the truth behind working for a fascist and toxic employer

I was 19 in 2017 when I first got hired at Cotton On.

My manager at the time was young and my sister’s age. She was a bit quiet and sometimes, we worked in silence because I just didn’t know what to say to her but she was “cool” in a lot of ways. She wasn’t very authoritarian and was chill with her staff because she knew their abilities and rarely had to work us down.

She had a lot of nice things to say to me. One of those was that she was easily impressed by how meticulous I was with working and cleaning the store. She was the one who hired me based on my merit and experience working in a bigger-chain retail store during my time in Singapore so she did what she thought best and hired me.

She left a little while later to move interstate and there, we were unmanaged for a long time. My regional manager who was living in Cairns at the time frequently flew interstate to visit our store and he placed a wonderful Portuguese lady in our charge for a few months. I worked often because I was in university and had more time off but in April 2018, I flew back home to Singapore in lieu of my father’s death.

I stayed off work for a month and proceeded to come back later on working full-time hours for another month. The Portuguese lady resigned after getting a full-time job and I worked 35 hours then, managing most of the things in the store and the only things that I didn’t do were the rosters and visual merchandising. They were handled by another proper manager from a neighbouring store.

My regional manager was extremely supportive of me, viewing me as strong-willed for working as hard as I did just a month after my father died. He had high expectations from me and often told me, “You are a winner and I know how amazing you do your job.”

The month after, my mother told me to go back to university.

So I settled for working a good bunch of hours as I did before my father died while I went to university at the same time. They had a stand-in manager from the neighbouring store to work at ours and she frequently told me that she hated the store because of how anxious it made her and I agreed. We were small, cluttered and messy.

A few months later, she moved interstate and we were yet again, unmanaged.

In September 2018, they finally hired a manager for us.

She had zero experience in retail and was the security guard at the same shopping centre. She had no sense of urgency, extremely lazy and incompetent, played favourites and was the worst choice for a manager. She rarely unpacked any new stock and was always doing something that was not necessary or important, later blaming the staff for not doing their jobs when our regional manager came to visit and was shocked by the number of stock boxes still not unpacked.

I had a stellar amount of respect at first when she tried to tell me how to do my job properly and I was like sure, it was my fault. But I soon came to realise that this lady did not deserve my respect when she did not take her job seriously. She always screwed up the rosters by missing breaks and was generally bad at everything. She laughed her mistakes off while being extremely irritated by the mistakes of the rest of the staff.

The last straw for me came when I had done two full days on Sunday and Monday. Our regional manager was visiting the coming week and my manager had given me a list of things to do, including unpacking new visual merchandising stock on a Sunday which we generally never did because it was a short working day and we usually focused on cleaning up the store. I came in the following Monday and found that there were 7 visual merchandising stock boxes on the trolley to unpack so I did what I could and cleaned the rest of the store at the end of the day.

The next day, my store manager came in and told another staff that she had stuffed another four boxes of VM stock boxes under the table for me to do but “apparently Sophie had other plans.”

Eventually, I picked a fight with her but we made up and after a while, she quit the next month.

Following that month in November, we had a new area manager who was going to stay in our city permanently and look after all 5 stores under her. Our regional manager was going to stay where he was based and wouldn’t have to fly in every five weeks to check on us.

She was the worst area manager I had ever seen. She was rude, played favourites and was bad at her job.

I didn’t have much chance to work with her in the first few weeks as it was Christmas and I had gone home to Singapore for a holiday. When I came back, she had significantly reduced my hours per week from an average of 18 hours to 3-6 hours. Instead, she rostered other staff from other stores on in my store as though they worked there.

She frequently berated a lot of staff, telling them in their faces that she didn’t like them and they did not deserve to work in the store while telling other staff that “I think you’re an amazing team member and should work in my favourite store.”

She made another store manager of our neighbouring store burst into tears and resign. She made uncalled for comments and demanded that she did the rosters for all the stores, only rostering staff that she had favourites and giving other staff like myself from zero hours to the minimum of three hours a week. She could hardly do visual merchandising and messed up the store while doing so and when HR received a complaint from a customer with regards to the unsightly store, she placed the blame on the staff.

Not long after, everyone had enough of her and sent in a complaint to HR who eventually sent her to another state or fired her.

However, we were unmanaged without a store manager again and manager of our neighbouring store was sent to us to manage us.

She was nice to me.

Or at least, in front of me.

For the next six months, I was put on the rosters for three hours a week, every Friday night for closing. It was the one day in the week where we would be open until 9pm and all the stores know that late-night Friday shifts are to be alternated between the staff but I was made to do late night Friday shifts every week for the next six months with no explanation.

