5 December 2020

It’s been a roller coaster of a few months, in some ways and not others.

I’ve pretty much settled into my new job, which by now is 3 months old, though I still am amazed every time I’m having a conversation with Mark. It’s pretty surreal to be communicating with your favourite author on a daily basis. But this part of my life has more or less stablised.

The roller coaster has mainly been regarding my move to Vietnam. First it seemed like everything was set and all I had to do was set the train rolling, then there was a snag, then there was a breakthrough, then I was dragging my feet for a week or two because I was so apprehensive about navigating the muddy waters, then there was another breakthrough, and now finally the process has officially started.

My application to start a company in Vietnam was submitted to the authorities earlier this week, and after a bunch of paperwork and applications for various approval letters which thankfully my solicitor will take care of, I should be clear to fly to Vietnam in March 2021.

This is much delayed from the original move date of July 2020. Even when my partner and I had accepted the reality of Covid, we still were aiming for September 2020… and then Christmas, then mid-January… you get the idea.

But those were all dates we set ourselves, guesstimating when the Vietnamese border would open for commercial flights from Thailand. We were hoping I would be able to enter Vietnam by those dates.

March 2021, however, is based on an actual timeline of how long each approval process would take. The process kicked off this week. Now, finally, the countdown clock has started.

Another roller coaster has been with my social life. The past 4 months have been a whirlwind of meeting up with a core group of friends and getting to know them better over long dinners and drinks. I’ve enjoyed this immensely, and I think it only hit me a few weeks back that life in Vietnam will be very different socially. There I won’t have this wonderful group of people I’ve only recently started to call my friends, and it made me feel a little lonely. I felt so down that I actually missed my parents, which is new to me. I hardly ever missed my parents before, even when I was living in the UK for many years.

It was a tough week of feeling sad, lonely, and demotivated, but the feeling has passed. And now I’m back to enjoying my social life, but also my solitude. This week has been a week of staycations. I was staying at a business suite during the week doing a ‘workcation,’ and enjoyed the solitude immensely. This morning I checked in to a proper fancy hotel for a relaxing 3-day staycation with my best friend. And I’m writing this while waiting for her to arrive.

It’s going to be great. I already love the room and the service.

Hope you all have been well and your life has been rolling and/or coasting nicely.

Love,

Val

18 October 2020

So, I’m almost 2 months in to my dream job working for Mark Manson, and I’m loving it.

I’m part of a small team of just really awesome humans behind his website MarkManson.net where we try to put out an article every week, doling out “life advice that doesn’t suck”.

To be part of this team behind the scenes, working passionately to churn out content that could go on to influence and make the lives of a bajillion people better, it’s unreal.

And the job itself is pretty sweet. It’s a remote role and very flexible. I have set targets and a content manager who helps manage deadlines. And I just focus on churning out research on a variety of intriguing subjects. So far I’ve done (among others): self-conscious emotions, cognitive biases, the impact of social media on mental health.

I also get to give input to new articles in other ways. Even mundane-sounding things like catching typos I’m pretty psyched about. Just to know I’m contributing to making Mark’s content top notch is like, whoa.

Oh, did I mention he’s one of my all-time favourite authors? So yes, pretty sweet.

I’ve been spending the last 2 weeks refining my approach to the job: both the research side of it and (probably more) the time management side. The freedom with which to manage my schedule comes with responsibility. And even with a job I’m this passionate about, there is always the temptation to stop working a little earlier, take it easy.

It’s been a constant battle with that. Not an insurmountable battle, but something I always have to keep in the back of my mind. In this crusade against procrastination, I’ve enlisted the help of a time tracker, which I’ve found fascinating. For the first time I’m literally seeing how I spend my day. It’s an awesome tool.

Almost 2 months in, I think I’ve pretty much got it down. I know how to manage my week, how to manage my day. I know my way of working effectively: 1.5-2 hour spurts, with short breaks. So far I’ve hit all bar one of my deadlines, some of which mildly challenging, and delivered research I’m proud of, that has gone towards a couple of articles.

An unintended side effect of this awesome new job, however, is that I’ve focused so much on doing a good job at it that I’ve somewhat neglected my own endeavours. I haven’t blogged or read for pleasure for 2 months.

A 2-month break from my blog, however lamentable, is something I’m used to. I had gone for months without blogging before, so that doesn’t surprise me.

A full 2 months without reading a single book, however, is just… In the last 1-2 years, I’ve consistently read 2-4 books a month. So to realise the other day that I haven’t finished a single book since the end of August… not a good feeling.

