It’s Wawasan 2020; a new decade and a new year, so here’s a review of what’s been going on. I had been having a very stressful last quarter of 2019, rushing out a book manuscript et al with other freelance work deadlines. It was so stressful that I had dreams of being punched in the mouth until my teeth fell out, and that my childhood home in Penang was on fire and I was frantically putting it out with garden hose and water pail.
So for the Christmas shutdown period, I spent a very quiet holiday season back home, and ushered in the decade by watching six episodes of BBC/ITV’s Bodyguard on Netflix! By then I think my brain was turning into vegetables from the hyper-activity of the past six months. During this time I was also on a diet restriction for my eczema (luckily it was post-Christmas) so I celebrated my birthday eating vegetarian meals only, twice at Sushi Zento, with my mother, sister and grandparents.
Come January I was back in KL after an extended week off. I went back to work for two weeks before scooting off to Australia mid-month. In my two weeks in KL I did little administrative tasks and sent one short story to Cha Journal in Hong Kong for their special Malaysia issue. In January I read two books, both Christian, ‘The Gratitude Attitude’ by David & Lo-Ann Trembley (which was more like a daily devotion) and ‘Taking Your Soul to Work’ by R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung about what it means to be a Christian in the modern workplace. Both were books that I half-completed in 2019, so I was determined to finish them before leaving for Melbourne.
In Melbourne I spent a good deal of time with my pregnant little sister, visited Camberwell Market, attended the Australian Open, discovered Abbotsford Convent and watched so much Netflix that my brain turned to mashed potatoes. I spent time with all my little nieces and nephew, spent quiet times in libraries, ate Lune croissants, drank Duke coffees and spent Chinese New Year at a Japanese buffet. I also caught up with a high-school friend and spent lots of quality time with her, even staying over at her new apartment. The highlight from my Australian trip was witnessing the birth of my niece Elle Ember Ong, born on 30 January 2020. January babies FTW!
February was back to reality for me. First thing after I landed back in KL, I was off for a yummy Japanese dinner and reunion with two of my father’s sisters, one from Subang and one from London. It was a great time of catching up with all things UK and Brexit. Soon after, there was a looming deadline at work that I had kept at bay. The book manuscript I had been working on most of 2019 was now ready for design and publication by end month, and much of my time was spent working on that and two auxiliary publications.
February was also a crazy heavy-workload with my freelance client, as my job expanded to include writing current news articles for them. In total, I did 13 pieces of job for them that month – a record high – due also to influenza, and the coronavirus outbreak which was then still called the Wuhan virus. Mid-month I was also released from my freelance job with a Singapore tech agency; it was a shock at first but later I felt that it was a blessing in disguise. It had been a source of stress without my realising, contributing to my eczema. But I now thank the good Lord that it has been a good run with the agency these past two years, and I’m eternally grateful for that opportunity.
In February I wrote a short story called ‘Rempit’ for submission to an Australian journal called Kill Your Darlings. Like Cha, they were also putting on a special Malaysian issue and were calling for Malaysian stories by Malaysian writers. I’m so glad that I made the effort because I love fiction writing, but it so often gets kicked to the side if I prioritise paid work over it. This month, I read three books; ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier, ‘Machines Like Me’ by Ian McEwan and ‘Ironweed’ by William Kennedy. Here’s hoping that March would be a quiet quarantined month.