9 June 2021

So this landed in my inbox this morning:

Val Thinks, my newsletter baby of just under 4 weeks, now has over 100 subscribers!

Given that I’m shooting for thousands, 100 seems a measly amount. But girl’s gotta start somewhere.

Half of the first 100 came from tapping friends, family, and my professional network. (Thank you!)

The second half came from promoting my newsletter in a Facebook group of 1.1 million members for Thais looking to immigrate. I positioned it as English practice… you know, read great writing and improve your English kinda thing.

I don’t think I got any subscribers from this blog yet, but girl’s gonna keep hustling.

If you’ve read this far, you might as well check it out. In the past few weeks, I’ve written about coffee addiction, energy management, and perverse incentives. And I’ve got dozens more topics, ranging from moisterising to identity, in store.

My newsletter will keep your Fridays fun and unpredictable, and will probably make you smile.

Now go show some love.

Yours truly,

Val

19 May 2021

I’m back with some news:

I started a weekly newsletter on Substack!

Yep, indeedio I did.

It’s not something I’ve ever considered. But last Tuesday I read an Economist article about the modern creator industry and the article mentioned Substack as a platform independent writers can get on to get paid for their writing directly. (Obviously Substack takes a cut, but you can’t have your lunch and eat it too!)

Since the platform was mentioned in a reputable newspaper, I figured it was worth checking out. And the article planted the idea of starting a newsletter in my mind.

I’ve been blogging for almost 8 years in a variety of places, and all this time I never really considered making money from my blogs. I didn’t think it would be viable. Plus, I was doing it more for personal enjoyment and to practice writing.

But I think the time has come (no time like the present!) to try and strike out on my own as an independent writer, and a paid newsletter seems like a pretty solid way to do that. My writing, straight to your inbox, and if you want you can feed me for it. (If not, that’s cool. There will always be a free option.)

So, the day after reading the article, I checked Substack out and spent 3 hours setting up my newsletter: Val Thinks.

The idea behind the newsletter is to share a thought with you every Friday. A thought for your metaphorical penny.

This newsletter will be the culmination of a lifetime of reflection, observations, and discoveries. It will cover anything under the sun, from the supposedly mundane to the controversial. I will share with you the best thoughts I’ve ever had that I think have the potential to make your life a better place, change the way you see the world, or even just put a smile on your face.

The first edition of the newsletter went out last Friday mostly to friends and family. The next email will land this Friday, and I think it’s time to share it with my lovely readers.

Check it out, subscribe, and let me know what you think.

Love,

Val

17 April 2021

Predictably, as soon as I got out of quarantine, life took hold and I left blogging behind.

It’s been a whirlwind three weeks. And as I find myself with time on my hands today, I figured it’d be a good idea to take stock of where I am since my move to Ho Chi Minh City.

Settling In

The priority once I got out of quarantine was to settle in and make myself at home. This was relatively uncomplicated and consisted of:

  • Unpacking: Done in a couple of hours the day after I moved in
  • Buying groceries: Flossy pork and freshly grounded coffee in the fridge, instant noodles in the cupboard, and lots and lots of beer
  • Getting to know Thao Dien: We live in “Expat Central” and it was a joy to discover while zooming around on the back of my partner’s bike the dizzying array of restaurants and cafes within a ten-minute radius from home. There’s even a New York bagel place, and yesterday we ate at a Balkan restaurant. The variety of food available here is impressive, to say the least.

The Domestic Life

Apart from settling into the new flat and new city, I’m also moving in with my partner of over 2 years for the first time. Somewhat surprisingly, there’s been very little friction to living together and in three weeks we’ve synced up in various ways:

