How It All Went Down

And by it I mean Armageddon and by Armageddon I mean the day I took my SPM results.

The night before, wouldn’t you be surprised that I only managed to sleep for three hours before waking up in a state of anxiety where I felt like I’d swallowed a washing machine. I cleaned up and put on my uniform, all the while behaving like a zombie, always keeping track of the time and feeling like every tick of the clock was hammering me further down into the ground. You might think I’m being overdramatic with all these hyperboles but believe me, at that moment, everything moved too slowly and too quickly at once. Anyway, la dee da and then I’ve arrived at school and met my equally anxious friends and that made everyone even more anxious. Finally, the headmistress appeared on stage and delivered this year’s SPM analytics (100% passing rate, 37 straight A students out of 180 candidates and an average grade of 1.7) while I was hopping from foot to foot feeling dizzy and nauseous and a bajilion feelings all at once. And right at the moment when I thought I was going to vomit on everything she loved, she started announcing results and my name was called and I started to melt into myself right then and there.

photo (1)

I was filled with such relief and started crying and I’ve done it. I don’t know how I did it but I did. Until now, I am still baffled. Grateful, of course, but semi-baffled.

It’s been an overwhelming day of endless kaleidoscopes of emotions, but I am thankful, and I am happy. I am thankful for everyone who has ever assisted me along the way, both directly and indirectly. And to those who are sad, it’s going to be okay. You can’t remain sad forever as you watch silver linings headed your way.

Did I tell you this post was going to be cheesy? No? Sorry.

Thank you.

Last Day of School

I thought I could come up with something better as a title for this post. Apparently not. These past few days have left me so emotionally drained, and it has everything to do about everything that is happening to me now, which is SPM and leaving school.

Yesterday, the Muslims had a bacaan Yasin session at the hall and right after that, we had a Mohon Restu ceremony where all the Form Fives asked for forgiveness from the teachers and their friends and needless to say, many tears were shed and many hugs were given but I was determined to put on a straight face the entire time, although my anxiety for SPM and grief towards leaving school was causing an emotional whirlwind within myself.

Today, the last day of school, was a busy one. We had our last assembly this morning, and then took yearbook prefect photos, arranged our tables and chairs for SPM in the hall, collected our grad photos and cleared our classrooms of our books and papers. During assembly, all the Form Fives were exceptionally louder and more passionate when singing the school song, especially the prefects, as we made a choir at the back of the hall and practically screamed, “TERIMA KASIH PUAN HAJAH KARTINI, TERIMA KASIH CIKGU-CIKGU!” And then I also realised it was my last day wearing my prefect uniform and the finality was even more absolute as I tore the wrapping paper (with marker pen scribbles of “Harry Styles” all over it, might I add) off my table and moved my huge load of books and papers into my car with the help of Aiman and Aida. As I said, emotionally exhausting and just so confusing and I guess this is what growing up feels like? When you feel like you’re taking up a heavier burden although you’re technically leaving something behind. Or maybe that’s just SPM.

The Asma prefect body (Credit to Beneh)
The Form Five Prefects (Credit to Beneh)
5 Negeri (Credit to Beneh)
(Standing) Shi Qian, Ying Yuan, Chin Teng, Han Min, Pei Fong and Huey Sha
(Sitting; l-r) Ee Ching and Yuen Ming
(Squatting) Jia Yee, Yu Han, Chew Jie and yours truly
Yours truly and Nado (Credit to Laiyy)


Nado, yours truly, Beneh and Mas (Credit to Laiyy)

Thank you, our headmistress, Puan Hajah Kartini Zakaria, for taking care of us all this while; thank you, our beloved teachers, especially those who taught us in Form Five, Cikgu Harum, Puan Amanah, Puan Zaza, Teacher Hasnida, Puan Rohana, Teacher Noni, Sir Ong, Puan Rohaiza, Puan Hazliyanti, Puan Azizah, Miss Tam and all the teachers who have ever helped us in any way in our five years in Asma; thank you 1 Kedah ’08, 2 Asma ’09, 3 Asma ’10, 4 Negeri ’11 and 5 Negeri ’12 for being the best classmates I could ever ask for and for being my home for five consecutive years; and finally all my Form Five friends, all of you, for giving me such wonderful memories these five years and also a heavy heart as I begin to take the first step out of this school.

