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The following entry reveals a lot of suspenseful moments during Hilmi’s pre-PhD pursuit. It was written just one day before he departed to Melbourne on July 11, 2009. So nervous, he thought he was going to die. 





My Wandering Life


It’s been a long and winding journey. 


After 12 hours of crazy drive on the road, I have finally reached Pasir Mas, bringing with me 32 boxes from Johor Bahru – thanks to my 3-day hectic efforts of mega, super-duper packing. I remember the funny face on my father as he was looking at the mountain of boxes, probably wondering what on earth this single guy has been stocking in his sad solitary life. My Ummi has quickly started unpacking the boxes right away. My little sister has done her superb tasks at reorganizing the stuff in the house to suit the furniture I brought home. 


In the middle of this unpacking pandemonium, my father has been busy calling people to come to the house. There will be a sumptuous kenduri tonight, he said. I am getting more nervous, not expecting some big farewell parties for me, and not hoping to see my distant relatives whom I keep avoiding every single Hari Raya. But tonight, those relatives will be happily here, saying good-byes and all that,  only to make me feel worse for not being good enough to them. And this whole situations looks more and more disorienting and overwhelming for me because in less than 24 hours, I’ll depart to Melbourne, Australia.


That last statement still sends some creepy chills to my bones. As the moment of truth is approaching, I feel more terrified, not knowing exactly what to expect for my new life in a foreign land. Things suddenly seem surreal, as if I have never been prepared for this. I have to admit that amidst all the final preparation for the confirmed departure, I’m still adjusting to the fact that I’m really leaving for my PhD studies in Melbourne. I hate to say this, but sometimes, I don’t feel like going.    


Barely a year ago, I was just a lost wanderer in Johor Bahru, a naïve guy who moved away from his own comfort zone in Kuala Lumpur, looking for a greener  pasture at the Department of Modern Languages in UTM. And now, I’m going to do it all over again, moving away from my own beloved country, eyeing for a  larger horizon at a gargantuan down under. One thing for sure, I move on and move on, just like a crazy nomad who keeps looking for some answers to his   blurry questions.   

And it took me one intense year to answer all those super-tough questions – the   wild supervisor-hunting drills, the maddening steps of university application, the lunatic preparation for IELTS, the nerve-cracking BTN training in Ulu Sepri, the tiring review of research proposal at my department, the extreme procedures requested by the HRD department, the challenging documentations demanded by the Ministry of Higher Learning, the exhausting  flow of visa application, the sickening packing of the house, the winter-shopping pandemonium – I did all these patiently, single-mindedly, and mostly  all by myself. For me, it was a lonely and agonizing path. Without strong will, focused determination, sheer passion and of course detailed checklists, I would have given up all those gila processes. Having said this, I truly respect and admire those who have already gone through all this infuriating pain and successfully made it there towards the end of PhD torture. I have yet to begin the studies, but I could sense the terrible heat of PhD hell coming right under my nose soon. 


Putting the hellish prospect aside, I couldn’t help looking backward and seeking for comfort through my ‘luxurious’ past. I’m now at the pivotal junction of my next chapter in life, so I couldn’t help feeling a little melancholic over little things around me. Everything looks romantically significant – the last movie I watched in JB, the last dinner I had in Senibong, the last petrol station I dropped by to fill up the fuel in Taman Universiti, the last bowling outing in Pelangi Leisure Mall, the last ride along Pantai Lido. It’s funny that, barely after a year, I have developed a strong attachment to Johor Bahru. All these thoughts sometimes made me  overly sentimental and a bit disturbed, like I have been given the eyes of the dead, only to realize the importance of little things in life after it is too late. After some time, I learned that it’s the celebration of those little moments that matters the most, not the bigger things which could be artificial and less humane. It’s funnier to realize that I could feel all these stupid connections to inanimate objects which might be dismissed easily by normal eyes.        


I always thought that I could handle almost all the extreme demands for my PhD, but nothing is as depressing as having to deal with the emotional attachment to beloved people around me. If there is one thing that could stop me from continuing this struggle, it would be the people whom I’m strongly attached to – my family members and, most importantly, my close friends in KL and JB. Meeting them for the last time simply made me more heavy-hearted and numbed with melancholy. I thought I was strongly immune to farewells, but it was  unbelievably excruciating to leave behind all those sweet smiles of my good friends. Most of the time, I had to console myself by reminding myself that I should be at the centre of my life, not others. People may come and go, but let them be the beautiful reminders of the wonderful things they have deeply affected my life, so to speak.      

