So the first month of the new year has passed and finally I have gathered enough guilt from procrastination to really sit down and take a look back on the last year.
2014 was a year of trials and experiments, a pilot year to test myself and play with different strategies and see if I am cut out for this path, if I’m strong enough and most importantly, capable enough. I was half nervous, half curious to find out the answer.
“Yes, if you don’t know already, I work part-time in the media and event organising field.”
This is a sentence I’ve been repeating times and again during my self-introduction on the first day of every single French class I took for the past year. Yet the rest part of the day, what do I do? Back then I did not have the courage and confidence to say instead, I am an artist, I am an illustrator. I’ve always considered myself an aspiring one only, telling myself I’m still learning the trades, I’m still lacking and far from being fully-fletched. Because I didn’t have any background on arts, because I’m self-teaching and because I started so late. But then did Van Gogh began to paint only at the age of 26, like me? Yet the most haunting fact that deters me from working up my guts to say what burns inside is the attitude and reactions of people around me. Friends have been most encouraging and supportive, but others have remained skeptical and cynical, including my family. Some acquaintances even had the cheek to give advice on how to be ‘mature and responsible’ since ‘you’re not young any more’. So instead of explaining to those who have really refused to be open and listen, I just smiled then tried to focus my energy in proving them wrong by working, silently.
I’ve run across drawing and painting several times but the first time I had the thought of dropping out of school to follow this new route was when I realised I felt so calm and serene when I painted. Never before could I be more focused on doing one thing for so long without being distracted or bored. I spent 8 hours painting nonstop, no eating, no drinking, no resting. That’s when I decided to give this a chance, to give me a chance of feeling fulfilled and happy. Each step has been small and slow, yet they’ve made me tremendously joyful and proud of being able to express what I want and how I feel with colours and light. But this sounds a bit romantic and unrealistic, don’t you think? This is work, it’s not a hobby any more. I told myself to be prepared and keep my feet on the ground – failure can come at any time and if I’ve decided to stay in the field for long, I’d have to learn how to deal with it. And it came, on a fine day of April. Harsh words of criticism, bashing and tearing me down. I was taken aback. Self-doubt went up, self-confidence went down. But then I realised, If I’m any professional, I should accept the fact that this is how people do, they have the urge of criticising things they don’t like, that doesn’t mean what I do is of no value or importance. All I can do is try to draw something constructive or useful from their negative feedback, and if not, just take a step back and walk away. So that’s what I did, walking away, feeling a new sense of ease and freedom from the project I wasn’t particularly interested in.
Since then I did some small projects and finally finished writing the 2nd script and currently half way through the final painting process for the new picture book. There have been promises I have yet kept but there’ve been some unexpected surprises too. Among things that need to be worked on this year is catching up with the daily action, human anatomy, body, gesture and movement and 3 – 4 new projects. I’ll kept my fingers crossed to have all these things done nicely by then end of 2015.
I travelled a little last year, not much to the extent I’d like it to be but the experience was good. Both trips abroad to Kuala Lumpur and Seoul weren’t planned, KL was a last-minute decision of my boss and Seoul was out of spontaneity after knowing that I could acquire a visa without financial proofs!
So to KL I went in the last week of June. KL used to be the worst, even the thought of returning to Malaysia makes me sick. Sadly, the trauma still lingered on after 6 years and for the first few days there were times when I found myself out of breath, being reminded too much of the past. But then I knew it’s now time I needed to face the pain and accept it as a part of my history. It slowly got better by the end of the trip and I finally got over with bad haunting memories, thanks to nice people I met along the way, the smiles and the haven of Kinokunya that saved me.
Then came Seoul, a city I’ve been dreaming of since year 3 at uni. It was on my bucket list to be done by 30 that I visit this city in its golden peak of autumn. But at the same time I felt like it was dripping through my hand and probably I wouldn’t be able to make it till my middle age. So when I know I could get to see Jay, I immediately got the tickets booked the very night, giving myself no time for second thoughts. I wanted to see Seoul with my own eyes, by my own money. Speaking of money, this is the first trip overseas that I used my own savings, the rest were either given, sponsored or paid by others’ generosity. Somehow it gave me a nice feeling of independence and maturity, being daring and adventurous once again, learning new things and trusting in people’s kindness.
