23 April 2014

I shouldn’t be calling this a daily blog anymore, should I?

It has been almost 2 weeks since my last post. I am deeply ashamed.

Let me catch you up with what’s been happening:

– first, a rather dramatic flight to London from Bangkok. I had begun writing about it but never got round to finishing the post. I have a feeling 13 April will stay a draft for a while. Ah well, one can never save up too many exciting stories!

– I am in London. For almost 2 weeks now. Time does fly. Apart from London, I’ve also been in Lake District. I spent the Easter bank holiday weekend there. It was great. Breakfast in the garden with a view over Lake Windemere. Rowing in Derwentwater. I couldn’t have asked for more for a relaxing weekend away from London. *reminiscing pause*

– I’m settling in nicely in my new flat. The thing I love the most is my working desk. It’s in the living room, facing the large window overlooking the communal garden. Light, airy, green. A bit chilly without the heating on, but apparently low temperature is correlated with higher productivity. Or so I’ve been told.

– I’ve met up with some of my friends from university. And I must say, again, that time really does fly. Some of them I haven’t seen since I was in my second year… which is 3 years ago. Damn. And I must also say, it’s nice to see where everyone is in their lives; we’ve all chosen such different paths. I think I’m starting to understand the meaning of ‘catching up’.

– Revision has been intermittent. Four-day break to go to Lake District. And while I’m in London I’ve been going back and forth between my place and my better half’s. Which is good in the grand scheme of things, but doesn’t really contribute toward exam preparation, as I must reluctantly admit. But I’m back in my flat now. Bag unpacked from Lake District. All revision material at arm’s length. Enter the final stretch!

And that’s about it, I think. I could tell you about my indignation at the outrageously expensive groceries shopping for my flat. In fact, I think I just did. Ah, London prices. At least it has been mostly sunny and warm. So I can’t complain. *knock wood*

Now for miscellaneous thoughts/bits that I want to put in writing but am too lazy to organise into a coherent whole:

Before going on my Lake District trip, I was quite apprehensive about losing 4 whole days of revision time. In retrospect, though, I think it was a good decision to go away. I had been revising non-stop for – 3 weeks was it? – before coming to London. A well-earned break was due. And now I feel fresh and motivated to get back on my revision track. (Euphemism for exams fast approaching and increasingly feeling the pressure)

Oooh, I got an e-mail from UCL today. An essay that’s going to count toward 60% of one of my modules has been marked and is now ready for collection. I’m going to go pick it up tomorrow. Excited? Yes I am. I’m always excited when I pick up my essays. It’s an essay/writing pride thing.

It’s 10.45pm. I should go to bed. I’m trying to get my biological alarm clock set at around 6-6.30am. It’s perfect for going on a morning run. Which I’ve done once since I got back to London. 9k. Yes, I’m extremely proud. I froze my hands off though.

Which is why I bought myself a running jacket/jumper/top (can you call it a suit if it has no bottom?) for cold weather. It covers your hands and has holds for your fingers to come out. I haven’t used it yet. I’m hoping to soon. Maybe tomorrow…







6 April 2014

Val’s list of priorities as of 6th April:

1. Revise.
2. Exercise.
3. Socialise.
4. Write.

It’s my last week in Bangkok before I jet off to London, where my final undergraduate exams will begin in less than a month. *shivers* Given this imminent departure, I’ve tried to schedule in seeing all my good friends this past and coming week. And since I can’t do two things at once, I’ve had to revise my priorities list from 25th March.

To be completely honest, though, in my head, the priorities seem to be: revise, revise, revise. At some point this week, I suddenly realised that I’ve officially entered the final stretch of revision.

It’s funny. The middle stretch never arrived. One day I was in my early stretch (25th March would be one of those days), then suddenly I was in the final stretch. There doesn’t seem to be a middle stage where you’re just revising merrily along. You’re either super cool and collected, thinking ‘I’m way ahead. I started so early’, or a wreck of nerves, with ‘OMG I’M NEVER GOING TO FINISH REVISING IN TIME. THERE’S LESS THAN A MONTH LEFT‘ on repeat in your puny, overworked, and overstressed brain (which pretty much describes the me of the past week).