  • Wake-up and bed times: I used to wake up super early (4-5am) and go to bed super early (6-7pm), but I’ve now shifted my hours backwards so I wake up with my partner’s alarm (6:30am) and we have a couple of hours together chilling in the evening. The trick to this, I discovered, was to take my bipolar medication later in the day. This was the culprit behind me feeling impossibly sleepy in the early hours of the evening. Since shifting my medication time, I’ve been able to stay up until 9-10pm with no difficulty. Issue solved!
  • Finances: We’ve been using Splitwise to track our household spending, taxis, eating out, etc. It’s been pretty easy and useful.
  • Space: My partner has a job which requires confidentiality, so he works most of the time from his office which is just across the road, while I normally set up shop for my remote job in the living room/kitchen area. When he watches TV in the living room over breakfast, I just put in my earphones and play ambient cafe soundscapes. If my partner needs to take a confidential call, he goes into the bedroom and shuts the door, and I put on my earphones so I don’t hear.
  • Food: We share the groceries bill and have been alternating cooking. I started cooking again after not having cooked anything for years, and am immensely enjoying presenting my partner with a variety of oyster-sauce-based dishes, to the point where he’s starting to good-naturedly protest for more variety.
  • Communication: We’ve always been pretty good at communication, and communicating face-to-face is far easier than doing it over a chat app or a phone call, so this has been very smooth since moving in together. We’re both very direct people and (I’d like to think) quite emotionally intelligent. None of the passive aggression and making unjustified assumptions about each other.

Unwinding

Both my partner and I have been working non-stop for the past few months, he more so than I as I’ve been on a few short trips here and there. But both of us wanted to unwind so we went to Vung Tau, a quiet beach town, for a 3-night getaway. It was good and probably much needed. We found the perfect spot: a fancy hotel’s private beach that you have to pay $10 per head per day to use, but it was worth it. We lounged for two days straight by their pool, swam, read, and just let ourselves drift off to the sound of the sea.

The Work Life

I got back to work this week and launched straight into an exciting new project. Nothing much to say here except that it was great to be back at work and it was comfortable enough to work from my new work set-up in the living room. The chair (which used to be the bane of my existence at my condo) is comfortable and I can sit up straight and not hurt my bum. Which is all I ask for really. And I get plenty of light coming in through the bay window. Nothing to complain!

The Company

One thing which went on pause while I was in quarantine was all affairs related to my company. But this week since getting back from the short beach holiday I’ve had meetings with my company accountant and bank manager, and (fingers crossed) I believe all the issues have been resolved. It’s not easy to figure out the financial management for my company, but I think my accountant and I have found a good solution. I’ve also learned how to withdraw and deposit money at the bank, including where the ladies’ are (which is very important).

Socializing

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle, creating a new community in Ho Chi Minh City. From the first week, I’d met up a couple of times with my partner’s closest friends whom I’d met before while visiting him in Hanoi. And things seem to be going well on that front. We’re continuing conversations over chat and it’s nice to spend time with them.

But also yesterday we went out to dinner with a bunch of people I’d not met before, and for the first time in over a year I got to introduce myself to someone new and get to know them. This was very pleasant and I surprised myself realising that I’d missed it.

This coming week I’ll be catching up with a former colleague who lives and works here, and also catching up virtually with a good friend. Now that work and company stuff is kind of sorted, I’m happy to get back to meeting people. I’ve missed my coffees!


And that’s pretty much it, a recap of my three weeks more for my benefit than for yours.

In short, life in Ho Chi Minh City has been great, and I’m very happy I made the move here.

Until next time.

Love,

Val

21 March 2021

As it turns out, quarantine is great for blogging. This is my fourth post in twice as many days.

I’m not sure why my attention has turned to this blog more often. Maybe it’s the lack of distractions resulting in both fewer options and more time. Maybe it’s the introspective nature of the activity that matches well with the nature of quarantine. But I’ll take it.

While in quarantine, I’ve also worked on my book. I really should have spent more time on it, and for a few days right at the start the aspiration was to write a little every day. But in the end I only managed to get around to it yesterday, a Saturday, which is usually the day I work on it.

I’ve had the idea to write this book for a really long time. I can’t tell you with certainty when it began, but my guess is probably around 2015 when I left the psychiatric ward after being briefly institutionalised for a manic outbreak. The intention behind the book is to share my story, to give a peak into the minds of someone who suffered, first, from depression, and then from bipolar disorder. To show that these mental conditions are treatable and if properly treated can be a blessing in disguise.

That’s the idea. But as I began writing the book this year, I’ve begun to have misgivings. The book will refer to a lot of people, and I’m not sure how they’ll take it. Since beginning the book, I’ve toyed with the idea of reaching out to key personalities and giving them a heads-up, and maybe also asking them for permission to mention them in a specific way. I’m not too keen on the latter as I see it as an editorial decision, and I want to tell the story from my perspective. But I’m not dead set either way.

