Equality is dignity.

On the International Women’s Day, let’s think of women out there, particularly those with stories that remind us why the Women’s Day is still relevant.

Let’s think of the:

  1. Girls who never got to realise their full potential just because their parents believed that they were not deserving of equal educational opportunities. After all, they were all destined for a life in the kitchen.
  2. Women who never got to feel sexual pleasure, because the culture they were apparently born into required their clitoris to be mutilated.
  3. Girls who dreamt to play football but never got to do so, because their parents didn’t want her to be “butch”.
  4. Women who had to live double lives, because their parents couldn’t accept that their daughters preferred not to don the hijab
  5. Single mothers who struggled to raise their kids alone, without much state support. In some societies, single mothers were even frowned upon. Some even thought that her predicament was a result of her own doing – “Siapa suruh tak pandai jaga suami?”.
  6. Girls who never got to choose who they’d spend their whole lives with, just because their parents believed that their families had complete control over the matter
  7. Girls who were forced into prostitution by their own families; only to end up being treated as pariahs of the society for the rest of their lives
  8. Ladies who still get nasty comments on Instagram commanding them to cover their arms and toes, because apparently their hijab wasn’t Islamic enough
  9. Housewives who dedicated their whole lives towards ensuring that their families were well taken care of, only to have some of us in the society view them as “less educated” or “less productive” than working women
  10. Ladies who wanted to wear the hijab to express their religious faith, only to have some bigots heckle at them at the subway
  11. Women who had to see their husbands marry a second wife without their permission, just because it was perfectly legal for the men to do so
  12. Transgender women who got arrested for wearing dresses and having their hair long, because apparently the state couldn’t allow their community to exist and thrive in peace
  13. Those smartest girls in their classes who could never be class monitors. They could only be deputies, because women weren’t allowed to rule over men.
  14. Successful gymnast, who trained long hours every day, only to get the netizens criticise her for not covering up during sports events.
  15. Women in some countries, who are still not allowed to leave home without their male guardian chaperoning them. These women are forever treated by the State like underage children. In one particular country, they can’t even drive.

There are three billion women out there, each with their own distinctive story. While not all women are heavily oppressed day in day out, it’s also important to note that there are still many out there, in many corners of the globe, who are.

Let’s remember them, and tell ourselves that change, if anything, should begin from all of us.

Stop making gender a factor in assessing a person’s worth. A person is more than his/her gender.

A person is a person

 

Speak soon,

FH

I guess I’m heading somewhere in May!

Submitted my 3-week leave application today and it was approved!

I guess I’m indeed heading somewhere in May.

Planning for trips keep me sane. The past few weeks hasn’t been the best of times.

Time to start booking!

*clues: 4 nations, 6 cities, Springtime!

 

Speak soon,

FH

Of Being Happy and Being Content

There are times when I feel like my life isn’t going the way it should be, when the cloud of inexplicable melancholy hangs over my head; casting the palpable sense of doubt over the direction my life is heading – am I heading toward the right direction in life, or have I steered too far from the path of happiness?

It may be triggered by the little things like the food at my favourite restaurant not tasting as delicious as it used to be, to the more serious stuff like friend suddenly thinking that it’s to their best interest not to be as close to me as they used to be.

But eating in my favourite restaurant should, by right, make me happy. Having a friend, for better or for worse, should make me happy too.

When something that should’ve been a source of my happiness becomes an impediment to which, it’s natural to ask myself, and do some self-reflection – Why are these things bothering me? Why am I unhappy because of these things that should’ve made me happy?

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Perhaps there’s no rule for happiness. One can’t plan to be happy – no matter how much one does to make himself happy. Happiness isn’t an achievement. There’s not even a specific definition that dictates what happiness feels, or what it looks like.

Probably it’s time to tell myself that happiness shouldn’t be an end-goal. It shouldn’t be the only thing that matters. I shouldn’t do something only because I think it makes me happy. It doesn’t work that way.

Instead, I think I’ll try to do something that makes me feel content, and at ease. Who knows, from content, one becomes happy eventually. Effortless happy.

