Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Note to a Buddy

Dear buddy,

It was a real pleasure to meet you earlier tonight - as always. It remind me of how blessed I am to have such a great person like you as a close friend. After we have split the bills and bid adieu, I still thought about you and what we had discussed in the cafe (in between our silly jokes).

Naturally, I will say that I totally understand what you are going through right now while comforting you. But, I know no matter how much you share with me or how long we talk, I would never fully grasp your predicament.

However, as a concern friend, I can only offer some advice and comforting words based on my own experience.

I have had the 'privilege' (if you may) of going through so many ups and downs thus far in my life. Hence, what I am about to say doesn't come from a self-help book but directly from my own self. Who's better to give you some suggestions from the one who had been there and back?

Honestly, I have the utmost respect for your brilliance although I rarely brought that up in between us. I admire your quick-handedness and your ability to pull through even in the most dire situation and courses. I could never do what you have done, be it in school or in college, and why would I lie on that? I can easily pin-point ten people who would die to have less than half of your intelligence and loving persona.

Thus, it breaks my heart to see you crumble into pieces due to some misfortunes you faced recently, though I know it meant a lot to you, personally. I'm so sorry for not being able to do more at that time due to some personal commitments and the most I could do was offer some soothing words through the phone.

If I may say this to you, you have certainly missed out the larger picture. You overlooked a whole other opportunities waiting for you and tapping at your door. A hiccup doesn't mean your speech is screwed. A stumble doesn't mean you can't get up ever again.

You ought to look at the situation this way - 'Okay, I didn't make it. So, what's next?' There's no point lamenting on the past. As I have shared with you earlier, you have to make full use of what you have right now. Damn the people's expectation - they will still eat, breathe and carry on with their life regardless whether you flunked or excelled in your examination.

People can say a thousand and one things about what they want you to be but are you really living for them? Is this what you really want to be - pretending you're happy as long as you're forever applauded for doing what they like?

For a change, why not take a slight detour. Cast away the tears, hold your head up high, get a decent job, excel at it and show them what you're truly capable of. Show them that you can still excel in your own mold. Take some pleasure by doing what you want with what you have without having to worry about others.

As the saying goes, when life gives you lemon, make lemonade.

I appreciate how you said you always looked up to me for some guidance but I have to warn you, the road towards victory is full of tears, sweat, perseverance and lingering nay-sayers. It is never easy. As I have shared with you, I'm still in the journey to prove some people how wrong they were by saying I had made the wrong decision 4 years back. It's never easy but you have to be strong along the way and please keep in mind how wonderful the place at the end of the road would be.

Most importantly, learn to love yourself. Nobody's going to love you more than yourself. Learn to accept your limits, your flaws, your imperfections and all the less-than-pleasant things about yourself that nobody but you know. Start to care for yourself as only by doing it, you can finally see how inane and wasteful those 'Why me?' moments are.

You are a wonderful person with a disgustingly brilliant brain and such a pleasant attitude. Don't let it go to waste due to some minor setbacks. With all of my love and support, I wish to see you successful, cheerful again and find peace in your next step in life. You can always count on me to stand by you.

Through the darkest night, comes the brightest light.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Pursuit of Employment

Minutes before hitting the interview. I had to tone down and look boring, alright.

I've always wanted to work in a bank. It comes rather naturally, since I am a Bachelor of Economics graduate (God, I love putting down that word 'graduate' - now minus the prefix 'under'). Most Accountancy graduates love big auditing firms (e.g. Deloitte, KPMG, Pricewaterhouse Coopers) and Engineering graduates salivate over Shell, Petronas, Road Builder and Schlumberger (to name a few) - for me, I'd really like to work in a bank.

I love the energy of the bank, the long hours of working, extensive studies over monetary instruments, the complexity of the economic market, ...

Screw that. Who am I kidding? I chose to work in a bank because of the high pay and big annual bonuses. There you have it.

Step 1: Resume Submission
So I applied to every possible banks I found in the recruitment section of The Star newspaper or on JobStreet. On top of that, I applied to other big and medium-size firms as well.

About two weeks later, I got two responses from two different banks with two different positions. One of them is from United Overseas Bank a.k.a UOB for the Management Trainee post - standard post for the fresh grads.

Step 2: Written Essay
Apparently the good news was half-baked since I still had to submit a written essay back to them within a week. I had to write down about the type of people I get along with and why.

Wanting to sound very, very congenial, I wrote how it would be unwise to have preferences in choosing certain groups of people to mingle (which is bullshit, I do have preference) since it would limit my experience and flexibility in work (which is true, however). I tried not to write Pulitzer-length essay as I know they wouldn't read much of it (or maybe they would?) and without much consideration, I hit the 'Send' button.

Step 3: Phone Interview
Few days after I have submitted my essay, they sent me an email saying I was through to the next round of the interview. Seriously?

Now, I had to call them and explain to them - orally - what I had written in my essay and relate it in my own experience. Without much thought, I picked up my phone and called them within an hour after I received the email.

True enough, I was the first person to call. I tried to sound very convincing and relate my industrial training experience to the essay, but less than five minutes of talking, she dismissed me saying she thought she had got the idea. I didn't know whether to feel relieved (for not having to ramble on and on for minutes more) or not (since she sounded like she's ready to hit the snooze button on me).

Step 4: First Interview
The following week they informed me I was qualified for the real, face-to-face interview (finally) in Berjaya Times Square Hotel.

I tell you, that day I wasn't in my top form. It takes a great deal to intimidate or scare the hell out of me but seeing so many people with (presumably) better grades than mine and some even had prior working experience in top MNCs, my confidence was lacking.

