#2066 | #LAdiaries – One Cold Night in DTLA

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The Broad Museum, Los Angeles
Wearing: Her Velvet Vase

My time in Los Angeles was very short, and very sweet. My first time in the city of angels, and for only four and a half days. And no Disneyland! That’s how you know I’ll be back, no disneyland. Ha. I am so predictable as a basic girl in her twenties. I was there on a work trip, as mentioned before, and in my Griffith post I mentioned us not actually having any scheduled free time. But what free time I did have, I made the most of. Consequently my short sojourn in Los Angeles felt like a good block of time spent doing many different things (half of which full credit goes to Airbnb’s wonderful itinerary). Today’s story revolves around this one cold night I had alone in DTLA, after my half-day Airbnb Experience with The Adventureman had ended. I’d found myself back in the city feeling the soft lapping of jet lag and skin kissed by salt and sun. I thought to myself, four days in LA. No time for naps. I can nap when i’m dead (a sentiment I actually heartily disavow on a regular basis, me being a girl who loves my sleep). And so I showered, changed, and headed out again.

My remaining half-hour of sunlight for the day was spent in an uber with a lady driver who had a personality bigger than the sum of our carseat space. She sang ditties nonstop, had no idea where she was going, and then told me that it was sad, real sad! that her GPS was full of shit! A real tragedy, she said again, shaking her head at me, in between breaths of singing along to Bruno Mars. It was like living in a reality tv show. I didn’t really know what to say, so I shrugged and smiled. It’s sad, she said again, then dropped me off outside The Broad.

Im not someone who loves to spend my entire day indoors in a museum when traveling, but I have to say, some of the best museums Ive seen have really blown me away. I snuck into The Broad on my media pass (dubious looks from the guard, but he waved me through anyway) and it was a nice, easy museum that was also very enjoyable. It’s small, for one, just two storeys, and each exhibit is properly explained in real-speak. That is to say, the way a friend would explain it to you, and not in some highfalutin art speak. I wandered around on double speed, moped a bit about having to skip the Yayoi Kusama exhibit (a 1.5 hr wait was too much of a luxury i couldn’t afford), and left after slightly over an hour.

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“Contemporary Art”

When I emerged it was dark. Dark in LA is not like Dark in Singapore. There are dense city lights you chalk up to light pollution, but the stars shine so bright you forget for a moment everything you think you know about science and the sky. From The Broad I basically ran down the road to the Frank Gehry Walt Disney Concert Hall, something I’ve wanted to see for almost five years now. Architecturally it’s a wonder, but you forget all that then you’re faced with the hall. You just stand before it, overwhelmed. Touched? Is it too silly and cheesy to say I felt my heart clench? But it did, and so I will. Some things just take your breath away. Though fair disclaimer – I’m the type who cries at everything. The first time I saw the Eiffel tower at twenty one, I sobbed. Little girl dreams come true and all that.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall was everything I hoped it would be from the outside. People slowed as they passed it, to look up in wonder. Sighs were heard. Other people smiled. The occasional tourists brushed by me holding everything from iPhones for selfies to huge DSLR for mood shots. I gave myself ten minutes to gape at the Hall – I had agreed to meet the rest of the Singaporean media at In-And-Out for our first iconic burger experience in half an hour. But ten minutes was all I needed. When something is as innately beautiful as that, you don’t need much skill. You just need to be impressed, let yourself savour the moment, then snap once.

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the beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall by night

One day, I told myself, I’ll watch a concert in there. My uber driver honked.

Half an hour ride. It takes half an hour to get anywhere within the city, it seems. I have to admit that the ride there was cold and disappointing. Where was the bustle of the movies, the charm of the streets? Outside the car it was quiet and dark. The stars shone on. The pavements did not. I wondered where all the people were, and something floated back to me as if from another life: a friend casually telling me that you party in LA, at the house of someone if you know someone who knows someone.. bar culture isn’t as strong as it is back in other cities while I looked on in envy. Well, I thought. This is me, looking in from the outside. I know no one, and so the city turns from me.

I do have a flair for the melodramatic, if you hadn’t already guessed.

In and Out appeared so suddenly I must have dozed off in the car. A yellow and red neon monstrosity! The famous Sunset Boulevard. Still feeling mildly underwhelmed, I went in and got seats for the four of us. Somehow defending an empty booth as a single asian girl against hungry Americans seems every bit as iconic an experience as any other. Glares all around! I kept my head down and looked at my phone. I act big when I’m on home turf but abroad I’m always so afraid someone will come and punch me for no good reason. I watch too much TV, I think. And the rest arrived, and we had the famous burgers they talk about, “animal style”.

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In-n-Out Los Angeles

I am heartbroken to be the bearer of unpopular opinion. The burgers were alright. We all stared at each other while eating, making eye contact, waiting for the first person to whimper or moan. It’s always a strange and communal experience, eating messy food with people you cordially know. We got much friendlier later, but these were early days, hours. Finally, Adele spoke up. They’re.. okay.

What a relief! We agreed that they were neither the best nor worst burgers of our lives, and I volunteered my own experience at Shake Shack in New York – mindblowingly average. Do I just not have the right kind of taste buds? Who knows. In-n-Out was really cheap for what it was though, and the old school American diner experience was enjoyable if only because we (I?) pictured myself in a different time, different age half-subconsciously when munching down on my chow. I told my friend this later and she looked at me in disgust. You’re crazy, she said. Those are the best burgers in the world. Ah, well.

Walking down Sunset Boulevard post-meal we all seemed half hopeful. Herein lies the avenue people write songs about. Make movies about. Herein lies the avenue where things seem dead past 7pm. What was going on? We made small talk, wondered where all the people were, agreed that there had to be more to LA than this. Privately I felt personally let down by the city, let down by pop culture, let down by what hollywood had led me to believe. No lights, no bustle. Druggies on the road, neon signs indicating a special kind of ‘pharmacist’. Cause and consequence. The most exciting thing we saw was a 24/7 grocery store – because everyone loves grocery stores. What kind of peanut butter can you get in America that you can’t get elsewhere? Is what i’m saying.

