To the end of 2016

As usual I am hit by inertia to start on the next coursework but pretty satisfied with myself for having finished three of them thus far. I am way past the deadlines I have set for myself but opening all the documents one by one, scrolling through the 3 x 15 to 20 pages of work I have written and looking at my painfully crafted figures just gives me such an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. It would definitely suck if I were to get terrible grades for them though, but let’s not get to that yet.

New Year Resolutions set end of 2015:

To conclude with my 3 most important (and only) 2016 New Year Resolutions,

1. Learn the piano again (I am really serious about this: I have purchased a digital piano and it’s now sitting behind my MacBook as I am typing this post).
2. Learn Korean, and be able to converse by the end of the year (let’s hope I don’t get lazy).
3. Return to swimming again (and I have too, obtained my swimming membership).

1. Piano

I was pretty ambitious with my goals, but I had not failed myself in the earlier part of the year. I was determined to get my shit together, to stop watching dramas/silly Facebook videos in the comfort of my own bed and simply stop wasting my time being unproductive. I worked on the piano every alternate day, which became everyday after I got ambitious in wanting to learn 小幸运 — I did. A well-seasoned piano player, just any one person who has been learning from young, would learn the entire score in a day or two. I took a month, but when I recorded myself playing it felt so good. A few years ago I was whining to people that my parents should have forced me to attend piano lessons when I was younger because I grew up talentless. It wasn’t so bad anymore; now I could probably brag to people that I can play that one song. Here’s to learning more songs (以后别做朋友 is my new ambitious attempt), after I get my priorities right and after I get my time scheduling together. I have neglected the piano much for the second half of the year but I will strive to spare time to work on it, for this would probably be the only time I have left in my life to pursue hobbies.

2. Korean

The whole Korean learning fiasco is one that surprises me very much that a year has come to an end. I can now read Instagram posts from celebrities, understand their short greetings and their hashtags. I can now occasionally understand comments on Facebook, and I can now match the English subtitles to what I hear. Reading, listening, writing and speaking — I guess I am only pretty decent in reading since I studied off online resources for most of the year, explaining my stronger theory compared to a beginner learner (i.e. I can tell grammar structures and know most basic vocabulary). As for listening, I can only continue to watch Korean videos and pray that I’d pick up the sounds and accent quickly. I signed up for the UCL Korean Society and attended their intermediate Korean lessons and am glad to feel that I belong — I am intermediate level! Speaking though still completely throws me off-guard, I nearly died when one lesson they had us introduce ourselves, our school, our level, our hometown, our siblings, our degree, the weather, prices, food and culture in our hometown. I must have held up the class in this lesson; sucks to learn so much this whole year and still be completely unconfident of my language abilities.

I had a 4-month hiatus during VA which is clearly self-explanatory, but am glad to say that my interest still stays on and I see myself continuing to pursue this. Unfortunately I probably will never be good enough to pursue a Masters in Korean language but here’s hoping that I get to do a short stint of summer school in Korea, for a few weeks or if I’m lucky, months, of exposure to the language would definitely help me so much.

I flip to the first few pages on my file when I started learning and I remember myself trying to memorise the sounds of ㅅ, ㅆ, ㄱ, ㄲ, ㅋ… thankful for my discipline in the earlier part of the year when I dedicated at least one hour to Korean every single night. My progress may be little, but I did it all by myself and I am certainly proud of myself for achieving that. I am clearly not conversational yet but on this journey I learnt that it takes time (and exposure, of course), and I will continue to strive to improve.

3. Swimming

Unsurprisingly this has gone forgotten. I swam for about three months until I stopped in March when IPPT was approaching; I ran regularly instead of swimming in “compensation”. I ran three times a week and did 1-minute situps and pushups every single day — this actually sounds simple but it took a hell lot of discipline to get up at 8am and tell myself to change into my long-sleeved shirts, batch T-shirt and running tights. I followed this training schedule for myself for nearly 2 months and I impress myself by how much I can do when I want to do it. Other than the $300 for IPPT Gold I had to lose weight of course. 🙂

I left my swimsuit, goggles and cap back home so I will probably drop this resolution for the next year relative to the first two; it is clearly just an excuse though. I would start working out again, next year… when it gets warmer. Hope the excuses for myself stop soon, waiting for my sudden burst of motivation to work out, lose weight and be fit. It somehow arrives every year so I am optimistic for 2017 too.

