10 jobs I’ve had in 10 years

When I was in primary school, I grew up wanting to be a Teacher. Probably because that was one of the only jobs I was exposed to at a young age. When I was in secondary school, some classmates said I looked most like a reporter (perhaps I looked a little reporter-ish with my roundish-square glasses but definitely not anything like Rita Skeeter) but I never thought of becoming one until I did an internship at the local newspaper. When I was in polytechnic, I thought of taking my ACCA (an accounting professional certification) after my accounting diploma and then become a full-fledged accountant. But a 1-year stint in the accounts department made me realize I was not up for that occupation. So here is a list of jobs I’ve had since I first entered the working world at 16, right after my GCE ‘O’ Levels while waiting for entry to tertiary institution.

1. Factory worker

(Temporary) This was my very first job, after I finished my GCE ‘O’ Levels. I joined a factory producing spare parts along with three other friends. The sweetest thing was buying my first mobile phone with my first hard-earned pay.

2. Tutor

(Part-time) The closest to being a teacher. During my polytechnic days, I tutored a primary 4 kid on 3 subjects – English, Maths and Science. It was a rewarding job but can be stressful knowing that the student’s improvement lies in your hands. Her family was very hospitable which made me feel welcomed every time I tutored at their house.

3. Telemarketer

(Temporary) Yeah I was one of those pesky telemarketers from an insurance company. But I wasn’t selling insurance, instead my job was to recruit people to join a team of advisors.

4. Purchasing assistant

(Internship) Assigned to a company producing CDs and electronics for my school internship. The company had originally asked for an accounting assistant from my school but filled up the position with a full-time employee by the time I joined. So I was attached to the purchasing department instead. Perks of the job included getting free CDs of movies before they were up for distribution.

5. Money desk journalist

(Internship) Joined the local paper for an internship shortly after I graduated from polytechnic. I joined the money desk department as I felt it was relevant to what I was learning in poly and keen to learn more about business reporting. This was my first foray into the world of journalism and I truly enjoyed the experience.

6. Accounting executive

(Full-time) Joined a media company finance department. Wanted to make use of my accounting diploma and put into practice what I learned. However I eventually discovered that accounting was not to be my career path.

7. Retail Shop Assistant

(Temporary) The same media company had a subsidiary company with a retail shop selling media-related items and they needed an urgent replacement for one day. I was involved with cashiering duties, assisting with walk-in customers’ enquiries and taking care of the shop for just that one day.

8. Editor

(Contract) In-charge of editing the content for a Ramadan website in SG as part of a yearly Islamic fasting month of Ramadan campaign. Liaising with freelance writers and working with a small team who were as passionate on making the site a beneficial platform for the community. This was one of the best jobs I’ve had. Best moment was interviewing Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a Muslim astronaut from Malaysia who spent a few days of Ramadan in outer space.

9. Assistant production editor

(Full-time) Managed the production of scientific journals in a publishing house research arm. Contrary to the job title, my job scope did not involve any editing to the content of the publication but processes on making the final article suitable for print and online publication.

10. Writer

(Freelance) After my internship with the local paper ended, I continued to write with the paper on a freelance basis up till today. One of the memorable assignments was an overseas one, covering a group of student’s village homestay experience in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. I also write freelance for some online platforms in SG.

* * *

This week I chose point #5 from Anna Fonte for the Weekly Writing Challenge: List Lesson. I didn’t realize it’s been 10 years since I first entered the working world! I didn’t even plan the title this way but I only realized it after listing and writing them down – and it actually fit perfectly to be “10” (jobs) on “10” (years). Anna was right, this list ended up to something more.

“But certainly, editing is what pushes the list over the line into literature. You tricked yourself into thinking you were making a list but SURPRISE! You’ll see you made something much more.” 

It’s been an interesting journey with many life lessons and experiences Alhamdulillah. I shall pat myself on the back for being brave enough to go through these working experiences, regardless of my failures, successes and mistakes. MaashaAllah. I’m still finding my cup of tea, but let me consider that with a cup of tea in hand…

Confessions of a shortie and why I hated netball

So here’s the thing. I’m five foot tall and I have been petite all my life. In other words, I’m short and small-sized – “fun sized” as I like to call it.

