2 January 2016

I can’t sleep.

I went (came?) to bed eight hours ago, and I am now more awake than ever. I tossed and turned. I counted sheep. I lost count of sheep. Nothing worked.

Why can’t I sleep? That’s the question I’m asking myself. And I have a pretty good idea what the answer is.

The blended Thai milky tea I had at half past six yesterday evening, is why. I knew I was asking for trouble, but I went for it anyways. I have nothing but my gluttony and lack of self control to blame.

Talking about those two things, this holiday season is going to be the death of my weight loss progress. I’ve been stuffing myself silly using the holidays as an excuse. And I’ve gained so many kilos (well, two, to be exact – might not sound like a lot but takes hell to lose). Monday will be a rude awakening. No more carbs. No more sugar. At least until the next weigh-in at the monthly hospital visit.

Oh why oh why do I live in extremes. Moderation is certainly not my strong suit.

Now let’s move on to better and brighter things…

It’s 2016 babeh!

Two good things are happening already in 2016. (Three if you count intaking a lot of cakes and cookies and various other forms of calories.)

One: I have my first French student. How is the teaching going, you ask? It is slowly taking shape. I am learning to branch out, try different techniques, and set the right prices. Price setting has been the biggest challenge so far. But hopefully the latest adjustment has solved that issue for the time being.

So yes, first French student. And an online one at that. Exciting days! I can envisage how the lesson is going to unfold, and I can’t wait for next Saturday to see the class through. Fingers crossed all goes well and the student is happy with how I handle distance teaching.

Two: I reached out to the people I wronged in the past year, specifically during my mania in December 2014/January 2015. Apologies were made, sincerely if somewhat awkwardly. I feel like a school kid trying to make up in the playground after knocking over another student’s lunch. It’s weird apologising for what you only vaguely remember you did. But blaming it all on brain chemicals didn’t seem like the right way to go. So yes, I said sorry to a number of people. And I hope that they will forgive me. If not, then there is nothing I can do but graciously accept that that’s how things are going to be.

Oh I do hope that at least some of them will be understanding. None of them have read my message yet. I am most certainly going to be reduced to a pile of nerves when I check in on the messages later today. Thankfully it’s still the holidays and my parents are both home. So we’re going into the city and exploring the new mall. That would take my mind off the dreaded responses a little. Imagine that this time tomorrow I will have found out whether I’ve alienated some of my closest friends for good. That is a terrifying prospect.

Better not think about it now. As Scarlett said, “I’ll think about it to-morrow”.

It’s a quarter to six. The sky outside is still dark. I am waiting for the first light to go downstairs and officially start living my Saturday. I will be operating on zero sleep, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. Also there’s nothing much left to do. In the eight hours that I’ve been in bed, I have been so productive that I finished most of the tasks I had to do before Monday.

I guess the productivity spike is one good thing about sleepless nights. If only I could sleep properly and spread the productivity throughout the week though… Life would be so much better. I would certainly feel much better about myself.

2016. It’s an arbitrary new start. A fresh page to write my story. I think I know what I have to deal with first: no more mid-day naps and putting off my learning and teaching tasks. More productive days will do wonders for my recovery, and it’s about time I fully recover from my mental setback. I can’t be a floor potato (new word!) forever.

Side note: sleeping on a cold hard floor is strangely very satisfying. Don’t ask me why. It just is.

2016! I hope it turns out to be a wonderful year for all of us. As wonderful as the last, and the one before, and the one before, so on and so forth. One’s life can never be too full of wonder.

It may seem like my life has been on standby, but I’ve come a long way in 2015. Mentally. If not yet physically (diet goes on…).

Let’s continue to move forward in 2016.

Love,

Pig-bellied Val

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20 November 2015

I’ve got news. I think I’ve got myself my first English student. *fireworks*

It’s not easy trying to find students when you’re starting out in unfamiliar territory. I never had a problem when I used to give lessons to friends and acquaintances who are aware of my skills. But with strangers it’s a different matter. I can’t exactly present them with a miniature talking version of myself as a preview.

Nor would I want to, now that I think about it. It would be weird having mini copies of myself out there doing things completely outside my control.

