happened if the environment and situation was different.

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“It’s easy to get to the top when you have good people by your side.” Pt. 1

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Of course, Chels had to ruin the picture of my drink.

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Selfie from the top Pt. 1

The trip confirmed that I prefer shopping as opposed to experiencing the culture when travelling. It was a memorable trip and I am thankful that Jamie and Chelsea had their cameras so that we pretty pictures to look back at.

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Another one of my favourite pictures from the trip.

Our flight back was the night before our graduation. I remember my Brother picking me up at the airport and me unpacking and resetting everything in my room before getting some rest. Graduation was meaningful because it marked the official ending of my DTVM chapter. Added bonuses were me being able to see everyone again – much like a reunion show on reality TV shows – and also getting some recognition for all the hard work over the past three years in the form of an award. My parents came down and so did Rosydi and Azfar – the two close friends from secondary school that I was travelling to KL with.

Back together again less than 12 hours later. I remember us surprising Shaf with a Kylie Jenner lip kit. Jamie and Chels had to do all the coordinating with the seller while we in BKK and Shaf had no clue.

I think I will print this out as a polaroid.

It was a pretty interesting experiencing working with these seven people in the CASS Club.

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They got me a broccoli as my graduation flower. Thanks guys!

 The 4D3N KL trip had lesser planning as compared to the BKK trip or at least I wasn’t that involved in the planning as Azfar handled most of it. I was pretty reluctant to go on this trip especially since my enlistment was a week away. But I have no regrets as KL turned out to be better than I expected it to be.

Highlight of the Trip: Visiting the KL Tower would be a highlight because of the sky box. It reminded me of the Willis Tower in Chicago which I remember seeing on TV. I did have to do a little conquering of my fear of heights since the base of the sky box was see-through too. But surprisingly, it was also a really great place for pictures.

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“It’s easy to get to the top when you have good people by your side.” Pt. 2

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Here’s another picture of what my cap looks like. And yes, those are ice cream cones on my socks.

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Gotta spread my wings and fly away.

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Selfie from the top Pt. 2

 

Best Buy: I have been searching book stores for both of Andy Cohen’s books. You probably have never heard of Andy. He’s basically the guy behind The Real Housewives and he has his own talk show titled, Watch What Happens Live! and a radio show too. So I guess you could say he is one of my inspirations as I would love to be doing what he is doing. That is why I have been searching for physical copies of his books even though I have already read eBook versions of them. And I managed to find his first book, ‘Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Line of Pop Culture.’ It was pretty pricey but I think cheaper than ordering it online (considering the shipping cost.)

Most Dramatic Moment: Riding an ATV was really scary. It was literally an uphill battle and at one point, the instructor even asked me if I wanted to continue or ride with him instead because I was struggling so much. I think at least two of our vehicles broke down at different points which meant we had to wait for a replacement vehicle to be driven up to where we were stranded. It also started raining halfway through. That was when Azfar and I contemplated ending the journey there and returning back. But we decided to continue. I also remember Azfar and Rosydi being stuck pretty far back and the instructor having to drive back to check on them. This meant I was left alone in the middle of nowhere, waiting for five to ten minutes. The return journey was a lot easier probably because it was downhill. As much as I dreaded it while it was happening, I’m glad I rode the ATV because now I can say that I have done it. But if you asked me if I would do it again, I would say, ‘Once is enough.’ (I should also mention that my pants tore at some point during the ATV riding and I only realised it back at the hotel. R.I.P my olive green pants)

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I felt so ‘bro’ riding this ATV. (And the colour of my ATV matches my tee!)

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Candid Shot.

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At the rest point after what felt like a really long uphill ride.

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With the instructor.

Now, that you have heard about everything that happened prior to my enlistment, I can’t wait to tell you about what the past 16 weeks in the army have been like. Coincidentally, the first chapter in my army journey ends in three days with my graduation parade coming this Wednesday. So when better to reflect then at the end. Stay tuned!

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.

The Dreaded Next Chapter Pt. 2

I’ve told you everything you need to know about my internship. And you already know about some of the post-internship decisions I had to make. So this post is more about the things that are going to happen – whether I like it or not – before the current chapter closes and the next one begins.

