Post-Holiday Blues: How to stay happy

Having just returned from a holiday overseas (even though some work was involved), I completely understand the mind’s refusal to get back to our daily routines. Whereas a vacation is jam-packed with fun filled activities that make us happy, our commute to work is just jammed up with zombies who drag their feet to their offices, only to stare at the computer’s screen and type away into the abyss.

Okay, I’m clearly over-dramatising this, but you get the point.

I’ve not ALWAYS suffered the post-holiday depression, but I have been a victim of not being able to concentrate on work because I’m already imagining how/where my next holiday would be. My focus is really all over the place world.

Lately, I’m grateful to have adjusted my routine to enable me to get back on my feet after a holiday even faster. Here’s how I do try to stay upbeat, and maybe you could consider it too the next time you’re about to return from a holiday:

Unpack Immediately

I suppose I should give credit to my mother for this. Immediately after reaching home from a vacation, I unpack suitcase and place items where they belong. I don’t usually waste time doing this and the entire process is usually over within the first hour of arriving home. If I have souvenirs for friends/family, I batch, pack and label them and leave them in open view so I remember to distribute them to the relative owners. OCD much.

Once that’s out of the way, I have time to sit back, relax and reminisce the good (and occasionally not-so-good) times during the vacation. I feel calmer and have no other post-holiday must-dos and can get back to my good ol’ routine of watching TV, checking my mails, writing and if I’m lucky, just chilling before I get back to the office.

Plan Something

This happened out of the blue. I picked up a habit of planning meet-ups with friends after returning from a holiday without realising how much it helped in boosting my spirits. You don’t always need a holiday for “fun” – a good cuppa session with best friends can do the same trick!

Alternatively, work on planning your next getaway. But, a word of advice, don’t spend TOO MUCH time on this. I’ve learned that sometimes things don’t always go according to plan.

Remember the key is to plan something that’ll help you focus on your work and still keep you happy!

Focus on “Remembering”

In an article I wrote for Songket Alliance, I mentioned how if I remember a destination too much, instead of looking through snapshots, it probably means it’s time to return to it again.

I suppose I’m one of those people who prefers to bask in the magnificent moments rather than to stop and take a photo. With that said, I definitely did ensure I snapped certain memorable instants such as the me standing next to the Taj Mahal (India), and at the Sanctuary of Truth (Thailand), and of course I had to run with my handy iPhone to capture the epic moment where I found an auto rickshaw in India with my name beautifully engraved on its windscreen (pictured above). Other than that, it’s not abnormal for me to return from a trip overseas without even one photo of myself posing at some tourist spot. Call me weird, but I think that’s it’s just something else to stop and stare, breathe in and feel without having to worry about why your photo is not turning out “good enough”. (Read more: “There and Back Again: A Traveler’s Thoughts”)

What I’m trying to say it, the reason for travel is so we open ourselves up to different world views, explore the abundance of cultures and beauty Earth has to offer, and maybe, at the same time, learn a new thing or two. But that’s pretty much where our holiday ends – we come back and continue with our lives, hopefully a little more aware of how our actions impact the world, and maybe a little more knowledgeable to help us grow as better human beings. All that we see and learn are things that we constantly have to remember and not forget. Some people remember through photos, I remember through, well, memories. The point is to keep our travel expeditions lingering in your mind without letting it bog you down with the feeling of “having to go back” until and unless you miss it too much.

So travel the world, enjoy your expeditions, but stay happy wherever you are because life, in its entirety, is beautiful! Make the best of what you have, each day, every day.

4 Timely Advices from Strangers

Strangers – sometimes, you need them.

strange spongebobI remember having a conversation with someone I met at the Humaneity’s Soulful Living Workshop (amazing session, go for it when it’s on again!) on how strangers are, to me, a sign from God, appearing when needed – somehow saving me from my loneliness and sometimes from the ugly forces of the world with their kindness.

