Coping Mechanisms

For a period of time when i first started school, I was known by my peers for disappearing from campus for days on end even though we were right in the middle of a busy semester. Every time I saw them, it would appear as though we hadn’t met for months. Truth is, I did come for classes (at least those that required my attendance) but I had begun to develop a penchant for skipping school on a whim.

There are mornings when you roll out of bed before your alarm rings and you’re naturally ready for the day’s torture. Then, there are days where even though you retired to bed early, you rise as if you haven’t slept and every inch away from your bed makes you want to burst into uncontrollable tears. Whenever I feel that way, I roll away from my responsibilities and transform into a burrito that’s incapable of dealing with that day’s worth of cruelties.

I’m not escaping reality. I’m coping. As much as I may sound like an irresponsible 5 year old when I take these unapproved absences from school, I believe they make me stronger. Find a way of coping. Even if it’s unorthodox, mildly irresponsible and occasionally involves white lies, find one and stick with it.

I’ve recently been trying out detachment and it’s been working out reasonably well. Unlike school days, I can’t roll away from my corporate responsibilities the way I want to. So after days of commenting on weather and falling into bouts melancholy, I’ve come up with a new way of dealing with the hard punches and brutality life tends to throw at us.

Blue Skies Out, Grey Within

Making use of the lunch hour I have to deposit some of my thoughts because it feels as though my chest is bursting from the weight of something I cannot define. There’s a little time left, but so many words to say and the blue skies continue to reign over the side of the world that’s separating mine by a grey glass window.

I wonder why I’m so melancholic today. Maybe something’s poisoned the air I breathe, or the toothpaste I used to brush my teeth. Whatever it is, there’s a strange sense of sadness that’s plaguing an otherwise beautiful Tuesday afternoon. I’ve been observing the skies through the small blocks of dusty windows and they’ve never been so sunny and blue. Yesterday, while my spirits were higher, the skies poured with relentless rain. Today, it seems they know I’m out of sorts and have sent the fluffy white clouds and clear skies to my aid. Sadly, everything seems to be a form of mockery when viewed through meaningless windows.

Oh melancholy, go away already. I don’t welcome your stay. Find someone else to exasperate.

Love Like Hot Chocolate

I must be the luckiest intern in the world because the hot chocolate that happens to be a staple in the office pantry tastes like a vacation in Europe (not that I would know since I’ve never been there). It dispenses from a futuristic coffee machine that sits beside the sink, with possibly a hundred different buttons and a million variations of coffee to suit the needs of the fickle. It’s a pretty noisy machine, because when you finally find the right button to press (the one that says “Hot Chocolate”), it makes a horrific rumble and terrifying roar before a deep dark liquid pours out below.

It’s a very intense thing. Drinking hot chocolate. It smells like heaven and it looks like heaven…but it’s burning like hell. You can’t resist it though, because although you know it’ll scald your tongue and make you blister, you cannot resist a taste. Just a small sip. But the moment it touches your tongue, there’s no going back.

What does it taste like? A million different pralines melted and mixed with only the milkiest milk in the world (Milkiest milk…like sweetest sweets and saltiest salt). It’s bloody hot, but at that moment, you don’t even care. All you want is to taste the creamy sweet taste on your tongue and the smooth silk down your throat. There’s nothing like it really. Quality hot chocolate is like a pool of warmth, happiness and joy—it’s divine.

But wait a minute. After the third, or maybe the fourth gulp, you realize that the fifth tastes a little different from the rest. Perhaps the chocolate has cooled too quick in the stale office air. Perhaps it’s been tainted. Oxidised? There’s something a little off about this mouth and you cannot really tell why. You risk another sip, eager to know if it’ll taste the same. There’s a little too much chocolate at the end, you can see it clinging to the cup and marring the taste. You look at the cup in scorn and in disdain. There’s no way you’re drinking this last mouth, so you tip the cup and empty its contents into the pantry sink, the dark brown liquid staining everything in it’s way.

There’s no love like hot chocolate. Love me like hot chocolate?

The Right English?

You can write every day, but still miss writing. You can struggle to put thoughts into words, but still want to do it anyway. That’s me now, struggling writer, mentally blocked, physically dormant.

Throughout my years in university, I’ve changed aspirations countless times. In the beginning, without passion, it was lawyer. Then, when that unrequited love ceased it’s non-existent fire, the thought of wanting to be a writer exploded in my head and slowly seeped out through the tips of my fingers. It brought me to places. Magazines, restaurants, fashion boutiques. But when that flame sizzled, I hopped from one plausible profession to another: PR representative, advert copywriter. software developer, content strategist.

