a self-care guide: journaling

14 April 2020

I can't believe it's 2020. And we're almost exactly a month into our MCO order. I was thinking for a long while to start blogging again, maybe my 2019 fitness journey. But I feel a sense of gracelessness in my words. So maybe I need to just start and pray it all makes sense in the end. 

Today I'm going to write about a topic I've been recently keeping very close to my heart. 

Since I've been stuck in for the last 4 weeks, I've been journaling almost every day, a lot more often than when I was working full time. I've grown to love the process even more and I just can't get enough of it, almost like an addiction. I've even gone so far as to break my blogging hiatus and write a post all about journaling.  It almost feels like a crime if I kept this beautiful practice hidden and all for myself. 

I just want to say, since journaling, I have never in my life felt so much self-love towards myself. I have never been so at peace in my mind. I have never said kinder words to myself and others than I have since I started journaling. My usually critically mean inner monologue has shifted to a much loving and kinder one. Ultimately, the practice of writing has made me more loving, kinder and infinitely more compassionate. 

I guess at first glance, it seems pretty perfunctory and straight forward, but I guess things like these never usually are. It all started when I picked up journaling in the 1st week of Jan 2020. I'm sure like many others who have attempted journaling, it never really stuck with me. I collected countless notebooks, stationery and watched youtube videos on types of journaling, how to get started with journaling etc. Desperate to find my own style of this whole process. I've tried and failed, so I just pushed journaling into the mental file of "things that just aren't for me". 

Ok so looking back on hindsight, I applied way too much perfectionism. My writing would have to be neat & nice, I'd need to have a ruler to underlines and god forbid the fucking typos would cripple me. I'd use 5 different types of pens and colours for the pages. And things like being frustrated at my own slow handwriting, for not being able to write as fast as my mind is going. 

I even tried digital journaling in the past, all sorts of apps like one day that have facilitated the process for you, or goodnotes5 on the iPad where you can physically write into a digital notebook. All of these methods of sustaining journaling have not stuck with me, until it did. 

Lets try and break it down now. 

Tips to start journaling: 

  1. Set your intentions. Ask yourself why you're doing this in the first place? In the past I've failed because I was more engrossed in the idea of being an ~aesthetic art girl~ who kept a journal and therefore had to write every day. My intentions for journaling have shifted and now the practice has stuck. I write to make sense of my thoughts, to grow self-aware and practice self-reflection. As I move forward and get older, I want to be aware of the toxic patterns of thinking I often get myself into and hopefully pivot when I need to. I write to keep a time capsule of all the progression of my thoughts, feelings and events I want to remember and read through when I'm 60. I write because it makes me feel good, its an act of self-love from me to me. So ask yourself: what do you want to get out of this process? 
  2. Let go of your perfectionism tendencies. Enjoy the process, the goal isn't about filling up the book. You don't have to journal everyday. Journal when you need to. You don't need fancy stationery with washi tape and all sorts of coloured pens. I use 1 black pen and my notebook and thats it. The fact that the practice is so low maintenance and yet reaps so many mental rewards has made it so much more appealing to me. Have 1 pen and that's it, don't worry about the mistakes you make when you write, just cross it off and just let the stream of your consciousness flow onto the papers.
  3. NO RULES. Its ok to omit details, you don't have to write every single detail of what you ate today. Write about how you're feeling, or this event that happened and how it made you feel. Just begin writing and see where 10 mins of free-flow writing takes you. 
  4. Set the mood. I usually like to journal after I've made my coffee in the morning and I play a really great lo-fi playlist. I make myself comfortable. In the evening, I'll make sure my table is clean, I'll play some music and I'll light a candle. It seems like a lot but there is a transcendental effect in these actions, it truly feels like an act of self-love. 

I was going through a point in my life where I was trying to make a sense of a lot of things in my head. I've always perceived myself as self-aware, as someone who is constantly conscious of my own stream of thoughts and feelings... And yet there are emotional connections in my mind that seemed to have slipped through, like an invisible being floating in my consciousness, not readily exposed but they make their presence known. 

 I inevitably realize that I am not so in tuned with my feelings and thoughts as I previously thought. I felt a general anxiousness that I haven't felt for a long, long time. From the outlook, there was nothing to be anxious about? I'm in a career I love, training clients who inspire me, I'm healthy, my marriage is great, I have a loving family and yet I still felt something trying to claw itself out of my subconscious. 

