My Past Relationships - The Good, Bad and Ugly.

I attended an all-girls Catholic Primary School in Singapore, famously known as CHIJ. Being in an all-girls school, I was surrounded by girls five days a week so I hardly had the chance to meet guys (apart from my neighbours). Puberty hadn't hit at this point, so it wasn't that bad to be surrounded by girls all the time. Life in Primary School was great, and I loved every bit of it. However, after taking my Primary School Leaving Examination in Singapore, we left for Perth, Western Australia. In Australia, I attended a High School that was of a walking distance to our new house. It was a co-ed school. The first few days were tough. There were guys everywhere and their presence made me uncomfortable. It was something that I couldn't get used to, considering the fact that I spent the last six years being surrounded by girls.

Once, a guy came up to me and requested to borrow a pen. I struggled so hard to make eye contact, and when I eventually did, ended up telling him that I didn't talk to guys. Unfortunate for me, he yelled as loud as he could, announcing to my classmates that I was a lesbian. Upon hearing that, I felt so upset to be wrongly accused. Made myself a reminder never to answer a guy like that again, just in case another misunderstanding occurs in future.

As time went by, I slowly felt more comfortable around guys. Puberty had started by then. I began to notice guys, although none of them really appealed to me. One day, a friend told me that she had a crush on a guy. Feeling curious, I persuaded her to tell me who it was. After much persuasion, she told me that she would make me a deal. If I told her who I liked, she would tell me who she liked in return. In all honesty, it was a fair deal. Except, I didn't like anyone at the time. She refused to believe me despite my claims that I didn't have a crush on anyone. I was then told that the person could be someone that I found cute.

Chapter 1: Mr B

Told her that I found B cute. By that, I mean that I thought that he looked adorable (like a kid). She ended up asking him out for me, without my knowledge and permission. I was taken aback when she came back reporting to me that he had said yes to being with me. Although I didn't have any feelings towards him, I didn't know how to tell him the truth; that I only saw him as a friend. Thankfully, we 'broke' up after one week because I didn't seem interested (according to him). I felt so bad even though it was no fault of mine for leading him on. The funny thing was that we did nothing together, apart from sharing one hug. We didn't even hold hands or hang out with each other.

In my honest opinion, I wouldn't consider him one of my ex-boyfriends because:

1) I didn't have feelings for him to start off with.
2) We did nothing couple-like together.
3) It lasted a week with minimal interaction.

But I felt like it was important to discuss about my first interaction with a guy, just to give context to the story.

Chapter 2: Mr R

In High School, I was bullied for being Chinese and having a non-Australian accent that I ended up keeping quiet most of the time. I chose not to answer questions or talk to anyone, just because I didn't want to give anyone a reason to bully me. Unfortunately, doing this ended up igniting more bullying towards me. Classmates referred to me as mute, and would ask me to go back to 'China' (which I'm not even from). They would throw racial slurs at me, calling me Ching Chong and saying things like, "You eat rice everyday!" I cried everyday after school, kept praying that it was all a dream and that I was still studying in Singapore. It made me so upset that I ended up developing depression. My grades dropped drastically, from A to F.

Feeling lonely and depressed, I confided in an online friend on Friendster, a social networking website. R was Singaporean, also studying in Perth, and had come to Perth at the same time as I did. We shared many similarities, so it wasn't surprising that we got along very well. He would never fail to comfort me and was my pillar of support during those tough times. As time went by, I began to look forward to the end of each school day; just so that I could go home and talk to him on MSN. One fine day, he ended up confessing that he had something for me. There was butterflies in my stomach as soon as he confessed. There and then, I realised that I liked him too. It was the first time I experienced the feeling of love.

R and I met up at Westfield Carousel that weekend, still as friends since he hadn't officially asked me out yet. There was nothing to do, so we decided to watch a random movie at Hoyts cinema. During the movie, I jumped in fear at a scary scene. R held out his hand in an attempt to comfort me, to which I ignored, pretending that I didn't see his outstretched hand. After a while, I jumped for the second time at another scary scene. This time, he grabbed my hand and just held it tight. Needless to say, I couldn't concentrate for the rest of the movie. We didn't exchange many words that day, letting actions take over instead, as we walked out of the cinema hand-in-hand.

