“He wanted to bar his doors also, to seal any windows he might own, to be a tower strong and certain, untouchable, alone.”

Yesterday I had my presentation. I slept through all my alarms and only just woke up in time to have one last run through before rushing to my maths tutorial. I ended up walking into maths late, which was terrifically embarrassing when I was all dressed up. OK not dressed up but I’m such a slob on a daily basis that I’m fairly sure I shocked the guys with my more polished appearance. She’s wearing a skirt? And makeup? Indeed. I actually do not know why I bothered going to my maths tutorial, as it wasn’t like I could concentrate. I was super worked up with nerves. The hour crept by slowly, and then I had no choice but to head to my presentation. The venue was my tutors office and the audience the other members of my tutor group. 6 people, excluding myself.

The first guy went up to present and he was really good. His presentation was well put together, attractive and technical. He was confident and talked about his subject with ease.  Another guy went, with another technical, confidently presented presentation. Then I volunteered myself. I knew that if I left it any longer I’d be too nervous so I decided to go for it. It turned out to be quite awful. Standing up there presenting to a room full of strangers was so different to presenting to just a room. I rushed through it and I am fairly certain I missed out a couple of important points, though I was hardly aware of what I was saying, if I was fidgeting, if I was even breathing. I felt self conscious about everything from the way I was dressed, to my presentation itself. My topic was a little different and I did not know what they were making of it. Others had chosen to look at technologies and I had chosen? Energy generation in South Africa- how demand side management and energy efficiency are important to South Africa’s future. Yes, I knew it was a little out there but I did not realise what an utterly random topic I had chosen until I was standing there, trying to present it. Once it was over I had two questions which I managed to answer, but not well. Then I got feedback from my tutor. She said it was very interesting but rushed. I said sorry, automatically but she brushed it off, saying again that it was interesting and she actually appreciated that it wasn’t technical! She said she had heard lots of people do renewable and energy generation, but few who looked outside the technical side of things. I was so glad she saw it like that because that is how I see it! The amazing thing about engineering, for me, is that you can make an impact on the world around you with it- both positive and negative. And it is important as an engineer to think about that impact. I found it very interesting exploring the real world impacts of generation, and lack of generation, for this presentation.

I sat through the rest of the presentations, though if you ask me what any of the topics were I would not be able to say. Afterwards I went back to my room and tried to relax, then later I went out to attend a guest lecture the uni was hosting. I rushed there thinking I was late, and it was going to be this huge prestigious event and it would be very embarrassing to walk in late and maybe there wouldn’t even be seats… Turns out it was in this very random, very small little room in a random location. When I got there it had not started and was not even close to starting and the room was half empty. I sat down at the back and got out my phone to look busy. An acquaintance of mine was there but he was sitting with his friends so I did not wish to bother him. To my surprise, he came over and sat next to me. We started chatting and I rambled on about my presentation and how awful it was, still quite worked up with nerves and awkwardness. I would not be surprised if he got not one word out of 10.

The lecturer eventually showed up and the lecture started and…it was not what I was expecting. My friend leaned over to whisper to me and instead of telling him to shut up, I ended up talking to him for almost the entire presentation. Yes, I know. it was terribly rude. But hell, I was presented out. I’d sat through 5 presentations, and hosted my own. I was still a bundle of nerves and restless energy. My friend seemed quite hyper too, I think it was because he was hungry. Either way his energy made my own restlessness worse, and I found myself going from being irritated at him for talking through the lecture, to relaxing into it, and even prompting conversation. it wasn’t even a great conversation- with both of us frequently going “Huh? What was that?” and likely having two entirely separate conversations at several points..But it was kinda fun, just talking about this and that. It has been a long time since I’ve had a friend I can whisper to in class. To be honest, I wonder if I am getting too relaxed around this guy though. I’m fairly sure I end up saying too much to him and he remembers and I think he tells his friends. I don’t quite trust him, just like anyone, really. Friendship terrifies me, I try so hard to distance myself from people, yet I’m only human, and when someone makes the effort to come to me, to not  get annoyed by my iffiness, that makes me happy and I cannot help but relax, begin to trust. :(  Well, the lecture ended which meant I could escape the social awkwardness, back to my room, and my books and dramas. Later, I kinda felt like crying. It drains me being around people, and I don’t like that.

