Bamford, In the High Peak

…was literally what was written on the signboard welcoming us to Bamford. I mean, no judging, but you could tell me that’s the name of a posh English movie and I wouldn’t be surprised.

Weeks before reading week, the phrase “peak district” had already been hurled around multiple times among my friends, but because third year has been hell for most of us, we had no choice but to postpone plans until the opportunity arose again in the form of celebrating CC’s birthday by going on a birthday day trip.

Only to be ditched by the birthday boy himself the very morning we boarded a train to Bamford. (Haha just kidding, GWS CC)

And per tradition, what’s a day trip if Michelle doesn’t fail to fall asleep at a normal hour the night prior? I got two hours of sleep that night and maybe 30 minutes of uncomfortable shut-eye on the one-hour train journey from Piccadilly.

But also per tradition, all traces of weariness and sleep-deprived crankiness vanished the moment we reached Bamford, replaced instead with surprising bouts of energy which translated into seemingly endless streams of bullshitting about anything and everything until we started our ascent upon Bamford Edge and I had to explicitly assert out loud my silence from then onwards (in between breathless pants) in order to conserve stamina (which I already severely lack) to finish climbing the peak.

Praying for the blessings of any nearby mountainous deity to not be a wuss and finish climbing the peak in one piece

The first thing that I thought of when I saw the peak was: wow, this looks so post-apocalyptic and dystopian

We didn’t really realise what we had signed up for until we left the blissfully tarred road and properly commenced our actual climb up the mountain. Challengingly steep muddy terrains, omnipresent sheep poop and blisteringly cold winds. That’s what we’d signed up for.

But we made it! After what felt like multiple boss fight levels, a rock-terrain platform game, and dog-petting sidequests, we reached Bamford Edge and was rewarded with a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the English countryside as well as the Ladybower Reservoir. And by breathtaking I mean from the beauty but also from the vertigo of being so high up that it felt like I could be blown off the edge by high-altitude winds at any moment.

We were pretty much already half-dead by the time we reached flat land again and had late lunch at a pub before rushing to the station and reaching the platform merely two minutes away from the arrival of our train. That night’s sleep was a soundless one from extreme exhaustion, accompanied by the pleasant echoes of Bonfire Night fireworks in the distance.

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stomach acids

i didn’t ask to be so highly susceptible to every single emotion and desire i possess, to the point that i completely lose track of time and my physical surroundings. to be so caught up in a single one-track line of thought that leaves a trail of aloofness and incongruity in its wake. to wake up every morning greeted by that familiar intense sourness in my gut that indicates something more than hunger.

but such begins the second month of my third year of university.

God Bless My Lorde and Saviour

I was actually in Croatia when tickets for Lorde’s European tour went up, and so my ticket purchasing moment saw me riding in the shotgun of our rented car, driving along the breathtakingly picturesque Croatian highway en route to Dubrovnik from Split, partially Google-maps-navigating, and partially buying tickets on Ticketmaster as quickly as possible before they were sold out.

Thus, with a click of the “Buy” button, Chong En and I were going to watch Lorde live in O2 Apollo on the 26th of September.

Pure Heroine was one of the albums consistently present in my 2014 college playlists, a particularly musically magnificent period of time for me, during which I weaved many tales through music together with my friends on road trips or chilling sessions, whilst Melodrama is such an aesthetically fulfilling album filled with both dance-worthy tunes and soul-crushing ballads. There wasn’t a single moment during her show where Ella did not give her hundred percent, and seeing her quirky but passionate dance moves contagiously hyped the hall’s atmosphere up throughout the entire night. Vocals, concepts, costumes, performance – and even merch; all of them were tens out of tens. It was an incredible night.

Despite being on the cusp of her twenties, Ella’s talents shine so brightly in the way she manages to encapsulate feelings and emotions that deeply resonate with those little dusty corners of our hearts that house loneliness and melancholic affection through her lyrics and music, making her songs anthems of the young and misunderstood.

Despite it being a rather solemn period of time for both artists and concertgoers following the recent attack, the spirit of appreciating live music with other similarly musically-inclined people lived on, something that I hold very dearly in my heart.

