2019 – It’s okay to live the life you wished for

I’m starting off my reflections post with the same excerpt that I have previously used in my post which I wrote about my career break back in May.

To my beloved young friends:

Each time I see your slumped shoulders, each time I hear your listless voice, my heart aches.
How are you these days? Did you have another long day at school or work?

It seems no one has told you that if you’re courageous, you can create your own destiny; it is entirely up to you to decide what kind of life you would like to have. Instead, you have been told by your parents and teachers that you should just follow the norm and do what the world expects of you.

If you say that you want to become a musician or an artist, if you want to travel the world, if you want to have a serious relationship, you might be told:

“Now is not the right time. You should concentrate on your studies.”

When you start college, you thought you could finally have the life you wanted. But then what happened?
You were told to prepare for your career. You had to apply for summer internships and study for qualifying exams.
Again, you were bombarded with reasons to delay your own life.

***

We have become accustomed to sacrificing the present for the sake of the future.
We consider it a matter of course that the present just has to be put up with until one day that bright future arrives.

We have overlooked the importance of enjoying the journey while prizing only the destination.
But in he course of our lives, there comes a time when we begin to doubt whether this present that we are enduring will ever lead to the future of our dreams.

Even if the dream comes true, will it be worth the sacrifice we made to our relationships and health and happiness in oder to achieve it?
And what if the dream we achieved was never ours but that of our parents or teachers?

***

But just once, for just one moment in my life, I had to try to live a life without regret.
Even if others scorn me and mock my decision, only having done it can I look at myself and say with confidence that I have loved my life.

***

It’s okay to live the life that you wish for.

You are allowed to create your own destiny, free from the expectations of your parents and society.
You can live the life you yourself think has meaning.

Even if those around you try to dissuade you, saying you can’t, you mustn’t, it won’t work, they are not living your life for you, are they?
Many people who try to forge their own path or strike out for uncharted territory come up against strong opposition.
If your timid heart wonders, “Is it really okay?”; have the courage to smile back at your heart and say firmly, ‘Yes, it is!”

Even if you fail, you will learn from your mistakes and try it differently next time. Besides, it is better to experience failure while you are still young.

***

The way to be free of worry and anxiety is to focus your attention on the present moment.

***

Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Be afraid only of not learning from your mistakes.

Credits to the author and his books: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=haemin%20sunim&search=Find+book

Apologies for the long intro (actually, I’m usually talking to my future self as I tend to re-read these reflections post multiple times, especially when I’m writing one for 2020), but the words above have struck meaning in my decisions and life right now. I like to re-read it time and time again to keep myself in check, reminding myself that these were my thoughts before I embarked on my career break and now; 7 months later, they are still pretty relevant for me.

I’ve decided to break down my life into 4 categories which truly matter in my life – Job/Career, Travel, Relationships and this website.

Job/Career

I am not a career driven person but I am a workaholic. Most of the time, I choose to work for companies/brands that I have an interest in. Even if I don’t have it, I will force myself to like it and find passion eventually. As always, it was difficult to leave every single job of mine and the struggle to resign is real. I had 4 full work-months in 2019 (Jan to early May) and I was pretty glad that I left accomplishing a somewhat big/important event which I can probably remember or perhaps use it as a selling factor for my next job. Back when I was running the event, I felt a little weird as I was already serving my notice period. People ask me why I bother to put in that amount of effort given that I won’t be able to receive any rewards since I won’t be staying for next year’s bonus but I stick to my own principle of doing my best. I don’t need any rewards/incentives if I’m working hard for something just because I want to do it. Sighs. That’s why I’m praying very hard that my next job opportunity will be something that I’m equally passionate about. On a random note, despite leaving 3 companies to date, I’m sure my ex-colleagues couldn’t resist the urge to contact me for things they couldn’t figure out and I always welcome the feeling of importance. 3 jobs in 7 years and I guess I’ll be ready for my 4th job in Q2 of 2020, assuming I don’t fall in love with New Zealand and want to stay for good. Hasn’t happen and hopefully it doesn’t happen.

