Life in a cubicle (written in a cubicle)

(written in a cubicle by Emily Chhin) / Aug. 2015

Trapped under fluorescent lights
not a window in sight.
Some days I don’t even know
whether outside is rain or shine.

For seven months, this cubicle has occupied my life.
I kept it to myself, all my frustration and strife.
Always criticized for what I did wrong,
despite all the things that I did right.

By the time I get home, I just feel like collapsing on the floor.
My head throbbing. My tired eyes, sore.
There’s so much I want to do: exercise, take photos, learn something new,
but all my body feels like doing is watching TV, nothing more.

I hate this job, it’s made me miserable,
but it’s opened my eyes to something previously hidden, invisible:
This is my life, and I want to live it doing something I love.
Any other way would be unthinkable, unbearable, unforgivable.

And so, finally, I am leaving this place with a new goal in mind.
I am going back to school for what I really love: photography, videography, and web design.
It took me a long 20 years to realize
but now I’m finally leaving this life of false dreams and lies, behind.

I was cleaning my room and found this poem that I had written last year. It was sitting under a pile of books that I had on my desk.

Since I’ve written this in August of last year, I have gone to my new school, met new people, and finished my first year of post-secondary school in the top percentile of my program.

Grades have always been a nerve-wracking, anxious thing for me, especially after the last 2 years of failing classes and getting terrible marks at my previous universities. That’s why the past year at my new college has been an eye-opener for me.

Not only did I start getting great marks back in all of my classes, I made the Dean’s list for both semesters and my work has even been recommended by my professors. I’ve had one professor make an honourable mention of my website to my program coordinator, and I was specially asked by her to represent our program at the March open house.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more surprised and more proud of myself in my life. After 2 years of continual failure, you don’t know how much it means to me to finally have my hard work pay off and be recognized.

I’ve deduced that maybe my success was the result of going into a program that I’m actually interested in and have a passion for. That passion will shine through your work and translate into success.

Ironically though, I’m back at my old cubicle job for the summer. I can’t escape the reality of having to work in order to help pay for school and not placing the entire burden on my father. At first, the familiar anxiety and depression that I had working there last year started coming back to me, but then I realized that, unlike last year, I now had a clear path laid out for me for my future. I no longer had to worry about having to work there for the rest of my life; it was only temporary. I remind myself that everyday that I go into work. I’ve been nagged by my boss, scolded, and overheard my co-workers talking about me behind my back, but I just have to keep reminding myself not to take things so seriously and to just keep looking at the positives in my life right now and to keep looking forward.

Even if I’m working at the same old job that I tried to get away from last summer, this summer is different. I’m a lot happier and the positive vibe has given me a lot more energy to work on things that I love, like painting, photography, and getting out and enjoying nature.

Next summer, I vow to make a change. I’ll try to look for a job that will help me transition into the field that I want to work in, and take one step further towards building the life I want to live. Time doesn’t stop and I don’t want to waste anymore of it wallowing in the past.

When things get tough…

Stress is something we have all been through, and will continue to go through. Stress is inevitable. You can’t avoid it and you can’t escape it. It’s a part of life, and so instead of letting it take over our lives, tackle it head on and take it down before it can do its damage. Whatever you do, don’t give it the power to control you.

As someone who has never dealt with stress very well, I wanted to write this post to share with everyone what I try to do to avoid succumbing to the suffocating grasp of what we call stress. Especially since us students are now entering midterm season.

