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!

The Perfect Halves was this beautiful picture in Mr Smith’s office. I always see it when I go and talk to him because something about it was just so eye-catching. You can’t ignore it. Something about it will make you smile. It was a photograph of a lovely couple… Mr and Mrs Smith a little bit younger than they are now. It’s like one of those wedding pictures where the bride is in front of the groom and the groom is embracing her, his arms around her waist and holding the bouquet of fresh flowers with the bride… but in this picture, Mr Smith was holding her hands. What struck me the most was her smile… almost like she was laughing at his joke and the photographer accidentally pressed the button and captured that precious moment. They just look so… sublimely happy.  Like they don’t give a damn about anything in the world, like they have their own little world… like they need nothing more. They fit like a puzzle, terrible simile but oh well, it makes sense nonetheless. That photograph has a very natural feel to it, almost as though it was alive. This must be how it is… to be happy.

Mrs S: Maybe you could talk to my other half?

Me: Yeah, maybe, why not?

— Talking to Mr S —

Mr S: I’ll give this to my better half.

Me to Mrs S: Apparently, you’re the better half!

Mrs S: (laughs) No… (laughs again) He’s the better half. (I can imagine her smiling – that profound, knowing smile.)

Me: Awww. That is soo cute.

And after forty something years, clearly, they are still very much in love and oh soo young at heart.

Are you in a relationship? What’s YOUR story?

5 Stages of (Graduation) Grief

Tell me you did not go through this. Go on. I dare you.

See? You can’t. Let’s just say that when Jane Austen wrote arguably the most iconic opening line in the small-time novel entitled *Pride and Prejudice, she might have forgotten to mention that there is in fact more than one universal truth. Our childhood is spent daydreaming about senior school and the time when we finally never have to wear the most dreadful pieces of clothing that was ever created for mankind by mankind – our uniform. We are anxious to grow up because we can’t wait to experience the real world. Yet when the time comes, all the preparation amounts to nothing. It still took me by surprise.

1. Denial and Isolation

A day after graduation, one of my friends was bugging me about the photos. She was expecting me to post them in FB right away. After a few messages, I replied to her with:

I will post them when I feel like it.

I will post them when I am not busy.

I will post them when I want to.

What a way to start this blog. It’s like saying: Hi, I’m a cold-heartless-selfish b&tch, pleased to meet you random stranger who has chosen to read my blog for some odd suspicious reason. Oh don’t click the close button just yet; I didn’t mean to frighten you, we’re just starting to warm up. I shall warn you… I am a brutally honest person and if you are not comfortable with that, go ahead and click the button.

If in the slightest chance that you are still reading on, here’s the rest of what I have to say. Admittedly, it was a passive aggressive rant. I was busy – reminiscing and feeling nostalgic about the nine years of conformity (and stringent rules) at a co-ed Catholic school in the Philippines, a year of mini skirts, swearing and to-die-for pizza and poutine at a public school in Montreal and finally, my two years at an independent, non-sectarian true blue Aussie College complete with the cowboy felt hat to put the cherry on top (not kidding, that was part of our uniform!). As you may have noticed, I did not give any details about the last stage of my schooling life – probably because it’s too recent. There is much to reflect upon. But I didn’t want to think about it. So instead I opted to fix everything I can fix in my room. From a mountain of papers given by teachers who say they’re concerned about Mother Earth but kills trees like it’s what they do for a living (maybe that is what they do for a living), **never been opened school books, to clothes that I haven’t laid eyes on since the age of dinosaurs and the perfectly disorganised drawers, you name it.

I didn’t catch up with friends for a few days. I cleaned my blinds. I wiped off all the filthy dirty yucky goodness. And then I cried. All alone… memories seeped through and it hit me: It’s over. Melancholia became my frienemy. (Read: isolation)

Weeks after Valedictory Day, I received a letter from the College with this greeting:

Dear Students and Past Scholars

Wait, I am a student but who’s the past scholar? You talking to me?

Probably a typo. Why would they call me a past scholar?

Let me read that again.

Oh. Maybe I’ve graduated. Maybe.

Maybe someone is in denial.

2. Anger

What?! They deleted our school e-mail account? We haven’t even stepped foot to the hall for Valedictory dinner. Yes, you caught me. I was checking my already non-existent e-mail out of habit; it’s like the FB Syndrome (in which you refresh the button every hour or so but you know nothing is going to happen).

3. Bargaining

Schoolies week. Me being me, of course I did not waste my time, energy, money and resources to get drunk and party with a bunch of crazy random teenagers who paid thousands of dollars for their accommodation! Instead, I spent quality time bonding with my best friends. We went to the beach, had a pool party, house party, just chilled. That’s what I call living the good life! So where’s the bargaining bit? For that whole week, I must admit that I really needed to spend time with my school friends. It didn’t matter what we did, I just had to know that I wasn’t going to lose them after graduation. I bargained for more time. Some of my friends were going overseas for the holidays, one for a gap year, one moving to Brisbane and the rest, I just know I will miss sitting with every single morning tea and lunch time.

4. Depression

It’s sad that I won’t get to see my friends and all those familiar faces anymore – in a daily basis. I have gained control of who I am going to hang out and spend my time with. So one beautiful morning, I went to FB and went on an un-friending spree. Aha, I never said a word to you, delete. I never liked you – delete. I hate you – definitely delete. I don’t think we’ll ever talk like EVER – no point in seeing you in my newsfeed.

Now that’s therapy for me.

5. Acceptance

a)    New e-mail account with my actual name in it! Win!

b)    New transportation. Say goodbye to the 5 minute drive to school! Hello, hour and a half train ride plus 15 minute walk in the bridge and all. And then of course the travel time back is not included… so yeah. Don’t worry, believe it or not, I do enjoy observing random strangers (not in the stalker-ish kind of way). I am fascinated about people’s lives. I wonder how they live theirs. I wonder how you live your life, dear reader.

c)    New campuses! I am sick of suburbia. Yes, the beaches are amazing at home but I’m not really a beach person anyway. I love the city life and can’t wait to experience it again. Oh look, there are people crossing the streets in flocks! I have become socially inept and out of fashion. So now I have to actually think about what I’m going to wear. Hmm. At least no more of those awful disgusting cowboy felt hats – that’s something to feel good about! I am keen to explore the hidden treasures in the concrete jungle of Kelvin Grove and Gardens Point.

d)    New timetable! No more useless Maths. Or stupid Biology. I don’t have to go to school on Thursdays (for this semester).

*I had to read Pride and Prejudice for Extension English. When I say read, I meant I didn’t finish it because it was way too long for me given the endless endnotes. Got an A for my assessment though so yeah, take that Janie.

** A tip for all students, never buy a book unless your teacher has specifically said that you will need that particular book. Also, bear in mind that in a few weeks, you might change your mind for whatever reason and move to another subject. I’m an expert “mover” and proud.

How was your transition like… from high school to university? Did you experience Graduation blues? I want to know all about it! Please tell me  I’m not making this up.