My mum and dad are of similar height with each other – medium Asian height, if there’s a term for this – although my dad’s side of the family leans on the shorter side while my mother’s side consists of taller counterparts. No prizes for guessing whose genes I followed. Luckily for me, this has never been an issue in my family. I grew up a happy childhood filled with happy memories children are supposed to have. In primary school, from primary 1 all the way to primary 6, I was always the shortest in my class (I should get an award for this). My 8 – year old self never had any problems with this though, primary school me was always a happy cute bunny where ever I go.

It was only in primary 6, when I was 11 years old that I started to understand the reality of being short and fun-sized. We had an inter-class tournament and my teacher would ask for volunteers to form a netball team among the girls. The best team for every class competes with the other teams. Now the good thing about being small is being lightweight thus possessing the ability to be more agile than others. Which made me generally like physical ed. classes and all sorts of sports as I can run and get away from people pretty fast. So happy cute bunny me put my name in without thinking twice (possibly forgetting the very simple fact that netball players require a certain height to qualify).

And apparently, I was told to be “too short for netball”.

Ouch.

I did the most logically emotional thing every 11-year old does after being told she was too short for netball (okay, maybe just me). Proceed to the nearest washroom and cry my eyes off. And of course, striked off netball from my list of favourite sports. I remember comparing myself to other classmates and wishing to be taller and then asking God to please add some tall genes to my petite being when I grow up. I remember that incident as my first memory of being “rejected” and the first time I expected myself to fit into the “normal-sized people” quorum.

Fast forward to now – some things don’t change. I’m still as cute as a bunny (please don’t puke yet, lol) staying petite as an adult. As a self-proclaimed shortie, there are some things I encounter. Shopping – long skirts and pants always require some altering. You’re always mistaken as a student if you dress casually and have no make-up on. People always call you “cute” which sometimes can be pretty annoying. Sometimes you want to wear black formal looking flats when you have an important work event to attend but you can’t because other people are always towering over you.

But what’s changed is that I don’t expect to fit in into any “normal-sized people” sizes anymore (what’s that anyway?). When I think of that memory, I feel a little silly and now I can laugh at my petite self in all good manners. Obviously netball is not the only sport in town but to my primary school self, it was one of the few sports I knew.

In polytechnic, I discovered my agility to serve me well in another sport which I have come to love – rock climbing. There are some moments in your life where you just know when something is for you. The first time I climbed a rock wall, I knew. That I was meant to be a rock climber. Okay okay dramatic aha-moment announcement aside, here’s why I love climbing rock walls. Because I was lightweight, I was able to carry myself up along the wall easily. Because of my agility, I was able to manoeuver the wall tiles from the bottom to the top with ease. Sure, if you’re a tall rock climber you may reach certain tiles easily when you’re on the wall, but I could always compensate that by being flexible enough to step up a couple of tiles without much difficulty. Rock climbing allowed me to see and use my strengths to my advantage, as well as trained my mind and body to work around my weaknesses.

The point of this story is that I eventually worked around my weaknesses and focused on my strengths. I learned how to sew, so I can alter clothes easily. I learned to dress up well, so I can look more presentable. I learned to accept myself and my flaws – and found myself easily accepting of other people along the way. I learned to love myself and be grateful for all my blessings. Most importantly, I learned that it’s okay to have expectations on something or someone or yourself for that matter but there’s something that goes hand in hand with your expectations –  when an expectation doesn’t meet your standard, expect yourself to let it go.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Great Expectations

A Good Date (Weekly Writing Challenge: Ghosts of December 23rds Past)

December 23rd is actually pretty significant to me.

On 23rd December 2006, my father passed away.

On 23rd December 2012, I got engaged.

On 23rd December 2013, I am a one-year old fiance.

Looking into the future…

On 23rd December 2014, I would have already became a wife.

On 23rd December 2015, perhaps I will be a mother? But I can’t imagine myself as a mother yet and though I love babies and kids in general, the idea of me as a mother terrifies me – for now.

I’ve already written about the December 23rd of 2006 here, and the December 23rd of 2012 here.

I spent 23rd December 2013 pretty ordinarily. I decided to fast my last few days of Ramadhan. I dressed up in a grey long sleeved top and my favorite blue flower skirt with Cath Kidston inspired flower prints. In the morning, I wished my fiance a happy one year engagement-sary. Then, I continued my never-ending wedding errands, liaising with my wedding card designer and friend on the final edits of the card. I also queried a potential printer to send my cards to. I managed to tick off some items in my to-do list.