I’ve been carrying around Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments with me (the hardback version even) for 2 months, but I’ve only read maybe 5 pages on one single afternoon. I just haven’t felt the desire to read otherwise.

This could be because I’ve been reading so much as part of my work that I don’t want to read more in my free time. But it’s not a trend I’d like to continue. So will do something about that. Maybe 30 minutes in the afternoon in between my work spurts. Yes, that could work.

Not in the morning as my morning routine already lasts hours: read the news (the Economist and the New York Times), learn Vietnamese on Duolingo, meditate (not always, but usually, in this order).

Now, where do I fit in blogging? Hmm…. that’s another question entirely. I haven’t touched my new business blog since the beginning of August. Damn.

Ah well, I’m here now, and that’s a start.

That’s enough of an update for now. How are y’all doing?

Love,

Val

25 August 2020

8 days later and my head is in a completely different space.

Last Monday I was worrying over the quality (or lack thereof) of a research summary I had submitted one day before, after working on it all weekend with scarcely a break.

This research summary was one of three tasks I was given in Phase 2 of a job application.

This application was for the job of a lifetime, a Content and Research Assistant for my favourite author, who happens to have sold tens of millions of books worldwide and topped the NY Times Bestselling list.

Last Monday, I was worrying incessantly that the summary I cobbled together wasn’t good enough. That I wouldn’t shine brightly enough to be selected for a phone interview.

Well, as it turns out, my fears were unfounded. The author’s words when he invited me for the interview were: “you crushed it. Incredible work”.

Then followed an interview last Thursday, a video call that was so surreal I could hardly believe it was truly happening.

I felt the interview had gone brilliantly, but that didn’t stop me worrying and emailing the author twice to correct something I misspoke and clarify a different point.

Yesterday was excruciating. The author had said he would make the decision and extend the job offer on Monday NYC time. Which could have been any time from 7pm yesterday my time.

This morning, at 2am, the anxiously anticipated email arrived in my inbox. I got the job.

And I’m over the moon. Strangely, I didn’t burst into tears like I did when I got the invitation to the interview. Just, calm. And happy. Pleased with myself and proud.

Out of who knows how many people applied, I made it. And I start next Tuesday.

It’s curious that, as one who blogs extensively, I never thought to pursue a paid career in writing. Not until the call for applications landed in my inbox did I ever think such a career an option.

But now here it is. In my hands. From Tuesday, I will be paid to write.

I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. I still can’t quite wrap my head around it. Maybe I’ll be hit by a wave of euphoria later, maybe not.

But yes, hello new job. Hello new boss.

Back to full-time work for me! The past 3 months have been nice, but to return to working life with this job is more than I can ever ask for.

So I shall enjoy my few remaining days, and start fresh.

Love,

Val

17 August 2020

It’s going to be a different kind of post today, more me writing reminders to myself that you, dear readers, may find cryptic.

I’ll explain all this in time. For now, let me just process all this mumble jumble of thoughts the best way I know how: by writing them down.

Here goes:

  • Step back and reorient myself. Remember where I am and where I want to go.
  • Nothing is a “make or break” deal.
  • The only person who should determine my worth is myself.
  • It’s okay to not be good at something.
  • If you can’t do anything about it, don’t worry about it.
  • It’s okay to feel down or sad sometimes. Embrace it. It will pass.
  • Mood Meter is awesome. Use it.
  • I make my own life.
  • It’s good to have friends. Good ones are especially… special. Cherish them.
  • It’s okay to get frustrated. Just don’t blow it out of proportion.
  • Remember to write. Not for others, but for myself. Writing brings me joy. Do it often.
  • No more all-dayers. Manage your energy. You know better than to have no breaks or skip meals. Silly, silly Val.
  • I am me. I hold the wheel. No one holds my life hostage. Don’t make my life conditional upon something/someone external.
  • I won’t get everything I want in life. And that’s fine. Really.
  • “Life is short. Life is sweet. Life is all that matters.”
  • Just enjoy the ride.

And that’s it for the cryptic reminders… for now.

Hope you’re all doing well!

Love,

Val

10 June 2020

I can’t believe it’s been over 3 weeks since my last post. And here I thought not having a 9 to 6 would give me ample time to blog.

How wrong I was.

A lot has happened on my end, so I thought I’d give you a quick summary of the past two weeks since I quit my job. I know you haven’t asked, but I’ll do it anyways.

  • First things first – I officially left my job. On Friday 29th May I went to the office (which I hadn’t set foot in since leaving for the long weekend on Thursday 12th March – little did I know…) to pack up my things and adopt (I asked, so it’s not stealing) a good number of Agojis

One of said Agojis now lives with my Kindle – how cute is he!

