Mar 2016 / an update

I haven’t been on this space for a long time, not since 2015 ended. And oddly enough while most of my life has been constant, many things have changed. I yearn so much to lean on various constancies, but perhaps inwardly I crave for movement and disruption and change and grow through them.

Semester 2 has been surprisingly okay, and I’ve been doing decent despite not putting in as much effort. I’ve taken a more relaxed stance towards my academics and channelling my energies into reading other things instead, and it seems like it’s been paying off in more ways than one. I’ve also withdrawn most of my commitments, and I’m only playing netball now. But I do believe it’s really what I want — this semester has been for me a semester of undefined crossroads and decisions made / or am making, and while I dislike how nothing is set in stone, it’s enabling me to take a less cautious step towards everything I do.

Letting go has been a common theme so far this year, and I can’t really decide if it’s good or bad. Whether is letting go and letting God (a concept I am honestly still struggling with), or letting go of the things you thought you couldn’t live without, or letting people decide your future academic and career choices (it’s such a scary thing to realise that everything you might want to be is hinged upon that administration, but then I acknowledge that it’s a common societal discontent)… at the dusk of it all (almost) nothing lies within the realm of your control. And effort, as I’ve come to realise, is important but hardly determinate.

I’ve been running a lot more, and for longer distances too. I’m really really enjoying it.

I’ve also gotten an internship placement this summer, and will be flying off to Beijing for two months! So that’s one thing I’m really excited about because I never really thought I’d be able to get it. But I’m quite pleased. :-) :-) So many things, great and little, to be grateful about.

I’ll be turning twenty next week. It’s funny how I don’t feel much about that, and while hitting the big two-o is attached with all the usual conundrums of growing up and its pains, ascribed with adult responsibilities and a preparatory step towards the 21st… I don’t know. I think the greatest thing so far I’ve realised is that I’ve become exponentially less idealistic, and am very much of a pragmatist now. I feel that it’s very very very much reflected in my writing, and well… I don’t know how to feel about that. But perhaps it is this descend from my initial idealism that would be a certain turning point towards how I should govern my life.

 

re:me / an anthology

re- me (2).png

Last semester I found myself losing a semblance of who I wanted be. I found myself in the fast race towards something I couldn’t put a finger on, and I found myself lost in the midst of new landscapes, new people, new knowledge, all things new new new moving so quick and I couldn’t find a way to slow down, pick up my pen, and just write down what was happening. I did try, as evidenced by several sloppily penned entries on this WordPress. But I wanted to do something different, I guess, so here it is.

re:me is an ongoing diary-thing detailing things I’ve been thinking and wanting to write about. It’s really just a journal of thoughts and possibilities, and I find that it helps with this (self-absorbed, heh) bildungsroman as I trudge through college life. It’s definitely not the most well-written because I aim to write in a loose (but structured, does it make sense?) stream of consciousness kind of style and that means translating whatever occurs to me at that moment, right there and then. This is also the first time I’m putting things like that online because I’m always a little insecure about my writing, so here goes nothing.

Here’s the post, and the rest will be up whenever on lievesun (highly dependent on my college schedule and social life, or lack thereof.).

2015

re- me.jpg

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to put words in places they should be, or grapple with them in a way that best and accurately reflects my experience throughout the trajectory of this year. I guess that is indeed one thing I want to try to fulfill — my personal narrative made universal in the sense that I can transcend these precious things beyond myself in a manner that ensures its self-preservation placed in the grander scheme of what once was.

A great deal of things happened this year, some good and some bad. But as all things in life, we win some and we lose some. I am not going to begin comparing what I’ve went through with what others, for I know I am incredibly lucky and I want to continue counting my blessings. I know that there’s so many things to be grateful for, it is only by taking a little step back and understanding your insignificance in this abstract concept we call life in the universe, it is then we realize what we have — little or too much — is beautiful.

But how? I don’t even have to mention the great deal of loss and tragedy that encapsulated much of this year. I don’t even have to string these poignant morphemes of loss, cause and effect, because I do not have the right to. And I don’t claim otherwise. But I believe in the little strands of good and bad, right and wrong, the sense of morality and heavy weight of the love and the world.

I’m sitting in a little cafe with white wooden furnitures and full-glass windows, and there’s so much natural light streaming through. A light, a sheet of incandescence, a small indication of hope. People passing by, smiles on their faces and shared inside jokes. Angus and Julia Stone playing, quiet and reverent and calm and peaceful. We all know of the axiom detailing the intrinsic complex nature of a single arbitrary person that walks past us – and it’s quite incredible to think of the huge and immense-beyond-belief coalescence of narratives one can have in a single room.

At this juncture we would all be tempted to write down our new year resolutions, and I am no different. The notion of a blank lucidity and a white empty space appeals greatly to me. The happy chance to begin anew. My inclination towards this chance manifests in small, viable ways – changing my hair, decluttering my room to feel some semblance of lightness, rereading old letters and surprising myself with how much I’ve seemed to change from back then. All that being said, though, I realize all I really want to achieve is to be more in touch with my authentic Self. Though it’s on the verge of sounding vaguely new age, I do believe it’s really the most important quality a person can have – by disregarding various external influences and stimuli and staying staunchly to who we want to be, and taking active steps to get there.

