This was a piece I wrote for my Literary Journalism course, which I’m really enjoying. It’s like writing narrative, which is always a lot of fun for me. Anyway, I quite like this piece, I hope you might too 🙂
Things had come full circle. And I was ready to step out of that circle.
My brain ticked away steadily as I put finishing touches on my appearance at my vanity. Putting on make-up is the best time for me to think. The familiar tools, colours and techniques leave my thoughts free to wander.
As I blended the concealer under my eyes, applied blush to brighten my lightly tanned complexion, and combed mascara through my lashes, my mind raced from one thought to the next. But often it would return to one thing: my application for the Master of Journalism programme, at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at The University of Hong Kong.
As I coaxed my dark shoulder-length hair into behaving, I remembered how I’d wanted to apply to a journalism course at The University of Technology in Sydney, Australia after I completed my secondary education in that city. Instead, a conversation between my mother and I resulted in my return to Hong Kong at the end of 2004. I revisited these memories as I quickly glided rosy pink lipstick over my full-lips. Those lips twisted involuntarily as I reminded myself that I was still waiting to hear back from the JMSC. With a last look in the mirror, I turned and left to go to work.
As my mother and I got into her car, and she started the engine to drive me to the Tai Wai train station, she picked up on my nervous energy. Not surprising, really. Where others may see a straight road, she saw a maze of possibilities, and she possessed the wits, charm and observation to navigate that maze with ease. So of course she saw through my silence and recognised it for nerves and self-doubt.
Her knowing brown eyes glanced at me before locking back onto the road in front of us, “You gave it your best shot. That’s all that matters.”
I muttered a reply and watched the traffic lights.
Alas, my mother was nothing if not persistent. “You wanted to study journalism after high school in Australia, and that didn’t…come together, and you’re applying for it now. You’ve come full circle. You took the written exam, and sure, you probably could have done better.” My glare didn’t even slow her down. “But you got to the interview, so you’ve done all you can. It’ll turn out fine!”
“I know.” I replied tonelessly, “I’m just waiting to see where the pieces fall.”
“You’ve done you’re best, and I’m sure…”
“If you’re so sure,” I interrupted her, “let’s bet.”
We were nearing the station. I turned to look at her, and continued when she nodded, “If I don’t get in, you win and I’ll look for a permanent job.” We both knew I couldn’t intern at Time Out Hong Kong forever. “But if I do get in, I win and you have to quit smoking.”
My mother hesitated for a fraction of a second. “Deal,” she said.
* * *
A few weeks later, as I sat at my desk in the surprisingly modest Time Out Hong Kong office, I decided to give my mind a break and write to my best friend.
I opened my inbox, and was greeted by an e-mail with “Master of Journalism Admissions 2010-2011” in the subject line.
My heart pounded wildly, and I wondered if it could be heard it over the music that our editor-in-chief was playing on his speakers. My trembling fingers slid about the track pad of my laptop slowly, as though drugged, and I opened the e-mail. I quickly read its contents, and had to quietly draw a deep breath and clench my teeth to keep unexpected tears at bay. I did not want to cry in the office. Firstly, it’d be embarrassing. And secondly, I was not wearing waterproof mascara that day.
I called my mother, and when she answered, I said quietly, “Mum, I have bad news,”
Her motherly instincts kicked in, and she immediately began to try to comfort me, “It’s okay honey, you did your best. That’s all anyone expects from…”
I interrupted her again, as was the rhythm of most of our conversations, “You have to quit smoking.”
Silence met me from the other end of the line. Not caring one bit if others around me were watching, I grinned as my mother went into a string of excited congratulations accented by curses for the trick I played on her.
“I had come full circle,” I thought. “And here’s to the next step.”