A poem for Mom, my Angel In Between

“‘Mother’ is another term for the occasionally thankless, lifelong career that is also known as real-life-sometimes-demonic-out-of-necessity-angels.” — Dreaming Human

So Mother’s Day is coming up tomorrow. Disregarding other plans up my sleeve, the poem I’m posting here is a gift I’d like to share — no, not with you, it’s your mother‘s day tomorrow, you selfish child (P.S. If your moms’ are giving this snarker an evil look, tell them from me that I’m only joking and not really bullying their child, and by the way ma’am, congratulations on protecting your son/daughter so well from these dangerous alien things called snarks).

All levity aside, I only need to say that “Mothers are special people in our lives who we really need to appreciate” before you all stop reading and start skimming the text in boredom, because really, everyone knows why these special beings humans call mothers are special in the first place. In other words, it goes without saying that all of you appreciate your mothers, because (you minds tune out and fills in the blanks here) just like me. So while I dedicate this poem to my own Mom, my very own angel in life, I don’t think she’d mind if I let any fellow snarkees, present and future (thankfully there’s no past ) share it with their mothers too.

 

ANGEL IN BETWEEN
Before I was born
I made a pact, signed a contract.
I was shown life, death and
all that comes between
and then was asked to choose:
To live,
or to live unborn.

What I saw, I did not like
Life is too uncertain, death too absolute
— What reason is there to choose this world
suffused with its masks and demons
with its malice, hatred, suffering?
what could possibly be good of this place
so lonely, unkind, so unforgivingly cruel?

They tell me, Love.

Love? I know of it
heard of its legendary warmth
but skepticism shadows me
I ask, and how would you know
that I will experience it
that love will come to me?

It comes, they say, from an angel
That angel will care for you
protect you, raise you at all costs
She would give her life so that yours is brought before you
and die, and live, and die again
to ensure your life ends
only after hers
to ensure you are happy
to give you love

She would love you all your life.

Now I am born
now I am alive
and I turn and see
the angel promised to me.
She has been here, by my side
all these years and more
This angel has loved me, will continue to love me
through life, death and everything in between.

To this being
This angel in between my life and death
I wish to say
–Mom,
thank you, and
I love you.

 

COPYRIGHT NURUL JASMINE 2013

 

As a note, this poem was written last year, when I as a seventeen-year-old looked past the commercialization on steroids that every Mother’s Day seems to inspire, and tried to figure what I would tell my mother if I had to summarize the entire seventeen years we’ve been brought together through my birth. Wondering whether my messages would grow in depth or change in some way as the years go by, I remember concluding back then that there really was nothing more, or less, I could say, than “thanks for everything” and “I really love you.”

Of course, “you were right most of the time”  also neared the top of the list — but obviously, every growing teenager would like to discount this when immortalizing their happy moments with their moms a.k.a their personal Earth’s angels.

Anyway, guess what? Exactly as I suspected, one year onward, what I wanted to tell her didn’t change, and probably never will: the only thing I could really say to you, Mom in spite — or maybe because — of all you’ve done for me (cue wails of incompetence and a reflection on how I and every loved child in the world is forever indebted to their mothers-synonymous-with-angels) is to say..

Thank you for everything. And I love you beyond life itself.

Looking back at the poem above (which I wrote last year, remember), at its ending lines, I have a feeling I’ll be saying that for  a very long time. And no matter how much I say it, it’ll never be enough, because nothing I do will ever match up to everything my mother, my angel, has done for me, starting withe the day she gave birth and gave me the love I was supposedly guaranteed to get in life.

All that’s left is to celebrate Mother’s Day..

Maybank Scholarship selection, stage 2

“The impossibility of something impossible happening is so possible that the impossible is literally impossible.” — Dreaming Human

From Fullmetal Alchemist:  Brotherhood, the character Greed has said that “Nothing is impossible.” As if in response to my immediate, obstinate ridicule, later on in the show Alphonse Elric reiterates this as well.

Alphonse Elric: “If there’s one thing I learnt, it’s that NOTHING’s impossible.” I suppose being a soul-boy bound to a 7-foot armor can influence your belief in the impossible somewhat.

In a admittedly not-so-rare case of anime reflecting real life, I just had my proof of the impossibility of impossibility (tee-hee, see what I did there? Turned this philosophy on its head, didn’t I?) on the 20th of April,Saturday, when Maybank called me up for the second stage of its scholarship selection.

“Wait, wait, isn’t this post a little outdated then?”  you say? Well, it is, but my busiest week ever was always destined to morph into my busiest month ever, and I think you’ll soon find the truth of that statement if the tight schedule doesn’t make quick work of me — 0r my blogging inclination (which honestly is more likely to fall prey to self-proclaimed exhaustion than I am) — first.

On that note, let’s return back to our regularly scheduled programming/blogging, shall we?

Before I so ingeniously interrupted myself, I was relating the incident in which what I thought was impossible actually happened, thus proving the FMA creators right and putting me (and most parents who consider anime a blasphemy) to shame.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about the call I got from Maybank to undergo its second stage scholarship interview, of course.

There I was, enjoying the cool breezy wind outside my house when my twin far outdid  my mere contemplation of going out for a walk by barreling out of the door with the phone in her hand and the words “Maybank Scholarship” blazing on her handphone screen. My jaw dropped; I held my breath and definitely did not eavesdrop. Neither did I urge Shamine to ask about me, nor arrange that we’d be at least interviewed on the same day so that we twins could make the 45-minute trip to KL on the same day. Nope, I definitely did not do all that. ..Denial can be such a revealing mindset, don’t you think? Anyhow, after the date was set (for the next Tuesday..didn’t I say it was going to be a busy month?), my twinsister put the phone down, leaving us to do nothing but look at each other, right before we did something truly profound: We burst into giggles.

