Personal career satisfaction

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I have been pondering upon the meaning of career achievement recently. It is a question I think I will ask myself when I retire. I know for sure it will not be the amount of money I make, and I am uninterested in climbing the corporate ladder.

Last week was my last working day and it was a very hard and sad departure. In hindsight, it showed how much I really enjoyed working there without even realising it. I am extremely grateful to have made this choice to come over and weather the tough recession and win myself a job here. It has been an amazing journey and wonderful to meet such interesting people in my team.

I work in the international feasibility team which consists of my director, 3 associates and a landscape architect. Being the youngest, I was taken good care of and am grateful for the trust they had in me to work with them. Knowing that I would be leaving eventually, they still continue to share their knowledge and skills with me until my last working days. This inspired me to keep the same attitude if I come across to work with any fresh graduates or juniors in the future.

While most farewells end with words like ‘’We are happy and glad to have you in our team’’, I am lucky that my work was appreciated and I had a team that valued me. My company has never sponsored any foreigners a work visa, but I was offered the option if I have chosen to stay. Instead of looking for another graduate architect or a Part II architectural assistant, they mentioned that they wanted another Flora, which made me feel special in my own way. I do not wish to sell myself, but these reactions from my team were beyond my expectation. I wonder what I have done to deserve to be able to meet such nice people.

It has been nearly 10 years since I first stepped into the working industry whether in a part time or full time role. There were moments I was worried if I still have any enthusiasm to show interest at work like how I did when I was still fresh in the working industry.

The recognition from my colleagues was an important assurance to myself that I have not lost this enthusiasm and reminded me to continue keeping this spirit in the future. It should be the ruler of how I measure my personal career satisfaction in my own way in the future, as I questioned in the beginning of this post. I assume the secret to have an interesting life is to be interested in the things we do.

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Paris and my feet

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The masterplan of the Paris city was redesigned by George Eugene Haussmann in the 17th century. The restructuring of the city shaped the Paris that we recognise today – long tree-lined avenues with cafes, wide boulevards aligned along axes and expansive parks and green spaces. These were significant elements that helped give the impression that Paris is a romantic city.

Although Paris is an old city, it is not so walkable as many other old European cities. Walking between two places that seem to be just a few blocks away on the map, or share the same avenue name usually takes much longer than expected. Once, we were so glad to have finally arrived at the street of our destination. Never did we know that we had to walk for another 30 minutes just to reach our destination, which was located at the opposite end of the street from where we were.

DSC00794To cross a junction like this would take me at least 5 minutes!

Paris has a very extensive and dense metro network. There is usually a metro stop within 10-15 minutes walking distance no matter where you may be in the city center.  It always seems wiser to walk if the destination is located only one metro stop away, but it is a different matter if the travel distance is more than two stops.

For instance, there was an evening when we decided to walk to a restaurant located a metro station away from our hotel. Being careless with my navigation skills, we walked towards the wrong direction and then only realised it when we reached the next metro stop (and found out that it was the wrong one). To get back to the correct way, we had to head back to our origin point, and further down to another metro stop in the opposite direction. When we finally reached the restaurant after 30 minutes of walking, we saw that it was closed on the weekends.

We found another restaurant located another metro stop away further down the same road. We obviously decided to continue moving on our feet. We finally found our food after spending nearly an hour of wandering around the Parisian streets. All four metro stops that we passed by were located on the same “street”.

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Me vs food

Now that Alex is back in Malaysia, I need to deal with heavy bags of groceries on my own again. Alex forbade me to do groceries when he was here, as I always came back with 90% junk food and 10% proper food. Doing groceries on my own again reminds me of the days when I first arrived in the UK and Alex and I were not together yet. It is a good ending of this chapter where I have to go through the same routine, only to know that I have grown up by being wiser in shopping for my groceries (10% junk and 90% food =D)

People around me might have predicted that without my personal chef (who else), I might be relying on takeaways heavily. Unexpectedly, this has not happened so far. Perhaps it was me realising that no one will be taking responsibility of me except for myself, that has made me more conscious of the choices I make. The food poisoning incident last week has alerted me to be more careful in dealing with my food – checking the expiry dates and making sure not to overbuy groceries. I try to have a proper and healthy meal every evening despite a long day at work, and learned not to rely on the instant noodles. As it is not easy to cook for a single person, I tend to cook for two and keep half for tomorrow’s lunch in the office.

Now, I will also need to check that I have all my ingredients ready before cooking. Once I forgot to restock the kitchen foil, so I roasted the chicken on the baking tray without any foil. It took me ages to clean the tray afterwards. I went to the supermarket the next morning and bought the cheapest one available, only to realise that those were fine gauge foils not suitable for oven use – something I never thought existed!

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London..

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I collect art in the form of fashion

This black maxi skirt I wore has been very fortunate to travel with me from Malaysia to Glasgow then to London and finally to Istanbul. I have also worn it to Edinburgh and Rome. I got this maxi skirt when I was 16 in Sungei Wang. Those were the days when I loved to hang out there. Good and cheap shopping!

