Are We Ever Ready?

There are some battles where we come prepared but there are some that we don’t even know how to prepare for. This is one of the latter, the Level 3 Written Exams of the Foreign Service Officer Exam. For our batch, it was held from May 7 to May 9, 2019, at the Bulwagang Apolinario A. Mabini, DFA Bldg., Pasay City. Yes, Level 3 was a grueling three-day exam. 

I remember that I left Bataan around 2:00 am so that I won’t be late for the 7:00 am call time. What a struggle that first day was! I felt the air running out in my brain because of sleep deprivation. So, I suggest, if you are coming outside of Manila then better get a place the day before. I actually booked a place near the venue, a good 8 minute walk away only. It was a dormitory-style room so I get to share it with strangers. I didn’t notice the fine print that it was a mixed dorm though. The bed was clean, the bathroom could be cleaner, the dining area was spacious, and there’s WiFi. It’s only fair at the price that I got it. Downside? I don’t get to control the AC in the room and during the second night, there was a man who kept on asking me to go out even if I turned him down already. Good thing, new travelers came and that made him stop.

Back to the exams. Was I ready to take these exams? I don’t think so. Will one ever be ready? I’d like to think that the answer is yes. There will be people who will be so ready for this level. Then there will always be people like me who will just wing it. Is that good or bad? I don’t know.  What is the scope of these exams? Day one is English and International Relations. Day two is Filipino and Philippine Condition. For both days, the exams will be from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The third day, which will only be from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, will be about World History and Foreign Language.

How do you prepare for them? Is there an outline of things that one can study? Any reviewers online? What books are best to read? Honestly, the best way to get ready is to read. Read a lot. Read profusely. It felt like the questions were anything under the sun, really. But, like what my friend said, you can look at those questions from another point of view. That the tests were designed in a way that people from various backgrounds will be able to answer the required amount of items from each test. Just look at our batch! We have engineers, programmers, those with media background, some from the sciences, military men, online sellers, teachers, lawyers, etc.

Want a tip for the exams? Ask around. I’m lucky that I have friends who already took the exams. They were nice enough to share their experiences with me. A friend told me that it was like our comprehensive exams for our Masters and that I can benefit from reading about an International Relations theory or two. Another one told me that I should be articulate and build good arguments. There would be parts of the exams that are objective like a True or False and Multiple Choice part and then there would be the hand-numbing essays. My right hand will never be the same after those exams! Another friend told me about some questions she remembered. This helped a lot because some of those questions actually resurfaced.

It also helps to talk with your co-examinees. Exchange ideas and arguments with them. What topics do you think will pop up in the exams? We thought of the West Philippine Sea, Federalism, EDSA Revolution, World War I and II, Terrorism, and many more. We talk about them and some points about those topics. For me, this was so helpful because I retained those pieces of information more and I got to use them on the exams. As for the Foreign Language part, we also anticipated a short descriptive essay so I got ready for that by practicing an About Me and About My Home essays. *winks*

Maximize the use of technology. I stored PDFs on my phone so I could read them at night. I downloaded Duolingo so I can practice my Spanish. I watched different episodes of Crash Course about World History on YouTube. I used Pocket to save and read, even offline, articles that I think would help me. I read the news online and articles from eastasiaforum.org and thediplomat.com. Good thing, their articles are for free!

Lastly, ready your body too. Find ways on how to feel good. For me, I indulged myself with good food during dinner. I ordered my college favorites via GrabFood. LOL. I didn’t stay up late too. I go to bed early instead of cramming until late hours. Have a positive mindset. We saw that some examinees didn’t come back for Day 2 and Day 3 of the exams. It is easy to get discouraged but just bite the bullet and continue. Fight for your dreams.

Was I ready for Level 3? Not fully. Up until now, I felt that I just got lucky with it. There was just this calm during that three-day exam that surrounded me. That even if I wasn’t confident with my knowledge, somehow, deep inside I know that I can finish this level. Waiting for the results was agonizing. There are more days where I felt I flunked the tests. The sigh of relief when I finally got the news that I passed was unforgettable. Deep down, I knew I could do it.