And then I was having coffee with my dad, and he was talking about how he thinks Meghan and Harry shouldn’t have spoken out against the British royal family, how he disapproves of how they’re airing the dirty laundry in public. At the time I just expressed my disagreement and we didn’t get into a long discussion about it. But later when my thoughts drifted to the book, I began to wonder how my parents would take it. They feature quite prominently in the book (as would be expected), and I wondered if my dad would be hurt by our dirty laundry being aired in public.

And then a few days ago, a friend innocently asked if I’m writing the book for myself, or for the public. And that got me wondering whether it’s enough just to write the book for myself as a therapeutic exercise. That merely gathering and transmitting my thoughts onto the pages would make the exercise worthwhile. Maybe I can help others in a different way. In fact, I’m already helping others in my day job. There’s no reason why I’d have to have the book as a medium.

And then, yesterday as I was writing the book, I realised how one-sided and deeply inaccurate my account of my life story is. Yes, it’s my life. Yes, I’m putting it to paper exactly how I remember it. But memories are a fickle thing, and we will weave events into the narrative that we choose.

For years, I’ve told myself that I didn’t know how to make friends as a child. That people were drawn to me because of my academic abilities, not because of me as a person. But before I moved to Vietnam, just mere weeks ago, I was sorting through old belongings at home and found notes written for me by my school friends. Notes which showed genuine care and interest in me. Notes which proclaimed my humour and interestingness as a person. Notes which are completely incongruent with my perception of my high school days.

So yesterday, as I was writing a section on my theory of why I didn’t have any friends at university, I was constantly questioning myself. I was having to put in a proviso that my story is a biased account. But even with that proviso, I didn’t really believe the words I was writing. It felt like I was telling a lie that I want to believe about myself, but that anyone who knows me would immediately expose for its laughable falsehood.

If even I am doubting the veracity of my memory, of the narrative of destruction and re-birth that I’m using to describe my mental health history, then how can I put pen to paper and share that narrative with the world?

This is where my head is at right now with my book. I’ll continue writing it, that’s for sure. But what I’ll do with it once finished—that’s a different matter.

I guess, as with all things in life, we’ll find out in time.

Love,

Val

p.s. The quarantine is still going well by the way. On Day 9 now. I’m 5 days and a negative test result away from freedom and reunion with my partner! Waheeee!

18 March 2021

It’s Day 6 of quarantine. Tomorrow I’ll reach the half-way mark.

In a way it hasn’t felt that long. Six days confined to a room sounds like it’d be a very boring and stifling experience. But it hasn’t been like that. Days did tend to get boring toward 5/6pm, but for most of the day I’d keep myself engaged with various activities: work, reading, speaking on the phone, drinking wine/beer.

But in a different way, it feels like I’ve always been in this room. This room has become my reality, my present. Bangkok, parents, the flight—these are distant memories that I can whip up at will, but don’t occupy my mind much otherwise.

I’ve always been this way. I tend not to linger on places. I left Thailand for the UK when I was 17, and back then I remember not really missing home at all. And then I left the UK for France, then back again, then back to Thailand for good. People would sometimes ask if I miss the UK, where I spent a good 7 years of my life, but I really don’t.

Was life better there? In many ways, it was. London is a magnificent place to live. But once I leave a place, the break is clean. I don’t let my thoughts linger on it. I turn my attention wholly toward whatever present location I find myself in, and I get on with it.

I think this is a blessing. I rarely feel nostalgia (and when I do, it’s usually for my year abroad in Paris, specifically for this one memory I have of walking down the street near my college and thinking, “This is picture-perfect. I’m walking in a movie.”) I don’t really miss places, no pangs of sadness, nada.

So, 6 days after leaving Thailand, I don’t really miss it. Do I miss the people I leave behind? Also not. I’ve been messaging everyone and having catch-up conversations. I’ve spoken with my mom at length on the phone twice (on Saturday after I arrived and today) and once with my dad (in our regular Sunday morning slot). So I don’t miss them at all. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a long conversation with mom as the 55 minutes we spoke today. The forced physical distance has paradoxically reduced the emotional distance. I feel as close to my parents as ever.