My manager was in many ways, lazy, incompetent and a liar.

She frequently stood behind the counter doing nothing and was always on her phone. She never went to get change for the tills and the money tills were always left with $50s, $100s and at one point, it was completely void of coins and this frequently happened during weekends when banks would be closed to get change and she wouldn’t be working and be affected by her own laziness. She never threw the rubbish out from over the week and would let it accumulate to the point that the weekend staff or Friday night staff like myself had to make two to three trips to the bin outside. She never cleared up the small bin behind the counter and it was always filled with her food containers which she ate over the week. She never cleaned the store. She was lazy and tried several ways to avoid coming to work and to leave work earlier, giving excuses that she had gastro or that she had to leave two hours early due to a house inspection that she had to attend. She would wait for staff to come to cover her breaks and leave for two hours instead of the one-hour break that she was supposed to have. Many times, if someone fell sick, she wouldn’t bother finding them a cover and would force a staff to work by themselves on a weekend even though it was her job as a manager to come in even if she was not rostered on.

I was told by her many times that “I can see you’re a good worker” but I later found out from another staff that she had told the latter that “Sophie is always on her phone and that’s why I’ve put her on for three hours and she doesn’t do her job.”

I was made to work three hours closing shifts on a Friday night with barely any customers for six months and was frequently told by her that I was a “good worker” but yet, she was talking about me behind my back. I felt that I was never always on my phone and would complete my tasks when I had any and I would have preferred for her to come straight to me and address my excessive phone usage during work hours but she had instead lied to me and blamed our original regional manager who had not been our regional manager since the year before about being made to roster me on for only three hours a week.

During stocktake, she had asked everyone if we were good to work from 4pm to 8pm that day and I agreed as I had classes from 9am to 12pm and stocktake would not clash.

When she posted the roster for that week, I was made to do opening despite her knowing that I had class that day. She claimed to not have known that I had class but I had told her multiple times that I had class and I was the only staff in the whole store who went to school.

She later admitted to another staff that she purposely put me on for the opening shift that day because “Sophie scans slow and shouldn’t be on for stocktake.”

I’ve never done stocktake with her before and didn’t know where she would have known that I was “slow” at scanning for stocktake.

The store manager of our sister store in the city was often also angry with her work ethics but he also had favouritsm and I was not one of his favourites.

In Cotton On, as staff, almost everyone uses their own staff discount codes or their friends’ staff discount codes to buy something for themselves. They are not allowed to do so but because many of the staff are always rostered by themselves for the whole day with the exception of a three-hour cover that is split with a one-hour break for the full-day staff and another two hours of hard work for the store, they tend to do what they do.

I was one of the staff who did so.

I had the permission of another staff who told me that it was fine for me to use her staff discount if I was alone to buy something for myself as I remembered her code by heart and I bought something for myself one day.

The store manager for the sister store came to visit and did a “random” bag check on me just as I was leaving the store to go to the bank and deposit our money claiming that he was going to start doing bag checks on every staff leaving the store and found the item in my bag with a receipt, demanding to know who had completed the transaction for me and I told him that I did so myself.

He never checked the bags of other staff ever again and reported the incident to HR for using another staff’s discount code.

A representative of HR called me three weeks later and interrogated me on the incident.

Claiming that “this is just part of my investigation”, she demanded to know why I completed my own transaction and I told her that I had bought a shirt because the item that I had worn to work was see-through that morning and I had also bought a bottle of water and a pack of tissues to increase our KPI sales.

She then tried to coerce me into admitting that I had bought a fourth item because “that’s what it shows on the receipt.”

I told her I didn’t buy a fourth item and she repeated herself, “That’s not what I’m seeing and I’m going to ask you again what else did you buy because this is all part of my investigation of this incident.”

I repeated myself that I didn’t buy a fourth item.

She “looked” at the receipt she had on her computer again and later admitted that it was a void item and that I didn’t buy it.

I will not forget how a HR representative tried to coerce me into admitting a crime that I didn’t do. If I had bought more items, my punishment would have been heavier.

For someone who continuously repeated that it was all “part of her investigation”, she had a lot of trouble distinguishing a void item and a sale item and I had no respect for someone who wanted to tell me how to do my job while being incompetent in her own.

And in this case, I quit as I had enough of what was happening in the store and how I was continuously disrespected.

