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  • Writer's pictureSheryl

New City, & Lessons learnt (and being learnt) throughout my Twenties

It is completely fine if life has a different plan from what you expected. You've got this.

... And welcome to my unsolicited walk down memory lane. This subtitle is not copium. :D

Photographer - lifestyle blogger- mirror photograph

Jazz was blaring from my speakers as I took a leisurely night drive along an almost completely empty highway down Kuala Lumpur. Now that, was an incredibly rare phenomena in this city of traffic. To my left was a patch of sprawling green as I drove towards the dark, tall window-lit skyline of central Kuala Lumpur.

Night driving hits different. The city feels different, and the drama!

Anyway, these were scenes that I was completely oblivious to and perhaps also chose not to see in my many visits before. And that moment when a city reopens itself to you, and invites you to see it with new eyes... Now that is an incredible feeling of hope and awe and thinking, I can be happy here. I can be relevant here, I can chase my dreams here and I can find a home here however long or short it would take.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd gladly end up in my home country so quickly. I was always a wild bird who dreamt of working and living in multiple countries from London to New York to Shanghai and maybe come home when I'm "super successful someday". BUT after moving so much last year, I have begun to understand the value of time and having a definite base where I could actually find and connect with communities around me. Because every city takes time, to seek, to find and to work towards that ease.

So, time. Thank god for 'years'. These milestones really have a way of stopping us in our tracks for those Instagram year end sum-ups and journaling etc. But really, it divides our entire lives into bite-sized adventures and forces us to stop, reflect, digest, and plan (or not plan) our direction. Were it not for this concept, I would not have realised how much has or has not happened, and there would be even more discontent. So, welcome to the unsolicited throwbacks I shall embark on here. Do humour me:

January 2020 |


Feeling Lost & A Lesson in Finding Confidence in Your Own Style

This blog started in Singapore: on my year out after having just completely my Bachelor's degree. I graduated with bad results, a low self-esteem, and generally felt very lost. So in dramatic desperation, I turned to travel, cafes and blogging as a means of escape. Voila! Covid happened. Because of that, I wrote a most memorable series on my 14-day hotel quarantine.

Being at home and having so much time to think actually allowed me to discover a hidden interest of mine: fashion. Now, I say 'hidden' because I most definitely grew up with the mindset that girls should not be too vain. A girl, especially, should focus on her studies for a good career. Dressing up too much AND too little could come off badly. Which was probably why I dealt with the unrealistic societal expectations by filling my wardrobe with hoodies, jeans, and acceptably nice t-shirts. Basically, fashion, vanity and success do not go hand-in-hand.

So came my little style adventures. Photoshoots from my room and chatting with a lovely , small Instagram community made it a safe space for me to explore how to be comfortable in my own skin. How to find my own sense of style, to embrace it, and be confident enough to wear it. I still suck at modelling. But if I got anything out of it, it is that:

  1. The way you dress is a manifestation of who you are or how you want to feel. You are awesome. So embrace your identity and wear whatever you want.

  2. Your dressing can make you feel more confident and powerful, even. Feeling like a boss b*tch? Go ahead and dress like one.

  3. If you feel good about yourself, go ahead and show it. People will resonate with confidence.

  4. If you've only one life to live, you might as well live it however you want to, look great and feel amazing!

January 2021 |

Go out there and try new things! Be open to meeting and talking to new people because you really never know where you'll find the people who will resonate with you the most.

Mentally, I was at the lowest point of my life in January 2021. I had begun my Masters remotely. So perhaps it was the remote studying, stressing alone in my room to a course in a different timezone. While I really did appreciate that time to reflect and spend with my family (and even began a mini baking/coffee project!) the doubts and regrets started kicking in. I started regretting how little I explored London during my time there, how mentally occupied I was at my studies, and yet, how little I achieved and so on so forth. That's the danger of regret. The minute one finds something to regret about, it becomes a blackhole of negativity that just sucks you in. The most horrifying thing of all is when nothing excites you anymore. When there seems to be nothing to be happy about. Inevitably, that discontent started affecting my relationship with myself and the people around me.

Your mind creates your reality. And in entrapping myself in that black hole, I probably created a reality that really, was nowhere near as terrible as it had seemed. Ironically, those worries were what later encouraged me to explore London, socialise more, talk to different people (some of whom became friends simply from a chat in a coffee shop), and be constantly curious. I started varying my weekends in exhibitions, markets and parks.

