Liberation

Monday, September 29, 2014

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Hello friends :-)

The promotional examinations to round off my first year in junior college are finally over today, and I cannot be more thankful. To be honest, this is really just the start of more things, such as Project Work and I also have Higher Chinese O Levels to re-take and hopefully Orientation stuff (fingers crossed, since this depends so much on my promo grades) but I'm definitely feeling a lot more liberated and less tied down by the academic stress.

This definitely hasn't been the best few weeks and in fact there has been so many struggles throughout this entire studying period with a lot of emotional and physical fatigue and just a lot of drama - alright maybe not drama, because that word kind of undermines things and makes it seem overly exaggerated - but a lot of things have been happening during this time as well, so it has been really difficult for me personally. 

It has undoubtedly been a crazy ride and in fact, the science kids are still in the midst of their examinations due to really bad exam planning on the part of the school - the arts kids (i.e. myself!) or people with my subject combination had four papers in the span of three days last week, all of which were essay papers that were on average three hours long, and only one paper this week. The worst day would have to be last Thursday where we had Economics (my worst subject) and History (overflowing with content) on the same day, so it was six hours of continuous essay writing of about twenty pages. On the other hand, the science kids have three papers in a row this week and those who take Geography instead of Economics have four papers this week, which is pretty insane. This is really bad scheduling, they should have alternated the sciences and the humanities papers, but then again A Levels mightn't be that kind so they could have planned it this way to prepare us for what's to come in a year's time. 

In the midst of all these busyness the past four weeks being in school from morning till evening even on Saturdays and Sundays (started my study plan in Term 3 Week 9), I would like to take this time to look back and be grateful and thankful for all the happy things that happened to me, no matter how small they are. I don't think I have properly thanked the people who stayed by me this entire study period so hopefully this backdated show of gratitude will suffice :-) Better late than never, and all the best to everyone still fighting a hard battle! 


September holidays - when Shermaine surprised us with Barbie doll mini pocky biscuits :-) It honestly made my day, thank you beautiful girl. 


On one of the weekends after studying in school, I decided to explore my neighbourhood a bit before heading home and got some frozen yoghurt, which was a pleasant surprise because Berrylite at Greenwich V supports the hearing impaired and hire them so it was actually very exciting and fresh ordering my yoghurt without having to say anything, and it made me feel a bit good supporting such establishments :-) This could have been a very superficial feeling, but considering I have been studying and being miserable about it, it made me feel doubly joyful. Nata de coco with froyo is also a surprisingly good pair! 


On one of the Saturdays/ Sundays in school where there was a high chance I'd bump into Mudassar (who is a really nice and lovely accidental study buddy - thank you so much Muddy for the company for the days and evenings we'd see each other at the windy benches - all the best for the last two papers - you got this! oh, and please do bring me to watch the sunset at the stadium steps one day; you promised! HAHA), and on this particular day, there was some talk going on and we were invited to steal the leftover (but still very good) food from the prepared refreshments, and it made me very happy. 


On one particular Sunday when I was alone studying at the windy benches eating home made chicken rice my mum prepared for me to bring to school for lunch (because no stalls were open), I was talking to my mum on Whatsapp at the same time and she sent me this photo of my two favourite stuffed toys - Mr Ducky Wacky Oh So Funny & Ah Mun - to spur me on and it honestly put a smile on my face, to know that there were people/ creatures who though were not physically with me, were mentally supporting me. A big shout out to Mama Yap who has been ultra supportive especially during this period, preparing lunch for me tirelessly without fail when I studied in school during the weekends, understanding when I got home a lot later than usual and most importantly, tolerating my horrible mood swings and when I got angry for no reason. 

A big thank you to Papa Yap as well, who sends me to school daily and during this period, even picked me up from school as well, which is such a special treat and I feel so blessed, not having to take public transport home which by itself sucks a lot of energy from me already.


This photo was taken after my Literature lesson on the last week of lessons before promos started the next week and it was quite scary that it appeared black and white even though my school is really green majority and posting this on my Instagram made a couple of my classmates comment "prison" which I thought was quite funny and it's always nice to find humour even in the darkest of times, which I'm really good at - I amuse myself so much and hopefully that's a good thing.