I found that I hated those in managing positions who liked to flaunt their positions and tell others what to do while being unable to do their own jobs. The only ones that I thoroughly respected in their respective managing positions was my original store manager who hired me and my original regional manager who was based in Cairns as they were both amazing at their jobs while being humble with their position in the workplace.

This was the worst workplace that I had ever worked in with a fascist employer who spoke highly of their own authority but refused to correct their own behaviour and a toxic group of management team. In their desperation to find staff in managing positions, they had hired the most incompetent, laziest people to work and had caused the downfall of the workplace environment.

And this is the truth of working for a fascist, toxic employer and never again will I stoop so low to allow myself to be treated like this by people who were quick to spew orders while being unable to do their own jobs.

jan 1, ’20 — happy new year

It’s the new year.

I still find myself wishing for the past to come back even though we’ve finally reached a new year and sometimes I wish that I can reset my memories so that I can start afresh but that would mean losing what’s important to me. It would mean losing the memories that I still hold so dear to me and it would mean losing what I have left of someone I deeply care about.

As we step into this new year, I can say a lot of things have changed since the start of 1st January 2019.

Exactly a year ago, I was still begging my ex-boyfriend to stay in my life, hoping to turn things around or be given another chance at love. I was in one of the worst places of my life and this was only the start to subsequent heartbreaks from the trauma of my past relationship.

I had grown so much over the last year. I learned to set standards for myself and that a man needed to deserve me before I gave him my all, and I learned that what happens, happens. No more begging anyone for attention, no more self-doubting. No more settling and no more feeling sorry for myself.

2019 was a test of my courage, bravery and mental strength.

I am so strong for being alive right now because it had tested me enough with the betrayal of my best friend and so much more. It tested me when the people at work had so much to say about me behind my back and it tested me at home. It tested me in the last months of my wavering relationship with my ex-boyfriend and most of all, it tested me in losing the one man I would’ve wanted to marry.

Never have I been placed in a difficult year, with the exception of 2018 when I lost my father but I feel like the years get tougher and tougher as I go out into this world each passing day.

I want to say one thing — 2019 was full of lessons. They were lessons that I never knew I needed but it was enough for me to learn.

2020 will come at me stronger than before and I know I will be tested against my own wits. I will contemplate life so many times that it’ll look suicidal but I know that these are just tests. I will look to the sky so many times that I’ll ask God why he does this to me and maybe, I’ll get an answer for my strength.

Maybe, something might go my way this time.

But one thing I learned in 2019 was that with losses come great success.

to a friend

I must express my anxiety in writing this. This has been no easy task in the last few weeks but to reflect is greatly beneficial and this episode did not disappoint.

I had known her for almost two years now.

We were not close in the first year, and only grew closer in the last year of our friendship. We were on the opposite sides of the spectrum when it came to having anything in common and the only thing we ever bonded were over boys.

However, that didn’t stop us from having weekly lunch meetings, talking the latest gossip and generally having fun. The two-year age gap between us didn’t stop much and we were at some point, at the best of our friendship.

There were so many traits of her that I ignored over the course of our friendship because she was my friend — so many things that should have been an indicator that she was far too immature for this life but I was at odds with myself.

This girl, this child, was far too immature and I watched from the sidelines as she made bad, selfish decisions over and over again. She hurt the feelings of so many people around her and I watched all of it and whilst I tried not to control her decisions, I could do nothing more but to advise her on things that she would not listen to.

While she constantly hurt her friends with her bad decisions, she continuously came back to me for advice to make herself feel better and yet, she followed none of it. I found myself growing frustrated with each day but I could do nothing more than watch.

I watched as her long-distance boyfriend broke up with her because of her constant fighting and arguments over nothing. I watched as she found a new man as a rebound less than a month later at a club, and she fell in love. I watched as she cried when she found out that he was married. I watched as she continued this relationship with a married man knowing that he had two children waiting for him back home for the next four months. I watched as she swallowed the promises that he would leave his wife for her. I watched as she slept with three different men in the same weekend, each not knowing that they existed and each thinking that they all had her to themselves.

Her friends watched her from the sidelines as she made all these bad decisions and so did I. And those decisions never stopped there.

I watched as she left a boy for four hours while on a date to meet with the married man and sleep with him. I watched as she broke her best friend and another boy’s heart in the same night as she got together with the same married man at the clubs. I watched her cry to me the next day and ask for my advice to do better only to not listen. I watched as she left another boy at the clubs by himself on my birthday and leave with someone else.

And I watched as she stabbed me in the back and ruined my relationship with the only person I saw a future with.