My solution for this surge in anxiety has been to exercise like mad. I’ve gone to the gym more often this week than any other week. Having my imminent departure as an excuse to spend more time with friends also helps. The exercise and the company distract me from the stress of revision, but the latter is never far from my mind.

I wonder what it’ll be like once I arrive in London. I can already foresee my stress levels shoot right up. It’s a good thing I’ve got that Lake District trip planned. God knows I could use some away time to clear my head.

On the other hand, though, it’s four whole days where I won’t be able to revise. And there’s a lot you can revise in four days.

This is really not a productive train of thought, so I’m going to stop myself there.

Objectively, I’ve done a lot this week: substantial revision progress was made, visa was acquired, friends were met, body was subject to rigorous exercise. I just don’t feel like it.

And that’s the problem.

It’s all in your mind. It’s all in my mind.

If only the mind were easier to tame.

Maybe I should start meditating.

But now I should get started on that French exercise, so I have time to wash my car before it gets dark (and the mosquitoes come out to play).

Thanks for reading,


p.s. I meant to write a post about how flexibility and duty are inherently incompatible concepts. I’m not sure what happened. I started writing and this came out.

p.p.s. This is quite therapeutic. I should really write about more substantial things though, more concrete topics, with analysis and insight. And there goes the over-exigent mind again.



1 April 2014

I woke up expecting today to be much like any other.

But boy, oh boy, how wrong was I.

First, the pipe broke, which made watering the plants this morning slightly difficult. Ever so slightly.

Though, I must admit, the moment when the water exploded from the broken pipe was quite spectacular. A mini water fireworks of my very own creation.


Then, soaked, I came into the house to find that the bread had expired. No, no, that’s not funny. It’s very serious stuff. Especially when you’d woken up at 6am having gone to bed dreaming of having shredded pork on bread for breakfast. (I take my food visualisations very seriously.) It’s really not funny.

Stomach rumbling, I took a long, hard look at the loaf of bread and rued whatever it was that made me take the wrong batch from the shelf. The one with the earlier expiry date. There must have been at least half a loaf left. I mean. That’s a lot of slices.

What a waste.

So, an hour after waking up, what did we have? Half-watered garden. Half-wasted loaf. Half-drenched me.

So I thought I’d take a shower. It seemed like the reasonable thing to do.

The water wasn’t running.

Not sure if that had anything to do with the pipe breaking in the garden. I didn’t think so. But still, doesn’t change anything.

The morning was turning into a mini disaster.

That is to say until I opened my university inbox and saw an e-mail from UCL, announcing that I had been exempted from this year’s final examinations.


Because it’s April Fools’ Day.

Happy April Fools everyone!


p.s. The events detailed in this post are fictitious. Any resemblance or similarity to any actual events is entirely coincidental.

p.p.s. I told you yesterday I’d let you know how the magic revision session continued after “lunch”. And it went great! Actually, today was also pretty awesome. It’s all in the (concentrated) mind!

p.p.p.s. I saw the HIMYM finale today. And whoa. Like. Whoa. (Worry not. No spoilers from me!)

p.p.p.p.s. (just one more) And I do actually go to UCL.




25 March 2014

I must admit that I find the British accent very sexy.

Or at the very least extremely alluring.

So I’m sitting by myself in the café at my sports club – yes, I go to a sports club. Please don’t judge me – having a full-on revision panic attack (more on which later), when this group of ladies comes in and sits down at the next table.

A wave of curiosity washes over me. Which is entirely ordinary – I am fascinated by people: how they interact among themselves and with their external environment. And this group is quite a striking bunch. Clad in bright colours, each sporting a different style of clothing, all exuding confidence. Genuine confidence of a kind you only acquire in later life (I’m thinking mid-thirties).