On and on we walked. It felt like we were afraid to give up and go home, because to do so would be to give in to the city’s rejection of us. We could be fun. We could be exciting. Why wouldn’t it open up? At least, that’s how I felt. Only four days in LA, and I’d be damned if I were to waste a night and go home early just because i couldn’t find something new to try.

We passed a comic book store and a couple of people lingering outside, smoking, laughing, and talking. Again I felt the sense of being left out wash over me. I walked over and asked them where they were going, what they were waiting for. There’s a comedy show starting soon at the back of this comic shop..

Lo and behold!

But the comedy show was sold out. Next door, however, had yet another show that had started fifteen minutes ago, that still sold standing room tickets for five bucks. Yes? Yes? Obviously. We went in.

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Enter: the best five dollars I spent in LA. The Nerdist School Stage, which was the name of the comedy improv club we went to, was fantastic. I personally love comedy shows, but I know they’re not necessarily for everyone. A lot of people are adverse to comedy shows because of the heckling, and Improv both eases that fear since the comedians use their own material, and grants you access to comedy anyway.

Three shows, we watched, and the last of which was performed by this group called Beyond The Disney Vault. Where the rejected disney movies live is their tagline. They consist a group of improv actors and musicians (pictured above), who start the show by asking the audience for a word. They then improvise an entire MUSICAL, complete with original song, harmony, and actual character script, on the spot.

It was incredible. I could not even begin to comprehend the kind of talent an individual would have to possess, as well as the kind of insane chemistry with the rest of one’s troupe, to be able to invent, harmonise, and stitch together a coherent piece of work on the spot. And in case you suspect the musicals were pre-written, the audience word thrown out for our show was “Boomerang”. How do you anticipate that?

An hour later, we stumbled out of the club and into the cold, raving and amazed. We were down to two: Kenath and Adele had left earlier, citing jet lag. Serene and I wandered around a bit more, me half reluctant to call it a night, ready to go some more, her wanting to get back to the apartment to Skype her kid. We settled on a workable compromise: called an uber, and asked her to detour and drive down Hollywood Boulevard so we could see it from the car on the way home. It was like a free tour – the old lady who picked us up was so excited to explain the history of the different buildings up and down the avenue of the stars, we couldn’t imagine a better way to have seen the Boulevard. And things were actually happening on that street, people were snapping photographs of the stars on the floor, there were movie theatres, shopping malls. But we sped past them all, gaping at the lights and people, semi-grateful we were able to relax and admire from the darkness of the car.

A left turn onto the freeway. Hollywood Boulevard over in ten minutes and behind us. As the freeway opened up to fluid traffic and the harmony of car sounds, I felt, rather than saw, the city dim around me and cleave to the star spangled sky. Amazing, amazing. Still high from the comedy show rush of exhilaration, I thought of the evening and what we’d done, what we’d seen. Moments of highs and lows, the emotional arc of discovering downtown los angeles. And I thought to myself: not bad. Not bad at all.

x
Jem

#2064 | feng he ri li

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Neon sign from Hello Confetti Dreams, available for purchase or rental. Website.

Well, well. Day four and the chinese new year festivities seem nearly over, the dust settled, so on and so forth. How was everyone’s festivities? Sufficiently awkward, I hope. Last year a friend and I were groaning about the impending visitations, more because it seemed the fashionable thing to do than anything else. I don’t really suffer from the extended family meet ups the same way most people do, and when my friends complain that they face strange and inappropriate questions from the fam, I privately thank God that my family is more or less chill with most things. Besides, four, five (?) years in the media has kind of rendered me immune to strange and inappropriate questions. You know what I mean. Welcome to the new reality, is what I am saying.

But anyway. Back to it. Said friend had procured a newish girlfriend and she was to meet his family for the first time. His family, unlike mine, loooooved to ask questions of the childbearing hips Mulan-matchmaker variety. So he claims.

How ah.
How what.
I’m putting together a list of weird things they might ask so I can formulate funny comebacks ahead of time.
Good luck with that. You know it’ll be useless right? In the face of an awkward question you’ll just –
– shrivel up and die. Yes i know.
I hope your chinese new year is awkward as hell.
Shut up.
It’s a blessing in disguise, my friend. Awful scenarios are a gift –
– to creativity? You always say that.
A gift ripe for the pickings.
Ugh. The worst part is you’re right.
I hope you have the worst CNY ever.
I hope you have the worst CNY ever.
Thank you.
I know.

Afterwards he came back and said that the visitations went well. Too well, in fact.

Is that disappointment I detect?
I asked. He shrugged. And i thought to myself, how human we all are, to secretly hope for shit to hit the fan, just to lift us all out of this predictable boredom masquerading as happiness. Is that too pessimistic for the new year? I don’t think so. Alternative storylines to follow, and all that.

This year’s storyline didn’t differentiate that much from the norm. There were visitations, just the right amount of weirdness, and a lot of napping. So much napping! The exhaustion of the last half-year has returned with a vengeance, and again I am reminded of how my one superpower is being able to fall asleep anywhere. Couches, trains, buses, under your dining table. Last night we were playing charades at another friend’s place and i just barely managed to pretend i was imitating something when i had actually dozed off for a hot minute. I laughed about it later, in the car home, about my super power. My boyfriend looked at me and said, stop romanticising narcolepsy, Jem. And that was that.

x
Jem

#2060 | Cafe (waiting love?)

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Starbucks Singapore, Tanglin Mall

Singapore, you were pretty exhausting today.

It is a perpetual struggle to accept that it’s okay to be both fulfilled and exhausted. To love what you do but also want to give everything up for five more minutes in bed. A horse a horse my kingdom for a horse and all that. There are easier routes but none in my head. Life has become a giant check list and my brain, cotton candied mush. How can you ache for something you’ve never had? How can your chest pang for something you know you wouldn’t want if offered? We are walking ironies stitched together by the kindness and love of others. We all hope they will accept us for the ridiculousness that we are.

x
jem

#2058 | the year of learning

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Hey guys,

Oh boy. I’ve been working on this post all year.