She laughed as I expressed my disappointment with her. She didn’t heed my words seriously but then again, she never did. I watched her handle the situation immaturely and without hesitation, I cut her out of my life.

I do not hate her. I don’t, but I cannot see myself to be acquainted with her again. Not with her betrayal and not with her immaturity. She needs to grow up and sometimes, people don’t do it at all in their lifetime. I can only hope that she is one of the lucky ones.

Maybe one day, we’ll be friends again.

But today is not that day.

at some point, i wanted to marry a guy i only knew for a month

We already had a gist of what our future relationship would be like.

It would’ve been long-distance mostly, speaking over the phone and seeing each other’s faces on the other side of the screen. We wouldn’t have been able to be together more than we were together but for me, that was what made me more excited to see him every single time. It made me appreciate the little moments we had together and I wanted it.

For the rest of my life.

When we first met, it was like living a long-distance relationship. We often called each other almost everyday, he often texted me in the mornings and evenings after work. I waited to hear his voice and he always thought about when he got to hear mine next.

And when we first met in person after three weeks, I gave him the biggest hug. I knew right then that he was right for me.

I wanted to marry him. I felt like he was the one who would treat me right and we were comfortable with each other. I told him things that were so hard for me to move on from, my vulnerabilities and he told me things that he’s never told anyone before — a dark past.

We never judged each other, he was supportive of me and he helped me in ways that was so different from my toxic ex-boyfriend that made me realize that maybe, I chose right this time.

I chose what I deserved and I knew my worth.

I wanted to be with him and somewhere on the inside, I knew he wanted to be with me too even when our time was short.

He avoided talking about the future but we knew that it wouldn’t have worked out well anyway. We would have separated, become friends and watched each other move on with different people in their lives.

But still, I wanted to marry him.

Other people wanted me to marry him.

People thought we’d make beautiful children together.

People thought we were the cutest couple ever.

People could see just how happy I was compared to before.

You see, he never made me happy. I was happy on my own even without him but what he made me, he made me feel at peace; home.

He made me feel like the world’s problems didn’t exist anymore and I could sleep in his arms in the middle of the beach.

He made me feel at home.

And he was home.

I wanted to marry him.

I made the decision only a month after I knew him but I wanted to. We dated for two months but within a month of knowing him, I knew what I wanted. I didn’t love him yet, not as a lover but I loved him as a person already and I knew that those feelings would have grown with time.

But sometimes, things don’t work out.

Homes get destroyed and people leave. We make mistakes that cannot be corrected and people move on.

I don’t think we’ll ever get back together again but I know that at one point, I wanted to marry him.

a letter to you

It’s been a year without your guidance.

How did one year manage to pass so quickly without a stray of thought aligned with the days of the week? How did I turn twenty as quickly as I am about to turn twenty-one in just short of six months?

So much has happened; so, so much that it’s unexplainable.

I got my heart broken for the first time by someone real, so real that when I touched him, I felt not only his skin but his soul.

I went through the stages of losses, suicidal thoughts included and depression being one of the side effects.

I got in and out of fights with members of family, friends and colleagues because I was at the stage in life where nothing could have hurt me more than your absence.

My heart aches for your presence again. I sometimes find myself staring at pictures of you wondering how it was possible that it’s been a year now since I’ve last spoken to you. A year since I’ve last heard your voice, a year since I heard your magical laughter.

A year since I’ve seen you at all.

I think about the day I last saw you. The last thing that I ever said to you in person was “goodbye” but I didn’t mean for it to be forever. I think about how I shouldn’t have let you go up on that plane. Maybe, you should have missed the flight and skipped your much needed holiday. Maybe, we could have done something else as a family instead.

All these thoughts swirling in my mind never ceases but a year has passed and another year will go on, for many more for the rest of my life and I’ll think about how lucky I was to have known this amazing person in my life once upon a time.

My father, my best friend.

A letter to you because I can no longer speak with you so I can only address my words in hopes that one day, I can convey them to you.

getting your shit together 101

Sometimes, we all need life to knock us down.

It gives us the sense of a reality check, the sense of everything that crashes down on us and it’s important for us to understand that we need that. We need to understand that when life knocks us down, we have to get back up and not continue the same bullshit that caused us to fall before.

We need improvement. Life is always a continuous ravel of improvements that must be made every few days. It’s like going to school and learning something new everyday, or going to work and helping to make a bigger sale than before. Meeting new people everyday. Finally doing something that you couldn’t bring yourself to do before.

Something that helps us improve.

