T0 2016, with love

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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.

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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!

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on the premise of faith.

i can never write more than half a sentence before deleting it, re-editing it, crossing it out line by line, paraphrasing, soaking it in curious ambiguity — for fear of being offensive, too open-minded, too liberal, and it goes on & on.

saw this bit in a post from Humans of New York,  —

“What’s the biggest crime you’ve ever committed?”
“I’ve never been a constant in anyone’s life.”

i just hope that this will never happen to me in this trajectory. what we need in life are hugely cyclical human constants (and i am truly lucky to have them) and for me.. i have to work on my constancy in faith. but it can be really hard with all the white noise trumpeting over the quiet whisper of this sacred cardinal relationship. it’s so easy to quote choice bits from the book of poetry and write it off as being (sorry, kurt vonnegut, your axiomatic line has been abused) everything was beautiful and nothing hurt but i don’t believe we can discount instances where certain things just have to be called into question.

if anything, i believe it is always truly possible to work around it, work for it, and be your own light so it shines so inexorably, so mellow yet undeniable — and project your faith through your this light. i don’t like forcefulness, i don’t appreciate powerful rhetoric — no matter how intricately poetic it is — when it comes to personal matters of the mind, heart, soul. it’s gentleness. it’s selfless action. it’s being grateful, being happy with what you do have.. that draws people into your light.

for me, it’s weird because i’ve always been spiralling in dichotomous oscillations with regard to issues like that. i realised even though i have been callously keeping it far apart and only calling to it when i need it for a long time, the constancy staunchly stays quietly by my side — in the form of my wonderful family, both nuclear & extended, my friends who put up with so much, the niceness & goodness i see in so many people. that’s just.. to say the least, heartwarming. it just fuels me, and fills me with so much hope & love.

i know many people say the world’s getting worse, and honestly i don’t know how i feel about that. but i do know we, for ourselves and for everyone else, have to try to be better for it. yeah.

[just thoughts on a chilly saturday evening, when i should be prepping for economics instead. fun times.]

Blaine of my existence

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‘…well, this side of Paradise! / there’s little comfort in the wise’ – Rupert Brooke

i’m frantically trying to read my books (1 down, 2 to go. Am waiting for The Bell Jar to arrive from thebookdepository so I can annotate it haha) and do up the first visages of my H3 now before I forget I’m actually taking the paper. So This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the three books I’m analysing and I find that Amory Blaine — the protagonist of said semi-autobiographical novel — is kind of an ‘egotist’, a self-centred asshole. And on that note, I was rather dismayed to find that the character of Amory Blaine is in many ways an embodiment of many of us right here, right now, most poignantly me, haha. It’s quite amazing how he is utterly transcendental. Born to the era of the flappers as popularised by Fitzgerald’s later book The Great Gatsby, the very fundamental values remain in a Herculean flux more than 90 years later. And I’m really dismayed how much I can relate to Amory Blaine — from the need to define yourself from the ordinary & the conventional, the constancy for failure under the guise of wanting to ‘find yourself’ and explore the limitations of the human condition. In summation, we are all twats, really. Man.

this led me to think though, what is the point of being so ruthlessly self-reflective and trapped in your personal world of literature and never-to-be-realised ideals? I am told constantly that I always, always seem to have my head in the clouds as I go about life. this explains why I zone out so easily.. I always feel as though my thoughts are in a different place altogether — a more faded, subtle universe better put together and categorised by mellow pastels and good retro/indie music. But no. I miss out on a lot here. It takes quite a lot for me to ‘live in the moment’, so to say, and this feeling of being truly centred & alive only emerges on a few occasions: when i see the sunset all fleeting but burning in its light, doing economics (where i feel the pain and frustration of being a student hah), running long distances in order to achieve that void (but ironically the void makes me feel very.. poignant), and getting waaay too emotionally attached to things. on the last point, perhaps it is the desire to breakthrough in the form of feeling vivid that lends itself to the miscalculation of expectations… i’m really just choosing my downfall, i realise in retrospect. it is really time to pick myself up again haha.

anyway, a very relatable quote from the book: ‘The very qualities I love you for are the ones that will always make you a failure.‘ Sigh. Poor Amory. my heart ached for him.