In the evening, I met up with my best friend who is also my maid-of-honor, for a catch-up over dinner at Old Town White Coffee. She had just came back from holidaying in Europe recently and was ready with goodies from Paris and London. We also exchanged gifts – not because of Christmas since we don’t celebrate it – but because we were both born in December and are just a week apart from each other. After dinner we rushed to the nearest mosque to perform our Maghrib prayers, and I had a few moments of calm as the Imam recited some selawat on Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. We walked and talked a little bit more after that, and then headed back to the direction of our homes shortly after.

It was a beautiful day. Ordinary… and beautiful. 🙂

Weekly Writing Challenge: Ghosts of December 23rds Past

Ignore the Notifications – Go Immerse Yourself In a Book

I get attached to characters.

I’ve been reading the Harry Potter series again and as I came to the end of the Order of Phoenix with Sirius’ death, I can’t help but feel very upset, even if I’ve read that years ago and knew what was going to happen.

I’ve been on a novel-reading frenzy these days; it’s become increasingly difficult for me to sit and read a whole chunk of paragraph from a book without getting distracted by alerts from my smartphone. Without needing to take a picture of something “interesting” as I am in the middle of reading a thrilling scene. Without needing to check “something” I suddenly thought of, or a word I don’t really understand. I used to be able to do this very well – before smartphones came ugh – so I forced myself to be immersed in a book I once enjoyed.

Ahh.. How wonderful it has been to be immersed into a whole different world, the wizarding world through J. K. Rowling’s eyes.

I still and will always love Harry Potter seeing that I just finished book no. 5, which I started re-reading from, and now I’m supposed to be off to the Half-Blood Prince but I can’t find it in my house, so I’m going downwards to the Goblet of Fire.

The experience of reading a book you enjoy is something that can never be captured in photos. Okay, so you can capture someone reading a book and enjoying it and it may turn out to be an awesome photo (bless all amazing photographers out there).

But the feelings that come with it, like Harry’s excitement of being in the stadium watching the Quidditch World Cup, anticipating his on-off relationship with Cho, annoyed as you the reader enjoy a giggle or two as Ron and Hermione banter yet again over random nothings, laughing as Fred and George played yet another of their silly pranks and getting Mrs Weasley all worked up, enjoying the camaraderie of being surrounded by friends (and enemies) in Hogwarts, and getting heartbroken sharing Harry’s pain as his godfather was killed by Bellatrix Lestrange…

These feelings (oh so many of them!), while reading a book – can’t be Instagrammed even if you want to.

I started reading Harry Potter when I was in secondary school, which was 13 years ago. Being with the characters, with their stories and happenings, their lowdowns and happy moments, helped me a great deal then. Many times, it made me feel less alone.

To a certain extent, the characters live through you. Sometimes, I think of the happy and funny moments and smile to myself.

When I think of my favorite books, there’s always a character or two that I will always remember. Non-fiction characters are not real, but they are inspired by real people one way or another.

When you read about them, you read about their feelings and experiences. You feel what they feel.

And that’s something you just can’t snap.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Snapshots

My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 4 – How to Overcome Altitude Sickness

Last week, I shared about my experience climbing up and descending Mount Kinabalu. Today I thought of sharing some tips on overcoming altitude mountain sickness (AMS), which can occur from an elevation of 2,400 m onwards. This post is also in time for this week’s “Weekly Writing Challenge: Dear Abby“. If I were to title this post with a question, it would be “How Can I Overcome Altitude Mountain Sickness?”

AMS can affect anybody, regardless of whether the climber is an expert or beginner. My buddy was not able to continue to the summit due to AMS, hence this would hopefully benefit you climbers out there who are planning for an upcoming expedition.

view of south peak

As Mt. Kinabalu is of 4,095 metres in elevation, you are prone to experience shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and talking at the same time somewhere above 2,400 metres. AMS can be minor or major depending on the individual. In certain cases, it can even be fatal.

Here are some tips taken from my own experience:

1. Water, water, water. Always hydrate yourself!

As the atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, the air density (the number of molecules of both oxygen and nitrogen per given volume) drops. Which means the available amount of oxygen to sustain mental and physical alertness decreases with altitude. So we need to replenish the lack of oxygen by drinking lots of water.

