On to Month Two of Hermit Life!


I have officially been a bum for a month.

In the past week, I have:

  • slept a lot
  • brunched at Dukes Windsor, apparently one of the best coffee places in Melbourne (the cappuccino was yum; steak sandwich also yum)
  • guiltily played soccer. I played an outdoor game on Sunday—the second-last game for the season; I couldn’t resist!—and collected three bruises and a good bit of swelling around the injured ankle
  • felt majorly down and crippled due to injury and pain, and secretly loathed my GP for telling me to rest
  • binge-watched Korra season 3 (review forthcoming!)

How goes the writing, you ask? It’s up and down. By the end of three weeks I’d reached 20,000 words and I was past the tenth chapter. Then, last week, the most horrible of horribles happened: I hit a lull. I’d sit down at my desk and be overwhelmed with restlessness and frustration. Everything I wrote seemed forced. Doubts surfaced about the validity of my story–it’s ridiculously light-hearted, it doesn’t deal with any important themes, it’s not serious, it’s gratuitous and artificial and anachronistic and just way too far-fetched.

Anxiously, I took a long break over the weekend. I returned to the draft with some trepidation yesterday afternoon and was relieved to find that my passion for the story had returned! I rewrote Chapter 8, and plodded on with Chapter 12 at a slower, steadier rate, empowered by melodic drum & bass tunes and a sneaky little bit of Ariana Grande ft. Zedd (the video clip has a scrolling intro, aliens and boob rockets—how could I not like it?!).

Speaking of music, I have to gush about a song. I am madly in love with this tune. I was walking down the street listening to it and I almost leapt up and punched the air like a crazy kickboxer. It was extremely difficult to resist the urge. (I sort of did a little punch, inconspicuously.)


It’s a remix of Chromeo’s Lost on the Way Home by Mat Zo, and it’s the most perfectly bizarre mash-up of genres. A drum & bass remix of an electro-funk song? The result: bouncy liquid goodness. The intro is a little wacky, but give it a shot!

If you’re not a fan of drum & bass, the original is pretty smooth stuff, too.

Also, if you’re a fan of EDM and want a great way to support a good cause and get something back at the same time, check out Bass for Autism Vol. 2.


One thing I struggled with towards the end of this month is working from home. Contrary to all my declarations about being a hermit, I’m actually someone who can’t stand being cooped up all day. I’m quite restless. I can’t sit still for more than half an hour; I start getting an urge to stand up and walk around. Even watching a full-length movie in a theatre is pushing my limit of sitting still, and when the credits roll I can’t wait to hop up and stretch. So, sitting in front of a computer for many hours a day is physically challenging. Towards evening, my body feels sloth-like and my eyes feel fried.

I’ve tried to work around this in several ways: making sure I take a rest break at least every hour, going for walks, changing it up by writing in a cafe or public place. But I’ll have to think of something more. I used to be able to play soccer nearly every day, but sadly that’s not something I can do at the moment.

Overall, it’s been a fun and relaxing first month of full-time writing, with some unpredictable challenges. I’m excited to see where my second month of writing takes me.


Day Three (or really, day two), + Book Review: Ender’s Game – The Graphic Novel

Reading: Before Watchmen – Nite Owl/Dr Manhattan
Listening: CMA – Caught In Our Thoughts
Watching: BBC’s Wonders of the Universe; waiting for the other half to have free time so we can catch up on Korra and Elementary
Playing: Nothing over the past few days

Day Three of my six month journey of writing! Or technically, day two…because yesterday I had a job interview and didn’t achieve much in between that and physiotherapy and outdoor soccer training. So yesterday will be one of my “weekend” days and I’ll work a full day on Saturday or Sunday to make up for it.

What difficulties have I encountered so far?

