Provision

Life, it seems, is this odd collection of events, jumbled together in seemingly random combinations.

Just when I think I’m finally about to get a breather and play catch-up with things I’ve been neglecting for too long, something new springs up and my attention is diverted again.

For once, I actually managed to get my work done way ahead of schedule. And so I thought I’d have this considerable amount of time to get the home organised and perhaps, even be able to indulge in some hobbies for awhile.

But alas, something evil lurks about in the background. Well, somewhat.

I get a new ad-hoc request for work. My son falls sick and has to skip school.

My life is topsy turvy once again. Goodbye, plans.

I ought to get back to bed soon. I fell asleep not intending to earlier, and then was awakened twice in between all that by my son, who is currently running a fever.

I had a shower after we took his temperature and gave him meds. And now I’ve just finished having a midnight snack (way past midnight, really) of air fried frozen nuggets and lettuce with Kewpie sesame dressing. Listened to some new music via Facebook and indulged my curiosity for a bit in the singing couple, Us The Duo, who are currently doting over their firstborn infant.

Ah, why do so many women look so gorgeous post delivery and during the first year of their newborn’s life? I remember looking worse than crap and feeling pretty much the same too. I was stumped on what to wear, and struggled to locate breastfeeding friendly clothes from my wardrobe (didn’t really want to spend unnecessarily on nursing wear, so tried my best to use what I have). My hair was pretty much in a bun most of the time, unless I finally chopped more than half of it off in an attempt to simplify grooming (which I clearly had no time to do, especially in that first year of parenthood).

I guess I don’t expect to feel any better when #2 makes his/her entrance into the world. Only good thing is, as my ob/gyn says, I have the benefit of experience now. So I know what to expect, more or less. Ha.

International Women’s Day has just passed lately and being a Work-At-Home Mum (WAHM), there was no employer to surprise me with flowers or delightful treats at my (non-existent) work desk. In fact, I spent last Friday mostly working in a silent home while being grateful that I actually could find the time to work because my son could attend preschool that day as his flu seemed to be getting better. (It has since morphed into a cough and fever. Bah.)

Anyway, social media reminded me through the many posts of others that this significant day was being commemorated. So it made me think for a moment about my womanhood and how it has been so far.

In some ways, it’s sad to think that I had to choose to become a WAHM because my former employer had no options available for me to explore in terms of more flexible work arrangements. Perhaps it might have been different for my career had I been able to remain a journalist in some form or measure while raising my young son. But that was not to be.

So ultimately, being a Mum came with certain choices that needed to be made. Essentially, this is part of being a woman too. As much as men sometimes like to belittle the female gender saying we harp too much on gender equality and all that, the truth is sometimes that we do have a different set of life circumstances dealt to us just because we are female. And we do need every bit of support we can get from others (men included) to help make it possible for us to become the best people we can be. And to not let being a woman become a hindrance in any way.

Just my two cents.

On another matter, I am marvelling at how God is graciously providing for us during this pregnancy so far. I am thankful for a uni friend who so happens to be also pregnant at this time (our EDDs are like just weeks apart, with me being in the lead). We are both also expecting our second child, so that makes our experiences pretty similar in nature. This makes me feel not so alone in my journey.

I remember I had a similar situation last time during my first pregnancy with Jamie. A friend I knew from my days in iBridge (a Christian ministry to support young adults who are just entering the workforce) and I were pregnant with EDDs that were also just weeks apart.

It was cool. We shared so much with each other throughout our pregnancies, and we also discussed so much together throughout the first year of our parenthood experience. (However, things changed rapidly moving from then onwards, and we haven’t been as much in touch as before – but that is a tale for another time).

These are just little stuff, but it really does help.

Got plenty more things to be worried about this pregnancy (costs of healthcare being one), but I’m trying my hardest to take things one step at a time.

Meanwhile, I am also thinking a lot about whether I am doing enough to bring out the potential in my eldest child. I have seen him grow so much in the past few months, and I’ve never been prouder. But I also know there’s going to be a lot of changes ahead for him. I wonder whether we will be able to help him navigate through this season well.

Guess I have to trust that God will provide for us in every way, be it in terms of physical needs or even the emotional/mental/spiritual aspects of this part of our family’s journey. He has been faithful all throughout past seasons, of course, so I have literally no excuse to believe that things would be any different now.

(Small note: The image you see at the start of the post is my son’s masterpiece of arranging magnetic music notes on my old music board which my Mum kept since my preschool days lol).

Oh, here we are

It’s 2019 and I have been absent from the blogging scene for quite some time now. And regrettably so, too. So much has happened, and it could have been stuff I blogged about and shared with you. But I didn’t.