Anyway, now for today. Today I woke up and checked my emails to find my dad had dropped a bombshell on me- he wants to come to Japan with me. At first I was shocked, and then I started to cry. I have no idea what prompted such an extreme reaction. I guess I really wanted to do this alone. I like travelling alone, and all the freedom it gives. And I guess I was looking for what my last Japan trip gave me- time to be myself without anyone around to judge, time away from everything and anyone, time to heal. I came back from Japan a different person last time and its probably foolish to expect that again, but I suppose there was a part that wondered if once again I would leave Japan feeling that same sort of contentedness that had gotten me through my foundation year and started to get my through my first year…before how difficult my degree was caught up with me and I once again started to waver. That’s such a deeply personal reasoning for my dad not to come though that I could not admit it to him. And at the end of the day? I’d feel cruel saying no to my dad. It pisses me off no end that he tells me this now, after I’ve spent hours researching and putting together a solo trip catering to myself and without a car. If I had known it was both of us I would wish for an extra day in Tokyo and Sapporo both, but now we have these time limits and I am going to have to give up certain things I wish to do. And yet, I know I am being selfish thinking those sort of thoughts. Reading his email there is something vulnerable about it and that always scares me. I’m used to be dad being strong. I wonder what is going on home now, with my mother grieving over my grandmother. I realize now, many hours later, was that it was the tone of my fathers email that made me cry. By the tone of his email is seems clear to me that my dad needs this holiday.

But I also think my dad wants a holiday, he wants to see somewhere as different as Japan. He wants to travel and see things, just as his daughters have. It must suck to be the one stuck at home, whilst your children are off seeing the world. And I cannot fault him that. Japan is a beautiful, exciting place. I love it so much and to be able to share that with my family, to be able to let them see why I love it so much would be amazing. Of course, it would also be great being just me and my dad. You know how it is when you have siblings- its hard to catch your parents alone. I like spending time with my father. There is also te benefit that he can hire a car which would be helpful in northern Japan. So I said yes, of course he can come. I have no idea what is happening to my plans now.

“I try so hard not to become weak”

I am a bit stressed right now, and grouchy because of it. It’s a bit ridiculous to be stressed as I have a lot of free time, but this is the sort of stress that’s more like anxiety, that comes from worrying over many things. One of my main worries right now is of course university. In particular, my first presentation for my professional skills module. I have been counting down the days and there aren’t many left now. It’s should be on Wednesday. So soon!

I finally had an attempt at a proper rehearsal earlier, to my teddy bears and the however many so walls of my room. Not quite an audience but they are all I have. I also finally sat down and edited out numerous errors in my slides, and completed my cue cards. Completing my cue cards involved…well. I wanted to time my presentation but I could not find a stop watch on my phone so I decided instead to use the voice recording function. I saved a few of my test presentations and went over them earlier to see how I managed earlier run throughs, and it was enough to put me off presenting for life. There is something about hearing your own voice that is so very awkward and embarrassing. I had to force myself to keep listening, and to concentrate on what I was saying, rather than how. I really hate hearing myself speak. Hearing those 10 minutes of attempting my presentation I was also reminded of just how much I hate my accent. I tried so hard to keep my South African accent, and I was ‘rewarded’ by ending up with something that is very odd. Most of the time I sound posh English, the sort of accent that  people may (stereotypically) think of when they say “British” . However, listening to my voice, there were times I could hear my accent slip and hint at something else, but its so lost in the British that it just sounds strange and distracting. I also found myself using my phone voice in one of my test presentations, the over pronounced, forced polite, overly sweet sort of voice. I sounded about 15 there, and strangely, more South African. So it seems my original accent comes out a) when I am angry and b) when on the phone. How…odd. I wish I had a more defined accent. A nicer accent. I wish I still had my South African accent.