Anyways, the first lesson is to happen this week. Here’s hoping that all goes well and the student is pleased with my unique(?) teaching method.

I’m at the mental hospital (gosh that sounds so wrong) right now waiting to see my doctor. It’s my monthly psychiatric appointment. (For those who don’t know, I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Details here.) It’s always a long wait. Most happily the hospital now provides free WiFi so here I am writing this post. I did bring a book (Catch-22), but it gets boring after a while and writing makes the time go by much faster.

I’ve written about Catch-22 before on this blog and on my other blog so I’m not going to go into it again. I’m just going to repeat here that I find it a most wonderful book and I’m happy to be re-reading it. *happy sigh*

Oops. Doctor arrived twenty minutes early and got called in to consult. It’s all done and now I’m waiting for my prescription. I think today’s hospital visit is going to be the shortest yet. The only thing left is paying for and getting my mood-altering drugs. Hmm.

Before I go, I just wanted to report that my learning German is still going strong. Happily I have mastered die Öffentlichkeit and moved onto tackling other tricky words (so many of them!). Duolingo informs me that I am now on a 50 day streak. This is very good. I am pleased. So pleased that I am considering learning a sixth language (after Thai, English, French, Spanish, and German). I won’t say just now what language it will be. I will be back to let you know once I’ve actually started.

Love,

Val

p.s. Re: the novel… *radio silence*

11 October 2015

Boredom is a curious thing.

You get bored when you do nothing. And you get bored when you do too much of something. Isn’t that weird?

For me, boredom comes from monotony. It’s the brain’s way of protesting that it is being used too monotonously – doing nothing all the time and doing something all the time.

Most curious indeed.

Why am I suddenly speaking of boredom? It is because, three weeks into writing my novel, I have reached that curious state of boredom. It’s sad but undeniable. Each day I find myself procrastinating, thinking “this evening I’ll do some writing” and, when evening comes and I cannot find the inspiration to write, “tomorrow morning I will feel refreshed and then, I will write”. Needless to mention, the same train of thought continues the next day, and the next.

The novel has been frozen for a week now. I have almost finished the second chapter; there is one scene left.

I wonder why I’m suddenly bored of it. I don’t usually get bored of writing. When I started writing my main blog back in 2013, I was writing every day and yet I always found something I wanted to write about. I remember my brain overflowing with entry ideas. In fact I had so many of them that two years later I still have a long list left.

For some reason, stringing words together to create my fantastical universe no longer gives me the thrill it did one chapter ago. I have two theories to explain the situation. One, the quality of my writing has dipped and I am no longer satisfied with what I am producing, hence the boredom. Two, I am dreading having to come up with new ideas. As I write, I am inching closer and closer to the point at which I stopped writing nine years ago. As it happens, the one scene I have left in chapter two is a pivotal one. Maybe I am scared of writing it, in fear that I would make a fatal mistake and set the novel on a course I cannot see through. Maybe.

So yes, for either of these reasons or for another unknown to me, I have been procrastinating. It does not help that I have been glued to a novel I’m re-reading, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind one of my favourite novels of all time. So instead of writing my own novel, I have been happily immersing myself in another’s. I’m currently on page 593 of 1011. It’s a long book – perfect for the purpose of procrastination.

You know what I need to get the novel going? A gentle yet persistent daily warning like Duolingo‘s. I find the mechanism highly effective. I am currently learning German (you guessed it – another way to procrastinate from my book) on Duolingo, and I am doing the exercises every day without fail. The more days I accumulate in my streak (I am currently on ten), the more determined I am to keep going. It’s really quite fascinating how easy I am to trick.

Öffentlichkeit

That’s the most difficult word I’ve had to learn so far. German is notorious for long words, and though this is not the longest word I’ve learnt (that’s privatunterricht I think), it’s the trickiest. I find the arrangement of letters extremely unintuitive. I mean, what kind of a word is that? (It means public or the public sphere, by the way.) If only German words could be short and easy like English (it’s such an easy language I cannot help but think that people who find it difficult are just extremely lazy).