So I went into journaling again because of a heightened sense of urgency. The intention was I wanted to word vomit onto the pages and try to make sense of what's missing and possibly comfort myself in the process. I wrote in a half-written (failed) bullet journal from 2 years ago and I just started writing. And when I picked up momentum, I couldn't stop because it MADE ME FEEL SO FUCKING GOOD. Like here I was thinking I was okay, then I write about A, B, C and realizing holy shit, maybe I'm not so okay at all. There is a palpably cathartic relief in the act of writing. I was so skeptical about it before, but when you write it in pages, for only your eyes to see, for yourself ultimately, there is a sense of peace and comfort in that practice. 

There is great solace in the fact that these pages are for your eyes only and they can't talk back to you and pass judgment. They act as medium of safe space for your thoughts and feelings. 

Of course from Jan - March, I only wrote when I needed to. It was often sporadic and only when I had things to write about. When I didn't, I'd go 1-2 weeks at a time of between entries. When I did, they were a huge source of comfort in my really busy schedule. It was like I'm doing it for no one else but me. It was only when I had much more time during the MCO that I experimented with journal prompts and writing love letters to yourself.

Other forms of journaling I've branched into: 

  1. Gratitude log. I write 4 things I'm grateful about everyday and the 5th is an experience I've gone through that I'm grateful for. I started this bc I was feeling generally anxious with the whole uncertainty of the pandemic. I've done the gratitude log for 21 days in a row since the MCO started and I find that my mind tends to scan a lot more for the positive than the negative.
  2. Love letters to myself.  Honestly, this particular practice made me fell in love with journaling tenfolds. After reading this article and talking to my best friend Yasmin, I've decided to give it a go. She kept praising the love letters practiced and urged for me to try it. I've always been mentally hard on myself and in some way, constantly seeking validation and approval from other people through social media, or the questions I ask and the people I love. So I began writing these letters, and I wrote them in second person view. I wrote all the things to myself that I've been yearning to hear from other people. It came from a place of unconditional love. I began with "I love you. I'm right here, I've always been here and I will never abandon you." And the whole practice is so intimate and warm. I have never felt so much love to myself, the mean voice I usually talk to myself in was replaced by an infinitely kinder one. I suggest you all to try this. 

I'll leave this post on an excerpt on my last night's journal entry before I slept. 

"I have asked these questions in the past. And I always feel disappointed when the words I want to hear to feel validated and appreciated are left unsaid. But today was different because I had an "AHA" moment where I thought, I do not need to ask these questions to feel loved, validated and appreciated. Relying on others to make you feel that way has a sort of impermanence to it, it will always fall short unless it comes from yourself. The love letters practice has been really useful in that regard. When I speak in those letters, it always comes from a place of unconditional love, from me to me. The words I write to myself are words I've been longing to hear from others. It is so profound, realizing that I am enough. The journey begins with me loving myself first. It has a ripple of effect into the other areas of my life. My inner monologue voice has changed from a critically mean one to one full of love, kindness and compassion. The underlying lace of meanness that usually arises seems to have dissipated. I guess the voice of love always prevails. What a huge lesson for me in 2020. 
It begins with me." 

Lots of love,

melb reunion in bali '19

07 August 2019

As I'm writing these words, they feel almost cathartic. First post in 2019. I knew I said I was back (lol december last year but who's keeping track....), but life demanded I be present and focus on things at hand. January was really hectic, my dad was in the hospital for a month so all of us were back in KK manning the fort for him. He's all good now! But looking back, that must've thrown my groove and rhythm off from a proper return to this space.



I'll elaborate more on the next few posts but long story short, I'm finally a coach at The Playground in NADI, Bangsar. Its been an intensely fun journey but that's a post for another day. 

Just to ease in on my return.. I'll start with the most recent since its still fre$h in my mind.

Its been more than 2 years since I graduated and left Melbourne, and yet many of the most recent posts on this blog from 2016 include faces splattered between these pictures below. Point being, they were incredibly special then, and still as special in my heart today. 

Thankfully, weddings and engagements have kept us all close. But planning a destination reunion to reunite us all from the different countries transpired into the Bali trip. In total, we came from 8 countries so choosing a common denominator location to fly into made it somewhat convenient (no shade to the ones who flew from Melb). 

8 days, 7 nights. 14 people. 8 countries.


Complete 14! 

735 days, 105 weeks

06 December 2018
It's been 2 years 5 days, 735 days, 105 weeks since I wrote my last post.
Since I made the blog private.
But today, I'm here. I'm writing.