I have had an eventful year. I shall follow Jo’s writing in the order of months to recall the highlights of every month for myself:

January

I went to Italy, namely the cities of Milan, Pisa, Venice, Rome, Naples and a day trip to Pompeii. I was rather awed by Rome, as this was a childhood dream destination after watching Triumph in the Skies. I got very much into the whole Korean/piano routine as evident in my 2016 organiser, when I did both of these on alternate days. It gradually became an everyday affair — 8pm onwards would be piano, and after that Korean. I would watch Korean videos to sleep.

February

I attended the UCL Singapore Society Chinese New Year lunch. I excitedly counted down to the arrival of my family in London on the 7th. I remember running from Schafer House to where they alighted from the cab, and was inexplicably happy to see them again. We could finally 捞鱼生 as a family and play Blackjack at night. I could talk cock with my siblings again. We went around London as a family and I went to Brighton with them for the first time. I felt the immense loss when they left and I remember bawling my eyes out in the Airbnb apartment after they left. I skipped school the entire week; for most of this month I was in a holiday mood because the week after they left I went to Paris. I loved Disneyland, especially with Weixuan and Dilys. I continued with my Korean/piano routine, and I would see the most progress in grammar basics in February. Two new flatmates move in too but they would be transient in my life, at this point I have unfortunately forgotten both their names.

March

This was personally, a painful month for me because it marked the return of many coursework submissions and essays. I thought that I put in quite a bit of effort in most of them, but yet for most the results were to my dismay. It made my attempts to study much tougher, as I would get distracted from my work, spend hours on thestudentroom reading about how people did badly, the failing stories and the success stories and yet not feeling any better about my predicament. I felt shitty over receiving 2:1s while most people were pretty much satisfied; would people expect any less than a First from a paid scholar?

March was also when I started working out a lot and being serious in my weight loss plans, and like I said earlier, the work up to IPPT. I went to Istanbul with Joey and managed to sneak myself into the SIA lounge with Joey’s access. I really love Turkey and it sucks that so many things are happening to them that makes the country somewhat out-of-bounds now. I also started watching Descendants of the Sun and chasing the drama along with Weixuan. I shared memes on Facebook everyday and watched all the parody clips for entertainment whenever I got bored of studying. It made the month pass very much faster.

My phone also died nearing the end of the month and this would mark the beginning of my phone-less life, when I went around London without a phone, when I went to places without GPS (with road names and directions written on my palm before leaving house), when I could only run with my waterproof MP3 and when I was completely cut off from the world of WhatsApp and all the chat groups. It honestly made examination preparation slightly easier, except that I worried a bit when heading to examination venues because I did not have GPS, and if I got lost, I would not be able to call an Uber using a phone as well. Thankfully none of these happened to me.

April

I took IPPT and did relatively well in my opinion, coming in with a timing of 12:38. I remember going for Dishoom and leeching off the Ben & Jerry free cone day after, when I ate a total of 3 cones. I went to Faro and Lisbon for a short trip with Dilys and nearly died from the legs day everyday. I worked very hard this month and did a ton of readings every single day, shifted my table to face the sunlight so that I could make full use of 6am sunrises and 8pm sunsets. Two weeks into the month I stopped my Korean and piano routine to focus on examination preparations. I continued to watch Descendants of the Sun and was faced with immense withdrawals when it ended, for it meant the impending examinations that I would never be ready for.