So yes, I think I need a system like Duolingo’s to get my novel going again. I wonder if anyone has thought of it. It could be a very useful tool for undisciplined writers everywhere, moi included.

Hmm… I should read a French novel next. There’s this book an old friend bought me from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport (a strange location for buying a book, I know, but he was only passing through). It’s called La vérité sur l’affaire Harry Quebert. Not the most enticing title, but I’ve flipped through it and it seems like a fun novel. Now and again I pick up a French book to keep the language fresh in my mind. Plus, I really love the flow of French and reading anything written in French always puts me in a good mood. I hope to be able to do that one day with German – that’s the plan. It’s an ambitious goal, but by no means out of reach. I am certainly as enthusiastic about German as I am of French; I have been for a long time.

But then again I just dug up my third copy of Catch-22 (I lost the first copy, and I don’t know where I put the second one). I might read that instead. I’ve been reading it for three years, and still I have not finished it. Not that I find it boring (ha! how about that for going back to my supposed topic). I really like the book. It’s not easy to read, but it’s so laugh-out-loud funny I put in the effort to follow the novel as it jumps back and forth in time in the most random way. Or maybe I’ll just read both at the same time. I’ve been doing that lately. After a while I get bored of one book and jump to the other, then I get bored of the second book and come back to the first one. It works for me. Stops me from being bored.

Coming back to the novel, maybe what I need is to start writing a second one so I can jump between the two. Oh God no. That would be a nightmare. I can hardly muster up the effort to write one. I can’t imagine doing it for two.

So yes, boredom. It’s a curious thing. I’m hoping that at one point I will miss my novel and come back to it naturally. Maybe I just need a break, break the routine a bit and indulge my brain in a little diversity.

In the meantime, I shall go back to my novel (the one I’m reading, not the one I’m writing). I’ve done my German for the day (die Öffentlichkeit, das Publikum, der Bürger, etc.) and I think it’s now time I enjoy myself a little. (German is fun, but reading is even more fun.)

I’ll be back to let you know what happens with the novel (the one I’m writing, not the one I’m reading). Most likely when I’ve got it going again. I really don’t want to come back a second time and report on my ineffectiveness. I like to think of myself as disciplined, and writing this entry is shattering that self-image.

I hope you’re more disciplined than I am and succeeding in your endeavours.

Love, as always,

Val

 

30 September 2015

I got the job. Almost.

I was all set to start tomorrow. But then salary negotiations happened, and we could not agree on the value of me.

It’s all for the better, I guess. I don’t think I was ready yet to re-enter full-time employment, especially after the painful experience of the last one.

Plus, the more I think about it, the more I think I’m not cut out to be an office worker. I like being the boss of me too much to cede control to a third party.

So we (read: my mom and me) are going to explore a new venture. I’m going to try to sell my services for a living.

I had always sidelined as a proofreader. It paid well, but never became my full-time occupation. I’m going to try and focus on that more. I’m also going to see if I can give English and French lessons in my neighbourhood. This is a new thing. I’ve given lessons here and there, but I’ve never actively marketed myself as an English (and French) teacher before.

The French economist Say said (confusing, I know) in the 1800s,

Supply creates its own demand.

Though said law (I’m enjoying the wordplay) has long been refuted in economic theory, I am hoping against hope that it will now apply to my case. I’m going to put out flyers next week and see where that leads.

Again, fingers crossed.

Wish me luck!

Mucho love, as always,

Val

11 April 2014 (2)

And I am back!

I am on a blogging roll today.

My flight to London is tomorrow. And it’s finally hitting home that in less than two days I’m going to be in London. I’ll be going in the tube, walking in the streets, trying out this coffee shop and that restaurant.

It’s fascinating how 14-15 hours of flight can transport you to a different world. Different weather. Different architecture. Different system. Different people. Different smell. Different everything.

And I’m finally starting to look forward to it.

I discovered a few hours ago that Regent’s Park will be within running distance from my flat, and that’s one of the first things I’m determined to do when I arrive.

Now, that’s me being optimistic. More likely, I’ll just have enough energy to clean my room, unpack, get myself cleaned up, then plump onto the couch/bed/soft item in the flat. Then make myself a cup of coffee and try to get some revision done.

