i somehow always find myself back at ground zero after a while. everything is just tiring now and tasks that came naturally to me now require an incredulous amount of motivation. after what has been an avalanche of posts describing how wholesome i feel after half a year back in manchester, this can only make sense if This is who i am at the fundamental foundation of what makes me a person; This being constantly scared and believing the absolute worst of any situation. i’m back at that point in life where i start questioning the validity of everything i do, whether it’s right or wrong, necessary or pointless, enough or wholly inadequate. i don’t know. i’m struggling quite a bit. and the thing is i can’t see the physical manifestation of what it is i am struggling at exactly. after years of using logic and facts to fight against immaterial overthinking, logic itself just seems like a ruse now. rationally, my fear can’t be real, but after so long of not seeing results, of not actually progressing beyond what i’ve romanticised so far, it starts getting to your head: maybe my fear is real after all.
i had a sort-of midlife crisis circa march/april last year that i never really told anyone about. made a longass video about it but never got around to editing and/or uploading it because a) it was really longass and b) like i said i was busy having a sort-of midlife crisis. but basically in a nutshell that month-long period saw me constantly carrying around a ten-tonne weight in my stomach, looking around at the successes and achievements by friends and family and feeling like every minute i spent not volunteering for a samaritan cause or meeting new people at a social event or i don’t know, rescuing a baby from a burning building was time wasted. this also didn’t go well with my ingrained doctrine of experiencing university years as the Best Years of My Life, because i wasn’t even doing anything in the first place to make that a possibility.
many of the people i’ve met here in manchester told me over the course of the past few months that i’ve changed, and i agree. i’ve changed considerably from the person i was in my first academic year, precisely because i was so incredibly unhappy with my first year life that it absolutely frightens me to think about the mere prospect of returning to that life again, a life of idleness and passiveness that made me feel even more minute and impactless than i already felt. i couldn’t stand another year of that. so much that you could even say i was desperate for action, for stimuli, for every damn thing you can throw my way and by god, i will take it. so many things still make me scared and anxious, but after having lived a year of tiptoeing around the edges because of this precise fear and anxiety and emerging from that routine of extreme safety and comfort a dissatisfied and unhappy person, i realised sometimes fear can be a small price to pay in return for the wide array of brand new things the world has to offer. i only have less than two years left (tentatively) in the UK, if i just let all this time pass by me without doing anything substantial, i know, without a single doubt, that i’ll be writhing in agonised regret less than two years from now for not seizing every opportunity i could get while they were still within reach.
from september 2016 up till now, i’ve been consistently climbing a mountain without looking down (because if i did so i’d probably stop and give up from the height). and now, standing where i am, it’s a bit difficult to see clearly my point of origin. it’s been such a rapid climb too, that i hardly get the chance to pause and take a respite, to look back and reflect on all the progress i’d made and take notes on it. so currently what i possess is this huge gap between who i was and who i am now, and frankly it’s a bit disorientating. my mind blanks out every so often; it’s a bit difficult to introspect when you’ve gone so long without it, but it doesn’t feel at all right if you don’t do it, like you’re not actually gaining anything from it. the accumulation of “i’ll jot this down and think about it later” has somehow just spilled over overwhelmingly in the process that even recalling past experiences takes immense brainpower, even more so when your mental elasticity has hardened and slowed everything down. this is not a problem, really. in fact, not thinking so much was an aspiration of mine for years. but it all just feels very weird when i no longer have the time to sit down and write for myself, to examine and inspect every single detail of my life occurrences obsessively. i used to be so in touch with my emotions and thoughts that piecing them together was second nature to me. in contrast, doing the same thing now requires an active effort. it makes me think. if i’ve lost that ability, what else do i have left within me?
in the end, fear still underlies all this. why else would i start getting so jittery when i look back at old blogposts and find that i am unable to stir the same emotions within myself as when i wrote them? straying away from something you’ve always found to be familiar can be world-shatteringly scary i suppose, but this is no less than what i’d been trying to accomplish since i came back to manchester, just that in the process of Not Being First Year Michelle Again i’d also consciously and subconsciously picked up several other things too. this is all too abstract for me to lay out in a non-nonsensical way but i’m convincing myself that it’s better than nothing. i want to write more. i need to write purely and solely for myself again, because it’s been too long since i’ve done that.
suddenly i am 19 again
it’s one hour to midnight here in switzerland and i am currently on the train from Bern to Geneva as i am writing this on my phone, using the measly 1GB mobile data i have to post this before 2016 ends in my current timezone, per tradition.
the fact that i am currently in switzerland as i write this fully summarises the year 2016 for me – too many things have happened this year, both good and bad of varying degrees, which helped shape this year to be the most eventful year of my life.