That was the year my 'INFJ' became an 'ENFJ'. It was the first year I spent my summer and Christmas in London. It became the year I stopped being afraid of all the things I was wary of before, and became more daring in dating and friendships. There were ups and downs, and some heartbreaks along the way, but that was the year that exposed me to a whole range of emotions I'd never felt before. It was the year I felt like I'd truly lived.

The most prominent lesson of all that year, as cliche as it sounds, is to not be scared to try new things. If anything ever makes you uncomfortable, you are in control. You can say no and you can simply step away.

January 2022 |

Keep an open mind to different stories and cultures. Stay curious! There is much to learn and grow from stories ;)

This was the year I felt had opened my eyes to different parts of the world and that challenged some of my beliefs. It was the year that I learned of acceptance: of how a person's thinking and lifestyle comes to be with varied cultural backgrounds. People and cultures are colourful, varied and unique. Difference does not mean wrong or bad. It simply is, different.

I know I say this like it is some sort of groundbreaking revelation (which is... not) but growing up in the safe haven of Malaysia where society had very specific perspectives on different cultures and places, being ingrained with those cautions and teachings became rather hard to break out of. Throughout my travels, observing, questioning, and talking to locals forced me to unlearn and reconsider much of what I had once taken as truths.

It is as they say : it is not the goal that matters, but how much you grow in the process. (Not sure if this is partly 'copium' but I sure did have to learn to grow after just barely graduating... AGAIN...)

January 2023 |

It is COMPLETELY FINE if things do not go to plan.

...was definitely NOT how I felt at the beginning of 2023.

It was the job hunting season. I had hoped to remain in London with the majority of my friends. Fuelled with great hope and passion to go out there and make the world a better place, I dived into the harrowing ordeal of spreadsheets and job applications. I was met with a lot of disappointment and rejections until finally, I decided to accept an offer in Singapore. Leaving so abruptly just when I felt like I had finally found an identity and a place in the city, was difficult. And frankly, it didn't feel real until I boarded my flight to Singapore. In fact, I left still plotting my return.

At the time, Singapore was just a stepping stone to me. In a way, that went to plan. (Except it was quicker than expected.) In the short 4 months I spent there, I realised exactly what I did and did not want in my life. So to reiterate my previous point, your mind makes your reality. And you have the choice to step out and craft the reality you want for yourself.

Albeit short, it really was serendipitous. Fate had me meet people who offered me different perspectives and experiences to the questions I had at the time, and resonated with what I was going through. Just by tweaking a few decisions, this short run showed me a completely new side to Singapore that I never knew existed before. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Now, coming home to Malaysia has been a curious mix of familiarity and foreign. Returning to a place where I grew up in but as a different person, with different experiences of living and thinking inevitably left me feeling a bit disconnected from the local context. Those notes of familiarity are still there and made it easier to feel at ease. But like any other place, it also demands work. It demands that you seek the people and places that will make the city or town, or wherever you live, a home for you.

Admittedly, the last quarter of the year had me alternating between excitement and a lot of demotivation and tiredness. Fine, that is an excuse. Honestly, I think it was the relaxed, sleepy pace of my hometown that got to me. At one point, I felt as if I had forgotten my hobbies. Or at least, I did not have the energy to pursue them. That fact unsettled me to my core as, again, I worried that it was a trait that would stick. Thankfully, leaving that space and travelling to Japan centred me. Travelling to see new things excited and inspired me again - an emotion I had not felt in quite a long time. Those worries quietened and (again, cliche) I found peace.

January 2024 |

Surround yourself with the energy you want to have.

I moved to Kuala Lumpur.

I read somewhere just recently, that it was imperative to surround yourself with the people who will inspire you. Because humans are like sponges. We absorb the energy of the place and people around us.

Talking to different people, discovering the exciting projects that are taking place all over the city by the multitude of entrepreneurs here has inspired me and the excitement has begun to creep in. Perhaps it is also due to the newfound freedom and some stability (finally), that has gotten my motivation up again.

Frankly, the other reason why I feel comfortable writing this piece is also because somewhere along the way, I realised that I was ready to properly close my chapter in the UK. Much of last year still saw me clinging to the hopes of working in London. London will always be a special place in my heart because that was the place that really, Just. Forced. Me. To. Grow. And find out who I was. I have allowed myself to be swept up in the flow and that acceptance has contributed to this excitement I now feel for the new year.

But again, who knows what life has planned and where we'll end up? With that, trust the process my friend.

You've got this. :)

Happy New Year!



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