 

Speak soon,

FH

Friendship Beyond the “Drifting Away” Stage

Over the years, I crossed paths with many souls.

A little more than 800 of these souls ended up as my Facebook friends, a figure that I have yet to trim (in spite of the intention of doing so many times). Let’s condense this further: Of these Facebook friends, I probably physically met about a few dozen over the past 12 months. I keep regular, or weekly contact with maybe a handful.

This is when the definition of friendship itself gets interesting. How do you define friends? By the loosest definition, all of my Facebook friends are my “friends”. This is obviously putting a very low threshold to friendship.

How about defining friends as the people that I regularly meet over coffee or talk over Whatsapp with? If this is the case, maybe I only end up with having not more than 10 friends.

Well, truth is, there’s no strict definition of what a friendship should be made of.

Personally, I think that I have, over the years, developed the understanding that everyone has a lot of things that they have to deal with every single day. As we morph into different persons and grow out of the former state we were in (humans live in the state of permanent transiency anyway), our priorities shift. We graduate from college and enter the working world, with its new challenges. We shift work place to another company, with its new environment, demands and challenges. Some of us are married, some even have a kid or two to call their own. Our priorities shift.

With the shift of priorities often comes the “drifting away” stage. There’s a group of my friends that I used to meet up with once a week. This turned into once a month. Then once in a couple of months. Then occasionally.

Details aside, does “drifting away” means that one is not keen to keep his friendship? Not necessarily. Again, priorities change, so does the shape and form of the friendship. Because one is often surrounded by changing circumstances, it’s understandable that he would adapt himself to the situation he is in at the moment. This is fact of life. We are all malleable beings.

So to me, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, what really matters is how you keep your friends in your mind. Once you have the idea etched in your mind that someone is worthy of your long-term friendship and connection, nothing, not even time and distance, can ruin the bond that you have with that person. This is how I define friendship nowadays. I don’t need to see you every single week to remind myself that you are dear to me (well, a coffee session wouldn’t hurt, of course, but we live in a busy universe).

I understand if you don’t have as much time to spend with me as we used to.

But I want you to know that once you need me I am here. Once you need to talk, I am here. No awkwardness, no judgment, no patronising remarks, just myself, and my ears, ready to listen to your grouses, ready to say things as they are.

This is what real friendship is, to me. Not something that you need to be reminded of every single time, nor is it something that you need to physically commit to every week. It’s the conscious understanding that whatever happens, you have someone’s back, and someone has yours.

I’ll be here to support you, and that’s for sure.

 

Speak soon,

FH

Been five months!

It’s been close to five months since I last posted something here. Here’s a little summary of what I’ve been up to:

I was unemployed for one month plus. It was nice. I got to wake up at 10 every morning, went to popular brunch spots on on weekdays when tables would be easy to find, read a lot, play Cities: Skylines for hours on long, reconnect with some old friends, spent more time with my parents, met someone special 3 months ago, and of course, travelled spontaneously.

But after a while, I got bored and found myself in need of a larger sense of purpose, so I cut short my break and began job hunting. A couple of weeks into my hunt, I received a decent offer in a PR consulting firm, so I, with no formal PR experience to boot, took the leap of faith and jumped in. Began my new gig in July, and it’s been two eventful months ever since. I must say that I enjoy this job as it involves a lot of writing and public engagement; I love people, so I have no complaint about doing the latter. There are stressful periods, however, and life in the agency isn’t as glamorous as a lot of people think. It involves long hours and a lot of patience, as you have to deal with some really tough nuts to crack sometimes. Challenges notwithstanding, I can see myself being comfortable being in this industry in the long run.

On my travels, I managed to cover a number of places, some of which I had never been to previously. Here’s a map of where I’ve been to since April:

Places I've been to since April

I plan to write about some of my these cities in my subsequent posts. Stay tuned!

Speak soon,

FH

An Ode to The Good 9 Years

With the stroke of a pen, I officially ended a chapter in my life today.

