I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post here. A lot has been going on within that time period in which I didn’t write anything on this blog – from graduating university to loads of confusion on what to do moving forward with this blog but now I’m back and I feel ready to share some updates with you on what has happened and what’s ahead.
What’s been happening since my last post?
Finished My Thesis
That’s right – this girl finally finished her damn thesis!
No kidding, I actually have a file in my laptop titled “Thesis Version 7 – This Is Really It Dammit” which became the final version of the thesis I printed.
Long story short, writing a thesis is a requirement for anyone trying finishing their studies and graduating in Indonesia and as one of those students who actually do want to leave university quickly, I had to do all my research and write my whole thesis in 5 months. And this whole journey wasn’t love, patience, and pain like Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” which basically became the soundtrack of my graduating class’ thesis writing.
No, it was pain, pain, pain.
I’ve been writing since I was 8, creating stories and bits of news writing along the way, but writing hundreds and hundreds of pages which requires every statement I made to be backed with scientific evidence was a whole other demon. If anyone tells you their journey in writing their thesis was smooth sailing, call them out on their lies because there’s no such thing as ease in this journey. You pick your own ideas apart, put them back together, find more evidence, do more research, write and proofread and re-write for the entirety of 5 months.
In my case, it took me forever just to stick with one research topic that I would work on for the rest of the time period.
The most important lesson I learned from this thesis journey is that you are your own worst critic and nothing will ever be good enough for yourself so you have to make compromises. I switched topics so many times because of that – because an idea’s not perfect for me, because it’s too little fun to write about, it’s too uninteresting, it’s based too loosely on nothing. When I finally decided on one, I wrote and did my literature review like hell only to then get stuck in synthesizing the theories into practical questionnaire items.
After weeks of going back and forth to my Quantitative Research professor and my thesis advisor trying to make a good questionnaire, I completed the survey, data analysis and with that, my research paper… only for my advisor to say that the data doesn’t look strong or valid enough to be the basis of my conclusions. At the same time, I couldn’t get more samples for the population.
That was 10 days before the deadline for the entire thesis. I cried in my hopelessness, stopped writing for one whole day, then picked myself up and re-did the research with a different population, shared the survey through every channel I knew, then basically re-wrote 70% of my thesis in 8 days.
The fact that I finished and ended up with 343 pages bound and ready to be collected was nothing short of God’s miracle.
In November, I defended this thesis in front of a panel of lecturers, worked on the required revisions, went through a hell lot of red tape, and finally submitted the gorgeous hard cover version of my thesis with a thick cover embossed in gold. I felt like crying holding this, my brain baby in my hands.
Graduated as valedictorian
Since my thesis was finally completed, I was then deemed ready to graduate from university.
Again, there was more red tape to cut through and paperwork to complete before I could leave, but on March 28, 2019, I officially graduated from university and earned my Bachelor in Communication (S.Ikom) degree.
Not only that. One of my goals when I started university was to graduate as valedictorian because I’m ambitious like that. I worked my bum off throughout university because I wanted it that bad and when the time to receive my graduation papers came around, I was insanely happy because this is what I graduated as:
Mary Chelsea Salim, S.Ikom, valedictorian, summa cum laude, graduated with high distinction.
I actually prayed and asked God if this is what He wanted out of me then please, please make the way for it. And He did. And that felt amazing – to see everything I worked hard for become something I achieved.
Interning as a writer
As of January 2019, I’ve also been interning as a content writer in a tech startup company. I actually applied to several different posts within the field of Branding & Advertising and ended up with this one and I guess it was meant to be for me – to earn some income being a writer.
If you’d told 8-year-old Mary writing the story “Billy and the Magic Tree” on a piece of scrap paper that she would actually work as a writer, I think she’d be happy.
I’m quite content with my internship so far as it has truly made me a more well-rounded writer. Writing lifestyle content has always been up my alley, but I’ve been learning to combine that with digital analytics to better understand the impact of what I write and how I write which has made me better able to figure out what to do and what not to do. What works and what doesn’t. And all that jazz.
With this internship, my creative process as a writer has also become more data-driven – reading into trends and figuring out where my content can fit in there. And this has honestly been so much fun.
