A project born out of some boredom.
A project born out of some boredom.
This annual reflection of-sorts has always been something I’ve looked forward to — I find that I’m the kind of person who forgets the in-betweens, the details, the intricate stitching of what gives the year its own brand of softness, of lightness, of love.
I’ve always said that 2016 wasn’t an easy year for me, but if I were to look at it in a different light… 2016 was indeed a glass half-filled, a glass full of potential and things on a clean slate and a palimpsest in which I could rewrite/overwrite my narrative of being twenty. Ultimately, it was a really good year of growing up, learning from myself and from the people around me who came, stayed & left — and from books, and a wonderful time of big scary changes and the little things that made it what it was.
I’ve loved, lost, felt the immense effect of the slow disintegration of what felt like love and the subsequent convalescence (this word was indeed a recurring theme of my 2016); changed my goals and changed my schools and refocused on what I wanted to do in the future with still a singular shrug of “err I’m not too sure oops anything?”, been to conferences and met interesting people and formed new connections, changed to a university hall and got cast in a musical production that involved a collective 200+ people, sang and danced and acted on a stage, and studied a range of strange courses that had me look at life with a sort of naive brightness and felt myself change and change and drift with an amalgamation of the nostalgic past and present, and to this end, I am brimming with a soft contentment and happiness.
To me: stop chasing that all too elusive idea of happiness — as though happiness is an end goal to be met on the daily. Stop letting yourself be taken with what on the surface to be golden, bright and wonderful, and in the process neglect what makes you want to glow from the inside, and what makes you smile with a softness and authenticity and quietness. Stop trying to make yourself feel small and stop holding back from what you want. Stop trying to do everything even though you’re a huge proponent for leaning in, looking forward, and taking where the tide takes you — even if you feel immense pressure in trying to be perfect, trying to look the best, study the best, write the best, and be the best in absolutely everything… you just can’t have it all, and it’s okay, it is perfectly fine, and it is supposed to be.
Again, I have to stop living as though the highest point in my life can be found somewhere on the ephemeral horizon, and I have to stop living as though days are meant to be trudged through, and I have to learn to lean back and be still and be quiet and know that my control on the universe’s motion is negligible and yet important all at once. I can in fact live my life with a quiet consciousness where I can experience and share fully without excessive concern of what others may think, where I find fullness in reading strange & wonderful things, writing about myself & other people & running running running, building something I can call my own, and just let myself live without expectation, and let myself enjoy this whole growing up experience without making myself feel like I have to do something and be someone and prove myself worthy… because at the end of the sunset I am already someone, and as long as I put in quantifiable effort in the things that are precious and important to me… it is enough.
I am enough, and there is no more.
May 2017 be big and wonderful and unabashed for everyone. And may I study harder for both semesters and learn to love the pains & pleasure of project work, tutorials, and hall life. It’s been a great break, but it’s time to get back into the grind!
I can go on and on about how overwhelming I’ve felt the entirety of 2016 to be, of how mentally exhausting it was to have to constantly weigh decisions that could potentially alter the course of one’s life trajectory, only to find out that we are where we are meant to go, and yet there isn’t really a fixed route to one’s end, but that there’s always a means to an end. I could go on and on and on and never quite come to a steady conclusion about where I want to be. Because I do not know, and I can no longer claim the right to.
But who am I to dictate that I know what’s the best for me in this life when I don’t even claim to know myself & the recesses of my soul? I think that the biggest lesson of 2016 would be one of humility and grace. To accept the things that falls out of the strict trajectory that I’ve so obsessively planned. To find out that where I was was not where I was growing, and would not be where I would learn & love & understand myself. To have the heart to let go of the place and the person I loved, even though it hurt every fibre of my soul and every heavy bone in my being. And to this day I do look back with overly bright eyes of nostalgia and a heart that feels full and content, knowing that I would not change anything about the course of 2016, even though I genuinely do feel that it is one of the most difficult years I’ve had to face.
Of course, I write that being acutely aware of my privilege. I’ve had the opportunity to change from one good university to another & have the privilege of choosing between two courses I’ve wanted – SMU Law or NUS Biz? – just by virtue of academic achievement and other arbitrary things that I really think that I do not deserve. I eventually decided on the latter just because I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to become a lawyer + I knew that my interest in law hinged dangerously on episodes of Suits (lol) and random cases I’ve binged read over the years + I possessed vvv inadequate knowledge of what it would entail after I graduate + I was worried that interest alone wouldn’t sustain me through 4 years of rigorous mugging because I still did prioritise other aspects of the college experience.
case in point. I eventually decided to stay in RH and inadvertently ended up as cast for their annual musical production hahaha, and this played an incredibly huge part of my first semester as a once-again freshie. Being cast and enduring (rather enjoyably, I would say) days of back to back rehearsals, too many suppers and not enough sleep was just in line with a set of new resolutions I made myself before entering uni AGAIN – to participate, to take all the opportunities that pass me by, and to be open to things I’ve never ever done before.