I wasn’t going to open my laptop today; I had decided to take a day off my screen. But I’ve spent the day reading this book, Brain on Fire, and the author’s recount of her diaries sparked a strong urge in me to blog. So here I am. It’s a brilliant book, by the way. Fascinating. It’s one reason I wasn’t going to open my laptop—I was glued to my Kindle.

But another reason is I think I deserve a little time off. I’ve been working pretty hard this week, and the monotony of the work routine is getting to me a bit today. So though I’m already on my laptop now, I think I’ll give my work tasks a break. Get back to it fresh tomorrow.

Sometimes what’s needed is simply a day off.

Hope you’re all well.

Love,

Val

15 March 2021

It’s Day 3 of quarantine.

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday night, and have spent a full Saturday and Sunday cooped up in my hotel room.

Though “cooped up” is probably not the right word. I’ve splurged on a suite so I actually have plenty of room to move around. I figured if I’m going to be confined to a room for 2 weeks, better have the four walls as far apart as possible.

Quarantine life has been very pleasant so far. The bed is super comfortable, which is a big plus. Going to bed every night is a luxury. The furniture is well-designed. I’ve got an island to eat at in the kitchenette, a proper work desk set-up. There’s even a chaise longue by the large window where I can stretch out and gaze at the passing traffic below, which I did for a good half hour as the sun rose yesterday morning.

The food has been pretty tasty too. I went for the full-board option so I don’t have to worry about meals. And most of the things that appeared on the delivery chair outside my door have been delicious. Though I must say the portions have been quite small and I often end up hungry between meals. They also serve dinner pretty late (after 7pm), so what I’ve taken to doing is to save my dinner to eat the next day as I tend to have dinner around 5.

There’s also minibar and room service. Haven’t ordered room service yet and I’m not planning to. But I did order a small bottle of Merlot and a Saigon beer from the minibar.

In short: very pleasant.

I’ve been spending my time mostly in front of the laptop, either working or corresponding with people. I wrote all my friends to let them know I finally made it to Vietnam, and have been responding to their messages. There’s also a Facebook group of people who want to return to Vietnam of which I’ve been a member since late last year. It was a wealth of information for me during the run-up to the move, so I wrote up a nice long post to share my experience and “pay it forward.” I got some comments and questions on that so have been responding there too.

I also did a bit of reading. I finally decided to pick up Klara and the Sun, just because I know it’ll be a quick and enjoyable read. I’m probably 1/3 in and it’s proving to be another good read by Ishiguro. Not sure what I’ll pick up next.

Started listening to another podcast episode of How I Built This, this one on Patreon. It’s 88 minutes long and I haven’t finished it yet. I’m thinking of doing an exercise walk around the room while listening to the episode. That could work as an exercise routine. I did 2,000+ steps on Saturday just walking back and forth getting water, though my steps were significantly down yesterday. Not sure what I did differently…

It’s 14 days of quarantine, and I’m now on Day 3. Not long to go now before I’m reunited with my partner. It’ll probably be strange initially to be in his company again—today marks one full year of not being in each other’s physical presence. But we’re both taking two weeks off work to acclimatise and just chill. Which should be nice.

It’s Monday today, so my first work day in quarantine. I’m expecting to be very productive because of the lack of distractions. I’ve done hotel work-cations before and those have always delivered striking results.

I’d better get started with my day. Hope you’re all well.

Love,
Val

4 January 2017 🌾

It’s 2017. Which means in 7 months it will have been 10 years since I moved to England.

How different I was then. How naiive. How hopeful. I was so confident of myself, of the path that I had chosen and so determinedly followed.

Now I am a fragment of my former self—my confidence shattered, optimism extinguished in the dark pits of depression.

But I am still here. I pulled through. I wake up each day, go to work, cultivate relationships. But life was not the same. It was uninspiring, lethargic, deadening.

Until yesterday, when I decided to move to Vietnam.

After two days in Hanoi and some encouragement from my good friend, I decided to take the reins and drive my life into a different direction. I have no idea if it is the right one, but it will be the first path I lay for myself in a long time.

Which I guess is enough.