Orange and Aquamarine Bordered Games Collection YouTube Outro
Congrats, Self! 

Can we stumble upon our dreams without being ready for it? Yes. However, we will eventually lose it. Without preparations, we are destined to do horrible at it. Remembering the process, I see now that I did prepare for it. That my preparations were enough. Luck may have gotten me far but my preparations were the ones who really pushed me to the top. Dear reader, dreamers should be good preppers too. 

Fortune Favors the Bold

Have you failed at something? What if you failed at achieving your dreams? What if you’re not good at something you love? What if some things are really not meant for you?

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Am I presentable enough?

I thought my dreams of becoming a Foreign Service Officer finished last 2018 when I failed the Level 2 Preliminary Interview. I was devastated, to say the least. It took me a while to move on from that experience too. March 15, 2019, I received an email telling me that I was still eligible to retake Level 2. I thought hard about it. Is this really for me or should I abandon this pipe dream? If I fail again, am I ready for another heartbreak? Can I really do this or am I just fooling myself?

But, hey, what’s there to lose? I lost my dream before and it didn’t kill me. What’s there to lose, right? So, I decided to give myself another chance. Like what one of my favorite quotes says: “Fortune favors the bold.”

I passed the requirements they were asking a day before the deadline but, I guess, they received them just on time. I received another email telling me about the details for the Level 2 Preliminary Interview. Like last year, it will still be held at Makati Diamond Residences and my scheduled time will be from 11:25 am to 11:45 am. They also noted that interviewees should be at the venue an hour before their scheduled time. May 4th came fast and it was the day for my Level 2! I don’t think I got enough sleep because of all the nerves I’m feeling. I woke up around 4am since Bataan is a three-hour bus ride from Manila and traffic is really unpredictable. Better to err on the side of caution. LOL!

An MRT and 15 minutes walk later, I arrived at the venue. My heart was pounding so loudly and I was feeling so anxious. The memories of 2018 were still fresh on my mind. But I need to let them go and really focus on today. While waiting I talked to some of my co-interviewees and I also checked out what’s on the news. I read that North Korea launched missiles that day. Okay, noted on that.

Our schedules were pushed back and I was called to the waiting “chairs” around 12 noon already. The guy before me was called and when he finished a staff from the room went to me and told me that the panel will have their lunch first and that I can go and have mine too. I was too nervous to eat so I just went back to the waiting room and, well, waited. I was called back at 1:00 pm.

Inside the interview room, the first thing I noticed was one of the interviewers was replaced by a man. I saw three women left the room earlier but during my interview, there were two women and a man. The man was Mr. Minglana and I think this was one of the ways Fortune smiled upon me that day. They started asking me “technical” questions and my heart began to sink because this is precisely what happened to me last 2018. Fortunately, they asked something about North Korea and remember the news I read earlier that day? YES! Is this divine intervention or what? Phew. I was being grilled with technical questions about international relations for quite some minutes when Mr. Minglana asked if he could change the topic. He started to ask me managerial questions. How do I handle people and situations? My confidence, I think, notched up a bit. Then they were all asking “lighter” questions like who is my favorite literary character and why. They also asked simple things in Spanish and made me answer in Spanish as well. There was also a question that I was asked to answer in Filipino, “Paano mo matutulungan and mga nasa laylayan?”. I honestly enjoyed the interview and didn’t notice that my time was up. Bitin!

I was still jittery after the interview and when I met up with my friends. I was so hungry by the time I met with them at Greenbelt. LOL! Hungry but so, so, so happy. I feel good. I still have doubts but I feel better compared last 2018. I’ve decided to have Chinese for our late lunch, it’s my favorite. I deserve good food after that for sure.

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With AV and Chris! Thank you for seeing me that day!
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Xiao long bao!!! We also had hakao and porkchop rice!
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Also bumped into Pei! Yeay! Ang benta pa rin nito.

I busied my self the whole afternoon with my friend while awaiting the results. And at 7:17 pm on May 4, 2019, I received an email and the rest was history.

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I did it! Yaaaaas, queen!!!