For me, I feel like my life has been in torn shambles these past few months. I’ve been walking on thin ice, about to break down every few minutes or hours in lieu of my father’s death that up until now, I’ve kept blaming all my unhappiness on, and also my breakup with my first boyfriend who has continuously hurt my feelings over and over again.

Just today, I was hurt by him, once again.

But it made me realise something.

This is the last straw. This was the moment that killed and destroyed every ounce of feelings and love I had for this guy because of how many times he had knocked me down, pushed me away and mercilessly rejected my love. He is in no position to return my affections but he is also in no position to treat me as such in cruel, insensitive ways.

I sat against the wall on the floor in my house crying for a whole hour after getting off the phone with him. My ex-boyfriend, my love who I cherished no matter how short our relationship, and he hurt me once again.

It only lasted a whole hour and that was the most that I was going to give him.

Now, I sit on my bed with much resolve.

I listed down on Word of the things I needed to do to get my shit together. The only few reasons why it was hard for me to find love, and why it was hard for my ex-boyfriend to love me was because I had nothing. I had nothing and I needed to get my shit together in order to become this proper woman who has her life together.

My list starts with finishing up assignments at university. They have been long overdue for months. It’s about time I stopped procrastinating and finished them up because I know that they’re not difficult work. They just require more thinking than usual which I absolutely despise.

It’s time to change that.

I am also an aspiring novelist and author. Next down in my list is to finish editing my fully-written novel. Unedited, I needed to have it planned out perfectly, plot lines as well as character development before sending it to a literary agent. My dream is to see my book on every major bookstore shelf, and editing it is the beginning to my dream.

I know what needs to be done but I’m not doing them because I feel like they’re too much and too overwhelming but when I say it out loud, it’s easier than it sounds.

Getting my shit together means that I am becoming a woman who knows what she wants and what she has. It means that I’m finally understanding adulthood in ways that I’ve never understood before. Taking responsibilities and understanding how this world works.

Childish mentalities should no longer be tolerated by myself if I need to get my shit together.

In no way of judging people of these mentalities, I have come up with several pieces of advice for myself to follow, and for others to read and relate.

  • Always, always form connections and acquaintances wherever possible. They may not be your friend, but they will help you in the long run. Others abide by “quality over quantity” but when you pick the right people, you will have quality and quantity alongside with benefit.
  • Don’t let social media dictate your social life. If by all means, a person is toxic on social media, block them or unfollow them. I have done this to many of my friends whom I am still friends with in real life because of their content that I immensely dislike. Social media should not cloud your friendships in person.
  • Don’t let social media dictate your relationships. If a future partner or significant other is jealous over a picture of your ex-partner that you still have on your profile, drop them immediately. In my opinion, exes are memories made and at some point in my relationship, I was happy. I’m not going to delete happy memories off of Instagram just because we are no longer together. Instagram is my memory book and it will stay on there as a memory.
  • Work should not be only a job. I know many people who lead lives working a job with the mentality of “I come to work to do my job and then leave. It’s nothing more than that.” I find this to be a childish mentality because work should not only be a job but a career, otherwise you are leading a miserable life. Even if you are only working a temporary job to sustain a living, you should be doing something that you immensely enjoy, or at least form friendships with co-workers who will respect you in the workplace. It will also give you good graces and opinions should your future job need referrals.

Getting your life together seems like a difficult task. But when you list everything down on paper or computer, it seems small and it seems like you’ve been overthinking it your entire life. Always start with the small things and venture out bigger. Secure a financial future, secure a job, start a family at a right time. Fall in love with the right people.

Don’t take anymore bullshit than you need to.

What you need to do is invest time in yourself. First, take a breather. Relax. Go to the most relaxing cafe and have some coffee to wind down. Do it for maybe two to three days. Go to the gym and let loose.

And then, do what you hate most and finish it.

It’ll feel like you’ve conquered half the world.

When you’ve done what you needed to, go to the second thing on your list. One by one, maximise your concentration.

It’ll work out.

as i sit here

As I sit here in this cafe writing stories of my life, I start to wonder of how my life miraculously came to be.

Sometimes, there are questions that you ask yourself. Things that don’t seem anything out of the ordinary or odd but when you really question them, you start to wonder if it’s by fate or something else that things happen.

I believe in predestination and I believe in fate. I believe that everything has been planned out accordingly for us and all we have to do is follow the path set out because if we stray, we lose who we are.

As I sit here, I wonder how I met the people I did and how they impacted my life. I’ve met people who held me as I cried over grief and loss, I’ve met people who smiled when I told them jokes as part of my daily humor and I’ve met people who negatively impacted me to the point of bad consequences.