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I signed my voluntary separation package with PETRONAS into effect today. The terms and conditions stipulated in the agreement are private & confidential, so I won’t tread further upon this matter, but I am receiving a generous amount of severance payment that can sustain me for quite some time as I figure out the next step to take in my life.

My last day in the company will be on April 30th; by which point I will have served the organisation for 3 years 10 months. My attachment with PETRONAS goes a long way back before I started working with the company, though. I received their education sponsorship (more like a convertible loan, actually) when I was 17, straight after taking my SPM examination, a few months before the result for the said exam was even released (I applied using my trial result). From that point onwards, I always had, at the back of my head, the thought that someday along the line I would serve the company- what other options were there for me anyway, since I was bonded to their scholarship contract. While the certainty was somewhat comforting, it also shut me out of other opportunities elsewhere.

While there were times when I felt that having a company decide on my life’s trajectory (Which subject to take for IB? Which university should I enroll to? Which job within the organisation should I take?) from such an early age was stifling, my sense of gratitude for the opportunities that PETRONAS provided me with remains. Being born into a middle class family (we’ve always been fairly comfortable, but no, we’re not wealthy), an overseas education would have surely put a large dent into my parents’ finances; PETRONAS’  sponsorship allowed me to bypass this hurdle & enabled me to focus on realising my academic potential in Melbourne.

Quitting the company effectively puts an end to my 9-year ties with PETRONAS, and I am leaving with no bitterness indeed. I feel thankful that they have done a lot to ensure my academic & career growth, and it’s high time for me to start exploring for other opportunities out there. I am a believer in the very concept of rezeki, there must be something out there for me, I just need to have the drive & savvy to find & retrieve it. As for now, I have started sending out some CVs to several companies, most of them to apply for jobs that I feel will better reflect my passion. I’m looking into some opportunities in the advisory/consultancy field too. I’ve also been busy preparing some important documents to support my master application; I have always thought of furthering my studies anyway, and this is probably a good time for me to do that.

I’m also starting to be active on LinkedIn too.

My priority right now is to work on something that will give me personal satisfaction; I understand that no job is perfect, but it feels more rewarding staying late in the office & going through all the troubles & stress when you know that you are doing something that you really love & can closely relate with.

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I look forward to the future with my mind positive and my soul filled with gratitude. I know eventually, somewhere along the line, I’ll find something that grooves better with my soul. Wish me luck on this.

It’s also time for me to start planning for my backpacking adventure; I’ll have plenty of time at hand to do that now!

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Speak soon,

Faizal Hamssin

Hello, World

Hello, World.

It’s been close to four years since I last posted anything on this website. So much has happened over the past four years; the 20s is recognised by many as the period of growth, the formative years during which we learn better about ourselves, our life aspirations, our inherent nature and inclinations, and our passions, among other things. It’s a transformative period to some, but to me, I believe that the 20s is the period of self-discovery. I haven’t changed, I simply know myself better everyday, and my changing outlook on life may reflect this. I am myself, and myself values transiency.

Just me, exploring the scorching Sinai desert, Sept 2015.
Just me, exploring the scorching Sinai desert, Sept 2015.

Over the past four years I have been working for the same organisation, doing something that I neither dread nor passionately love, but this is coming to an end end of this month as I have decided to take that leap of faith to step out of my current industry to explore something that I hope will groove better with my soul (I’ll talk more about this in a future post). I have met some amazing people who have become part of my support system (as much as I have become theirs), fallen in and out of love, travelled to many places across four different continents, tasted food I never tasted prior (reindeer sauce, anyone?), read books on topics I would rather shun or not think about back in 2012, recalibrated my expectations on issues from politics to romance, and more. I also decided to utilise social media, namely Twitter, as a means of expressing myself via @faizalhamssin.

I have also grown to accept who I am, fully. In that regard, I am at peace. After all, acceptance is within.

Speak soon.

Faizal Hamssin

My Personal Regret

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to vilify any party, Petronas included. This is based on my own personal experience. I still have Petronas to thank for whatever contributions they have made for me, especially for the past five years.