Nearly quit this blog
Yes, there have been many times when I nearly pressed “Delete this blog” on my WordPress admin screen and be done with it.
I’ve been quite lost on what to do with this blog and where to take it because I feel like in terms of numbers, it’s going nowhere
And that’s where I was actually so wrong. My motives were wrong and that’s why I wanted to quit. I was going about this blog with the idea that I wanted this blog just to be a source of income, to get those high numbers like other famous travel bloggers. I wanted the content to be more appealing to all readers. But that’s the wrong way to go about it because it made me more miserable.
I thought of starting over on another site with a rebrand or something like that. I even wrote less on my travel notes and actually didn’t write at all during my most recent trip and traveling became a burden to look for content that will appeal, content that’s out of the box instead of letting the uniqueness of travel find me like usual.
All this was because I was stuck in this warped perception of what travel blogging should be.
What made me so hungry to get back into travel blogging was ultimately this great opinion piece by The Naked Traveler – an anonymous female travel blogger who’s become my role model in travel writing for so long. In it, she detailed how lots of people now perceive traveling as photo ops and opportunities to create content centered around “me, me, me” in various media. Enjoying the moment and being present becomes strange as people chase the next great photo for their Instagram when they travel.
And I realize that without trying to be different, I’ve actually already been on a different, unique route compared to so many people.
When I started h(a)ere, the idea was ultimately to share what I found when I’m present and grounded in my travels here. And that gorgeous piece made me realize that I have a voice to remind people to that simple pleasure of simply being where they are when they travel and experience everything immersively – without chasing “Instagram-worthy” pics and all that jazz.
I don’t need to be like everyone else because that’s not me. I have my own lane and hey, even when I wasn’t blogging there were still people reading old posts on this blog and I guess that means that slow and steady, this blog has its own niche audience – you guys! And that’s okay!
Heck, that’s awesome and you guys are awesome!
So, what’s ahead?
Posts on Thailand, Melaka, Medan
Since my previous post, I’ve been on three trips to Thailand, Melaka, and Medan and I have so many stories to share from all of them. This might be a bit difficult since I didn’t write on some of them, but you know what, let’s see what I can write going by memory alone.
The three trips were incredibly different but I’d like to share what I got from them on this blog – the good, the bad, the ugly of traveling.
Also, I don’t think I’ll write in a consistent manner and post when I feel like it in order to go at blogging here with a different mindset than blogging for professional purposes which will hopefully preserve the whole h(a)ere spirit I’m trying to maintain here. But this time around, I’m trying to focus more on creating content in the form of stories as they are more evergreen than how-to guides and all and hopefully, you’ll enjoy them too.
Trying to find a scholarship overseas
In spite of the thesis drama and the major pains that ensued in the process of writing it, I still have so much love for learning and the world of academia. University feels like a lifetime ago now and I’m keen to get back into the classroom and do stuff students do again. I miss the work pace of being a student and the open discussions about anything and everything there.
And given the political climate of Indonesia and how liberal thinking is increasingly becoming discouraged here with conservatism on the rise, I would love to continue my studies outside this country, preferably in a much more liberal country and without requirement to come back here.
I currently have several countries in mind and am working on finding out information on getting a Master’s degree there. I’m also trying to figure out what I really, truly want to study for Master’s because right now, there’s this dilemma in my mind between degrees that will earn me a high income vs degrees that I’m truly passionate about. Also, there’s also the fact that some degrees I want to pursue require me to have a B.Sc when what I have is similar to a B.A.
I’m hoping that within a couple of years, I’ll be out of this country, studying in a country encouraging freedom in thought.
Apart from these, there are also some things I’ve been thinking about in terms of career and personal well-being which I think should not be discussed here because they’re more like weird trains of thought than coherent goals.
Aside from these, I guess I’m back here.
Blogging and writing and telling stories again. And hopefully, I won’t lose my way amid the constant societal encouragement to create content that will results in good numbers and all.
Thank you for still sticking around and actually reading stuff on this blog – even old posts when I couldn’t come up with new ones. You are truly awesome, incredible people.
Here’s to a return to more honest, raw, real storytelling without particular formulas and the need to impress!