A selfie I took to commemorate the next day being the start of the promotional exams and I think I initially planned to take a selfie afterwards/ during the course of taking promos but it slipped my mind so I only have this. Featuring sour candy which Ragini gave me in a surprise study pack filled with goodies - thank you so much genie, I can't wait to catch up with you and give you your belated birthday gift HAHA you are such a joy to have honestly, and I'm thankful for you even though we rarely see each other now. Just two more papers, you can do it and I am excited for our next Wednesday date! 


A few things I can't live without when I study - water and candles! I honestly love the taste of water and I drink gallons at a time, and it helps that my cup is so lovely (look at it, it's 3D!) which I got as a Christmas gift at least five years back. Scented candles are another essential, I have too many to keep count of and this period, I've been lighting the Green Apple one, and a bit of my Vanilla one as well. I have this belief that not only do candles emit light, they emit positive vibes as well, it's so amazing and it makes my room smell phenomenal. Plus, the romantic vibe gets me excited too (which keeps me awake!); just kidding, it's the fear that I'd burnt down my house that keeps me awake when my candles are lighted. 


Fun fact: I study in the dark with one candle and one small lamp because too many sources of light (especially from the main light in my room) casts shadows on my work, which irritates and annoys me to no end. So the above picture is an accurate representation of how I study - except I have to lock my room when I do this and turn the lights back on again when my parents enter because they'd nag at me for ruining my eyes. 


Mid promos break with Sarah after we completed four out of the five papers we were supposed to take (and had a weekend to prepare for our last paper, which was today). It definitely was a good break, and I'm so thankful - for good food, and for Sarah as well who has stuck by me for so long, and has been so brave and patient this entire period. 


This photo was taken during most recent weekend, of my three largest soft toys on my bed staring out of the window "contemplating life", as my twitter caption went. This is my new strategy to make me stay out of my bed - to have my toys guard against the evil Juju from jumping and falling asleep on her bed, and regretting it afterwards. I come up with the strangest ways to make myself study, from this to studying in the dark - I hope all these pays off. 


So yes, promotional exams are finally over, and it's time to start on my Post Promos Plans - I have so many, it's insane: most of them consist of catching up with friends, visiting museums, Singapore Writers' Festival; also some DIY craft and room decor projects; and of course baking and cooking! Oh, and doing more of reading and writing - I intend to start on writing a fictional story, it's definitely been a long time since I last did that - probably the one most notable was the one I published in Primary Five and I'm excited to do something like that again, of a more mature standard (hopefully!) I have been reading up on some Arts Council programme and I hope to apply for it next year or after A Levels and getting started now will do no harm (stating it here hoping that it would spur me on if I ever intend to back out from applying)


Thankful and excited; 
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Dehumanized

Thursday, September 25, 2014

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I laughed and I couldn't stop. They stared, and thought "why is she so weird?" just stopping short from saying it aloud.

There was nothing funny at all, and even I know that. "I'm sorry," I managed in between breaths and I truly did mean it. It was horrifying that I was even smiling but I couldn't stop it, something was happening to me from within but I just can't pinpoint what exactly. 

We were on a serious topic, that's for sure, and it's something that holds such an important place in my heart. I'd be enraged if I heard anyone undermining the severity of it or even making a joke out of it. It's so difficult to say this but I've been through instances like these too many a times, and I knew how real it could get. 

Sometimes I wonder, why? Why am I not ignorant about such things, why can't I see simplicity in everything, why do I constantly get involved, but most importantly, was there anything I could even do anymore. Honestly, I don't blame anyone or anything, only myself. 

I laugh, not because anything's funny. It's stupid. Laughter, they say, shows that you're happy. It's a physical manifestation of joy. For me, I believe it has morphed into something else; it's now the only way I am able to experience any form of emotion at all - and that's what it is: the feeling of laughter. Just laughter. Just the act of smiling, taking in huge breaths of air and clutching my abdomen as I burst into fits, occasionally accompanied with tears. When I should supposedly be feeling pain, or worry, or sadness, or hurt, or worry, I laugh. A chasm of consciousness, a temporary escape. 