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I am not someone who takes good care of my stuff. My laptops and cameras are normally scratched within months of purchase. But I am very particular with caring for my clothes. I hang most of my dresses and shirts with velvet or wooden hangers to keep them in shape. Those that can’t fit on my clothes rail are folded and organised by patterns and colours. I hand wash most of my clothes, which explains why my laundry bag is always full, because it is impossible to clean all of them at the same time. I vacuum-seal my accessories, stuff paper into handbags to keep them in shape and store most of my shoes in clear plastic boxes with air holes to allow them to breath.

I have many clothes which cost only a few pounds, but what makes it worth the effort is that I once fell in love with them. I get very upset if I find out that an item is out of shape or is damaged. But many times I do not even remember owning certain clothes! Once, I left some clothes in Malaysia and didn’t realise it until a year later when I saw one of my sisters wearing them. As they say, out of sight out of mind.

I am currently having a ‘fun time’ packing my stuff! I ordered 5 big cardboard boxes expecting to use only 3. I clearly underestimated the amount of remaining items I have. Alex shipped all of his stuff as well as most shared items when he left. My bags and shoes alone has already taken up the space of 3 big boxes. I escape the guilt by telling myself I collect art in the form of fashion…

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What I wore in Istanbul..

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URBAN OUTFITTERS stripe top | Black maxi skirt I got when I was 16!  BALENCIAGA Padlock bag | MELISSA shoes | TRAFFIC PEOPLE multi colour bracelet | SWAROVSKI Gold plated crystal ring | JANE CARR silk scarf | PALOMA PICASSO sunglasses

Food poisoning (Living alone ed.)

Last Thursday was my second food poisoning of this year! The first one happened on the first day of this Lunar year.

This time, I had to deal with it all on my own. I started to feel sick near midnight following the common symptoms – diarrhoea and nausea. My stomach was cramped throughout the whole night, so much so that I was unable to sleep well. There was a sense of deja vu but without having Alex around for comfort or to get a glass of water at any time. There were moments when I questioned myself for deciding to stay here all alone. I went to the kitchen at 4am and was glad to find one last pack of medicine among all the expired ones.

I was still feeling rather weak the next morning and reluctantly called in sick. Calling in sick to work is necessary and normal for someone is really not feeling well, but the self-conscious-me always feel very guilty for doing so. I did it anyway.

With the fridge empty (as I was supposed to restock it after work if I have been to the office), the only meal I could prepare was a plate of spicy pesto spaghetti with pancetta and broccoli. On second thought, I shouldn’t give my stomach a hard time, so I dragged myself to the local supermarket for some fresh ingredients to make myself a bowl of chicken and carrot congee for that day.

So, this is the joy of living alone. I am glad I managed and survived, as if I have any choice..

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Staying alone

While I was excited about this new adventure of staying alone, I started to realise that it is not only loneliness that I would have to deal with. Obviously I am not the only one in the world doing this – staying abroad alone, but my situation also seems to be more difficult without having any family members, housemates, or many close friends around.

On the first day after Alex left, I got locked out of my own apartment. My cousin and her husband were staying with me during that weekend, and had mistakenly locked the second lock of my main door which I did not have the key for. I was glad to be able to wait at a friend’s house nearby. This incident made me realise that I will need to be extremely careful with my keys in the future. I shall leave a set of keys in my office or with someone else, in case my landlord is not around.

Not only that, I’ve also realised that I can not to afford to lose my debit card as well, especially during the weekend when the bank is closed. I am used to making every payment with the card, so I keep hardly any cash in my wallet. In the past, if I can’t find my card, I would still be able to use Alex’s card.

Last but not least, I am not good in running errands because I tend to forget about them easily. Obviously there are reminder apps and notebooks, but my biggest problem was also that I would make lists and then promptly forget that I made them. Now, I have to cultivate a habit of using the reminder list because my verbal reminder (Alex) is about 11000km away and 8 hours ahead.

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The long distance relationship

It has been exactly 10 days since Alex flew back to Malaysia, while I have chosen to stay here for a few more months. There are quite a few reasons ranging from the prosaic— my cousins and friends are coming to visit this month and next month respectively, and I had promised to be around when they are here, to the professional— It wasn’t easy to secure the position in my current job, so I really appreciate the chance given to gain more experience here. The longer I stay here, the more I learn.

Alex has been a wonderful boyfriend and has taken very good care of my daily life. There should be nothing to resent with a boyfriend who is able to make me feel secure. However, it also made me rely on him so much so that I started to doubt my ability to take care of myself when he needs to be away. It is time to regain my independence. One needs to know how to take care of him/herself before taking care of others.

Plus, staying together with Alex for such a long period has blurred the boundaries of our strengths and weakness. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and we obviously have affected and changed each other in many aspects. I shall take this opportunity to know myself better again.

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Pink maxi dress

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scarf from Bangkok | COAST pearl necklace

Being fussy and critical

There is a fine line between being critical and being fussy. As a designer, a pair of critical eyes helps to differentiate the work’s quality. It is not only for judging others’ work but the most important work to be judged is our own. Sometimes we might leniently allow ourselves to accept our own work which are just barely nice enough. Similar to the school examination system, it is the final 10% that makes a piece of work achieve a recognition of excellence.

Developing a critical eye can unfortunately also be seen as being fussy or having an expensive / high maintenance taste.

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WAREHOUSE black top | ZARA jeans ASOS bag | OASIS wedges | TRAFFIC PEOPLE multi colour bracelet | YSL Arty ring | JANE CARR silk scarf | PALOMA PICASSO sunglasses