Life update: What have I been up to?

Hong Kong skyline
One of my favourite Hong Kong photos I took in 2016. The view from Lugard Road overlooking the city. When I’m up there in that peaceful green jungle overlooking the concrete jungle, I feel like I’m queen of the world.

Errr, hello again. Long time no see… I’ve really missed blogging and I want to get back into it. And actually keep at it this time… But before we jump back into things, I want to do a life update. Not necessarily because I expect anyone to actually read this but because I just want to mark the new chapter in my blog’s life. And because therapy’s expensive but blogging’s free.

I feel like this post will just be word vomit but here we go. You’ve been warned. Sexual assault, divorce, mental health, new jobs, visiting new countries. It’s all here.

Today felt like the right time for a long-overdue update. Not to be all dramatic or anything but 3 years ago this week my life was steered in a new direction and a fire was lit under my arse, as it were. Β This week 3 years ago I went back to Hong Kong for the first time in 6 years and stayed with my relatives out there whom I hadn’t seen for 5 years. It was that week that I decided what I wanted more than anything was to move to Hong Kong (my ‘second home’ as a teenager) and settle down there. Almost everything I have done since has been in preparation for that transition. (Namely finishing my degree). All being well, this time next year I will be packing up my life in the UK and my Hong Kong dream will become a reality.

Today also felt like the right time for an update because, as of last week, I have finished my penultimate year of university! Hooray! I’m the ripe old age of 24 but I started an undergraduate degree part-time in 2015 whilst I was working for the Mayor of London. Juggling studying and an office job has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve taken on but also one of the most rewarding. One more year and I’m done!

On a similar personal note, I feel like there’s two other things I want to mention that for me have kind of been elephants in the room on my blog and have shaped my last two years. (1) Two days before I flew to China in 2016 for my 3-month dream trip, my Mum told my Dad she was leaving him. Not ideal timing. And (2), on my flight to Beijing I was sexually harassed and was left really shaken and it still affects me to this day. I had mentioned the incident shortly after it happened in this postΒ but I mention it again because I want claim that situation as my own. I was sexually harassed and it wasn’t my fault. Suffice to say I spent my first two days in China mostly in tears because of the above two things, in addition to battling jet lag and culture shock. It’s not how I pictured my much-anticipated Asian Adventure starting…

A month later, I was sexually harassed again, this time in Malaysia by a Bahraini man. This time I genuinely thought it was going to end in rape. I’ve not even told my friends about this. After asking me which room I was staying in (I obviously didn’t tell him), the man cornered me in a deserted corridor of our hotel, put his arms tight around me so I couldn’t move my arms or my head away and started kissing me. I tried to push him away but couldn’t for a short while. Eventually I broke away and walked briskly down the corridor. I didn’t say anything or scream because I was in shock. I looked behind me and he was still looking at me and walking slowly towards me. That part of the corridor was a dead-end. I dived into a deserted restaurant in the corridor around the bend and hid behind a pillar, hoping he wouldn’t find me. I looked out and could see him looking for me. I thought he was going to corner me in that room, pin me down and rape me and no one would be around to stop him. That was the most terrified I have ever felt. I thought I was going to be physically sick from fear. Thankfully, a family came out of their room just opposite where I was hiding and at that moment the man turned around and left. I went to my room, messaged my mum and just sobbed for about an hour. Sure, I wasn’t raped and he ‘only’ kissed me so it doesn’t ‘count’ as sexual assault but that doesn’t change the fact I felt so violated, frightened, and angry. It was only a small hotel and in just the two days I was there, I built really friendly relationships with the staff. And for some reason, I didn’t tell them what had happened to me. I think I feared judgement and being told it was my fault because I was a 22-year-old woman travelling alone. A week later I was in Singapore and I got an email from the hotel asking if I could fill in their feedback questionnaire. I did and after a long deliberation, in the comments section I told them about my sexual harassment. Later that same day, I got an email from the manager telling me how sorry he was that happened to me, especially on their property, and that he wished I had felt able to tell them whilst I was there and that they would have taken the appropriate action. It was the best response I could have hoped me. My feelings had been validated. I thanked him very much for his message and tried to put it all behind me.

But back to what I was talking about earlier. In short, my parents separated two years ago and there has been a lot of messy fallout (which I won’t go into). I might be 24 but it had (and continues to have) a big impact on me and my mental health. I also mention it because if anyone else happens to be reading this who is going through something similar, I want you to know you aren’t alone. Don’t listen to anyone who says your parents separating when you’re an adult isn’t upsetting or significant. Your feelings are valid and you matter and you are loved. The last two years have made me a stronger person but they’ve also made me doubt everything more, including myself and my relationships with everyone in my life.

It’s tough but surround yourself with the right people and things will get better. I’m lucky to have truly amazing friends and grandparents. A turning point for me was reading this quote: “Live your life according to the choices you made, not the choices you didn’t”. My parents have made choices that I don’t agree with and have had a negative impact on me but rather than dwelling on the negative things I can’t change, I had to make the choice to focus my energy on the things I could change. I’ve always been an ambitious person who loves to just ‘do’ lots of different things and be busy. But that was not the person I was for about a year after my parents separated. I eventually recognised that and wanted to be the ‘old’ Emma again and get my spark back.

The first step to getting my spark back and moving on with my life was getting a job. Before I went travelling in Asia, I worked for the Mayor of London. Come December 2017 I was lucky enough to be offered a job in Westminster. Working there was on my ‘pre-emigrating-to-Hong-Kong’ bucket-list so I felt very fortunate and excited.

I also had a truly wonderful Christmas and New Year and got to visit Munich and Prague with five of my closest friends the week before Christmas. It was such a funny and special trip. For someone who’s used to travelling alone, it was lovely to do something different and share experiences with friends. Photos and such still to come!

I’d had a wonderful end of 2017 and was ready to start 2018 on the right track with a great new job and new tenacity by starting a great new chapter in my life. Sadly, my sweet cat, Taz, died in a car accident the day before I started my new job. “Sod’s law” doesn’t even cover it. It was a really horrible shock. He was a rescue cat and I had grown up with him and his brother for 11 years and all of a sudden he was gone. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. He was such a sweet cat and didn’t deserve such an undignified ending. I also felt overwhelmingly guilty (and still do) for what happened to him. If I had been home that afternoon to let him inside the house, where he normally slept, I feel like he would still be here today. Suffice to say I spent my first day on the job desperately trying to fake a smile and stay in the moment, which was bloody difficult. I cried all the way to and from work (it’s an hour journey each way…) for that first week. Again, sometimes life is really bloody unfair and you’ve just got to do your best to carry on.

This has been a bloody miserable post but one I’ve felt the need to write for a while. I promise this is a one-off post! 2018 has largely been good to me. I’ve been busy with work and studying but also busy making plans for my best friend’s wedding later this year and plans for moving to Hong Kong next year. I’ve also just booked a trip to Japan for this September! I’ve been wanting to go to Japan for about 10 years so this is all my Christmases come at once. You’ll be hearing plenty more about it in the coming months, especially as I’ve restarted this blog and I want to get my photography website up and running.

I hope 2018 so far has been kind to you all and if it hasn’t, hang in there. Things do get better. I promise. It just might take a little time.


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