I'm Back + What's Been Going On

Hello, it’s been awhile…

What started as a break that was only supposed to last a couple of months ended up lasting five. I took the time off because I wanted to create this website. Something better, more professional, that could house a lot more than my previous blog offered. Then a lot of other things happened and my life got really crazy.

I moved out of the US and back to Singapore, had to figure out how to live in Singapore when I’ve spent 95% of my life abroad, spent time looking for a job, and revamped my Bookstagram. It was a lot.

But I’m back now, and I thought it would be nice to catch you guys up on what’s happened in the last five months of my life. Grab a cup of tea or a snack because this might take awhile…aren’t you so glad I’m back with my long blog posts?

The website, YouTube, and Bookstagram

It’s probably easiest to start with a very obvious change - this isn’t my previous blog. I still call this a blog, but it’s really more of a website for everything I do. My Bookstagram is linked here, I link my YouTube videos here, and I’m blogging on here too. I’m also in the process of building a home page for all my writing projects and where I’m at with each one.

After 6.5 years of blogging, I felt like it was really time to have something that’s truly mine in every sense. I’m paying for this domain and I’ve built everything here. Thank goodness for services like Elementor and the numerous YouTube tutorials I watched. Getting this together was a major process and in many ways, it still is. The whole website doesn't yet look the way I want it to, but at this point, I’d rather have some things look a little sloppy than continue putting off my return.

If you wander around my website for a bit, you’ll notice that I’ve sectioned my blog posts into six categories - reviews, bookish, writing, pop culture, social media, and personal. I wanted to expand the things I wrote about and give myself the freedom to talk about things that weren’t strictly book or writing related. Though I started as a book blog, things have evolved over the years. I included writing posts a couple of years ago, which broadened into a few pop culture posts that were about writing and storytelling. Out of that came a few gems like my post about Taylor Swift, why Warcross is better than Ready Player One, and sex in books.

Writing all those posts made me realize that I wanted more room to write about other things. Things that have become important to me over the years, some of which isn’t related to books or writing. Some are just about me. In a way, creating a full website feels like an expansion of who I am. Sure, I can talk your ear off about books and writing, but there are also a lot of other things about me that I feel like I haven’t yet been able to share. And I’m excited to do that now.

This expansion bleeds over into YouTube too. I’ve realized that it’s hard for me to create content that’s solely about reading and writing because there are so many other things I want to explore. Getting back into it is a process, but I don’t ever want to lose the filming and editing skills I’ve gained during school. It’d be a waste of part of my education not to use them somehow, so YouTube it is.

Plus, it encourages me to get out of my comfort zone a bit more. I’d like to get comfortable with filming around people, and that has to start with filming while my parents are in the house. Since I’m currently working from home, I’m around them quite a bit and need to get used to filming while they can hear me talk to a camera. Thankfully, neither of them judge me for this and I don’t have to film in secret like I used to. Oh man, the high school days of bulk filming videos in my room at 11pm while trying not to wake my parents really shows how much I was one of those teens who dreamed of becoming YouTube famous (there’s still a part of me that hopes to at least earn a tiny income from YouTube some day).

Bookstagram feed
My new Bookstagram theme

Lastly, I’ve made a couple of changes to my Bookstagram. At the beginning of September, I took a two-week break from posting. I’d been feeling a bit of burnout from posting almost every day since starting on May 18, 2020, and I was also struggling creatively. Being in a totally different space, I’d lost the setup that was my old bedroom. Photos had to be taken in a new way and despite my best efforts, I wasn’t really able to produce something I was happy with.

A break allowed me to play around with a different style of photos and come up with a new theme. One that better suited the room I’m currently in and also allows me to take photos outdoors without having to worry about finding something dark grey to fit my theme. It was a big change but a major relief. It’s only been two weeks, but I feel a lot less pressure to make my photos fit a theme that really only worked in my old apartment.