So, when the year started I asked myself what it was about the previous year that I regretted – or is regret too strong a word? What it was that I felt could have been different. For some reason the idea of 2015 being a year, a full year of my time hit me harder than any preceding year, the sense of time slipping away like sand through my fingers sparking a dull panic behind my ears – surely, a sign that I’m growing old.

In twenty fifteen I flew the coup every month, compulsively country hopping, face turned out towards the world with my hands outstretched … and I saw so much, sure, but at the end of the year I wondered what I had done in practical terms to improve myself. I know, I know, everyone says that you learn so much from travel, and you do, but what of quantifiable skill or knowledge? It’s hard to say, really. All you’re left with is a vague sense of mooring, a notion that you’re older and therefore wiser, though how, youre not too sure.. or maybe that’s just me.

Anyhow.

When 2016 rolled around, I scrapped 2015’s resolution of traveling every month and produced something else: a resolution to try something new every month. Learn a skill. Pick up something I’d never done before. Read a new book. Whatever.

The rules:
1. I didn’t have to master it, but I had to try.
2. It had to be something I’d never even attempted before.

Time was slipping by! I couldnt let another year slide past without having tried at least twelve new things. And so the year commenced.


January: Skiing/Snowboarding

Alright, this one was a bit of a cheat since I did it on shoot. But hey! It’s new! We went to this place in Millenia Walk called Urban Ski, where you can learn to ski or practice on their simulation slopes. Perfect, because I’ve always wanted to learn to ski, and I didn’t want to go all the way to Japan or whatever only to fall down for three days straight. Better to get acquainted with it first.

Verdict:
Would recommend for people who are already working, or at least doing some kind of part time work, because of the price. It’s about 70+++/hour, which, while reasonably cheap compared to the cost of skiing abroad, is still pricey for a regular activity in Singapore. BUT! It’s mad fun, and very unique. I came away with a huge bruise from my fall (see video) that didn’t go away for three weeks. Souvenir! Recommend!!

Urban Ski Singapore
9 Raffles Boulevard Millenia Walk Unit 01- 46 to, 49
Singapore, 039596
Phone: 6238 0575
Hours: 10AM–10PM


In January I read:

Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai
Shame by Salman Rushdie
Gentlemen prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

I also started on Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, which is a damned long book. I’m still working on it.


February: Boxing, Cat Yoga, and Handlettering

For some reason I did lots of things during this very short month.

Boxing:

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I got a personal trainer who used to be a junior boxer (unsure what the official term is) and asked him to teach me boxing. Both hand-to-hand combat and the type where you hit a sandbag.

Verdict:
It was mad tiring, and I started out extremely lousy at it, and to add to that, after a month I still don’t think I could have actually taken down an assailant in a dark alley, but I generally enjoyed it. I like it because it feels like I’m actually doing something, even if that something is just punching another person, and also because under no other circumstance would it be socially acceptable to hit another human being. Very cathartic. And more accessible than skiing, because you can do it in a gym near you or get a PT to come to wherever you are, depending on how much you want to spend. I think the greatest point in its favour is, I liked it so much I actually continued with my boxing lessons past February. Would recommend!

Cat Yoga:

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Again, I did this on shoot. Well, a disclaimer: I’ve done actual yoga before, once – I suck at it. And in New York I did acro-yoga a couple of times because my neighbour was a yogi who is very hard to say no to. But Cat Yoga? Never! And despite sucking at Yoga, for anything with cats, I’m down.

Verdict:

It’s hard not to get distracted by the cats (maybe just for me, because I’m a crazy cat person), but it’s still a decent workout. Being near the cats though, gives you a strange sense of calm.. and I’m starting to sound like a hippie. But yes, would recommend. It costs $40/session, which means that you get one hour of yoga and one hour of playing with cats – this is pricey to me because you can get walk in yoga classes at $25. But it comes with an hour’s access to the cat cafe after your class, and it’s quite a unique experience. So I’d say it’s worth it for certain types of people, like, you know. Me.

Hand Lettering:

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So, one thing I noticed about making this resolution – everytime I pass an advertisement for some class, or some activity, instead of ignoring it I actually pause for a moment and think about it properly. Someone on my Facebook feed posted a link to this one-off hand lettering course, and my own handwriting is actually disgusting, so without allowing myself to sit on this for too long, I signed up for it almost immediately. It cost $10/person and $15 for 2.

Verdict:

Turns out the reason it was so cheap (normal hand lettering classes are $100 and above) was because it was a student project, organised in conjunction with MCYS! So in exchange for the class, we had to sit through a two hour sharing session on foster care. Well, the more you know..

Hand lettering class itself was pretty fun, with a couple of pointers and facts that I wouldnt have known myself. Generally a therapeutic sort of activity. I dont know if I’d pay over a hundred bucks for it, but it was definitely worth the seven bucks I paid – probably a little underpriced, even! Unfortunately, my own handwriting didn’t seem to improve.. but at least now I kind of know a bit more about fancy lettering. Ha.


In Feb I read:

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, my review here.
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeline Thien
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (terrible)
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw, short review here.
After the Fire by Boey Kim Cheng [poetry collection]
Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes (couldnt finish, hated it)


March

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Surfing

This is something I’ve never had the opportunity to try before because, well, Singapore has no waves. Ha. But we did a trip to the Gold Coast and surfing is sixty bucks for a two hour lesson, so WHY NOT?

Verdict

Turns out I suck at surfing, am absolutely hopeless, but I adore it. It’s a total workout and it’s very fun, plus it sounds cool when you tell people you’ve been surfing before/ know how to do it. And you can do it nearer home too, in Bali, instead of having to fly all the way to Australia overtime you want to try it. WOULD RECOMMEND!