Maybe that’s what each year is about. Resoundingly finding our authentic Self and living our lives through that. Taking one day as a place for renewal and keeping in touch with what we really yearn for in this life. Taking small baby steps of faith that what you love will lead you where you’re supposed to be, staunch and safe.

An education?

During times like these, I’ll always try to take a step back and recall why I ultimately chose my current college. Despite the workload and stress, the uncertain nature of how our curriculum is going to be, despite the incessant pressure at the back of my mind going what are you going to major in? What are you going to do in the future? And similarly drawing a blank when well-meaning people ask you the same thing and furrow their brow when you say “I’m not sure” and they give you a coalescence of an in-between smile and grimace… during times like these I always retrace my thoughts to that fateful day in 2011 when I was fifteen.

I was probably procrastinating on during Additional Mathematics or something, but I chanced upon someone’s blog. She was in an all-women’s college at that time, and was going to graduate in a few weeks or so. To say the least, I was entranced. I was inspired by her words, her conviction about the importance of education being a journey in itself and not a destination we painstakingly must complete, and the ease of how she seemed to tell her story.

From that day onwards, I read up about a liberal arts education. At that time, I didn’t know of The YNC Plan, so I figured the most feasible option was to go to the US. Then I glanced through the financial fees. And I decided to let that go, though I never quite stopped dreaming.

Why am I here now then? Was it a combination of my own unsureness of what I wanted to study, the exclusivity, or perhaps the four year guaranteed on-campus stay? Maybe it was the financial aid. Maybe it was how everyone seemed to have their shit together and being able to hold their own. Maybe it was an amalgamation of all of these things. Maybe.

I’ve been thinking about it, and maybe the most enduring explanation goes back to the sentence I’ve read when I was fifteen. An education is a journey. And that’s exactly what a liberal arts education attempts to bring to you — the privilege of being able to study a variety of disciplines without restriction in attempt to broaden your mind and teach you what and how to think.

It helps, I believe, to know that I’m on this journey I’ve wanted to embark on since four years ago — and every troubling inconsequential detail would fade away.

When the birds are sleeping, that’s when the trees sing.

   

Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge, the United Kingdom

Often (as we all do), I tend to scroll past old photos and photo edits, recounting the past as it was and will always remain.  This quality sometimes makes for the reverberating ache that spreads — which is very much unneeded yet yearned for at times — because you’re stuck in the recesses of the past.

But as we learn, we are, as a consequence, living in the shadows of our past. It may light and glimmer at dusk,  and it may fade out in a subtle hue of tales of the time being. What is here now is what I was and what I gained and what I lost.

ClubMed Bintan, Indonesia

Michael Mathews Coffee & Teas (made that up but he was really Michael Mathews and he sold coffee — grounded or roasted — & teas packed in plastic bags), Cambridge Market Square, Cambridge, the United Kingdom 

Nowadays I try to hinge on the brink of acceptability, but it’s so strange to yearn for people and singularity at the same time; it’s akin to a thought at the back of your mind screaming for escape which it prosaically cannot obtain.

It’s always the time to begin anew!

Proving Yourself Wrong (1/2)

bridge

Part 1 of 2. About nine months ago in the dead of night, I had a conversation that drastically altered the way I viewed the world and its strange ways. To date, it was one of the most illuminating and inspiring conversations I’ve ever had in the trajectory of my short life. I was UTown on a cool rainy February night with a good friend; we just finished our work and wanted some quiet time by the hilly hedge on the UTown green.

It began like this.

“So what do you want to do in the future?”

I hesitated. Up til a couple of months ago, I wanted to become a journalist. I wanted to translate what I was seeing into words I could call my own, and I felt a sense of importance mediating human experiences into touchable, tangible words that held as much meaning as you would ascribe to them. However, things changed, as they all did. I had something new in mind, something largely ludicrous and yet visibly miniscule. Something I could still call my own, but perhaps less probable and more of an impossibility. I sat quiet for a little while and said, “It’s probably never going to happen, but…” This ambition slowly slid out into the open. It was the first time I admitted it.

To my surprise, he simply nodded in a matter-of-fact manner. “Why isn’t it going to happen?”

“Because things like that never happen to people like me.”

“Why?”

“Because… I don’t think I’m in any way… enough?”

It was the first time I’d ever admitted my inferiority so quickly, and in response this is what he told me.

What do you see when you see me now? You see someone going off into the world and accomplishing things. You see someone throwing himself into work over-enthused, and with a resounding determination that permeates from the things I say and what I do. Everyone has the same reaction when I tell them I’m going to Cambridge on a scholarship — awe, shock, pride. But you know I wasn’t always who I was today?

You asked me if I had a rich dad before, right? Because you said I had the face. Actually, he was a gambler, debt-ridden, and gone.

Gone?