Anyway. Despite my attempts at preparation this presentation refuses to come together. I picked a topic, researched it, put together a presentation, could not find a way to present it effectively, rewrote it and arrived at the point I am now, where I am filled with doubts as it still does not seem quite right. The presentation starts of reasonably strongly but slightly derails off to the end, if I let it. Its a struggle to reach a conclusion, to wrap things up in a way that feels right. As a whole, I don’t think this presentation is particularly inspiring, or even interesting to other people, but I do like the topic so hopefully I can manage, for just a few hours in my life, to show some of the emotions I am feeling and maybe then my tutor won’t find it dull, or pointless.  I really do feel uncertain about the whole affair. I have absolutely no confidence about it, not at all.

Other university things:  I have maths coursework due next week that I cannot do, which is a bit not good. Numerous other projects and revision things are going equally not well. Ugh. And I still feel so terribly lazy. I cannot believe that exams are only a couple of months away. No, under a couple of months. That’s fucked up, that is. I have only just gotten over the stress and pain of the last lot- and now I have three more?! I know, I should be more positive. I still have two months. I need to do my best, because once this is over, if I do well, I will have finally reached my goal. the last one: the get onto the MEng one. I just need to persevere for two more months, then I am off to Japan, I am going back to the UK and yes, that sucks in some ways, but I will be able to sleep in my own bed and cuddle my cat and eat as much pork as I like (I think every meal for the first week will just about do it!).

It’s a little sad, and I’m not ready to admit it out loud to anyone, but I think in some ways I really am ready to go back. It’s not Malaysia in particular, its more I have had enough of university, and living in halls and yes, there are things I miss. This is a bit cold-hearted isn’t it? That’s why I won’t admit it out loud.

Some random thoughts:

1. University is still very slow. I don’t want to complain, as I really don’t want labs to start up or for classes to become more intense, but I can feel myself becoming much too lazy. As in, its becoming natural to be lazy, which it should not. Today I had my first class at 3pm and I was late- because i OVERSLEPT. :| I have also not been studying at all, which is terrible.

2. I finished God’s Quiz Season 3 today. I started season 1 towards the end of last week. Talk about an addictive drama. The 3 seasons came together so well, although all three could stand alone. Ryo Duk Hwan is amazing as the eccentric genius Dr Han. The show is flashy but in a highly enjoyable way- its easy to get caught up in the crazy rare diseases and crimes that (sometimes) suspend disbelief. Best of all is the ongoing thread of Dr Han’s mysterious disease. Crazy scientists and their mad schemes are definitely not the most believable of plots but they sure are fun. In season 1 and 2  Ahn Yong Joon was incredible as the deranged genius Ha Yoon and although the mad scientist of Season 3 wasn’t as interesting, the twist of what was happening to Dr Han because of his disease was fascinating and really creepy. I loved how the last episode just turned everything on its head. Was not expecting it AT ALL. The ending was awful though. HOW COULD THEY LEAVE IT THERE. There better be a fourth season coming soon.

3. Whilst on the subject off dramas can I also recommend The Thousandth Man? Its not perfect, but its a lovely attempt at doing something new with the gumiho legend. I just finished re-watching episode 3 which was just so touching.  I struggle to articulate my thoughts on this drama so let me link to this wonderful review. (skip to the end of the post for the review.)

4. I was surprised, and pleased, to find the God’s Quiz OST on amazon for a little over £1 for one song and its instrumental. Sadly their mp3 store is difficult to navigate and I cannot seem to stumble over any other kpop that I would want to purchase. Still,  its nice to know its probably there for a decent price, and without having to wait for anything to ship to me. (And yes I know, for someone my age I am very out of touch with modern ways of getting music. I still exist in the CD age D:)

5. I’ve been eating too much chocolate and junk food lately and generally wasting to much money on food. Food is very cheap in Malaysia, which was great when I first got here, although I was soon made to realize how much of a double edged sword that is. When my cravings for junk food got very bad in the UK I could usually refrain myself because of the price. Now, the food is cheap and 7-Eleven is right there in the center of campus where I pass everyday and … I need to fix this asap. I have a feeling I’ve posted this before, too, which is embarrassing if true. I really am not good at sticking to personal goals.