After an hour of briefing and introduction to the history of the bank, about 100 something of us were finally called for one-on-one interview. The stern face and voice of the interviewer simply didn't help in boosting my confidence.

Compared to the earlier job interview I attended with another bank (cough, Maybank, cough), this one is the top of the worst. I stammered big time like Colin Firth in The King's Speech. Naturally, I didn't have high hope to be called back.

Step 5: Final Round of Interview
Thankfully, that stammering didn't jeopardize my chance as I was through for the final round of the interview.

However, I was down with fever really bad.

I prayed to God, if this one is meant for me and if this is the best choice among the rest, then by all means help me gather some strength to attend this interview.

True enough, that morning of the interview I was feeling so much better. But as I was waiting for the whole event to start, the fever kicked in again. My hands and feet went cold as ice. My head was throbbing in pain. I felt like throwing out and dropping out of the interview.

Praise the Lord I didn't. I managed to gather the remaining strength I had for the whole 7 hours of the day's event - starting with group assessments in the morning (where we had to perform a number of tasks as a group of six) and individual presentation (in which I had to choose a topic from a list given and deliver a 15 minutes talk in front of five assessors).

I even managed to get into a verbal fight with an assessor during the group assessment as she misinterpreted my answer (here's a tip: next time when people give out his/her answer, LISTEN CAREFULLY). Not cool to mess around with a tired, fever-stricken lad. Not cool.

The Aftermath
After nearly two weeks of waiting, I got a call from the bank to congratulate me and deliver the good news. The first thing to hit me was: that fight with the assessor seemed paid off! Winks.

I don't know how this next chapter of my life will go but I'm really looking forward for it. I believed He has shown me this path and brought me here so, how wrong can it be (can't it?)

Yeah, I'm quite nervous of this new beginning but more anxious to see how it turns out - hopefully well. To see so many unemployed graduates out there and not being one in the statistics is a real blessing and I really hope to make full use of this opportunity.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

January Read

Okay, I've read three books for the past month of January - which is relatively good since one of my new year's resolutions is to read at least 10 books this year. I know that's quite a laughable figure, but I'm taking baby steps here. Is 'laughable' even a word?

Here are the books I've read in January:

1. 'The Lost Symbol' by Dan Brown.

This is another laughable point for this post. I'm about two years late to pick up this book, since the first print was only hardcovers. I can be cheapskate and calculative at times, alright. By the time the paperback was finally released, I ended up downloading it straight into my iPad - better still, it was free. Now who's laughing?

I know most of you must've known how this book goes. Perhaps, a movie adaption was being made while I'm typing this (who knows?). For the remaining handful of people who have yet to read this, The Lost Symbol follows the quest of Professor Robert Langdon (of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons fame) to save his friend, Peter Solomon who has been kidnapped by a mysterious person known as Mal'akh.

In order to save his friend, Mal'akh wants our protagonist to interpret and solve an ancient mystery, safely kept for hundreds of years by the Freemasonry Brotherhood, in which Solomon is a member. So, the whole story depicts Robert Langdon trying and solving clues and mysteries of the ancient secret, while generously educating the reader about the history, misconceptions, symbolism and purpose of the Freemasons.

Like Dan Brown's previous works, all of the names, artworks, monuments and buildings mentioned in the book really exists (I Googled all of them) but whether they are really connected to the Freemasonry is unclear and needs deeper studies.

Read This If You Like : Dan Brown, symbolism, fast-paced storyline (the story takes place only in one night) and short chapters.

2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

First glance of this book in Kinokuniya KLCC didn't entice me much to pick it up, what more to read. Thankfully my friend Mie bought it, so I just borrowed from him (hehe). I told you I'm cheapskate.

Set in the early 1960's in Jackson, Missisippi, this book is about three women who tried to make a difference in their community. Back in that time when African Americans were still called as Negroes, a white woman (Eugenia Pheelan) decided to stand up for the black people in her community by writing a book about their experience working for white families as housekeepers, or help - hence, the name of this book.

Although many of the black people were skeptical of her action initially, she managed to gain support from a dozen other black housekeepers, with the help of her friend's housekeeper, Aibeleen and the latter's friend, Minny. Together, they record the experiences of the black housekeepers - both pleasant and not-so-pleasant ones.

The hardship the three of them faced while writing the book adds some reality to the story. Otherwise it is another cliche been-there-done-that story about racial discrimination.

Not much to say, since all of us must be familiar with the theme by now. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable ride with plenty of humor put in without overshadowing the values in the book - friendship, courage, loyalty and perseverance.

Read This If You Like: Hallmark channel, Sidney Poitier and everything about Oprah.

3. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

One word to describe this New York Times bestseller - hilarious!

Like the original one, written by Jane Austen, this book is concerning the love-hate story between Elizabeth Bennett and the dashing Mr Darcy - with a twist of some action, gore, ninja (!!) and of course, zombies.

Although the book still keeps its romance theme, some changes are put to give this book an interesting twist. Elizabeth Bennett is no longer just a pretty, ambitious and intelectual young lady, but a brave one too with great martial art skills.

You won't be able to appreciate this book if you're not familiar or have yet to read the original Pride & Prejudice. The author still maintains the same plot line and the entire book is written in the same 19th century English to give it the same air as the original book but, of course, with a silly and humorous twist.

For instance, originally Elizabeth Bennett's hem was dirty due to her long walk from home to Netherfield park. But in this version, her dirty dress is caused by fighting with the zombies ( or the 'unmentionables') on her way there. You will find numerous of other quirky twists such as this one as you read.

I loved this book so much that I finished reading it within two nights.

Read This If You Like: Jane Austen's works, Plants vs Zombies and Scary Movie.

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