I suppose psychologists would term that phenomenon as “hysterics”. Laymen would probably call it “temporary loss of sanity.”I call it “giddy relief”, and before I continue to imitate a walking, talking (writing?)  thesaurus, let’s review some key facts to find out why yours truly is so relieved / hysterical / insane / all of the above at getting THE call from Maybank:

  1. I sent in the application form in February. Which, incidentally, was before this blog was even created.
  2. The call for Stage 1 of the scholarship selection process came somewhere in March. To future aspiring Maybank scholars reading this blog for tips (who’d better be newly-converted snarkees aspiring to follow this blog too, or shame on you for trying to get tips while giving nothing in return — “only joking!” to any cyber-police out there), Stage 1 of the Maybank scholarship is an online test that’s pretty simple in concept, in that it consists of two parts: the first a verbal reasoning test, the second a numerical reasoning test. Of course, it’s ‘simple’ in concept because it’s an absolute hell in questions, as these psychometric tests are meant to stress you out with the short time frame and mid-to-high level of complexity. Don’t get it yet? Making it simple: Little time + long-winded questions = you’re gonna feel like an idiot. Invariably, any NORMAL human being will find the test easy in some parts, hard in some parts..like I did (not that I was ever arrogant enough to claim myself normal, which strangely enough is normal thing for the other 6 billion people on this planet to claim NOT to be).There’s only two strategies for such tests: aim to answer as many as you can, or as correctly as you can. Every other scholar I’ve met have had to make such a decision, and if you know someone who didn’t and actually found the test easy, it’s probably because they’re a true-blue genius destined to be the next Einstein, in which case salutations to them, and by the way how do they plan to change the world? Personally, I went for accuracy over speed, since I dislike being proven wrong more than I dislike being proven that I’m a snail. (It has to be said that there’s something inherently wrong about the human race that we’d rather be inhuman than be incorrect, but that’s neither here nor there, I suppose.)
  3. Since then, it has been one week. Plus another three. Yes, it’s been a 4 weeks / ONE MONTH since I completed the aforementioned online assessment a.k.a Stage 1 of the Maybank scholarship selection process, and bearing in mind that some people in the forums of Lowyat and Recom have reported getting calls for the next stage (some early birds have even gotten on to the 3rd stage at this point, much to this disheartened snarker’s surprise), I had given up on procuring the scholarship. The weeks passed, I begun to get really busy and started contemplating the possibility that I was a deluded student of mediocre intelligence who hallucinated her possible brilliancy (note that at this point there was no one, or indeed no Dreaming Human available to tell me that it’s normal for the test to present a little bit of a challenge, so I was dragging my feet thinking everyone else found it easy. Which they didn’t right? Right?? Maybank scholars, past and present, answer me!!) In other words, I thought that it was impossible I’d have a further chance at the scholarship, since I appeared to not have passed the first stage even.If I did, I would have been called, and since I didn’t, well, let’s just say I thought it was impossible…and. Then.
  4. On a nice, windy day in April, the call for the second stage came. And impossible was once again proven impossible.

Upon checking my email afterwards, I found this:

"Never fear! The call for a scholarship is here!" Deluded saviors are enchanting.

“Never fear! The call for a scholarship is here!”
Deluded saviors are enchanting.

When you have the computer open and an email such as the above (the getting-called-for-an-interview part, I mean, not the deluded-hero-theme-cry part) arrives in your inbox, there’s only one thing to do: you search up “Maybank second stage scholarship”, obviously, since we kids these days are ever so cunning and technologically savvy.

And there you would find — wait for it — absolutely nothing. No accounts. No blog posts. A few users on the forums claiming they’ve gone through the second stage, but there’s nothing concrete or useful.

First-impulse move: Bang your head, repeatedly chanting “why”.

Next move: spend time getting scared and freaking out before the interview (Yeah, like you won’t be freaking out during and after it, is that right?)

WAIT.Why do you think I’m here?? Other than to dream and snark and write about that utterly random, nonsensical thing called life of course.

Next move if you’re Dreaming Human: spend time getting scared and freaking out before the interview, going for the interview and getting freaked out during and after it for good measure, then going home and writing a blog post about it. So yes, I’m writing this to fill you aspiring future Maybank scholars cum to-be snarkees / curious little cats with too much time on their hands and nothing better to do / loyal beloved followers of the DreamingHuman blog (pick whichever is relevant to you, dear reader) on the progression of the stage 2, also known as the interview stage.

And there’s really no other way to say it: It.Is. An. Interview. As I’m sure you can see from the picture of the email with the superhero complex above, my interview session began at 3 in the afternoon, which curiously coincided nicely with my twin’s. Since my morning was occupied, I came early, and sat at the seats provided (no really, Dreaming? What did everyone else do, stand at the seats provided?). Almost immediately, we were given 15 minutes to write an essay of about 250 words.

250 words? In 15 minutes? How do I not over-write? And before you think this is bragging, the topics are pretty easy. In fact, they’re probably the same, year in, year out, and this is not me calling the scholarship selection process unimaginative. Or indeed, un-innovative. After all, they’d better not change the selection process lest this post becomes irrelevant to the group of readers who are aspiring scholars, right?

So, 15 minutes and overarching the 250 words later, I sat down again and in an admirably calm manner promptly proceeded to freak myself out. I couldn’t be blamed either: there seemed to be two or three rooms in use for the interview sessions, and I looked set to go in the Jasper room — which happened to house the two interviewers (one male, one female) and a kid who must have been a really good comedian, judging from the way he was making them laugh so hard and so loud. I could hear them from where I was sitting, and the doors to all the room were closed. And when the kid came out, he strode straight to the counter and looked at his watch, then announced to the clerks,”Wow, I took one whole hour!”

Just my luck. Haven’t even started my interview, and already I was upstaged by a boy I knew nothing of. It would have been interesting to at least get to talk to him and find out what made the boy tick so strongly that he shone, or otherwise how he bluffed his shine, (remember who the Dreaming Human is as a human) but alas! It was not to be, because it was my turn next. And here, any attempt at Shakespeare’s sophistication will have to be abandoned in order to accurately portray what I was thinking at the time:

–eek eek eek eek ihopeidothiswell eek eek —

Curious fact #1: You never hear that the above is a good mindset for an interview, but you always hear that it’s in everyone’s mind before any interview.

And then, the two interviewers (whoops, their names escape me now) flipped through my original certificates, then asked the first question: “Tell us something about you that this file doesn’t tell us about you.”