I meet many of them on my daily commute to and fro work. I don’t always have a pleasant experience – in fact, I can safely say that most of the time the experience is pretty annoying – but there are breaths of fresh air once in a while, and the people who are nice exude their beautiful personality so well that I can, until now, remember the words that we exchanged during those split-second conversations.

Negative plus negative, equals positive!

This one’s my favourite. I was once staring at the chicken rice stall at the canteen in Ngee Ann Polytechnic (where I studied), trying to figure out what to order for lunch. I had a sore throat but my taste-buds were craving for the spicy satay-flavoured chicken, because that’s what your body and mind do to you when you’re unwell, right?

When it came my turn, I hesitated again. I can still vividly recall my conversation with the ‘uncle’ behind the counter:

Uncle: “Yes, girl, your order?”
Me: “Erm, sweet sour. No satay. No, wait!”
Uncle: “Cannot make up your mind, is it?”
Me: “Ya, I want the satay but I have a sore-throat, uncle. Maybe I should stick to the sweet-and-sour one.”
Uncle: “Aiyah, girl, negative plus negative equals positive!!”
Me: *laughs* “OK SET! One plate satay, please!”
Uncle: “OKAY!”

I use his words of advice until today! Every time someone moans about how they can’t eat, for instance, ice cream thanks to a flu/cough … yup, you guessed it.

Nag me, now.

I don’t live under the same roof as my family members, so going back to an empty house can be very depressing at times. Thankfully, the uncles who work at the petrol kiosk just below my house are rare gems.

I remember once when I was walking home from the bus stop quite late at night, feeling a little down and tired after a long day at work, when I contemplated how nice it would be to have someone pamper me at home right that moment. I was sad that I wouldn’t have anyone to nag at me for coming home late, or to ask me if I had my dinner yet.

Lo and behold, I hear a “GIRL!” from ahead. It was the ‘alright uncle’ (he yells “ALRIGHT, MAN!” every single time I walk pass). He tapped on his wrist and went:

“Why so late? Why do you look so tired? Have you eaten?”

I smiled, answered his questions and thanked him. I also wished him a good evening.

I reached home, shut the door behind me and started crying. God does work in mysterious ways.

There is never nothing to do!

To be fair, a stranger didn’t say this. It was actually my lecturer, who well, if you think about it was quite the stranger for we never do know much about the life of our teachers (this is prior to the dominance of worldly things like Facebook).

My classmate and I were walking out of a group discussion with him, grumbling about what we could do between then and the next class, about 4 hours later. Just as we were making a decision, our lecturer asked where we were going next.

Me: “Don’t know, maybe catch the first movie of the day. There’s nothing to do!”
Him: “There’s never nothing to do.”

That was it. Ever since then, whenever I get bored, I remind myself to NEVER complain about the fact that I have nothing to do. Look and you’ll find a million things, productive or not.

Don’t try to change things that are already written out for you.

It was a happy day. I sat down with a friend at The Soup Spoon, because we had no idea what else to eat for dinner. He doesn’t quite fancy the place but we had given up on our search for a quiet spot to sit at, so this was it.

We ordered a bowl of soup which wasn’t ready yet. The cashier told us to get seated first.

While waiting, we conversed about how our day went, and me being me, observed our neighbours at other tables. I noticed a few couples, a relatively messy man, and then, I saw her; the waitress, an elderly lady who had the biggest smile on her face, and with nothing but kind words for everyone.

Our turn came. She set the bowl of mushroom soup down and asked us if we wanted anything else. To our dismay, the cashier had forgotten part of our order so my friend raised his hand to call the waitress. She came, helped us get what we wanted, even our forks and spoons which were meant to be self-service and did everything with a smile. I had a sore throat so she even got our ice removed from the drink.

Awesome service aside, she said something to me while we were talking about the current state of life in Singapore (yeah, it was a good conversation). I can’t remember exactly what it was in response to but she waved her finger at me and said “don’t try to change things that heaven has already written out for you”.

