Five years ago, I wrote a list for myself before my 25th birthday. It was an insanely chaotic and turbulent time in my life, and amid the (seemingly at least) calm and successful lives of others I needed a reminder to myself that I was doing okay, in my own time. So, I wrote this list, which you can read in full and with photos here.
Tomorrow, I turn 30 and I figured I’d keep the list going with five more things that I’m proud of today, for the next time I need a reminder.
26 – 30
A strong opinion on anything has the potential to push people away, and can cost you your pride and often your friendships. Near the top of this list is feminism (second only to veganism, see no. 10 below). The older I get, the more assured I am that if there’s one thing I want to commit to talking about and acting on, it’s this. I have always cared passionately for the cause. It is only in more recent years that I’ve been unafraid to shine a light on the less popular and darker side of why we need feminism. Workplace harassment. Rape culture. Everyday misogyny. It doesn’t come without consequence, but it is a necessary fight, and I have been and am 100 percent in.
27. Moved to China
Beijing quickly proved to become an addition that I dived headfirst into and barely managed to tear myself away from. The first time living away from home, going it alone, getting a job overseas and being a stranger in a big city. It’s here I met some of my best friends (one of whom I’d end up marrying).
28. Moved to Russia
Because while we’re at it, why not, right? Russia seems crazier than China to most people, but compared to the chaos of Beijing it’s an easy calm where everything works and people don’t shout. They stare, though, and getting started was the opposite of easy. I still can’t believe I live here.
29. Moved up in my career
Russia seems calm, until you get into its politics, and similar to China, it’s entirely possible to miss that scene completely if you’re not actively in it. After years of trying to get into the news scene instead of the lifestyle, advertising, PR scene I started out in, I finally made it to hard news. It’s been the plan for so long: I started my first full-time job at 19 with the intention of getting here one day. This has been 11 years in the making.
30. 30 countries before 30
I’m not saying I made the most financially savvy decisions, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And as much as I loved the thrill for wandering the globe solo, I now have someone to wander with.
The Original List By a Much Younger Self
1. Hair for Hope
Shaved off all my past-shoulder length curls to raise funds for kids with cancer. More than $2000 was the final count. One of the things I’m most proud of.
2. Mum & Dad’s 25th
Threw the best surprise party for Mum & Dad’s 25th anniversary complete with childhood friends, freshly flown in Sister from Sydney, buffet spread and their favourite priest to renew their vows.
3. Quitting my job
Quitting your job because it makes you unhappy might be the wisest career choice you make.
4. Backpacking solo
And then I took off into the wild, met some of the most interesting people I’ve ever come across and backpacked solo in South-East Asia.
I spent the most time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, teaching English to orphans and street kids. It was there I learnt that people in developed countries are not as rich as we seem. Those kids taught me what joy really is.
6. Barefoot for Poverty
Raising awareness for people who can’t afford shoes by walking a day in their life. Experienced both the ugliest and kindest behaviour from fellow Singaporeans.
Worked with the National Solidarity Party behind-the-scenes as part of the Social Media team during the General Election period. We fought a good fight.
8. Peace & Conflict
Represented our little island in a 3-week course in Southern Thailand about Peace & Conflict in the region. An amazing introduction to South-East, South and Central Asian politics, conflicts and people.
From taking photos and sneakily distributing flyers for Make Poverty History to selling tshirts for SlutWalk SG, joining the fight for Yong Vui Kong’s life and saying NO to the Death Penalty, there’s so much to be done. It’s amazing to be a part of something great.
10. Vegan with a Vengeance [edit: not vegan anymore]
Vegetarian is easy. Vegan is hard. That is all.
11. I Fought the Law
A remarkable fight for justice in university, when I was denied a fair grade because of scumbag lecturer. It went all the way to the top. I won.
12. Meeting Paul & Mick
I met Paul Simonon and Mick Jones (bassist and guitarist from the Clash) and Paul said I was pretty, and that I inspired him with my passion for their music.
Being 1 of 2 kids running a website and a team of 17 reporters was crazy, so much fun and a great introduction to path I later ventured into in my career.
14. Full-Time Job & Degree
Getting your degree with holding down a job in an advertising agency has been done by lots of people. That doesn’t make it easy.
15. New York, New York
Being selected to go on a journalism field trip to New York where we met lots of important people from NYT, Boston Globe, MTV and all that.
16. JD Pilgrimage
I visited Ian Curtis’ grave in Macclesfield. I c/wouldn’t leave until they made me.
17. Moving Up
I have at least once been given a raise and a promotion. The fact that I can successfully do grown-up stuff still fascinates me.
18. Band Travel
Whether it’s Hong Kong or London, I’m there if a band I love is there. I like this about myself.
19. Roller Derby
I bought some skates, put them on and have never looked back since.
20. Broken Bone
Painful, frustrating and tiring, but it is actually something I’m glad to have experienced. A badge of honour in my Roller Derby life. Once is enough.
21. Getting Help and Letting Go
Acknowledging that there were some things I couldn’t handle on my own and realising that even the best people out there need help. And I’m so much better for it.
Writing a blog post about painful parts of my past and sharing them with the world is possibly the scariest thing I have done. The amount of support shown, and the number of friends who confided in me, as a result, was overwhelming, humbling and beautiful.
I fell in love with children on a mountain while helping to rebuild their homes. I think about them every day.
I completed National Novel Writing Month. My 50, 027 words are still a work in progress, but I finished it.
25. Being 25
After a year that has seen so much change, disappointment, joy, confusion, love, heartbreak, trust and misplaced hopes, I’m back on track with a new job, old friends, amazing family, countless crazy Internet people, and a badass list to remind myself in dark and lonely times that I have done, am doing, and will continue to do some amazing things.