Saturday, October 17, 2009

What do I do?

This post was started a few days ago, and so the incident below happened quite a few days ago.


The blogosphere can be a dangerous place.

Mirrorboy cyber-raped me and Dave cyber-abused me... he wants to give me purple nipples.

No, not what you are thinking, you dirty dirty mind! He wants to nipple twist me.

Oh, all these cyber bullies!


Thanks to Seth for thinking of me and my finger in one of his comments! Yes, my finger has kind of healed - at least it doesn't hurt anymore and I just cut off the skin the other day so now it has a hole to it.


So the poll has ended and 3 people said they want to know what I do - I wonder who voted?

Well, to be honest, this might come as a surprise but I am a muthaflippin' rockstar! A punkrocker with purple-dyed mohawk donned in a leather, sleeveless suit with black mascara and nail polish. When time gets tough I say smoke some weed and live high.

Photo credit: Chris Weisberg

I wish.

Drugs are bad, kids.

When I was young, I've always wanted to be a doctor because I get to probe people in the ... can save lives. For that very reason I volunteered with the ambulance and then the blood bank when I was in high school, but that dream never happened.

Photo credit: The Doctr
I swear this is why Aek did Medicine.

Well, I did start and got half way there - I enrolled myself in Medical Science and I graduated with a degree in that. I even overloaded my workload and did a double major in Neuroscience and Physiology; and Pharmacology and Toxicology. Overloading my credits and doing a double major than the ordinary one (the only person in my program who did a double major) was a pretty stupid decision. Stressed my arse off. I actually did pretty well too, and I could have gone on another four tortorous year to get a MBBS and probe people save lives.

Anyway, let's travel back to the beginning when I was still waddling through my mum's .... well, a bit too far. Let's travel way back to when I was about 7 - I think it was around that age. I got sick of working in the fowl farm so I found a job at a coffee shop - way too young to work but hey, we need the money. I started working from 4am to 6pm everyday except when I had to go to school, serving drinks, toasts and making drinks sometimes. It's hard to explain but coffee shop in my home country at that time is very, very different from what the Westerners term as 'coffee shop'.

After doing that for several years, as my family's financial status got a little bit better - we are talking about when I was something like 14 or 15 years old - I stopped working and spent my days scratching my balls. I concentrated at school although I was quite a slow student and was once even called stupid because my English was terrible! Who knows 10 years later English would be my first language.

After finishing school, I worked as a crew member in a movie production. The pay was shit and it was hard work, but for the three weeks of travelling, mindblowing experience and all the awesome people I met, it was well worth it. I later stayed in the filming industry working with a production house as a Props Manager and later a producer, producing a short film that won an award in Korea.

Photo credit: Tom Brogan

I am starting to think that this blog is not very anonymous anymore. If any of my friend finds this, they'd know straight away who this blog belongs to.

I went to college after that and worked at a restaurant part-time. Being the cute, lovable and skinny little boy I was, the owner of the restaurant fell in love with me in a non-sexual way and treated me like her own son. It was a very small, cosy restaurant and she cooks all the food herself and my job was really easy. I just have to open the shop at 10am, sit behind the counter, make sure the staff were doing their job, eat, mind the cashier, eat some more and eat again.

Then I got obese and joined The Biggest Loser. No, I did not.

I then moved to a different city where I did not work. I then moved to Australia where I started working as a housekeeping attendant for about a year. After getting my bonus on Christmas, I stopped my job and got offered another job that's twice the pay. My lecturer hired me to run tutorials for first year students. Everyone knows I love people, especially people who are inspired. I love educating and teaching as much as I can to the "kids" although at that time, many were just about my age. I tutored all through my second and third year of university - and was voted 'Most Humorous Tutor', 'Most Interesting Tutor' and 'Friendliest Tutor'.

When I finished my Medical Science degree, I thought that spending time in the lab looking at rat colon, dissecting cadavers or finding cures for Alzheimers or schizophrenia weren't exactly what I found exciting, so I took a month break and traveled across Australia until I went broke and sold my bum - you wish! I got back to South Australia and was offered a job as an Education researcher at one of South Australia's leading research institution for 3 months. I did my job, co-published a paper and wrote a report for a $220,000 grant.

Photo credit: jenn l.

Once that's done, I packed all my belongings, chucked heaps of stuff away, kissed my friends goodbye and moved to Queensland where I am now. I spent 3 months freelancing building websites and doing consulting work. I got really interested in social innovation, social entrepreneurship, community engagement and activism. So, I attended a number of events, networked, started a few projects with a friend, impressed the city council, got a pretty big sum of money and traveled across Australia attending conferences. All within three months. Due to the nature of the projects we started, I get invites to cool events in town like award ceremonies, movie premieres and screenings on a weekly basis - which I have learned to decline for reason I will describe later.

My current supervisor picked up the paper I published, was mega impressed, sent me an email and offered me a full time job at Australia's top 3 university - top 50 in the world - as an Education researcher working on projects in supporting and rewarding teaching excellence. I am still working here now, and to skip all the boring details, my job involves conducting research and evaluation on existing program, and implementing new innovative educational programs in the institution. I lecture from time to time.

Before I got the job, I was also invited to run a small workshop which impressed one of the attendees from a fairly big corporation, who invited me to run a larger workshop. One thing led to another and since then (about 4 months ago) I have ran at least 23 workshops, presented at about 10 conferences and sat in as 'expert' (a term I disagree associating it to myself) panel for a couple of events.