1. Waking up

I always have difficulty with this. Especially in winter. I suspect my body is somewhat related to a polar bear, because I tend to adopt hibernation behaviours in cold weather. I’m pretty sure, if you left me to it, I could sleep three-quarters of the day away. Unfortunately I’m not one of those lucky people who are able to thrive on a few hours of sleep (and now it seems there’s a genetic association for it!) though I really wish I was. Imagine the productivity! In fact, my utter inability to function without adequate sleep has definitely been a factor, amongst other things, in pushing me away from specialties such as Emergency Medicine and surgery.

Despite my love of the bed, I am actually a morning person and achieve the most before 12 noon. So, the alarm has been going off at 7.30am.

2. The Melbourne cold

I haven’t yet got so sick of my house that I have had to relocate to a cafe or library. But the downside is that my house is freezing. My weapons of defense? Fluffy pink socks and a trusty beanie.

IMG_20140806_115729 IMG_20140806_115646

3. The afternoon slump

Hits around 2pm. I yawn and can think of nothing but a pillow against my cheek. My techniques for handling the slump so far have included switching activities—for example, switch from story-outlining to blogging; doing 10 push-ups (the most I can achieve); going for a short walk.

4. Facebook

Hasn’t been as much of a problem yet as I’d feared. Will update if this changes.

On to the book review!

ender's game

Yesterday I finished the graphic novel adaptation of Ender’s Game, scripted by Christopher Yost and artwork by Pasqual Ferry. It’s a collection of Ender’s Game: Battle School #1-5 and Command School #1-5, which basically covers the events of the original novel by Orson Scott Card: An impending second war looms between humans and their enemies, the bug-like alien Formics. To prepare for this, the army is seeking the most gifted child to mould into a deadly commander. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is taken to Battle School in the hope that he can become this commander.

The graphic novel is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the book, covering all the main events in a condensed way. It’s a great introduction to the story if you’re new to Ender’s Game, and also an enjoyable alternative medium if you’re already a fan. There isn’t anything new or surprising.

The art style is clean and futuristic. Ferry’s linework conveys movement fluidly. The colours are sombre and evocative of the gloomy interiors of the spaceships. The Battle Room scenes are well illustrated and fun to flick through.

Overall, the graphic novel conveys the main emotions of the book fairly well, though the resolution seemed rushed and only offered a superficial skimming-over of Ender’s reaction to the final battle. I also feel as though they left out a major part of the ending.

A quick and easy graphic novel read that can be a great introduction to a controversial science fiction classic.

Happy hump day, everyone!

Day One. D-Day. Determination. Hermit Life.

Reading: Ender’s Game – The Graphic Novel
Listening: James Vincent McMorrow  – Cavalier (Samuraii Remix)
Watching: Korra Season 3, Elementary
Playing: To the Moon…very slowly

And so it begins! Today is the first day of my six months of “non-participation in the workforce”—according to my dear brother, I am not technically “unemployed”, because I am choosing not to have a job. Thanks, Mr. Pedantic! (In all seriousness, he could very much lay claim to that name.) Here’s to six months of watching my savings dwindle away. Here’s to six months of living the hermit life. I am both tremendously excited and a wee bit nervous. Make that a whole lot nervous. A wee lot nervous?

Over the next few months, I will aim to keep to a dedicated schedule. Wake up at 7.30am or so. Work from roughly 8:30am to 5pm without too many long breaks. Work consists of brainstorming, researching, planning, writing, finding ‘inspiration’, blogging, and hopefully, more writing. In the evenings: work on my online courses, play soccer, socialise (that foreign concept), read, watch TV shows, play games, get further inspired. I haven’t yet worked out the weekends. They might be a shorter half-day of work: perhaps 3-4 hours in the mornings, if my creative brain isn’t feeling wrung out by then.

My poor sad ankle isn’t still fully recovered from the battering it received on the futsal court two months ago. It looks like what started out as a Grade 2 ligament tear of the ATFL (ligament on the lateral side of the ankle) has progressed into a tendinopathy of the tibilis posterior and also of the peroneus longus and brevis—basically, the tendons/muscles around both sides of my ankles. My foot and ankle ache after even a brief stint of running. It got me pretty glum at first. I guess I’ll just have to keep resting it, and maybe ease gradually back into 1-2 games per week.