Curious fact #2: When you’re at the initial stage of application for any scholarships, all they want to know is your achievements; any extras such as personal letters are discarded as trash (not that I’d know anything about that). When you’re at the next stage and you’re being interviewed, all they want to know is you, and your achievements are just a redundant aside for all they care.

Such are fickle human beings, I suppose. And yes, I know it can seem like the people interviewing you aren’t human beings but man-eating monsters / high-nosed aristocrats / whatever you find most intimidating, but they’re not, really —

— unless they’re trying to be. And that’s what happened during my interview: the two Maybank-ers questioning me affected an air of boredom right off from the start, as if they had used up their daily quota of laughter on the boy before me and had not an iota of it left. The man (Mr. Drawling, I call him, because he had a drawling voice) even answered the phone while I was talking, while the woman (Shifty Eyes) looked everywhere but at me for the first few minutes of my interview, which left me feeling awkward and made me wonder if there wasn’t an imaginary friend I couldn’t see standing in the room, or if I wasn’t one myself and didn’t know it.

Sounds disastrous? Imagine being the candidate sitting there, having to go through all that. The thing is, after the disaster that was my UEM interview, I was wiser to the methods of these strange, strange people we call interviewers, and I figured that maybe they were trying to test my mettle, so I kept my cool and answered the questions as best as I could. To aspiring scholars, I really think that what they ask you or indeed how they treat you will depend on as varying a factor as Luck, their mood or even what personality they decided to play that day, so really, all you can do is to not get rattled and keep your cool.

Not enough for you? Seriously, the interview epitomizes a conversation you might have with someone older — for example, mine’s resembled the conversation I might have with a particularly condescending aunt / uncle, or even heaven forbid a parent. In fact, Mr Drawling even mentioned that I was like his daughter at one point, the moment being when I was rattling off on the reason why I chose my course and what I plan to do with my life.(The first thing I wanted to say in reply: I have no idea; that’s why I’m off to university first. No, not really, and don’t follow this, kids.)

One question they asked me which I think any aspiring scholar applying to any scholarships would be asked at some point (or if nor by scholarship providers, by your university, your country or possibly your mom) is:

“How can you contribute to us?”

And no, saying the first thing that came to my mind (in an incredulous tone): “I’m gonna work for you, isn’t that enough?” is not a good idea.

Lo and behold, the strange world of scholarship selection. You’re required to be yourself, which you’ll often find isn’t the first thing you hide about yourself but seem to be (e.g. a smart-mouthed snarker).

One interesting thing to note that I think proved that the interviewers aren’t exactly who they portray themselves to be (that is, bored / mean / irritating / all) either: During her interview, my twin also had to deal with interviewers who were acting bored, who also picked up the phone in the middle of her answering a question. Keeping in mind this happened in a different room with different people at about the same time, it could be a genuine strategy of theirs to unnerve the applicants.

…Or it could be that they really were bored, and we both just performed well. For, a week or so later, the same day 4 corporate scholarships collided with my life, both my twin and I received a call inviting us to Stage 3 of the Maybank interview!!!

(insert trumpets and much fanfare)

Conclusion: The Maybank scholarship selection stage 1 is a verbal and numerical reasoning test. Stage 2 is an interview. Stage 3 — we’ve yet to find out, and for good reason.

No, not that, you sly, overfocused possible future Maybank scholars.

Rewritten conclusion: Alphonse Elric was right Never lose hope and think something’s impossible, because the impossible never is.

Despite all that, though, let’s see whether the above stands true when I finally try for the seemingly impossible challenge that takes the form of passing my JPJ driver’s test

Seven Wonders of humanity

“Only through the seven wonders was it possible for humanity to build seven wonders of Earth .” — Dreaming Human
How was the idea behind this poem conceived?  At 14,  my younger self thought that the Seven Wonders of the world should actually be renamed the Seven Wonders of Earth. .
Humanity doesn’t generally need any more stroking to our over-inflated egos.Yet, as lowlifes who underwent evolution to end up running (and paradoxically destroying) the planet, the  world’s truer wonders, I felt, lay in things far more awe-inducing than what we could merely physically build.
Two days, a couple of minuscule tweaks, hairs torn out and 6 pages later, this poem was born.
What’s it worth?
I was proven the value of Seven Wonders when it won the recent NST Niexter’s Young Writers’ Awards 2012, which you can read about here.
It wasn’t the certain amount of money won that made the award sweeter let me tell you. What matters more is the seven wonders that got me writing it in the first place.
Who is it for?
To some people, especially those who lack time or a poetic soul , Seven Wonders might be too long and too dreary.
To poets, it might be too wordy and lacking in metaphors and/or imagery for a poem. T
T o me, it’s kind of galling that my fourteen-year-old-self conceived poems that won awards while I haven’t quite gotten around to writing one yet. Said fourteen-year-old self is gleefully dancing in the background of my time-unbound psyche, by the way,
To most people, though, I think their main thoughts would be on which of the seven wonders might affect their lives more, and which appealed to them most in whatever way. See for yourself, which wonder is the most amazing to you?
SEVEN WONDERS
Were there an outsider, a foreigner
to come here a few days
from alien worlds yonder
watching men and their mad, mad ways.
Iwere it to hail you; it willsays:
 
“I hail you, human. You are one too, are you not?
Only they may know the answer to the question that I’ve got.
I shall explain, lest you show confusion
I seek none but truth, so pay me some attention:
My brethren say seven wonders
run rampant in this world.
I came to see them, I believe
I have seen them all.
 
The wonder known as love is the first that I have seen
Love, in a widow’s grief, or in a couple’s tiff
In the warmth of a mother’s arms as she asks where her child’s been.
Love has created the world; love, the flames of life..
To love is the act hardest to perform,
yet that wonder is ingrained, the basis of human nature.
 
Then I have seen belief
Laden in prayers and the eyes of the dying, the conviction of the dead
Either a mirror or a blindfold, truth that can deceive
Belief, if not powerful, is nothing.
 
Hope, another wonder I am privileged to see
in futures and children, no less, for children are hope incarnate.
Even without everything else, hope is last to flee
Dying and reborn, lingering through day or date.”
 
Three wonders, insofar of human lore
What, pray tell, would you have as the remaining four?
 