Yes. That sounds like a more realistic plan.

Talking about plans and being realistic, I must get on. That French exposé (oui je parle français, un tout petit peu) isn’t going to write itself.

I’ve sorted out my carry-on, checked the TfL website for travel disruptions, mapped out my jogging route, printed out all the revision notes I made over the past weeks. Yep, that’s pretty much everything productive I can do to put off writing this exposé.

Oh yes, I’ve blogged too. Twice.

#forshame

I highly doubt I will have time to write tomorrow before my long flight, so I guess I’ll ‘see’ you in London.

Take care,

Val

4 March [I meant April] 2014

I’m back.

Where did two days go?

This is my catch-up post. It serves the ostentatious purpose of explaining my absence, but really it’s to help me make peace with myself over my manifest lack of organisational skills.

I mean, how difficult can it be to set aside 30, 40 minutes each day to write a daily blog? Not to mention a blog about myself.

Overwhelmed with guilt and disappointment with said lacking organisational skills, I had originally planned to write two posts today. I had even titled the post ‘4 March 2014 (1)’, thereby implying a (2) to follow over the course of the day. Then I changed my mind.

Better not count the eggs before they hatch. Events may yet unfold in such a way as to deprive me of my quality laptop time this evening. Was that a correct application of that saying? Somehow I don’t think so.

To return to the ostentatious objective of this post, let me attempt to explain my two-day absence without it sounding like an excuse. It’s a narrow rope to walk, but a girl can try.

It has been a whirlwind two days. Actually, this whole week has been a flurry of events. Monday was crazy revision day, as some of you might remember (ah, good old times). You don’t know much about my Tuesday, though you may actually know more than you think (despite the disclaimer, the post did reflect some of the events that transpired on that April Fools’ Day).

In fact, two things that happened on Tuesday account almost entirely for my undue absence:

  1. UCL published my exam timetable which at first solicited a huge sigh of relief, but then launched me into a fit of panic anyways. (More on that in a bit)
  2. The British Embassy announced in great fanfare that they have “made a decision” on my visa. And I was to wait two working days before collecting my passport and other returned documents at the visa application centre.

Both announcements caught me by surprise. As the old adage would have it, a watched kettle never boils. For differing reasons (too mundane and detailed to recount to you in full), I was not expecting either the timetable or the visa decision on that particular Tuesday. And yet, there they both were, in black and white, staring at me from my laptop screen.

This was always going to be a busy week. Extraordinarily, I had two social engagements planned for the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday. This was to take away at least 6 hours of revision time, the realisation of which had already put me on a bit of an edge going into Tuesday. Then came the timetable plus ensuing panic and visa business which always stresses me out (I really don’t like the possibility that someone may decide not to allow me into the country, just because they can).

First the timetable. I don’t want to bore you with details, but I’m going to do it anyways. So I have 5 exams: 2 French, 3 Econ (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in a previous post). My worst fears were that the 3 Econ exams would fall in the same week. In which case I am utterly [insert rude word of choice].

As it turns out, they don’t. UCL was kind enough to give me a space of two weeks between my fourth and fifth exams. And two weeks to revise for that particular Econ module will do just fine. Hence the relief.

As I noted down my various exam dates, I began to calculate how much time I had left to revise for each module. My first exam is on May 1st. The second on 6th. Both are French. Then I have two Econ exams the following week. I’m flying to London next Saturday. Going off to Lake District for four days over Easter weekend. Subtract some days for jet-lag recovery, settling into flat, seeing friends, seeing boyfriend. I suddenly realised: I don’t really have that much time left.

Especially for my French exams which require skills you need to build up gradually (translation, redaction, synthesis – if you were wondering). One does not, cannot, cram for French. And considering I haven’t touched my French folder in almost a week, which – trust me – is a really long time in revision universe, this realisation was somewhat disconcerting.

That’s when I panicked. And imposed a golden rule: every day between now and 1st of May, I will do French. And doing French does not include reading my French fiction which, albeit altogether enjoyable and useful in terms of vocabulary acquisition, doesn’t really help with the skills requisite for the exam. Not if I’m honest with myself. And at this late stage in exam preparation, dishonesty comes at a high cost. So it was resolved: at least one French exercise, translation, or oral preparation per day. Every day.