I am still in the middle of interviews and applications, so my brain isn’t one hundred percent dissolved into holiday mode quite yet. One more interview tomorrow, and then quite possibly I am finished with trying to impress my superiors. And then I’ll have to wait another month or so to find out whether I have been accepted into the training college. The college interview on Friday didn’t go very well, so I’m feeling extremely ambivalent.

On Friday night we ate out at Meega: a tiny Korean place at the back of a Korean grocery store in Glen Waverley. We ordered sausage hot pot, ramen, rice, beef bulgogi, and two kinds of fried chicken (spicy sweet chilli; garlic and soy) between four of us, which was just the perfect amount. Since then I’ve been craving a plate of delicious japchae (Korean sweet potato noodles). Come at me!

Jap Chae


Reading back over this post, it sounds like I’m a bag of mixed emotions. Thrilled, happy, nervous, glum, stressed, and frequently hungry. But I reckon I’m mostly thrilled. I mean, who gets the chance to have six months off to write, roll around and dream of imaginary worlds? It’s a privilege and an adventure.

Here’s to the next six months! Time to put my creative hat on.


Upon what base I place my identity…


Reading: A Chinese Life – Li Kunwu
Listening: Daft Punk – Face to Face (Uppermost Remix)
Watching: Korra Season 3

Playing: To The Moon

After a series of happy days, I had a glum day. I had a glum day for a number of reasons, but the main trigger for my evening funk was probably the discovery that I did not win a writing competition.

I’ve not entered many writing competitions in my life. In fact, this was the only competition I’ve entered this year, and it was only after a friend suggested it to me. But for some reason I had a strange sense of exhilaration about the piece I submitted. I knew it was probably a false hope, but I felt magical and optimistic about my chances nevertheless. I submitted my story to a national medical journal, and expected to hear a good result.

I was surprised by how much it affected me to open that email and read: “…unfortunately, your story was not chosen by our judges as a winner…however, we do want to thank you for sharing your ideas with us and wish you better luck next year…”

I went home and tried to figure out why I was so upset. It wasn’t too hard to figure out. Obviously, I ground a significant part of my identity in the belief that I can write. It’s a lifelong passion of mine, and something that I nurture and keep very close to my heart. I spend time and effort on writing (more so in the past than lately…). And I think of myself as someone who writes. Without writing, a large portion of my self-identity vanishes.

But I realised then that perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this. Yes, writing is an activity that is uniquely personal. It’s one where you rely on your gut and your heart. But need to separate my skill as a writer—and other people’s judgement of that skill—from my sense of self-worth.

That got me musing about what else I derive identity from—and what I should be deriving it from. Most of the things we build ourselves on are impermanent, or unstable. Many of us base our identities on looks, sporting prowess, approval from others/social skills, intellect, or qualifications. Many of us base our identities on a relationship. Some of us base our identities on personal qualities–maybe we see ourselves as charitable, or kind, or assertive, or empathetic.

Almost everything in this world is unpredictable and not entirely under our control. Maybe I just need to be more aware of that, and of the things that I am dependent upon. Because in order to have a fulfilling life, I will need to trust my own skills and trust the relationships I have with other people. I just need to make sure I choose the right things, and the right people, to place my trust in :)


I woke up today pretty much feeling fine about not winning the competition, so maybe rejection isn’t so bad after all, heh. I’m not going to win any competitions if I don’t start entering dozens upon dozens of them.

Speaking of writing competitions, I only have one week left of work before I embark on my six months of unemployment and relative poverty!!! It’s come upon me so quickly in the midst of applications and interviews that I’m starting to mildly freak out. People are giving me surprised looks when I tell them I will be essentially unemployed, and generally ask, “But won’t you be bored?!”