“In the eyes of stargazers and leaders alike
I see the wonder known as dreams
Dreams that gives purpose, propels revolutionaries to strike
It can shake the world, inspire ideas, shatter schemes!
Yes, hand-in-hand, dreams and wonder
often come together.
 
Fifth comes the wonder known as pride
that is, vanity in its mask of majesty.
One turn bringing a man’s downfall, another swaying victory to his side
Pride: the ultimate mistake in life and its brevity.
 
Next comes joy, also known as happiness. Do not scoff or laugh
— or rather, laugh a lot, for the pursuit of this is
the right of every being. Dance, smile, laugh!
Find joy, permit yourself to enjoy life, pursue happiness!
For even as a human lives, they are dying.
 
The seventh wonder, known to humans as empathy
also compassion, kindness. In alms given to the needy
in the strong helping the weak
where empathy reveals its face, is humanity at its peak.
While love is exclusive, purely for some and no other,
empathy encompasses all, one human to another.
If love creates the world, empathy perpetuates it.
 
So there it is, human. Seven wonders in all
Now for my question, if I may so have the gall.
Seven wonders you may have, but do you see these seven as such
Are they truly a wonder to you, or merely one, the rest not as much?
Are they in danger of fading; will humanity keep its call?
How do the seven look to you, if it’s true each human has it all?
 
I am returning home, human, where it is void of the seven wonders
so pray tell:
what meaning have you for the seven wonders?
And  due to them what change will your world befall?
 ..That, I believe, is something you and I may ponder.
COPYRIGHT Nurul Jasmine 2013
Which of the seven wonders do you consider most important, my dear snarkees? I have mine, but then this was never about me.

 

The second time around:the NST Niexter Young Writers’ Awards

The one thing truly great people who change the world have something in common with us everyday people is that they rarely have a good idea of what they’re doing. They’re all blundering through, just like we are. That said, what sets them apart is that they try where we stop and claim it’s not worth it.” — Dreaming Human

The first time around, three years ago, I found an official-looking card in my postbox cordially inviting me to the New Straits Times inaugural Niexter Young Writer’s Awards 2010. Back then, I admired the design on the card, took little note of the date, put it back in its envelope..and with the admirable, unmatched speed of the ignorant and the unconcerned, managed to promptly forget all about it.

I ended up blinking in bewildered disbelief a month later when I was informed by my auntie who was informed by my uncle who was informed by my auntie-once-removed (who we can assume was informed by her brain while she was attending the above-mentioned ceremony) that my name had come up during the 2011 Awards for four of the awards I was apparently nominated for.

Mind you, the awards I won wasn’t anything truly significant; it wasn’t the Young Writer of the Year award or anything like that — I just got the Contributor awards for both Schooltimes and Niexter, the Clean Copy (I now know it means ‘free of any editing’) and most delightful of all for me was the Best Poem, for a poem I entitled ‘These Fools’.You can read it here.

Here the snarking human would like to remark snidely that considering the far more prestigious awards some other talented writers had gotten, the awards I had won was somewhat lame.And I knew it.Not that I was unhappy with what I’d been awarded for — no, I assure you this snarker was grinning fit to burst for weeks — it just that as far as achievements went, I didn’t do much. All I did was write, submit and make sure no issue I headed had any discrepancies in grammar and that my poem rhymed where they should/could, without sacrificing the message I was trying to get across — in other words, I did mundane little things that I know most other people could have too: I wanted to write, and I wrote.

But even though most people could do it, I (and of course, the other esteemed Niexter writers who got FAR better awards, just saying) was one of those who actually stepped out and did — that’s what differentiates a winner from the masses, in this case the mass of people who can write, I guess.

Try and you might just win something; never try and all you’ll win is nothing — now that’s a life lesson for you. You already knew that you say? We-ell hey, so did I, but this event just serves to illustrate the point. Now the dreaming human is convinced that if I just continue to write new posts in this blog of mine, I will eventually reach million-page readership, have people actually commenting and generating discussions, et cetera.

The snarker has to add that of course, to achieve that vision I’ll have to brush up on strategies of blog-promotion and advertising, lest the revenue generation from ads might be a boost to the blog readership.(The snarks keep coming out, which is never pleasant, but extremely less so if you use it on yourself, like I do. One of the (dis)advantages to having the dual persona of a realist and idealist, I would presume.)

Whatever it is, I wrote for Niexter for the simple joy of writing. Basically, I did it for the simple joy of doing it, and to my luck and utter surprise, a jury I didn’t even know existed decided to give me awards to immortalize this activity of mine forever in my memory.

And of course, to ensure that I keep writing for Niexter, the ever-cynical snarker chips in; and now I”m thinking that I really should stop sounding like a bipolar maniac.

Yes, yes, of course I continued writing for Niexter AND Schooltimes, a weekly issue NST publishes weekly on Thursdays, now (let it be noted that they actually paid a little, and while the sum is not much at all it’s still better than our old pal Niexter McScrooge, which doesn’t — did you guess right?). Year 2011 and 2012 passed without incident, though; there was absolutely, heartbreakingly no mention of the awards ceremony (this means that I wasn’t fit to be invited, by the way, not that there wasn’t actually any ceremony held. Blame my constantly preoccupied form 4 self, or the torture masquerading as the convoluted examination system known as SPM). There was no sign even of Niexter as the large writing community it actually was. Assignments ceased to come to my inbox, and my queries for further tasks was met with silence or brush-offs (which hurt more, curiously enough, but you never heard anything from this softie). I was left feeling abandoned, disillusioned…and when I reached Year 2013, under the assumption that I was too old to write for these news pullouts, I stopped writing for it completely.

And then the invitation came through the mail. Bearing the grand title “NST Niexter Young Writer’s Awards“, it bore the missive that a certain delighted dreaming human was invited to bring herself and one person (read: parent/guardian. Recall that Niexter writers consist of old senior hats like me to young eenie-wenie 9-year-olds who probably look as sweet and innocent as the Golden Trio did in the first two Harry Potter movies. Age has a way of getting to you when you least expect it, hmm??)

images

Seemingly innocuous things rarely are. Yes, Snape, we agree that the Golden Trio are a prime example.