When I got home, my mum wanted to talk to me.

Mum: Where did you go today?
Me: Erm, Westfield Carousel.
Mum: With whom?
Me: A friend.
Mum: Guy or girl?
Me: Guy.
Mum: Alone or with friends?
Me: Alone. Why are you asking?
Mum: My friend saw both of you holding hands.

I had absolutely no idea that someone had saw me in Carousel, let alone holding hands with a guy. Because we weren't officially a couple yet at the time, I didn't say anything except giggle and run away from embarrassment of being caught.

The week after was my birthday, so he came over to my place to celebrate it with me as I was having a birthday party at my place. Upon picking him up from the nearby bus stop, R knelt down on one knee with a jewellery box in his hand and asked to be my boyfriend. It was so sweet, considering that it was the first time someone had done that for me. I nodded shyly, and he helped me put on a necklace (that he had bought for me as a birthday gift). Since he asked me out on the day of my birthday party, none of my friends knew that we were dating yet. Imagine their faces when they noticed us holding hands during the day. My friends weren't the only ones who found out that R and I were dating. In fact, my mum did too. We were talking in the kitchen when she noticed the necklace around my neck. "Who gave you that necklace? Your boyfriend?"

Feeling shy, I laughed nervously and skipped away, back to join my friends. Given my reaction, I think it may be safe to say that my mum took that as a 'yes' in response to her question. Every weekend, we would hang out together in the city. R would play snooker and pool with his friends, and I would just sit and watch. We would grab Bubble Tea and chill at a comic bookstore that he enjoyed hanging out at. Our relationship was really simple, but it made me really happy. One day, R called. He informed me that he would be going for a Church camp and would not be able to see me or contact me as he would be busy. With it being my first relationship, I couldn't help but be extremely clingy towards him. Hence, I pleaded for him not to go.

R comforted me, telling me that it was only 3 days. He would be back on on the 4th day, so we could see each other again after that. "Alright. But you have to call me or text me as soon as camp has ended. I'll miss you so much," I said. That 3 days felt like 3 months. I missed him so much that I would think of him every second. As you could possibly tell, I was crazily in love for him. Finally, the 4th day came. I waited by my phone all day, but no call or text message came through. I started to get worried. What if something happened to him?

After contemplating for a few minutes, I decided to send him a text message.

M: Hey R! Has your Church camp ended yet? Please call or text me as soon as you see this. I miss you so much.

No reply. After two hours passed, my phone beeped, informing me of a text message. I ran to my phone, hoping that it was R. It was, but it wasn't the message I was hoping to see.

R: Go on MSN later at 9 pm. I have something to tell you.

My heart dropped. It sounded serious. I logged into MSN as soon as it was 9 pm, and waited intently for him to come on. As promised, he came online and started chatting to me:

R: Hi. I have something to tell you.
M: Why do you sound so serious?
R: Let's break up.
M: *in shock* What? Why?
R: We aren't right for each other.
M: Why? What did I do wrong? Tell me please.
R: Nothing. It's me, not you. (Classic.)
M: Please don't break up with me.
R: Sorry. We have to.
M: Please. Tell me what I did wrong, I'll change.
R: Sorry, we can still be friends.

And...that was it. Strangely enough, I didn't shed any tears although my heart hurt so badly. I spent the next few days wondering what I did to R that he would want to leave me. The answer didn't come to me. We had never fought prior to the break up, and everything was good between us. It then dawned on me that he requested for a breakup right after he got out from Church camp. Maybe something happened there. That's the only possibility that I could think of.

That weekend, I hung out with my friends from school, attempting to distract myself from the recent breakup. Walking past the state library, my friend whispered, "Marie, is that your boyfriend? Look! He's holding another girl's hand."

Disclaimer: I didn't tell anyone about the breakup, so everyone thought that we were still together.