I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was brave enough to gamble again. I know I lacked the skills to make it through but I had the guts to push through it. And, sometimes, that is enough. Dear readers, I have proven that fortune favors the bold indeed.

Not NaNoWriMo

November was so fast and busy I forgot to hate myself for another year that I did not get to join NaNoWriMo. I’ve known NaNoWriMo since 2008, so I’ve been procrastinating 11 years and counting. What’s NaNoWriMo? Just Google it.

Just to give a little respite for the drought that this blog is experiencing, I’m going to post some of my works. These works are part of the book that I’ll never get to write. I’m not that good and I don’t think I have the right discipline to finish one. LOL. I’ve made these works with apps like Mirakee and Notegraphy. Sadly, Notegraphy is already down. The oldest of these works were written in 2013, I think.

Here they go:

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My favorite.
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I could still remember what prompted me to write this.
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2015 me.
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Yearning.
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Do you think about me too?
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I wrote something in Tagalog too.
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This was inspired by my friend, PH haha
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What feelings?
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This contain some of my favorite words. 
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Wrote this for a writing challenge in Mirakee

So there. These are some of the works that I wanted to share at this moment. Feel free to leave comments!

Ephemeral

Do we just randomly meet people or does fate play a hand on all these?

Most of our moments were ephemeral. It was wrong of me to think that they could last forever. What does even ‘forever’ means?

Not because your smile is embedded in my mind, I will see more of it. I still can recall the warmth of your hand as it held mine. In quiet moments, I would hear your voice. And, sometimes, at the depths of moonless nights, I can feel your embrace.

Our time was too quick. Like a fire of a match.

Remember that time when…no, not that. Or that other moment when…hmmm, not that also. Do you remember our moments? Or am I the only one who’s holding on to them? Am I the only one who gave meaning to those things? Will there be a smile on your lips when you reminisce our time together or a question in your eyes? Would my name make you feel something or none at all? Do you still think of me?

Ours was ephemeral. I am going to forget.

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Some moments are just too fast.

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Yaaaaas. I’ve been wanting to write something about this picture! Hope you liked this short fictiony-musing. Please do leave comments! ❤

The Moon and The Sun

He was searching for the moon. The only light in his dark nights. He yearns for the moon in times that it doesn’t show up in the sky. He misses the moon. He waits for the day to end so that he can look up at the moon. Beautiful and oh so mysterious. In his loneliest times, all he wants is to talk to the moon. Sharing his secrets, showing his tears. I envy the moon. For, whatever I can change, I can’t be like the moon.

I am like the sun. Too bright, most of the time. Too sunny that others search for shade. I am like the sun who fights the clouds so I can be seen. I shine hotly after any storm. I fight the storms on my own and end up victorious. I am too much, sometimes. I am the sun that cradles the earth all day long. I am the sun that shares the skies even with the moon. Eclipsed by the moon. Disregarded by some, under-appreciated by most. I am the sun but he was searching for the moon.

I can never be the moon. I can never be his moon. All I can be is the sun. All I can be is his sun. Watching him achieve things at day. Cheering when his dreams at night become real at days. Chasing away the clouds that threaten his perfect days. Dying slowly and not all at once because he still needs me. Shining always. Shining. Fucking shining. So, the moon can light his way at night.

“Do not swear by the moon, for she changes constantly. then your love would also change.”
Only the brightest stars can be seen when the moon is up.

R.I.F.T.

RIFT stands for Random Insightful Friday Thoughts. But, really, I don’t think this is insightful at all. Lol! This is just random ramblings on a Friday night. So many things happened this week. Also, Mercury is in retrograde!

Anyway, what I wanted to say tonight was that I never thought I will be in this position. That the things happening now will ever happen after all the things I’ve been through. I feel, up until now, that I don’t even deserve half of the good things that are happening. And that is why I am so humbled and thankful for all of these things. It is just weird that slowly, but surely, I am nearing my dreams. Dreams that seemed too distant and impossible years back. Who would have thought, right? Not me. I am the first to doubt my abilities and my luck. BUT HERE I AM! 