Harry Potter references aside, what was the First Thing that came to my mind when I got the invitation card, you ask?

Firstly: I got a card, so I must have been nominated for something!!

Next: “Hobbits of the Shire”??What in the blazes is that??
If any snarkees are completely clueless as to what the hell I’m talking about, do take note that the above-mentioned piece of seeming garbage is actually the dress code printed on the card.

The delight being irrelevant, I was already fairly sure I would not be going, and so I did the obvious thing anyone in this day and age does when they’re fairly sure they won’t be attending something: I RSVP-ed saying that I would attend. “Hey, you never know–I might be able to go!” is what I’m sure most people will say, and on this particular occasion, I’m no exception.

And here I would like to report that I DID NOT ATTEND the ceremony, held on April 6th with much gusto. Neither did I get a call in the days that immediately followed, which led me to believe that If I HAD attended, I would have returned home empty-handed (and possibly brokenhearted), with no awards to highlight my name and bolster my regular-sized ego.

Then, the day right before my week spent in the inferno known as BUSY, I got a call (among other calls — read the linked post above for further explanation) through my poor overworked phone from Kak Lydia of NST, who holds the position of…er, whatsitname in NST and is in charge of us young Niexters. The call was garbled and lacked clarity on account of my being rather preoccupied with freaking out about the packed and nerve-wracking events I had scheduled for the following week (again, see above for explanation; gosh I’m starting to feel like a parrot) but I did understand that I had been nominated for, and actually received, some awards (yay) and that I had to collect them by Monday, otherwise it’ll all burn. As in be disposed of. As in ka-poof.As in bye-bye, no award prizes and/or money for you.And since any of you who have read about the busy week I would be having would already be aware of, there was no possible way I could go pick that stuff up miles away in NSTP Balai Riong KL on Monday or any day before without splitting myself and my darling starting-to-look-frighteningly-harassed mother into two. Even if I were so inclined to try, it wasn’t like we knew the way either, and anyway compared to everything else that was cropping up, really, automatic disposal of prizes I didn’t know I won until a full week after was the least important for me.

Didn’t mean I wanted to ‘dispose of it’ any more.

What could I say? Boo.

Fortunately, from past experience (e.g. the first awards I mentioned above) I was well-equipped to deal with this sort of thing. Within seconds, I got Kak Lydia’s permission to send a representative instead, wrote a letter of identification and contacted my aforementioned aunt (hi MakLong!) to ask her to get the services of her courier to get the prizes on my behalf. Sounds complicated? It is, somewhat. Sounds like I knew what I was doing too well? I did, because (and here appallingly I’m imitating the habits of a parrot again) I’ve done this thing before already.

So, by Monday, my Niexter Young Writers’ awards were reclaimed and saved from expulsion by virtue of quick-thinking, experience and the services of an unknown but extremely appreciated courier. I wasn’t to have the prizes in my hands until Friday, though, when my UEM interview took place. I was quite surprised by the number of items there were inside the unassuming bag containing the prizes, but then it was explained away when I realised that I was awarded the prize for Best Poem (titled Seven Wonders, click here to read) but also Best Story, alhamdulillah.

Let’s take a look at what the prizes were, shall we?

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It looks like a lot.

There’s really no other way to say it: It.Is.A.Lot.

Not much that I could really use, which resulted in my giving a little of this and that to my lucky little sister, but still. I’m happy that I even got anything.

“Hang on, the picture’s too obscure. What kind of trash did you get, Dreaming?”

Hmmph. I’ll have you know it’s no trash. There were predominantly comic books and things to do with comics — which I’m no great big fan of; I’m more of the bookish kind — but since Gempak was one of the main sponsors, I suppose this was to be expected.

And here is the inventory list, so that in the future when I’ve managed to lose a.k.a. strategically misplace everything, I’ll know exactly where to find it, accurate memories of it that is. Ho-ho-ho, Santa knows this is no wish list. Neither is it listed in particular order, I would like to add.

  • a trophy bearing the words Best Story 2012. What makes it priceless for me is the beautiful picture superimposed on the glass.
  • four English comic books from Gempak Comics, all of different genres
  • a book titled Logomania, which I happen to know was offered as free copies in some major bookstores. Har-di-har, I caught you, prize-givers.
  • Kidzania vouchers, two of them to be precise, one for an adult and one for a kid. I guess we know what my twin and my lil sis will be doing the next time we go to theCurve.
  • a blue velvet box which opens up to reveal paperweights bearing the artwork of Gempak artists like Kaoru and I don’t really know the rest. A rather useless but admittedly pretty present.
  • three certificates, for Contribution, Best Poem and Best Story respectively, which will be invaluable for my future in the way of applying for scholarships and universities, or so I’d like to believe.
  • a recommendation letter, with which I’m deliberating over the wisdom of actually displaying it on this site.
  • an artworked T-shirt which is apparently size L but must have been mislabeled — no one with a size of less than XXL can wear that thing.
  • a fancy card-clip chain
  • one free copy of you-guessed-it, Gempak
  • a six-month long subscription to the Gempak magazine, which will invariably end up in my sister’s room
  • a ‘survival kit’ in a nutter’s sense of the word. When I open it, out spills postcards, readily disassembled cardboard boxes as well as stickers. Then I realize that ‘Survival Kit’ is the name of the series portraying the characters on the items. I think. My clueless state will hopefully be sufficient to signify that I feel no attachment whatsoever to such objects, and have offered it to my sister, who I must offer congratulations for being wise enough to reject it. Goodjob  for knowing when I’m trying to load off on you, lil’ sis.
  • a special artworked bag of Gempak
  • …the greatest deal, a fairly large sum of money which I shall not divulge, and all for a simple poem I wasn’t initially aware of its publication.

Wait, you mean to tell me that my poem Seven Wonders was actually worth almost RM200??

Curses.Had I known, I would have charged them for publishing that poem.

…Obviously, I’m joking. With a completely straight face and a serious heart, I can truthfully attest to the fact that in the end, it’s not what you achieved, but the fact that you achieved something that will give you the greatest sense of accomplishment.

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These gifts are nothing.

Compared to that, the gifts I mentioned above are nothing.