Being excessively independent, I always know that I would be up for the next big thing in life, but Australia has never been on top of my list. But if this is the way it is meant to be, I should grab this opportunity wholeheartedly. I know that I have to do this because before things fell perfectly into place, I have been mentally and physically abused with painstaking process. So, here I am, waiting for the right moment to come by, nervously anticipating that Australia will promise something worthwhile I would never have expected it to come my way.


It’s now chaos around my parents’ house. My relatives keep wishing me well, continuously punctuated by the big question of marriage. I couldn’t afford to get irritated by that issue anymore these days, so I will politely ask them to pray for my jodoh in the future. My aging father is staring at me blankly, probably praying that he would be able to see me again before he leaves this world. My Ummi is working hard at the kitchen, doing her best to serve me with her best home-made ayam gulai darat. My big brother is smiling heart-warmingly, probably wishing he would be at my place, that I would live his PhD dream on his behalf. My big sister is giving me a sign that the food is ready, symbolically giving an assurance that a family will always be a family, no matter what happens. My little sister is laughing hysterically again over some silly things, putting me at ease against my whining heart. My little brother is grinning secretly, sending me a message that he will be as strong as his crazy brother to take on whatever challenge life may offer in the future. For one rare moment, I feel blessed by these inspirational figures and I wish I could just freeze this moment forever, for I feel eerily peaceful and content. All these hopeful faces finally cast away all my baseless fears and make me more inspired to get there – to keep wandering and reaching for my beautiful dream.   


Yes Melbourne, here I come!  

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Teruterubozu permalink
    October 25, 2009 10:47 am

    Salam. Nice journal writing. I went through the same thing too. How are u now, i am sure much better. I just arrived at UNIMELB about a month ago and still homesick and missing my cats dearly. Nice to read your journal here, it reminds me that i am not alone. See ya..


  2. October 25, 2009 8:19 pm

    Dear Teruterubozu,

    If I knew there’d someone who had already understood what I had been through, I wouldn’t have to narrate everything here, maybe i just skip to the last paragraph haha.

    hey I’m sure things will settle down soon. Your cats will be fine. Have a good life in melbourne. say hi to me if we bump into each other 🙂


  3. Teruterubozu permalink
    October 26, 2009 7:43 pm

    Thanks for writing back. 🙂
    Keep on writing coz i feel less lonely just by reading your journals..Oh, If you had mothers here, well, then,maybe i’ve a brother..coz my supervisor seems younger than me! Or Maybe he’s around my age. I’m glad that so far he’s been nice and supportive coz I heard many unpleasant stories about supervisors! Your research seems interesting, i didn’t know UTM have language studies now. I was UTM grad too. I hope i can recognize you , so that i can say Hi.
    Best wishes,


  4. October 26, 2009 8:44 pm

    UTM never has a language academy. In fact, my department is in a mess, unrecognized and understaffed. I took this phonetic study out of my own liberty and against my boss’ wish. i’m the first one who ever dares to venture into this area. i just thought i should add more colors to my department which seems monotonous. i hope i could give back something to my department and the society in general in the future.

    Hey I’m sure you’ll work just fine with your brotherly supervisor. Of course you’ll recognize me. A short, aging man with a typical look of pasir mas boy 🙂


  5. April 1, 2011 4:53 pm

    Dear Hilmi ,
    I love reading your writing. The way you express things is very ‘expresive’ . Ha..ha.. I would like to know which bookstore did you go when you bought the Kelantan Sintaksis Book coz I’m trying to find some linguistic books as I’m doing Applied linguistics in UUM. Hope you still remember . tq


    • April 1, 2011 5:38 pm

      Dear Zarina – Thanks for dropping by. I bought the book at the DBP bookstore in Kota Bharu. I’m sure you can get it at any other DBP outlests close to UUM. Good luck for your studies!


  6. huda permalink
    June 5, 2011 6:30 pm

    salam sir..just dropping by to read this nice website and interested to read this post..^^

    what a nice story…im sure u have endured many thick and thin experiences for your PHD pursuit which makes u such a great man today^^
    as a UTM teslian graduate, i can feel how tough it has been for u to survive in this area for master especially with the new born of language academy in UTM..

    Frankly speaking, all the language lecturers in this department has tried their very best to make up this academy which seems to be a success for us.Well it seems to be monotonous coz it is still new..

    anyway, all the best for you..goodluck for ur PHD study..!!^^


  7. huda permalink
    June 8, 2011 4:39 pm

    u are welcome..hope the language academy will survive successfully in the “TECHNOLOGY” university….=)


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