This musical production ticked all of the boxes haha. Acting on stage? Singing live? DOING IT ALL AT ONCE? Nope. I did not possess a single ounce of musicality in my little body but life’s funny sometimes. The actual performance was (according to me anxiously skipping around post-perf and asking everyone I came across HAHAHA) really good, and I cannot be more proud of everyone’s collective effort and dedication to this little musical number. Hahahaha I really truly cannot believe I actually did this thing. Life is a truly strange thing.
I was going to write a little bit more, but blogging publicly feels incredibly foreign to me now. I’m just going to end off with a tiny (and happy) realisation that…
i’m content. Winter 2016, and I’m happy and blessed and content and my heart is so, so full. As always, I’m always grateful for the big things and the little things despite being such an imperfect and confusing person, and I’m so grateful for the good, the bad, an all these little in-betweens
and I say this despite me binge reading Wild in about 6 hours straight, experiencing the true nerdy the-book-is-over withdrawal symptoms, and feeling a certain chagrin of being so restlessly situated in this city I call home. I do feel a slight twinge of ennui with the knowledge that if I don’t actively do something (or just create my own luck, so to say), I might never experience things I’ve always yearned for – studying/working overseas, going on long weekend road trips to see sights of His wondrous creations, and for the chance to miss home and its quintessential teh bengs. But as per what I’ve written above, I know that at this moment in time I am where I am meant to be, and I am experiencing the things that I am meant to experience,
so, let’s just leave this up there while I work hard and hope for the very very best.
I remember I was reading This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald when I chanced upon the word convalescence. The chapter was titled “Experiments in Convalescence” and it talked about the protagonist Amory Blaine’s recovery from a broken heart. I actually found it quite self-indulgent to be honest — and I didn’t enjoy the book all that much… but I had to push through it, albeit VERY reluctantly, because I had selected it for my H3 research paper, which dealt with the overarching notion of an individual’s self-consciousness in his or her coming-of-age.
Anyway, I didn’t really enjoy This Side of Paradise even though I recognised that the existential questions Amory Blaine (and Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar, and Stephen Daedalus from A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man) faced remained wholly universal and timeless. It is precisely the idea of self-consciousness that drove their motivations and their actions I was attempting to examine. Even though it may not exactly be the most rational — after all, it was the authors’ biographies veneered with elements of fictionality– it made me realise how inexorably apt it was for myself as an individual, as well.
We often ask ourselves… how do we recover? How do we convalesce? It comes by differently for different people, and I do this by pushing myself to try the things I’ve never done before in attempt to rid myself of stagnancy, and at the same time hold on to the things and people that are wonderfully and comfortingly familiar.
I’ve realised that the critical individual tends not to recognise their worth. When someone has been passed over once, twice, thrice,– and even though they’ve been hurt & hurt again they seem to be the common denominator and therefore self-blame hereafter comes into play.
I am definitely no stranger to questioning my own value, my purpose and my worth in this place. I’ve placed my worth in what I thought were my ultimate panaceas — myself, my closest friends & family, my faith. And even though some of these facets stay staunchly convicted to me, I find that I stray here & there all too often. At this juncture I tend to question myself — am I afraid of this constancy? After all, I pride myself on being able to adapt to changes because I believe no one should stay stagnant. I believe that things can always be better, be better, be better. But should they?
However, I’ve come to realise that this motivation of always trying to be better can also be my hubris. Even though I firmly believe in the infinite potential of the self, contentment must similarly be reached. I’ve noticed that I derive the greatest satisfaction in achieving the end goal — so much so that I always forget to enjoy the journey & the corresponding processes it took for me to get there.
Similarly, convalescence is a journey. Yes, it is a slow, trudging one — but still a fundamental journey for myself (and everyone else) nevertheless. And I will take it from here, be forgiving, and focus on the present instead of being primed of what lies ahead.