I have to apologize for the sudden disappearance and for the lack of explanation. Its incredibly intimidating as I type down these letters and these words, I feel apprehensive. Like someone who's gone away from home for a while and finally returns, it feels unfamiliar but familiar. I have changed yet not really. The writing flows but not quite. There is hesitation in these words. But I will rise above it.

I was afraid for the longest time to start because how do you? Its been so long. Do I still remember how to pierce my words together? Its been so long since I last wrote something profoundly personal. Its fear that drives. Its fear that stops me from starting, I am sure. But life-changing moments has manifested itself in the last couple of weeks that bestowed me the strength of this moment, as I type and write to you. I will get there, I will tell you everything. It will come.

But there is no fear today. Just excitement and understanding. I hope you can extend a little understanding to me too.

I was 22 when I was last here. 2 weeks ago, I just turned 24.
2 years has lapsed, not long yet too far in between. 
I've grown, yet I remain the same.
So much has happened, so many keystone moments lived. 
Let's begin.

If you've been with me since way back, you'll know Faiz and I had a cat in Melbourne. Her name was Waffles, Wafuru, Fattyfles. She left us quite suddenly. She was mainly the reason why I disappeared. She fell sick on my birthday in 2016. We noticed she was walking with her neck down the night of the 18th November. We thought she just sprained her neck, the next day she seemed to have gotten worst and I think Faiz and I just felt it in our guts we should rush her to the vet. Got to the vet, doctors can't seem to find anything wrong with her. They want to keep her overnight and hydrate her. Did a blood test and told us they'll call us the next day for her results. Our guards are down at this point, maybe she really did sprain her neck. Got a call really early in the morning the day after, doctor said hello in the most melancholy voice. I feel my heart drop. The news came after, "Blood results came back. There's not much we can do for her, hun. Her potassium level is really low. That tells us her kidney's failing." Hysterical at this point. 2 weeks later she passed away. Grief kicks in. 

I really, really loved Waffles with every inch of my heart. I know Faiz did too. It wasn't just me who lost their first cat love. He lost her too. Even after 2 years, it still doesn't get easier when I talk about her. Even after 2 years and my love for her is still as fresh as the day we adopted her. Faiz and I were with her every day for 2 years, fed her, changed her litter, slept with her every night. 

Our last picture with Waffles

When she first got admitted, her vet was trying to get her potassium level up

Towards the end of her days she started losing her appetite almost completely, so we just gave her a little buffet so she could have her pick.

They had to shave a small part of her fur so they could rehydrate her via the IV

Cat kisses from the best cat

Overwhelmed with grief, I left. I stopped blogging. I didn't know where to start, how do you write about something so heart-wrenching so soon after? I didn't know how to approach the grief or work around it. So I left. I didn't want to close that chapter of my life. In hindsight, I think I was running away from the grief. If I didn't write about it here, then it didn't really happen. But Faiz and I are strong individually but together we're unbreakable. We look back on our memories with Waffles with great fondness. 2 years was too short, but 2 years was better than nothing. 

So consider this chapter of our loved Waffles closed. Closure. 
I promise it gets happier from this point onwards! Heheh.

After 5 years in Melbourne, I graduated from the University of Melbourne with first class honours for my Bachelors!  No more sleepless night writing essays and group projects. Faiz graduated on the same month for his Masters too. I thought this was a pretty great way to end my Melbourne chapter. I miss my Fulton family every day. Menya's gyu-tan don. Hanaichi's kays chicken. 
Melbourne was a real identity-molding chapter of my life.

A week before my grad, my mum contracted severe pneumonia on both lungs and was admitted in the hospital, so she couldn't come :-(

After 3.5 years together, Faiz and I decided to get married! Soon after we graduated (like same month soon lol), Faiz began to move through the motions.. Hahaha. I'll save our full Suming wedding story for another post. Long story short - merisik was on July 2017, engagement was on December 2017 and our wedding was this year September 2018. Our 5 year anniversary (dating anniversary not marriage HAHA) is next week!!!! 11.12.13 whut whut!!!!

December 2017 - Engagement

September 2018 - Akad Nikah

September 2018 - Reception

[looooong write-up ahead]

If losing Waffles was the reason why I stopped blogging, 
then having found my passion is the reason why I'm back. 