These people, no matter how big or small, affected me as a person and as I sit here, I start to realise that they shaped me as a person and how I came to be.

I once thought I was in love, a long time ago. In turn, it made it hard for me to let go of him even when we barely knew each other all too well and in turn, it made me difficult to love anyone for years. My standard for boys became too high that I turned anyone and everyone away, comparing him to them. It made it hard for me to find anyone I could call my significant other.

As I sit here in this cafe writing this three years later, I can only say that I fell in love once again, for the first time since him. Only this time, it’s real love and not one that was fantasized out of what I knew of him.

This new person in my life doesn’t return my affections but he claims to equally care as much for me. I love him as I could someone I potentially wanted to spend my life with but his happiness comes first to me, and if he’s happy with being just my friend then I will be just as happy. I believe that he belongs in my life better like this than to completely lose him over my selfishness to keep him to myself.

He shapes part of what I do with my life.

My happiness is co-dependent on him among other things, and he makes me want to be a better person. Granted there are traits about him that I immensely dislike, I learn to ignore the bad of the people around me and instead focus on their good because one or two bad traits do not make a person bad. Their worth is more than what we think when we look down on them.

This is what shapes me as a person. I choose and learn to appreciate the good in people because that’s how we should live our lives; as someone who sets out an example to appreciate the goodness in people than the bad.

As I sit here in this cafe, I think about my friends whom I’ve never met in my life. I have known them for three years, and I know that three years ago, I was at my prime.

A girl I’ve known since she was fourteen, lives in the USA and she has had meaningful and important conversations with me about political movements across the world. Her knowledge transcends that of her age and it inspires me to want to know more, to remain knowledgeable and that there is no limit to what we can learn. She in more ways than one, reminds me that there is nothing to stop me from doing what I can and want.

My best friend who resides in Croatia, whose journey from his first year of college to his graduation continuously supports me in ways that while it holds no meaning in my life, it molds me to remain true and never lose myself. He keeps me real and grounded, to always remember my roots and to never forget what I was before. He never listens to my rants about boys, he was bad at listening about my pleas for help in lieu of my father’s death and he loves talking about himself but despite everything, he is someone that understands me as I understand him.

And we fit together like peas and carrots.

The people around us shapes us in ways if we just think about it.

As I sit in here in this cafe, my mind wanders to things that don’t seem significant to others but they are to me. People are significant no matter how big or small because they influence our minds, actions and personality. They shape and mold us to become what we are, and it’s often up to us to decide how we take the impact they make on our lives.

I appreciate the comings and goings of the people around me and as anyone should, they should equally appreciate life as it is and see the good side to people instead of the bad.

We live a full life when we make people feel good about themselves for the things that they are rather than the things they are not because that’s what makes them appreciate you as much.

taking control of my life

I realised many things the day my father died.

One, I lost everything and two, my life was going to spiral out of control.

Both of which are true, and both of which made me fall into this pit of potential depression. I admit one thing; I had thought about death many times since then. And I always asked myself what would happen if I was gone, because we rarely imagine how life would be without us.

Would it be better or for the worse?

I digress.

I lost control of many things in my life the day my father died. I lost control of my emotions as I sit on the bathroom floor pleading for help in silence. I lost control of the way I acted around people, from being the person who always told the truth to everyone no matter how harsh, to being the person who accepted things and remained patient no matter how cruel the world was.

Many times, I find myself staring at nothing, wondering how all this came to be. I see nothing in the future that is worth living for anymore, and I think about giving up on my family several times as well. But I know I cannot, because they depend a lot on me for many things.

At twenty years old, I’m made to make calls to insurance companies, handle simple visa matters for relatives, made to deal with much and it suffocates me. I admit this much, and I know this much. I know that it stresses me out to the point that I’m tired of life now.

I feel like my life is spiraling out of control, and fast.

I fell in love, and as quickly as I did, he was quick to say he didn’t return my affections.

One of the reasons he admitted to, I can’t love someone who doesn’t love herself.

And it’s true, I don’t. I hate the person I’ve become in the short months since my father’s death but I refuse to keep blaming his death for everything that’s happened in my life. I refuse to let it be the reason that I’m failing.

I’ve always wanted to do many things, and I’ve never gotten around to it even before he died. I cannot be blaming him for things that I couldn’t do before and now. I cannot keep blaming him for the rest of my life. He is at rest, and he deserves the peace.

I’m taking back the control in my life. Even when times feel like I’m losing control, I need friends to remind me that I’m in control and it’s my life. I have perfect control over everything. I just need to start somewhere.