Everything always feels so haphazard here. All these disconnected thoughts and ideas. The good intentions that remain just that.

Maybe it’s like this for me because on the Internet, everyone’s got their public profile so carefully polished such that it makes me feel that whatever I have to offer is so meagre and pointless. Like nobody is going to read it or care about it.

But every time those kind of sentiments engulf me, I ask myself again, why do I keep a blog? Is it just to collect thousands upon thousands of followers? Do I write to inspire? Am I doing so to make myself feel good or to solicit some form of validation from others to convince myself that my writing is legit and of sound quality?

It’s hard to write blog posts, perhaps, because writing is my trade. If I let a typo slip through the cracks, it feels like it completely blots out my credibility as a writer. So I keep putting off posting anything till I feel I have something worthwhile to say and the time and space to put it down in proper words.

Thanks to this ridiculous tendency to self-censor what I write though, I end up not posting ANYTHING most of the time. And that’s terribly sad.

I’d like to try blogging more often. I would like to say once a day, at least, whatever the content might be, but that feels like it’s a goal I’m going to break within less than a week. I don’t know. I feel like such an indisciplined bum.

I need to write to improve. I also perhaps need an outlet to say stuff that I feel matters.

I don’t really have any Insta-worthy pics to put up though. And no revolutionary topics to bring to the fore. I only have these tiny thoughts that bubble up from inside me. And this desire to bring cheer and encouragement to someone else who needs it.

I’m into my 30’s and I do realise that probably almost half of my life may have already passed me by. I don’t know how much impact I can have, neither do I know whether the rest of the years I have left will be enough for me to get good at all those things I should have worked on earlier in my life.

But perhaps, this year, I will try a bit harder to keep this blogging habit alive. No promises though.

Bucks bunny

Here’s something that has been bothering me lately: Our family’s lack of finances and how it could be better.

I’m no entrepreneur, but now and then, I do entertain thoughts of trying out this or that thing. And thinking, maybe this will help with the finances. Perhaps it could be the breakthrough we need.

And then I sit on the idea and wait.

Or I tell it to my husband, only to get discouraged because so far, he hasn’t ever become too excited about any of the thoughts which I have shared with him.

At other times, I would reflect on my freelance writing career. And then feel bad that it doesn’t quite bring in the kind of income that I had hoped it would.

Where some of these situations might have motivated someone else to take action, for me, it often just discourages me.

I am by no means an Energiser bunny. Even less so a bucks bunny.

Time and again

Ironically enough, it's become extremely hard to write anything that I feel is heartfelt and of significant worth nowadays. I've been feeling so ever since I made writing my official career path, I think.

Funny, isn't it, since you'd think that because you're devoting more time perfecting your craft, you should be better at it and everything should come so much more naturally than it did in the past?

But this is how it's been. Regrettably too, might I add.

I revisited the old, first proper blog I ever wrote, Veritas Project, recently. It surprised me just how differently I used to write. So uninhibited. So candid.

In some ways, I wish I was back at that place and time of my life, and that I had utilised those moments more fully to revel in the emotions of that season more, to write more wholeheartedly. Because now that I am where I'm at in life, here in my 30's, there's a great difference in the things I'd write and how I'd write them.

Yet, of course, I'm not discounting the value of experience and where it has gotten me. I write now through the lens of someone who has seen more, who realises what she is capable of, and who now knows so many more precious things about the world and the seasons and rhythms of life.

Time and again, though, I keep returning to this point of contemplation that I need to put forward a more genuine version of myself whenever I write. Particularly when I blog for a wider audience, like I do here.

The difficulty here lies in the fact that having been a journalist in the not-so-distant past, my writing disciplines have been shaped to habitually involve the practice of self censorship. We do it all the time in the newsroom, although the reasons for doing so may differ each time. The words we allow to escape our keyboard are filtered: tapered down in its depth of feeling, politically correct, shifted and sorted to take on a supposedly neutral form, appealing to the average reader. Which is, in reality, probably no one.

Here in Blogdom, everyone is writing nowadays to garner as much Likes as possible. Building a band of followers that will faithfully swallow whatever you put out for them, just because they feel like you know them. You are like them.

For that is what is being peddled. Writers putting on a front of being an expert and knowing something special. Teasing readers with minimal prose, abandoning the art of it all, and replacing it with GIFs, memes, haphazardly compiled lists of things that nobody needs but everybody identifies with and wants to know about. A place where words are money, so make as much as you can, with as little beauty infused into those sentences. Because, what is the point in poetry? It is unnecessary and underappreciated.

Then there are those writers' circles, those exclusive associations formed amongst writers on social media platforms. Where writers rant and rave about the perils of the realms of publishing and lament the naivety of rookies seeking their way into the fellowship. Spouting advice like, "If your writing is rejected by publishers, it's because it's worthless. Please move along".