Coming back from the break, I also decided that I would take weekends off from posting. It was a small change but it makes a big difference. With one less thing to think of during the weekend, I can truly rest on these two precious days. Not posting is still something to get used to because I occasionally look at the clock and panic about not having a photo ready. But I’m enjoying my mini built-in break and how it allows me to rest and do other things.

Moving halfway around the world…again

This is the part where everything gets a little sadder.

The thing about visas is that they run out. I was lucky enough to get my OPT visa extended because of the pandemic. Through volunteering with my old internship, I was able to stay in the US for a whole year. Granted, it was a year of unemployment, so that wasn’t really fun, but I got to stay in the country.

After months of applying to jobs and not hearing back, I was faced with the really difficult decision of moving to Singapore. My visa was on the verge of running out, my bank account was getting low, and all signs were pointing toward leaving the country. Short of getting married to one of my American guy friends, there was no way I could stay there without jeopardizing future chances of getting a visa.

I don’t like saying that I chose to move to Singapore because I didn’t really get a choice. My parents had returned in February 2021, just a few months before I did, and that meant I wouldn’t be going back to Hong Kong - my home from 2008-2016. There was no house in Hong Kong, no job, nothing that would allow me to go back. Plus, the worsening political situation didn’t mean good things for my journalism degree. There was a feeble attempt to see if I could find employment in Canada, but I only had a month to try it before needing to face the reality - I was going back to Singapore.

The decision was made at the end of April and I moved at the end of May. One month to book my ticket, pack up my life, say goodbye to the friends I was able to see, and fly to Singapore. It’s not a lot of time to uproot your life, but it’s also not the first time I’ve uprooted mine.

I was packed and gone by May 26th, 2021.

Two long flights and three weeks of hotel quarantine later, I stepped into my parents’ rented apartment in Singapore. It was the first time I had been back in four years. But this wasn’t a visit. This was suddenly home after 22 years of being abroad. It was supposed to be home, but it wasn’t. Truthfully, the extent of me being Singaporean lies in my citizenship, my love of fishball noodles, and the accent you’ll hear when I talk to my family. Other than that, I’ve spent my life living in cultures that weren’t mine, but all became parts of who I am.

cat asking to be pet

There’s so much more to say about the move here, but I’m saving that for a future blog post. The only other important thing you need to know is that our family has a cat named Tabby and she’s very cute.

Finding employment

I was burnt out. While in the US, I sent out over a hundred job applications. I think the actual number is somewhere closer to 200. That may or may not seem like a lot to you - it was a lot to me. It was a lot, but at least I had an idea of what the job market was like. Five years there and the desire to work in publishing meant I grew familiar with how competitive things would be. And I had to re-learn all of that in Singapore.

The first week that I was out of quarantine, I didn’t touch any applications. I was resistant to the idea that I had to start sending out more applications here after I’d already sent out so many in the US. Sure, I was getting really good at writing cover letters in five minutes from a reusable template I made (yes, that’s how many I’ve written and sent out), but I didn’t want to start from scratch here. After talking with my dad one evening, I decided to send a few out before I went to bed and didn’t think much of it.

I got a call the next morning about a Zoom interview for a job I didn’t remember applying for the night before. I said yes, we did a Zoom interview and an in-person interview. Long story short, they offered me the job and I turned them down. It was partly the Buddha that sat at the entrance of their office, partly the sketchy auto shops and men nearby, and mostly the job itself. Surprise surprise, I have no interest in woodworking or the equipment involved in it. Adding in the low pay, their repeated emphasis that I would have zero room for creativity, and the fact that I wanted to cry when they offered me the job - I knew it wasn’t the right fit.

It took me a couple more weeks before I found the job I’m at right now. Technically, I’m a trainee, but it’s paying me so I call it a job. It’s only been a couple of weeks since I started, but things are going decently well. My supervisor is nice, I’m learning new things, and I get to look forward to being in a fancy office when we’re allowed to go back in person. When restrictions lighten up near the end of October, I’ll be going in twice a week and working from home the rest of the time.

