I owe myself a good story to tell the world about the last quarter of 2016.
Going through a rough patch for the entire year, all I wanted was a temporary escape. A brave leap of faith turned out to be the most precious and priceless experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything else in this world.
One month of service training and three months abroad in Cambodia, I am glad to say that I have settled back home once again, but as a changed person with broader perspectives and new goals to achieve.
I know, I know. It has been quite a long while since I got home and the post-mission withdrawal symptoms have died down, but it is never easy to pen down such indescribable memories with words for the eyes of the world to read.
Well, now I am ready to tell my MYCorps story.
You know what they say about tough times changing people?
2015 was pretty much a crap load of shit to take in. To know that I am stuck behind the barrier stopping me from joining my peers to start a career in the legal profession made me question my interest in this chosen pathway. Inevitably, it made me question all my decisions that I have made in my life. It then became frustrating and scary to realise that I achieved very little and have only a small handful of things that I was proud of. Soon, it dawned to me that I no longer know what I wanted to do, and what I am good at. There was so much of self-doubt and emotional bashing that I could only take, so one April morning in 2015, I got up and decided that I want to start a change with myself first. Little did I realise that I put my own wellbeing at risk while I was too focused burning the midnight oil studying or too busy keeping up with my social life.
I picked up running again and alternate with cross training, focusing on building strength. With running and training I realised how focused, disciplined and persistent I could be. Even until today, two years down the road, being able to beat PBs with each passing week of running and lifting heavier weights made me feel alive, positive and happy. That is when I knew I could take it a notch higher and make a change on a larger scale – and that is the day I came across MYCorps in August 2016.
I was trying to maintain composure and get my head in revising to sit for the CLP examinations for the second time, and MYCorps came up on my Twitter suggestions page. A quick glance was all it took for me to start filling up the application form. The only thing that came in my way was a video submission that follows, and it wasn’t until hours before the application deadline (aka the night before exams) that I hastily wrote a script and sat in front of the webcam of my laptop to make a recording. I consider myself lucky to be shortlisted – I remember scrolling through my Instagram feed after my last paper and saw my name as one of the 50 chosen participants! In that moment, all I could do was to thank my lucky stars that stopped my reluctance from completing the application with the video submission.
That was when I knew good things were coming my way. 🙂
MYCorps Service Training, September 2016.
I remember feeling jittery and nervous albeit the excitement as orientation day for the one-month service training drew closer. I think most of the nerves was the fear of not being able to live up such a priceless experience up to my expectations. Not again, not more self-doubts, I thought to myself. All it took was a brave step forward and I am mingling with my dorm mates and the other girls in the other dorms at the International Youth Centre (IYC). In a matter of days, I was cracking jokes and having a good time with everyone.
I suppose one of my biggest personal hurdle initially was conversing in Malay, when I have been speaking English all my life. Picking up the slangs from different states was one of the toughest, especially the Kelantanese slang. (Good gosh, I can never make sense of anything in that slang!)
It was also the beginning of no-shame selfies and photos – taking decent photos were close to non-existent.
See what I mean?
Funny how we bonded so quickly and worked well together since the beginning – a diversity in age, background, culture and opinion could not stop us. I have said this countless of times, but this team is the dream team. :’)
First aid course workshop.
Jungle induction (or as how I would like to call it, 3D2N camping à la Survivor).
Basic builder workshop.
Design thinking workshop.
Cultural immersion and cultural exchange workshop.
Soup kitchen experience.
Meeting YB KJ before departure.
Four weeks had so much piled up on the plates of the MCVs (MYCorps volunteers). Knowing that was enough to get me excited for what is to come when the mission begins. It was exciting to know the workshops that were in store for us: life skills, fundraising, teambuilding, health and fitness, outdoor cooking, cultural immersion, community awareness, first aid, jungle induction, basic builder, volunteerism, soup kitchen experience. It was indeed a handful to take in, but I would say that most were of good help during my time in Cambodia. It isn’t all about the experiences from the workshops, but the bigger part of it is the underlying lessons that comes with them. That was the start of the building of soft skills such as communication, leadership, empathy, critical thinking, teamwork, emotional intelligence, compassion – just to name a few.
More importantly, the four weeks that we spend being around each other made us family. We knew each others’ quirks and habits, and we quickly grew comfortable with a new family.
I still remember the initial anxiety greeting me again the night before we depart for Cambodia.Our last night at the IYC was hilariously hectic. Clothes were strewn all over the bed, personal belongings clutter the walkway of the dorms, doors wide opened with people entering and exiting clutching items to be packed, us MCVs sitting at the hallway in our respective teams to pack up our team boxes (comprising mostly of food – instant curry paste, papadoms, Maggi instant noodles, cream crackers, Milo sachets, Boh teabags, dried shrimp and anchovies, belacan, sweet soya sauce, etc.) – it was quite a scene to remember. I suppose in turn it transcends to our excitement and underlying anxiety of the months ahead of us.
Regrets? There were none. 🙂
For me, the best takeaway from the service training was how much positive change I saw in myself in such a short period of time. The surreality of embarking on the a life-changing journey made me feel so alive and so thankful that I did not give this opportunity a pass. I was definitely the best version of myself, bursting with energy all day long, enthusiastic to learn and pick up new skills.
I was happy.
There is more to come, so stay tuned!