Go Ride A Wave
http://gorideawave.com.au
Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club
Address: Cavill Ave, Surfers Paradise QLD 4217, Australia
Phone:+61 7 5526 7077
9am – 5pm


In March I read:

The Enigma of Arrival by VS Naipaul
Love and Obstacles by Aleksandar Hemon
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe
The Face: Strangers on a pier by Tash Aw


April

April really stressed me out. Firstly, I had two major submissions that month, both were upwards of 5,000 words each. I had just moved into my new office and was basically devoting all my time to trying to work on my essays. I also pulled together the first cohesive draft of a collection I was writing. So I did not get to do a new activity, but I read a lot… and does renting my first ever office space count as something new? 😀

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In April I read:

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
We were always eating expired things by Cheryl Julia Lee [poetry collection]
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (re-read)
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (re-read)
The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich (did not like.)
Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
We Rose up Slowly by Jon Gresham
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


May

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Driving

In May I passed my driving, which counts as my something new because it is a new skill, checked off the list. I’d been learning driving for awhile by then, and it was such a relief to finally pass it – not that I’d be driving a ton in Singapore, but I really wanted to be able to road trip when I go abroad. But as I started learning to drive, I realised that I actually really enjoyed it, so there’s that too. It’s been great!!!

Verdict

Yes lah get your driving license it’s very useful, ok.

In May I read:

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
The Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson


June

You know how they say that you have to learn to walk before you can run?

Well, I may have jumped the gun a bit…

In June, barely a couple of weeks after passing my driving test, I learnt to fly.

Flying

A pipe dream I had as a kid was being a pilot when I grew up. I dont think it’s so much because I wanted to be a pilot per se, it was just that as a kid I associated it with opportunity, the opportunity to travel, to see things.. but I thought it’d be that always, a pipe dream. Pilots had to have 20/20 vision, I heard, and I started wearing glasses by the age of ten.

But then I got lasik last year, and when I went to New York it suddenly became apparent that you could learn to fly, and for not as exorbitant a rate as one would imagine…

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Verdict

Hooboy.

Flying is one of the most exhilarating experiences ever. I recommend this so hard. It’s really one of those once in a lifetime experiences, and it’s something you never imagine possible when you’re younger, but the world has really just opened up in such a way that nearly anything is possible now..

The private plane that i learnt to pilot was a Piper Warrior. I would actually say that flying a plane is in some ways easier than driving a car because there’s basically nothing to bang into in the air, whereas you have traffic to deal with on the roads. Lots of it. Ha!

People don’t know this, but you dont need any prior flight experience to take a flying lesson in the states. You just need guts and a couple hundred bucks. You can even get a groupon for it. I took my lesson with Ventura Aero and it was just the best experience ever, with a super patient instructor, and it was totally safe. Can I pilot a plane by myself now? Well, no. I still need a few hundred hours of experience before I actually get a license. And who knows? Maybe one day if I move to the States it’ll be possible for me, time and money wise, to take it. But for now, this will do 🙂

Ventura Aero
8100 Republic Airport, Farmingdale, NY 11735
Phone: 800.597.0866
Groupon here.

In June I also ran my first ever marathon.

Though I will have to say that this was not by my design. G called me up before I came to New York and said: Hey, keep June 3rd free. I bought us tickets to a marathon. It’ll be fun. And I yelled: FUN AND MARATHON DONT GO IN THE SAME SENTENCE! But of course she had already hung up.

Seriously though. Growing up I never understood why anyone would pay to go and run a marathon. I wasn’t likely to volunteer for a marathon even if I were being paid. But, you know, sometimes your friends do things like pay for your damned marathon so you have no choice but to show up.

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Verdict

Of course, I was completely wrong. And happy to be wrong, actually. It was mad fun, although tiring. I suspect New York marathons are a little different from regular marathons (do normal marathons involve DJs and glow in the dark paint??) but nevertheless, it’s a marathon, and I did it, so I’m counting it as a new experience. Kapish?

In June I read:

What Belongs to You by Gareth Greenwell
On Booze by F Scott Fitzgerald
Disgrace by J M Coetzee
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (Awful)


July

I barely had any time in July at all: I’d only just gotten back from New York, and I was headed the other direction to London with just a few weeks in between. It is a ridiculously first world problem to have, and I am not complaining. I recognise my privilege fully, and am aware that it does not discount the amount of hard work I do. Look at me being all self aware and actualised! Does that count as my something new?

Of course not.

In July I took the easy way out, the one that required me to leave my seat the least. I told myself I have to be able to introduce myself in ten languages by the end of 2016. I already know English and Chinese, so I picked eight other languages, googled and learnt how to pronounce that shit on youtube. So here you are:

These are translated from google translate, and I memorised them and learnt to pronounce the words online.

1 German: Gutentag! Mein Name ist Jemimah. Ich komme aus Singapur. Wie Gehts?
2 Spanish: Hola! Mi Nombre es Jemimah. Vengo De Singapur. Como Estas?
3 French: Bonjour! Mon Nome est Jemimah. Je Viens De Singapur. Comment Allez Vous?
4 Japanese: Konnichiwa, watashinonamaeha jemaimadesu. Watashi wa shingapōru kara kite imasu. Ogenkidesuka?
5 Malay: Hello , nama saya Jemimah . i datang dari singapore . apa khabar?
6 Thai: S̄wạs̄dī chụ̄̀x k̄hxng c̄hạn khụ̄x Jemimah p̄hm mā cāk s̄ingkhpor̒ pĕn xỳāngrị b̂āng?
7 Korean: Annyeonghaseyo , je ileum-eun jemimah ibnida. naneun sing-gapoleu eseo wassseubnida. eotteohge dangsin-eun?
8 Italian: Ciao , mi chiamo Jemimah . Vengo da Singapore. come va?

Verdict

This was harder than expected. German was okay, french was okay, I took those in school. In fact, I dedicated eight months of my life to learning German, so I should be more than okay, but I’m not, cos I suck at languages. Seriously! That’s part of the reason why I wanted to do this in July – because I am ridiculously bad at languages, and I want to be better.