I somehow cannot fit into this landscape.

As it is, I already have trouble believing that I am a writer, and even more so calling myself one. And all this… this massive community of successful people before me; corporations who make profits from the words crafted by others; the formality of it all; the formatting of pages, columns, fonts; the rigours of being part of the publishing process… all of this feels stifling to me.

I want to go back to that spot where simplicity and freedom of expression were. That quiet corner in the middle of nowhere that I could sit at for as long as I needed to, use as many paragraphs and pages as I wanted, and express precisely how I feel without fear of judgment or ruthless editing.

Where it was just me and you, my darling reader.

I still want to tell my story. But (and this may be hard to believe, coming from a person with a history like mine) I am having trouble finding the right words.

Awkward alien

Image source: Flexo

Becoming a Work At Home Mum (WAHM) is a double whammy. Not only are both those roles tough to navigate, there is this additional problem of becoming an awkward alien. 

What do I mean by that? 

Well, basically everyone else in your life who isn’t a mother and/or isn’t living a homebound lifestyle (which is probably like 90% of your social circle, if you’re in your 30’s like me) will be unable to understand you and the things you go through on a daily basis. This transforms you, essentially into an alien. And this then leads to some pretty awkward situations and conversations. 

To give you an example, here are some questions and/or comments I had to field lately: 

“So you guys don’t eat out much anymore nowadays, right?” 

– Hmm, while that is the truth, what this question reeks off is the underlying assumption that because I am now at home, therefore I must be cooking all the time. And also, since we have less household income, that we would probably want to be frugal and eat in seclusion, thus morphing into kataks di bawah tempurung.

“So when are you going to go back to work?”

– Thing is, I am working. Just not in a way that most people would comprehend since I don’t have fixed hours or fixed clients (except for one that I have been doing work for since last year). Read: I freelance. It’s not much compared to what I used to do in my old full time position, but I like to keep my career alive and options open. AND I’d like the freedom to be around to raise my son rather than let someone else do it for me. 

“Ah, so it helps you keep your mind active lah, gives you something to do.” (In response to finding out that I am taking on freelance work wherever I can.)

– I guess you can’t blame a person who hasn’t really spent day after day at home at all hours, because they would not have realised just how much there is to do at home. Even if I don’t come up with a list of things to do, or my son doesn’t throw a tantrum or mess up something and give me things to clean up after, there will ALWAYS be things to do at home. My home is my office, and whenever you are in the office, your working mode will be on. Which pretty much means I am almost always working on something and the chores never end. This isn’t even taking into consideration my actual freelance work. And, the fact is that just managing the household requires plenty of brainwork, because instead of doing it mindlessly, if you are a mature, educated adult, you will always want to find ways to improve things at home, be it the efficiency and speed of accomplishing chores, the organisation of furniture, storage solutions or other things. 

There was also this incident where I was having a conversation with two other ladies around my age. The two of them were going on and on about how kids are like this or that, citing examples of nieces and nephews and children of other friends. Perhaps it was them trying too hard to identify with me, the only one in the conversation who was a mother. Mmm. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about young children since I have one myself, but there is an invisible boundary somewhere, which once crossed, makes it uncomfortable and unnatural to carry on discussing this topic. It is especially so when the people keeping the topic going are those who don’t have kids in the first place. 

Just to clarify, being a WAHM doesn’t make me hate all these other more normal and sane people in my life (yes, I’m probably getting more and more queer with each passing day, if I have not yet morphed into an oddball) . But it does make it feel like a large chasm just opened up between us. And that makes it a bit harder, though not impossible, to connect. 

Well, I guess I should apply the same rules of conversation as a WAHM that I had used in the past: Always seek to understand more than to be understood; to ask about the other person and to care for them, rather than to expect them to be concerned for you. 

And then, all will be fine, and no one will suspect what an awkward alien I really am. 

It’s just that… it would be nice if everyone in general understood the WAHM situation better so less misunderstandings and explanations would need to be provided. 

Of being a storyteller

Someone asked me recently what it’s like to be journalist.

He said he was young and still figuring out what to do for his career and was curious about the profession.

Since I do actually love my job, I did my level best to tell him in a few sentences what my work was like. But looking back, I think those brief descriptions I tried to muster weren’t quite as adequate as I’d like them to be.

So I’d like to try, through this blog post, to put down in words what being a member of the media really is like.

But before I proceed, here’s a small disclaimer: this account of my experiences as a journo may differ quite significantly from that which others have faced, as I have taken the road less travelled, so to speak. I never did study journalism at university (although I had really wanted to, but that’s a story for another day), nor did I start off my foray into the working world as a writer. It’s taken some time to get to where I am today, and even this, I feel, is not quite the final destination I’m meant to arrive at yet. So take these words in, but do so with the awareness that I am probably just a rookie, and am still learning.