When I'm empty, I also tend to fill the void with laughter. I mean, it's what makes the people around me happy, at least I'm doing something useful by spreading positive energy, even though it's not something innately from within myself. It's fake happiness, but I just hope it brings others a genuine emotion. 

No longer human anymore, rather, dehumanized. Although that isn't exactly the right word for describing what this truly is, it sounds more futuristic, and it lends a slight fantasy feel to it. The exact word is too real for my liking. 

And don't pretend you care, I don't need any of that - because I don't like acting either. It's too much work. To put the truth out there, I can no longer feel anything anymore and so I have lost my ability to feel for you. 

There's so much I had wanted to say on that fateful day and I did try to, stopping short every time I started, brushing myself off with a "never mind, it's fine" and of course, a choppy laugh in place of the silence because there were so many more urgent, pressing issues I had to handle. I was also slightly worried that I'd appear too vulnerable and that'd be a cause of concern, most definitely. What place does my psychological well-being have in this society anyway, and honestly I've gotten to the point where I'm just able to subdue all of these thoughts to the bottom of my priority list. 
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Six More Days

Thursday, September 18, 2014

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I've been so accustomed to doing terribly academically that it doesn't seem to matter to me anymore. Actually who am I kidding, it means so much to me. It defines my worth, it is the only thing people will view me through. In the eyes of others, I could just be that girl who spends too much time baking/ exploring/ taking photographs and ends up with horrible grades and naturally a bleak future.

I want to be an inspiration for the unconventional - I have so many great, big, plans and adventures I would like to embark on, but would anyone even support me if I don't even prove that I have the basic necessity of surviving in this society? That'd be brains, by the way. And so far, the only thing I've been proving is my lack of them.

But who's to say I didn't even try? Truth be told, I've never spent so much time studying but still, there's so much doubt in myself, there's so much I still don't know and I'm so, so scared. In fact, I'm freaking terrified. Stakes are high and I'm not sure if I have never felt this stressed before; I fear for my sanity next year with the A levels. There's so little to have faith about when one is as incapable as myself. 

And what truly scares me is really the fact that there are so many people out there, so many people I know, who share the same mindset as myself. It's so unhealthy to be thinking this way - and I'm trying so hard to stop all these negativity, but it's so awfully difficult. Still, the sheer number of people who feel this way is such a disgusting reflection of our society and what it has morphed to become. 

Yikes, it's so pathetic really. 

And so am I. 
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The Instagram Generation

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

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So, this was a photo I posted on my Instagram about a week ago, and it's here because it's probably a photo of mine that best reflects what people enjoy posting on Instagram nowadays - nice food, a "good" book (that may just be a title that's widely accepted as being "good") but more so, a photographic manifestation of a good life, not forgetting a filter to beautify everything. And I believe it's not just me who posts little squares of my life in photos online - almost everyone I know of around my age; perhaps even younger or older - owns their own Instagram account. We are the Instagram generation and there's no denying that. 

In our society, almost everyone owns a smartphone and walking around, you'll be able to see people who are Instagram-ing on the go. In quaint little hipster caf├ęs, you'll see people standing up just to take multiple top-down shots of their food, in bid to find that one perfect shot; on the streets, you'll see people stopping to take photos of the sunset; and almost everywhere, you'll see people whipping out their front cameras to take selfies - quite a sight to behold if one time traveled from the past to witness all these. 

Truth be told, I've been wanting to write about Instagram since last year and most of my initial thoughts centered around how this social media platform was so unhealthy and promoted unrealistic portrayals of one's life which just served to further aggravate one's insecurities when they compare themselves to others. Everyone just seeks to post the best and most aesthetic sides of their lives here, and in fact my previous profile description used to be "a false representation of my life". To add to that, support can be garnered in an instant and one's popularity could be determined almost immediately via the number of likes one receives on a particular photograph. I had wanted to slam myself for being a hypocrite because while I had such opinions, I was part of this group of people who encouraged such a lifestyle. 


