Sunday, November 29, 2009

Keep calm and carry on...


... So says the poster that could be seen in almost any home decor magazine in the last while, and which originated from Her Majesty's Government during the World War II as an emergency measure to allay citizens' fears amid the chaos of war. In the end, this quaint precursor to the modern-day military psych-op was never used, perhaps testament to the distinctly British brand of stiff-upper-lip stoicism.

I ordered this along with other artsy posters from the Keep Calm gallery a long while back, before the whole state-of-emergency happened in my own professional life. I never even got a chance to unwrap it though since the poster tube was delivered. During the dark days of the last while however, I finally got off my arse and framed up the picture in the middle of the night. There is irony in how a poster that I originally intended as a kitschy comment on the general paranoia (albeit well-founded) of the times we live in (climate change, peak oil, to name but a couple), actually became a mantra in my head to sustain me in my own personal life over the last while.

But what really helped allay the fear and the pain in me is the unexpected, simple, uncomplicated help from a most unlikely quarter. I feel I cannot write anything here that might reveal the identity of this saviour, but saviour is not in any way hyperbolic to describe the person and what has been done for me. When I thought no one in the department appreciated what I have done over the years for the course and the sacrifices that I have made, when I still had to keep up a brave face through all the office politicking that went on in the last while, lo-and-behold somebody whom I didn't imagine as being at all interested in getting their hands dirty in the whole sordid affair actually came out and simply said, yes, your wish can be granted, and, even more miraculously, yes, I would be here to cover you when needed.

I am totally speechless at the generosity offered me, especially the unfussy, professional manner in which such support was given, as if this was only a small favour when it actually meant such a great big deal to me. To say it felt like the proverbial gift of coal in the dead of winter is no exaggeration. My heart was warmed and lifted after the meeting. Thank you. These two little words don't do any justice at all to what you have done for me at this difficult time.

My supervisor, of course, has been a steady anchor through the stormy seas all this time. I am really grateful for the fact that you have always been there -- for me, with me -- through it all, and you are an absolute inspiration for how I should aspire to support my own students.

When I was feeling at my most helpless in the department, other people also showed their kindness by the simple acts of carrying on normal conversations, of shooting the breeze, of giving me a share of their snack, of simply saying hello -- small, mundane, but oh-so-appreciated gestures that allowed me to carry on. It made me realise the kind of emotional support I too can give others in their times of need through something very simple, and very human.

And then there are my students. Those who dropped in with their thank you card and chocolates, who discussed with me their career plans, whose goals and aspirations and good spirits reminded me of why I am here in the first place.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I could not have carried on without you.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanks to the words of blogger Lu, I finally am able to write a little something here. Because, like her, there has been something I really, really wanted to say. But I didn't know how (still don't know, to be honest). Or because I am afraid how other readers - both casual and long-term - might think of me.

Like her, the imagery of Tony Leung trying to unburden himself into the hallow of an old tree also passed through my mind in the last while.

But guess what, I really cannot bear it any longer, I need to speak.

Needless to say, things have not gone well in the last while. I dare say it is one of the unhappiest times of my life, and I have had it pretty rough quite a few times.

I am simply drained.

I have been character-assasinated by someone I once thought of as an ally if not a friend.

The pain is physical, it hurts so so much it is surreal. It hurts even more than when I accidentally almost snipped off the tip of my finger a couple of weeks ago. The wound on my finger is slowly healing now, but this other pain is and have been hanging over me like a dark, thunderous cloud, about to strike me with lightning bolts of pain at any given moment.

* * *

I am really sick and tired of office politics.

I want out.

Yet I know even saying this (or thinking this) would have meant those who hurt me would succeed in their aim, and not only do I not want to give them the satisfaction, but more importantly, I know what I have been doing is good, that students and graduates rate my work very highly, and so I am not leaving just because a bunch of back-stabbing bitches are intent on destroying my reputation and my career, for no reason other than that they themselves feel insecure about the quality of their own work, and realised that the students can see right through them.

* * *

Yet I have to keep up a brave face. It's really fucking hard. It is extremely difficult to be in the same room as someone you realised belatedly as having been maligning you to all and sundry in the past while. It is all I could do to maintain a facade of civility and not give her any bogus cause to malign me further.

* * *

All of these is distracting me from my real work, of course. I have been lucky enough to be offered very kind respite and emotional support from my supervisor in the last while. But this cannot carry on. I cannot allow others to destroy my own chance for success and happiness (yes, happiness is no exaggeration, for it would be a much longed-for liberating feeling when I finish).

* * *

This too shall pass.

I can do it. Hang in there.

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A bunch of snowdrops by any other name...

SNOWDROPS
S is for Sweet
N is for Natural
O is for Open-hearted
W is for Worldly
D is for Dedicated
R is for Romantic
O is for Original
P is for Perfectionist
S is for Special
What Does Your Name Mean?