Monday, January 29, 2018

My Mulan Moment

I have had short hair for most of my life. School rule, from primary school to secondary school to high school, they required us to cut our hair short. So, my hair was either Willy Wonka or Beatle's boy cut. My friend and I used to think how ugly we looked in those hairstyles when our peers from other schools were allowed to grow their hair long or style them to a more 'presentable' state. Therefore, once we graduated from high school, the first thing we would do was to grow out our hair and I did that all the way. My hair grew slower in general and it took years for it to reach a bit longer than my shoulder length. Last February, however, I decided to cut my hair - as I called it, my 'Mulan moment'.

This might sound a little cliché, during that period of time I was troubled by a few difficult questions in my life. I had a tough time and I gradually find myself becoming someone my younger self would not look up to. Therefore, I asked myself what made me who I am now and what hold me back from becoming a better person and push me down this common path which most people drowned in everyday life? Not that I was a really flawless person before, but I used to be carefree, know what's right and wrong, know when to stand up and be firm; when to be wise and patient. I used to be brave in that way. That was when I made the decision - a decision that many around me had different opinions of.

Through the experience, I had gained a few life lessons:

1) Attachment and Impermanence
I admit that even though I had decided to cut it off, I do still feel a mix of freedom and sadness at the same time. I realized the attachment to things is real, even it is something you didn't know you appreciate that much usually. At the same time, I learn about the impermanence of nature, how things come and go eventually, just like hair that was cut will grow back eventually and when some get old, they will get lesser or whiter. Same as that, good and bad things in life come and go, leaving impact and memories on us - but eventually, they are like water in the stream flowing past you. You may find the flow too strong for you and felt being drowned by it, you may get washed backwards as you find your way upstream, but eventually, you stand back up and continue your journey, getting stronger after each time of challenge.

2) Comfort Zone
Insecurity, when you lose a big portion of your hair, sounds ridiculous. Hair is not a shield nor does it has any special defence superpower. However, having a big mop of hair around your head does give you a sense of hiding inside it. When I had it short, I felt so exposed after so long and realize that was how it felt all the time when I was younger. It reminded me that when we stay in a comfort zone for too long, we tend to forget how comfortable we are and stay as such for a very long time. This experience reminded me what it was supposed to, to remind me to be straightforward and be the person I want to be clean cut. There was no hiding or escaping because life is all about taking up the package.

3) Beauty is not defined by your hair
This comes mainly from people around me who think it looks ugly for a girl to have short hair. First and foremost, I may not fit into a short hairstyle, and it might be true that in the common view of 'beauty', I am not looking as gorgeous. However, the journey of getting my hair short and slowly growing them up again is refreshing. It reminded me of how my character and personality is important to shape myself as a person. It reminded me that I can still be a nice person without a nice hairdo. It gave me an opportunity to try the new definition of beauty as well. 

In July, I accidentally cut it too short again and this time, I remembered to get some photo to show you how it grows back. My takeaway was, this is a very good experience. Doing that is like life, you might have to leave what was dear to you yet you had never cherished properly. Then you realize you can start nurturing them again, but you have to bear with the stage when not everyone agrees with you, the awkward wait when it was neither here nor there. You get to the painful mid-range length when it was annoying and irritating because of heat and yet cannot tie them up. And finally, you get the long hair back, which you can bring back to the short hair stage.

A lot of people told me it was very brave to do that. I thought there was nothing brave about that. It was just us being too unwilling to leave our current situation and make a change. Hair is an easy example because no matter how bad it looked, it will grow back eventually (except for some who has different conditions).

Here is how it looked like after 200 days...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Where did I come from and where do I go: my 2017 journey and 2018 aspirations

Please allow me to return to this blog without explaining my absence for quite (more than quite) some time. This year, let me try to surprise myself of how much I could post on this blog and re-discover my habit and joy of sharing my experiences and thoughts with all of you. We are now two weeks into this new year of 2018, but I will start by summarizing and celebrating 2017.

2017 has been a unique year for me as it encompassed the ups and downs of my life in a meaningful day, though nothing too bad nor too good (so, don't worry).

- I retook my GRE and had a better score
- I went for an advanced leisure dive at Tioman: the second day didn't end well as I had blocked nose and couldn't equalize, hence failed dive
- Two of my friends and I started a 'Makan' group to savour good food while meetup more often: I consider this an honourable effort
- I attended an international symposium on Synthetic Biology and got to meet people of the field
- I went to three concerts: 1) Hans Zimmer vs John Williams 2) Coldplay 3) Yiruma
- I made my first very own terrarium through a department workshop
- I visited Fukuoka, Japan and went to Munich, Germany: Touring in Japan was eye-opening and pleasant (and hot). Taking entrance exam in LMU and did not pass through was an entirely refreshing experience and I got to visit a lab at Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry. First time getting an International Driving Permit (IDP) and transiting flights in two different countries: South Korea and Abu Dhabi.
- I actually completed the Inktober 2017 challenge (pat myself on my back)
- I visited National Gallery for two exhibitions: Joseon Korea and Impressionism
- I passed two grading and attained 2nd Kyu (Nikyu) in Shitoryu Karate. I was also given responsibility as Assistant Honorary Treasurer to mark attendance and collect fees for the club.
- I went to Taipei with friends and it was an eventful trip (even though it was just over a long weekend)
- I attended two classes during the semester: Physics and Biophysics. I learned a lot and also experienced presenting journal study in class.
- I helped out with publicity in the department: 1) Social Responsibility project on Mangrove cleanup 2) December issue of Biochemistry Buzz
- I made it a point to join the Saturday Kumite Training for the semester and actually did it (though being late for most of the time - need to improve): I learned to be humble and start from basics.
- I read 14 books out of the planned 10 books:

- I made, in total, 89 artwork.