2. Packing the right nutrition is extremely important. (See below paragraph for detailed explanation).

3. Recognize your body’s needs and take frequent breaks

Because of the climate change, you will find yourself out of breath more regularly, especially if you are climbing and talking at the same time. Take frequent breaks so that you will be able to pace out better, and use this time to drink up. Furthermore, take this opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and the scenery around you. The view does get better when you are higher up the mountain.

4. Listen to the rangers and the limits of your body.

[A side story regarding AMS which the ranger had shared with Khadijah; there was a case when a female climber who was climbing with her husband, felt some tightness around her chest and felt nauseous as she was climbing up. She ignored these symptoms and continued on despite experiencing the symptoms more and more. It was a fatal mistake because eventually she collapsed and passed away that very moment. To God we came from and to Him we shall return. The ranger had to carry her body down to base camp…]

nutrition_berries

Nutrition is very important and I believe it helped me a lot despite my inadequate training.

Here are some good foods I ate throughout the climb:

1. Goat’s Milk (Malay: Susu Kambing)

I drank this every night before going to bed, before and throughout (during the overnight rest at Laban Rata). It helps restore your bones and also provide the required calcium you need in your body.

2. Cranberries, Raisins, Figs (Malay: Buah Tin)

These are excellent supplements and energy boosters for during the climb. They provide natural sugars and have the right tinge of sweet and sourness to keep the AMS nausea at bay. [Fun fact: The figs hardened as we got higher due to the pressure and coldness. Interesting, aye?]

“By the fig and the olive…” – At-Tiin, 1

There’s many reasons why it was mentioned in the Quran. It has so many benefits!

3. 100 Plus

This goes without saying. Besides plain water, I had a 500 ml bottle with me which I drank *very sparingly* throughout…

I also kept some Snicker bars but it did not help much as it contributed to my nausea the higher I progressed. Natural sugars are the best.

Hopefully these tips can be beneficial to anyone planning for any upcoming expeditions. Best of luck in reaching that summit!

This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Dear Abby

Summit. (Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue)

“Where are you?” I asked Khadijah, my sole female climbing buddy for the Mount Kinabalu expedition.

“I couldn’t make it up,” Khadijah replied.

“What do you mean?”

“The altitude sickness got to me and I had to climb down halfway. I’ll meet you guys back at the start point.”

My heart sank. Five of us had reached Laban Rata, the mid-point rest house where we were to rest for the night before climbing up to the summit. We were now waiting for the rest of our team members and I was on the phone with her, separated by an altitude of 2,000 metres.

Khadijah went on to explain that she was having breathing problems and felt nauseous at 4 km onwards, and as much as she wanted to continue on, the rangers had advised her to stop. There have been been several cases of climbers meeting a fatal death due to the decreasing oxygen in the increasing altitude so I was thankful that Khadijah was okay.

But this would mean I had to continue the rest of the climb up to the summit without her, as the only girl in my team. I felt upset, scared, and somewhat, alone.

Girlfriend company

Khadijah, or Dja as she is affectionately called, and I first met during a rockclimbing gathering with some friends. She was a friend of a friend, and our similar interest in adventure brought us together. This expedition was our first trip to the mountains together so we had developed a sisterly bond through our trainings.

There were only 2 girls in the team, which meant I depended on Dja for girlfriend company. Our 18-men team had consisted of 13 Malaysians, all guys, and 5 Singaporeans, consisting of Ezriel (who is also Dja’s fiance), Musaddiq, as well as his uncle, affectionately known as Uncle Man. Team captain was Abang Amirul from the Malaysian team.

At the start of Mesilau trail, we had positioned ourselves at different points for safety reasons, seeing that we were outnumbered by the number of guys in the team – me at the front and she at the back. So I was not aware of what was happening until I reached Laban Rata, 3,272 meters up in altitude. By then, there was nothing I could do but wait till the next day when we would reach Timpohon Gate, the end point…

Strength

After finding out about the news, I conveyed it to the rest of my team who was as shocked as I was. Later on I found out from Ezriel that Dja would be spending the night at a place near base camp, alone. I tried to gather as much strength as possible afterwards.

I prayed to God to keep both of us safe, in two different places. I prayed to God to keep me warm enough as the temperature had dropped and it was almost freezing. I prayed to God to protect me from altitude sickness as we were going to be in higher grounds. I prayed to God to give me strength to reach the summit and the wisdom to be OK if indeed reaching the summit was not meant to be for me.