But for the languages that I completely dont know – Spanish, Thai, Italian – I would get words mixed up. So what I did was just listen to the different translations over and over again, then repeat the words to myself before I went to sleep each night. By the end of the month I could introduce myself in all eight, which is great, but if I ever want to ask how to go to the toilet, I’m in trouble. Ha!

I would recommend this if you have the time. It’s interesting, and at least you learn something new, right? The languages I picked are languages I felt would become relevant to me in the future. And now I want to take Spanish.

EDIT
Revised opinion in December: I do not recommend this. I forgot nearly everything because there was no one to practice with me. Haha. The only ones I properly remember are German and Malay. I could remember the “My name is” part a lot better in most languages but for the rest I forgot them really quickly. So I dont really recommend this unless you have a lot of free time.

In July I read:

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, Edited by Sari Botton
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch (Re-read)
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (Re-read)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Re-read)
Google Translating Tokyo, published by HOLYCRAP
Why I Write by George Orwell
How Should A Person Be? by Shelia Heti
The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
Lord of the Flies by William Golding


August

August. Oh August. Does it count if the new thing I did was more by contractual obligation than choice? Ah well. Still, it is new, so it must count. In August, I started teaching my first class in University.

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Speaking on a panel as a social influencer at the university where I teach

Part of my scholarship with NTU entails a teaching component, so the start of the academic year saw me taking on two classes of fresh faced undergraduates while I waxed lyrical about the compelling nature of literature. On the other hand (or maybe because?), I attended my first ever cocktail making workshop.

Cocktail Masterclass

I signed up for a cocktail masterclass by Fit Green Lean Nutrition in the middle of August, but not just any cocktail workshop – a healthy one. There is so much unnecessary sugar that goes into bar drinks we get at bars, which is a big reason why I tend not to get cocktails at all – I prefer my drinks neat, like whiskey or wine, and sugar gives me a bad crash later on. But I’ve always wanted to know how to make my own cocktails because it seemed like a neat party trick, so when my office at The Hive held a masterclass for making healthy juice cocktails, I just knew I had to sign up!!!! I brought my sister along too, and she had a ton of fun. You’re so wretched, jie, she told me, nobody starts drinking at 2 in the afternoon! I looked at her. Oh, honey I said, then I had nothing else to say to her because my mouth was full of DELICIOUS COCKTAILS.

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Verdict

TOTALLY WORTH IT. I paid $25 for the workshop, which included the hands on making of three drinks. I mean, twenty five dollars cant even get you one cocktail in some bars. And they were delicious!

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Here’s one of the cocktails I made. It’s gin based, with sugar-free berry jam, blueberries, grated ginger, lemon, stevia, and gluten free beer poured over crushed ice. I added mint for an extra kick and it was amazing. Other cocktails I made included a tequila based carrot+cucumber+mint one, and a rum based coffee and coconut milk one. Everything was delicious!!!! And then I got to try a matcha one someone else made. Definitely a great way to spend an afternoon.

Some of you will be asking how I got it so cheap. After all, cocktail masterclasses normally start at sixty bucks and go all the way up to two hundred depending on who’s holding it. But the key, as with anything, is to keep your eyes peeled for deals and special events. This only cost me twenty five bucks because it was part of my office space’s weekend festival activities, but it was open to public so we got lots of random people walking in and signing up for yoga classes, meditation classes, and this cocktail class!

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Of course I’d be the one hugging the bottle of gin in a corner..

In August I read:

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Brief interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakasuki Houston
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (re-read)
One Day by David Nicols (re-read)
The Tempest by Shakespeare (play)


September

Diving

I got my PADI Open Water in September and nearly drowned, but it was amazing.

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Verdict

There’s a long blogpost I wrote on the experience here, but in short, I recommend it conditionally. You have to be:

1. Able to swim
You dont have to have the swimming skill set specifically for diving. It’s just that if youre able to swim, youre less likely to panic because youre more familiar with your body being in the water.
2. Not afraid of open water
Claustrophobia underwater is a real, scary thing.

But it’s definitely a new skill that pushes and challenges your boundaries at every turn, and something I would recommend pretty hard.

Watercolor Painting

This is a bit of a cheat because I was asked by Cointreau to host a party my birthday week and I’d always wanted to learn watercolor painting, so I got Damien from AmienCreatives to come down and teach a class. The only prior experience I’d had was playing with faber castell water color pencils when I was a kid. The class revolved around still life painting, and it lasted a couple of hours of learning to mix color, interpret dimension, and express your own style.

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Verdict

Would recommend for a special occasion. Workshops are very trendy this year, but they’re not cheap – regular workshops run anywhere from 80-200$, depending on what you want to learn (terrarium building, leather craft, etcetera). This one cost $150 per person, materials and all included. But it’s definitely a fun way to spend an afternoon, and very different from just the normal grabbing of brunch and chit chatting. So perhaps for someone’s birthday or an office bonding event?

In September I read:

Foe by J M Coetzee
Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk

October

Hot Yoga

Signed up for 1. a fight club and 2. a yoga studio near my office in a bid to bring some balance to my life, which by October seemed to revolve mainly around my office desk. The fighting is not new, the yoga is. I discovered the extents of my inflexibility extended past just the opinions of my youth (ha) and to my body, I hate this bendy bendy business and I hate it even more when doing it in a 40 degree room. But it’s a good kind of hate (if that makes sense), the kind that you love to hate (?) maybe? The coherence has obviously worn thin as the year trudges on, and so here’s me just saying that yes, October’s thing was hot yoga.

Verdict

I would do it again regularly but i wouldnt recommend it to everyone because the hot room can be pretty unbearable, plus some of my friends get short on breath or chest pains. So it’s definitely not for everyone! You can try it once and see if you like it, but otherwise, normal/cat yoga is the way to go ..