Just look at me and I'll admit it - I can't live without Instagram, now that I've started. To date, I have 676 posts, 770 followers and I follow 516 people's lives in tiny squares. While I enjoy scrolling through my feed and liking almost all of these posts, I have to admit that I do giggle (and maybe judge) a bit, thinking about what went into the making of the photograph - the positioning of items and just looking silly trying to get a shot from all angles. I judge myself as well, though - for the photograph at the start of this post, I took the strawberries from the fridge just for the photograph and put it back afterwards, I wasn't reading the book at that point of time, and the popcorn didn't really taste as good as it looked. I go through all these just to present a false representation of my life. But well, was this really false? Perhaps it's more so of an optimistic version of my life, and not entirely a lie. 


So yesterday, one of my favourite Youtube channels, Shots of Awe, released a video (the one above) that was inspired by an article with a quote by Professor Daniel Kahneman that reads: "The 'Instagram Generation' now experiences the present as an anticipated memory" and I was half expecting that it would talk about how we focus too much on capturing the moment than actually living it, which definitely has been an area of concern among many. 

Instead, it provides an alternative perspective that I personally have never considered - with Instagram and cameras, we now live with the idea that our experiences have to be something that will be reflected upon later in the form of photographs, in this case, and that these are things that we look back upon in future. As such, we are therefore the creators of how our own past looks, we end up being the ones who decide how our life is being remembered, and of course, most people would want it to look amazing, which leads to all the filters and effects and camera angles. Of course, the performance philosopher in the video Jason Silva puts across this point a lot more coherently than how I just did. 

I honestly think this is a pretty nice thought though I'm not sure if I can fully agree with it. Perhaps I'm just finding excuses for my over reliance of Instagram, which is pretty sad and pathetic. I must admit, as superficial as this may sound - and it's true, I'm innately really frivolous - as a social media site, Instagram has made me feel great senses of satisfaction and affirmation in the form of likes and comments and shallow social banter. There is a feel-good effect to it too, especially when I post things related to social advocacy or even encouraging photographs, in bid to spur others on because I feel like I'm doing good, when in actual fact I may not even care for the people around me (not saying I don't, but there is always that possibility).

Of course, I do still enjoy using Instagram and I don't think I'd be stopping anytime soon. I don't know, but I feel like I've been questioning my motivations for doing a lot of things recently, and my usage of Instagram is one of them. It's crazy, how little I seem to know about myself now. 
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Goodbye, Term Three

Friday, September 5, 2014

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Hello there :-)

Term three, probably one of the busiest terms of the year, has come and gone and truth be told, it hasn't been all that kind to me. In school, it has been stressful, tiring and pressurizing to be in class and I haven't really been following up that consistently with my academic work; at home, it hasn't been the most supportive of environments but I don't blame anyone considering I haven't been the best daughter or sister either; and the lack of control I have on my own emotions hasn't been proving too well on my own well-being. 

This entire year, I haven't been making the best decisions and it pains me a little. While I have indeed gotten over certain things, recently I've been acting pretty haphazardly, trying to salvage all the mistakes I've made with even more bad decisions that are quite lethal - they appear to be a blessing at first but when the time is right, ends up turning around and stabbing me from the back, adding to my stress levels and just making me an all around grumpy and sad person who is no fun to be with. 

My favourite artiste in the whole wide world, George Watsky, released a relatively new album "All You Can Do" and from a song that goes by the same name as the album, he raps this: "Happy's not a faucet that'll flow when a handle is turned" and I agree wholeheartedly, and ever since I heard it, this quote's been sitting on my twitter profile. Happiness isn't something that we can just summon as and when we like, if we could, that'd be great but I believe that we are all given the basic right of feeling unhappy and that's totally fine, no one should be forced to wear a smile everywhere they go. 

However, I do believe that we have the capacity to change our moods and recently I haven't been doing very well at that. I've been radiating a lot of negative vibes and as much as they affect the people around me, they end up making a U-turn and punching me straight in the face as well, so it's just been a horrible, horrible cycle of negativity. Even my blog posts have been full of rants and complaints and sadness - as much as I don't want to put on a false front, I feel like being pessimistic about bad things in life will just aggravate the situation. I figured that it could be because I'm a lot less thankful than I used to be - and today I have decided to count my blessings from the past term because in the midst of all the terrible things, there has been some great things that I think are worth mentioning and hopefully this will lend a more positive vibe to my blog and above all, my own self and well-being :-) If I'm lucky, hopefully such a mindset can impact someone else, and that'll make me truly joyful.