On another note, it is finally the end of midyears (yay!) which I hesitate to think about. as per usual, after a bout of exams my room would always get a bit haphazard, so I decided to clean it a little and I’m reallllly happy now!

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I realised, after looking at these pictures… my room looks the same as before HAHAHA but I decided to be a bit fancy and bought glass mason jars and cheap $2 vanilla candles from Daiso that are so sickly sweet that it cloaked my bedroom in a mellow scent before I actually lit it. Also colour-coordinated my books according to the colour of their spines so that always makes me happy. I realised a few things though

1. a clothesline of the most arbitrary photos will always look okay; 2. tape is very damaging to a delicately wallpapered surface; 3. don’t buy your glass jars from Typo, get it from Daiso for a price 2.5 times less; 4. my room is basically an unhealthy amalgamation of Ikea and Typo and Daiso; 5. i’m insanely lucky.

Sigh, in half an hour I wrote more for this post then I did for the H3.

also, a very very happy birthday to my love Mavis <3 I think one of the factors that led to such an enduring friendship was that we blogged since pretty long ago and hence the basis of this friendship is to laugh at each other’s blog posts.

What I (Think) About When I (Think) About Running

A la Haruki Murakami,

I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void. But as you might expect, an occasional thought will slip into this void. People’s minds can’t be a complete blank. Human beings’ emotions are not strong or consistent enough to sustain a vacuum. What I mean is, the kinds of thoughts and ideas that invade my emotions as I run remain subordinate to that void. Lacking content, they are just random thoughts that gather around that central void. 

Thank God, if anything else, for giving me strong legs and a strong mind — at will, at least — so that I can run and run and run and run. I’m starting to fall in love with the pain.

CJ Chase: It means so much more than that.

Bishan Stadium, 8:31pm

Track and Field finals ended on Wednesday. And this felt important to me, though I feel this importance fades in comparison to others — because of the simple fact that I’ve only been in this CCA for slightly over a year, and I can hardly consider myself an athlete for I do not possess the admirable resilience and motivation some trackers I know do. But.. Wednesday was one of the few times I’ve truly felt connected and part of something greater, something amazingly more profound than what I truly am.

I’ve always been strongly attuned to individualism; I’ve grown up singularly as an only kid  and had to get used to being by myself a lot. Therefore I’ve caved into a mindset of looking within, never yearning to seek a new kind of experience where I could… you know… find a new dimension to how I view the normalcy of things in life. And yes. Track and Field was that fray where I first recognised the whirlwind of battered emotions, bodies, hearts and at the same time; raw, unveiled happiness. It’s really the very first time I recognised how passion really, really was like.

I do feel I have absolutely no right to say this — I’m a tracker, yes, but I feel I do not deserve that title. For this word connotes so much. The sweat, the moment when your breath snaps after so many interval trainings, the drenched socks, the reluctant lacing up of shoes to start another afternoon’s training, the conflict between the mind and the body.  And also definitely how potent the track smells even from the Bishan bus stop — a strange mix of the three o’clock afternoon blaze, coarse rubber, beaten down soles. I do admit many many times during earlier trainings I’ve failed to see the bigger picture of this wonderful entity of Track and Field, of others committing even greater dedication — all for the same goal… but garnering even better values and things to learn in the journey.

My only regret at this point in time was that I didn’t join this sport earlier in my life. I thought four years of guitar ensemble was tough. No, it really wasn’t. It was simply mindless. Other than the fact I can still play guitar (poorly), I’ve learnt nothing except of how to position myself exactly the right way on the nondescript blue plastic chair — my feet perched on an elevated surface, my thighs propped high — so I could place my head on the side of the classical guitar and fall asleep to make the three hours go faster. Four years and one SYF where I STILL wasn’t sure of the notes so I had to peer over to look at Mavis’s playing discreetly. Speaking of Mavis, I’m pretty sure she felt the same regret.