6. Also embarrassing: I cannot use chopsticks. Yes, I know even 3 year olds can use them these days but no matter how much I have tried in the past I could never get the hang of it. I am going to Japan in June though which has inspired me to properly try and learn. I bought some cheap chopsticks at TESCO and have been trying to eat my food with them, but it gets so frustrating when I am hungry and  I cannot pick up my food that I always end up back to using a fork. Somehow, I don’t think I am going to end up a master of these things by June. :/


This first week at university was very quiet. Maths, like always, started with no introduction. Yet all other modules were introduction lectures. Half of my telecommunications lecture on Thursday was the lecturer explaining what she thinks makes a good engineer. My electronic engineering lecture on Friday was mostly revision, with the lecturer trying to get us to remember our basic electronic engineering stuff from last year… thankfully in that instance I was not the only one struggling to remember this stuff. Labs have yet to start either, thankfully. Then it was Chinese New Years on Monday which means I had a glorious four day weekend- today is a Tuesday and I woke up at 3pm and spent most of the day reading.  I had great plans for these four days involving waking up early and getting things done- my messy room would be cleaned, the mountains of clothes piled on my chair would be sorted and what needs to be washed, washed, and the rest put away, Japanese would be learnt, electronic engineering would be revised, math tutorials would be complete. Typically, I went into these four days with far too high expectations of myself. The other days went much like the others- sleeping late and lazying around. Tomorrow, I have class at 9am and  a) have not done all the preparation work and b) have no idea how I am going to get up and not just, you know, sleep through it.

I am feeling very relaxed and slightly less miserable as the last few posts as I got my results on Saturday. Well actually, results came through on Friday but it took me one day, a tearful and deeply personal conversation with my mother and an entire extra large bar of cadburys chocolate before I could check them. When I saw them I let out an embarrassing squeal of delight and then sat there, laughing to myself in sheer relief. (I hope these walls aren’t so thin that my neighbours could hear this farce.) Oh, my results are miserable compared to the last two years. but I have not failed anything and do not have to take any resits. Therefore, if I just work hard this semester there is still a chance of me getting onto the MEng course. (She says, after just talking about how lazy she has been. Woops)  I had to check a few more times before I could let myself relax but once I believed that it was correct and I was seeing it correctly it was quite unburdening. It was all OK. Not amazing, I am still disappointed in myself, but it could have been so much worse and I am so relieved that I managed just to pass. I’m very glad to have it all over and done with. I felt rather light  and very, very happy.

I also felt slightly ridiculous for the long conversation with my mother, part of which was me complaining about how much of a failure I was and how terrified I was for the future. But admittedly, there was so much more than it. I talked about so many things I had been keeping to myself and it was terrifying to make myself so vulnerable and to admit to some of those things, and I really hope that just once my mother understands not to talk about these things I said to someone else, but it was also very therapeutic. My mom was wonderfully supportive- telling me again and again not to be so hard on myself. I wished, and this made me feel like I was three years old, that we could have been having that conversation face to face and I could have cried and she would have held me as she always does whenever I break down. It is amazing how often I can think to myself I really dislike my mother- I argue with her frequently and a lot of the time we do not get on- but when I am feeling so vulnerable I want nothing more than my mother. Because when it comes to this, when I am feeling low and afraid of returning to that dark place (and really, it is that fear that makes the unhappiness all that worse), it feels as if its only my mother who I can talk to and who can make me feel better. She has been to that dark place too so she understands that fear, and she knows how to deal with it. I admit, sometimes I do admire my mother and her emotional strength. And even if sometimes I find her confidence irritating sometimes I admire that too because sometimes I can understand she likely developed that confidence the hard way.