Yes. He ran away when I was younger, and left all the debt to my mother. He quite literally disappeared and left no trace of where he was.

Wow.

Yeah, I wasn’t a very good kid growing up as well. I failed my English exam when I was primary one.

It’s not that ba– hey, hey. You don’t have to comfort me. It’s pretty bad, and I knew it.

Yeah. It is.

My studies were never really good throughout secondary school too. But those were the least of my concerns.

Why?

I didn’t know how to read properly until I was seven. This continued up til secondary school. Then I got involved in gangs. I did the usual fighting, you know. The typical things you hear.

What. You did?

Yep, I went to fight other gangs after school and all that. Once, my “lao da” [gang leader] called us after school to fight, and it was the day they got arrested because one of the guys they fought got trashed really horribly. His mom then called the police and it somehow got traced back to my gang. But luckily, I was sick on that day itself and wasn’t present, so I got away. Haha, why do you look so surprised?

Just look at you now!

This is what I choose to show people. It’s easy to put on a front and leave the past behind — no, I mean, not forget it entirely, but using it as a stepping stone and inspiration to keep moving forward.

What happened after that?

I guess that was my first wake up call of many. I realised how close I was to getting into trouble with the law and I knew once your name got on the book, it never really gets out. And I knew how stupid it would be to get on the book for something inconsequential and let it affect your future.

You sound like the you right now – practical and rational.

Haha, that’s inherent in me. I just didn’t really act on it. Oh, oh, so that’s the gang story. Now to my studies. Anyway, my studies were really horrible. I never studied at all.

So what changed?

I got my results for chemistry in secondary four, and I was the lowest in school. Keeping in mind my school wasn’t a good school at all… it was pretty bad. My girlfriend at that time broke up with me around then as well. But the absolute worst thing was that my mom just looked me straight in the eye and told me she was giving up on me. So, you know, it was a really bad time.

That’s really harsh.

Yeah. But it was the wake up call. It was truly sucky to have someone so close to you give up on you… just like that. But at the time, I was proud and rebellious. I’ve always liked to prove people wrong. I decided that since there was no one left who believed in me and my abilities, the most dignified thing – and the least I could do –  was to try to believe in myself.

What did you do after that?

I remember this. After my mom told me that, I just went into my room, shut the door, and sat at my desk. I opened my backpack and rummaged through it and took out all the worksheets and handouts I’ve crushed into paper balls.

Oh my goodness.

Haha, yes. I wasn’t kidding when I said I never studied. It was around July when I was secondary four, and I knew I had O’levels, but I really didn’t care.

Until then.

Yep. I just unrolled every worksheet and just started studying what I could. It was difficult, but I just tried.

What happened next?

I just started studying all the way until O’levels.

And… how did you do?

Not bad, as you’ll see. Could have done better, but it helped me make the first step to where I was.

Faith once more

It’s rather funny how the return of old friends can lead to a quiet self-revelation of one’s own. A couple of days ago, a friend I’ve known since I was thirteen but haven’t met up with since last year texted me. We caught up via text briefly before he told me there was something he really wanted to share –

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 7.55.08 PM

I guess he found me a relevant person to tell these to because I’ve been an acquiescent Christian for awhile now, and even more so this year. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve figured that my breezy attitude towards my faith didn’t hit me quite as hard as it did previously because of my social environment, at least for this year. I’ve been incredibly busy because of my post A levels internship at a startup company — it has a massively social environment with really long working hours and it deals primarily with the milking of consumerism… I think I may be giving myself an excuse for my lack of cohesive thought of depth, but I think it has played a considerable part for myself not diving headfirst into this hugely complex web of entangled thoughts of a constant God-searching quandary.

Now that the tide has turned and time has allowed me to pause and reflect on what I place value on in my life, I find myself running on (near) empty despite the amazing place I’ve been lucky enough to be. I’ve been running and writing a lot in attempt to fulfill this seemingly irrational and illogical emptiness, and once again I find it to be the lack of faith in my life. I don’t and won’t deny the huge fundamental irrationality of my faith, and I’m not going to nullify how my religion has become, increasingly, politicized in our society. With megachurches hitting the headlines with regard to financial fraudulence and homophobia, it is difficult to find rooted ground on which to place one’s faith.

I was from one of these megachurches, and my parents still go there… religiously (ha ha ha). I found myself at a crossroads while I was there — a dilemma that felt had to be stretched across dichotomies and I wasn’t sure if I could recouncile it while being in a place I found disagreed with the values I personally identified with. So, I left about two years ago. It happens slowly at first, with you saying you’re busy, you’re tired, you have other things to attend to. Then the excuses gradually extends itself to a nuanced conviction, and before you know it you’re gone. I can’t say I haven’t looked back, because every time I happen to be in Marine Parade I always make it a point to walk past the church that has taught me many things and wonder why I couldn’t be one of them – those happy, cheery, smiley people huddled cosily in their cell groups with a faith that was stronger than mine. I know it isn’t easy for them to constantly stay rooted in their beliefs, and I admire their staunchness so, so much.

And here I sit, still yet moving, confused and wanting.