When one door closes

It’s been a heady week for me, and the oft-repeated phrase involving doors closing and opening has never rung truer. However, it’s extra weird when it is the same door closing and opening. A few days ago, I went to London in the middle of the Tube strike for a job interview. It was an unpaid internship position (paid expenses, though) for an environmental-friendly business magazine – right up my alley. I thought the interview went well, and surprised myself by thinking: “Thank God for Malaysia SME.”

That’s something I never thought I would think or say, after all the drama I went through. But my love for small teams has led to me gaining knowledge in marketing, sales, partnerships and event collaborations besides getting editorial and design experience.

So I thought I was able to answer the interview questions quite well. Then I spent the day with an ex-college mate traipsing around London, giving in to my Asian culinary longings – nasi lemak, zap fun, shisha and sushi.

All the while I worried what it would be like if I did get the job – would I spend half the week in London and the other half in Cheltenham? Would this make my rented room kind of redundant? How would I juggle finishing my projects, freelance work, and thesis with this job? I mean, I knew I could. Because I have *hem hem* amazing time management skills. But I am a worrier and a perfectionist, and no way having that amount of stuff on my plate will result in constant perfection on all counts.

The day was great for the people we met, the Tube staff who were on duty, the Londoners who were extra kind in light of the circumstances, and the places we discovered, where we could talk our hearts out about our hopes and dreams without feeling silly. Or maybe that was just the Turkish shisha ambience.

One of my lecturers gave the class some tips on getting freelance work, and one that still works for me is: “Always say yes.” Even if you have NO idea what you are getting into. Which is why Meryl Streep is my true north. When asked if she could play the violin for Music of the Heart, she said yes. And then spent 2 weeks cramming in basic violin skills before filming started. There is no way I could do that, but I certainly try. I make it a point to say yes when something scares me.

When I interned at the Sun, I ended up covering a gaggle of NGO representatives presenting a memorandum to a government hospital not to introduce private wings, citing case studies and research of residents prioritising paying patients over regular ones, as well as health issues and differing doctor workloads.

I came back to the newsroom bowled over with excitement, and wrote it up. Fred my editor took one look at it and told me to get a quote from the government side for balance. So I called the director of the hospital and all he could say was he was toeing the line as a government employee. So I got a private aide to the then Health Minister’s number, and called him for a quote. He refused to comment and arranged for a phone interview with the minister. That escalated into a face-to-face interview. Fred asked if I could do it. And I was trembling when I said yes. Anyway, after more than a day, the aide called and said the minister had an emergency and had to cancel (there was a major political upheaval in his party at the time) so the story got spiked for lack of timeliness.

In 2011, my editor heard of the Penang SME Centre proposed by Opposition-member and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. She asked me to call him up for an interview. I asked if she was sure, and she said yes. And that ended up with my 20-year-old self heading to Penang on a Saturday morning to interview the Chief Minister himself, someone credited with returning Penang to its former prosperous self. Or at least growing it. Let’s just say after what I saw, I have loads of respect for this one politician.

From then on, I started pitching more cover stories, asking to be sent to cover the tumultuous Bersih political rally, and somehow ended up saying yes to covering several economic forums live and on my own. Heck I even covered the Budget announcement on my own, and accosted ministers like a proper paparazzo.

Since going freelance however, I’ve become more reticent because a lack of a media pass and dealing with business clients does that to you. So when I attended that job interview recently, I found myself showing a bit of the old Stephanie. I’d like to think that they turned me down because of practicalities – travel arrangements, committed time – because in the same breath they wondered if I would be able to write for them on a freelance basis.

That’s what I meant by the same door opening and closing. And to top it off, the freelance writing is paid to industry standards. So I emailed my parents to courier the oodles of business card holders I left in Malaysia so I could get to work. With this in mind, it’s time for Stephanie to go back to saying yes yes Yes to everything, no matter how scary or how many bureaucratic pen pushers I have to wade through to get source quotes.

And someone up there is looking out for me, with this weird turn of events. Because now I can head over to Bristol on the 13th and try my luck at their editorial open day with a clear mind. The answer is yes; what is the question?


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