Jeez that was long. Are you still with me?

Now for the visa business. The Embassy said my visa would be ready to collect at the application centre after two working days. The centre itself offers an online tracking service which would supposedly notify me when my documents have been delivered back at the centre.

And here’s the situation as it stood on Tuesday. Last time I applied for a UK visa, they managed to spell my name wrong and I had to send my passport back to the Embassy for them to correct it, which took a few days. This time, I was applying for a visa category I had never applied for before. And I was applying under rather extraordinary circumstances: in short, I had interrupted my studies the previous year and was flying back just for the exams. My flight was on the following Saturday, which gave me a margin of exactly 8 working days for whatever it was that might go horribly wrong.

And I could think of plenty of things that could go wrong. The application centre had moved while my visa was being processed (I almost went to the wrong place to collect it yesterday). Maybe they’d lose my passport, deliver it to the old office, lose it in the old office, lose it in the new office, spell my name wrong – I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time. Plenty of things.

Also, the centre had a new website which wasn’t completely glitch-free. So at times I couldn’t access the tracking page. How else am I supposed to know if I can go collect my documents if I can’t access the only place that gives me that information? Oh, did I mention they don’t have a phone number for the new office? And when I called the old ‘call centre’ number, I was greeted with a recorded message in English and Thai that they no longer offered this service.

I mean, one would think a phone line is a pretty basic service to offer for the amount of money they’re charging for their ‘services’.

Needless to mention, passport-collection-related anxieties made me rather nervy the whole of Wednesday. I couldn’t focus very well on revision, so I decided to channel my anxiety into more gym time (which turned out, as always, to be a good decision). It’s a good thing I had social engagements planned. I wouldn’t have been capable of much otherwise.

Finally, after checking the tracking website a gazillion times, a different message popped up on Thursday, late in the morning, informing me that my documents were ready for collection. And by the time I got myself to the new centre, waited (45 minutes) for my queue and for the extremely bored-looking staff to dig up my documents from the back room, checked that everything was in order, and squeezed myself into the packed sky train (it just had to be rush hour); I only had two hours left before my dinner engagement.

Two hours I could have spent blogging. But the disciplined (read: panicked) student that I am, I spent the time on a French translation and some practice phrases.

A small aside, in the two days post-golden rule, I have spent more time on French than in the whole of the preceding week. It’s always a question of time allocation, isn’t it? You’re never too busy for something; you’re just choosing not to make time for it. All those days where I thought ‘I could do some French now’ but didn’t actually open the folder. Well, better late than never, as they say.

To sum up, the French golden rule and the visa, plus the social engagements which fell into my prime time blogging slot, are why you didn’t hear from me for two days.

Sounded a bit like an essay there.

It’s 9.30am right now and I am extremely tired (a combination of too little sleep last night and the 10% Belgian beer – why did I not take my Tylenol before I went to bed? WHY!?!). This really does not bode well for today’s revision. Maybe I’ll go to the gym now to wake myself up. I probably should.

I’ll try revising for a bit, see if it works. If not, I’ll get myself over to the elliptical. Listen to French radio while I ellipticalise my way through yesterday’s fries, and the beer. Oh God the beer. And then there was the spaghetti… and the…

I’d better stop myself there.

Have a good day everyone.

Until tomorrow,

Val

p.s. There’s not going to be a second post after all. Given how long this post was, I don’t think you’d mind too much. I can probably just cut it in half and publish it in two posts. But that’s overcomplicating things.

p.p.s. Having gone through the post once to make final adjustments, I’ve decided to go to the gym after publishing this. The amount and silliness level of typos and other mistakes were horrendous. I don’t think my current brain state lends itself to productive revision. See how I’m rocking time management? (Excuses, excuses)

p.p.p.s. I just realised I thought today was 4 March. Out of wishful thinking for my revision time possibly, but more likely because I’m really tired/hungover. I can feel my head throb. Why do I do this to my revision? NO MORE BEER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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,

Val