Relationships

In the 7 weeks between my last day and my flight to New Zealand, I had the rare opportunity to meet up with a couple of cliques, friends and ex-colleagues. It’s funny how I haven’t met people in years but after hearing that I’m going over to NZ (well, it was supposedly for 6 months), they started making time to urm bid farewell to me? Nevertheless, I treasure each and every meet up. As you grow older, it is harder and harder to find time for each other. To be honest, I’m kind of excited to go home and meet all my friends again. The beauty of being unemployed (temporarily) is that you get to meet up with those busy friends during their lunch breaks which somehow is easier to arrange. During my six-month absence, I kind of got invited to 8 weddings in 2020. While I’m happy for most of my friends, I also feel sad that I didn’t have time to catch up with their relationship status face to face. I guess this is what adult-ing is about? Similarly, I had to miss a couple of weddings during my absence as well. The price of air tickets was simply too much of a luxury. Moreover, I kind of know that if I did go home, I’m not sure if I want to return back to NZ. Some of my friends also gave birth and I’ll be seeing them (not just on instagram) only after I return next year. Stages of life; everyone is moving on but.. I’m just fine where I am. Also, my extended family managed to plan a family day trip to Desaru and it was a rather lovely experience as well as it was my 6-month-old niece first trip overseas with her passport! The folks will be coming over in a few months time and I’m about to go crazy with all that planning as it’s something that I have not done in ages. Fingers cross that everything will go on smoothly, especially the weather.

Travel

In recent years, I’ve been changing my style and preference of travel. I don’t do much plans now (cause it’s too much of a hassle and I can’t keep it anyway) and traveling choices has a lot of feelings involved. Like I can wake up and feel like doing this and not that and everything just changes. I started off with a trip to Taiwan back in January with my ex-classmate/neighbour/friend. We visited Taipei, Taichung, Cingjing and Yilan plus I scaled some scissors rocks or something. Taiwan has also been a comfortable country for me to visit and I do foresee myself going multiple times in the future as I have even more Taiwanese friends now (from NZ). There was this day trip to Desaru and I swear I visited places that I had visited like 10 to 15 years ago. The highlight of the trip had been the fireflies but now that I’ve seen the glow worms in New Zealand, the fireflies seems not much of a big deal anymore. #firstworldproblems

A month later (March), I went for a weekend + 1 day trip to Genting Highlands. It had been more than 5 years since my last visit and I was really impressed with all the changes and upgrades. I’ve been reading up on Genting’s history (together with Disney’s) and I’m rather impressed how much heights a good leader can achieve. I didn’t travel in April as it was my handover/notice period/big event and in May, I went on an impulsive solo trip to South Korea – visiting Seoul and Daegu.

Now that I look back, that trip was justified by me wanting to have a prelude to my solo-tripping in New Zealand plus, I wanted to experience living in a hostel again as it has been more than 2 years since my last hostel stay. This Korea trip had been my first ever end-to-end solo trip which was not work/media related. I’ve traveled solo before but usually I end up meeting someone there or someone will join me halfway and.. this was the first time that I was all alone. I had to deal with the silence of not opening my mouth (except when I’m checking-in to my accommodation and ordering food) and had the full responsibility of taking care of myself. Now that I look back, there were stupid memories like the taxi driver asking why I was still not married after knowing my age and how I walked 1 hour around a neighbourhood while waiting for this supposedly long queue pancake shop to open plus how I ordered food using photos from Google Map because I was too lazy to read the menu. There was also this other occasion where I thought I love beef so much and wanted to gobble up the entire plate of raw beef, only to feel like crap when I’m halfway through. I want to go back again. Gosh I’m such an asia-loving girl.