2016 in itself felt like 3 different time periods – january to june was the second half of my first year of uni, and i sometimes still habitually refer to that phase of life as “last year”; july to september were summer months spent at home, constituting a different experience of returning home after having been in manchester for a year; and then finally, september until now saw me growing at the rate of an exponential curve graph, to the point that the past four months since i came back to manchester for my second year of uni felt like they barely passed at all.
i was constantly busy, and i wanted to be, thinking that every second that wasn’t spent meeting new people, joining new events or going to new places was wasted time. coming back to manchester, i was a part of the mnight 2017 committee as a scriptwriter, working as a wordsmith for the nals 2017 committee through online meetings, volunteering at various events around town, applied for two jobs, and grabbed the chance to travel whenever i could. unlike last year, i was out of the house more than i was in. unlike last year, i said yes to everything first before contemplating the pros and cons of doing something.
there were both good and bad consequences of this relatively reckless bravery i coerced myself into possessing this year: good was of course the fact that i learned so many new things, went through many new experiences and met many new people which ultimately, helped to boost my self-esteem and confidence considerably. a calendar became a necessity in order to keep track of future dates as well as past entries so that i didn’t forget anything that i did this year. i had more memories made, and more importantly, more stories to tell of my second year of uni.
on the other hand, the bad: exhaustion. both physically and mentally. physical fatigue was a given – in order to juggle everything i had on my plate, i was constantly rushing, constantly running through dates and times over and over again in my mind obsessively so that i didn’t leave out any important things to do. and then came the aftermath inadequacy that was bound to hit after weeks of constantly Chasing. i would come home some nights, recall all the things i’ve done in retrospect, and then feel like i hadn’t actually learned or grown at all, contrary to what i thought. i’d feel like everything i’ve done, the leaps i’ve taken, the risks i’ve endured, all of them were for nought. i’d feel like things weren’t moving as fast as i would’ve liked them to, to compensate for all the opportunities i’d missed in my first year.
despite that, currently sitting on my train seat and looking back at the year, i can objectively say that i am a very, very different person from who i was last year, even the previous time periods of 2016 before my second year of uni. i definitely still have a lot to learn in comparison with my current growth progress, but i think this year has opened up a pathway that allows me to be braver, more progressive and less afraid in the future.
in the new year of 2017, i wish for more memorable and unforgettable experiences, for more chances and opportunities to meet new people, go to new places and do new things. i also wish for healthy growth, in both personal and relationship aspects.
before 2016 officially comes to an end in a few hours time, i want to take this opportunity to give several shoutouts to the people who made my 2016: to my parents, who are always, always there for me unconditionally; to my dogs, heart, ah boy, yuki, constant shining beacons in my life (i hope you’re doing okay wherever you are, heart); to my housemate, rumin, who has put up with living with me with graceful patience for the past four months; to the ballerz and law gang, for being a family away from home; to ken fui, who has listened to all kinds of shit from my side; to joe, whom i reconnected with this year and had a whale of a time with in the uk this year; to bellyn, for a great summer in malaysia; to sakina, whom i had the honour of watching bangtan with in bangkok; to only children & firstborn and g3, for a great reunion of catching up in summer; to cpy, for coming over all the way from melbourne to spend winter break with us in the uk; to the mnight committee, for being great people to work with towards a successful 2017 mnight.
thanks 2016, for an insightful year. here’s to another great year ahead, to you reading this, and to everyone else in my life.
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM
The formulation of my weekend trip to Liverpool was somewhat reminiscent of my Scotland trip, in the sense that I was texting Joe one night in the middle of procrastinating on my jurisprudence essay and when asked when I was actually going to Liverpool to visit her, I immediately checked train ticket prices and bought them on the spot for the next weekend, aka the weekend after my essay deadline and also when Rumin would be back in Malaysia.