Looking up, that's what I saw. R was holding another girl's hand, walking past me. All of a sudden, he noticed me. Guess what he did? As soon as he saw me, he let go of the girl's hand and pretended that nothing happened between them. There and then, it hit me. He broke up with me because he met another girl at Church camp which he developed feelings for, which explained why he treated me so coldly when I contacted him. I had caught him red-handed, so his first reaction was to act guilty around me. I decided to walk away, ignoring his presence. My friends chased after me, persuading me to just cry it out. Shaking my head, I announced that I wouldn't cry over a jerk, for he wasn't worth my time. Truth was, however, that I was heartbroken. I had been cheated on by a guy for the very first time, and it had to be my first love.

Chapter 3: Mr C

Life was better in the 3rd year of High School. I began making more friends, and it wasn't uncomfortable for me to be around guys anymore (maybe because I already had my first relationship). Around this time, I was actively blogging on Blogspot, and had a fair amount of blog readers on a daily basis. One day, I blogged that I was going to Timezone with my sister the next day. There was a comment below my post, by a guy, C.

Comment by C: Hey Marie, me too! I'm actually going to Timezone tomorrow too.

I thought nothing of it. After all, it was just a blog reader commenting on my blog post. The next day, I went to Timezone with my sister. We were playing a shooting game, so she placed her wallet on the floor so that it wouldn't get into the way of our game. All of a sudden, we saw someone run towards us at lightning speed before speeding away. My sister then discovered that her wallet was missing. She looked at me helplessly, while I looked around for someone to help. A guy approached me.

Guy: Hi! Are you looking for a wallet?
Me: Yes. Did you see it?
Guy: I saw a guy grabbing your friend's wallet from the floor and ran awau. But it all happened too fast. When my brain finally processed what had happened, he had already escaped. Sorry.
Me: It's okay. Thanks anyway. By the way, she's not my friend. She's my sister.
Guy: Ah, sorry. Anyway, you have a lovely smile.
Me: *shy smile* Heh, thanks.

That night, I blogged a new blog entry about how my sister's wallet got stolen and how a guy had randomly told me that I had a lovely smile. Not expecting anything to happen, I published the post and headed to bed. The next day, I logged into my blog and saw a comment that stood out to me.

Comment by C: It's me, the guy who told you that you have a lovely smile. I didn't think you would blog about me.

Whoa! Really? So the guy that I saw yesterday was C! We took our conversation to MSN, and began to chat a lot more about our personal life. At that time, I was still suffering from depression due to my inability to be accustomed to Australia. I had days where I needed a pillar of support, and he would always be there to listen to my sorrows and to give me advice. He was an excellent friend to me, and I was so appreciative. One day, I had a horrible day at school. When he called me, I poured out all my sorrows to him. All I wanted was a listening ear.

C: I'll cheer you up!
M: You can't. I'm too sad right now.
C: I know you'll cheer up when I tell you something.
M: Okay.
C: I like you.
M: *silence*
C: Hello? Are you still there?
M: Erm, yes.
C: Did you hear what I said? I like you.
M: I'll call you later, okay?

I know, anti-climax. But I was taken aback by the sudden confession that I couldn't reply him straight away. You see, I did like him so much more than a friend, but my first relationship scared me too much for me to have the courage to try again. I didn't know what to do, so I chose to left him hanging. Still young, I decided to ask my mum for permission to go into a relationship with him. (What was I thinking? If I could go back in time, I would have never done such a stupid thing.)

She shook her head and nagged at me to concentrate on my studies instead. So what did I do? I told him that my mum said no to dating, so I had to reject him. Upon doing that, my heart ached so badly as I realised that I had made the wrong decision. But alas, damage had been done. Nevertheless, we still remained friends. But we weren't as close as we used to be anymore. He stopped talking to me, clearly hurt by my rejection. At the same time, I felt so bad that I didn't know how to talk to him again (like how we used to). Things became really awkward between us.