I broke up with a friend. It’s funny when you say such a thing when it comes to friendship. The term seems catered for couple relationships only but sadly it can also be the case with amity. There’s this ugly truth that goes, ‘friends are like clothes – fine when they are new but then they wear thin and finally you grow out of them’. Generally I’d oppose to this but in the end I could do nothing but opt to withdraw from the scene. It was painful but I’ve learned to let go. Having said that, I still hang on to the blind hope that true friends are people who stay till the end.
My ‘friend’, my idol for 5 years, my inspiration and source of comfort turns out to be a woman beater. The news knocked me down and I was devastated for a week, tossing and turning between disbelief and instinctive intuition. But then Wonie came along, and for the first time in my life, I have such huge respect for a star, deeply impressed by the philosophy, the lifestyle and wisdom endowed in him. I met him in the tough patch of the year and I was in awe seeing so much in common between us. He’s kind of a male version of me, but just better, someone I can look up to and can proudly be one of his fans. A sense of relief and validation are what he’s been giving me and ever since I got to know this man of great depth, talent and intelligence, I felt almost empowered and encouraged with my choices of living.
My dating life was quiet, and I like it like that. I was able to concentrate on doing my things better which already make up a long list. The serenity brings ease to my mind and I felt so liberated from any responsibilities and attachments. There have been wounds and pains to cope with and scars to pay attention to but in general, I was ok, sane and happy by myself most of the time.
I bought too many books last year but then again, there’s no such a thing as ‘too many books’. Good books are little treasures full of wonders that should be kept through time. But among the babies I brought home in 2014, there’s this book that literally saved me. We met by chance. I happened to be waiting for a friend to choose her book, standing near the entrance, in front of the self-help section. I wasn’t particularly looking but the ‘cheesy’ title got my attention. Despite the heavily twisted title and numerous translation mistakes, the gems of the book still shine through and I decided to buy it, only to realise later that its original English version was already in my wishlist of my amazon account.
The book was a life-savior to me at that time of crisis. I was totally lost and unproductive. There was something wrong with the system in which I live and work. This pace, this environment, these vain standards are not nurturing. Instead of inspiring and enabling, they have become hungry beasts demanding attention, time and energy. Amidst the chaos I felt almost magical that I came across this book of collective power of wisdom. Nothing was particularly new and groundbreaking but it came just at the right time when I needed it the most. It showed me the causes of all my symptoms and reminded me of the solutions. Step by step, I learned and practice the remedies, going for meditation, focusing on what’s most important first, taking regular breaks, dealing with the overload of information and social networks. Since then life has been so much easier that I’ve read the book 4 times and would continue to keep it in within reach for future reminder.
I used to be that girl who collects notebooks and journals for the sake of their beauty but and end up piling them up at the corner. I just bought a lot of them without using in the fear of damaging their fine paper or cute decorations. But since I got back to Vietnam, I started using them regularly and to my surprise, I actually can fill them with lots of notes and reflections, entries and lists and everything else you can think of to note down. And it was pleasing to put on paper your thoughts and ideas. The progress and process are recorded and stored permanently, available anytime I need to refer to. Even when the final results cannot be reached, the work itself was presentable and it gives me a sense of achievement in some way while sharpening my thoughts when transferring them from my mind to the paper. This cannot be done easily with a digital version when the option of deleting and overwriting is the default and the current state of the work is the only thing you’ve got.
With too many things in my priority list I found it hard to get round to doing all of them. There were a few times I thought of giving up on French or at least taking a small break from it so that I’d have more time for other things. But then I asked myself, if not now then when? Things won’t ever get easier, time will never slow down. It’s only gonna get busier and harder. So I gritted my teeth and tried to keep it going. I never missed a French course and been following till Niveau J now. Of course there were bad notes, homework undone, absence from class due to vacations, laziness, business trips… but on the last day of Class I02, Ismael said “Quelle note!” to my final test graded 29,25/30 and returned my essay he regarded as B2 level, I knew it was worth it.
Speaking beautiful French is still in far future but I do hope that when I still have the chance, I’ll make sure to take this as seriously as I once did with English. So that after it, I can come back to Korean 🙂
So yes, it’s been a good year, a stepping stone for more to come in the future. A lot of stuff I still need to work on like fighting procrastination and forming a healthy working routine, but as long as I can still have this flame burning in my heart, I know it should be alright.