Night Climb

At 12am we started our climb up to the summit. Coupled with our headlights, thermal wear, jackets and windbreakers, we headed off in the dark and cold night into the dark, always mysterious forest. There were many climbers from various countries and nationalities, but in the night only their accents differentiated them out as quiet chatter filled the air.

It is this same air, silently thinning as we go up, that threatened the breaths of several climbers. As we go along, some people had thrown up due to nausea from altitude sickness. It was scary to hear this in the silent night as every sound was magnified. I made a silent prayer for them to be okay. Also, I found myself getting breathless and so sipped my hydration pack of water more frequently than usual.

Lost…

My group had planned to gather at Gunting Lagadan hut, where some of us stayed, before proceeding to the gate leading to the start of the summit climb. However, in the darkness of the night I had unfortunately lost my sight of the hut and by the time I realized this I was already several steps ahead.

Fearing being lost of the tracks in the dark and ending up not knowing where I was, I did not turn back but instead continued on following a group of Japanese climbers in front of me. Ironically, I found comfort with their presence as it indicated that I was going the right way, and that I was not lost.

…and Found

Halfway through, I stopped an sat on a big-sized boulder to take a break and drank some water. Few minutes later, I saw 2 of my team members, Ridzwan and Baizuri, the fastest guys in my team. At that moment, the sight of them had never been so comforting. I had been climbing on my own with a different group and now, seeing them meant I was in familiar ground again. Perhaps God wanted me to feel this way so that I could appreciate the struggle. As happy as I was climbing alone, I was of course, happier climbing with my group. There is nothing like familiar territory to make you feel comforted.

This familiar territory then went on to question me, wondering why in the world did I start the summit climb without them. Umm, sorry guys. Totally didn’t mean to. And then another 2 of my team mates Musaddiq and Ezrieal appeared, wondering the same thing. You can question me all you want, I thought, I’m just glad I was found. At that point, they were my family for the expedition, and you know how families can be. They annoy you but you love them anyway. I must add that they were also happy to see me as they had been wondering where I had been all those while. Thanks, guys!

Step by Step

By now the terrain had gradually changed from dirt tracks to steep boulder-like tracks. It was more difficult because boulders can be slippery. Hence due to the absence of trees and easily accessible branches, there were strategically placed ropes at certain spots and these really helped me navigate my way up. It was also getting harder to breathe as per normal, and we had to stop every now and then to catch our breaths and drink up. I just went step by step because at some points, I just did not have the strength to speed up. It was all mental from then on.

The last checkpoint we stopped by was the Sayat-Sayat Hut, which contained a small office where the rangers would record your name by checking your tag as you go through this checkpoint. This was for the certificate that you had indeed summited Mount Kinabalu. On the way down, the rangers would double-check again with the climbers to make sure who reached the summit and who did not. Every climber would get a certificate regardless of reaching the summit or not, but the difference would lie in the color (summit in color, non-summit in black & white) and of course, the text. After a brief rest at this hut, we continued on.

I swear this last few moments to the summit felt like the longest journey ever. The summit was just right in front of me, but it was not. Every time I get close to it, I’m not freaking there yet. It was so frustrating and the mental aspect of it was excruciatingly painful. Trying not to think of my tiredness, as well as accompanied by my team mates who put their strength and ego aside to wait for me, I tried with all my might to just put one foot forward and go.

Finally, the summit!

After an excruciating and very slow climb, finally the summit, the real one, was now in sight. It was already daybreak and we had been climbing for almost 6 hours. But there was one last obstacle. The terrain here was an all-kinds-of-sizes-boulders, vertical uphill climb. The good thing was that even though it was uphill, it was not as steep as the previous terrain and there were a lot of literally climbing up with your whole body, hands and all, to get up. Again, all mental from now on. 80% mental strength and 20% physical strength.

When I finally, finally reached the summit, Alhamdulillah, all thanks to God, I was just…speechless. Just in awe of the smallness of myself against God’s majestic mountains. And the view, it was tremendously awesomely amazing beyond words can ever describe. As I stood at the summit point, thinking of Dja, thinking of my late adventure-loving dad, thinking of my upcoming wedding, and then everything else that happened prior to this expedition which almost did not happen, I thought, it’s not about reaching the summit. It was about many things, but it was never about the summit to begin with.

Out of the many things it was, one word was what it was to me: Humility.

Weekly Writing Challenge

mardmood: This post is also part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.