Here are my blessings for the past term, in no particular order; 


My PW group, or more "famously" known as BWPW, has been such a blessing. Project Work is such a pain and it's definitely one of the most time-consuming and tedious subjects we have to take in school and I honestly can't imagine having to do everything I did with this three yellow people with another bunch of people whom I don't even like. Unfortunately, that happens to some groups and it's a real concern but I'm just so thankful that we somehow ended up together and that we can actually work together well and productively without putting our friendships at risk - in fact, I think PW even served to strengthen our bonds and the laughter and weirdness that you guys share with me is really something valuable so thank you guys, it's only a few more months - we can do it :-) 


Baking is next - baking makes me very happy even though the cleaning up afterwards isn't anything to look forward to. But I'm thankful that I get to bake and that I actually own an oven because I didn't use to in the past and I couldn't really fulfill my culinary desires, as strange as that sounds. The cupcakes pictured above are chocolate with salted caramel cream cheese frosting and you can even see the jar of salted caramel that I made from scratch at the back - it's heaven in a jar. I love anything salted caramel (!!!) But anyway, baking for me, relieves stress because when I bake, I cut myself off from most forms of social interaction - even the virtual kind - so stepping into the kitchen is really a temporary escape from everything else. The results are also instant and you can even see the gradual transformation - such as when you peek into the oven and see those little cakes rise as a result of baking powder and it's really gratifying. It makes me happy when I give these treats to people - I brought these to school the next day and gave them to people as I saw them and it felt good to make someone's day just a bit sweeter. 


Of course, there's family. My family is pretty camera-shy - apart from myself - and they hate making silly faces, as if we were still in the 80s when photos couldn't be deleted and people go to professional studios to get theirs taken. Mama Yap will actually scold me for not smiling demurely (and it is hell on days when she decides to stalk my Facebook photos because I am never glam) and so here is a way-too-formal rare photo of my family. I can't stand the structure of this photo but it's the only good one we actually have - no family selfies ever yet, we really need to up our photo taking game. Although I mentioned earlier that I haven't been the best daughter, I'm glad that my brother is a pretty good son. By the likes of "good", I really just mean "smart" because he's able to fulfill all of their expectations which makes me happy for them and it gives me a little bit of leeway to do less well because they've already come to terms that I'll never be as brilliant as my brother - of course, they treat us equally but we are valued differently. I've come to accept that as well and it kind of releases me from pressure and stress, so that's something to be thankful about. That being said, my family is still pretty wonderful and I'm lucky to have them provide for me so adequately. 


One of the highlights of Term 3 would be Fizz: The Concert, which was organized by Project Super Marrow and the Humanities Initiative, and it was definitely one of the most unique events I've been to, probably because of the location. The organizers made the right decision to use the Theatre Studies Black Box instead of the Performing Arts Centre because the vibe was lovely and the setting was really cozy especially because everyone had to sit on the floor (and sometimes stand up to mosh, which was crazy). The energy was so infectious and I'm glad that I went, despite it being held in the midst of a pretty busy period. Being in the company of Yijing, Amanda, Caitlin, Chan Wai, Min Xin and Juin Jie was wonderful too, plus Juin Jie is actually a new friend which I made that night! :-) Thank you guys and thank you Chan Wai for asking me to go for this, and also for being so supportive throughout the whole of Term Three as well. I'm really thankful for the encouragement you give me all the time, in both tangible and non-tangible forms. 


Of course, my Habitat for Humanity buddies have also made my term! Sometimes, we deal with a lot of nasty people but you guys give me so much hope and so do our volunteers. It heartens me so much to see that we actually have a regular pool of really passionate people who are always so willing to give up their precious Saturday mornings for our cause and seeing homes transform before our very eyes with our efforts is also something that keeps me going. While I may not have been the most dedicated member, thank you so much you guys for constantly still being so supportive towards me - I owe you guys so much! Also, you guys have brought me a lot of laughter (as well as tears) and I'm just so blessed to have you guys to count on. On this note, I'd like to give a shout out to Ben - as much as he is an idiot - I don't think I've met someone so similar to myself. To think we didn't even realize this during Dwen An times, but I'm really quite thankful that someone can know me this well even though we don't even talk that often. I think we communicate through telepathy or that invisible connection tube thing (HAHA) but really, it's probably because of our similar circumstances so thank you for counselling me when I need it though you are always surrounded by people. I do hope our pact does not come true though. 