Khalid was the opening act

Michelle’s People I’ve Watched Live List, updated:

Vertigo

The only way I know how to describe the start of my third year is: uncertain. Even now, so much uncertainty, instability, which is rather vertigo-inducing considering how I’ve already spent the last two years in Manchester, so it doesn’t make sense that I have so much doubt over my final year here. I was writing in my journal on my Istanbul-Manchester flight, and my closing paragraph was, “In a nutshell, I’m greatly uncertain about my third year. I’m not as pessimistic or indifferent as my first year, nor as optimistic or excited as my second, but I only wish this year to be one of no regrets.”

And I guess this uncertainty can be mildly attributed to the fact that after last year, I felt as if I’ve exhausted myself of all options and opportunities to do the things I want that will lead me to be the person that I want to be. If that makes sense? Objectively, I know that I’m not revolutionarily out of my comfort zone to do the things that scare me in order to better myself, but at the same time I’m just at a point in my life where I’m so exhausted. To the extent that sometimes I feel like I’m merely deceiving myself as to thinking I’m even getting anywhere, and this thought process is so pessimistically familiar that I fear the tendrils of despair that are telling me to give up because no matter how hard I try, I take one look at other people, scroll through social media, and already I feel like I’ve failed yet again.

Always so many self-induced expectations and obligations, that at one point, I realised that my personality is just: “What kind of person are you?” “Anything you want me to be.”

Because, it dawned on me horrifically when I woke up one night at 4am to pee (ungodly hours of the day that just sort of triggers epiphanies within yourself), I prioritise pleasing other people over pleasing myself by being…myself. Because when you’re like me, chronically running low on self-esteem after years of fearing isolation and loneliness, the only validation and approval of my own existence that matters is when it’s external, ie from the people around me. I once wrote something a few years back along the lines of, “one’s existence is really wholly dependent on the perceptions of others”, and listen, I was actually talking about the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime but apparently, somewhere along the way, I’d invested my entire cognisance in that notion.

And, like, I know this is pretty much “TLDR, I need constant approval and affection from other people so feed me with them please” which I’m not even going to lie to myself by denying it, but it’s gotten to the point that my entire fundamental reasoning mechanism of deciding what is intrinsically right or wrong hinges on what other people think is right or wrong, a subconscious lens to view the world that leaves me an empty shell of no essence. No beliefs or opinions of my own, because I’m so desperate for human connections that I would rather trade them for external validation. I don’t know what I’m doing, I really don’t. I don’t think this is the right way to live, because I know I wouldn’t want my friends to live like this, either, but like I said, I’m so unstable on my feet that I can no longer tell what is really right or wrong. And this frightens me so, so much because I’m fucking 22 years old and I’m graduating in a year, yet I’ve never felt so hopeless in all the 22 years I’ve lived. I didn’t use to be like this; I don’t know what happened along the way.

Already I know I’m still going to end this post with, “I’m still going to keep on trying nonetheless” and that’s not a lie, but giving up can be a very tempting idea when you’ve had so many false hopes and expectations that you kinda wanna scream “SOMETHING GOOD SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED BY NOW!!!!!”

But. Well. I’m still going to keep on trying nonetheless.

second summer: idleness, my greatest weakness

we’ve all been through that phase. that phase where you have a long stretch of free time coming up so you start planning for and anticipating a huge list of projects to start on, tv shows to watch, books to read. but the irony of actually preferring to do nothing when the time comes prevails over any residual motivation cultivated right from the start, leading to long lulls of idle periods that do more harm than good.

it’s already september, five days before i’m flying back to the uk and all i’ve done since coming back from hokkaido is watch death note movies, read chihayafuru manga, and worry. about what? anything, really, that one can think about. i was already generally a very fearful person, but now that i have ostensibly zero obligations and commitments, my paranoia and anxiety latches onto anything it can get its slimy tentacles on, gripping hard and never letting go. which means that i literally had nothing better to do than to let my fears run wild even as i sat on my sofa, unmoving, binge watching anime episodes into oblivion. it’s terrible, and frankly, it makes no sense, because how can one even weave something out of nothing and ruminate on it into existence (even if it’s a questionable existence)? which then ultimately leads to a familiar apprehension that being at home has been stressing me out more than when i was in uni, another T-shaped block in this tetris-like complex formation of my festering idle thoughts.

the funniest part about this is, i’ve been through this before, twice. i know this state of idleness all too well. literally hello darkness, my old friend. and just like that period of seven months after i finished spm and nine months after i finished a-levels, once again, i found myself staring into the void of an infinite abyss, watching my thoughts spiral deeper into the depths of impossible outcomes with each second.

bring on year three, i guess.