Visit the Asma Class of ’12 blog to read more about my fellow Form Fives’ experiences.

Of Hourly Rain, Group Visits to Room 2012 and the Absence of Leg Room in Front of the Toilet Bowl

I initially planned to write this as a journal page but then thought that’d be monotonous and repetitive since my four-day agenda at cram school was mostly the same everyday so here goes.

The official name for this cram school is Program SEDAR SPM and they told us “SEDAR” stands for “Stayback Examination something something Retest” but we all know what it really means (for those who don’t know, “sedar” means “realization” in Malay).

The initial image I’d formed regarding the camp was beyond horrible. I heard from the Form 6 seniors who had just returned from Dusun Minda Resort at Kuala Nerang where the camp would be held that they had stayed at the dorms and, I’m paraphrasing, “the bath water was black in colour, there were no bathroom stalls, just a pool for you to bathe in, the air conditioning system was dysfunctional and the beds were dirty.”

I spent the previous day clinging to my bed and spending about half an hour in the shower, savouring my clean bathroom environment and bath water before I headed off to four days of caveman life.

But when we reached the Resort, everything was much, much better than expected. It was announced at the lobby that my roommates would be Yu Han, Ee Ching and Hooi Shian and as they handed out room keys, we got Room 3016, which, we later found out was one of the chalets in the last row of the area. But we didn’t know that yet. In fact, we were completely shocked when we found out four of us had an entire chalet to ourselves with our own toilet. A toilet with a fully functioning showerhead, sink, toilet bowl and a door. My spirits lifted up so high I was confident I was able to survive this camp after all. The rest of the room consisted of only two bunk beds and two closets but it was okay. It was very okay. This was something I could deal with. The thing I was most afraid of (dirty toilets) turned out to be bearable that I got so pumped up for the upcoming study session.

Our study sessions were held alternatively at Dewan Tetra and Dewan Arowana, a long hall filled with adjoined tables and chairs, almost like a tuition centre. On the first day, we had three slots for Add Math, and for the next three days, we had four slots for Chemistry, four slots for Physics and two slots for Biology respectively. Each slot lasted about two hours and all slots started from 8-10.30 AM, 11 AM-1 PM, 2.30-4.30 PM and 8-9.30 PM. In between those slots we carried out the most important activity of our lives: eat. It was terrible. Besides being nicknamed Hutan Hujan Setiap Dua Jam, the camp should also be called Makan Setiap Jam. Everyone was always hungry there. We’d walk from the chalets to the lecture hall, get hungry and eat some snacks, walk from the lecture hall to the canteen, get hungry and eat breakfast/ morning snack/ lunch/ tea/ dinner/ supper, and then walk from the canteen to the chalets, get hungry again and eat more in our rooms. The amount of food we consumed was directly proportional to the total distance of path travelled and since walking anywhere seemed like ages, you can imagine the amount of food we’ve consumed.

As mentioned above, Dusun Minda Resort is located in the area of Hutan Hujan Setiap Dua Jam and it literally rained every two hours. It rained while we were walking, it rained in the middle of a session, it rained in the middle of a meal, it rained while we hung out in our chalets, it rained when we left out wet shoes out to dry, it rained while we carried out activities in the jungle, it rained while we slept and it even rained when we went home. I hadn’t expected such long distances between our destinations before I left for the camp so naturally, I didn’t bring any umbrellas or raincoats so I had to make do with my sweater and beanie. But mostly we tried to stay indoors if it rained. I mean, where else could we go to, the cinema? Ha! I’m sorry, that was a very lame joke.