Dealing with Stress

  1. Meditate. You might be scoffing at this, and I did too at first, but trust me on this one… it works wonders. All you have to do is sit, close your eyes, and try and clear your mind of anything and everything. Don’t think of anything for 5 minutes. If your mind starts to wander, just immediately start thinking, “oh no, I’m thinking!” and just try clearing your mind. It might be difficult getting used to not thinking of anything, but once you become composed enough to just sit there in silence, and even out your breathing, it feels really wonderful. Stress is one of the main factors that cloud our mind from thinking straight and cause us to do impulsive things, and so for me, I found this to be a good way to stop my negative thoughts and cleanse my mind.
  2. Take a break. Do something you enjoy, like going to the gym, watching an episode of your favourite tv show, playing an instrument, going out for a short walk, or you could always meditate. Whatever you do, do not work until you have a mental breakdown and fry your brains. You can do chores, if it helps take your mind off of the stress for a while!
  3. Think to yourself, “what will stressing out do for me?” The truth is, it really does nothing for you. All it does is impair your thinking, slow you down, and cloud your mind into thinking depressing things. Instead, try and think about the present, and less about the future, for the moment. Time is an independent thing, that won’t slow down for you or speed up for you. You can’t fight time, so just let it be. If you have something due in 2 hours, don’t stress. It will only slow you down. Just try your hardest and do your best, because when that time comes, at least you will know that you tried your hardest.
  4. Cry, scream, whatever. Just let it all out. One thing that’s hard for me, to do is to cry, especially in front of other people. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s showing weakness in front of others, but just know that it’s okay to cry. Go home, sit on your bed, grab a box of Kleenix, and cry until your eyes are dried out. Your eyes will feel puffy after, but after a while, no matter how hard you cry, your tears won’t spill anymore. That’s when you realize, “what was I crying about?” When you cry until you can’t cry anymore, that’s when you realize you have stuff to do and can’t waste any more time crying about it.
  5. Take a quick shower. Shower time is thinking time, and also a great time to clear your mind. Not to mention you’ll feel instantly refreshed afterwards.
  6. If all else fails… nap. Sleep is such a beautiful thing. When you wake up, you might even forget what you were stressing about.

Preventing Stress

Of course, it’s good to be able to cope with stress, but it would be even better if we could avoid it altogether. Here are some tips, from my own experience, of minimizing stress:

  1. Manage your time wisely. Set priorities. Don’t wait until the last minute. I cannot stress this enough. As someone who has always left things until the last minute, I have gone through way too many close calls until I finally learned about the joys of getting something done early. Just because there’s a due date, doesn’t mean you you can’t finish it early. Once you get into the habit of starting things right when you get them, or getting your assignments done early, you’ll be able to feel more relaxed when the due date approaches, because you know you’ve already got some, or most, of your work done. Trust me. Handing in something early feels amazing and the fact that you don’t have to worry about it anymore means you can start focusing on other things that matter.
  2. Create incentive. Restrict yourself from turning on your brand new PS4 until you’ve finished what you need to finish. This gives you a goal to work towards, and the reward feels 10x better once you know that you’ve finished what you need to finish and can enjoy your new Final Fantasy game to the fullest, without having to worry, because you earned it!
  3. Surround yourself with positive people; cut out the dead weights. There is nothing worse than being surrounded by negative people. These types of people want to drag you down with them, and will morph your thoughts into negative ones like their own, but don’t give them that satisfaction. You are different. You have hope. You want to change for the better, and there are many people out there who would love you have you as a friend. I used to have a friend who was always causing drama and constantly complaining to me about everything from teachers, to friends, to little things people did like tap their pencils on the desk, and eventually, I found myself thinking like her. All the things she found annoying, I started to find annoying. I realized before it was too late, and cut ties. I know it sounds awful, but I don’t want to turn into that kind of person, who can’t enjoy anything in life because they’re always worrying and stressing over what other people you, you know? Surround yourself by those people with goals, who look forward to things in their life, who are living every minute of their life to the fullest. When you’re surrounded by smiles, you will find yourself smiling as well.

And one last thing. Know that there are people out there for you to talk to. Friends, family, teachers, even your pets. Talking about something is a good way to relieve stress. I used to bottle everything inside, and I always felt shy or ashamed to tell anyone, but eventually, I started to confide in my sister about stuff that stressed me out, and surprisingly enough, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders, and it sure helped by talking to someone with a clear head. She offered help and advice, and slowly, I started to feel hopeful again. I knew that whatever I was going through right now, at least I would have my sister… and my friends and family, and everyone else important to me.

Just know that when the going gets tough, no matter what you are going through, you will always have someone there for you. If things turn out badly, that’s okay. That’s life. It’s not the end of the world. Let go of that stress and move on. There’s nothing you can do about it except try and fix it and learn from it. Hold on to hope and stress will never be able to get the best of you.


Appreciate what other people willingly do for you

I am trying to keep this blog as light and positive as possible, but I think it’s important for me to share some realistic life experiences of mine as well. I hope that you’ll think that, even if this post isn’t as uplifting and inspirational as what I usually try to post, that you’ll be able to learn something else from it as well.