So here’s to the fierce joy you get when you realized that the second time around you won was not purely due to dumb luck and a little bit of skill anymore, but due to your own initiative and perseverance.

I think my experiences above illuminate clearly what it really means to “just try”, and what you can get out of the simple act of taking the initiative to do what you want.I read (or was it said, I wonder) somewhere that the difference between those who change the world and those who remain insignificant is the willpower (that’s right; the initiative) exhibited by the former.

And if these great blocks of text haven’t spurred you dear snarkees on to do that one thing you’ve been putting on hold, or knew you could do but somehow never get around to, I’ll make it plain and LOUD so that your ears ring and your brain reverberates even if you technically can’t hear any text:

JUST.TRY.IT.

And no, this is no imitation of Nike’s catchy phrase dominating all of their ads, alright? Just to be clear.

Now, then. Since I’m too old for Niexter and Schooltimes now, I think I’ll see if I can do anything for ReMag instead…

The prelude to hell, a.k.a the start of the busiest week in my life

“..challenges give meaning to a life full of pursuit. ” — somewhere online

The week leading up to SPM is going to be the worst in your life, they said. You’ll be so unimaginably busy, SO very much stressed, they said.

Well, whoever said that can start eating their words with a fat helping of sauce, because I just finished lining up what will be the busiest week of my life–or at least one would hope it should be, for the sake of sparing everyone the terrible fate of losing their heads upon seeing it due to sheer incredulity.

Let’s take a look at my most recent schedule for the upcoming week, shall we?

…starting from today, Saturday…

Saturday, 13th April : My twin‘s Petronas Youngstar’s Day 2013 scholarship interview. Notice it’s my twin’s interview day, not mine, per se — since obviously, it would be too hard to interview a pair of twins on the same day to save the time and cost it would take their parents to attend the interview. Right, Petronas Sponsorship Unit?Right? 

If it’s my twin’s interview, why is it in my calendar, then, you ask? Elementary, my dear snarkees, the right answers would be either  a) I wanted some experience and possibly tips,  or b) I wanted to ask some questions anyway or ..

…oh, who am I kidding? The answer is of course, c): If I stayed behind I’d start climbing walls in a first-class exhibition of crumbling control and (not) staved-off anxiety.

Sunday, 14th April : My interview day with Petronas for its 2013 pre-u and undergraduate scholarship. Nothing said, you can read all about my experience here.  That means you aspiring Petronas scholars from the future, too, you little tip-scroungers. I’m winking, don’t worry — once (as in right now) I’m in your position, I know how you feel — I was(am?) desperate for hints too. So long as we’re all trying our best in the right way and for the right reasons…and yes, I did just call you desperate.

Monday, 15th April : Give a speech at my old high school about how I achieved excellent results in SPM. After taking ten subjects and receiving 9A+ 1A , I suppose I should have expected the call from my school’s deputy that requested I do this. And I was perfectly willing, perfectly ready to do it, till everything else came rolling around. Read on.

An interesting aside, though — last year my seniors, those who were the best students of their time, came and gave a series of talks not unlike the speech I’m supposed to be giving on this day. It truly inspired me, not because they were good speakers  (they were, by the way, but this is  a little taster of what it takes to truly impress on me what an exceptional orator you are) but because they were real, living proof that with enough hard work  — or apparently, just plain luck, which some seeming layabout never fails to claim was how they achieved success — you could reach what seemed impossible to me at the time.

Well, note to my past self, and all of you readers (HI MY DEAR SNARKEES) out there who was like lil’ old me, especially to those students aspiring for strings of A’s: it IS possible to achieve your dreams — possible, but not promised, and I guess therein lies the problem — so believe in it. Try your best, and NO this does not necessarily mean your hardest, go out there and do it, then after all is done sit back and pray, take a step away and hope. If you’re successful, be happy. Celebrate! Then look forward to the next great part of life. If you’re not, remember this: Dreams are never everything. Especially not when they’re in the past. Because yes, they are in the past now that you know whether you achieved them or not, and right now you’re free to find a new dream and chase it, discover a new meaning for you to make your life out of it. And if you think “Easy for Dreaming to talk, she got what she wanted” and “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,”  I DO happen to know what I’m talking about, and NO, I happen to not have gotten what I wanted. I wanted a perfect 10A+, now I have only 9 of them, and one A.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking (“It’s just one measly A+ off the mark!” and “That dream is insignificant”) and YES, I purposely utilized my sharp wit in a manner different from my usual snarks just to make this point clear to you, ESPECIALLY you readers with broken dreams who completely understandably aren’t moving on so well from your disappointment. I understand, I really do, because that dream meant a lot to me too, and it was broken, not completely, but still broken. And to even the best, most empathetic of you, I know that you’ll be feeling that in the end it’s irrelevant, in the end I’m still the same as I would be even if I had fulfilled my dreams properly, I’m still chasing after scholarships and thinking about how I want to contribute myself and the rest of my life to the world.

In the end, life still goes on. Life, and what you choose to make of it.

Readers with no broken dreams or at least no bitter feelings of failure, bear with me a paragraph longer; readers with, keep reading this properly, because damn I did not type this just so that you can simply skim through and not let it help you in some way to feel better about yourself and happier about your life. If you think my basically telling you that even though your dreams were relevant once, before they weren’t broken, they aren’t anymore and is insignificant now, realize that I told myself this. Realize that you would have been telling me this if my blog entry had been about my one missed A+ and how much I failed to reach it. Reread the above most recent paragraphs and note exactly where you’d be telling me hey, cool down, it doesn’t matter any more, you still did a great job, now move on, don’t fixate on this, don’t let it ruin your life for you, it’s not worth being miserable about life for.

Now be strong and do the brave thing; do what I did, and tell this to yourself. Tell this to yourself in regards to your broken dreams. And I’m not going to  ask if you can do it, because that wasn’t the purpose of this wildly off-topic venture — I wasn’t trying to get back at you for belittling (yes: ‘belittling’, because I know that’s what you fell I’m doing towards your hurt feelings and your broken dreams, and I’m trying to show you NO AND I UNDERSTAND.) my dreams, as you no doubt did when I revealed the above. I’m truly, seriously asking you to not be so hard on yourself, to view yourself the way you did me, to allow yourself to admit you aren’t a failure and move..on. You’ll soon see it does not matter now, even when it mattered before and again I repeat, you’re free to chase another dream, free to get another “great” in a different, better way than you thought. Don’t you feel liberated? I did.