Will I? I don’t think I’ll be. When do I get bored? I get bored during reality TV shows; when radio hosts run competitions to win small sums of money; when the conversation is all about work; when I’m waiting in traffic/at the bank/at the doctor’s. But I don’t think I’m someone who gets bored easily. There’s just so much to do, to read, to see, to watch, to eat, to learn!

So tonight I’m drawing up a battle plan for the next few months. So I don’t slip up or procrastinate. This is a once in a lifetime chance, to try out being a full-time writer for six months. Here’s hoping it goes well.


Differential Diagnosis: A Meaningful Life?


What does it mean to live a meaningful life, I muse as I sit at my desk on a sullen Tuesday evening, listening to Seven Lions and shovelling lemon slice into my mouth. It’s a question that has popped into my head from time to time over the years, until I get distracted by more pertinent issues such as licking the icing off my fingers and checking Facebook.

It’s a question that has done a little more popping than usual in recent months, maybe because of the nature of my work. I see a lot of people who feel their lives are meaningless; or, sometimes, we look at them and judge them to have meaningless lives.

I see a lot of people who don’t leave the house. People who find it a challenge and a personal success to go out for a fifteen-minute walk, who struggle to get dressed and take a shower and do their chores. I see others who have no motivation or desire to do anything. They wallow, unwashed, largely unseen by the rest of society, in their bedrooms, playing video games (X-Boxes are particularly popular). They survive on unemployment benefits.

They are not productive members of society. We treat them and we try to improve their “social functioning”, try to improve their connectedness and train them in “job skills” and get them involved with “activities”. We try to gift them with “meaning”.

Is productivity, then, a measure of a meaningful life? If you contribute to society in some way. If you give back to your community, if you make money and pay taxes and fuel the economy, if you have big projects and do things that change the world. Is the cardiothoracic surgeon, then, or the human rights ambassador, living a more meaningful life than the stay-at-home parent or the post-man? What sort of contribution to society should we aspire to?

When I went to church, this was a huge question. What is the meaning of being alive? As teenagers, we talked about it with each other all the time, shiny-eyed and eager to discover our callings and our place in the big wide world. We decided that a meaningful life was simply one where you did what God had called you for. I have no doubt that many people still follow this path today and derive a lot of fulfilment from it.

What about creativity? Creating something, whether it be a work of art, a piece of writing, a design, a recipe, a precedent, a building or road, and leaving it in the world to be a legacy after you are gone. Is that meaningful?

Still others talk about finding meaning in pursuing your own goals and seeking your own happiness. After all, you only get one life, and your life is entirely your own, and no one else’s. Why not seek to put yourself first?

And still others talk about finding meaning in touching other people’s lives. A life cannot be meaningless if you have done something to better another person’s experience, if you have left your fingerprint in someone else’s book. That, they say, is how you will know you have lived a good one.

I’ve run out of lemon slice. Time to get another piece and check Facebook.

Fifty Questions That Will Free Your Mind

Stumbled across this page a couple of years ago and slapped it onto my to-do list. Finally got around to it today. Twas actually quite fun. Hope you enjoy reading my answers, and I recommend doing this activity if you’re home sick with a cold like me! Some of the questions sound a bit fluffy but it is a rewarding process. change-your-mind

Fifty Questions That Will Free Your Mind – answered by Grace on 8 August 2013

1.       How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? I think I would be 17, which is such a pretty prime number. I’d like to think that, inside, I’m still as optimistic, passionate and playful as a teenager. I’m still trying to shirk the responsibilities of adult life and I’m still hoping I’ll achieve my dreams. But then, I’m sure everyone feels younger inside than they are outside. The world is full of grown-up children.

2.       Which is worse, failing or never trying? My head says never trying, but my heart is afraid that failure hurts.

3.       If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do? Because we follow the path of least resistance. Because we follow the values and habits conditioned into us from birth. Because we don’t want to let people down. Because we’re afraid of trying and not succeeding. Because we feel guilty about enjoying ourselves too much and not slaving away at our jobs like everyone else.

4.       When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? I hope not. I could avoid this by keeping really, really quiet.