During the break from 4.30 to 8 PM, we had activities in the jungle under “Beriadah” in the timetable. On the first day, we crossed obstacles on National Service land. There were monkey bars, wall climbing, narrow bridge crossing et cetera and it was great fun and also great fatigue and fear. There was an obstacle at which we had to walk on top of these narrow walls with gaps in between and at first I thought it’d be easy peasy lemon squeezy and then I encountered my first gap and felt like vomiting my organs. I couldn’t move a muscle and only got through with the help of the instructor’s tree branch which he held up so we had something to hold on to as we crossed the gaps. The riadah activities on the second day was more interesting, and it was held in the jungle. There were three stations and the first station was called Hole In One. There was a huge tyre tied to two tree trunks and the objective of the game was to get all members in our team to cross to the other side through the hole in the tyre- without touching it. So everyone formed a conveyor belt of arms and we were transported to the other side in waves. When it was my turn, I couldn’t even open my eyes mostly out of confusion over what was happening but then everyone started chanting “Harry! Harry!” and that set me off. I was laughing all the way through the tyre and halfway there, Aifa even had the chance to say, “You’re gonna blog about this” and she was right! Four for you, Aifa! You go, Aifa! The second station was one where we had to take two tyres out of this really huge and long pole without touching the pole and then putting them back. I admit that I didn’t contribute much since I was neither strong enough nor tall enough nor small enough nor light enough to be the one to support people on my back and shoulders or the one to be supported on other people’s backs and shoulders, but I helped…a little…I guess…Uhhh…

The last station was one which we didn’t get to complete in time since it started raining and it was also close to 7 PM which, coupled with being in the middle of a jungle, meant approaching darkness. At the last station, we had to swing across a rope and then fit all twenty plus of us onto a tyre (these people sure make use of their tyres) but I didn’t get to swing before we all ran back to the lobby in the rain.

You’d think all these activities would guarantee myself a deep slumber at night but it was far from that. In fact, on the first night, we (Yu Han, Ee Ching, Hooi Shian and I) were practically homeless. Our room was leaking and there was a huge puddle in the middle of the room which we only discovered when it was around midnight so we spent about an hour walking to the lobby to request for a room change only to be offered Room 3019 which was even further than the room we were in and was also apparently “crossed out”, walking to the dorm to get Chin Teng’s room key from her since she was sleeping in the dorm and Room 2004, which was her room, would be unused, walking to Room 3016 to get our things and then finally to Room 2004 to sleep. Three of us (Hooi Shian preferred to sleep in the dorm) pulled mattresses down from the beds to sleep on the floor but instead of falling asleep immediately, the foreign surroundings, paranoid thoughts and remnants of a previous panic attack pulled me from the desire to sleep. I didn’t dare move and didn’t dare open my eyes but finally, at 3AM, I managed to drift off to sleep. I’m sure the others weren’t too comfortable either since all of us agreed to keep all the lights on.

In fact, all three nights I’d spent at Dusun were sleepless nights. Never once did I drift off to sleep without a single strand of fear or worry to keep me awake. It was tiring since we had to wake up super early the next day and there was no time at all for me to squeeze in a nap in between our jam packed schedule. Hence, it wasn’t at all surprising that I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow at 10 PM on the day I came home.

However, the highlights of this camp, I have to admit, were the frequent visits to Nado’s room, Room 2012. It was always packed in there (aided by the fact that Aina had moved into that room and there were five people bunking in that room) and we even joked about it being a rumah kebajikan and the Room of the Year because it literally was the room of the year. During afternoon and evening breaks, and also after the last session ended at 9.30 PM, Beneh and I would “lepak” there along with Leea, Lela, Eel, Ayuni, Ama B, Diana along with its inhabitants, Razan, Nado, Aina, Eah and Hamimah. Sometimes, even Laiyy, Wahed, Mas and Nadsyam would join us. It was like a common room, the common room, and there was never a serious moment in the common room. It was wonderful and…in that moment, I swear we were infinite.

Allow me to digress here to exclaim that thE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER MOVIE IS ALREADY OUT

One of the downsides of this camp was the inability to get away to be by myself. I mean, of course I could seclude myself if I wanted to, but I was afraid to at a place like that, so I had to go along with it and just deal with it even when I was too tired for human company. These moments always left me feeling nauseous and homesick, but I forced myself to abandon these thoughts and mix with the crowd despite the fact that I was out of social battery and was in desperate need of a recharge. Thankfully, sometimes, just being with Beneh and Lela was okay enough to allow me to recharge. Hence, the first thing I did when I came home was spend a whole hour in my room just doing nothing. The camp exhausted me both physically and mentally.