 

I would be lying if I told any of you that I didn’t have any regrets about the very decision that I made five years ago. It was the end of 2006. I was in the fifth form, scoring good grades and all. I was excited; with good grades came good scholarship offers et cetera. I applied for a Petronas scholarship and went to the interview. It was called ‘Educamp’, and I had mine at MRSM Kuching. It was fun; we were exposed to Petronas as a corporation, and we were told of the good prospect that we would get once we received a Petronas scholarship. Basically it registered with me that I would be treated very well if I got to be one of their sponsored students. I did my best in the interview, and I think I aced it. I remember that I had to present about the traffic woes in KL and I came up with some ways to tackle the issue. My experience in high school debate helped me a great deal, and I ended up passing the interview.

When I received the offer, I was ecstatic. I thought that that very letter was the very ‘grant’ of my dream. To be honest, studying overseas was, then, my ultimate goal for the next 5 years of my life; I really couldn’t imagine myself studying at one of the local higher education institutions. Not that I doubted the academic standard of those institutions, it’s just that I preferred studying at a place where I would be able to broaden my worldview and be moulded into a person that I wanted to be; free. Even back then I was comparatively a very liberal thinker living in a society marked with a growing sense of social conservatism. Maybe I will write more about this later.

The offer letter did come with a thick booklet containing many clauses placed in lengthy paragraphs, explaining the terms and conditions attached to my scholarship. I did not really bother to read them all, to me, it was exciting enough that I would get to do Geology (my first choice) at a university of my choice.

I accepted the offer. Little did I care about one of the obligations attached to the scholarship, that I would be required to serve Petronas two years for each year that they sponsored my education. I knew about that, I just didn’t care. After all, the idea of getting a job straight after graduation appealed to me back then.

I was to be placed at Sri KDU to do IB; in fact, I spent two great years there. The IB experience was fulfilling, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, so I’ve no complaints there. My dissatisfaction with Petronas, however, started there, as I, and my other scholarship-holding classmates (we, Petronas scholars, made up roughly half of the total intake for the 2007 IB batch) were told during one of the Petronas engagement sessions in 2008 that they would send us to any one of these three Southern hemisphere countries for our degree; Australia, NZ or South Africa. This put me to shock. I can still recall perfectly today that we were informed by one of the Petronas education officers during our first-year induction session back in early 2007 that we would be sent to the US, UK or Canada for our first degree. I also accepted the scholarship with the knowledge that it would pay for my studies in the States. I always wanted to study in the US; that was indeed one of my dreams growing up. I felt cheated, and of course, furious at their inability to stick to their words.

Whatever happened after that aren’t worth much mention here. Well, maybe I should say that I did okay in IB and went to Melbourne for my degree. I enjoyed the years there profusely, so whatever of my personal dissatisfaction that was documented on the previous paragraph I already moved on from by the end of 2009. Sometimes I thought that it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t have to endure the long and bitter cold prevalent in the States or the UK. Melbourne was also a relatively short hop’s away from home (8 hours’ flight) so I flew back to Malaysia most of the long holidays. Life was pretty good there, and Petronas, albeit the struggle that we had trying to get them to increase our monthly allowance, treated us well. I lived in a very decent studio apartment, for example. Never did I have to cram in a house with, say, five housemates, which was, and still is, the reality for many other international students who have to grapple with the ever-increasing rent in Melbourne. For this, I thank Petronas.

The nasty part started last year, with my honors application. I was informed by many, including Petronas’ officers themselves, that we would be allowed to extend our period of study for one year to accommodate our honors studies. It is a common practice for the Australian universities to split their degree into three years of basic degree and a year of honors. A degree with honors is considered more superior than a degree without which, but not every student is entitled to do the former. Most universities, Melbourne included, put a set of stringent requirements for students who wish to further their studies to honors. I managed to get a spot, and it gladdened me that Petronas would, by principle, sponsor me for another year to let me finish my honors. JPA and MARA were (and still are) known to do this to their students, so it made sense that Petronas would do the same.

