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…

Goodnight,

Val

 

 

 

 

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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

9 April 2014

It’s official. My daily blogging routine has been broken. I was pretty good with it all through March, then April happened.

Not that the change of month had anything to do with it.

But what was it then that broke the routine? I’d say it’s just me. But that’s not really saying anything.

Let me get back to the subject I wanted to write about on 6 April: duty and flexibility.

You see, I started this blog as a commitment device: by publishing this daily blog, I pre-commit to writing every day. Even when I don’t have anything particularly interesting or valuable to write about. The task is to find something, and write.

I thought this would be a good way to practise my writing skills. And to make writing a regularity in my daily life. With the hope that, as the months – even years – go by, writing will come more naturally to me.

I still think it’s a good idea. I think it’s good for my writing. I think it’s good for me. Sometimes you go through days without really looking at them, at what you’ve done. And writing this at the end of the day forces me to stop pushing forward, and take stock.

Which is always a good thing.

I’ve been quite conflicted this past week about not keeping up with the blog on a daily basis. I wanted this to be a regular thing, a daily thing. I felt it was my duty to make it happen.

As you can see, this has not been the case this past week. Other things got in the way, and I’ve had to make choices. I’ve chosen social outings over blogging, French revision over blogging, sleep over blogging, and – there’s no point denying – aimlessly browsing the Internet over blogging.

I haven’t felt good about this. It feels like I’ve let my blog, my readers, but most of all myself down. I wanted to believe that I could keep this daily routine, that I could work my way around inconveniences, unforeseen circumstances.

That doesn’t appear to be the case. Or does it?

I mean, one must be flexible, right? If there’s only 24 hours in a day, and you wake up 3 hours later than usual, then something must give. And, for me, that something happens to be this blog.

Is it really so bad if I don’t manage to write every day? What is more important? This blog, my exams, exercise, seeing friends, or feeling good about myself?

I should just stop being conflicted about this, and accept the fact that I choose not to keep up with this blog on a daily basis. It’s not that I’m not able to, but I choose not to.

Because it is a choice.

Everything is a choice.

Just like me choosing to water the plants in the garden earlier today over revision. I can tell myself all I want that being outdoors is good for me, that stretching my legs in the garden is good for me, that it’s better than being cooped up in the house all day.

In the end, they’re nothing but excuses, useless justifications.

I made the choice, and I’ll have to live with the consequences, whatever they may be.

The same with this blog.

Until… tomorrow?

Val

p.s. That wasn’t the most coherent of posts was it? Note to self: impose some QC next time.

 

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,

Val

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Splendid.

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.

Why?

Because it’s April Fools’ Day.

Happy April Fools everyone!

Val

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.

TEEHEE

 

 

31 March 2014

I’ve been revising like a possessed woman.

In marked contrast to the slow and forced process of the past three days, today’s revision was fast and effortless. I’d even say automatic.

It just happened.

And I’m not done with it yet. It’s 4pm and I haven’t had a proper lunch, save for that pork pie (it’s smaller than it sounds) at 12pm. So right about now is when I’m going to take a lunch break.

I wonder what revision will be like post-lunch. I’m planning a change of lieu. I’m moving to the reading room, which is where my productivity usually spikes. I’m expecting the favourable ambiance the room to help me submerge in my flow. So I can plunge into the eurozone (today’s reading pick).

I love that room. It’s large, bright, high-ceilinged. Full of people (middle-aged to senior) who are actually reading (with the occasional napper). All the properties that make a perfect reading environment. Not to mention the large rectangular wooden table that serves as a communal work/reading area. Sufficiently large that you don’t feel squished in between fellow readers/workers. That’s where I’ll be firmly planted for a few hours after lunch. Three, maybe four.

Then, if that goes well, I’m going to go plop myself in one of the comfy armchairs in the lounge after. And read my fun book while waiting for the traffic to clear so I can drive home. Hmm…

In the meantime, I revel in the success of the morning. I did so much. 

Last night through to this morning (before the revision mega-session happened), my mind had been going over and over – like a broken record – thoughts along the lines of: ‘I did so little the past few days, need to do more’, ‘Need to revise faster’, ‘Need to finish those notes; them hanging over me stresses me out’, ‘Need to go through more of those lectures’, so on and so forth.

It’s such a wonderful, wonderful feeling when you accomplish what you set out to do. Especially when what you set out to do was actually a lot. Far above average, in today’s case.

It’s such a buzz.

I wish I could continue so that the buzz would never stop. At times this morning, it felt like I could go on forever if I didn’t stop. What a wonderful thing that would be.

But all magic revision sessions, like parties, must come to an end.

I have revised, and now I must eat.

Until tomorrow – I shall be back to let you know how the rest of today (and maybe tomorrow) will have gone,

Val