The following month (June), I headed to New Zealand for a 6-month (or more) adventure of.. my lifetime. When people ask me on why I decide to do this working holiday experience, my reply was.. “If I go for this, I may regret but whattever happens, I can still pack up and go home. If I don’t go for this, I confirm will regret.” Yep, so here I am, 187 days later, still not regretting the decision I made last November (during the application) and last April (when I decide to resign). To be honest, I can’t exactly label my time in New Zealand as traveling as.. I feel like I’ve not traveled enough. My time here seems more like living, more than holiday-ing. While I’m not loving this country enough to want to stay here for good, I love the life of finally being ‘stress-free’ (at least for most days). When I look back, a huge portion of my life has been rather stressful from my studies, to my CCAs to my job search and then work. The only way to let go of everything was to leave. I’m glad I did not consider a sabbatical instead of a resignation. I wouldn’t be feeling so much at is if I still had strings attached to my old job.

In my 6-months here, I’ve only lived in 3 cities – Christchurch, Wanaka and Clyde. This wasn’t what I had expected of myself before I came. I thought I could have covered both north and south islands within 6 months. I wasn’t planning on extension but now I extended. Like all my WHV friends say, ji hua gan bu shang bian hua, which means your plans can’t catch up with the changes. This is how my life had been for the past 6 months and probably will be for the next 3 months – where my plans are still fluid and ever-changing. There are many places that I have not visited and many things I have not done but.. I’m cool with it. I came here with no expectations and I think I can leave with no regrets (we shall see again in the future).

This Website

Still going no where (like the past many years) but this year, I kind of pivoted the style to be rather narrative instead of informative. I’ve successfully maintained the weekly blogging updates for my entire New Zealand experience (and counting) and I’ve amassed a few loyal readers who are reading cause they are embarking on WHV soon. I don’t have much grand plans for my page and I’m just hoping that I can break even on my hosting/domain fees every year, so that I don’t get any pressure to shut this down for good. To be honest, I did think of wanting to spend more effort on my website and generate a steady stream of income from it but as the years go by, I realised that being motivated by money for my website is not what I like to do. I would rather doing what I do now – writing whenever I feel like it (to record my feelings and emotion) or perhaps to write about something cause no one else has written about it yet. Plus, I get so much adrenaline rush while discovering filming locations and this content has remained so consistent all these years. I guess it will continue on, as long as I still have time to watch Korean dramas. Lol.

Anyway, so if you’re reading this post and you don’t mind helping me out, it’s not difficult to let me earn some money through all the affiliate bookings that I have with booking.com, klook, kkday, trazy etc. Even clicking on relevant google ads will help me some way or another. But of course, if you would otherwise use ShopBack and earn rebates for yourself, I wouldn’t blame you as that’s what I do as well. #lifechoices

(Gosh this is a really long entry)

Milestones this year (or perhaps just random memories worth noting down)

  1. 1st end-to-end Solo trip (Seoul and NZ)
  2. 1st time in Business Class (Singapore Airlines)
  3. 1st time owner of a Car
  4. 1st time seeing southern lights
  5. Ski and Snowboard for the first time
  6. 1st Christmas & New Year Eve overseas
  7. Read and listen to many eBooks and audio books this year.
  8. Finally understood and lived a stress-free life here in New Zealand (not all days, but most). This was one of my goals for this career break and I’m glad that it is accomplished!

Anyway, I just recalled that it’s gonna be a whole new decade soon and.. maybe I shall do the all-so-cliche throwback and recall my biggest memory/event for each of the 10 years.

2010: I went for Work & Travel USA (my first working holiday experience ever) and worked in Jenkinson’s South, a super small family boardwalk amusement park at New Jersey, by the beach. I spent a total of 3 months working and playing and I even started my blog because I wanted to keep the memories. I even wrote 12 blog posts for my 12 weeks of fun. It’s gonna feel so awkward when I read it later on because oh gosh, it had been ten full years. Another thing that happened in 2010 was that I kind of started on K-pop as well ><

2011: I went to Korea for Summer exchange which was a complete undercover for the hidden agenda. I succeeded in doing the things I wanted and I failed in learning the language. The highlight for the trip was this super unplanned 6 or 7 nights trip where we did not book a single hotel or bus ticket. We basically walk door to door from motels to motels at every town. There was no itinerary and sometimes I felt like we were homeless people roaming the streets. It was the start of my love for unplanned travels.