And hey, later I realized that even if I failed to achieve my goals, I’m not a failure. There’s something I won, no wait, not won, something that I taught myself — and if you did as I asked above, you taught it to yourself too, which you never could have before. It’s resilience, what you taught yourself, that’s what it is.

And as I mentioned above, I’m still the same as I would have been if my dreams were fully fulfilled, still just as good. Still chasing after scholarships, still living my holidays and trying to sort out packed schedules, still chasing after an even greater dream..you get the idea. And this thing I taught myself, this resilience, will help me through it all.

That makes it more valuable, doesn’t it? Come on, say it doesn’t and my inner snarker’s leveling a sword of made of sharp words in your direction for lying.It doesn’t make up for my broken dreams. Merely.. replaces it, shall we say? And I hope, for your sake, for your happiness, for all the great things you’ll ever be, it’ll be the same for you.

…wow. What great block of self-help text did I unwittingly conjure? I guess I know at least half of what I’ll talk about in my speech scheduled for Monday. What on earth am I talking about, you ask? Well, snarkees (there’s no need for distinctions between you readers now, as that bit of motivational text is now firmly wrapped up), if you’ll recall, I was talking about (re)scheduling the busiest week of my life. Yeah, I got carried away too. And all I wrote isn’t even going to help with that Monday speech, because in lieu of scheduling the next few days, I decided to be a cunning old snake and eliminate the word ” Monday” from “speech”, or  “speech” from “Monday” now, it would seem. What I meant was that I decided to not give the speech on Monday, for fear of screwing up and/or overloading myself with all the other events I have to prepare for.

This is also the day I have to reclaim my Niexter Young Writer’s Award for Best Poem, but you can read about how I dealt with the insane strain it would have put on my schedule by getting the services of a courier here.

Tuesday, 16th April 2013 : my MARA 2013 scholarship interview day. An event I had considered as one of the more important ones in my life, except that it wasn’t an interview, and who knows, it might end up as less important than I thought, whichever way you looked at it. I explain more in my entry concerning  MARA stage 1 interview experience.

Wednesday, 17th April 2013 : go through one last driving lesson before the driving testThe last bit of preparation I’ll ever have before the JPJ test. In case you’re a cross-boundary reader, or are ignorant of the Malaysian driving education system, the JPJ test is the final test for you take, the passing of which gives you the right to your driver’s license. As retaking it means forking out another RM150, I’d much prefer to pass, thanks.

Thursday, 18th April 2013 : do the JPJ test. If you’ve forgotten what this is, reread the above. If you haven’t, let’s all pop the big question to me later, since I know you’re all wondering it: did I pass the test and get the driver’s  license, or did I fail abysmally, cry, fork out another RM150 and do it all over again?

Nice to see you all have so much confidence in my driving skills. It’s fair, I suppose, I myself never did anyway. Regardless, you can read how my JPJ driver’s test went.

Friday, 19th April 2013: my UEM scholarship interview day. Holy — three interviews for three different scholarships in one week??? And all of them spread out at “convenient” venues that means it’s too near for me to book a hotel room to stay over the night before, but is too far to contemplate getting up at any time after the crack of dawn? That’s getting to be a little too much, even for the workaholic that I’m just suspecting I might possibly be. Sadly, beggars can’t be choosers, so I’ll have to bear with the interview days, and try to reschedule the other things planned for this week– which led to the Monday speech being shifted, as I’d mentioned.

I then thought, as I penned this latest appointment in my journal the day before my twin’s interview on Saturday (re: see above), that this was surely it…

..NOT. Really, I fancied myself genre-savvy enough to know that when you think something’s settled, it rarely ever is.

Saturday, 20th April 2013 :  attend the Hari Anugerah Cemerlang at school and receive trophy and ovation. Translated literally, ‘hari anugerah cemerlang’ is Day of Awards for Excellence. It’s like the Cambridge Excellence Awards Day, I guess, where they give students of all forms prizes in the form of trophies and certificates (as well as honor. Never forget the honorfor being first, second, third in their year, for getting the highest mark in a subject, and for getting straight A’s, but since last year the number of award recipients at school has swelled so much that the HAC is for everything purely academic. My high school has a different ovation day for those excellent in extra-curricular fields now. SMKBJ deserves a tip of the hat, I say!

Actually, the trophies I’d gotten from attending these HACs over the years have been gathering dust in a black plastic bag, as I didn’t know what to do with them. I remember last year pondering whether the time it took to attend it last year should have been used on studying for my then-upcoming mid-years…but I’m a permanent holiday from high school this year, now that I’ve finished form 5, and besides, this awards ceremony is different for the mere fact that it recognizes me and my peers as ex-students who have all achieved excellent results and are now returning as the glorious faces of the school’s past success, ready to inspire the rest of our juniors — or something like that. You get the sentiment; it’s not everyday you graduate high school and get hailed for that — employers these days are asking for at least a degree, I hear. Note that no offense is meant to any party out there who might be offended, I’m just stating the news.

Update: this might also be the day I go ice-skating with some hopefully lifelong friends (some attending the same ceremony!) at Sunway Pyramid. No promises made, but plans are being construed. If it happens, there Will Be An Entry, but if not, you’ll hear about it.

And that’s it, for now. (breathes a sigh of relief) I’m sure you all must be tired just hearing about my week. Now imagine living it. Ah well, it’s my life, I’ll live it. Can’t very well go and live yours, can I. So long as there’s no other plans, I’ll surv—

–wait, wait. I am more genre savvy than that, I am not going to fall for that same fate-authored gun on the wall again.

Why do I get the bad feeling that I’m going to end up updating this with a new appointment scheduled in somewhere?

Update: ‘cos I did. See above.

