2018 reflections, extended.

“just like how physical strength can be trained, so can mental strength be”.

a quote from my ig post, hence why I call this an extension… of my ig post. Before claiming that it’s from me, I quite honestly think it’s something I’ve heard/read somewhere through this year but can’t remember the exact source.

2018 has been the return of the mental game, with multiple flashbacks from 2012 and 2015, the years where I struggled enormously with my mental health. Now that I’ve physically written them down, it seems like a 3 year trend. 3 year trend because these years were the seasons where I was transitioning life-stages:
2012: VCE and recovering from ACL surgery
2015: Leaving BSc for LLB
2018: Trying to secure a clerkship that resulted with nothing.

The last few months of 2018 was spent applying for jobs/clerkships and receiving rejections. I’ve also switched casual jobs, from jewellery retail in a big brand with a predominantly Asian environment,  to apparel retail in a predominantly white environment. Today was the last work day of 2018 and it ended with a customer yelling at me and my colleague ratting me out for not following procedure (I’ve only been there 2 months, I thought what I was doing the right thing and no one called me out the last 2 months).

I started 2018 filled with hope, I envisioned ending 2018 with a secured clerkship in my dream firm with the promises of a grad program. That the London decision will boost my chances and that my sacrifice in 2015 would be proven fruitful, that I was meant to work in law and will work in law. No. Not a single law firm loved me. This is why 2015 flashback happened, I was so traumatised by it that I wondered and doubted the decisions I made, that maybe I should have gone back to Malaysia and did a Dental Degree to be a dentist and take over the family clinic. Future is failproof. I now ended it with my second shitty retail job with my manager giving me a warning and telling me she is giving me a talk the first thing in 2019.

Start of the year, I did a hike in Penang, over strained my knee and fell down. I survived a near death fall but I inflamed my previous old ACL injury. Going through the MRI once again gave me 2012 flashbacks of how I wrecked myself physically and the fears of going back into it again. I wondered if I didn’t wreck my ACL in the first place, not go on ski camp, not gain my extra 10kg, less depression, scored better in VCE because of less depression, maybe a better ATAR so I wouldn’t even be here.

Did you see that stupid causal chain of depresso I created in my head.

It was a mental game. All boiled down to the mental strength.

I didn’t know how to get back up. I was so welled up with them emotions.

2 weeks ago, I picked up the book Grit by Angela Duckworth. It was something I had been hoping to get my hands on and placed a reservation for the book, 7th in queue, in the local library. I finally got it and halfway through, Angela opened a whole new meaning into the game, grit. Life is a mental game, heck we gotta learn to play it to survive it.

Just like how people train hard for a soccer game, we had to train for these life games.

the most successful people are not the smartest, but the grittiest

I was one of the last kids in my ballet class to land that 180 degree split. It was weeks, months, years of stretching and splitting, every damn night. There were times I limped home after a stretching class, my teacher had stretched me too hard. 7 years after starting ballet at 3 years old, I finally got my ass on the ground at 10, pretty late for a ballerina. However it’s been 8 years since I’ve quit the sport, I still can split today. But I can’t go a month without pushing my legs and feeling that pain in my stretch to get my ass onto the ground.

Good things don’t come without pain. Reading the book brought back so much ballet memories, a sport so gruelling yet satisfying. The pain paid off till today, I was determined to get that split and I got it.

I may be the last to graduate among my friends, probably the last to secure a proper job too, just like how I was among the last to land that split. But I will get my ass on the ground, no matter how long it takes and how many pubic tendons I have to tear. The muscle can only build through tissue tears. If this is how God is going to tear me to make me stronger, I will tear and build for this race I was set to run.

I welcome 2019 with open arms, even if it is to come with pain, it will be turned into strength, tear by tear. In 2019 I will be building grit.

2018 didn’t end the way I wanted but it ended with a knowledge that I didn’t know I needed. Just like how a sports person needs a physiotherapist for injuries, we need psychologists for the mind.

Just like how physical injuries can be healed, so can mental injuries.

 

Advertisements

Miss Toes

2008

“Miss Toh… hahaha more like Miss TOES”

I was making a lame joke in the changing room with my friends after an intense ballet training session leading up to our inter-foundation exam on a Friday night. Tensions were high, Miss Toh, our teacher at the time played favourites and if you’re in her bad list, Friday nights are your worst nightmare straight out of a scene from Mean Girls.

I was in her bad books. I was the girl who wouldn’t take shit seriously and laughed at everything, but the sight of Miss Toh would suck the light out of me and I could zap an intense laugh to seriousness in a second. Until today, I still use that technique, I’m 24 and it’s 10 years later.

Mid joke, Miss Toh walks right through the change room alleys to the toilets, she shoots me a bitch face and I knew then and there, I was fkd. Since that day, she puts me in the front of the class and made my ballet training days a living nightmare till the day I switched studios for training.

Malaysian/Asian training in dance was nightmarish, but looking through documentaries of the training that professional dancers go through, the difference was close to nothing. Carb eating was a crime, I remember one of my closest friends already cutting carbs at 13, a straight line was expected between the ribs to the pelvis and a slight rise of a muffin top was frowned upon. Heck, thinking through it, no wonder I love carbs so much now, its a carb catch up in time.

5th December 2018:

As I walked through the local library, a dance magazine caught my eye, it wasn’t your ordinary dance magazine, it was Ballet specific and listed professional training areas to up skill your dance career. This was a serious consideration at 16. I remember mapping out a life plan as I was migrating to Melbourne alone, to finish school, do the degree in dentistry, tell Mum I hate it and go into dance. I swear to God it was a solid plan, it worked well in my 16 year old head.

My 24 year old self flipped through the pages of the magazine as I had a mental flashback of all my memories of my 16 year old self, the dance memories I had as a child, the performances we did in the theatre and the last dance performance I did with my dance school, the night before I flew to Melbourne for my new life. The final words of my ballet principal of 13 years, Ms Gan, that night:

“Keep dancing, don’t get fat in Australia.”

36676_408695929097_5326593_n

I’m sitting down here, 10 kilos heavier, with a complicated right ACL that occasionally still screws up. If anything, I was the opposite of the advice.

Miss Toh and I are friends on Facebook, I bet she secretly stalks me and I do the same to her. She has a family now and leads my old ballet school, my old ballet class mate teaches there part time.

I met up with my oldest childhood ballet friend on my recent trip back to Malaysia, she had just completed the entire syllabus of the ISTD Ballet curriculum, at 24, teaching ballet part time on the weekends while doing her serious day job. She’s now onto learning Latin and plans to complete the syllabus as well.

Her reality was a dream of mine, to be a dentist with flexi hours while teaching dance.

“Juanlin, you still can you know, it’s not too late.”
“I don’t know what you mean Sophie, I’ve torn my ACL”
Sophie shakes her head, “You can, you just didn’t try. Try Latin.”
I kinda to choreos now”
It’s different”

It’s a lie if my heart didn’t hurt through that conversation. I tell her I keep dance alive through choreography for others, but it’s truly different.

Really the little girl in me just wishes an empty stage and theatre to dance her heart out, let the knees hurt, let the dance flow, let the toes hurt. Maybe that will reconnect me back to the one true gift that was ripped from me at 17.