  • I had coffees and dinners (plus one sleepover) with a bunch of people, mostly from Agoda. In the process I was plied with much delicious home-cooked meals (beef tongue tacos, bouillabaise, peach crostata – the list continues)

  • I had 3 job interviews – 2 for Bangkok and 1 for Ho Chi Minh City – one of which I think went pretty well (fingers crossed I hear back within the next few weeks!)
  • I delivered 4 subtitles translation projects
  • I taught 2 students and experienced 1 gone AWOL
  • I started my cross stitch project which I bought almost a year ago and hadn’t touched since

  • I started a new blog because I had only 6 (3 of which active) and that’s clearly not enough
  • I bought some business books and started reading one
  • I started learning Vietnamese! Today marks Day 7 of my streak

Okay, now that I see everything listed down, no wonder I didn’t have time to update this blog.

In short, it’s been a pretty good, but busy 12 days. Starting to wind down a bit these past few days though, which is good. What would be the point of quitting a job to have more time if you don’t take the time to rest and enjoy being leisurely?

How have you been in recent weeks?

Love,

Val

18 May 2020

I want a break. Dare I say need a break?

In stark contrast to the buzzing high of last Friday, now I feel depleted, de-buzzed.

Not surprising considering I really haven’t had much of a weekend. I spent it working on subtitles and teaching, and really only got to stop working around 3:30pm on Sunday, when I went out for a walk and listened to a podcast.

A wonderful podcast by the way, as is usually the case with this series. The topic of authenticity is one I usually find interesting. A colleague (soon-to-be former) was listening to it the other day and thought I might be interested, so she flagged it to me.

She was right: I was interested and promptly listened to it on my walk yesterday. Note to self: thank her for the recommendation.

Anyhow, with the lack of mental rest over the weekend, I’m not feeling much motivated to start the work week (it’s Monday morning, 6:44am as I write). The good news is I did get pretty decent sleep the past two nights – the longest sleeps I’ve had in weeks.

With 2 and a half hours left to go before my work week starts at 9am, I think I’m going to switch off for a bit. Maybe listen to a podcast, or read. Yes, most likely I’ll read.

I mistakenly bought the book “The Shape of Water” some months ago thinking the movie was based on said book. Only to realise last week (maybe 2 weeks ago by now) that it’s the other way around.

I normally don’t read books that are based on movies, but since I already bought it I thought I’d give it a chance. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It’s fast-paced and engaging – and dare I say alluring.

Yes, 2 hours with The Shape of Water will probably give me the break I need, and get me ready for the new week.

Hope you all had good, restful weekends.

Love,

Val

15 May 2020

I’m on a roll.

Every week I send my manager a list of completed and upcoming tasks, and never before have so many tasks made their way to the “Completed” column.

Last week – despite it being a 2-day work week due to public holidays – I managed to finish many, many things. And this week – a full 5-day week – I pretty much moved every major task from “Pending by end of May” to “Completed”.

A few bits and bobs remain here and there, but 2 major projects have completed transition to their new owner – with all stakeholders informed.

1 major project is about to transition – the transition pack is just undergoing reviews from the team before being sent to the new project owner.

And my biggest project – the Employee Engagement Survey – is transitioning smoothly with an expected cut-off date of next Wednesday.

I even finished updating 10 articles on the People Team’s Help Page site yesterday, a task I didn’t think I’d get around to until the last week. It took much less time than expected (though it wasn’t any less boring).

Oh, and on top of that, I reviewed 2 learning courses and helped test our new Agoda Careers website.

I’ve ticked off so many tasks that I’ve started asking for new ones, and promptly received one yesterday. It’s an interesting task that will add value – and I appreciate the opportunity to contribute.

A colleague yesterday said that I’m experiencing the “pre-exit productivity high” and she’s absolutely right. I even feel the mental buzz, the excitement of tasks accomplished and (I think) well done.

On the non-Agoda front, I’ve also been spending my mornings before work applying for jobs. (It feels okay to do that now that I’ve submitted my resignation and have a clear end date) The job applying thing began almost as a coincidence, but once I got started the ball continued to roll.

I’m actually quite enjoying updating my CV to highlight achievements tailored to every new role I’m applying to (and the roles are wide-ranging) as well as writing the cover letter to go with it.

I’m averaging about one job a day, though today (unless something really catches my eye) I plan to take a break and catch up on my Economist newsletters which I’ve neglected for much of this week. They’re piling up in my inbox – I don’t like when things pile up in my inbox.