Four years compared to a mere one and a half. Yet the latter has taught me so much more I could ever expect and give. It may be considered an individual sport, but personally I feel it constitutes more teamwork than simply being a lone singularity. You’re thrown headfirst into the fray, but in your heart you know full well of this intangible greatness… far more than you can ever, ever be… but somehow you are part of it. And that’s passion. That’s what I was taught throughout my short journey in this CCA. And for that I am so grateful.

I’ve witnessed passion firsthand in the form of tears (including my own, which was really embarrassing), crushing disappointment, well-deserved victories. And really, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Also… my track team.

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Before I joined this amazing CCA, I’ve never really understood nor felt the team spirit everyone around me seemed to have. But now I do. It’s a huuuuge huge team comprising of both the Track and Field and Cross Country seniors and juniors (who are really crazy talented and good?!?!) and I thank everyone here (and previously… I miss my seniors!) who shared the same sort of passion and motivation. There’s just so much to admire from everyone here. Be it the level-headedness, curiosity, rationality and the attitude of never, ever giving up (especially Tiffany and Ananth, who will probably not read this), everyone just melds so, so well together and I am super grateful for everyone!

The seniors of the team hahaha. And as what was captioned on Twitter, this is my 家. 

After I got home after track dinner on finals day, I decided to get out and take a long walk by myself. I wasn’t sure what I was thinking of, but I felt such a sense of overwhelming warmth and closure that I stopped short for a bit. (and I realised I forgot to take a picture with Coach :( Have to get back to training specifically for that purpose someday hahaha)

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As I quote from Mavis’s new blog,

It’s great to be part of something special. 

(Thank you.)

Shiyin

The Flat at Clementi West

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The old roomy flat in Clementi West. The one with the intricate marble flooring and antique rosewood furniture, bad quality television boxes that belong in 1996, the circular grey-stone table and eleven matching swirling stone stools. The lovely swallows on the wall, wings outstretched, moving in stillness for the past seventeen years I’ve seen them. In our world of quickness and change, heading to a place that will always remain constant is a huge indescribable comfort I appreciate deeply. Where the doors are always a deep brown and glossy because Grandpa used to dutifully paint over any chips; where the lazy Susan would always somehow hold a roll of toilet paper and a random assortment of snacks.

The textured square tiles of the kitchen. The light green kitchen cabinets holding dusty utensils, those I’ve never actually opened. And the heavy rosewood drawers that pull open will a dull thud, revealing a whole host of photo albums of films and photographs dating back to the young and nubile faces of unidentified great granduncles and aunties. The altar of Buddhist gods, those Fu Lu Shou idols propped above. And different sorts of currencies from many countries placed carefully underneath refined glass — even a banana note from the grim days of World War Two. Always constant. Never changing.

But as I’ve come to realise this Lunar New Year, we are prone to take stability for granted. I’ve noticed the  rosewood displays — previously filled to the brim with archaic Oriental vases and precious glass figurines… now bare. Probably due to the new baby boy (my nephew!) now living in the flat, but I do miss them so. And the yearly tradition of making Lunar New Year desires — pineapple tarts, those crusty dusty white ones, sticky nian ago, love letters — where a gaggle of women would sit by the special elevation in the aforementioned kitchen and churn them out painstakingly, where little me would run around eating the cookie dough.

The same kitchen brings back heartwarming memories, too. One day after school in kindergarten it started to rain really heavily — and because I had a terrifying phobia of thunderstorms and lightning I was horrified and began crying and crying. My grandma then propped me up on the kitchen counter and started to cook hot delicious instant maggi goreng for me on the spot. That’s probably why til this day, I possess a fondness for maggi goreng that can never go away, haha. This is the same grandma that has recently shown a new kind of human frailty I’ve never envisioned she would… her always coarse wrinkled skin is more pronounced, her voice more crackled, but never less loud. However I was so glad when my family arrived, an uncle said to my grandma when I was walking to her, ‘Remember her or not! Your youngest grandchild!’ and in turn she replied, ‘I’ll really be doomed if I don’t remember her.’

I ended the visit with a hug. I’ve never done it before but I’m going to do it every time now.

Love you ahma. So much so, despite everything. Despite age and sadness and change and whatever the world brings.