Now, let’s begin.

To inform and empower 

If I were to sum up what the primary duty of a journalist is, I’d say that it is tell stories. However, there is something that differentiates us journos from other writers such as the authors of a best selling novels: we tell stories that are based on facts, rather than fiction.

Aha. I’m sure some of you out there may be just about to scream bloody murder since apparently not all journos adhere to this principle very well. Yes, well, I’ll admit though that we do get our facts wrong at times (we are but human after all), but what I’m saying is that this is what we aspire to achieve. I cannot speak for those who deliberately twist facts though.

The other equally essential part of our role as reporters is that we are there to educate and inform the public.

If you put these two principles together, you basically would have the gist of what our job is about.

Now, let’s talk briefly about the implications of carrying out the two core duties of reporting which I have already mentioned.

Irregular routines  and random introductions

I’m not sure what other people actually prefer when it comes to work schedules, but I’m guessing most would like some degree of certainty. A predictable kind of routine.

Well, as journalists, we are often subjected to disruptions to our routine. Some new development could crop up on any given day, and with one word from the editor, you’d have to drop everything else you are doing and focus on getting that one particular story (usually of the breaking news variety) out.

On other so-called normal days, we still face a degree of unpredictability in our job in the sense that, for instance, we are handed out assignments just a day before. So, for example, I’d be told today that I have to attend an event in Putrajaya for a certain company’s product launch tomorrow.

Well, if you’re like me and enjoy it whenever a bit of variety is thrown into the work routine mix every so often, then I guess journalism would suit you fine.

Another thing worth mentioning is that you’ll have to get used to going out solo for most assignments. Getting a photographer to come with you is a bonus. But even then, you’re likely to only rendezvous at the venue. This is because both you and the photog would need to each have your own mode of transport to keep your own set of appointments on that same day.

Meeting new people all the time is a given, so although it’s not impossible to be an introvert and hold a job as a journalist, you do need a certain degree of boldness in going up to people and getting acquainted. And being unafraid to ask for whatever it is you need to get the job done, as bizarre as it may be. Hehe.

Writing it right 

And, of course, you cannot leave writing skills out of the equation when it comes to journalism. At the end of it all, no matter what traffic you had to endure to get across town to get your story, however tough it was coaxing someone to talk about something they’d rather not, regardless of what hour of the day it may be, you will still have to sit yourself down in front of a screen to hash out a story to be sent off to the editor’s lair.

Mind you, your job isn’t altogether done even though your draft has landed successfully in the editor’s queue.

You will next need to brace yourself for the brutal dissection of your prose and the interrogations that are likely to follow suit.

Editors (bless their dear souls, it is a tough job that they hold) will often need to ask you tons of follow up questions to clarify what exactly it was that you had meant in the paragraphs you had just crafted.

It may seem rather intimidating at first, especially since you’ll probably feel you had already done your level best to get every possible bit of information you could glean for the assignment. But somehow, mysteriously, horrendously enough, the editor will somehow manage to uncover some stone you had left unturned and ask you about it.

Not sure how other journos felt when faced with this scenario, but I always would get this sinking feeling  in my stomach and this worrisome thought that perhaps my job might be on the line should I be unable to answer my editor’s queries right away.

Well, it’s something to get used to, since it will often happen, but really, the worst that you will typically endure is a harsh scolding, but you’ll normally leave the editor’s desk with your job intact.

Just make sure that you do your best not to repeat whatever mistakes that the editor has called out, and you’ll generally be fine.

While I’m at it, I might as well say something else about writing while on the job. It’s not as much about perfect grammar and sentence structures as you think.

In journalism, it’s more about brevity and logical presentation of facts. I’m referring to news reports in this case. There are other types of writing styles that a journo will need to pick up in the course of his or her duties, of course, but that will require a bit more explaining, and I’ll leave that for another post.

So, in essence, if you have a fairly decent command of the language you’ll be reporting in, and have a functional brain that can think logically and arrange facts into neat, comprehensible sentences that the average man on the street could read and easily understand, then you have generally what it takes to write for the media.

In a nutshell

Well, there you have it, a little glimpse of what it’s like to be a journalist. There’s plenty of other details I could bring up, but so as to not be too overwhelming, these are the basic things you will face. I hope this post will help some of you out there who have been curious all this while about what journalism is really like.

And so as to make my life a little easier, I will probably refer those who ask me about my job to this post in the future. Hehe.

If for some reason you are reading this post and would like to ask me further questions about this profession, please feel free to drop me a comment 😉