Knowing that there would be no more obstacles in my honors plan, I started putting a great deal of efforts to find a supervisor and a suitable project for my honors year. I managed to find a project very relevant to my future job in Petronas, and my lecturer also wrote a letter to Petronas to inform them of the benefits that they, as my future employer, would get if I were to do the particular honors project under his supervision. As usual, I received some oral confirmation that I would get my sponsorship extended, and duped by my optimism of Petronas being at last true to their words, I was confident that things would turn out the way I wanted them to.

I graduated last December. For this, I have my family, friends, lecturers, teachers, and of course, Petronas, to thank. It was a proud moment for my whole family, and I felt a sense of accomplishment. I still felt very upbeat in December because in my head, I had an honors year to look forward to in 2012. I told myself that the graduation wasn’t the end of my university life; I would have another year to go.

When my optimism was at its peak, I got an email from Petronas informing me that they rejected my application to do honors. To make it sound more dramatic, they snubbed my application two days prior to the honors enrolment due date. Two days. Just imagine the frustration that I had at that time. I had to pack up and leave Melbourne for good on a short notice. Whatever efforts that I put to secure a place to do honors turned out to be futile. In vain.

I wanted to apply for another scholarship, but the very offer letter that I received back in 2007 stipulated that I would not be allowed to get another scholarship without Petronas’ permission. I wanted to report to Petronas (ie start working for them) in 2013, not 2012, so I could have a year allocated to honors. Again, this was against one of the terms of the scholarship as I was required to report to them within 3 months after my graduation (read: February).

These are the terms that I didn’t think about five years back. These are the important terms that came to haunt me in January 2012 yet I couldn’t even be arsed to read about them back then. Failing to adhere to the terms will lead to my parents having to pay Petronas the total sum spent on my education, within 14 working days. There’s no way I will ever burden my parents that way. Petronas knows this. They know that we will not have the guts (or rather, capacity) to breach the contract.

We are bonded. Or, in a more apt yet less savory way to say things, we are chained. We are their assets, their commodities. To try to get out of this is to breach the contract, the consequences of which are as aforementioned.

Now I’m at home, waiting for Petronas to call me up to put me to work. I was told that it would take them up to six months to come up with a job offer for me. In the meantime, I am not allowed to apply for another permanent job. Breach of contract, again. After all, no company will want to recruit a bonded student. The irony of all these is that I could actually use the time spent waiting for Petronas so far to do honors.

We’re theirs for 10 years. Leave the company by then and you’ll be considered to have breached the contract. Consequences as said prior. I’m 22, and I really wish that I could actually be free to chart my own future. I’m honestly not over studying yet. I’m personally very envious at the freedom that my JPA and MARA friends have after they graduate. I also want to do masters, just like them; I’m a passionate learner, and masters is one of my goals for now. I will keenly work after masters, especially since I know I’ll enjoy working as a professional geologist in the future, be it with Petronas, or any other companies. However, looking at the way it is, it’s clear that for the next 10 years of my life, chances are that I will not have much control with my life. I will work for the same company with no option to quit.

My future was already written back then, when I naively accepted an offer that came in the form of a fancy official letter with a small F1 icon on the bottom left. “Cool”, I thought at that. Maybe I have myself to blame, it was after all, my choice. But what do you expect of a 17-year-old teenage boy? How do you think that I, with my lack of experience in life and my naivety in thinking that any corporation kind enough to offer a scholarship would have nothing but good, philanthropic intentions, would foresee the high price I had to pay to get my tertiary education sponsored? I didn’t even know what I wanted to do in my life then. What’s the point of knowing it now when it’s already too late?

Hello, New Home!

After minutes of deliberation, I decided to acquire my first ever dotcom real estate. I used to write on ransterism.blogspot.com and faibulous.blogspot.com, and I realized that I enjoy writing very much, so having an eponymous website of my own is a no-brainer.

I will try to put an effort on this; there should be regular (if not frequent) updates from time to time. Posts predating this one are all archived posts taken from my previous blogs.

Special thanks to a friend, Khairul, who helped me do the daunting technical tasks of starting and designing a website. Thank you for making this happen.

Faizal H.