So, as you may, or may not, know, I am now moved into my new apartment shared with 4 other girls. You might think, “oh, it’s an all girls suite, it must be super clean.” Well… that’s where you’re wrong. Girls can be just as messy as boys, and I’ve learned that from the past 2 years of living with others. So let’s stop this gender discrimination and look at the truth, shall we?

I have actually been to an all boys suite before, and it was much, MUCH cleaner than ours. They cleaned up the stove after cooking, did the dishes together, cleared the table, put everything back where it belonged. To be honest, I was a little surprised, but also proud of them. And that’s when I realized that gender really has nothing to do with cleanliness.

It’s the effort that someone is willing to put in to keep their living space clean.

After 3 weeks of trying to put up with the mess and dirt in my apartment, thinking things like, “oh, I’m not living here permanently, only for a year, so I shouldn’t stress too much over these things and focus on my studies,” but for a neat-freak like me, I can’t seem to focus when the place is filthy.

So I got down one day and scrubbed down the bathroom, and kitchen. Of course, when I clean, it’s because I want to, and I actually find cleaning very satisfying after I finish, and it helps to clear my mind when I’m stressed about schoolwork, but sometimes I just feel really unappreciated and I feel like I’m the only one who ever cares about taking care of the space I’m living in.

I spent half an hour cleaning the kitchen, and it looks great now, but it saddens me that after a couple weeks, it’ll probably return to dirty state it was originally in, and no one will clean it except me… again.

No one ever thanked me for cleaning anything… it’s like they expected someone else to clean up their mess. Even when they saw me cleaning, they didn’t say a word, or offer to help. They just went back to their rooms and shut the door.

Someone even went as far as to stick a note to the fridge saying, “please take turns keeping the kitchen clean!” without even bothering to clean the kitchen. If you want someone else to help keep the place clean, at least do something yourself before you stick a note up telling others what to do! Remember that phrase, “practice what you preach?”

I don’t do things for other people because I expect a thank you, but at the same time, I am not another person’s own personal maid. If you don’t want to thank me in words, that’s completely fine with me. I just want you to show your gratitude by at least trying to put in a little effort to keep the area I just cleaned, clean.

I am cleaning this place for myself, not for others, and so that is why I will continue to clean, even if it is unfair, and even if I’m the only one who’s bothering to do it.

Sometimes it just sucks when you do something nice for others, and they don’t even notice or care…

Please everyone, take the time to appreciate the things people silently and willingly do for you, because not everyone is willing to do that, and one day, they might not be there for you anymore.

If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company.

If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company.

– Jean-Paul Sartre

I came across this quote as I was reading the comments to someone’s post who said they were feeling lonely in college, and I couldn’t help but think it was such a coincidence that I was thinking that earlier as well, and how true this quote is.

The first week at my new university was pretty brutal, and I couldn’t stop comparing myself to everyone around me, who seemed to all have friends and someone to sit beside and talk to in class. For me, I came to this school by myself, and so I was completely alone. I started getting sad and lonely.

At first, I went to orientation, openly talked to random people in class, but it turned out to be really hard to keep in contact after, especially since all the lectures are so big. After I talked to them, I’d never see them again after that, and so it was hard for me to make new friends and hold onto them.

Then one day, I just suddenly thought to myself: what’s the rush? Why was I so intent on finding friends? Friendship is something that takes time. If they’re not your friend right now, maybe they’re not meant to be, maybe they are. You never know. Besides, I was here for my education, not to make a billion friends in the first month.

And so after realizing this, my time alone didn’t feel so depressing anymore. After I threw away that need to desperately find a friend, or to always be with someone, I found that being alone wasn’t so bad. Of course, this doesn’t mean I will be giving up on making friends; they will come eventually, when the time is right.

So to anyone out there who is currently feeling lonely in college or university. Don’t take it so seriously. Find something to do on your own time to keep you busy until clubs start having their first meeting. Watch tv, cook, play guitar, piano, whatever. When the clubs start, I bet, you and me both, will find people with the same interests as us. Join lots of clubs that interest you, and get involved in the community. That way, I’m sure you’ll end up finding some of friends.