Faiz and I started working in my family business in January 2018. We're in oil and gas. Its always been drilled in me since childhood that no matter what I would always come back and help out with my dad's company. I think acceptance of that fact discouraged me from finding what drove me as a person, from discovering where my passion truly lies. I used to think, what's the point of finding it if at the end of the day I'll be joining the family business anyway? I tried to save myself from future disappointment, so I compartmentalized that side of me, buried it way, way deep. 

If there's something you must know, I am fearless in other parts of my life but I am extremely timid when it comes to my parents. I hate the idea of disappointing them. Nothing ruins me more than the idea of me betraying their decades of hard work of building something significant and worthwhile for my siblings and I. So I settled with being comfortable. With being safe. Fear deterred me from stepping out of my comfort zone. Fear stopped me from fighting for what I really wanted. 

Faiz and I made a comfortable living working with my family. I was fed. I had a roof over my head. But the whole time I was there, my heart wasn't. I was physically there, but my soul wasn't. 

I felt like I was in limbo. I am here but not really. I couldn't explain the lack of fulfillment. The sense of lostness. The feeling was subtle yet debilitating. Guilt was inherently deep within me. 

This went on for 8 months, feelings of lostness and being in limbo. Of not knowing where my passion truly lies. 

Fast forward August 2018. I was working out everyday @ F45 in Publika and training with my friends. Then one night on the 24th August, I had an epiphany. I finally found it. 

My passion is fitness.

I loved lifting. I loved the sweat bubbling on my skin. I loved the laboured breathings and the faintness of mind that came after. I love defeating the self-sabotage narrative in my head and proving that negative voice wrong when I successfully complete the workout. When I was training with my friends and I taught them a new movement, I got an indescribable high from seeing them doing their form correctly to seeing the addition weights being added to their barbell week after week. I loved it. I loved seeing them achieve their goals and I loved even more motivating them and pushing them to just get it done. 

So that was step 1 done. I found my passion. Now what do I do with it? 

3 months flew by. It was November. I just turned 24. On the night of my birthday, I resolved to be the fittest I can be by the time I turn 25 next year. By the time I turn 25, I want to look at myself and be completely happy with what I see in the mirror. Then a chain of events triggered over the span of a week after I made that resolution to myself. Life altering events. 

1) During breakfast ~10 days ago, I blurted out over breakfast to my dad that I want to open a gym in KK. I told him briefly my passion is fitness. He kept quiet. I took that as a sign of mild approval. He told me to find out more about it. At this point, I can feel the excitement creeping in. It's subtle but its there. 

2) After spending Monday-Thursday researching on what sort of gym I wanted to open, something didn't feel quite right. Thursday night Faiz and I went on a date night. During dinner, I spoke about the next possible steps I should take. In my mind I see four possible routes. Four possible crossroads.

a) Do I want to open a franchised gym? Where its a plug and play concept? No creative freedom in designing the workouts but the concept sustain and runs itself? 
b) Do I open my own gym? If yes, what concept? What sort of fitness value am I bringing to the table? 
c) Do I get a personal training certification? 
d) Do I go back to uni and do a course on fitness? 

It was all quite muddy still. I told Faiz I'll do more research and get back to him. 

3) Its the next day. 
Friday, 30th of November. Last day of the month. Last week. 5 days ago from today. 

Now as I type this, I realise when you set your mind on something, the universe conspires to deliver you what you need and what you want. When you are serious, it will deliver. Then it's up to you to follow through. To execute. 

Last Friday, I had PT with my coach Riz. He's the same trainer who got me fit for my wedding. He reminds me a lot of my ex-trainer Andrea from Ultimate You in Melbourne. Relentless. Tough. So I briefly told him about my dilemma [a-d above]. Then he said something so profoundly simple, yet  so incredibly truthful. I will never forget his words.

"Before you open a gym, you need to know how a gym works. So maybe you should do an internship or work at one. But if you want to get certified, I can link you with our owner and he can tell you about the academy here in our gym, we certify trainers." 

I feel it. I feel the fire. Its gradually creeping on me. I feel the passion pick up traction. 

4) The fear I felt engulfing me the past 11 months evaporated. After speaking to the owner, I moved quickly. My passion triggered the series of events that happened after that talk. My passion gave me courage. 

On the same day, found out where my parents were. I told them what I wanted to do. I wanted to get certified and work as a coach/trainer for the next few years. Gain some experience. I wanted to start from the bottom. If I was going to pursue this passion, I'm going to do it justice by doing it right. I expected a little resistance, I wasn't disappointed but ultimately they gave me their support. I've never felt so elated in my whole life. 