What’s the job? I’m in the Corporate Communications department at an international bank. Which is fancy talk for “I help make people sound good.” I never thought I’d work a corporate job, but here we are. It’s not particularly exciting work, but it’s a paid job and I’m getting good experience out of it. There are some really boring days where I want to smack my work laptop, but I think that comes with being employed in general, right? The chill days are nice because I don’t have anything to do and essentially get paid to keep my work laptop on while I do other things, like content creation.

The dream is still to be published. From what I understand, it might be easier to get published here than in the US, so I’m toying with the idea of writing a story that would sell here, giving me a bit of a name to build on as I continue pursuing publication in the US. Will that work? Only time will tell.

Reading updates

When I took a break, I hoped that it would boost my reading. It didn’t. Instead, the stress of unemployment, moving, and adjusting to a new country has put me in a reading slump of sorts since March. I wouldn’t say that it’s a normal slump because I can usually get out of those in a month or two. This is more like a slow drain on my life that has affected my reading.

April was the best month, with me finishing six books, and none of the other months have been quite as good as that. I am enjoying most of the books I’ve picked up, with the exception of a few that elicited some very strong feelings that you can watch in a reading vlog. The thing most surprising thing about my reading is that I’ve read two nonfiction books. It’s not a genre I reach for very often, and I could probably count on one hand all the nonfiction books I’ve chosen to read over the last six years. But, I borrowed Know My Name by Chanel Miller, survivor of the Standford rape case, and Cultish by Amanda Montell, a book dissecting the language of cults and why people get drawn in. Both have made me think deeply and the former made me cry three times. They taught me a lot and I know I’ll eventually get physical copies for my shelf.

open book, ipad, and iphone on bed
Some of the books I read in April

I did a couple of buddy reads and actually managed to stick to them. The first was a buddy read of The Broken Girls by Simone St. James with Charity, one of my friends from Bookstagram. She had it on her TBR and I had just borrowed the book from the library, so we read it together. It was a lot of fun to have someone else to talk to about the story as I was reading. The discussions reminded me of when I took lit classes (four in total) throughout college and got to talk about the books I read with classmates. That’s the only time I’ve ever been fond of group discussions and I think that’s very on brand for me.

My second buddy read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid with my friend Victoria. Funnily enough, Victoria and I knew each other in high school because she sporadically attended the same youth group I did, and one of her childhood friends became one of my best friends. To think that years later we’d reconnect through our Bookstagrams, I wonder what teenaged me would have said.

There’s little else to say about my reading except that I’m still hoping to hit my goal of 40 books this year. I think I could do it if I made a bit more time for it. Work has drained a lot of my energy, but I’m trying something called #AngieWay that will hopefully help me read more.

What I’ve been watching

I went through a phase where all I did was watch gaming play-throughs on YouTube. Specifically, I watched a lot of Séan’s (Jackspeticeye) videos before watching some of Ethan’s (CrankGamePlays) playlists, and topping it off with Mark’s (Markiplier) powerwashing series. Not exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from me since my experience with gaming is exclusively tied to wasting many hours on Gardenscapes, playing Sims 4 more than I should, and trying to get past Day 58 on Don’t Starve. To my surprise, I found gaming videos really calming when I was stressed because it was like having someone talk to me and solve problems I didn’t have to deal with.

There has been a crazy amount of good TV since I took my break. We’ve gotten amazing original shows from so many different streaming platforms and several great movies have come out too. I might do a full blog post about recounting all the shows I’ve watched during the last five months. At the very least, it’d be a good idea for days when I’m busy or when I need something different. I can’t possibly talk about them all with great detail, but here are the highlights.

I loved The Queen’s Gambit like pretty much everyone else who has seen the show. The cinematography is stunning and the story is super engaging. A good character-driven story will get me any day. After watching the show, I read the book while listening to the score, and that was a lot of fun. It was a good thing I had seen the show first because my knowledge of chess is mostly asking which direction I can move the pieces in, so the visuals helped me understand the plays in the book. Before the year ends, I’d like to sit down and do a full rewatch of the show because I need that cinematic gold in my life.