So what do my dear snarkees think about the week that’s been inadvertently planned for me? Thoughts about the distinct benefits an awards ceremony that might be held to encourage other students to imitate their high-achieving peers? Or how about the little bit of self-help inserted in between Monday and Tuesday, in a manner of speaking — how it made you feel, any experiences of broken dreams you’d like (or should I say be willing) to share, or simply telling this dreamer whether it helped you in any way? It takes a lot of work to shut the inner snarker up, so obviously the topic means a lot to me; don’t fear ridicule.Do say something, even if it’s just to say that Dreaming you dolt, shut up, I’ve moved on already. As for those aspiring high achievers who want to know the latest study tips, interview experiences, etc, look around this blog and especially this entry for the rest of the helpful (blog-promoting?) links or failing that, you can contact me through the various social media and/or email links I’ve left lying around.

Uh-oh, my phone is ringing.. I only ever get important appointments scheduled that way, or through email. Excuse me — and don’t forget to comment!–while I see what’s cropped up now…

Of flowery explosions and wacky Malaysia

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind; so instead of taking each others’ eyes out, how ’bout I get you a new pair of specs instead?” –Dreaming Human

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Malaysians leaving flowers at the Philippines embassy. Embassy, pick your favorite.

There are many things about my country that is considered unique (replace this with bizarre / cool / amazing / predictable / just downright crazy / all of the above, as is deemed appropriate), but I think this one takes the cake of Malaysia’s uniqueness..or at least a very large bite of it.

And here I’m not talking about the food (although yes, the kuih lapis I had this morning was absolutely heavenly, oh sorry, did you want some?) or about the cultural melting-pot, the super-friendly attitude my fellow Malaysians exhibit to foreigners or even the three-month holiday most secondary-school leavers embark on before starting college. Oh no, I’m talking about something else entirely.

I’m talking about the fact that we Malaysians can, and actually choose to, fight fire.. with flowers.

That’s right, folks, historically when things turn ugly and homemade human rubbish hits the fan, the media goes wild, the Americans have tea, still others produce their own unmentionables, but Malaysians go out prove that we’re all exceptionally, decently mad and leave flowers on  the opposing side’s doorsteps.

To any poor dears who are actually attempting to follow this but have not the faintest clue what I’m talking about, you can read about what we’re calling the Ops Bunga — my inner snarker would like to inform you it’s transliterated to Operation Flowers, and is giggling maniacally as we read while chanting “Flower Power!” — in the link provided above. The short, over-simplified (I’m serious) version goes something like this:

  • a claimant to the Filipino sultanate has had his militants invade Malaysian shore
  • the militants / invaders — oh wait, they’re officially terrorists now! And here we thought that only the world’s biggest superpower would have to face these scary things we call terrorists.. Anyway, they set up an ambush in a direct snub to the police-extended deadline for the armed group to leave without repercussion. They killed two  policemen in the ambush and left both my country and the Philippines in an awkward fix that’s slowly — if minimally; small comfort there, I’m sure  —  turning bloody.
  • …fingers are inevitably pointed by keyboard warriors and known figures alike, heroes are proudly made and heartrendingly lost, sides come together and turn against each other and as the presidents do damage control and the military launches air assaults to end it once and for all..
  • some members of the Philippines’ public decided to convene in front of the Malaysian embassy there to show their protest of the way the country is managing the standoff. 

Credits go to them for it being peaceful affair. However, the fact that Malaysia initially tried to prevent bloodshed in the first place seems to have escaped their memory, while certain quarters remember it all too well and now call us soft-hearted, weak, ineffective etc., when I’m sure most civilised humans would agree upon more fitting terms like ‘merciful’ or at least the all-encompassing ‘diplomatic’.

I mean, come on, who’ll be the last one snarking when this fiasco is over? Certainly not the trigger-happy people who would jump into battle at the slightest provocation.

But enough about that. My fellow Malaysians have proved that they are a peace-loving bunch who’d rather look around and smell the flowers — quite literally — than descend into a free-for-all squabble meant only for experts on those touchy-feel-y issues concerning ancient rights and obscure treaties.My friends, I have seen the future, and ironically my vision consists of a History textbook: History of Malaysia, let it be oh-so-creatively titled (can you tell when I’m snarking?). And in a particular page in it I see this block of text:

“EVIDENCE THAT MALAYSIA IS A PEACEFUL AND DIPLOMATIC NATION”

(historians, alternately insert whatever official-sounding, textbook appropriate title here)

  • [various dates]:mention the whole got-Independence-by-diplomacy stuff, plus the successful-protest-of-Malayan-Union and whatever else should be put in here; hey, don’t look at me like that, it’s only natural History becomes a vague mammoth for post-SPM students still enjoying their holiday blues–
  • May 2013: in response to a protest carried out by the some Philippines, the public leaves bouquet after bouquet of flowers at the Philippine embassy as a gesture of love and goodwill towards their fellow Suluk countrymen, as appreciation for their fallen policemen, as their show for solidarity and peace, and — 

Alright, so I’m not cut out to write a textbook — yet. Still, you get the idea : what  transpired in Ops Bunga really made a mark on me, and should leave a mark in history even, because everywhere we look these days, the world’s fraught with war or some semblance of it; looking at the way the Lahad Datu standoff is going right now, and in places like Afghanistan or  Korea, even the US when you consider the random gunmen..Everyone’s scared, every side wants to look out for themselves, so much that we insist on giving back exactly what hell the enemy gives us; we go tit for tat. Gandhi’s words mean less than naught.

But then suddenly my lovably wacky, cracked nation decided to change that by bombarding the other side not with bombs but with pretty, fragrant flowers.

Granted, it’s a small step, but a significant one nonetheless — at least, that’s what the there’s-still-hope-for-humanity side in everyone would like to believe, I’m sure. To quote the poet Max Ehrmann, “for all its lies, sham and drudgery, it’s still a beautiful world.”

For all its political finger-pointing, its fluid race/culture-dependent allegiance and its other faults, it’s still beautiful, peaceful, loving Malaysia.

So here goes, let’s all #prayforsabah, and for this nation to keep up the peace. God knows, the world needs it; me and you, we all do.

Now excuse me while I toy with the idea of bombarding people I dislike (not that there’s any, I say with a straight face) with flowers. The look of dumb shock and bemusement I should be receiving seems sweet enough a revenge.