When I went home, I realise what she said had a great impact on something that I was thinking all day but had forgotten about when I met my friend. Her words have helped, and still stay strong and impactful for me up till date.

So do all the other advices I’ve gotten.

Thank you, strangers.

Image Source: Quickmeme.com

A Heavy Heart

Some random rambling that happened while I played the disappearing act from this blog.

heavyheartAt a constant dissonance with what the mind says, the heart carries the weight of the world, unsure of how to let go of this burden. It tears out its veins in anguish, wondering if in fact, it has committed a crime, a crime so futile that the victims forget about it within seconds.

But this heart doesn’t forget, neither does it forgive. And of all people who it doesn’t release off its chains, its strongest handcuffs are made for the one that owns it.

The prisoner of the heart is its jailor, too.

A jailor who is consistently slamming the baton on his palms, waiting for the right moment to slam the barricades of the heart, awakening terror inside the prisoner. A jailor whose duty is to stay on constant vigil to not let its prisoner escape, a prisoner that has been sentenced without evidence, by false accusations.

Scared, weak and helpless; where is the heart to go? What is a heart to do?

The heart clings on to every breath that its prison mate, the lungs, brings in every second. It holds on tight to the ribs of its jailor, hoping one day that with the release of the air, his weaknesses, his sins would vanquish too.

Many years pass, but the guilt, sorrow and burdens of the heart still remain intact, cluttered by more toxicity that the mind floods the body with, negativity that the spirit ensues, and further finger-pointing that the heart has no choice but to endure.

When will it stop?

The heart contemplates many other forms of escapes, of letting go, but as it does, and continues to fail in its attempts, it hardens. It becomes cold. It becomes immune.

No longer can it now feel the pain of others, feel the pain of itself. No longer can it care, or give a flying hoot about the jailor when he walks by swinging his baton around, threatening the heart of what is yet to come.

“Beat me, abuse me, accuse me, but excuse me, for I no longer care.”

“For the day I stop, you will stop. All of you will cease to exist!” it screams.

Yet the heart continues to carry out its duties, to stay alive, yet wonders at all times, if staying alive and allowing evil to rise is even part of its responsibilities. Is breeding toxicity its job?

It waits, day in and out, for an answer to come.

And answer that could make or break it all.

Image Source: Tweenyrandall.com

A Sense Of Clarity

It’s only two weeks into April and I’ve already attended two events that may have possibly given me just the right dosage of clarity that I needed. While the first one made me realise how horribly I convey my writing skills to people, the second gave me the push to go forward and fulfill the dream that has been sitting on my Windows Explorer for way too long.

In both the networking event and seminar, I noticed the common trend of being delivered “speeches” by professionals who are experts in their field. It made me reflect as to the knowledge that I want to relay on to people. What is Manisha trying to say?

I’m trying to say that I love writing and that you should use writing as a medium to get yourself out of the box too – what with content marketing becoming such a buzzword around entrepreneurs of today’s generation. I’m trying to say that you neither have to be nor need a grammar police to go around making your words perfect. I’m trying to express my love for writing in a manner that will make people understand just words are to conveyed with not only a sense of marketing but has to tug on the right emotion to encourage people to jump on board and patronise your product or service.

Or anyone who wants to overcome above obstacle.

I am grateful to speakers who have helped me see through the message that I have always hoped to get across. I may have not been successful so far but after multiple brainstorming and back-and-forth with myself, I’m glad to announce that over the course of the coming weeks and even all the way into the future, this blog will focus on my personal interests – writing being the chart-topper, plus other life experiences that revolve around writing such as my previous entrepreneurial journey (up to this point) that can be of advantage to business owners, too.

Here we go.

Needed: Distraction-free writing

This weekend I fought hard with my ultimate nemesis yet again – Facebook.