Yes, I have seen all the Marvel shows except for What If… All the shows were amazing and I’ll talk about it more in a blog post I’m still working on. Watching the shows is a fond memory for me because it was one of the last full shows I watched with Jemi, my best friend, before I moved. We continued by watching Loki and The Falcon and The Winter Solder on Disney+ Watch Party while live texting our reactions. Not the most conventional thing, but we got to experience the shows together and that was special. And getting to see more of those characters on screen inspired me to start thinking of blog posts for my eventual return.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that I actively watched and sat through three k-dramas with my parents. None of them romance-related, I’d like to make that clear - I watched The Fiery Priest, Voice, and Squid Game. Of the three, The Fiery Priest was my favorite because it balanced story, humor, and action really well. It’s also one that doesn’t have any plot holes, so I can actually enjoy the story without being confused and/or frustrated. Voice has an incredibly interesting premise and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes dark, gritty shows with unlikeable main characters. I don’t recall any major plot holes there either, so it gets my stamp of approval. And lastly, Squid Game, the show that everyone has been obsessed with. Truthfully, I enjoyed the beginning more than the end. There were some major plot holes that I couldn’t overlook and my parents and I were able to predict every single twist. Is it worth the watch? Sure, the premise is unique and there’s a good cast of characters. But if you’re like me and plot holes tend to annoy you, I’d skip this one.

There are so many other TV shows and movies that I’ve seen, but I won’t bore you with all the details. I’ll save that for a future post where I can really talk more about my thoughts and feelings.

Currently, I’m rewatching some of the more recent seasons of SVU with my dad. We started at S20 and have been slowly working through a few episodes a day during dinner and the evening. I’m also rewatching S4 of The Good Doctor with my mom and dad so we can move on to the most recent season. On my own, I’m rewatching Sex Education because I miss having British humor in my life and I already finished S3. Sometimes I forget how much they’ve been able to pack into three short seasons.

What’s next?

A few big things are coming. I’ll be returning to my YouTube channel this Thursday with a long vlog that was filmed when I decided I was moving back to Singapore. Once that goes up, I’ll officially be back to operating on my full schedule of content creation. Will it be busy? Absolutely, but I’ve already batched some content from months ago so I won’t have to film as much for the next month and I think I’ve come up with a realistic schedule for creating content during the weekends.

Notion content creation template
A sneak peek at my Notion content creation page

I’m currently in the process of prepping my application for the 2022 round of We Need Diverse Books mentorship. The idea is for experienced authors to spend a year mentoring aspiring authors like myself, and for the first time, I think I’m in a place to actually apply in the hopes that I can get a mentor.

Working out is something I’d like to get back into. My work schedule makes it really hard and I find that I’m often too tired by 6pm to do any exercising. But I did start a Chloe Ting program and I do miss hearing her tell me that it’s not that hard when my whole body feels like jelly. Hopefully, I’ll find a way to get back into it sometime during the month.

There’s a special little thing coming up near the end of October. I don’t think I can announce anything just yet, but I will when I know a little more.

My posting schedule is as follows - 
Blog posts: Tuesday & Friday
YouTube: Thursday
Bookstagram: Monday-Friday
TikTok: Whenever I push past the self-consciousness to post

The best place to keep up with me and any announcements I make would be Instagram. I post stories there daily so you can often see what I’m up to. Subscribing to my website and YouTube lets you keep up with my lengthier pieces and I promise that most of them will be entertaining in some way or another. I’m trying to get better at posting on Twitter and TikTok, so bear with me if you decide to follow me there. Those accounts are mostly brain dumps without much structure, but I try to put something up every once in a while.

If you’ve stuck through to the end of the post, thank you. I appreciate it. It feels good to be back in this space and I promise that more links will start working over time. Until my next post, I hope you all have a great day.

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