Two years later, we found ourselves randomly having a conversation on Facebook. Honestly, I would never have expected for him to talk to me after the rejection. But I guess I was wrong; it happened. C confessed that he missed me, and that he still had feelings for me. In fact, he had never stopped loving me since Day 1. My heart melted instantly. I smiled, as I typed back to him on Facebook Messenger. "Well, C, actually, I still have feelings for you too," I confessed. We talked a bit about the past, and reminisced over the good memories we had with each other in the last few years. Then, he told me that he wanted to be with me. Before I knew it, C asked me to be his girlfriend. And...I said yes.

After all, we had waited two long years because I made a stupid decision. After some time, C announced that he would be moving back to Malaysia due to some family issues (his mum had passed away). He told me that he had to stay in Malaysia for 1 year, before returning to Perth. This resulted in us being in a long term relationship for several months. I was asked to wait for his return to Australia, which I did. C told me that he had to manage some important matters for the next few months, and that he may not be able to talk to me as much as he wanted to. With understanding that his family had issues (because of his mum's passing), I told him not to worry about contacting me frequently.

Then, all of a sudden, he disappeared. He didn't come on MSN or Skype anymore, let alone chat with me. I didn't know what had happened to him, and tried contacting him to no avail. A year later, I gave up and felt in love with my current partner, Ken. Even then, I never stopped wondering what happened to my ex. One day, C came on Facebook Messenger to talk to me. I was shocked to hear from him again. He apologised to me about what happened two years ago and asked whether I still wanted to talk after all that had happened. Without thinking, I said yes and this was what happened:

He told me that he had always known that he was in a relationship but couldn't remember who it was with. Since she was there at the hospital taking care of him, he assumed that she was his girlfriend. C confessed that even though he was with that girl who he thought was his girlfriend (instead of me), he never felt like he loved her and was confused for a while. It was only after he talked to me after his one-year-long disappearance that he realised the truth. Hence, he broke up with that girl right after he had that conversation with me (does that mean that it was my fault that they broke up?).

Summary of Chapter 3

Basically, this was how the conversation went (included the important parts and omitted the rest)? Do you see how it reminds me of a Korean drama? In summary, C had a car accident, which resulted in him forgetting who his girlfriend was. He ended up assuming that someone else was his girlfriend because she was there by his hospital bed after the accident (when he was admitted to the hospital). C was really romantic though - considering the fact that he bought an air ticket for one month to see the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, hopes were dashed when he ended up in a car accident. By the way, it's not that I haven't forgotten about C and our past relationship together. Because I have. All I'm saying is that Korean dramas aren't as dramatic as we all assume it to be. Sometimes it does happen in real life. Like this instance.

I'm 25.

It's my birthday today! In a blink of an eye, I'm now 25. Gone were the days when I was given allowances on a weekly basis, and had absolutely no responsibilities on my back. Now, I have to pay for everything on my own, from car insurance to health insurance. On top of that, there's rent, electricity, water and Internet bills to pay. I suppose it's a part of growing up, so it would only make sense to face reality.

Anyway, I received plenty of birthday messages from family and friends via Facebook, Messenger and Whatsapp. It touched my heart to know that everyone took some time out of their busy schedules to wish me a Happy Birthday. I just had to show my utmost gratitude by thanking everyone individually even though it took me close to an hour to do so.

Woke up to find a gift from my housemate, which was a pleasant surprise indeed. The rest of the day was spent accompanying my partner to work. We then had a nice Japanese dinner at one of my favourite places (Buen 151A) which made me very happy. Even though I had a simple day, it was a good one nonetheless.

Update: 1st July 2016.

In the last few days, my partner kept asking me what I wanted for my birthday, but I refused to answer no matter how many times he asked. You see, I'm quite content with my life right now. I have enough clothes, bags, shoes and to have more of that would only be a bonus. Thus, we eventually agreed not to buy each other a birthday present this year.

But when my partner came home from work during his work break (the day after my birthday), he handed this to me:

A birthday gift! 😍

It was something that I was eyeing the other day, but had chosen to walk off because the price gave me a heart attack. Apparently, he had noticed that I was interested in the item, and decided to surprise me. Thank you!