I am really beginning to consider getting myself an electronic typewriter to do my writing assignments. The more projects I get, the more my mind wants to go crawling back to nosing around Facebook, and the fact that I do it so automatically is really disturbing!

Luckily, I came across a tool that would help me control this. And that too, at the perfect timing for I had a pile of work to be completed during the weekend and my mind was crying out for a solution.

I had the following things to finish:

  • Editing an e-book
  • Creating the first draft for a company profile
  • Completing two articles
  • Editing two articles
  • Preparing an invoice
  • Planning the next steps for another website

Plus, I wanted to watch this new movie that aired last night and I was trying to my best to speed through my work so I could get some time to savour a few pages of the current book I’m reading – Susan Cain’s Quiet.

Thanks to my discovery of StayFocusd, I was able to do all this and more. More meaning to get some exercise done (and then relapse by eating two slices of cake), caught a couple of TV shows, cover an entire chapter of the book and clean the house a little!

I must admit that it was hard to accept the fact that I have a ticker to tell me how much time I can spend on Facebook. Eventually, the situation went something like this – write, write, write, Facebook, check timer, panic, shut Facebook down, continue writing in fear of being banned from Facebook for eternity!!!!

Also, being accustomed to using Firefox instead of Chrome, I kept panicking whenever I would open the wrong browser for the tool was only functioning on Google Chrome and I had the freedom to use Facebook on Firefox if I wanted to cheat. But of course, I didn’t, mostly because I knew I had to finish my work and get some rest for the long week ahead.

So, thank you, StayFocusd.

Distraction number one cleared. I can now take on more writing work with one less fear in my mind and hopefully I learn how to clear the other obstacles to help me excel in my writing abilities soon.

Onward and upward.

Be gone, uncertainties!

Today, I probably received an opportunity of a lifetime.

I’ve always been driven by my passion to write. Sure, there have also been a countless number of times where the pulse rate of my passion sort of reaches below normal and I lose all muse to come up something interesting to write about. Overall though, I’ve lingered for more than 12 years with this “I want to be a writer!” dream and I’ve had a good amount of successes (and failures – let’s not forget those) to continue motivating me.

As most of you would know though, writing is not my full-time job. I write for “clients” and a webzine during my free time and blog whenever I feel like it, but that’s pretty much all there is to it. I’ve contemplated over and again about when would be a good time to drop the 9 to 6 and focus on writing 24/7 but my heart feels like right now is not the right time. Not the write time.

I finally, though, came to a decision that my need to secure my bank account is going to have to keep the writer’s dream on hold for now. I would give myself about a year or two more before I make the jump to full time writing, and in the mean time, I hope to gain enough credibility and knowledge to fill up the gaps I have as a content writer. After all, I’m no grammar genius – I still and probably always will make silly mistakes with spelling and punctuation, because I’m human.

Human.

Here I am now thinking about an offer that was very kindly proposed to me earlier today. An offer that could possibly see a life of helping other people fulfil their passions without having me to let go of mine. A life of flexibility and possibly filled with motivation to help me cross the boundaries that I’ve always been to scared to even approach at close range.

Which is why I’m stuck in a bit of a rut now. I know for a fact that I do not wish to take any drastic measures in life for the next few months (I set weird timelines for myself) but this opportunity seems rather timely, as the organisation will only run in full force – yep, you guessed it – in the next few months. I know nobody is putting a gun to my head to decide NOW but I feel like my own lack of confidence and uncertainty is going to have to take a backseat if I want to step out of my comfort zone.

The question is – is this going to be something that’ll undoubtedly help me to do that? The answer is most likely yes. But am I ready for this now? I don’t know.

I guess I have to do a little more soul searching over the course of the coming weeks (hopefully it doesn’t stretch out too long!) and find out what’s right for me and my loved ones. I could selfishly quit my job right now and run to this passion-driven organisation but I know better than to drop such a huge bomb on my family who have been pleased with my 9 to 6 routine. I guess there’s a time and place for everything and hopefully things ease in accordingly.