Raffles Interact is also one of my blessings. Weekly service at Chen Su Lan Methodist Children's Home makes me feel instantly rejuvenated even though I don't consider myself a kid-person still and working with the Board of Directors has been pretty fun so far. I'm especially thankful for the heart-to-heart session I had with Daniel and Judy a while back - it was definitely one of the best talks I've had of this term. Also, I absolutely love the senior-junior relationships that the Community Service Directors have forged with one another, and it's definitely something I hope will last even after they leave this school. Our energy is also amazing and infectious - we managed to get ourselves in a couple's wedding photo, probably because we kept cheering and being all high and energetic when they walked past us. This couple was also very lovely, I presume they met when they were students here at our school which made them return to have their wedding photos taken here, symbolic of their relationship and it's so cute. This is probably what my friends in JC relationships should aim to be like in a few years time :') It would be so amazing, and definitely a story to tell. 


Next, Sarah-barah-parah! :-) Term 3 definitely hasn't been the smoothest term for us, but we both know that we've been through a lot worse and we've managed (well, we barely scraped through, but we did it nonetheless) so we can always do it again, and we can definitely do better! Keep in mind the goals that we set for each other, and I have so much faith in you. Even though this year we're battling a few other things we've never encountered before, and our emotions and feelings take a greater toll on us (well, at least for me), I believe in you :-) I'm so thankful for you and our weekly pig out sessions - those are the times that we truly get to be ourselves, away from all the pressure and the structured walls of the school. Your humour is something very unique and I love how we get the weirdest jokes. And hello where is my cake pan, my dear Sarah the maker? 


Of course, the Bellyboings! While we're now permanently one member short, I'm still so thankful for the little pockets of time we squeeze for each other, and I'm really excited to be embarking on some projects with a few of you in the upcoming months, namely Shermaine who's in my Interact Camp main comm and also Wang You, of which both of us are part of the Decor subcomm of Orientation 2015 :-) Speaking of Orientation, I'm also so blessed that I was shortlisted in the preliminary list of OGLs and what happens from here really depends on my Promo results - it gives me new motivation to study really hard. Also, I guess: once a Waddle CAD, always a Waddle CAD - it's quite funny that I'm placed in an art related comm even though I'm not all that good but I find myself lucky because during Orientation itself, I'll get to spend more time with my OGLings because ours isn't a comm that we'll need to rush off to do things like being a station mistress etc. Of course, none of these will happen unless I do well for Promos, so study hard Li Yin :-) 


And I shall end off my post with a photo of one of the most joyful and bubbly people I know, Phionna! :-) This was taken on the last day of the term (i.e. yesterday) where the two of us headed off for a little pig out session (of which we ended up in a food coma and got a bit scared of chicken because we ate too much of it). Shermaine and Wang You joined us for the start and end of our session respectively, but for the most part, we spent quality time together, which I've really missed. There are some people who just radiate positive vibes and Phionna's one of them - even though she goes through so much and faces so much, she always still has a smile on her face and is ever so genuine; truly an inspiration to me. You are amazing and I loved yesterday. 


Oh wow, it's crazy. In the course of writing this blog post, my mood has risen exponentially and I feel quite amazing now, I'm not even kidding. Really, as I recounted the lovely things that have happened throughout the course of this term, I realized that I am indeed very blessed. With that, I conclude that Term Three has been pretty great, which is the exact opposite of what I wrote earlier in my introduction. This makes for a terrible academic writing piece because of the contradictions prevalent but this isn't an essay I'll be submitting for a grade and I actually feel like this has reflected the little development of my thoughts and emotions in such a real manner and it proves that this counting-my-blessings thing really works wonders on one's happiness levels. I really need to do this more often, and here's to a great September holidays ahead! 
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