Sunday, 1 January 2012

Two thousand and [twelve paragraphs].

What pops into your head when someone exclaims, "Happy New Year!"? Is it fireworks, imaginary glasses of bubbly clinking together - even if wineglasses don't quite *clink* as loudly in reality as they do in movies, resolutions to quit drinking/smoking/binge-eating, nostalgia about the year that has gone by, hopes and dreams for the coming year?

At midnight, I watched the PJ/KL fireworks from my mother's bedroom window, and the fireworks from all over the world on CNN about 12 hours later. When I was younger, I used to always grab a book to read at midnight - about 11.55pm til 12.05am - because my friends told me that what we do at midnight represents what we're going to be doing for the rest of the year. And at the time, the key was to study - study at midnight, and you will study all year long! Hahaha.

Different people have different traditions, of course. One of my best friends does jumping jacks at the stroke of midnight every new year because she believes she'll grow a little bit taller if she wishes - and stretches! - hard enough at the magical minute.

This time, 2012 starts for me with uncertainty. Yes, the word that's keeping the butterflies a-flutter in my stomach - uncertainty. As people, and especially if you, like me, lean toward the more control-freak category of people, we take comfort in what we know for sure. It sounds weak, but the truth is that what we don't know, scares us. It scares me, anyway.

As much as I want to come across as confident, self-assured and strong enough to take on any challenge that could be on my journey in life, a part of me feels like the little girl who got lost in the shopping mall after wandering in the wrong direction. When you're five years old in a small neighbourhood mall, strangers bump into you and take you to the information counter. You write your mother's name on a scrap of paper with a ballpoint pen, and the staff read her name into the speakerphone until your mother comes and gets you. Yeah. When you're a little girl, someone else always comes to save the day. You are taken care of, and you don't make your own decisions.

But when you're grown up - or in my case, 23 years old, because I can't be so bold as to call myself grown up yet since I'm a growing-up work-in-progress - nobody can save the day. You make your own decisions, and you live with the consequences of your decisions - whether you like them or not. You may have your family and friends to support you, but ultimately what you do is up to you - if you do nothing, nothing gets done.

So as part of traditional new year's resolutions - there's a conformist in all of us! - I resolve to make informed decisions. Even if I am terrified of the "what ifs" and unpredictable consequences, I will make informed decisions to take action - because this, I think, is an essential part of growing up.

When I receive the replies from universities in USA and see how many accept my three-year degree and don't require a four-year Australian degree, I will decide if I will do an Honours year at Monash University, Sunway Campus. If I decide to take an Honours year, I will make an informed decision on and with a supervisor.  If I decide not to take the Honours year, I will find a job that will give me the kind of working experience I am looking for - one year well spent into growing myself as a person out of the cushiony confines of the ivory tower.

At the same time, I will decide what needs to be done in order to take my GRE (Graduate Record Examination) this year. I will decide what materials I need to use, possible courses of study I may need to undertake, and I will decide to do whatever I can to achieve the scores I need. I will decide on which graduate schools in USA to apply to for the Fall 2013 intake. I will decide what I need to do to make my applications the best I can, and I will do it. I will make informed decisions based on advice from MACEE, lecturers, my parents and people I know, and the Internet (forums can be so helpful).

So, of course I am scared, because everything is uncertain, and I am not yet able to be fully informed. In my pursuit of information, I'm also struggling with the feeling of being overwhelmed. I feel like I am under tremendous pressure - there's a lot to be done, I don't know if I can do it, and most of the time I don't know how to get it done or how to do what I need to do. On top of having to make decisions on Honours/work/which grad school/how to prepare for GRE (and maybe even TOEFL), all graduate schools require application essays, samples of past work, recommendation letters, transcripts that are bound to take a lot of time to get delivered, everything needs to be in individual sealed envelopes, Boston University even wants a three-minute video of me in my application (but I really love the program at BU, and will definitely apply there).

Of course I am scared. I'm a terrified 23-year-old, because life suddenly isn't divided into semesters anymore, and I don't have assignment deadlines assigned to me by the Faculty of Arts and examination dates set by a university. I don't even have a GRE exam date, because I'm supposed to choose my own exam dates. I wake up every morning feeling stressed, like I can't have peace of mind, and I wonder when this feeling will go away.

The only thing certain is this - I have a goal: I will do my Master's degree in USA for the Fall 2013 intake. I will pursue this goal, and I will do everything in my power to fulfil it. I feel like, in pursuing this goal and then attaining it, I will have the chance to do a lot of growing up as well. This is a challenging road, but I believe I can do it. Yes, I can! Happy New Year, everyone! :)