Those are some summary and stats but most importantly, 2017 showed me how I am cherished and loved by those around me. I was reminded again and again during the year of generous and kind friends who listened and cared me, of family members who tolerate and loved me deeply and an affirmation from myself for who I would what me to be. And these are what I find the biggest catch of my 2017 year. I am grateful for all that and will carry these blessings into 2018 and years after.

In 2018, I am yet to form very clear goals but there are a few pointers as of now:
1) Learn and be a good scientist: be curious and learn new and different things, deepen existing knowledge and learn to do thinking, organize well and build a good character as a scientist
2) Read more: hopefully can get at least 10 books but I am looking more for the quality
3) Draw or Creative work: I would love to draw more, however, I would like to improve on details and the completeness of my artwork. So, I would rather I try things on and be patient with each of them rather than clocking in the numbers.

Other than that who knows what will happen? Let's surprise me and make it a good one! Cheers! 

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Book Review: On Directing Film by David Mamet

“On Directing Film” by David Mamet, a title which keeps popping up on the list whenever I tried looking around for recommendations on filmmaking for beginners. The content of the book was mainly based on conversations between Mamet and his students during their discourses regarding analysing scenes or preparing for scenes. The brainstorming process depicted the gist of Mamet’s ideal of good filmmaking habits and examples were provided either by Mamet or his students in between.

Within these few selected discussion, there are views on certain aspect of filmmaking process that give out good pointers such as director’s thinking process when preparing the story and analysing the scene. However, one of the biggest take home message from this book was these conversations are, in the end, still Mamet’s own thought. This is after all, a record of what he thought as the ideal of filmmaking. However, since this book was written, there were great movies made that may not have fit into his criteria that well. However, that did not mean this book was not useful. Instead, the most important message I gathered from this book was the attitude towards filmmaking, the mindfulness, concentration and passion in ensuring good habits when you make a film. The exercise to look at each and every scene and analyse their meaning, indication, motive and message to conveyed made one realized what kind of thought process must be firing within a filmmaker’s brain all the time. These are, in my opinion, a reminder of good habits and practices to kick off your journey as filmmaker.

This book was not thick and was only a few conversation long. Hence, I would like to urge any aspiring filmmaking to take a look at the book and gain some insight on the art of filmmaking.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Hello 2016!

First of all, bonne année! Almost a week into this new year, I am slowly wrapping last year's things and re-organizing this year's. I have updated a bit on my AJIT (A Journal of Impossible Things) just as what I did last year and the year before last. That is where I list down things I would want to do for this 2016 while keeping a progress record. At the end of the year, I will use that as a review and compare the resolutions.

This year's plan was basically almost similar to last year's. I mean, well, I didn't really change any great directions, so the things are roughly the same. There are a few interesting things I would like to do, but not priorities. These will be updated once I spot space for them. And of course, I leaved some space for unexpected surprises too.

For my resolutions, I do have a few words on them. I did not increase my reading goal compared to last year even though I exceeded my goal. One book a month is a reasonable goal for me, and this time, I asked for one more thing from myself - to read and enjoy the process. I realized there were times when I was rushing to finish a book, or glanced through one carelessly because I thought they were uninteresting. I should put in more effort on that. For Science, I want to widen and deepen the scale, to really live with it. There are still times I was not delicate or inquisitive enough, which should be corrected. Organization skill is also another thing I would like to take note. Others, all come into almost the same thing. This year, I want to fully utilize my time and energy for useful things. I want to push myself, to achieve better and more. Not that I am not happy with my life now. I want to go beyond that. Being happy is fundamental and that is my benchmark, it is time to go extra miles.

So to sum it up, this year is the year I know I will be actively reaching out for wisdom. I used to joke about this, that while getting older, we will get wiser. While many among us are worried about an extra lines on their faces (I don't see why we should be too worried about that because eventually physical aging will come to us. Plus, some lines make your face look more natural and happier.), I would like to dedicate my time to improve myself, to attain wisdom.

Thank you.

Friday, January 01, 2016

My 2015

I  made comments of my 2015 based on my resolution set early previous year in previous post. In this one, I will summarize further on matters.

2015 had been a great year in the sense that I was lucky enough to visit a few countries, Suichang in China earlier this year and Phuket, Thailand during the summer, twice. I am not a travel person, as in, I enjoy travelling but it was not my life priority and I preferred travel with agendas better. Well, my view might change in the future, but for now, it is a surprise for me to even go anywhere far. I even went to Johor Bahru once to meet up with friends. It was nothing big, but pleasant.

I did a dive trip, which was enjoyable. I made new friends during the dive trip and gotten my advanced open water diving licence. I know I will need more experience in order to be better so I will try to make more time for that.

I managed to get another certificate for my Karate. I have to admit I did not put in too much effort, which was a shame. 

I went for exhibitions this year, making full use of the availability of the museum and heritage board, which was cool! Learned new things and get a little bit wiser, I even get to look inside the Sultan Mosque in Singapore.

In terms of Science, there were ups and downs, and I think that was what life was all about. I grew a lot this year and failed a lot. I am still growing and there is a long journey ahead.

Is there anything I wished I could have done more? Oh yes. I tried to use more of recycling bag and did actually do well early 2015. But I started to not do that in later half of the year, so I really need to do this again in 2016. Another. This probably sound like an excuse, but the 2015 haze affected my exercise schedule. I really need to do something about that too!

It was a really really summarized version and I had a great year!

Thank you.

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