Since then it’s as if I’m seeing the world through different eyes. The fire that burnt out is re-kindled. The spark of life reborn. My brain is buzzing with possibilities, busy making plans, imagining what life will be like.

In a year. That’s the deadline I’ve set for myself. I give myself a year to prepare, and then I’m packing my bags and heading to the airport.

I’m writing this post on 4 January 2017. But I won’t publish it until I’ve moved. So if you’re reading this, then I’ve made it. I’ve kept the promise to myself. I’ve taken a step into the unknown, inched closer to the life that I used to imagine for myself.

A life of excitement, adventures, discoveries…

A life I wish for me, for you, for us.

Much love,

Val

7 March 2021

I’m breaking my Sunday rule.

Sunday is my no-laptop day, but today I felt an urge to blog.

Because today isn’t just any Sunday—it’s my last Sunday in Thailand. And I feel like I should capture my thoughts and feelings on this day.

So here I am, blogging on a Sunday morning.

Last time I wrote you guys, I was still thick in the process of getting my approvals for Vietnam. But that process quietened down a week ago when I finally managed to acquire all the paperwork, with the help of my lawyer for whom I feel an increasing fondness. The associate was even happy to put his personal mobile number as the contact number for the authorities to call me when in Vietnam. Not sure if this is standard practice over there, but I do appreciate it. Having a Vietnamese-speaking person I trust to liaise with the authorities is an assuring thing.

Anyhow, I’ve printed 2 copies of everything and neatly arranged them in a light purple folder, ready for the airport. The last piece of the puzzle is the Covid-19 test, which I’ll get tomorrow. If the result comes back, “Not Detectable,” then I’ll be set. I’ll email the airline everything on Tuesday and that should get me cleared for landing. There’s no reason why anything should go wrong at this stage, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed anyways.

Today is my last Sunday at home with my parents for a while… until I can come back to visit when Vietnam and Thailand finally open their borders. No one knows when that will be. So I’ll cherish today as my last Sunday.

Our plans are simple, as they always are on Sunday. Morning coffee with dad. Then lunch with dad and mom at a restaurant we recently discovered which has smashingly good food and a nice ambience. Then Big C for our weekly groceries. Then telly with mom. Then dinner with dad. Simple.

I woke up early this morning and opened the book I’m currently reading, Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, but then changed my mind and decided to blog instead. Nothing against the book—it’s an enjoyable read. It’s the last paperback copy I’ll read before I switch to Kindle. I’ve got probably a dozen books waiting for me there, books I bought in the last six months in preparation of the move to Vietnam.

I was planning to start with the Dune Trilogy, but there’s also that new Ishiguro book that I definitely must read that’s hot off the printing press. Ishiguro is my absolute favourite author (sorry boss), and earlier this year I finally finished reading all of his books published up to then. But he just dropped a new one, his first after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. So, expectations are high.

My partner is reading it at the moment and seems to be enjoying it. So maybe I’ll start with that so we can talk about it soon. If I start Dune, it’s going to be a while to finish, it being three books and all. Ishiguro will be a quick read.

How did I get off on that tangent? Yes, the Delivering Happiness book. I’ll continue reading it tomorrow while off on my errands to get my Covid-19 test and see people in town.

To follow up from my last post from late January, I did get to work on my website, which is now live. It’s neat and functional. I still need to work on its SEO, but now that it’s live the impetus has died. I’m not looking to actively seek clients from the website anyways. It’s more a place for me to collect all my services in case someone asks. When I get clients for these services, it normally comes via my network. It’s unlikely to be random individuals landing on my site. Anyways, I’m happy the website’s finished.

I didn’t end up taking more subtitles work. I in fact decided not to so I can enjoy spending my weekends with my parents. The last subtitles project I took was in December of last year. This is probably the longest stretch without working on subtitles, and I’m looking forward to getting back into it once I’m out of quarantine and all settled in Ho Chi Minh City.

So that’s me and my thoughts today.

In terms of feelings, I guess I’m mildly excited that the move is finally happening this coming week. Maybe a little sad that today is the last Sunday I’m spending with my parents in a while. But mostly I’m looking forward to tomorrow, seeing good friends in town and also anticipating a negative Covid-19 test result. I find it hard these days to look too far into the future.

One thing at a time, one day at a time.