As a whole, despite the fact that the place left a lot to be desired, the studying sessions long and tedious and there was no Internet for 75 hours, to say that I didn’t have fun would be false. I had fun. I had a different kind of fun, and in spite of the foreignness of it all, I’m glad to have experienced this different kind of fun once in a while. Walking in the rain with trees all around you sounds like an invitation to a fever but when you come to think of it, how many times do and will you get to do this in your life? How many times do you get to hang out with all of your friends in the middle of a jungle? It’s natural for us to think of the flaws around us, but I’m thankful for the four days I’ve spent at Dusun Minda Resort. The main objective was probably to get us to study without distractions, but I like to think I’ve learned more than that. I’ve also learned to be independent, I reckon. I reckoned I handle myself quite well there (I didn’t leave any underwear lying around on the floor, at least). It also made me appreciate the people around me much, much more and realise how I have met and made friends with some of the greatest people in my life.

I am pleased to be back in civilisation, but these are memories I will treasure for a long, long time.

Nothing Is Magical Anymore

Mommy dearest, father dearest, yours truly and 93-year-old grandpa dearest.

The title really gives you insight into how my Chinese New Year went by, doesn’t it?

To make a comparison, Chinese New Year for Michelle the young child was always the ultimate climax of the year, and I was never disappointed. I was always so happy to be around my family, especially my cousins. I got to wear pretty new clothes and receive many angpaus. Even the atmosphere was obviously different. There used to be a special buzz in the air on the first day of Chinese New Year, and if I was lucky enough, on the second, third and fourth day too. I wish I could remember enough to put my long-gone ecstasy into words but times have changed drastically and it was as if I’ve shed the wings of magickery as I walked the Trails of Growing Up. That’s the worst pain of growing up: you start to see things and people as they really are, and your heart aches when you realise that some things and people were never as great and wonderful as you’d always thought them out to be. The Warlock of Age starts to wave the banner bearing the words “Congratulations! You are now able to see the rotten side of creation!” in your face.

Here, I even made a graph to make things clearer for you:

To be fair, this year’s Chinese New Year wasn’t bad. It certainly wasn’t the merriest, but it wasn’t bad. I’d learned to accept the fact that things won’t be as bubbly and magical as they were seven years ago. I had fun. The highlight of the week was definitely Soo Pei and Soo May’s temporary return from England and KL respectively. Besides, the fact that I had a break from school for a week was already a sunny upside.

Speaking of school…ah, school. What else can I say? Only in Sultanah Asma School, you have waktu wajib for an hour after school ends, break for less than half an hour, and then it’s back to kepong classes for one and a half hour (or two hours and fifteen minutes for Physics), which means that school ends at 5PM everyday for all of us Form Fives. Back at home, I barely have time to sit down before I’m shipped away to tuition classes again. Considering the amount of time (or lack thereof) we have each day, you’d think that at least we wouldn’t have much homework to bring back home and if you’re thinking that then HAHA! WRONG GUESS!

Some days, I just want to sing Pressure by Paramore at the top of my lungs and forget everything else.

Introducing Project More and also a Couple of Other Stuff about Books

With a new year comes many aspirations and ambitions!

I was inspired by WordPress’s blogpost on blog projects so I decided that this year, Careful Confessions will not be filled with posts only about Michelle’s emotions and feelings and weird outlooks but also posts on Project More.

What is Project More?

The “More” in Project More is a combination of the words “monthly” and “recommendations” to form the phrase “monthly recommendations” and that is exactly what it is! Each month, a post will be dedicated to book, album and movie recommendations. Simple as.

I also like to think that Project More will be able to introduce more great books
(“more     great books” and not “more great     books”, just to clarify), music and movies to more people out there. Great things deserve to be shared with everyone else. So, stop tacky vampire YA novels, horrible teenybopper music and Razzies-worthy movies!

Of course, while everyone has their own opinions, and not everyone will agree with my recommendations, I would also like to make it known that this project is not created merely for other people; it’s created for myself too. Perhaps one day I might want to go through all these posts and re-indulge in the glory of each masterpiece; or guffaw at my different outlook then. Whatever it is, it’s totally fine if you’re not happy with these recommendations because you’re not obliged to like them and thus not obliged to express your extreme disagreement. I am okay with debates and discussions but comments like, “OH MY GOD THIS IS CLEARLY THE WORST BOOK RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE GOD YOU ARE SO STUPID YOU NEED TO GET OFF THE INTERNET” will be happily ignored.

