2016, unbowed unbent unbroken

I’ve tried to make it a point for the last two years to do a recap of the year that was, no matter how busy I am. Last year I was frantically throwing everything together and had hit the Publish button just before I was about to head out for the festivities. This year I find that I’m not exactly time-poor but energy-poor. I am exhausted.

In my young life I have had to witness and overcome the divorce of my parents, been bullied for most of primary school and received a death threat in Form 4. In 2009, I relocated my entire life to Australia at the tender age of 17 while attending my first all-girls school, lived with 100 other girls in boarding, on top of studying my little butt off for the HSC. Most recently, I battled throughout my five year long law and business degree riddled with poor decision-making and feelings of inadequacy (not “smart” enough to get through this). Yet I would still say 2016 has been one of the hardest years of my life. I would rather relive almost any one of those other rough moments. Yes bring on that BBus/LLB again in exchange for this pain.

It is not by any stretch of the imagination that I say I have had a “difficult” life. I have a really amazing and loving family and close network of friends who have and continue to support me. In fact, it is during these rough times that they have really come through for me. I am for the most part, healthy. I have a home and I have love. Lots of it. But for reasons that were beyond my control (and reasons I won’t get into right now), I spent a lot of this year angry, upset, anxious and frustrated. Days where I was completely defeated, work which really tested my limits, nights where I felt completely alone, events or social gatherings that I felt like I simply just could not attend. If you are reading this and I have abandoned our relationship this year through excluding myself or by being emotionally unavailable, I am sorry but I just couldn’t. In 2017 I hope to be better to myself and to you, if you will let me.
Despite a running theme of feeling helplessness, I had a lot of good happen to me this year also and the point of these recaps is to remember the good and let go of the bad.

Made it home for Chinese New Year and then some
You never realise how tough it is to be away from home during Chinese New Year until the night before where the whole family is having reunion dinner together. I grew up in Malaysia, at home, with a crazy loving family on both sides that go all out with eating, drinking, gambling and in general, are just especially kind and tender towards one another during this period. We throw big parties, have intimate conversations with loved ones, treat ourselves after a long hard slog of a year. It’s the most incredible festive season. I am really grateful that after missing it for two years (once was in Sweden, once was working in Sydney with no annual leave) that I was able to make it in 2016. In 2017, I will be missing it again but I hope to recreate some of the joy of Chinese New Year with friends and some of my extended family here. I really can’t complain though, I have since been back home this year another couple of times as well.

First full-time job
I was told to relax and that the first job is always the hardest hunt but that once you’re in (the workforce), you’re in. I didn’t take that advice and definitely put (unnecessary) pressure and (unrealistic) expectations on myself but the hard work paid off and my first job at a public relations agency turned out to be incredibly rewarding and I learnt so much in a short amount of time. I had a great team, great mentors that I’m still in contact with and lots of laughs which balanced out client pressure, late nights and crazy deadlines. Still, I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything.

Ate like a king
No matter what, I always seem to eat well. For my birthday this year I ate three degustations (Automata, Tetsuya’s, Sepia) and one ‘kind of fancy’ (ha) meal at Ester, all in one week. I also had a lot of amazing home cooked meals this year, prepared either by myself or loved ones.

Dined Out
Chaco Bar
Margan
Flower Drum
The Century (claypot crab with glass noodles in particular)
Belly Bao x438294024
Saint Peter (brunch and dinner)
Dewakan
Hakkasan

Home Made
Fish tacos with seaweed
Spaghetti bolognese (slowly rekindling my love for Italian food)
Chicken skewers on the BBQ
Tuna steak
Steamboat
Avocado and crackers

Cousin sister got married
When I found out my cousin Steph was getting married, I immediately burst into tears because I was so overwhelmed and so happy for her. Her destination wedding at Waiheke Island marked my first trip to New Zealand and also my paternal family’s first overseas trip together in a long time, although we were missing a few key people. I’ve always looked up to Steph as an older sister so being able to be there at all of the picturesque locations of the most important weekend of her life, was incredibly special to me.

Moved jobs
As you might have suspected from the past tense above, I have since moved on to a different company and a different industry. It’s early days still but I have received a lot of warm and genuine welcomes plus excellent mentorship already. The interesting areas and new challenges of this role are what excites me about 2017.

Explored Australia – Nelson Bay, Hunter Valley, Newcastle, Canberra, Yarra Valley, Melbourne (twice!), Bowral
I travelled a lot this year within Australia. It’s a huge change for me when I’ve probably spent the majority of the last 8 years firmly rooted in Sydney CBD. This doesn’t even include mini day trips to places situated just outside of Sydney (Scarborough Hotel, West Head, Newport, Watson Bay) or the hikes I was able to do in Summer (Spit to Manly, Taronga Zoo). Australia is beautiful and now that I’ve been a bit around NSW, I’m excited and hopeful to do more interstate travel in 2017.

Travelled abroad – Germany, Croatia, England, New Zealand
I was also lucky enough to visit Europe again and meet up with a couple of old friends from my Swedish exchange days. Berlin and Split/Trogir were new destinations for me and vastly different to what I saw on my last trip to Europe. It’s always exciting to tick off new cities and countries but I’m more glad that the time spent there was of quality and especially with great company.

Worked abroad – London
As part of a passport program at my old job, I was able to extend my travels to spend more time in London during the last leg of the trip. Even though it was only for a short amount of time, I learnt a lot and met some very intelligent and interesting people at our global headquarters. When you’re in a big city like London, you can’t help but feel that you’re sitting on top of the world and the work I saw our team there doing was definitely on the larger scale of things. It can be a tad overwhelming and intimidating but I would love to one day work at another major city in the world too.

Best friend got married
The main purpose of the Euro-galavant, another wedding for 2016! This time it was Grace’s wedding, Grace being one of my oldest friends. We met in Standard 2 when we were both eight years old and I’m fairly sure hours of my adolescent life were spent talking on the phone with her about anything and everything between. I was also able to catch up with Hillary as we were both bridesmaids at a very rustic and honest affair at a refurbished barn located 30 minutes outside of Newcastle.

Wrote more and less at the same time
Due to some of the hardship this year, I lost a lot of interest in writing. The blog this year certainly has not been updated as regularly. At the same time I am still building up my portfolio and happy that this year was the year I started dabbling more into travel articles, which is also how I had some of the interstate opportunities.

Learned more about love
Through everything above, both good and bad, I had a very special kind of guidance and support without which the hard times would have been impossible and the good times, no where near as sweet. As I mentioned above, I also had a lot of help from family and friends who have stuck by me, listened to every rant, consoled every tear and stayed with me in my darkest hours. So maybe the running theme of 2016 isn’t so much helplessness but overcoming it with love.

I don’t know if I accomplished any of my resolutions for last year. And right now, I don’t have any for 2017 other than to be kinder to myself and more loving to those around me. Seeing 2016 off will be like emerging bloody, dirty and worn from the end of a very long drawn out battle. But I need to remember that I am still here, still ready to take on the challenges of life. I hope for a much better 2017 for everyone.

Happy New Year

samanthawxlow

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