Oh! I also continued writing my book as mentioned in my last post. I’ve written a good amount and yesterday revised all of it (the first draft always sucks). I’m done with the Author’s Note, Prologue, and have started on the main content. I’ve even got some title ideas. But let’s keep all that under wraps for now.

Hope you’re all well.

With love always,

Val

23 January 2021

First post in the new year! *confettis*

I don’t have anything in particular I want to report today. I just found myself with an hour on my hands and thought: hey, why not blog! So here I am.

While I’m here, let me write about what’s on my mind.

The past few months have been an exercise in endurance and dissociation. The good news is: I’m getting much better at it. The bad news: the end is not yet in sight.

I’m talking about setting up my company and preparing the move to Vietnam, which I’m still hoping will happen in March. Before I decided to set up a company to get an investor visa to stay in Vietnam, I was warned that it would be a long, arduous, and frustrating process.

And I’d say that it has been, but not necessarily because of the process itself. The process is pretty simple. The problem, I think, is the support—or lack thereof—I’m getting to navigate it.

The solicitor I hired to get the job done is getting the job done. So on one level they’re doing their job. But they could be doing so much more. When you hire an expert, your expectation is that they will walk you through the process, tell you what you need to know when you need to know it.

As you can probably guess by now, this has not been my experience.

Every step of the way has felt like a “guess the right question” game. Because if you ask the right questions, you will get the answers that you need. (Though of late, my questions are beginning to go unanswered.)

The problem, of course, is when you’re faced with a new process, you don’t necessarily know what you don’t know and need to know. Which has left me in a bit of a quandary.

Even the simple question of how I’m taking payment from my client is unclear. The legal company finance set-up in Vietnam being cumbersome doesn’t help. But the bigger problem is not getting briefed about the whole picture when I needed it.

So now I find myself in a situation where I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to be able to finance my living expenses. I thought I got it all figured out back in September 2020 and had forgotten all about it, until I received a crucial piece of information from my partner (not my solicitor) a few days ago.

And that’s thrown everything up in the air. A matter I thought I’d settled long ago again becomes an open case. Something I need to figure out. And when you’re navigating several processes at once, having an extra thing to figure out is not good news.

That’s the exercise in endurance part. Since September now, my mind has been asked to process ever more information, come up with ever more questions, make ever more decisions on matters in which I have no experience or legal knowledge of. With inadequate support from the people I’ve hired to guide me through the process (thanks guys).

With each hiccup, my mind has gone in overdrive, trying to grasp a situation with a dozen moving pieces. And there have been many.

So, company or not, I’m definitely coming out of this process with a much more enduring mind/brain/thinking capacity—whatever you wish to call it.

The second exercise has been in dissociation. And I’d say it’s the more important exercise from which I will benefit for the rest of my life.

(Ironically, I have my solicitor to thank for this. And I have a sneaky suspicion that in the very long run, this will be their legacy to me, and I will truly thank them for it. In the immediate run though, they’re just a basketful of frustrations. And grateful isn’t how I’d describe my predominant feeling towards them.)

To get back to my point, these past months have given me ample opportunity to practice dissociating my emotions from the many headaches I’ve faced. With each revelation of an obstacle, each near-miss, I’ve learnt how to not get drawn into it emotionally.

To a point where my feeling train now goes like this: first, surprise (What!?) Then panic (Shit, shit, shit. How do I solve this!?) Then slight annoyance/frustration (Damn you person X). Amusement (It really does get worse!) And then just: Ah well. Shit happened, now gotta fix it.

The thing is: that feeling train comes and goes quickly. The succession of feelings is quite intense when it’s there. But once it passes (and this is usually in minutes, though for worse offences this could be hours), it passes. Gone, nada. I don’t simmer in frustration or anger at my solicitor or whatever has broken in the process.

And that’s made my life much more pleasant than it could have been.

Yes, the anxiety of going through the myriad of processes not knowing when something might break is still there. And I guess the next step for me in the path to becoming a Dissociation Master is to learn how to let go of that anxiety as well. But there is no frustration, no anger.

Just meh.

And I love it. I love that I’m able to not be constantly frustrated with my solicitor, that I’m able to laugh about it to myself. That this process isn’t doing my head in (as it probably would have had it happened a year ago).