In October I read:

Trauma Fiction by Anne Whitehead
The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Endgame by Samuel Beckett
We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

November

NOVEMBER! The month of reading, books, and pushing my ideologies regarding the above obnoxiously onto everyone else. I spent two weekends at the start of November reading and writing at Singapore Writer’s Festival – attended two Masterclasses (Joanne Harris, How to improve your dialogue in fiction, and Lionel Shriver, Melding Fact and Fiction) and a whole bunch of panels exporting the literary to the real world. Illuminating? Yes. Recommended? Definitely.

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Verdict

I consider this my something new because I’ve actually never attended a full literary festival nor an actual Masterclass before. The literary festival is definitely something I’d recommend, but masterclasses can be a tad expensive, so that I’d reserve recommendation on unless youre a very serious writer or have a spare eighty bucks to throw.

And speaking of recommendations…

November was also the month I launched my own bookshelf in Times Bookstore, in collaboration with Changi Airport Group! The shelf is called #jemmarecommends, a play on #changirecommends.

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This was months in the works, and it is a really big deal for me, so I was obviously thrilled! No need to say whether I recommend it or not because duh.

In November I read:

The Ground I Stand on is Not My Ground by Collier Nogues
Runaway bt Alice Munroe
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Kappa Quartet by Daryl Qilin Yam
Natural Subjects by Divya Victor
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
What is not yours is not yours by Helen Oyeyemi

December

Most people dont know this, but December is peak period for everyone who does campaign based work. All clients have leftover budget and want to run one million campaigns! So despite initially committing to rejecting all media work and just focusing on my research work in December, it somehow didn’t pan out that way..


First Major Banner Ad

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In December I did my first large scale web ad. I’ve done campaign based social media ads before, and commercials, but somehow I’d never done web banner work before. And so Martin and I got down to creating visuals for the Paypal homepage that was used across the entire asia-geotargeted pages. You can see the final thing live here and here.

Verdict

When I was actually doing it it seemed like a regular shoot, but when it went live I was actually pretty excited because IM ON THE PAYPAL HOMEPAGE!! I dont think it really hit me until it went live. But it was definitely a cool project to be on. I got messages from friends and family telling me they saw me on the Paypal site, which was kind of great too because so much of what I do is relatively niche so people outside certain interest groups wouldnt see it. But everyone uses money, right? 😀

In December I read:

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


————————————————————-Finally————————————————————-

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And here we are on the first day of 2017.

Whew. That post took me a year to write – it sat in drafts for months, and I would pull it up everytime i read a new book or tried something new. The commitment I took to doing something new every month is something that definitely added some kind of dimension to my year. Every month I found myself pushing my limits and looking for new things to learn and try, and fail at, and fail better at.

That said, my hardheadedness and refusal to give up on the resolution was disastrous for me in terms of stress levels. The resolution sounded great on paper and everyone I told got really excited for me and agreed that it was a fantastic idea. But my anxiety was off the charts in the second half of the year – I was perpetually tired, and stressed, and moody. In addition to my regular work, filming, and teaching, and, yknw, trying to have a social life, I was still preoccupied with my commitment to finding new things to do, and so many times I just wanted to retreat under my covers and never come out. A friend told me she was adopting my 2016 resolution for 2017, and I paused for a moment before congratulating her on her commitment.

“Maybe.. one new thing every two months instead of one?” I finally said. “Otherwise during your busy months it might kill you.”

She laughed, and I followed even though I wasnt actually joking. I must remember to follow up with her on that.

Overall, the year was so varied for me. I was so happy and motivated at the start of 2016, but towards the third quarter of the year I was incredibly, incredibly depressed and exhausted. I believe the technical term is a burn out. I regret nothing of course – when all is said and done what I have on my hands is chalked up to experience, and amazing experience at that. Without my resolution I would have never pushed myself to learn to dive and fly and drive and box. But moving into 2017, perhaps learning to take it easy on myself, and synthesise the idea of moderation a little bit better? Who knows, who knows.

At the end of it all, 2016 was the most challenging year for me yet, and the most fulfilling. And every year that passes I grow more aware of the people around me, and am grateful. I love, and am well loved in return. There’s little more a girl could ask for.

So, that’s it. My year in one blog post. Thank you for reading – I know its lengthier than the usual – and thank you all for sticking around.

2016, you big weirdo. Bye bye. 2017, come at us. Do your best. We’re ready.

x
♥jem

#2057 | The Broke Student’s Guide to Adulting

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Heya guys,

I penned a post awhile ago regarding a couple of things you should prepare for in the year leading up to graduation, and I thought I’d write another one in that vein – adulting, how to adult, how to adult without freaking out. I’m twenty four and feel nothing like a twenty four year old but I am saddled with a whole bunch of 24-year-old type bills. We are culturally relevant here at jemmawei.com is what I am saying.

Earlier this year I came on board as one of the official FRANK by OCBC ambassadors, which meant that I got to work with conceptualising ideas and content for one of the best banks (imho) that I’d also personally been a customer of for years. Which is why the past couple of months have been really exciting for me in terms of the direction we’re taking in 2017 (more to be revealed in, well, 2017) as well as starting to understand how to navigate postgrad life w.r.t. Adult Concerns. One of the bigger things FRANK and I have concurred on is the importance of learning to manage your money – a big part of being an adult is learning to maximise your dollar. To be honest, this isn’t all that far from what I’ve been talking about for the last three years. It’s essentially the same spirit my Broke Student Guides are written in – not totally cutting yourself off from your wallet, but learning how to get maximum value for the minimum amount spent. This isn’t a very sexy concept because nowadays everyone wants to be a baller, but unfortunately your 24 year old perception cannot be spread on a sandwich and eaten, and therefore what I am trying to say is, BE REALISTIC! Which is how I landed on today’s blogpost title I suppose:

The Broke Student’s Guide to Adulting

Or, how do you 1. Be a Responsible Adult 2. Not be Broke and 3. Still have a fun and balanced life?