5.       What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world? Eliminate social status.

6.       If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich? Writing!

7.       Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing? I think I’m doing what I believe in. I believe that medicine is a good career and it’s something that I’m reasonably capable at. I’m not as passionate about it as many others, but I care about the people I look after.

8.       If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently? Haha. I’d quit medicine.

9.       To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken? I have had all the freedom to make almost all my choices in life (apart from the choices made by my parents for me when I was too young to think). However, only in hindsight do I have the wisdom to evaluate those choices and realise that a large part of who I am is a condition of my socioeconomic, cultural and family influences. You could have predicted me from day one.

10.   Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things? Both, I guess, which is probably enough to drive one crazy. I was brought up in a conservative Christian family with strong moral ideas. I’m also a Type A personality, unfortunately.

11.   You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire.  They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend.  The criticism is distasteful and unjustified.  What do you do? I would speak up in her favour. This has happened to me before.

12.   If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be? Can I speak baby talk? If not, it doesn’t matter. The poor bub wouldn’t understand me anyway.

13.   Would you break the law to save a loved one? Ooh, what a thrilling question. I’ll say yes. I think I would. Depending on the law.

14.   Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity? Not yet. My peers are quite sane.

15.   What’s something you know you do differently than most people? I write with my left hand.

16.   How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy? I disagree with this – I think the things that make me happy are pretty general! Feeling like you’re good at something, being loved, seeing loved ones happy, achievements, seeing the world…we’re more similar than different :D

17.   What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?  What’s holding you back? These questions are probing! I want to write more, but my sensible self (and my parents) would prefer that I hang on to a stable job. Other things interfering with writing time: stalking people on Facebook, awesome TV shows…

18.   Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? A dirty joke rose unbidden into my mind. But I will resist. I don’t think I’m holding onto any excess baggage any more. I’m quite free and looking forward to the future.

19.   If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why? Generic answer time. Probably London, because so many people I admire lived and worked there. Though I’m not sure I could put up with the gloom and the rain. Otherwise, maybe Japan…if I could speak Japanese.

20.   Do you push the elevator button more than once?  Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster? Indeed I do. No I don’t believe it will make the elevator go faster. I just like pushing buttons.

21.   Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton? Worried genius.

22.   Why are you, you? I have wondered this for over twenty years.

23.   Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend? Nope. I’m a good listener, but I’m terrible at keeping in touch with friends when it’s no longer convenient. I am sorry. I miss them often, but I can’t seem to work up the courage/motivation to send them a message.

24.   Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you? Both are sad, but losing touch with a good friend near me is sadder. Good friends in other countries are still good friends.

25.   What are you most grateful for? Health. A mind that can think. Loved ones.

26.   Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones? OMG. This is an awful question! With great difficulty, I pick losing my old memories. I’ve only lived 24 years (and don’t really remember the first five…). I’ve got so many more memories to make. Also, I will leave a convenient letter to my amnesiac future self.

27.   Is it possible to know the truth without challenging it first? Nah, probably not. You can’t really understand something unless you question and challenge it.

28.   Has your greatest fear ever come true? Losing my teeth? Not yet. Getting stuck in an elevator? Not yet. Failing at life? Not yet.

29.   Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset?  Does it really matter now? I remember ten years ago bawling my eyes out that my parents wouldn’t let me go to a sleepover. FOMO to the max. Five years ago, bawling my eyes out that my parents didn’t think transferring universities was a good idea. I’m glad I cry a lot less now.

30.   What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special? Playing imaginary games and building cushion forts with my little brother. Those days were so wonderfully carefree and blissful. I am so happy that I had a sibling to grow up with.

31.   At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive? Travelling with Victor.

32.   If not now, then when? Soon. Time is a vengeful god.

33.   If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose? Sunk cost. Which is, apparently, an illusion!

34.   Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever? Uh…not absolutely nothing. That would be a bit odd. I do loathe small talk, though, and have often attempted to broach the small talk barrier by dropping in an awkward, more personal statement. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, depending on my conversational partner. I’d like to think that the people who catch on are the ones worth hanging on to :)

35.   Why do religions that support love cause so many wars? This is a loaded and complicated question which I cannot answer.