I’m not sure why I’ve gotten better at emotionally handling things. Maybe it’s the meditation… it probably is to a non-negligible extent. But I think the endurance is also feeding into it. My mind has been tested so much to the point where it’s grown numb. And I think that numbness is spilling into my emotions as well.

There goes my wacky theory.

The mind will always find something to worry about. But paradoxically because I’ve had so many things to worry about in the past months, my mind seems to have become numb to them, and what would have been intense worries is now a much more manageable low-level anxiety.

Also, because shit keeps hitting the fan, I’ve developed perspective. What seems pressing/world-ending in the moment often isn’t. And the next day it just becomes another problem to solve. So I allow myself a brief ride on the feeling train, and the next morning it just recedes into the background. And I find other things to occupy myself with.

I’m thinking: while all this is going on, I might start building my company website. It’ll be a fun thing to do and divert my attention away from the mess of the company set-up.

Or I can just continue writing my book. That’s a different endeavour altogether. I started writing it the other day. This in itself was a milestone. But I haven’t gone back to it since.

Taking more subtitles work would also help. That would certainly turn my attention away from company stuff to subtitling. It’s quite an immersive experience and having to manage the time between my full-time job and subtitling will give me plenty to think about.

Anyhow, this has turned into quite a long post and I can feel myself starting to ramble. Let me recap:

  • Higher endurance
  • Better dissociation
  • Low-level anxiety
  • Finding diversions

How has the new year been for you guys? I hope you’ve had fewer headaches than I have.

But who am I kidding? We all have our own headaches, and plenty of them.

As my boss would say, life is about trading bad problems in for better problems. And I’d certainly say the problems I’m having now aren’t bad at all.

Love,

Val

25 December 2020

I love Christmas. Always have, and probably always will.

Growing up in Thailand, Christmas was fused with New Years into one long, festive holiday season. Christmas/New Years equalled presents. Fairy lights in the garden that dad and I would painstakingly put up (and even more painstakingly remove). My school of 13 years, being Catholic, used to have Christmas celebrations. We also had friendly, but fierce annual competitions of which class can glue/staple/tape together the most elaborate Christmas board.

Then I went to study in the UK and Europe, where Christmas was always a magical time of year, and I just loved soaking up the atmosphere. Lights on Oxford Street. Christmas decor in malls. Christmas markets. Mulled wine, hot chocolate, presents around the tree. I loved it all.

So today being Christmas, it’s a special day for me. And I’ll take this special opportunity to reflect on my experience of 2020.

The Move

West Lake, Hanoi, December 2019.

2020 was supposed to be the year of the big move to Vietnam. Thanks to Covid, this has not happened. But preparations never ceased and I never wavered in the decision. Now finally the jigsaw pieces appear to be falling together and I’m set for a March 2021 move. Fingers crossed all goes well.

The Job

September 2020, Bangkok.

2020 was a life-defining year for me career-wise. I landed the job of a lifetime, and often I still can’t believe I’m working for Mark, an author whose work I truly admire, and now that I actually know him in real life (albeit only digitally for now), really a genuinely awesome person.

The Friends

Fancy staycation with my closest friend, December 2020.

2020 has been a year of deepening new friendships and reconnecting with old ones. It’s probably the year where I’ve had the most fulfilling social experiences. Funny that in a year where most of the world is locked down and socially distanced, I’ve had my most active year socially. I’m thankful the Covid situation was quickly under control here and I was able to have those many lunches, coffees, and dinners with friends.

The Family

The home office, much of 2020.

2020 was also a year of spending time with family, from Agoda going remote in March and much of the remainder of the year. I was living at home, eating mom’s cooking, working comfortably in my new home office set-up (pictured is my swanky new laptop stand which I’m very pleased about buying).

Val’s Bespoke English

2020 was also the year I launched Val’s Bespoke English, my premium tailored English tutoring service.

I’d been teaching privately for many years, but 2020 was the year I decided to formalise it and properly advertise.

And I’ve been pretty pleased with the results so far!

All in all, 2020 has been a pretty good year to me. A year of new experiences, new beginnings, and personal growth in various ways.

Here’s to 2021. May it be kind to all of us.

Love,

Val