I was able to get here by fighting little battles every day and, occasionally, monsters. It was not a smooth drive. Life never offered any free rides. Lol. To say that this is a wild roller coaster ride is an understatement. How to survive? You have to fight to survive each day. Some days are sunny but some days have the worst storms you have to weather out. There are days where you grieve, where you feel so sad and all you can do is to just cry it out. You survive by bearing the pain and waiting for it to subside. Take a rest when everything is too much to bear. Ask help, you could always use one. You don’t need to go through things alone. Remember to breathe. Remember that the best things cannot be rushed. Remember that those good things may take some time. Waiting for them to happen is preparation. Prepare yourself so when your dreams are up for grab you can take care of them and won’t fail at the end. Go to them ready. 

People take different paths in life. You don’t need to compare your journey with others. You have a unique story that the rest of the world will envy. So keep the faith and work accordingly for your dreams. Again, choose to fight every day. Our dreams might seem impossible now but who knows, right? We might get there someday.

Carry on, Dreamer. Go and inherit the world. 

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What are your wishes and dreams that seem impossible now?

 

Mr. Sandman’s Secret

I hate dreaming about him. Those dreams are all too real that, sometimes, I feel they are real memories of the past. I hate that I can freely touch his hands and caress his face while I sleep. There was this dream that we were among friends and it was so natural it hurts. If our choices in the past were different then maybe these dreams could be our reality. If I just didn’t let those doubts messed up with what I felt. And if he just waited or pushed a little more. But they are all just wishful thinking because our “what ifs” can never be real. They are only perfect in our heads but, I bet, they wouldn’t go the way we think they would.

In one of my dreams, we were enjoying this long drive to somewhere. Our favorite band is playing on the radio, I hit up the volume. Street lights were dancing while he drives around that sleepy town. And I kept on interchanging my looks, at the window and at his face. One time we were at a cafe. Funny, we were talking about dreams. He was holding a lit cigarette which is weird because he doesn’t smoke in real life. Another dream placed us in a sort of sanctuary or church-like building. We were readying ourselves for a zombie attack. And I hate that I remember those dreams when I wake up.

I hate waking up after dreaming of him. Those dreams make me feel things I can’t exactly define. They make me want things I don’t want or of things I denied to myself. They make me feel emotions that I don’t have the capacity for handling. They make me write down words better left unwritten. Catching those words and emotions back. Not wanting them to exist after the dream is over. They wouldn’t survive the real world. They will just wreak havoc in this peaceful world I made. I want to forget them so bad but some nights they would creep slowly. Flashes of scenes in a dream and silhouettes of faces I know that is him. Let me forget, Mr. Sandman.

Keep this a secret. Keep my dreams a secret. Dreams that I haven’t told anybody else. Dreams that I can’t ever think of again. Dreams of too much intimacy of intertwined fingers and finding salvation in embraces. Of dreams where I didn’t leave and where you chose to follow. Dreams that break the heart too much after opening my eyes. No one can know them, Mr. Sandman. I can’t have your dust on my sleeves.

DREAMS
Ephemeral.

Tokyo Travel 2018: Miscellaneous

Aside from those pretty sights in Tokyo, what should you be in the lookout for? Here are some random things we did in Tokyo. Maybe a thing or two may interest you!

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The Statue of Liberty in Odaiba? Talk about random!

Be in the lookout for MANHOLES! Manholes? Yup, you read it right. Japan has the prettiest manhole covers I’ve ever seen. Each place has its own unique designs.

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One in front of the Imperial Palace

Japan’s major transportation is not its trains. It’s WALKING! I think that’s why most of them look fit. LOL! Any major travel is not complete without those 18,000 daily average steps, right? How to take a break without missing any fun to be had in Tokyo? KARAOKE! Oh Japan, even your karaoke is on another level! I find it cheaper compared to karaokes in the Philippines. Prices are per individual not per room. Plus, rates include unlimited access to drinks and soups available.

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Song book whaaaat?
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Belt it out, Abi!
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Disney songs are a must!

Shopping or just roaming around Daiso and DonQui really does build up an appetite. After purchasing those quirky and cheap finds there, it’s time to eat. Best place to end your day? Try out a “family restaurant” like Saizeriya. These western restos are called “family restaurant” in Japan. Make sure to try their suggested mixed drinks (non-alcoholic if you want) at the soda bar. Yeay for unlimited drinks! If you still have some space in your tummy, then visit a cafe!