When we talk like we did the other night, it gives me hope that one day things between my mother and I will change and we will get on. That I can forgive her for not always being the person I want her to be and for how she hurt me, and that she can forgive me for the terrible things I said which yes, definitely hurt her, and for being the sort of person who can become so very nasty when she is hurting. Sometimes, when we talk like that and we actually connect and she actually understands me and she says such nice things to me, I think maybe we’ve already arrived at that place. I just know we’ll end up arguing the next time we speak and we’ll be back to square one but it was very nice having those few hours to feel close to my mother again.

I don’t know. In these rambles I guess all I want to say is that this week was not so bad and good things happened these past few days and it was so very nice to have those moments. Now I should really go to bed. its 2.30am and I do have to get up in only a few hours.

“Why did I stop? Please tell me, when will I grow up? How long can I stay a child?”

This break without university has undoubtedly been a good one. First, I went to Thailand for 6 days and had a whale of a time with my sister. We took the night train (14 hours!) to Chiang mai where we spent three days visiting temples, experiencing the night safari, cuddling with tigers, spending too much time at the night markets, experiencing a day looking after elephants, then we flew back to Bangkok where we chilled at Siam paragon and the aquarium, learnt to cook Thai food at a Thai cooking school (though we both agree, we’d likely never make the dishes so tasty again!) and watched Thai boxing at lumpinee (=awesome) and got hopelessly lost in the maze that is Bangkok (=not so awesome). I got back and had a few days to mozy about as I wished before I jetted off to spend the weekend in Penang with my friend. It was only the second time I have been a tourist in Malaysia and the first time I have ventured outside of KL and it was wonderful. I went to the beach for the first time in three years and it was so hot and sweaty to be there, but it was so wonderful to take off my shoes and let my feet sink into the sand, to wade through the waves as I hunted down shells and finally, to sit down in the shade and read idly to the sound of the waves. Of course there was other stuff, too. I have posts about both these holidays lingering in my drafts, waiting to be brutally edited and in desperate need of spell checking. I will see if I ever get around to that. University started again this week and I am feeling hopelessly overwhelmed and unmotivated already. I think I will look back on my second year as university as one of the most brilliant (moving abroad!) and one of the most horrible (second year electrical and electronic engineering!).

I don’t look forward to uni at all anymore. In fact, it quite depresses me. I dread lectures, and I dread labs even more, and mini projects involving programming and real time systems I dread the most. This term is suspiciously light on contact time, which only makes me dread the sheer amount of work I am likely going to have to undertake in my own time. Not only that but there are a lot of labs. I hate labs.

I am beginning to seriously wonder if I should have listened when I told people I wished to do engineering and they told me don’t do it. I had a lecture yesterday introducing a ‘most pleasant’ module called “professional skills for engineers”. This module involves two individual presentations, a multimedia presentation and a group presentation. I started the lecture feeling vaguely unhappy about the whole thing, I ended it feeling in desperate need of a tub of ben & jerrys and a lot of angry rock music. The group presentation involves us choosing us our own groups, which for most people is a good thing, but for the shy, such things are not quite so pleasant. I shall have to wait to see who I am forced together with, and how it all turns out (likely: badly) Then there is the individual presentations which have to be on something engineering and science related and they suggest do something we know, as we are likely to be questioned about whatever topic we choose. And, to make it even more fun, the two presentations have to be on different topics. I realized as I was sitting there that there is nothing I know, let alone two things.