36.   Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil? Some things are most certainly evil, and some things are certainly good. Though if you start examining the motivations behind actions, then the moral value may be muddied. But then do you judge morality by intention or outcome? Hm, hm.

37.   If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job? Er, yeah. I’d do something else. Something that excites me.

38.   Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing? The latter. But I don’t think anyone wants more of internship.

39.   Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before? Yeah, at times they all merge into one giant blobby day.

40.   When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in? Oh, that’s poetic. I’ve not marched into any metaphorical darknesses, sadly. I wish my life were more adventurous.

41.   If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today? You know who you are.

42.   Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous? Tempting, but probably not.

43.   What is the difference between being alive and truly living? For me, I suppose truly living means using what I’ve been giving to create and contribute to the world in some way. One of the worst ways to live would be to just go through the motions, dwindle, become demented/immobile/incontinent, and die.

44.   When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right? When a middle age crisis hits. I kid. I’ll give my dreams a go next year.

45.   If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake? I’d rather get it right the first time ;P

46.   What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you? Dress different. Be less polite. Ask tougher questions. Release my inner nerd.

47.   When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing? I like quiet. I think I lay in bed and listened to my heartbeat and stuff a couple of days ago.

48.   What do you love?  Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love? Interesting that this question asks what I love. Hmmmm. I love when people are selfless. I love when people are excited or passionate about an intellectual pursuit. I love the fact that humanity, despite being a crawling, sprawling conglomeration of 7 billion plus organisms, cares about emotions, details, art, creativity, individuals, and has collectively created a world that frequently shows itself to be beautiful.

49.   In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday?  What about the day before that?  Or the day before that? Nope. I have a surprisingly shocking memory.

50.   Decisions are being made right now.  The question is:  Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you? I’m trying to make them for myself, more and more so, from now on.  

In this dream, I’m dancing right beside you

I have reasoned that there are two sorts of people in the world, and I fall into the inferior half. There are those of you who are content to exist within the internal universe of your own mind. A bit of pondering upon a subject, perhaps over your morning bowl of cereal or while sponging yourself off in the shower, and you’ve nutted it out in a logical manner. You feel no real need to rely on another’s opinion. You are less swayed by the tendencies of the masses.

I, on the the other hand, could be more accurately compared to a limpet. I am rarely able to straighten out my thoughts without saying them aloud to someone. My ideas are only validated if they are written or spoken, and more importantly, absorbed by another. I am an impermanent image created by the reflected reverberations of my own invisible voice. That is why I need to write everything down before I can learn it; why I spill my thoughts to strangers on the web; why I savour the feeling of translating a gingerly formulated concept into a crisp, clear sentence.

Most of the time, this is OK. We Type 2 limpets are happy to fill our notebooks/our friends’ ears with an interior monologue of woes, whilst you Type 1 people calmly and silently plot world domination, or whatever it is you do with all that extra brainpower.

But at times I feel like all the pieces of myself are being stretched out across space and time like long strings of fairy floss. When this happens, I know I need to draw those threads of thought back into me and knot it all securely together. Because it is possible to care too much what other people think. And the fear of rejection or being disliked can hold you back from achieving big things.

In order to have self-confidence–and by this don’t mean arrogance, domineering or even assertiveness, but rather a sort of quiet, self-contained, self-confidence–I think you need to know what ingredients make up you. Your strengths, weaknesses and beliefs. In which direction you want to steer your life. What things and people are important to you, and what obsessions just aren’t worth your time.

One thing I’ve struggled to do in recent months is to retain perspective: to remember that today is just one day. That all things are temporary, and in retrospect, all things seem smaller and clearer. Though we may feel old already, we are really only at the beginning of our lives. We have so many tomorrows, and so much to make of them. We don’t want to waste our energies on today’s worries.