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It was worth the wait! LOL. They had a hard time sitting us eight people!
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Random cafe in Shibuya! ❤

Just do random stuff! Not everything on your itinerary should be strictly followed. If a random opportunity presents itself, then why not give it a try. Take a picture perfect (reality altering) selfie from those “purikura” machines. Going to Tokyo Tower and have some money to spare? Support a friend and buy that One Piece Tower ticket just for fun! Still looking for random activities? Odaiba is the perfect place! One of my personal favorites is that Retro Arcade place. Games I could play and all those nostalgias! Then roam around the malls of Odaiba and look for quirky novelties and mystery boxes. The fun never ends in Tokyo!

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Purikura addicts!!! We’re so kawaii~
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We look so weird!
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One Piece Tokyo Tower is an indoor theme park with lots of fun rooms and games!
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Support your friend’s dream. LOL!
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Retro Arcade at Odaiba
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Pinball + The Simpsons ❤ ❤ ❤
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Oh college memories of playing this game on DS! LOL!
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Weird undies and there are a lot of designs to choose from!
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Old Tokyo Museum at a mall in Odaiba
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Hello, hello, hello Ciara!

How about you, dear readers? What places and random things have you gone to lately? Indeed, there is beauty in randomness. 

An Unsent Letter

They say goodbyes are hard but non-goodbyes are harder. It is like drifting to the unknown. Waiting for someone, anyone, to pull the trigger. To fire the first shot. But no one wants the other one to bleed, so they endure a kind of purgatory. It is awkward. So much awkward. Very awkward. Our choices were reduced to faking that we’re okay with what we have. But are we? Sometimes, I feel sorry. Sorry for what we have become. Sorry for the consequences but less sorry for what I did. Is it wrong? Yes. Was it completely wrong? I don’t know. It was our thing…then. It wouldn’t be anymore. We can’t go back to what we were anymore. That would be so fake that it will pollute the air around us. Wrapping our lungs with regrets, what ifs, and anger. I don’t want anger. Not from you and not for you.

The pieces fell but not in the way I thought they would. The wave came but it drowned us instead of pushing us in the right direction. We didn’t take the leap that faith was wanting us to do. We are cowards. Slaves to our comforts. Complacency, along with a hundred more, is our sin. What worked will still work, right? Yes. Hopefully. Because if a thing change, even just a pea-sized change happened, it will be disastrous. Haven’t it occurred already though? Things changed already. Our habits discontinued because they seem wrong now. That even civility could be misconstrued. Where do we stand now, then?

At the edge of an ending. Do we have to say goodbye? No, not really. For now, I only hope for peace. That we are at peace of who we’ve become after all those things. Not just of that day or of a week but of the years spent. I want us to accept who we are…separately. We can’t leave a place we haven’t reached yet. We are leaving the road. Trying other options of that forked road we passed by. Later, it could be much later, we might even grow some balls and be able to talk about this. About our non-goodbye. For now…what do we do now? Let me state this unsent letter and may the wind bring this to you.

PS

Sorry. ‘Til later, much later.

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Much much later.

 

Travel Advisory: Don’t Go to Tokyo!

This is a warning. Don’t go to Tokyo!!! Aside from the possibility of a Godzilla attack, why shouldn’t you visit Tokyo? Well….simply because Tokyo WILL RUIN EVERYTHING for you! Let this be a warning.