I’m extremely grateful for all the wonderful opportunities coming my way, but it’s a matter of doing what my heart is asking me to do. My heart – which is becoming very used to being quiet – might just have the right opportunity to wake up and start voicing out again.

The rest, as they say, is in God’s hands.

Cheers!

Welcome Year #27

And it’s March again! The 27th March for me, for this month I celebrated my 27th birthday.

PRE-BIRTHDAY

I was a feeling a little meh in the beginning, because for the first time in many years my whole family wasn’t in town to celebrate my birthday. My dad couldn’t make it.

In a twist of fate, my boss announced that we had a meeting to attend in Brunei one day before my birthday and very kindly allowed me to join. You can imagine how excited I was to hear this. My mum then decided to change her ticket to depart Singapore on the same flight as me.

Which meant – YEP, I got to celebrate my birthday in Brunei, although only for a few hours.

So off we went on Thursday evening. We reached Brunei at about midnight and then woke up early the next morning to attend a series of meetings (might I add that we got really lucky with the incidents that happened in between) and then we were done for the day. My boss then took us out for a boat ride at Kampong Ayer. You would think I would have experienced this before, being raised in Brunei and all, but in my 17 years of living there and 27 years of being alive, I have never once entered Kampong Ayer – let alone by boat!

And I had no regrets.

kampong ayerBecause judging by previous history of motion sickness, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it. Having outgrown the issues in my head, I had SO MUCH FUN on the 45-minute ride. We spotted a bunch of proboscis monkeys, a monitor lizard came really close to our boat (a lot of shrieking happened), saw a shy crocodile, a snake zooming across the waters and witnessed the magnificent views of Kampong Ayer, the Istana and the mosque.

I then brought my bosses over for a quick view of my dad’s shops and then sent them off to the airport. After that, I had an even more awesome time hanging out with Wira (hi bro!) and my kolomee, having dinner at a new Indian restaurant with my parents (cheap dinner!), and then desserts with my best friends at Paddington House of Pancakes (yumm!).

BIRTHDAY

The trip was cut short by my departure the next morning. I had breakfast at home and then had to wait in the super long queue to check in (I forgot it was school holidays). I ALMOST got upgraded but then someone else had better luck. Upon arrival, I had a scrumptious lunch in Singapore with my sister and brother-in-law. And before I forget, they were really sweet to head down to Haji Lane to get me a box of cupcakes from Fluff Bakery. FINALLY.

And that was about it. I went home, watched a couple of movies, ate pizza and lazed around because I could!

POST-BIRTHDAY

I woke up early. Prepared things to cook for my friends who I invited over for dinner, chilled out and watched TV. Had leftover pizza for lunch and then the doorbell rang and rang.

cupcakesSee, I have a track record for inviting people for a gathering but getting really bad response. This birthday brought me good luck, though, for my friend Ashrafe turned up with 27 cupcakes (there’s no such thing as too many cupcakes!); my colleague Matina was so sweet to drop by with a lovely gift; Liyana, Faizal and Mia came with like the perfect gift for nerdy me; Nickole popped by to help me finish cupcakes and to help me get my read on with Kinokuniya vouchers; Lizzie and Rama then arrived last to clean up whatever food was left on the table (thank you!). I couldn’t have been happier!

But I did because my beautiful friend Bavani showed off her amazing talent by quilling out an “m” as my birthday present.

mquill

Overjoyed.

So here’s a HUGE MEGA GIGANTIC thank you to everyone who made my birthday awesome! Thank you for remembering me. Those who were present to celebrate my birthday with me, I love you a little more!

I’m really looking forward to this year. I have a positive outlook for my job, my writing, and my life in general. I just hope all goes well for me and my loved ones. Now that age is picking up, I’m looking to step out of my comfort zone and start exploring even more things.

See: Bucket List

Cheers to 27!