Picking up from where I left off, I started tearing when I read the date on my enlistment letter because I was feeling a mix of fear and sadness. I was afraid of the unknown. And I was also upset that I had just two months before everything changed for two whole years. I revealed the news to some friends and I also told my Dad about it. However, it was the chat I had with my older brother that night that gave me a renewed confidence that I will be just fine. My brother basically answered any question I had, based on his experience. He told me to break up the two years into smaller portions and that made me realise that for now, all I need to worry about is the first two weeks of confinement because after that, at least I should be able to head home every weekend – unless there’s a twist.

I’ve been trying to prepare myself mentally and physically but it hasn’t exactly been easy. I feel conflicted between spending the two months working out as opposed to lazing around while I can. So far, I would like to think I’ve been doing an alright job at balancing both. And I hope that keeping that up or doing better will make me feel more confident and comfortable in the days leading up to my enlistment.

I’ve always known that it’s not going to be easy and that’s why I’ve been dreading it. I mean I’ve never been the fittest and it’s going to be tough keeping my emotions in check. But I do look forward to seeing myself change for the better throughout the next two years. I just hope that I don’t lose what my friends call, a ‘killer’ smile in the process.

“I’m stronger than you think and tougher than I know.”

The next thing that is going to happen whether I like it or not is graduation. And before the graduation ceremony was the graduation show – DTVM Awards – which literally happened two days ago. It’s a tradition for every class to put up a performance at the DTVM Awards. In Year 1, my class put on a skit. In Year 2, we hosted a game. And now, in Year 3, we filmed a music video parody. Although, I was initially against the idea of filming a music video because of the amount of time and energy we would have to invest into it, I’m glad we ended up pulling through. Because looking back, it wasn’t just a music video that we created, it was memories too. I can’t wait for us to look back at both the music video and blooper reel in years to come and cry and laugh in equal measure.

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

– Jim Valvano

It was during the process of filming the music video that I started to wonder how anything else that is to come can possibly top the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had over the past three years. I’ve laughed, I’ve thought and I’ve cried over the past three years enough to feel complete. And I definitely feel like DTVM is something special that I will always have with me.

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The cast of the music video in our #Kidzania outfits. (Missing Shantel, Sam and Eunice)

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#ThugLife selfie.

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#Flannel selfie.

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#BusinessFormal selfie.

I was expecting to cry during the video montage of the past three years, at the DTVM Awards but it was taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture that got me emotional.

“And yes, I know we all love each other but the fact is the glue that holds high school friendships together is high school. Being around each other everyday, seeing each other in the halls, whenever something is up we don’t have to do any work to talk to our friends about it; they’re right there. As soon as it takes effort, we get lazy and then we forget and then we just move on. I don’t want to fade away.”

– Tina Cohen Chang (Glee)

The recycled quote above sums up my sentiments perfectly. Over the three years, we have all found our immediate circle of friends. And I’m sure we’ll all do a great job at keeping in touch with the people within that immediate circle. What saddens me is the thought that we won’t make the same effort to keep in touch with the people outside that circle who we still consider our friends.

I know we went six months without seeing each other everyday during our internships. And that little gathering we had in the middle for Christmas felt special, for that reason. And now every time we see each other, it doesn’t really feel like anything has changed other than time having passed by and us knowing that graduation is approaching. All I’m hoping for is that we try to keep the bond that we now share even if we get busy and even if it isn’t as convenient as it once used to be and even if we have new friends to fill that void.

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I want to walk down a real red carpet with these people.

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The #ILoveYouMore Team.

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The #WeAreTheMob Team.

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With Shaf, Chels and Jamie. (I hope the official photos turned out better.)

I want to be there in the future, to hear about the new TV show they’re developing or about the cover story of their magazine or about a event I can attend to show my support. I know it will take some time for all of us to get there given that we will have to spend three to four years in University or three to four years climbing up that hierarchy in this industry but I know we’ll get there.

I still have some time before my enlistment and I’m sure I’m bound to feel nervous the closer I get to it. There are a couple of tiny things I wish to accomplish before I enlist. I will try my best to use my time productively while still allocating time for lazing around and doing nothing. It’s going to be just fine. I’ll be just fine.

“The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.”

– Deepak Chopra

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.

 

The Dreaded Next Chapter Pt. 1

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Since I last wrote a blog post, my internship ended, I contemplated extending my stay at my internship company, figured out university applications, received my National Service enlistment letter and participated in my final production as a DTVM student.

