Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Post: A Year of Changes



Guest blogger Jehan Mohd ponders the old year as the new one approaches.


We’ve come to that time of the year where we take stock of our lives and make up lists of resolutions which will inevitably go out the window within the first month or so. Next year being 2012 brings an interesting twist, though. Looking up the significance of the year yields hundreds of thousands of results but one thing that seems to come up in various interpretations is that 2012 is supposed to be a time of great change.

Despite its significance, I’m approaching 2012 as any other year as my ‘year of change’ had crept in slowly this year, the year I turned 32 — and I had never anticipated anything big happening in my 33rd year of existence.

How does my age come into play? I blame it on my affinity for numbers.

I have always believed in the power of numbers — not in the way that makes me good with them or even like the subject of Mathematics (I failed Maths in primary school, spurring my parents to cart me off to tuition with my more numerically-literate teenaged sisters, making me the youngest kid my tuition teacher accepted).

No, perhaps the best way to describe my attraction to numbers is through popular culture — the concepts of sweet 16, being legal at 18, gaining independence at 21, etc. were implanted in my mind from early on thanks to Hollywood movies and the popular teenage fiction of my growing up years. As such I always looked to certain birthdays as markers of great change in my life — even if they didn’t always turn out the way I thought they would.

At age 16, I still went to the same secondary school I had been going to my whole teenage life and had no birthday party out of the ordinary family celebration.

My first home away from home - Methodist Ladies' College (MLC) in Claremont, Perth, Western Australia. It debunked my idea of boarding schools as written in Enid Blyton's Malory Towers series.
My 17th year, though, brought about the first major upheaval in my life. It was the first time I left my home in Singapore for studies in Australia — I did pre-university studies as a boarder of a well-established boarding school in Perth, Western Australia. It was the age I realised that the world was much bigger than my island homeland (there was nary news on Singapore in the Australian papers and more than one Aussie had asked me if Singapore was part of China). I also discovered homosexuality, through media (think movies 'Jeffrey', 'The Birdcage' and 'The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' and Australian writer, actor, and activist Timothy Conigrave's memoir, 'Holding the Man' - all of which remain among my favourites films and literature to this day).
Though I was homesick a huge chunk of the time I was at boarding school, MLC did provide some laughs. No, these weren't boarders - they were some of Year 11 and 12 day girls horsing around in the locker room on campus.
At 18, I was able to watch ‘R’ rated movies (in Australia, not in Singapore, which had set the age for ‘R’ rated movies at 21) and could legally drink and smoke (would have been great if I actually did drink and smoke). But aside from having a boyfriend for the first time (in a mostly long-distance relationship), this year was again a normal one.

The old gang from Kolej Damansara Utama (before it became 'KDU University College'). (Clockwise from top left) Julie, Suzanne, Gary (our wonderful lecturer), Keith, Shaiful, Jacqui, Kelvin, Chris and Thomas.
It was at the age of 19 that I left my homeland for the last time to settle in my new home called Malaysia when I joined a college here. And it was at this age that I became good friends with lecturers who treated me as an adult, became better acquainted with homosexuality (among some good friends) and went clubbing for the first time (to a gay club, no less!). The innocuous 19th year proved to be a major year of breaking out.

My international family at Flat 14, Murdoch Student Village (circa Jul-Dec 2000). (Clockwise from top) Shane from the US, Chrissie from Singapore, Ran from Israel, Sarah from the UK and Chiharu from Japan.
At 21, I was doing my final year of university in Australia, learning painful lessons of family, friendships and betrayal while I plotted ways to work and live there after graduation — it didn’t happen.

It was at the seemingly normal age of 22 that I met the man who would become my best friend and husband.

I thought that 30 would be the year that my life would be “complete” — I would have been married for a few years, would have had my first child and would have all the knowledge that adults seem to possess (I have no idea how I came to this conclusion for the number 30 but ‘Sex and the City’ keeps popping up in my head when I think of this number).

I turned 30 two years ago — no “great revelation” came to me the morning I woke up on my birthday that year. I had the husband, but no kid and no all-encompassing adult knowledge of the world — and it was just like any other normal year. Heck, no bolt of lightning hit me on my birthday the following couple of years either.

But something suddenly clicked in me sometime this year, on some mundane, normal day (i.e. not my birthday, anniversary or any other significant date) and I’ve started doing things that would normally be tasks people undertake diligently at the start of the year as part of their New Year’s resolutions.
I started taking stock of my life and making concrete plans for things I actually want to do with my time.

I started hitting the gym — semi-regularly — and paying for personal training sessions (something I had never wanted to commit to in the past).

I applied to join a fantastic study programme that would have taken me away from the bosom of my family for two months — and got rejected (I’ve never been one to even try things like this before — my inherited pessimism and the fear of rejection ensured I never left my comfort zone).

After a bout of self-pity and dejection, I realised that the rejection was not the end of the world. And this was something cemented at a recent assignment I had where I interviewed Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena, two brilliant animators from Industrial Light & Magic (think George Lucas and Star Wars) and Pixar (no introduction needed).

They said that one of the key things an animator needs is to not be afraid to fail. As Shawn Kelly says: “Every time you fail, you learn a little bit and make your next work a little bit better… You have to be willing to go through that process.”

I reckon this goes for everything in life — trying, failing, getting up and trying again.
2012, the year I turn 33, will, no doubt, hold lots of opportunities for me to try, fail and succeed… And it’ll bring about some changes, though whether big or small is anyone’s guess.

I’m starting to realise that these great changes tend to come at times we least expect it and that ideas to take action can happen at any age.

It will be interesting to see what next year has in store for us but I won’t hold my breath expecting great things to happen (as I would have in the past). I’m going to go about trying to make those things happen.

~~~~~~~

Top Milestones in the last 10 years

2001 (Age 22) — Graduated from university and got my first job as a lecturer at my old college in Malaysia; this was also where I met the man who would become my best friend and husband. The attack on the World Trade Center in New York and subsequent backlash against Muslims in Western countries affirmed my mom’s belief that I was better of returning to Malaysia to work rather than staying in Australia as I had initially wanted.
2003 (Age 24) — Left teaching to try public relations (although it was a short-lived three months), was unemployed for four months after leaving.
2004 (Age 25) — Joined the New Straits Times as a reporter (this marked the beginning of my longest-lasting job so far).
2005 (Age 26) — Got married.
2011 (Age 32) — Applied for a study programme (where I got rejected), started paying for personal training sessions and hitting the gym semi-regularly, started planning for life rather than letting life come at me.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Much to protest about




Click here for Top 10 Protest Songs. Enjoy!

More talking, less texting

Quote of the week

"I wish I could confiscate my patients' phones. I usually encourage them to talk, instead of texting as their fingers need to rest."

Dr Yong Chee Khuen, consultant orthopaedic surgeon

Click here to read.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Gurmit Singh: Malaysia's first bicycle advocate



Environmentalist Gurmit Singh (pictured above) says the cycling culture has almost disappeared in Malaysia. He cites a lack of dedicated lanes as one of the reasons. Gurmit Singh was Malaysia's first bicycle advocate; he supported its use to combat traffic problems in the city. "If (people) use bicycles for transport, they will know the environmental problems cyclists face" (New Straits Times: June 7, 1988).

For more on cycling in Malaysia, click here.