Destinations – December ’16 – June ’17

I’m going to Hokkaido in two days, and that’s my only motivation to finally post these long overdue photos of the trips I’ve been on during my second year of uni.

I. FRANCE: PARIS

When we went to The Louvre, I was momentarily mesmerised by The Money Changer and His Wife portrait by Quentin Matsys and forgot I wasn’t supposed to touch it. So of course I touched it and set off all the alarms in The Louvre before a security personnel hurried over to deliver his reprimand.

   

    

II. SWITZERLAND: ZURICH & LUZERN

On the last night at Luzern before we were to fly off from Geneva airport, we stumbled upon a small Korean restaurant (and by small I mean really small, as in “it only had two tables in the entire restaurant” small), a rare Asian eatery find during our whole week in Switzerland.

Getting to eat Asian food was already a treat in itself, but that wasn’t even the main highlight of the night, it was this: the owner of the restaurant, an old Korean man, “predicted” our personalities and mindsets just by touching our arms. All eight of us had mostly accurate readings that night, leaving us in various states of confusion and awe.

    

III. GERMANY: MUNICH, FUSSEN & STUTTGART

The morning we were supposed to take a Flixbus from Fussen to Stuttgart, it had snowed really heavily the night before. As a result, we had to lug our luggage through ankle-deep piles of snow for 40 minutes to a bus stop that we couldn’t even find at first (because it turned out to be just an A4 sheet of paper labelled “Flixbus bus stop” taped to a pole).

    

    

IV. HUNGARY: BUDAPEST, SLOVAKIA: BRATISLAVA

I packed for warm weather during this spring break trip but on our first day in Bratislava, Slovakia, we woke up to raging snow. Snow. In April. It had never even snowed that heavily in Manchester before. Our Uber driver to the UFO restaurant apologised to us on behalf of this anomalous Slovak weather but I actually quite enjoyed the unexpected surprise.

    

V. CROATIA: ZADAR, SPLIT & DUBROVNIK

En route from Split to Dubrovnik, we had to pass by the borders of Bosnia. So we stopped, parked our rental car by the beach, ate spaghetti at an Italian restaurant, and went for spontaneous cliff diving (only two out of five did, though).

    

    

MSTC 2017: Advancing 4th-ward

At the end of the second day of the event, Shun, in front of everyone else, asked, “Are you gonna write about MSTC on your blog?”

There was no doubt about that. And so here I am.

One very glaring observation one usually makes when they find out that I’m a law student on the organising committee of a technology conference is, “But why? This is completely unrelated to your course.” Sure, my initial motivation to sign up to be a part of MSTC despite being a non-STEM student was largely attributed to my fear of boredom and stagnancy, having been freshly relieved of my scriptwriter position from MNight, but since way back in high school, I disliked the notion of simply sticking rigidly to what you’re supposed to know and do and be satisfied with that, just like how I hated making SPM the centre of my universe for a year in spite of what my teachers indoctrinated within me.

I’m going to be honest and just say it outright: I didn’t expect to enjoy MSTC as much as I did. After all, this was my first marketing stint, and as a mere ambassador, the involvement that I felt was required of me wasn’t very substantial. But a lot of unexpected things happened, and I emerged from both event days feeling like I’d put in as much as effort as I could to contribute towards the marketing department without any regrets, something valuable that I’d learned from MNight. I felt that highly treasured feeling of gratification again, the moment we wrapped up and could finally conclude that, yes, MSTC 2017 was a success. It’s such an addictive feeling, gratification, and I don’t think I will ever tire of it in my constant pursuit of contentment in putting my effort into making something work, a rhetoric to counter my perpetual self-doubt of ever being or doing anything worthwhile.

And of course, making new friends is always a good outcome to achieve out of anything. Even more so when you’re lucky enough to work with someone so compatible from day one (looking at you, HW).

TL;DR, MSTC was a good learning curve for me and was the only thing sustaining and fuelling me throughout this stressful week. A huge thank you and congratulations to everyone who had worked hard and believed in MSTC enough to make it the success that it was.