For me, I shouldn’t start with the people around me. I don’t have to make them happy or put them first.

For me, I need to start with myself and put myself first. I need to try and be a better person not for others, but for myself.

I’ve always been self-conscious of my appearance, weight and other small things and it’s time I took care of it.

I started coming up with a skincare routine; washing my face twice a day with facial, face masks once a day everyday, night cream and day cream. All of it essential to getting good skin.

My diet has always been a problem. Fast food and instant noodles are part of my daily diet, and that needs to change. I drink soda and soft drinks more than I do water, and it’s affecting my health that I can feel it.

Taking back control of your life doesn’t always mean getting your shit together straight away like in the movies. It means to improve that version of yourself to become something better, and to keep improving until you’re someone that you’re happy with. It means that you’re doing something with what you have instead of letting them crumble down to waste. It means amidst the support of family and friends, you’re heeding the advice that you’re given and accepting that help is essential in this part of your life.

I do not have depression. I know that I don’t, but sometimes, I feel like I go through this depression stage that makes it hard to explain.

But I want to take it away, to improve and take back control of my life that spiraled out of control so quickly.

I miss my life seven months ago when my father was still alive. Seven months without him felt like seven years. I cried daily for the first four, and in the last three, I met someone whom I fell in love with, who pulled me out of depression. He did not cure my depression, but he helped me understand that there is more to life than just sadness and darkness.

Granted, he sometimes contributes to my depression stage, he tries to help in small ways. He thinks that I don’t appreciate them but I do. I appreciate them, and it makes it hard to not love even more but that’s how I deal with unrequited love. I don’t try to appreciate something that isn’t meant to be as such.

Never be afraid to ask for help. Never be afraid to speak out to someone you know would listen. Never fail to understand that you don’t always have to confide in best friends. Never forget that strangers are better listeners than friends. Never forget that you are not alone.

It starts with yourself and how you look at life.

I’m taking back control of my life by starting to improve myself in ways that I never had before. Take care of yourself and you start to realise that difference it makes, the confidence it adds, the esteem that you needed.

What other people think or want doesn’t matter because it doesn’t help you. Let them help you help yourself, and that’s the furthest that they can go to help you.

For me, everything starts with what I want.

experiences

We meet strangers who come and go, some who stay longer and some whom we truly connect with. These people are what makes us who we are, and they help us define the kind of person who choose to be.

Through experiences, I have met many who shaped the person I am today, and I am still being molded into a perfect form. I am nowhere near but I aim to get there one day.

Some of the people who come into our lives change us in ways that we never expect, and sometimes, we have to let go of them.

Like everyday in our lives, I met someone who made quite an impact in the short period of time he was in my life. We only knew each other for three months, and in those months, he changed my life in ways that I had never expected him to.

I fell in love for the first time.

It seems impossible to fall in love so quickly, but I know that it is love. It is not infatuation or lust, and it is real.

It was an experience of a lifetime, one that truly took much out of me. I received nothing in return, and I don’t want anything but to keep feeling this love. Loving with the expectation of being loved back is a waste of time because love is about appreciation, not possession.

We had a blissful few months together, and now, he goes home to America.

Sadness would be the best way to describe my feelings now. I cried telling him that I didn’t want him to leave no matter how much I knew he wanted to. I know that I will miss him but I know that I appreciated him enough through our time together to make it last a lifetime.

Our experiences together, the journey and adventures we undertook do not go in vain as I remember all of them perfectly like the back of my hand. I remember the memories like they happened yesterday and that is all I need to understand that I need to let him go.

Three weeks ago, I had a last date with him. It was the last day that we were going to officially be boyfriend and girlfriend, and it was blissful. It was the expected expiration date that we were waiting for. We knew that we would come to an end and we did. Oh, how we knew and we did everything we could think of in that one date to make it the best date.

Yesterday, it was the last time we saw each other and we parted goodbye as friends instead of lovers.

I still feel the lingering sadness in me. It bothers me and I want to take this pain away but I know taking the pain would mean forgetting and I want none of that. This was the best few months of my recent months and I appreciate him for doing what he did.

What did he do exactly?

Almost seven months ago, my father died unexpectedly from an accident.

It left me emotionally scarred and traumatized, and I could feel myself falling into a pit of depression that I never had before. I had wanted to give up on school, work, life and family. It was the worst few months of my life and I prayed to God to give me someone who could help me through this.

A week later, I met him.