The next Friday, long story short (and also because I don’t think I should post the details on such a public platform), I missed my train by a minute. As in, the moment I reached the platform, the train had just left. It was all a very dramatic affair that led to caps-lock texting multiple people in a frenzy but I got to Liverpool in the end, one way or another. Infer from that however you will (or if we meet in person I’d love to recap the entire dramatic adventure again with great enthusiasm).
Joe was already waiting for me at Liverpool Lime Street station when I reached and the first thing I thought of when I exited the station was: wow, Liverpool is so beautiful.
I dropped off my stuff at Joe’s place before she brought me to this quaint Thai restaurant with actual authentic deco (stainless steel plates, stone benches and chilli trays; God I miss Thailand so much). I ordered tom kha gai while Joe ordered green curry chicken. It was an amazing dinner.
After dinner, we walked around Liverpool ONE while admiring the festive decorations. I also got a scarf for myself from Primark.
The next day, Black Friday sales were still going strong so we spent a good first half of the day shopping at Liverpool ONE. I really, really liked Liverpool’s city centre in a way that is vastly different from Manchester’s. They call Manchester the second largest city in the UK but it somehow felt like Liverpool’s city centre was bigger and more comprehensive than Manchester’s. Everything was more concentrated in a single square in Liverpool, while Manchester had more roads and shops were more scattered.
After finally promising that I won’t spend money on clothes anymore until next year, we headed for Merseyside’s famous landmark, Albert Dock. We didn’t realise how foggy it actually was after spending the whole afternoon in shops until we reached Albert Dock and saw the heavy fog cover over the entire area. Everything looked like it had undergone VSCO’s T1 filter.
Not only did Albert Dock feel like a foggy ghost town, it was also very, very, VERY cold, even more so when you’re wearing skirt and leggings. I’ve been in the UK for a year plus and I still don’t learn.
We were starving by the time it got dark because our only meal for the day was toast before leaving the house. We walked one whole round around the dock searching for places to eat, found out they were all pricey as hell, and then subsequently proceeded to this Asian restaurant near Chinatown where we had Korean food. The moment I sat down I could feel my toes again – as well as the acid juices sloshing in my stomach. I had bibimbap and Joe had kimchi stew and it was honest to god one of the best meals of my life.
And then we went to Chinatown of course, to answer our Chinese blood’s calling.
That night at home, Joe introduced me to Yuzuru Hanyu and actual figure skating before I watched the new episode of Yuri on Ice while she caught up on Haikyuu!!
Joe made katsu curry brunch for us the next day. Our itinerary for the day included: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Central Library, Anfield Liverpool FC, Everton FC and then the Christmas markets.
And then like all good things, my trip had to come to an end. I left Liverpool with an incredibly heavy heart, having made good memories in this city for the past few days with lovely company.
There was no doubt at all that if there was a con in town, I would be there without fail. This time was no different, except for the fact that this time, I was volunteering at the event, and together with Joe who came all the way from Liverpool, at that.
Joe came over on Friday and she took the full-day shift while I took the half-day one because there was an MNight Teh Tarik session that Saturday morning.
I cannot begin to describe the comfort and joy I felt the moment I stepped into Sugden, which makes this entire sentence sound ludicrous but I did not feel out of place at all; it felt like a second home. Yes ok go ahead and call me a nerd
Joe and I were stationed at the raffles booth from 1 to 3PM, where we tried getting people to sign up for the raffles draw for £1.
At 3PM, we were allowed a one-hour break so we walked around the place visiting booths and taking photos with cosplayers.
This group of girls cosplaying as Aqours were called Aquaria Project and they even had a stage performance of dancing to Aozora Jumping Heart and of course I freaked out because I am grade A Love Live trash
I met Lara again! It’s become a tradition to take a photo with her each time she turns up at a Manchester con in cosplay. She was cosplaying as Shion from No.6 this time.
I had a short chat with the girl with the pink hair and her entire cosplay outfit was handsewn wtf cosplayers are so powerful
One of the main differences of Doki Doki this year compared to last year was that the event organisers implemented a new rule stating that artists and vendors were not allowed to sell fanart, only original art, which caused quite an uproar on Facebook and I honestly still don’t quite get it either. I managed to strike up a conversation with an artist and she expressed her disappointment and confusion over the new rule, because fanart wasn’t equivalent to art theft or copyright infringement and I agreed. Even though I was technically a third party viewer (as a non-artist), I felt like the rule was pushing artists into an unnecessary corner eg. if you can’t make art that is exclusively original to yourself then you shouldn’t call yourself an artist etc
Another (equally significant) difference is a surge in the number of Mystic Messenger cosplayers this year. It made me very happy.