2012: I finally graduated from university. To be honest, I love the process of learning but I hated examinations as for whatever reason I just can’t seem to score well. Decided to stop at 3-years, even though I could do the 4th year. Celebrated my graduation with a somewhat grad trip where I spent an entire month in Europe with $5,000. It took a hell lot of planning and towards the end, we were really so damn bored with art galleries and museums. This year, I also won (or perhaps got selected) for my first ever media trip by Korean Air. To be honest, I felt that this was the start to my future invitations (though not a lot). It was a very special trip where the gathered participants from all over Asia (yay to international friends).

(Now that I am writing this thing without a plan, why does it seem like every significant memory is travel related. But I guess.. it kinds of fit the theme of my travel website/blog so.. I guess it’s apt)

2013: I had a minor op and kind of figured out why I have been having gastrics. All was good but it was still my first opt and longest hospitalization ever.

2014: I switched jobs this year and I even went for a media trip before starting my new job. It was so amazing how everything fitted into the timing. I think this was the year that I switched to a .com. Which means that from this year onwards, I have to make money for my website in order to break even my domain and hosting fees.

2015: It was SG50 year and I was feeling pretty hyped up with the celebrations. One cool thing was that I visited Botanic Gardens with my secondary school clique and someone said we should meet up for SG100 at the same place and we will all bring a plus one, the helper that will wheel our wheelchairs. Random joke but it stills feel funny and could possibly happen 45 years later. I also visited Japan twice this year. It was the start of my love and multiple trips to Japan.

2016: Had my first family vacation in many years (to Perth) and I’m going for another one two months later (here in NZ). Though it is not like the entire family but traveling with the folks somewhat makes it like a family trip. I also attended my first overseas wedding (Jakarta) for a close friend of mine. Now she is already a mother of one.

2017: It was the year I traveled the most, including 2 media trips to Japan. I went for another overseas wedding (this time in Korea) plus I switched jobs this year as well. It was a busy and long year which ended no a rather sad note.

2018: It was a difficult year for my career (or perhaps it was just a job). There was event prep right smack around the duration of my already booked one year ago south africa trip. It was probably the most stressed trip ever and I even brought my work laptop along so I could answer emails and coordinate stuff around (why couldn’t I just let go and trust my colleagues?). Then again, I also brought my laptop for my HK trip too. 2018 was a really difficult year for me. Things were so bad that I even went to a tarot card reading in Seoul and asked if I should quit my job. On a side note, I also spent my first birthday overseas and it was a happy event. I ended with a stay-in-the-villa-and-nua Bali holiday with some friends from my secondary school. It was so epic as.. we really relaxed and barely went out to visit. It was a good rest because sometimes you need to find some zen and heal your soul and mind, and not just chasing attractions and sunsets.

2019: Made the bravest decision to go on a career break and.. ended up here in New Zealand. I was supposed to be home by Christmas but somehow the visa extension happened and now I’m having an extended 3 months of escape from reality. I’m excited about the future, excited about going home, excited about my new career (yes the workaholic in me) but for now I’m going to.. rest and heal and prepare myself for the next decade(s).

Anyway, it’s 4:24am right now in New Zealand and I’m not sure why I am not asleep yet.

We ended work at about 2pm today and I went for my last coffee of the decade. It was followed by a steamboat dinner plus a trip to Queenstown (3 hours return) just to see the fireworks and ‘countdown’ with a crowd. Now that I recall, I think this is my first-ever overseas count down. It was nothing fancy. We sat down by the gravel beach at Queenstown at about 11pm and I spent the time adjusting my tripod/camera plus desperately trying to load instagram with the super slow mobile network. I even had time to lie down and stare at the leaves from the tree. It was dark but there wasn’t any stars in the sky. The firework display was 8 mins long and it was beyond my expectations but it’s still kind of average in comparison to Singapore. For New Zealand standards, I think it is quite impressive already. Haha.

2020, it’s gonna be a year of weekend weddings (8 invitations to date). May I’ll make it to Germany (and Europe) too or perhaps I’ll go back to my Asian Love – HK,JP,KR,TW.

Hello to myself in December 2020. I’ll probably read this again before I write my reflections post for 2020.

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