Issue 2: How to get along better with your parents?

As promised in my Advice Column, here is Issue 2: How to get along better with your parents? Unfortunately, I don't have many photos taken with my parents (as they tend to shy away from cameras), but this recent photo shall do for now.

What does family mean to you? Usually, the definition of family is influenced by how well one gets along with their parents. So it's very important for people to have a strong bonded relationship with their parents. Family is supposed to love and be there for you no matter what, especially when you need them to fall back on when life gives you lemons. But how do you get along with your family? Well, it starts with your parents. However, many people have trouble getting along with their parents...

Why is this so? Well, it boils down to two main factors:

01. Age or Generation Gap

For example, in my case, both me and my mum have a 36 year age gap between us. She's part of the Baby Boomers generation, while I clearly belong to the Generation Y. Due to the experiences and privileges we had while growing up, we were brought up in a different environment which influences the way we think and perceive the world. So to speak, how can I possibly get along with her if we share so many differences? How can we get along with each other?

Once again, as mentioned in 'Issue 1: How to last long in a relationship?', it was mentioned that understanding was very important to maintain a good relationship (this can be referred to spouses, friends and even family). So how can we apply this in real life situations? Well, I'll explain it in terms of a real life situation for better understanding.

A few years back, my parents couldn't understand why I would rather communicate with them via text messages as opposed to talking to them on the phone. They thought that it was much faster to get the message through to the other party over the phone. (They probably thought that I was being disrespectful?) It was only until I explained my side of the story before they came to understand that people in my generation prefer communicating by means of text messaging, Facebook and other social media. By the way, neither me or my parents were wrong to have differing opinions regarding this issue. Having grown up in a distinctive environment, we must learn to understand and embrace generation differences in order to compromise.

02. Assumption that people are mind readers

It is evident that every individual has their own needs and wants, likes and dislikes. However, the common reason why people have disagreements and arguments is all because of assumption. People tend to assume that others understand what they need or want in life, and when they don't get them, they get highly upset. We must grasp the fact that no one is a mind reader. Explain your side and your perspective, not forgetting to listen to what others have to say as well. Be understanding.

There was a period of time that I decided that I wanted to do some travelling in Asia, so I took up this issue with my mum. She disapproved of the idea as soon as she heard about it. As a result, I was very upset as I didn't get the support that I wanted. It took a few hours for me to cool down before re-discussing the issue with her again. I tried to put myself in her shoes in order to try seeing things from her perspective. "If I were her, and had a child who wanted to do what I would do, what kind of worries would I have? What would make me say no?" Everything started to make more sense after that. Getting a clearer understanding of the issue at hand, I brought up the topic one more time so that we can talk things out.

Differing Perspectives

Mum - I just want you to study hard now and get a good job. Once you have a stable job, you can do anything you want. I want you to save money for your future. You're at that stage in your life and have to start saving for a car, a house and your future family. When you get a stable job, you can travel wherever you want. So just concentrate on your studies first.

Me - Well, if I travel after getting a full time job, I would probably only get two weeks leave and wouldn't be able to travel much. Neither would I have the same experience travelling if I were much younger. When you're young, your interests when travelling would be so different as opposed to those that you might have if you're much older. For example, at this age, I would be more interested in shopping and food if I'm on a holiday. But in 5 or 10 years' time, I'll probably be more interested in scenery and tourist attractions more than anything else. I really hope you can understand that I want to have as much fun as I possibly can before starting my adult life, aka a full-time (9 to 5) job. Once my full-time job starts, I'd be tied down with more responsibilities to even think of travelling anywhere in the world. Can you see things from my perspective?

After much discussing and contemplation, we finally came to the conclusion that it would be alright for me to travel as long as I have the finances to do so. However, travelling must not be a distraction or affect my job in any way. In other words, travelling must not be a priority in my life and I must never put my job on the line to make allowances for travelling.

"We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves." - Henry Ward Beecher

Graduation Day

After years of persistence and hard work in regards to studying, I've finally graduated from University! Although I can finally wave my school years goodbye, it's a fact that I'll never stop learning. Life lessons, of course. Anyway, my graduation ceremony took place in Curtin University on the 10th of February 2015. Before the ceremony, we decided to take some photos to commemorate this special day - with friends, family and even my older sister's boyfriend's family from Italy.



Sadly, most of the friends that I invited to my graduation ceremony could not come. This was due to two reasons: 1) Full-time jobs and 2) International students who were still back in their hometown. Nevertheless, everyone still congratulated me on my graduation - which I'm extremely thankful for. I would also like to extend my gratitude to four special people for surprising me on my big day. Ken (my boyfriend) for the very expensive bouquet of flowers, Jacqueline (his sister) for the very meaningful custom-made Graduation Cat and letter, and my parents who gave me a red packet for finally graduating.

Now that I've reached a milestone, I'm on to the next chapter of my life. So...what's next?

Issue 1: How to make a relationship last?

First and foremost, I feel the need to type a short disclaimer to protect me from potential flamers. Please note that I'm not a relationship expert, neither do I have a perfect relationship. Everything mentioned in this blog post are from my own experiences and applied knowledge, and should not be taken word for word. Now that I got that out of the way, let's start.

This is Ken, my boyfriend. We've been together for 3 years and 6 months so far, and our relationship is still going strong. Like every other relationship, we have had our ups and downs. But throughout the years, we have ironed out our differences in personalities and habits to allow this relationship to be a little more smooth sailing.

Note: The most important thing in a relationship would be COMMUNICATION and UNDERSTANDING.

1. Talk about goals you seek on achieving in the future.

Many couples break up when it comes to future goals, as they fail to find a common ground. Ask as many questions about future goals as you possibly can, before you go much deeper into the relationship. The most common mistake that couples make, is to push this to the last minute (usually before engagement) as they don't see the importance of planning ahead.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask:

Do you want kids? If so, how many kids do you want in the future?
Are you planning to live here in the future, or to migrate somewhere else?
When is your ideal age to get married?
How would you like to bring up your children? (Parenting style)

You'll be surprised how many people break up because of these questions. I personally know of a handful of people who have left their significant other because their goals in life were misaligned. Thus, it's extremely important to search for these answers before things get too serious. Do it sooner than later, so that if you don't have similarities in terms of goals, there is ample time and space for negotiation before life-changing plans start rolling in.

2. Talk about differences.

With the understanding that your significant other is different in both personality and habits, you're able to address each and every difference to come to a mutual agreement of how things should work. While you learn to give and take, you must also be willing to let go of issues that are insignificant and unimportant. I hear you asking, how do you figure out what's important and what's unimportant though? Well, if any habits do not affect you or your relationship directly, they fit into the 'unimportant' category. It's unfair to attempt to change someone when it doesn't affect you in any way. Give your partner space.

3. Bring up scenarios.

When you bring up possible scenarios, you are able to see the way in which your significant other makes decisions. This helps you to see your partner's maturity level in handling different situations, and whether he/she has the ability to think in different perspectives. This is very important because it shows whether the individual is an understanding person. When we understand how others are likely to feel, it can guide the way we interact with others. So to speak, better relationships can be formed when both partners have an understanding of each others' feelings, actions and reactions on an everyday basis.

4. Voice out concerns.

If your significant other has a bad habit or does something that you absolutely can't stand, it is important to voice out concerns as soon as possible. If you leave it to the last minute, it would be too late. Let's assume that your partner doesn't like to take a shower before bed and gives you an excuse that he/she is too tired or too lazy to. It doesn't make it better that you're a clean freak, and you definitely don't want to marry someone who has hygiene issues.

Scenario 1: Feeling uncomfortable about the situation, you try to keep it to yourself as you don't want to ruin the relationship because of something 'small'. Then you eventually get married with your significant other. One day, you just can't stand the fact that he/she doesn't take a shower before heading to bed. You get really upset and tell your partner off, and he/she says, "You have never brought up this issue in the past, and now you're telling me off for this. You can't blame me or expect me to change because I had no idea that you had a problem with me and my personal habits until today!"

From this, you can see the repercussions of not voicing out concerns and leaving it to the last minute.

Scenario 2: Feeling uncomfortable about the situation, you feel like you have to bring up this issue with your significant other to bring up awareness. You tell your partner about your concerns and explain to him/her that it's important not to neglect hygiene despite being lazy or tired. You also explain that you're actually a hygiene freak, and have to sleep in a clean bed.

How do you solve problems with your partner? Well, refer to Point 4.1 for the ultimate step-by-step guide.

4.1 How do you solve problems with your partner?

Step 1: You bring up the problem or voice out the concern.
Step 2: Your partner might react to this and explain his/her perspective.
Step 3: You may react to your partner's reaction and explain your perspective.
Step 4: Both of you should sit down, put yourselves into each other's shoes and have a good think about the situation.
Step 5: Sit down together and come to a conclusion. How will the problem be solved?

Can you see how 'understanding' comes into the equation? Once you can understand how someone else feels, you're able to analyse the situation in a manner that has consideration for the other party. That's being fair to your significant other.

It is very important not to treat everything you dislike in your significant other as a problem. Be sure to only label it as a problem when it directly affects you or it's a trait that you don't want in a guy that you'd marry in future. Other than that, I would highly recommend for you to close one eye and just let it go. We have to understand that expectations have to be realistic. No one can be everything we might want him or her to be, and sometimes we have to accept people as they are.

Warning: Bringing up everything as a problem might possibly create more tension in your relationship.

5. Don't make assumptions.

Never assume anything - I can't emphasize this enough! When we feel close to someone it’s easy to think we know how he or she thinks and feels. But that's not true. It is impossible to read the mind of your partner, so it's only fair to ask for clarification rather than to make a guess. Communication means asking questions, and trying to understand where your significant other is coming from. Your significant other's standpoint and belief system would no doubt be different than your own. Likewise, what is considered a big deal in their life may not have been important in yours. So, please remember to put yourself in your partner's shoes and think from their perspective to try knowing and understanding how he/she really feels.

These are the five top tips for a more successful relationship with your significant other. Remember, it revolves around COMMUNICATION and UNDERSTANDING. Apply these tips to improve the way you manage your relationship (it can also be applied to friendships). I wish you all the best in finding your happiness in life! Good luck.

Sydney or Perth?

Left to right: Lillian, Daniel and me.

Ever since I've came back from my volunteer trip, I've been contemplating about whether I should move to Sydney one day. "Sydney or Perth?" This question keeps repeating itself over and over again in my mind. Why the sudden thought, you may ask? Well, most of my new friends (that were on the same volunteer program) are from Sydney. We have bonded very well, to the extent that I feel like I know and get along better with them as compared to my old friends. Friendship chemistry, maybe? On top of that, I get all the support, understanding, trust, encouragement, love and care I need from these amazing people.

Perth has been hit with a dry spell in regards to job-seeking, as the unemployment rate is rising. It doesn't help that I'm due to graduate on the 10th of February this year. To be exact, in two weeks' time. What are my chances of getting a job in Perth? Submitted a stack of resumes during mid-June last year, to no avail. I didn't even get a 'rejection letter' from any of those companies which was disappointing as the waiting game went on for what seems like forever. It's like watching a movie that seems promising, but you end up not knowing the ending. All I ask is for a 'yes' or 'no' answer. Is it so hard?

Nevertheless, I'm still undecided on whether to choose Sydney or Perth. There are pros and cons to living in both states. Rent and property prices are more expensive in Sydney, but other than that, Sydney takes the lead. I'm fully aware that my choice depends on priority and what I deem important, except I haven't really done a proper comparison to be able to come to a conclusion. Besides, I haven't brought up this issue with my parents yet. Ah, Sydney or Perth? Dilemma, dilemma.

My Volunteer Experience in Taiwan

It has been less than a week since I came back from my volunteer trip in Taiwan. Five days, to be exact. In order to remember all the good memories I had in Taiwan (to look back on it in the near future), I've decided to pen everything down in one blog entry. One word to describe my experience: Unforgettable. Deciding to go on this volunteer trip was the best decision that I had ever made in my life, and my only regret was the fact that I didn't make this decision earlier.

I've gotten so much out of this experience. I've formed close friendships with some amazing people from different countries and states, found out about my hidden strengths and weaknesses, learnt how to be more independent and discovered that I could actually hold a decent conversation with others in a language that wasn't my mother tongue. So thankful that I made the most out of my seven weeks in Taiwan by cherishing and treasuring every moment I had there.

I would like to thank the following people for the good memories:

AIESEC NTPU: Kelly, Leonardo, Max, Daphne, Lucy, Vivian, Lily and the rest of the team.

Exchange Participants (EPs): Lillian, Daniel, Annette, Ann, Oweyn, Jasminee, Eileen, Kevin, Yun, and Tan.

Of course for the sake of self-improvement, I want to list the positive changes I saw in myself after my volunteer trip in Taiwan. To do so, I'll do a comparison with a 'Before' and 'After' so that it'd be easier to identify the change.

01. BEFORE: Was shy and reserved.

Before my exchange experience in Taiwan, I would avoid any situations that required me to interact with others. It even got to the point when I began to run away whenever I saw my friends on the street (and would refuse to approach them to say hi). Every time I had to do a presentation in my classes for University, I wouldn't be able to fall asleep the night before. This was because I kept worrying about speaking in front of 15-20 students, and this would keep replaying in my mind.

01. AFTER: Gained confidence.

During my volunteer exchange experience in Taiwan, I would say that I have gained confidence. When I taught my first class at 桃子腳國小學 (Tao Zi Jiao Elementary and Junior High School) which was assigned to me by AIESEC NTPU, I was not only made to stand on the stage, but was also given a microphone to speak into. It was my first time doing both of these things, although it may be normal for others. Over time, I saw the positive changes in myself. I no longer feel nervous having to speak in front of 30 students, and I'm even able to manage the class well.

02. BEFORE: Having no sense of direction.

If you ask my friends and family, you'd know that I'm horrible with directions. It took me 1 month to remember the route from my house to Perth City via car, and mind you, it's only 10 minutes away. On top of that, I'm supposed to be reasonably familiar with the area as I've been living there since 2003. Thus, it's not surprising that my boyfriend was afraid for my safety in Taiwan, especially since I had no one to depend on for directions. That was how bad my sense of direction was.

02. AFTER: I learnt to find my way around.

After some help from my new friends in Taiwan), it took me only three days to familiarize myself with the area that I was living in. I'm not only able to take buses and trains (MRT) by myself, but I can also go around Taipei without having too much trouble finding my way around. It was amazing that I had never gotten lost in Taiwan - not even once.

03. BEFORE: Struggled to 'find myself'.

I've always struggled to find out the purpose of life, who I am as a person, what I want in life and how I can improve myself. This has been something that has been bugging me for years and I've always wanted to find the answer to these questions.

03. AFTER: Finding yourself.

My journey in Taiwan wasn't exactly smooth-sailing, and there were many obstacles that I had to face. A few weeks back, I had a really bad day and was feeling rather upset. After having a chat with a friend, I was reminded that this experience is merely a challenge for me to 'find myself'. On top of that, he told me that 'finding yourself' isn't just a one-off thing but an ongoing process. And to think that I haven't never thought of it that way. That gave me a clearer idea of what the definition of 'finding yourself' is, and from that, I was able to work my way towards it. PS: I have found the answers to these questions.

Quote: "Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to seek those answers that continues to give meaning to life. You can spend your life wallowing in despair, wondering why you were the one who was led towards the road strewn with pain, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough to survive it." ― J.D. Stroube, Caged by Damnation

There are definitely more changes I saw in myself, but these are some of the more obvious ones that are worth highlighting. Anyway, I'm glad that I took a step out of my comfort zone because it was totally worth it. Although I spent quite a lot of money to volunteer in a foreign country such as Taiwan (I'm talking a few thousand AUD), the experience was priceless.