Joe and I also decided to try our luck with Haikyuu and Love Live mystery boxes respectively.
We weren’t really needed to work anywhere else after our break so we chilled at the movie screening room where Joe managed to catch a few winks and I got the chance to take a break too and by taking a break I meant scrolling Twitter and Instagram in the dark while seated on a mat on the floor.
At 5.30PM, we headed for the centre stage for the cosplay competition and masquerade.
Once the session ended, it was already time to start cleaning up so that was what we did, moving tables and chairs and sweeping the floor. When it was time to turn in our volunteer tags, I was actually very, very reluctant to do so because I had such a fun day and I didn’t want it to end.
I said this before but I’ll say it again: going to cons feels so natural and comfortable to me, it feels like you can be anyone you want to be and no one will give you shit for it. Because it’s literally a gathering of like-minded people dressing up as their favourite characters and getting together to talk enthusiastically and passionately about, well, anime. I loved being able to strike up a random conversation with a stranger about Mystic Messenger and have them respond the same way. Everyone is always so friendly and it makes me unafraid to show my enthusiasm for, well, anime in a real life setting (and not just Twitter!!) without being looked at weirdly. I can scream all I want about something I like and everyone would get it. It made talking to strangers and asking for cosplayers for photos less scary.
Volunteering as a runner at Doki Doki this year was also a different experience from being a mere patron. Just getting insight into the technicalities and operations of the con was already pretty cool in itself, and it felt like being a part of something pretty big. I love that feeling, always have and always will.
(Previous con: Manchester Anime and Gaming Con 2016)
Two years ago, in the middle of June, Fly FM had a radio contest where listeners who managed to call in and give the right answers to Bastille’s lyrics read on air would win tickets to watch Bastille live in Australia. I remember vividly, sitting in front of the laptop with 20 AZlyrics tabs pulled out, listening intently to the cue to call, and then frantically calling the station with my fingers crossed that they would pick me, please pick me, oh god please. However, predictably, they never did, but I did learn a lot from that experience, such as realising how difficult it is to actually get through the line to a radio station and learning how to google lyrics at the speed of light, as well as building a rapport with the DJ in charge by spam tweeting them out of frustration to the point that when I actually called through (but not during the cue to call), he knew who I was and there was nothing for me to do except scream internally from watching the last shred of my dignity break into pieces.
Two years later found me at the exact same position in the living room of my house, laptop in front of me again, but this time I was clicking into the news that was announcing Bastille’s UK tour for their new album, and despite there being no standing tickets left, I went ahead and bought a seating one anyway. Two-years-ago-Michelle would be proud.
It turned out that getting seat tickets was a good idea because the show was at Manchester Arena, and I didn’t particularly feel like wrestling through the crowd at the pit of a venue so big. I had luck with me when I bought tickets, honestly, because my view was actually perfect, directly facing the stage. Probably the only downside of being in seats was everyone else around me being too chill that me shouting and dancing in my seat made me feel a little out of place. But eh, that’s more of my own problem than anything else isn’t it
This was during Oblivion – there were no flashes and bright lights, only Dan’s voice ringing through the arena and amazingly, a sea of white light among the crowds as everyone held up their phone torches. It was really beautiful.
If you want to know what it feels like to experience something trippy, attend a Bastille concert. I particularly loved a concept they did where the onstage screen split into multiple small screens and played real life newscasts from all over the world in various languages, followed by more splitting into smaller screens showing scenes of retro TV shows (they incorporated a lot of TV dialogues -that they’d inserted into songs in their Other People’s Heartaches series- into their new album so this worked out very well for them) cut so jumpily that I don’t really know how to describe it besides – trippy. Couple that with the strobe lights that flashed in sync with the beats of the songs and you get an otherworldly experience of being somewhere you’re not. Unfortunately, the strobe lights gave me a bit of a headache for a while that I had to shield my eyes while singing and jumping so that was quite funny. But during Pompeii, despite the lights and everything I gave in and went all out, a good encore to round the show up with.
And oh boy, Dan’s voice was absolutely magnificent, so powerful as it echoed throughout the arena. Bastille really knows how to put on a wonderful show.
Michelle’s People I’ve Watched Live List, updated: