“Life’s challen…

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re
supposed to help you discover who you are.”

~ Bernice J. Reagon


We’re all busy….

We’re all busy. We’ll never be not busy. But guess what? We ought to make time and give time for the people we care about because time is priceless and so is the person you decide to make time for. Time will slip away, when it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t take it back… it will always run away from you. So grab it and give it to those who you feel you want to give it to.

~ Penelope


Back in your time, true love existed. That’s all that people wanted. That was all they felt they needed. Nowadays? Everyone wants a house, a car, a successful career and it doesn’t stop when they get all that. They want more; a bigger house, a more expensive car, a career that is envied. They all want more. And more. And more. We all want more. But what do we really need? A more spacious closet? The latest gadgets?


The divorce rate is 99 per cent. Not even kidding. So if you’re still married in 2012, you belong to the lucky 1 per cent of the human race. I guess you can consider yourself lucky. But of course it depends on what kind of marriage you have. Most marriages are built on commitment. But the irony is, why can’t two sane, rational beings stay together without that piece of paper that allows them to be viewed as a couple in the eyes of the society? Surely their commitment is to one another and not to the random people that make up the society. 


You know those geeks with glasses and braces or those nerds who hang out at the library? Where do they end up? They end up being the millionaires. They end up at the peak of the tower, they end up succeeding in life. I still believe in underdogs, underdogs always win. I am an underdog myself and I quite like it.

Yes, I am one of those nerds/geeks. I had braces from Grade 3 until Grade 7. I started wearing glasses when I turned sixteen, oh what a great Sweet Sixteen surprise – NOT. I do find comfort in being surrounded by books – pages and pages of marvellous out of this world extraordinary ideas, characters, stories. They live and breathe in your imagination. They live through you and within you. Once you’ve encountered them, you become inseparable and you can never look at something – even just one thing – the same way that you did before.

Oddly enough, anyone can write. Just get a pen and a paper. Or if you’re lazy, like most of us 21st generation kids, you sit on the most comfortable chair that you can find in your house and start typing on your computer, laptop, iPad, iPod or iPhone. What else did I miss? I prefer using the iPen by the way; I guess I’m traditional and conservative in that sense, just my opinion.

It’s raining. It’s pouring. You know what I love to do at times like these? I read. Or write. Or both. Most of the time, in the library at school. I don’t mind being a loner. Yes, that is one more nerdy quality about me. I’m happy being alone. I’m not lonely, just alone. I love silence, it calms my mind and my soul and gives me peace.

Geeks are fearful too. I personally have a lot of fears. Too many to mention. I also fear having a fear and being fearful. When you’re scared, amazing things happen. It blows your mind and takes your breath away. That’s why we do everything at the last minute. We thrive, we conquer our fear and survive.


I am walking briskly, almost running. I need to see her and I do. Beside the photocopying machine, of all places. I wanted to deliver the good news privately but stuff it, it can’t wait any longer, I can’t wait. I see her and we smile at each other. That knowing smile.


“I think I deserve a hug!”


“I got A’s on my history exam!”

She hugs me.

“And you’ve been there for five minutes. He must be very impressed.”

“I know, I can’t believe it. It’s amazing. It’s un-believable.”

“Now, that can be the topic of your next letter: self-belief.”

“You’re expecting it, eh?”

“You can do anything.”


Mrs F joins in and tells her that I am in her homeroom.

“She’s beautiful,” says Mrs M.

“She is.”

And that made me feel more overjoyed than my solid-A.


A few hours later, I have Extension English. I hand her back my A-standard assessment with a smile and a ‘thank you’, expecting her to say something. Anything. “Thanks,” she says with a smile, that familiar genuine Ms C smile. That’s all. I turn and head to the door, disappointed. Suddenly, I hear a voice calling my name. I look back. “I can’t believe you were worried about that. You ripped it.” In my head I was thinking: Damn it, Mrs M told you about how worried I was, didn’t she? Then I find myself saying almost instinctively: I really liked the task. “It shows.” I turn and head to my next class feeling so incredibly fulfilled that I can’t help but stop and stare at the cloudless blue sky – a promising sight.

Let’s say “thank you” more… please?

I am so damn lucky. I’m not fit and never have been (hope I’m not alone in this) but I am not obese or malnourished either.

I don’t have an allergy on anything except I can’t drink milk on its own, which means I am (semi) lactose intolerant.

This little girl whose eyes tell more than words can ever express had lost most of her hair because of Leukemia.

Her name is Chelsea, nine years old. Upon laying eyes on her,  you will see the face of an angel. And when tears came streaming down her cute chubby cheeks, I couldn’t help but wonder why I have been feeling weird lately.

Just weird.

Love-hate Relationship with Language

Every time that people would ask, “How many languages do you speak?” I get quite flustered because I am uncertain of their definition of ‘languages you speak’. I would simply reply by stating, “Four,” and I would secretly wish that they would not inquire further. It’s not that I am not proud of the languages that I speak; believe me when I say I do. I guess it is just more complicated than comparing an apple to an orange. All right, you cannot compare an apple to an orange. But maybe it’s sort of like that. Once the person that I was speaking to discovers my passion for languages, they would either love me or hate me for it. Sometimes they would hold me in high regard because they describe me as ‘very cultured’. This is an extremely rare circumstance, however it does occur, that the person that I am sharing a conversation with would say, “One language is enough. English is all you need.” I do agree with that statement to some extent, however, the passionate linguist in me would always prevail.

Once, my Year 11 Drama teacher asked me the question that I resent the most. I replied with the same one-word answer and inevitably he implored me to enumerate each language. “Filipino, English, French and Spanish.” Then he added, “Canadian English and Australian English!” I flashed a knowing smile and laughed at his remark. Usually I would add, “That’s just four. My German friends know 8 or 10 languages and they actually speak it whenever possible!” At that moment, ashamedly, I enjoyed the spotlight because no one in that room could top my little achievement! So maybe sometimes I take pleasure in knowing that I know something that some people in the room has not even heard of. But most of the time, I am ashamed of the fact that I don’t practise French and Spanish. I have Spanish as one of my subjects in school but I rarely go in depth and really try to learn more. Although if you think about it, I actually get to practise French in a sense because here’s how my system works for my survival in Spanish- my little survival guide. Whenever I need to find un verbo, I have to remember it in French infinitive form because they are very similar- except for the conjugations, of course. For nouns, I think of that particular word in Filipino and I am usually very close to the word in Spanish. I must tell you that the Spaniards came and colonised the Philippines. Since we had been a Spanish colony for more than 333 years, our culture, language, traditions and way of life are mostly based on theirs. Read: religion was the most powerful tool in the colonisation. Filipinos fell into the trap of Catholicism and thus it became their drug- the most addictive drug of all. I digressed. That’s a bit of history 101 for all the people who don’t even know that a country called ‘Philippines’ exists, no offence meant. I probably don’t know that your country exists- wherever it is.

Languages are funny, irritating, adorable little things really. I always believed that learning a language is like getting to know a person. It requires a lifetime or even more. It has many secrets and mysteries waiting to be uncovered. First, there is awkwardness between the two of you. Who’s going to take a leap of faith and be the first to say ‘hola’? Then, there’s the introduction. I’m Penelope and you are? Me llamo Penelope. You ask each other about hobbies, favourites and pet peeves. Suddenly you find something in common and become more than just acquaintances. But right now, I really hate my newfound friend. Hate is a strong word, I know. Yet it is the first word that comes to mind when I try to think of my homework in Spanish. My first homework given on the first day of school. ‘Ciento cincuenta palabras’ or 150 words for Anglophones. I can’t even write a word. I haven’t even picked a topic. My friend is now an enemy once again.

What’s your favourite language? What’s your view on language? Tell me tell me tell me. I want to know!

Why Work Experience is Good Experience

Term 2, 2012. Year 12 student. Confused and in a state of OMG-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-gonna-do-with-my-life mood… Penelope decided to do something about it. She decided to do some work experience in a Youth Psychology clinic  because of her interest in human behaviour and people in general. Read on for some tidbits about the multi-disciplinary staff!

Paul: Mental Health Nurse

Sexy British accent, tall, skinhead. Quite entertaining and has a good sense of humour.

Has 2 dogs and lives in a 4-acre land. Has pictures of his dogs in his office. He’s a really handsome fellow, easy on the eyes, except Penelope has a feeling that he might be more interested in men.

Moved to Australia 10 years ago.

Pitch: Nurses are more in-demand in other countries especially Europe. Travelling to foreign countries is highly probable unlike being a psychologist. Being a psychiatrist takes a lot of time but it might be worth it.  Knowing how to speak other languages is just fantastic. You have your whole life ahead of you. You have your whole life to decide what you want to be! You seem to be driven, motivated and sensible, which is really great.

You can change your mind anytime. Somehow it all works out because each pathway leads to another.

His job: Seeing the big picture and satisfying the patient’s needs by coordinating the appropriate health professionals.

He would want to be a psychiatrist in a heartbeat because he does not like the guts and blood of medicine.

His piece on Psychology: Thoughts=Behaviour


Davina: Registered Psychologist

Was originally interested in law and journalism. Took an Arts degree for her first year and was able to explore different fields and discover her interests. She recommends a year of Arts degree to have time to adjust in university.

Most essential skills: people-person, communication, empathy, sympathy, being able to put on other people’s shoes and seeing the world from their perspective.

Best part of the job: Making a difference. Knowing that a person can go from A to B and you helped them make that transition. Hearing about other people’s stories – even the most horrific and devastating ones.

Worst Part: Not being able to know what to say or do, at times. It’s important to listen and be comfortable with silences.

Epiphany (moment when she realised she wanted to be a Psychologist): Understanding that people can have the same exact experience yet have different reactions, responses and become affected in dissimilar ways.

The most challenging aspect of the job: Dealing with emotions of people. The fine line between being empathetic and sympathetic.

How to separate being a psychologist and a human being: Self-care – rest and relaxation, symbolism of taking off work clothes and putting on home clothes. Importance of recognising personal limits.

How to be an effective psychologist: Intellectualising and analysing instead of being emotional. Mastering the art of a controlled face, being mindful, conscientious and aware.

Davina is always in control and loves having structure. Admittedly, she has difficulty in letting go and being more flexible.

Regret: Wished she were a clinical psychologist by now, if she has just figured it out sooner.

Said: 80% of the reason why a person gets better is because of the relationship between the psychologist and the client. Being there for the client. Knowing that someone is looking out for you.

Research Interests: Suicide: why would people think of it? Forensic, drugs and alcohol, sexual abuse.

Psychology: Changing thoughts and thought patterns.

You can’t save the world. You just have to do your best right here right now.


Roxy: Social Worker

Wanted to be a teacher of English and Social Studies, History and Geography.

Went to America straight after Year 12 for the Summer Camp. Worked as a camp counsellor for girls aged 6 to 16. Those girls were New York socialites with various issues and most commonly, family problems. She realised that she wanted to do more than teach, that she wanted to help people on a more personal level.

Calm and slow-talker.

Her Pitch: Psychology is more theoretical whilst Social Work is more practical and applicable, looking at a broader sense.

Suzie: General Practitioner

Has been a doctor for 25 years.

Some people are just well designed to do well in school and that doesn’t make them smart or smarter.

Most challenging aspect of being a GP: Time Management

She chose not to specialise because she believes that it’s an asset to be able to encompass all aspects of medicine, not just a narrow perspective on one thing.

She grew up with her heart set on medicine and she did it.

Tracy: Receptionist

23 years old. Pretty. Well-dressed.

Never did a psychology course but is interested in it.

Thinks she cannot give up her full paycheck to go back to university.

Working in a Psychology Clinic is more interesting than all the other jobs that she had.

Monica: Social Worker

 Moved to Gold Coast from Adelaide two weeks after Year 12.

Had a suicidal friend and most of her friends had issues.

Her Pitch: If you want to travel and be recognised, most English-speaking countries would recognise a degree in Social Work.

What keeps her interested in her profession: Everyday there is always something fascinating – one little thing that someone said or did, or an event in someone’s life.

Memorable moment: A healthy 50 year old guy got a heart attack before he fell into the pool. Monica went to the resuscitating room, she expected a busy emergency room, everyone rushing and freaking out. But it was a calm and silent environment, I would imagine even solemn. Everyone just did their job and went on with it. Monica was present when they declared him dead. She had to support the grieving family: from utter shock to complete devastation.

Interesting story: Monica was called to give an assessment of this old lovely man. Soon she found out that this man’s wife has been dead for 5 weeks but he is still sleeping with her (literally). Neighbours complained about the distinct smell – rotting flesh. Monica facilitated the transition and the lovely old man finally came to the realisation that his wife was dead. However, in a split second, he was so incredibly devastated that he had to be placed in a mental ward soon afterwards.

Intense event: A woman who was overdosed and drunk had to be convinced that she had a choice to go to the hospital.  Monica spent 4 hours trying to convince this woman to agree or to make her understand that she somehow has a choice.

To the Work Experience Girl: Talking to you, I find that you have to find something that challenges you, it has to be something that changes all the time so it keeps you motivated. (SO TRUE!)


Jamie: Candidate for Doctorate in Psychology

 Advice: Whilst you are in university, do volunteer work and research assistance.


Michelle: Registered Psychologist

 Another way of seeing things: There’s ways around statistics. You just need to pass and get the bare minimum.

 Words of Wisdom: Be prepared for the long haul. 

Although Penelope did not choose to do a Psychology degree, she did find some comfort in knowing that even in a short span of time, she was able to get to know these wonderful people and the stories behind the faces and the names. She thoroughly enjoyed interviewing each individual and perhaps this experience actually reinforced her interest in Journalism – one of the two degrees that she would be doing in the near future. Go and do work experience. Good or bad, experience is experience and something is better than nothing.

Have you ever done work experience? What was it like? Did it help you in making a career choice? I’d love to hear from you!