May

The examinations were here! I remember the dates of May 4, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 17 for my all 6 papers. I studied hardest the first half of the month, for you are the most productive when you know your examination is the next morning. I thought I did okay for most of the examinations less the 3-hour ones. After which it was a massive break: I tried to get rid of all my perishable ingredients like making a ton of pancakes with all my leftover flour and baking powder. I went shopping for the second time since I arrived in London and spent close to the sums of £200, and also watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I went to Norway and had a hell of a time seeing all the fjords and sleeping in the peaceful and serene towns overlooking mountains. I loved the boat rides and the Flam Railway.

And most importantly in this month, I packed my life in Schafer House into 6 boxes, sent them off to LoveSpace and went home! I was so worried about getting robbed on my way home that I hugged my luggage and handcarry bags really tightly throughout the entire tube journey to the airport and was so overwhelmed with relief when I finally managed to check in. I remember waiting at the airport for hours being bored because I did not have a phone, but nothing could deter my excitement from going home. The academic year was done and dusted and I was finally going home. I was going home to comfort and familiarity, to good food and all my friends.

June

Vacational Attachment (VA) in Navy started. I remember crying on my first day on board ship because I felt that immense loss again. I had not been back for long but it felt like everything was being taken away from me again: the family time, being able to enjoy freedom and to arrange time with loved ones. It would work out to be okay however, for my first two weeks on board ship were the most enjoyable ones. I was given the largest space to learn, and was pardoned for whatever mistakes I made or whatever knowledge I hadn’t attained. I also really liked the YOs I worked with and I count my blessings to this day that I was assigned to Resilience. I laughed a lot on ship which was a far cry from what I had experienced the entire academic year. I remember one night in June we had duty on ship and we were waiting for nightly rounds; we played Chinese music off some really old speakers and sang to Jay Chou together. We laughed at parodies and one another knowing all the oldest oldies (there was a song that sang “I love you” 100 times). We laughed at how it was amazing that all of us in that group, knew the rap to 爸我回来了 by Jay Chou. I truly enjoyed my time on board.

July

Most of July the ship went high and dry, and that meant little learning opportunities and little exposure to what was going on in the rest of the other ships. I stayed in almost every other day to capitalise on this opportunity to “harass” the supervisors for advice on my task book, and despite the lack of COC attainment I am glad I had done so. At the start of the month I would also attend a KTV session with the ward room (ship’s officers) and this is when I will talk to you and get to know you more. The conversations continued and it would also be in this month when we met, just both of us, for our first date. In a bid to “expedite things” like you said since I was bound to leave for studies, we also officiated our status as a couple in this month. Many things happened this month in relation to you and I would recall most of my July talking to you, texting you or even calling you when I was trying to keep things low-profile from the ship. I went out a lot with you too, jumping at every opportunity to meet you because both of us were busy in our own right.

August

I started getting worried because it was nearing the end of my VA stint but yet the COC still seemed extremely unattainable. At the start of the month I remember meeting you outside for dinner and suddenly crying in front of you after being silent because I was so silently stressed out from expectations again; yet you could do little to help in your position. I would think you probably felt worse (I actually feel like tearing typing this). I extended my shipboard time again and again, yet I hadn’t minded a bit because I enjoyed my time on ship. I got to have fun and talk to so many people on board ship, bits which I missed when I was abroad. I did my first fire drill and I felt that it was okay, and I was beginning to feel optimistic. We also went out a lot in this month after almost every duty and every day off granted by the ship, especially as both of us knew that we only had a month left together. I also brought you to meet my siblings.

September

I attended Jay Chou’s concert at the start of the month and I recall scrambling to get seats together with Weixuan. I did not get my COC and the memory still haunts me to this day, for I truly messed up my assessment. I would cry the most on this day, 2nd September, as an accumulation of all the built-up stress and pressure that I have been receiving from many parties. I cried from 9pm till 2am till my eyes hurt so much from the dryness; I could not sleep. Thank you for saying nothing and simply sitting next to me because that was all I needed. Days later I would convince myself to get over it because there is always a second chance next year, and that I would just take a longer path than usual. I managed to convince myself that there was no loss because I would no longer want to attend summer school given my desperation to return home to Singapore to see you and my family, and that I could always attend UGPMET on board ship. Afterall, this says nothing to my career progression. My career end point would however really be met, if there were really a series of incident on board ship that I had not fully learnt the appropriate responses to. The truth is I needed more time on board ship and more time for contextual learning. I would pray for more favourable circumstances the next VA, but at the same time I know of the pressure next year.