Just a little paranoid of negative feedback, is all.

If you haven’t noticed it yet, there is a little Goodreads’ 2012 Reading Challenge widget on the right sidebar and one of my 2012 resolutions is to read 50 books this year, as stated in aforementioned widget. It’s only 50 because this year is SPM year.

I would also like to announce two new pages to Careful Confessions:

  • The Next Change 2011 is the page about the YNN Camp I was talking about since a few posts ago. It is now up and running, complete with relevant photos and videos, so if you’d like to read about my 3-day job as a real videographer and that time I was almost killed by a durian, click the link above!
  • Michelle’s Booklist is exactly what it is, my booklist. It is a list of all the books I want or need to read and this booklist also corresponds to my Reading Challenge so you’ll know what books I’ve read for the challenge.

I know both the project and challenge will be sort of a hindrance because it’s SPM year and I shouldn’t be doing anything but studying for SPM…but that’s just it. I don’t want 2012 to be a year of studying only. Because contrary to what most of the teachers think, I personally don’t believe that SPM should take over an entire year of our lives. A year; there’s a lot of things you can do in year. Yes, SPM is greatly important, but I don’t want to succumb entirely to an examination. I want to be able to say that I’ve done something I like and am proud of by the end of the year (besides doing well in SPM, of course…but that’s not the point).

This is such a strange post. I’ve never blogged about this kind of thing before. Oh well, like they say, there’s always a first time for everything.

Little update on school: I have more or less gotten back some threads of motivation for the past few days. Ironically, I find being in Form 5 classes more comfortable and enjoyable than Form 4 classes. I’m even anticipating Add Math tuition later! The sheer horror of it!


Michelle, at 6 in the morning.

“Adik, adik tingkatan berapa?”

“Um…tingkatan lima.”

The conversation above took place between a parent and I when I was assigned to usher parents who brought their Form 1 kids for registration today.

I actually hesitated for a few seconds before admitting that I was in Form 5. Which sounded absurd even to my ears at the time. Since when did I become a senior?

I’m not even exaggerating when I say it seems like just yesterday that I was the frightened little girl with short hair who was a ball of tangled nerves under the curious stares of everyone else the first day I stepped into Asma. And then I thought of my days back in 1 Kedah, 2 Asma, 3 Asma and 4 Negeri and where the heck did they go? They just flew past at the speed of light without warning. It was as if there was a huge gap between the moment I first entered secondary school and the moment right then. It couldn’t have been four years already. It just didn’t seem possible.

And throughout these four years, I’ve witnessed different batches of seniors preparing and finally sitting for SPM, and I’ve thought of the day I will be in their exact same shoes too, but the thought of it has always seemed vague and far away, almost light years away. And now it’s here and to be frank, it’s hard to think of myself as a senior. I’ve always been the one who needed taking care of, the child who needed help in almost everything she did, but now it seems that I can’t be that way anymore because I’m almost a grown-up now and I need to learn to grow up and be a lot of things I’m expected to be instead of what I am now. It still frightens me that I only have a year of being a kid left until I leave the house and my family to live alone in concrete jungles or wherever it is away from home.

I’m looking at the huge stacks of books with “SPM” labels on it which I have on my table right now, thinking that in 10 months time, all of this would be of no use, would be thrown away and never retrieved from the depths of the garbage pile again, and then that’s when my stint in Alor Setar would be over this time. It just doesn’t seem right.

Suddenly, I’m taking roads down memory lane back to the time of the internship, camp and even Christmas. Anything beats this right now.

I’m lacking the motivation and optimism I promised myself last year that I would have at the beginning of SPM year. Hopefully with just the right amount of tuitions and classes, I’ll be able to get into the right mood again.

On the bright side, at least I’m still in 5 Negeri, hey!

I would also like to thank God that I was born in 1995 and not 1996 because then I would have to study all three pure sciences and Add Math in Malay and be forced to take up Mandarin in SPM. Yes…you heard that right.