I’m not being frivolous here with that last point. Being responsible and not broke is kind of par for the course when trying to be an adult, but fun? Fun is insanely important. Because it’s less ‘acceptable’ to dedicate time to it, people prioritise work above it by so much (at least, the people I know..). And as a result, you get a lot of stressed out, burnt out people who always look like they’re about to cry. The struggle is real, you guys. Obviously I am not saying to dedicate your whole life to having fun like some teenager, but it’s all about learning to balance it out, and I think something we lack quite awfully in Singapore’s working culture is the idea of balance. I read this Oatmeal piece lately about how we define happiness and I think it’s pretty spot on. The happy-unhappy spectrum doesn’t make allowances for periodic stress and fulfilment, and so as a result we don’t (I theorise) learn to synthesise stress into our working life. Learning to manage your stress levels and achieving workable balance in your post-grad life is important because you’re pretty much going to be working the rest of your life so better get it straight earlier than later! So, yes. This little but necessary digression was just to make a point on how important mental health is when you start working, and while it’s not immediately linked to the rest of my post, it still had to be said. Please take note!

Okay, so. One of the main reasons why I partnered up with FRANK by OCBC exclusively for the last few years is because their FRANK by OCBC values actually tie in very much with my own personal values when it comes to Adulting, that is to say:

1. I save before I spend
2. I amplify my wealth (Investing)
3. I protect myself
4. I enjoy small indulgences

In this post, I’m gonna talk a little bit more about how each individual point applies to us as baby adults (because, hands up – who’s ready to be a full blown adult? I still run back to my mum if I can’t figure out where to file my taxes and pay my bills!) and how we can, step by step, get better at this adulting thing. And as usual, you know the drill – if you have anything to add, comment section or email is always open. x


Saving

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Working life! Being an Adult!

As an adult, you’re finally going to have spending power because you’re working and earning a stable income, but DONT GO CRAZY. This seems to be common sense, but you’ll be surprised at how out of hand people get in their first year of working, even when they haven’t paid off their student loans yet. Figure out a finance and saving system that works for you, so that you know how much spendable money you have. Don’t know what spendable money is? Read my BSG to Managing your Finances. I’ve spoken many many times about the importance of saving money – from my entire series of Broke Student Travel Guides, to my more to-the-point posts on personal finance management (see above, re: The Broke Student’s Guide to Managing your Finances). On my Paypal Gifting Guide as well as other places, I have generally been very vocal about being SUSTAINABLE in your relationship gifting habits – because although I know you want to run off and buy your new bae a three hundred dollar gift that you know she/he’d really really love, don’t. It creates a cycle of unsustainable gifting habits that honestly is a waste of money! Put your effort into thoughtfully coming up with gifts that show that you’ve really paid attention to the other person’s life – I guarantee it will mean just as much, if not more, than your really expensive credit-carded purchase.

This is one of the reasons why I love FRANK so much – the core tenet of their beliefs are teaching and encouraging you to save money, which is exactly what you should be doing with your bank. I hundred percent disagree with the idea that you need to spend a ton of money to be happy because living in the moment is what life is all about. I’m sorry, but it is not. That is a recipe for disaster and bankruptcy. And although it sounds significantly less sexy as a concept to ask people to be financially prudent, it is far more responsible. We live in a consumerist enough world already, guys. Stop running off to buy shit you don’t need! Then you’ll find that when you do buy something you want or need, your satisfaction levels are far higher, and you’ll actually have more spending power anyway since you don’t live from paycheque to paycheque.

Here are two ways to force yourself to save:

1. Save fifty percent of everything you get. Earn 2.5k a month? Put 1.25k away immediately into a separate bank account and don’t touch it. Earn $100 on a part time job? Put $50 in a piggy bank that you can’t touch. Once you get used to having a smaller amount of money to spend, you automatically spend less and save more, cutting out stupid shit you don’t need, like that extra glass of soda when dining out.

2. Use OCBC iBanking’s Goals feature to automatically transfer a certain amount of money towards your savings goals per month. This money is then locked away in an electronic piggy bank that you can’t touch or withdraw at ATMS without going through the ibanking site first. This feature is ridiculously useful and its what I used to save 13k for my exchange program in Year 3 of university. Would recommend!

Investing

Now I know next to nothing about traditional investing, so I won’t bother pretending to talk about that, although FRANK has committed to bringing fresh graduates through a Young Investor’s Programme where they teach you the basics of investing (Been meaning to sign up, but haven’t had the time or capacity so far, to be honest). But the idea of investing in yourself and your workflow is something that I heartily champion. There are certain short term expenditures you can make that will increase your income exponentially in the future, so although it sounds ironic, don’t scrimp on the important things. Personally, my commitment to investing in my work process includes renting an office desk which forces me to mentally commit to my work, and which honestly improved my productivity by as much as 50% (I track my work output on excel and paper just to know where I’ve been and where I’m headed) since I have a place to sit and get to the grind.

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Working at my desk in The Hive Singapore

I cannot emphasise how much getting an office space has helped my productivity. I think this is in part because at home I don’t have a proper work desk because I share a room with two sisters and as a result I’m always hunting for cafes to sit and work at. Now, although I pay a monthly rental that looks like an additional cost, the amount I save on buying cafe food and the amount of extra work I manage to take on really makes a lot of sense for me. And as a millennial, freelancing is so popular as an option that I really see co-working spaces as a big part of our lifestyles. I personally rent at The Hive Singapore, which I really love 🙂 

Another thing that my entrepreneurial friends also tend to invest in? Workshops and soundboard sessions. This actually makes a lot of sense, because people who are passionate about what they do tend to want to get better. You pay for tuition to improve in your studies. Actors and actresses pay for acting workshops to improve their craft. Photographers pay for workshops and equipment. Musicians pay to record with industry professionals to get better at what they do. So why shouldn’t we invest in classes to improve ourselves? I have a friend who got an online diploma in interior design from an interior design institute in her spare time, while working full time in something completely unrelated. And as a Singaporean above 25 (which you should be as a fresh graduate), you get a certain amount of skills future credits from the government to take any skill based class to improve yourself, which replenishes every year. And which you should TOTALLY MAKE USE OF. 