We went night cycling together and this would be one of my favourite memories. We cycled through Punggol Park, went to the new Punggol Waterway, had a really late dinner and durian ice-cream, cycled to Punggol Promenade, on to Coney Island and back because it was obviously closed, continued further on to the boardwalk, till we reached the end point and headed back to Hougang. I loved it. I am so happy I found someone to create all these memories with me. We continued going on several dates after my wisdom tooth extraction, because now I was finally free from the constraints of the sailing schedule, and we knew we were left with limited time together. You came to look for me at the VivoCity boardwalk where we caught Pokemon together. I went to your friend’s baby shower, and subsequently we went to Sentosa. We went to Gardens by the Bay together and walked all the way to Marina Barrage from there. I met your siblings. We went to Henderson Waves and Mt Faber Park where we spent the whole night talking after dinner. I went back to London on the 24th and I remember crying after passing through departure, after I turned my back on you. I waited for my boxes and slowly settled into my new life. I liked my new room.

October

School started and I met the familiar college friends again. We started our Skyping schedule and watched tons of movies over Skype. We played Teeworlds and Worms, both of which I really enjoy because I was spending time with you. I was doing quite a good job at keeping up with schoolwork since the coursework assignments were not handed out yet. You confirmed your trip here. I went to Coventry, Thursley Common and Bristol and met friends. I attended Fish Leong’s concert for the price of £32.50 which still thrills me to this day because I really enjoyed the night. I excitedly counted down to November.

November

I went to Mallorca and really enjoyed the Physical Geography field trip even though I am suffering from the 3500-word report that has to be mostly done by tomorrow. I came to receive you at the airport and spent a hell lot of time with you in the 2 weeks you were here. We went to Paris and Lake District together. I would also bring you to Winter Wonderland and recall that I once thought “why are there only couples here”. I missed you before you were even gone, I recall waking up on mornings crying realising that another day was over, and that I would not have the luxury of seeing your face upon waking up every single morning for much longer. You would leave on the 25th and I would also remember crying all the way home from the airport, from the tube to my flat and even in my flat. It felt like a recollection of 5 years ago, when I coincidentally broke up on this day in 2011. I got over it in a matter of days and instead, became extremely thankful for our time spent together. I loved you as a travel partner and our 2-week holiday together truly could not have been any better.

December

I started listening to Christmas songs and caught up desperately on all the work and study time I had missed on the past 3 weeks. Edina also came near the start of the month, and Weixuan and I spent quite a bit of time together, when we went to Switzerland, New Malden and explored London together once again. At this point I have completed three courseworks out of four through the month of December, had a great Christmas birthday and am looking forward to the New Year countdown tomorrow.

The year has seemed to fly by because the day of setting resolutions while waiting for the 2016 fireworks does not seem too long ago. I honestly have not accomplished as much as I have this year compared to the last, but I have met new people, created many new memories and went on many more adventures. Travelling is a luxury and I want to remind myself how privileged I am to be here abroad. I want to continue striving for academic achievements and for greater accomplishments in my hobbies, but here’s also a reminder to myself to stop feeling inferior for falling short all the time. Here are the New Year resolutions I will set for myself ahead of time:

1. Learn at least 3 more full songs on the piano (the first being 以后别做朋友).
2. Advance far in Korean to attend the advanced language classes by the Korean Society next year, and to understand most drama dialogue by the end of the year.
*3. Obtain my driving license.

And on the last day of 2016, I congratulate myself for sticking true to my beliefs, and emerging strong despite the setbacks I have encountered this year. Here’s to 2017.

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