And I will always try to do life with a smile. :-)
— Proverbs 4:23
I’m grateful to God for all things, and grateful that I have had the privilege to experience all the strange and beautiful twists and turns and straight roads and bumps and ups and downs!! And in the same vein I’m so thankful I reread Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith because once again it showed me how faith at its very essence is simple and loving and kind, and I find that it is precisely these three values I must focus on — and not the politics religion tends to be associated with.
I usually take ages to write a post here because I always feel like I have to prove something to myself with every single entry penned. The resultant effect is usually… no post because I tend to not want to overload this space (and to me, this is a perfectly preserved and curated space with only well… intellectual thoughts) with my mindless drivel and frivolous observations. But I think I may want to change it now — a personal blog is but a space for one to pen down her honesty, and I haven’t been doing that since a good five months ago.
Wow. Five months. A lot of things have changed since then. The greatest change is that I’ve transferred from Yale-NUS College to NUS Business School. Quite an unorthodox decision and a very, very, very difficult one at that. I spent my summer pondering over the pros and the cons and really delving into the very crux of why I felt like this wasn’t the place for me. I will probably write a post on that, soon — and I hope nobody gets offended HAHA because it was purely a personal (and I guess to that effect an academic one) decision.
That being said, I have to do my readings before my lecture at UTown (wow, actually travelling to classes!!!! It’s a brand new thing that I for some reason enjoy because it puts some physical and mental distance between academics and hall life — something YNC didn’t quite afford and I’ve come to realise it’s something I need) so I’ll leave this post here for now. Will probably come back here and update!
i really should be doing more preparatory work for my next class right now, but i feel a sudden urge to let it go and let my words flow from the innermost crevices of my mind and being.
i write this post with an outward sense of calm, confident in my abilities to grapple with most things that get tossed into my path without forewarning or caution. how people still believe in me during times i doubt myself the most. the happy surprise when i manage to get the things i don’t deserve.
the things i don’t deserve.
i feel, for the most part, i have always gotten the things i never quite deserved. things include: the friends i make, my college decision, the things i give my heart to. of course, the more devout of my friends would attribute it to the grace of God and nudge at me gently, prodding me to give praise and thanks when it’s due, and i guess it is through this omnipotent being from which i draw strength when i am lacking. however, why is it that it is only when i get them only then i realise… it really isn’t what i need, at all?
what can i say to that? i don’t even know what i need. i do know what i want — at least at this singular point in time — but how do we quantify what we need when we are frankly infinitely minute in the grander scheme of the universe? i feel that this is my greatest conundrum with my faith. we always have to attribute something — good or bad — to God’s plan. when things don’t go well — oh, we’re meant for better things, and He knows best. when things go well — oh, thank God. is it possible (and i ask this without moral judgement or a heavy heart) to let things just be?
this quandary truly frustrates me, and makes me ache with every fibre of my being, top down and bottom up. how do we know? i know, faith is putting (un)suspended belief in places you’re unsure of, in the things you don’t see. but to what extent, and to what end?
once someone told me i was stronger than i thought i was. how do you know? frankly, i think it’s amazing people can see the goodness in the self that we so sadly miss. how do i know i’m missing the things i’m missing?
the pragmatic side of myself would tell me to chill, and go with the flow. what does that even mean – do i let the good things pass me by, and just take where the tide takes me? i find that difficult to do. i want to grasp at the things i know will make me happy and make my life better. i want to do the best i can and be bold at knowing what’s good for me, and running for that relentlessly.
speaking of running, i should do it more often. i always run alone now, and i like it that way. my happiest tuesday & wednesday night combination would be the immense sense of relief after ending classes, having dinner, light reading / class prep, then going for a long run, and supper with a friend afterwards.
i feel like i’ve finally reached a new state in my college life where i do feel better with being alone and… independent, i guess. previously someone was always looking out for me, and i found that i depended a lot of that goodness. of course, as circumstances are always in a Herculean flux, i have to adapt myself along to the best of my abilities. funnily enough, i feel happier and more secure in this new freedom, the flexible schedule, the freed-up emotional well i found myself trapped in all too often initially, and i found myself better at being there for others. i find that i like being alone. this is quite strange, because throughout my schooling / brief interning life i was perpetually surrounded by my closest friends, and i guess that is a subtle dependency is a way… hm. i’ll get round to thinking about this.
which is one of the reasons why i’m slightly scared of being in Beijing. the loneliness. the knowledge that everyone precious to me is back here in Singapore. but ah, we’ll cross the bridge when we get there. working out accommodations is already quite troublesome, hahaha. but i look forward to it. :-)