Speaking of which, I just reached home from a national conference on leadership and activism for a youth aid organisation, sitting as a panel expert with a PhD in community activism, an international relation expert, I'll call him Graham who was born in California but grew up in Los Angeles, and a full-on, pretty intense politician. That was intimidating considering they were all at least twice my age and obviously experts in their own rights. The good sign was when it ended, Graham told me how inspired he was by my answer and invited me to present at a conference he's organising up north. During our conversation, a group of kids came up to me and told me how inspired they were and would like to talk to me. No one went to the other two experts so they left. By this time, a crowd of about 12 attendees was gathered around me and Graham. Graham and I continued chatting to these kids and answered all their questions, feeding their curious, hungry mind. It is something that inspires me to no end - seeing kids 16-25 years old feeling empowered and inspired to change the world. Hmm.. Maybe I should blog about the conversation and discussion from this conference? What say you?

I have been running workshops, presenting at conferences almost on a weekly basis which took a toll on my health nearly a month ago. I was diagnosed with psychologically stressed - I was perfectly mentally and emotionally fine but I was down with a viral infection that wouldn't go off. Doctor's only prescription was a recommendation to cut down my workload, so now I try to spend at least a day in a week just to myself to let my body rest and restore itself and I have avoided attending events as well unless I have to. Or I get my friend to save my arse - e.g. I was supposed to be at a cocktail party last night, but I got my friend to attend it for me and tell me when the organiser, whose one of my clients, start her speech and what she said roughly. I then text the organiser saying that I was there at the event for a short while, heard her speech and thought (insert a certain phrase or topic from her speech) was (insert adjective). However, I had to leave early and so did not get to say hi. It works all the time - I know I risk sounding like insincere, but for my own arse, I'll guard it with what I can.

A sideline of those workshops are I get people hiring me to do consultative work as well, so I am sitting as board members or advisory member for 5 organisations. When they want to implement a strategy, policy or program they will send all the briefing or consultative documents to me. I will review it, provide my take on it and offer recommendations. This usually takes up my weekends as well.

So another thing I did not mention is, in the last 4 years, I also volunteer for an international youth mental health organisation. I have done basic counselling course, and have spent 2 years doing 'online counselling' a term I use loosely because I try to avoid counselling but rather provide a safe and comfortable setting for people to come have a chat with me. We get all sorts of people from those who are physically and sexually abused to those who suffers from depression, eating disorders and body image issues. There were also lots of young people who battle with their sexuality and their everyday life with parents and schools and what nots. There were also the occasional ADHD, OCD and those who got pregnant due to unprotected sex.

I stopped doing that after my workload in my daily life increased and only do it whenever I get the time but the program proved to be unsustainable because we get more people than we have volunteers so we decided scrape the program.

So due to my illness nearly a month back, I have cut down a lot of what I do and cancelled all workshops until February. I don't mind sitting as a panellist or do presentations that I have done before but otherwise, usually its stressful for me to come out with fresh, new, inspirational content and by the end of it, I usually just feel mentally exhausted and dead.

Photo credit: partie traumatic

Having said that, above all, I am still the lil boy who dream to be someone influential one day, changing the world one person at a time. I believe that I am successful already - I am being significant, whether in a well-known way or not, in my passion. I am living my social responsibility.

I am still the poor filthy boy and my family back in Asia, my past living with almost nothing keeps my heart warm and head cool.

Beyond all the formalities of what I do, I am still a boy on this blogosphere making friends; learning from you and teaching you; and learning to accept that I can be less than perfect. I am just another sand on the beach, a fish in the ocean and a friend in your rich, uniquely significant life.


If you are wondering, my full-time work pays me more than three times my monthly living expenses so all the money I earn from the workshops I've done, conferences I have spoken at and consultative work, goes back to a local charity. I do pro-bono if the organiser is a worthy and financially-limited organisation. Why don't I do everything pro-bono? Because I believe that the only way to ensure the work of awesome charities is to keep the economic flow, so if anyone wants to hire me for their work and they have the budget for it, I believe that I should take the money and put it somewhere else where the money is needed - that way, we germinate growth.

Sorry for the long post and have a good weekend! Keep commenting and ask what you want to know.


Drew said...

You truly are a jack of all trades! I voted for this choice btw.



Dave83201 said...

What an amazing story Aaron. As we've chatted I think I'd heard most of those details, but its inspiring to hear your story beginning to end.

Fer said...

Uuuggh, let me recover a little, so many paragraphs and still you forgot to write: "Oh yeah, and now I'm doing what Fer's been aiming to do since he started his mature life" ouch, quite a slap in my face.
Nah, but really, I'm so jealous about you, and hey, don't you have a position for a mexican guy with a burning desire to help people???
Such an interesting life you've had, also I'm starting a small charity-foundation it's called: get fer across the globe :) you get a visit from me to make a kid happy -me also-.

Octavius said...

Aaron, very interesting post. It is always good to get to know people a little better. I voted for this option as well.


Seth said...

Damn!! And I thought I had a topsy-turvy life! So many experiences for you - I hope some of them enriched your life that much more.


Eirik said...

Pretty cool bro - I am truly impressed with your "life" resume. I would guess that you have a very broad perspective on things! Nice post

Aek said...

Buh . . . I know we've chatted a little about all this, but I still can't quite wrap my mind around how you're able to do all that in so short a time. Are you sure we're the same age?!

P.S. I haven't probed anyone once, though a labmate of mine has because she shadowed a colorectal cancer surgeon (and hates it, lol).

Dean Grey said...


I'm soooo impressed by all that you've accomplished at such a young age!


Phunk Factor said...

I finally decided to take a peak at a couple of entries you've mentioned in particular...and i'm impressed!!

Also I feel very useless! Lol...kidd'in!! Feels great to know tht you've got so much going fr u!!

Wish'in u luck fr all ur future endeavors!

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