Protection

I did a post awhile back that included understanding your liabilities when it came to insurance matters. This is still as relevant today, especially if you’re someone who drives (so you need auto insurance) or someone who travels a lot (please, please don’t scrimp on travel insurance). I personally think that travel insurances are or more or less the same, with little variation, so the main difference lies in 1. your agent and how efficient he or she is and 2. whether you get certain discounts for your travel insurance when you purchase it through different places. OCBC has its own Explorer travel insurance because fun fact! Great Eastern insurance is under OCBC group. Ha ha ha bet you didn’t know that. But if you pay with OCBC online banking you can get up to 50% off travel insurance plans. So there’s that.

But no matter which insurance plan you choose to go with, please don’t skip out on travel insurance. And familiarise yourself with the terms of insurance! For example, whats the buffer time for you to see a doctor if you fall sick after getting back from a trip? So on and so forth. These small details can make a huge difference to your final bill if something goes wrong on your trip. And nobody wants to spend unnecessary money that could have been claimed from your insurance plans otherwise, so its definitely worth figuring out the small details now, before you fly.

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Indulgences

I know it seems counter intuitive, but you can save money and still lead a very fun and fulfilling life. NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE INSANELY EXPENSIVE, GUYS. Learning to run a search for online coupons and groupons before each purchase will only take you thirty seconds and half the time it’ll save you money. I’ve mentioned this in my BSG NEW YORK post – but you can find a groupon for nearly everything. More so in America than elsewhere, but even in Singapore I’ve majorly saved on many things just because I take a minute to run an online search for deals on things that I want before clicking the check out button. Because travel is such a big part of my content, a lot of my saving tips is in relation to travel or destination guides. But I hope you’ll find that some of the tips I’ve put out over the years are also exportable to our local context. In general, when it comes to methods of savings, you have a couple of ways to go about it – spend less than you earn (duh), and if you have a habit, figure out how to make it cheaper.

For example! And this links to my earlier digression on mental wellbeing lol. What are the things you know you’ll spend on every month? For some people, it’s a yoga or gym routine. For some, it’s a good meal once a month. Shopping. Weekend Trips. For me, it’s books and wine. You can always, always find a cheaper way of doing the same things. For example, I have a glass of wine before bed every night or so. And so I purchase my wines wholesale from Vinomofo and also have a wine subscription (a post-semester gift to myself) that sends me a couple of bottles per month for a much lower rate than what I would pay outside normally. And so when my friends want to meet for a drink after work, I invite them to my office instead so we can chat in peace over a bottle of wine at wholesale price instead of paying total marked up price for drinks at a bar. See? You can always find a cheaper way of doing things. And if you can’t find a cheaper way, then you probably have found the cheapest already, and so you should start your own broke students guides. Idea!

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For those of you who like to travel, who feel like you’re stuck somewhere and will literally die if you don’t catch a break, you know, I feel you. I’m very, very privileged to get the opportunity to travel frequently for work, but I remember my second year of university where I literally thought I would expire if I didn’t go somewhere, soon. There are ways to indulge in travel without spending a bomb. In fact, I think that the millennial way of travel actually is obsessed with making every dollar count as opposed to the old way of travel where you just pay a hiked up price to a tour agency to figure all your shit out for you. Obviously you can look at my Broke Student Guides (sidebar, right) for inspiration, but other travel blogs I enjoy are A Girl and a Bald Traveller and The Travel Intern. I know Hendric (founder of the travel intern) personally, but I don’t know the girl or the bald guy from the first blog. Nevertheless, both are committed to the millennial way of travel – that is to say, stretching your dollar, living within your means, and having a damned good time. So read and learn!

And if you’re pretty happy with your 9-5 but kind of feel this itch to be doing something, anything a bit more with your life, if you feel this strange and undefinable sense that your best years are slipping away..

Why not make a commitment to spend every other weekend trying something new?

How many weekends have gone by spent just lazing around on your couch or watching TV? Why not try something new, like taking on a painting class or attending a poetry slam? My 2016 resolution was to try something new every month, and committing to it really pushed me to try more and more things that I’d never considered before. It resulted in me learning to fly a plane, learning to surf, and getting my PADI Open Water Diver’s license. As a result, I watched very few movies and procrastinated a lot less because I’d spent so much of my free time committing to trying new things that I hoped would enrich my life. This was time that I would normally spend doing absolutely nothing, like zoning out or just using my phone, and so although I think it made me a lot more stressed out in 2016 (because during peak periods of work I would still try to push myself to try new things), it definitely left me more fulfilled at the end of the year too 🙂

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In conclusion..

I do think that in 2016, living by these four guidelines have helped me get my shit together a lot more than in 2015 or any other year. 2016 was the year I made a personal commitment to investing in myself, organising my work flow and consequently streamlining it much more, and it was the year I decided that as a baby adult at the prime of my youth, I would go out and Do Things. This was a result of my two months in New York last year end, I think, where I realised that the world had so much to offer – cheesy as it sounds. And I would take it all, damnit! This mental shift helped me to decide what my priorities were, financially, and so I cut down on a lot of unnecessary expenditure and diverted it to more important things that would help improve my productivity and help me achieve the kind of lifestyle I had decided I wanted. For years I have heard people around me aspire towards a certain type of life they see online and not actually do anything to work towards that. To which I say – sure, there are people who’ve been born with lots of advantages in life, like being born into money (and while money isn’t the most important thing, it’s pretty damned crucial) and having lots of family connections. But there are also a lot of people who are just like you and me, who stopped worrying about whether they could, and just went and did it. So why shouldn’t we?

My connection with FRANK by OCBC has always been more than just the consumer-bank relationship. I’ve always loved the values that they espouse, and the principles they operate by, and in 2017 I’m happy to say that they are taking it past the theoretical and implementing solid ways of guiding us through this strange phase of baby adulting. Step by step, but we’ll get there. I hope this post has given you guys a kind of inkling as to how we can get another step up the ladder of this adulting process, and as we wrap up 2016 – I hope it’s given you some sense of inspiration and hope for the new year 🙂

To bigger and better things together, you guys!

x
Jem