He pulled me out of this depression stage that I was in, and he taught me to get back up on my own two feet. These experiences that he offered me made realise that there was still more to life than just the past. There was the now, and there was the future.

And I was perfectly in control of all of it.

I fell in love for the first time.

He took my breath away when he kissed me for the first time. I remember the first time he held my hand and smiled at me through the dark in the twilight. He made me smile in a way that I hadn’t for months in lieu of my father’s death. I never wanted any of it to end.

But now, we are friends and that’s the best thing that he can do for me now as I fix myself.

Learning to love myself is a step forward. Learning to take back control of my life is another. Learning to plan for my future is the next. Learning to love another would be the last.

I still love him through this breakup and I don’t hate him for telling me that he doesn’t love me back because I understand that love is relative and uncontrolled.

We saw each other for the last time yesterday. We said our forever goodbyes, smile without tears not because it’s over but because it happened. Accept that we will never be but forever remember that we were once.

My experience with him changed my life.

I fell out of potential depression, took back control of my life, laughed for the first time in months, did new things, and fell in love.

Experiences change who we are and it shapes us to be the person of our destiny.

I’m still finding my destiny, but I know that he helped me realise that I’m more than what I think I am and that my destiny is far bigger than what I thought.

I’m still finding my purpose and the universe works ways to help us find it.

grief and loss

Here’s a story that I never forget, of a time long ago witnessed by yours truly.

I was young, unknowing and at that age, completely clueless of the world around me. As someone who was protected by the world, I sought to discover much on my own only to be taught that this world is not always rainbows and sunshine.

Over a decade ago, I was with family. At the shopping mall just minutes from our house by train, we were roaming around and browsing through shops like little tourists on vacation. There was much shopping to be done.

I stood outside a store, waiting for my parents to come out when I see a little girl, much younger than I was, running out a store. She trips and falls flat on her face. She stays there for a few seconds and looks like she’s going to cry.

Her father comes up to her, stands beside her and without bending down or crouching to be at eye level with her, he only extends his hand down to her with two simple words uttered.

Get up.

To me, they’re as simple as they can get.

Without another word, the little girl grabs her father’s hand and together, they walk off hand-in-hand.

A simple lesson was taught to her that day.

When life knocks you down, you get back up.

Simple, but effective.

I was taught to be independent from an extremely young age. I was taught to do things on my own without expecting help from anyone else but what about grief and loss?

What should be done to help me get back up on my feet?

Loss is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone because of the underlying meaning behind it.

Loss means forever.

This April, I loss my father in an accident. He died as quickly as it happened, unknowing to me a week before it did that I would be fatherless.

I grieved for months.

Grief helps us cope with loss but what does coping really mean? Is it means of forgetting or accepting?

I questioned that for a long, long time.

Given my work and occupation as a student, I was given a lot of encouragement and love from colleagues and teachers but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t ready to get back into the field and I wasn’t happy with how things were as opposed to before.

I blamed my unhappiness and failures in the past five months on my father’s death. And I kept doing it because I was unable to be strong and to cope.

How do I get back up on my feet?

Grief and loss turned me into a moody, lifeless person. I once had the world in my eyes and all that was left is now emptiness and sorrow.

I had almost wanted to give up on life, work, school and family.

I prayed for a different outcome in life.

To give and receive, to be given life when one was taken.

In turn, I was taken on this whirlwind of journey with someone who showed me what life truly meant from a different perspective.

What was it about this person who gave me meaning to keep on going, to live as life has offered me and to do best rather than do enough? He showered me with compliments, crude advice, and drove me to insanity before bringing me back down to help me understand that I was strong enough to handle it.

Today, I no longer grief and blame loss for many things.

I realize the control I have over my own life and it was a great portion of it.

When I wake in the morning, instead of feeling anguish and sadness, I’m filled with the drive to do something greater. Instead of expecting hope and happiness to drop onto my lap, I strive for it.

How did I cope with the grief and loss?

I let someone into my life and he pulled me out of my depression state. He showed me his side of the world and I showed him mine.

To be protected from the world, from its losses had made me weak. It had taken my energy and brought me down but one person pulled me back up onto my feet.

Today, I have accomplished much more than I had hoped for in the past score of my life.

With this loss that I had felt, it had made me stronger with the help of someone who made me realize what life was truly about. He, who helped me understand the future and he, who taught me how to think for my own.

He, who helped me grief over loss of family while learning to stand up from it.

If I had to do the same with my children, I would do what my own parents did to me. I would protect them from the world, raise them to be independent and knowledgeable.

Before releasing them into the wild.