I am a second year engineering student and I have no idea why I am doing this subject anymore. What are my areas of interest? Surely I should know this by now?! Well, after much thinking, I’d say I sorta have an interest energy generation and renewables. I think that was one of the reasons I got into this subject and I don’t think anything has happened over the course over my degree to sway those interests to something else. But what do I know about these? Sadly, I draw a blank. I have no passion for this degree do I? I remember in A levels there was this guy who wanted to go into aerospace engineering and in his free time he built model airplanes. His friends all teased him but I bet he is doing really well with that sort of interest in the subject- that it even bleeds over into his personal time. In my personal time I cannot wait to get away from my degree. I don’t build circuits for fun, I don’t make myself personal coding projects, nor do I even read anything science and technology related (I attempted to read newscientist weekly for a time but it got too much…) Just why am I doing this subject, I wonder, when I am so…so ungeeky. When I don’t really have any passion for it. I have an interest in it, its not like I hate everything I study, but in the end, am I just getting by? When I talk to my dad, an experienced engineer, he can immediately talk about anything engineering related- he can tell me about components and circuit design and different technologies and analyse an unfamiliar circuit within moments. Will I ever be that competent? I certainly am not now, and I don’t even feel like I am even beginning on the path to that level of knowledgeable, as I probably should be. There are so many basic things that I continually forget.

I am beginning to doubt that I ever will become a competent engineer. I proved it in these exams last January- did I not? The exams were unfamiliar, and so I did badly. I cannot help but think that If I was a a good engineer, I would be clever enough to tackle even unfamiliar questions, because I would be clever enough and knowledgeable enough about my subject to apply it to even unfamiliar situations. With the way these exams went this January I feel like I have proven myself unworthy of this degree, or rather had it confirmed. I have never felt like a good engineer. I struggle so much with my subject. And with the way this subject is, most of the people on my course are the sort of insanely clever, well rounded individuals you’d ever meet. When I compare myself to them I cannot help but find myself lacking. I have always been aware of the difference between them and me, but it is only becoming more apparent as the degree gets harder and they continue to flourish whilst I…feel like I am being left behind. I feel so very unsuited to this. I wonder if they too are worried about what to do for this presentation, or if when the lecturer told us about it something immediately popped into their head. I wonder if they too are still floundering with no idea of what they want to do in the future, without any real goals and no passion for anything. Somehow, I doubt it. Everyone has at least one thing they feel passionate about, don’t they?

This is the thing, the worrying thing, there is nothing I feel truly passionate about. Well, nothing that matters. Being able to consume books like air is not exactly an employable skill. When it comes to those- what do I have? I speak just one language, I am terrible at sports, I am shy and reclusive, and then I am not even good at my degree. If only I could just be clever, if only I could have some competency in my degree I would feel more confident and more driven, but I feel myself stalling because I just.. don’t know anymore. I really dislike my degree right now. I feel lost and confused and continually disappointed in myself. I know that I need to overcome these feelings, that no matter what happened in January that I need to keep working but I cannot help the thought that it doesn’t matter how much I work, I will likely never end up anywhere with my terribly personality and how terrible I am at my degree and I think, well maybe I should just enjoy myself and read books instead. Its not good, nothing is good right now. I thought I’d be able to sort myself out with a good break but in the end I was running away for a bit, now I am back exactly where I was.

My room is a mess, my Japanese books lay forgotten on the shelf, my kindle keeps getting fuller and fuller, I go to bed too late and its not like I can ever get to sleep anyway, and I am gaining weight from binge eating too much. I am a bit of a mess right now. I have been for a while and I am at a loss to how to fix it. I just…don’t care anymore.  no, not that’s not right. I do care, I care so much that I am retreating out of fear and trying desperately to pretend that I don’t. I have all these EXPECTATIONS and all these DREAMS and I am having to realise how unrealistic they all are, how maybe I am not the sort of person who can achieve those things I dream of, that perhaps I’ve always had too high expectations for myself. I want to be one of those clever, well rounded people. More than that I want to be a competent, knowledgeable engineer. But it feels like… I feel like I’m trying to squeeze myself into a mold that is not made for me.

I need to deal with this and I don’t know how. I need to do these presentations and act knowledgeable when I am not. I need to work in groups in labs and pull my weight but how can I when I just do not know what I am doing? I am dreading this semester. Not looking forward to it at all.