Apart from deciding to marry Faiz, I've never been so sure of something. This truly feels like my calling. Fear clouded my judgment in the past. Now when I scroll under my 'personal growth' archive on this blog, I've realised I always knew my passion was fitness. Passion fueled me the discipline to wake up at 4:30am so I could make it for 5:30 am training every day when I was in Melbourne. It was only through fitness, I saw the most inward growth of myself. 

This career option feels so incredibly right. It sits well with my soul. I sincerely feel I've always had so much energy, so much enthusiasm. I just got to complete this circle of knowledge, learn about the anatomies of fitness, gain some experience while staying 100% dedicated and relentless regardless of the challenges and bumps ahead.

There will be challenges. In no way will this new chapter I'm about to embark be easy or smooth sailing. There will be resistance, challenges, nay-sayers, debbie-downers. I'm writing now to myself to remind myself when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Remember why I'm doing this. Remember the ignition of fire I felt that Friday when it finally clicked. Remember the feeling when the direction and the path finally crystalised. When it finally became clear. Remember.

Note to self:
This part of your life will feel unfamiliar. It will challenge you, make you doubtful. But if you stay relentless and remember why you're doing this, you will grow. Nothing great ever comes out of the comfort zone. Unfamiliarity is good. Challenges are good. It signifies growth is underway. 
Valuable life lessons are en route to you. Stay relentless and the fear will falter.
Strength is a state of mind. 

I am thankful for all the moments in the past. I am thankful because all of the good, the bad, the confusion, the limbo, it got me here. I had to feel lost in order to recognize when I've finally found my way. I had to be in limbo so I could feel when I was finally outside of it. 

On Friday, 24th November 2018, this is what I wrote: 

Today is the first day of my life. 
Today, I stepped out of this period of darkness, a suffocating wave, a never-ending ebb and flow of limbo.
Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. 
Like poison on the tongue. 
Today I am over the fence.
I am here. 
I am present and I am fighting for me, for my future.

Today, I spat in the face of fear and fought for my passion…

Admitting to my parents and getting the support and validation I yearned for was the pivotal moment of my rebirth. Mustering the courage and strength to leave the family business that I’ve been primed and prepped for since birth was liberating and empowering. I am leaving that part of me for something even greater. I want to change people’s lives. I want to make people faster, leaner, stronger.. And kinder. The stringent corporate life was never for me. I want to empower people through their actions. There is an innate belief buried so deep within me that everyone has the potential be the best version of themselves. Everyone has it in them to take control of what really matters. 

That keystone habit for me is fitness. 
I hope I can help you excel, push your limits and help you achieve your fitness goals. Through that, I hope that sense of accomplishment will trickle down to other parts of your life. I hope through helping you achieve your fitness goals, you’ll develop a deeper sense of self-love, more productive days at work and more loving in relationships. I have a deep pit of selfless love to give and a fire to execute my passion; to be the best version of myself so I can help you achieve your ultimate self.

I felt a fire ignited in me so intense today, I felt unstoppable, relentless. my passion fuelled me the courage to fight for what I really wanted. There's no more excuses now. there’s no more factors holding me back except for myself. So now I’m taking initiative to create the best life possible for me and for the people around me.

I am so excited to share this journey with you. 
I’m excited for the rest of my days. For the rest of my life. 

Next step, get certified!

Ps/ I'm back on instagram! Its @fullofsaratonin :) SEE YOU THERE!!!!

Lots of love,

sara's flower power 22 - part 2

29 November 2016
Here's part 2. Weather was overcast which was perfect for photo-ops. Hehe.


sara's flower power 22 - part 1

On the 27th November, I organised an intimate belated birthday lunch for 30 of my friends at the Stables of Como. The theme was flower power coz you guys KNOW how much I love flowers / greenery. I had such a fun time catching up with friends I haven't seen in a while and eating yummy food together. It was a really fun lunch, I got the flower stylist to make the girls and I flower crowns for our heads and flower pins for the boys' suits. 

 Theres over 200+ photos so I'm dividing it into two parts. 


Long table with flowers cascading down the middle. 

twenty two on 18.11

28 November 2016
Its been exactly 10 days since I turned 22.
The days leading up to my birthday were absolute bliss; everything went smoothly and the weather was perfect, it felt as if the stars engraved emotions of happiness around my special day. I was surrounded by people I love and doing the things that brought me lots of joy. 

I remembered on my 21st birthday, I just wished for more happiness & my god did the universe deliver.

Dinner at ESP (Estelle by Scott Pickett)

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