Let’s go in chronological order, starting with the end of my internship.

The last few weeks of my internship wasn’t any different than before. I still had transcriptions to complete and documents to scan for the main project I was attached to but the to-do list was getting shorter and shorter as my final week was approaching.

On days where I was not needed at the office, I was needed to help out on shoot for another project. I must say that I am glad I got the chance to work on both projects. It allowed me to compare certain aspects of TV production as the size of the crew and my job scope for each project was slightly different. But of course, on my final few days, the things I had to complete for both projects came to a head. There was so many things to settle and I thought back to what one of my friendly colleagues told me.

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A selfie taken after the shoot with friendly production crew members.

“People like us will never have an easy last day. We’re too responsible.”

I didn’t believe her at the time but it turned out to be true. I don’t mean to flatter myself but I have to give myself some credit for always providing a certain quality to the work that I am tasked with. So it took longer than expected but eventually I managed to complete everything.

With that being said, I have to thank the friendly colleagues who made my 22-week internship easier. They treated me like one of their own and made me feel so much more comfortable at work. During my final week, they treated me to a farewell meal and in return, I wrote them cards as my humble way of thanking them for everything. I owe them a lot more than just cards and I hope that I will be able to give back to them somehow, some way, in the future.

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Here are the friendly colleagues who made my time so much easier.

As cliche as it may sound, I definitely feel like I have grown from the internship experience . It was not easy having to adapt to the ‘real world.’ I even felt uncomfortable and uneasy at times. But like The Biggest Loser host, Bob Harper, said, “I think that growth happens when you are at your most uncomfortable.”

Now, before I could close this internship chapter for good, I was presented with an offer to prolong the chapter – at the very least – until the end of May. I considered the offer because the project was something I thought I would enjoy working on. I discussed it with family, friends and colleagues and ultimately chose to do what I felt was best for me – taking the break that I have earned.

I have been looking forward to this break forever and I would be sabotaging myself by committing to another three months of work with only a two week break in-between the end of my internship and the start of the new project.

I felt good about my decision for about 36 hours into my break until I noticed everyone around me either working or extending their internship or knowing exactly what their next step was going to be. It made me start looking for something too. I estimated my enlistment date to fall in August and that meant I would have at least a six-month break. I could see myself chilling at home for about two to three months but finding a job after that would leave me yet another small window to rest before enlisting. Eventually I just told myself to take a chill pill and surprisingly, this was one of the times I actually listened to myself. And I am so glad I did as it turns out I am not enlisting in August. (More on that later.)

Starting my internship two weeks earlier than everyone else meant I finished my internship two weeks earlier. I think these two weeks were crucial for me to figure out my university applications. One of my closest friends from secondary school, Azfar, has been urging me to think about it forever but I always put it off. Thereby, these two weeks came in handy for me to figure it out and actually complete the application process – which was pretty tedious. I ended up applying for NUS’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) as well as NTU’s Communication Studies as my top choices.

I attended the NTU Open House hoping to be excited by the prospects of studying there (just like when I attended the SP Open House) but it turned out to be pretty dull. After sitting through three talks, I didn’t even want to attend the NUS Open House, the following weekend. As of right now, I am still leaning towards NTU but there is one important factor to consider and I’ll worry about it when the time comes. (Oh and thanks Azfar for helping me out when I was bugging you to help me check everything. I really appreciate it!)

Now, moving on to National Service. I was out with Chelsea and Shafna after watching Zootopia when I received a text from Rosydi about how he received his enlistment letter. When I found out that he was enlisting in May, the wheels in my head started turning. I couldn’t wait to return home to check my letter box, just so I could clear any anxiety I had about my enlistment. Ideally, I would open the letter box to nothing that was addressed to me but of course, when I checked my letter box, there it was.

I still had a little hope. My enlistment date could still be much later than May, right? So I dashed to my room and slowly opened the letter to find out I was enlisting on May 18 2016.

It wasn’t long before tears started streaming down my face.

(I’m ending this instalment of “The Dreaded Next Chapter” here because I’ve gone beyond 1000 words and this is Minutes with Aravind not Hours with Aravind. But I think I ended it at a pretty dramatic cliffhanger, eh?)

Until next time,

PEACE OUT.