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Can you spot Godzilla in the skyscrapers of Shibuya?
  1. Tokyo will ruin every city for you. It will ruin your standard of cleanliness and efficiency. Have you seen the streets of Tokyo? During our stay, there were rainy nights but no trash could be seen floating around. Even a single piece of a candy wrapper. What sorcery is this? Discipline, simple discipline. Then the trains! Their train system just boggles the mind. From the airport to the city and all our days in Tokyo, their trains just saves the day! It was so efficient. Partner it with your Google Maps, viola, it would be hard to get lost in Tokyo.
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Random street near our hostel
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Sugamo at night
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A lovely night for a stroll
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The clean streets of Akihabara
  1. Tokyo will ruin sushi and ramen for you. Or any food you’ll eat in Tokyo, actually! That sushi place at Shinjuku was to die for, plus it was cheap. Sushi in Japan is just so different from sushi in other places. The fish is so fresh and it just melts in your mouth. Next, ramen. I’m not a big fan of ramen here in the Philippines but ramen in Japan is entirely another thing. The taste is nothing I’ve tasted before. Don’t let me get started with Matsuya! Our favorite fast food chain. There’s one right beside our hostel so we have our breakfast there almost every day. Mos burger was also different. Even a simple macha ice cream from Asakusa was superb! Haha. How can that be? It’s the magic of Tokyo.
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That so-affordable sushi place in Shibuya is HEAVEN!
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RAMEN!!! You’ll hate ramen in the Philippines after tasting it there. LOL!
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From the Takoyaki ‘museum’ at Odaiba
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You can never go wrong with a MOS burger
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MATSUYA FOREVER! I fell in love with this chain so much!!!
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Beat the heat with this Matcha Ice Cream at Asakusa Sensonji
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Yougart! But, really, anything from 7/11 is a gem!
  1. Tokyo will ruin Disneyland for you. DisneySea is so much fun and very different. In my opinion, it is really for adults with nostalgic hearts. Rides were more extreme than you usual Space Mountain. You should definitely experience this place. Still the happiest place on Earth! Pro-tip, maximize your fast tracks. Locate them and time your rides. Also, don’t forget to get a taste of their tiramisu ice cream bar. Yum!
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Wanna be part of that world?
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Looking for a genie to grant my wishes!
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Don’t miss this out when you go there!
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Our Tokyo Mom and Dad, Abi and Thomas.
  1. Tokyo will ruin your hostel experience. Our hostel was the best. Well, I may be biased since I haven’t tried other hostels but oh well…haha! We have our common area which was so eclectic that everything seems to fit one another. There are tables, chairs, fridge, microwave, and even a washing machine. Our room was spacious enough that all of us are able to fit our luggage. Our beds were set up like a capsule hotel. I thought I’ll be claustrophobic but our own spaces were spacious too. Amazing! Also, the bathroom is shared but it is always clean! Everything is just so clean and there is always free beer in the fridge. LOL!
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One of the corners of the common room.
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Sooooo in love with this hostel!!!
  1. Tokyo will ruin your definition of space. Space. Space. I NEED SPACE. Luckily, they have space. Imagine a bustling metropolis with a lot of space? Is this possible? YES! Almost all area in Tokyo has its garden of sorts. They are not just plain gardens but really enormous ones where you can spend an hour or two just walking around. I wish we have space like this in the Philippines.
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Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
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My fave spot of the garden! MUST. COME. BACK. HERE.
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Sunny day at Tokyo Imperial Palace
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Taking a break from all that walking! Haha! 
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Wishes at Meiji Shrine!
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Hello there, Tokyo Tower! 🙂
  1. Tokyo will ruin your level of FAITH. It wasn’t a smooth ride going to Tokyo, well figuratively. With one of the weakest passports, we need so many documents just to apply for a Japanese visa. And this without any guarantee. Fortunately, we got approved only three days after we passed our docs. Thanks, Reli Tours. We were also lucky with our airline tickets because we got it cheap. Aaah, the perks of being an abanger of promo fares. LOL! Days before our trip, there was a nasty storm that hit Japan, especially the Kansai area. Then, when we were there, an earthquake and landslide happened in the upper part of Japan. Favored a lot, we were all dry and safe during our whole Tokyo trip. We had the most wonderful time in Tokyo and all thanks to Papa G. Thank YOU, indeed. Like I always say, travel is my form of church and every travel I make strengthens my faith.
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When a perfect moment comes unexpectedly
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Sunny weather despite a rainy forecast!
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Thank you Papa G for giving me a friend like Abi (libreng tour guide, char)!

So, really. DON’T GO TO TOKYO! What? You still want to? Really? Fine! But don’t say I didn’t warn you!