So yes, that’s about where I am right now. Buzzing away at work and on LinkedIn.

How is life for you? Are you also looking for a job? Focused at work?

Love,

Val

5 May 2020

So… those 2 leads? They converted. (Wondering what the apple I’m talking about? Go here to find out more)

I now have 2 new students subscribed (i.e. paid) to my Val’s Bespoke English Lessons tutoring service.

Which is really the best possible scenario I could have asked for after launching the page mid-April. I launched the page hoping for 1 student – and now I’ve got 2.

Things are well also on the subtitles front. I’m back to getting a steady stream of projects after a bit of a spotty period. I delivered a project this morning – and I’ve got 4 more coming my way, due in 2-3 weeks.

Oh, and another well-paying one that’s due mid-June.

So yes, life is pretty good at the moment.

With freelancing revenue looking to ramp up nicely, I’m feeling more excitement than apprehension at the prospect of leaving my full-time corporate job at the end of May. Actually, I’m hardly feeling any apprehension anymore.

Only excitement.

I am looking forward to filling my time with books and walks and long articles, and Better Call Saul. Yes, a lot of Better Call Saul. (I’m on Season 3 at the moment)

3 weeks and 2 days. Sounds like a long time, but I just know it’s going to fly by, with all the projects to wrap up and properly transition.

Someone I respect said something to the effect of: you’re judged by the state of the room you leave it in.

And I intend the room to be pristine, with orderly rows of neatly stacked files – color-coded and alphabetically-sorted, when I leave it.

Oh – how good life is.

This has been a bit of a rambly post, but at least it was short. And now you can get back to whatever it was you were doing.

As always, love,

Val

19 April 2020

Wow – it has been a busy few weeks. It’s like I blinked and suddenly we’re approaching the end of April.

In the meantime, major things have happened in my life.

Thing one: I started an English private tutoring page.

I’ve been teaching English online for the past 5 years but the idea to start up a proper page only came to me a few weeks ago on one of my back-and-forth walks in the residential complex (more on that in my previous post).

And since creating my page on 3rd April (as Facebook tells me), I’ve been toying with a lot of different ideas (most of which occurred during my walks) and created some content for the page, and earlier this week I decided to bite the bullet and start sharing the page. Not to everyone I know (that would be unwise), but to a few people. #PhasedApproach

And, completely against my expectations, I immediately got inquiries. Both of them through the one friend who shared my page on their Facebook and emphatically guaranteed the “premium-ness” of my service. Really shows the power of word of mouth and connections.

Fingers crossed, these two leads turn into paying customers. Things seem to be heading in that direction. I had my 30-min diagnostic session with both (separately, of course) yesterday, and my read on the situation is that they were happy with me/my “Bespoke” approach (the service is called “Val’s Bespoke English Lessons” and is a product of the during-walk realisation that the service I already offer is 100% tailored to my student – so why not sell it as such?).

Thing two: I decided to quit my job.

For those who’ve read my previous few posts, this will not come as a complete surprise. (Oh how vain is she who thinks people follow and read all her posts…)

It’s a wonderful job and I love working with the team. But (as I mentioned here), all this pandemic has led me to re-evaluate what really matters in my life. And hands down a life with my partner is more precious to me than any job, so… I’m moving to Hanoi!

As soon as I complete my duties toward the Thai government (I’m a government scholar – they paid for my studies abroad and in return I’m legally binded to stay in Thailand for the equal number of years I spent abroad), I will be heading to Hanoi.

Funnily enough, my “Independence Day” is on 4th July. After this auspicious date, I will be freeeeeeeeeeee. So we’re looking at moving in together some time in July, once I’ve sorted out the move from my end. (And given, of course, that borders have opened by then.)

I’m pretty excited about this. I planned 3 years ago to move to Hanoi. The plan never came to fruition as my life took unexpected turns. To follow these twists and turns and if you have up to an hour to spare, go here. Start with the first post then work your way up! (Yes, I write a lot of blogs.)

So, in order to move to Hanoi, I will be quitting my job at Agoda. My manager has been aware of this possible eventuality since February, but finally 2 days ago (Friday 17th April) I made my decision. I informed my manager on Friday and will be announcing the news to the team early this coming week, then click “Resign”. A monumental decision, executed with only one click. (More likely it will be multiple clicks – but “the first click is the greatest” [Know the song?]).

Goodbye (for now) corporate life. Hello (again) freelancing life!

I hope those 2 leads from my page convert. It would be a great start. But if not, that’s okay too. I’ll just keep trying!

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Love,

Val