Then one of them starts talking, and boom! Not only does she speak perfect English (bilingual-style), but she also has the most wonderful British accent. Not quite the Queen’s English, but thick and proper enough to make misplacing her accent a crime. Either she has spent a considerable part of her (likely early) life in England, or she has a true knack for adopting accents.

For minutes I sit. Eyes fixed at my laptop screen. Hands poised over the keyboard. Still. Mesmerised by the smooth flow of the British accent from the next table. The apparently indifferent next-table neighbour actually straining to catch every word, every syllable.

And, once I’ve had my fill of her British accent (thank you, female stranger), I return to my revision.

Now, about that revision panic attack.

First of all, apologies for exaggerating. It wasn’t a panic attack. Merely a flash of panic intense enough to focus and stimulate. I’ve had panic attacks before (twice, to be exact), and today’s revision-induced panic is not of the same magnitude. Nowhere near.

What brought on this mini panic thing is a close friend of mine who – earlier today – asked me if I was “on course” with revision. Two words: on course.

I moved to answer her (on the messaging app). And while my brain went over the past two weeks’ progress and the number of days left until Day One of examination period, the question hit home: Am I on course?

I typed in some irresponsibly vague answer citing lack of exam schedule (to be released this Friday) bla bla and pressed ‘send’. But the panic had set. Am I on course?

How does one know if one is on course with revision? The economist that I am, I imagine this piece of knowledge (whether one is on course) to depend on three factors: 1) the amount of revision time left, 2) the rate of revision, and 3) the amount of material left to be revised before time is up.

I know 1). I can have a guess at 2). I have no idea about 3).

Hence the panic.

I came back to my laptop and proceeded to pull up all the information I have on all the three Economics modules I am revising for. (In case you’re wondering, I have 5 exams: 3 econ – in student lingo – and 2 French.) I went over all the course programmes, revision guidance, lecturers’ tips, and recent past papers to suss out how much more I need to know in order to be able to do the exams.

And turns out it’s quite a lot.

I know it’s only 25th March, and exams won’t begin until 1st May. But what if I have all my exams in the first week? The exam schedule is released this Friday, but between now and Friday are 3 full days. If I’d learnt anything at university over the past 4 years, it’s that complacency is the most dangerous enemy.

So I started devising a revision programme for each of the three modules. They’re in no way comprehensive. But they’re indicative – and that’s good enough for now. I know what I have to do next. I know how to prioritise. I know how much more time I need to allocate to revision (than I already do) on a daily basis. Another thing I learnt at university: if you don’t have enough time to do something, allocate more time. Don’t speed it up. Doing things in a hurry is no better than not doing them at all.

Armed with the above information, I feel the panic slowly subside. Expectation is important, all the more so that it’s about something so subjective as revision (subjective in the sense of being completely dependent on the standard you set yourself – a student aiming for a First will revise significantly more than one hoping for a Pass). And I’ve revised my expectations to more realistic levels.

Do I still want a First? Yes. Do I aim to provide perfect answers to every question? No. Do I aim to know all the material inside out? No. Aren’t my responses inconsistent? No.

You don’t need to know everything to do well in an exam. You just need to know enough. And if you don’t have time to revise everything? Well, that’s OK. Time is limited. As with any limited resource, it must be allocated. Priorities must be assigned, and expectations adjusted to reflect your priorities.

I’ve spent the past 4 hours this afternoon revising, and 3 hours this morning. Can I revise more? Yes. It’s only 5pm. Will I? No. I need to revise. I want to. But not all the time.

Val’s list of priorities as of 25th March:

  1. Revise.
  2. Exercise.
  3. Write.
  4. Socialise.

I have my Battle Beat class at 5.30pm. Then my dance class at 6.30pm. And I’ve been writing this post since 4.45pm. Today’s activities reflecting priorities so far. One golden star for me.

After dance class is another matter. I might go see a friend. Or, if that falls through, revise some more. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

If only I’d learnt all this 4 years ago when I was revising for my first university exams, then my second, then my third… All the anxieties, all the frustrations, all the fears that could have been avoided.

Well, as they say, better late than never!

Gotta rush to go kick some air now,

Until tomorrow,