Learning is a dangerous thing. The more you learn, the more you realise you need to learn. School opened my eyes up to the things I could achieve, and the people I could be (which is also why I’m having an existential crisis now). Work made me understand that even if you know for sure that there are some things you’’ll never want to be, you will sometimes be pushed into nooks and crannies that require you to try everything. I guess that’s why people change jobs all the time and find the courage to fill in shoes they’ve never walked in before. Everybody learns, all the time. It’s pretty scary at first, but soon enough, everything will fall back into the monotonous hum-drum that we will too soon get used to. 

The company I’m working at is (technically) a US company based in Singapore, with a mainly US customer base, which is also why I’ve been forced to write in US english despite having been taught that the it was always s, not z, my entire life.  Now, I feel the pain. English spelling is very different from American spelling. I used to think that it’s just a few Zs replacing Ss here and there, but sometimes it’s also the lack of alphabets and sometimes, it’s me losing my sanity. 

Also, today, I realised I want to be your friend again. To be okay with stealing your handwriting, your ideas, without being sued for plagiarism. So, as the determined, stubborn and extremely fickle human bean that I am, I will worm my way back into your heart. Even if it means wrapping my fists round barbed wires while I’m at it. Funny how I’m the one trying to take down the wall I was hell bent on building just a few years back.

Oh, I still don’t know what I want to be in the future. I kinda feel like a 5 year old again. I guess that’s what working does to you. It pulls you away from reality (because reality stinks, and you want to escape it) and you’ll slowly find yourself falling through the clouds and the stars again. You will slowly begin to remember that you can actually be anything you dream of. 

Surrender

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There are days where you feel invincible, days where you feel as if the mere tipping of your toes will hoist you high enough to pick a star out from the night sky. These days, everything you do is adequate. Even the mere act of breathing makes you revel in the fact that there’s so much you can do, will do and have already done that you will one day compile into a heaping list that’ll give meaning to your existence. Days like this, you wish will never end.

Then there are days where you feel like a sail boat on windless sea. Days where hours spent relentlessly working amount to nothing, like scribbling with white ink on white sheets, like dusting cupboards during dry storms. Days where you try so hard but get no where. Days where light blinds and darkness suffocates.

Sadly, today is one of those.

I don’t have pearls of wisdom or words of comfort because most of us have these days that nothing can turn around. Reassurance stings like swabs on wounds and advice falls like bitterness at the back of tongues. Bad days remain bad despite all the good in the world.

But it’s alright, because like everything else, days too shall pass. Good ones, bad ones, they’ll all fall into the valley where we’ll forget to pull them out for scrutiny so even when we look back, we look pass them, through them, away from them as if they never even happened.

So just hold on tight and keep your knees a little too close to your chest for comfort. Let this bad day reign over you, will it away and celebrate its passing. Oh, and admit defeat. The earlier you surrender, the less it hurts.

Image credits: Daniel

Patience

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After surviving the busiest September of my existence, my body has decided to collapse upon itself like a flimsy scaffolding after an episode of particularly harsh rain. The month has been filled with endless nights spent fulfilling my commitments to both work and school, with a little bit of personal fluff vying for my attention. In just September alone, I’ve conquered 4 quizzes, 3 assignments, 5 writing jobs and a wisdom tooth operation. Oh, and my brother got married.

It’s actually astonishing when you actualise your potential and realise how much you can achieve in the shortest amount of time. I feel euphoric, almost arrogant when I look back and it hits me that I’ve done more than I could ever have. It makes me want to leave everything behind (sleep especially) and sprint towards the finish line so I can feel the adrenaline of being suffocated under stress and the mental applause that rings in my ear.

Yet while the sense of accomplishment and the confidence boost still courses within my veins, I wouldn’t do it again. It’s one thing knowing how much you can achieve when you push yourself beyond your limits and actually doing that every single day. Now that I know, I look back and pat myself on the back almost parent-like, appreciating the determination and tireless nights. But wanting a repeat performance of that? I think that’ll take awhile.

My mother is most annoyed with me when I come home triumphantly waving a 75 mark test paper in the air, carrying it as though it’s a plaque of honour. I’m always contented with being moderate. I wear a smile on my face and a badge of gratification upon my chest whenever I feel as though I’ve done well enough. Not amazing, but well enough. Yet to many, enough translates into a state of perfection they can never reach.

Patience is a virtue. Life is short, but it gets shorter when you’re too caught up with achieving a level of productivity society does not appreciate. We will never be fast enough nor good enough to meet the standards of everyone. So since we won’t be achieving perfection any time soon, why not slow down a little and take things in our stride? We’ll get to being enough one day, but this journey isn’t a race so take your time to enjoy the road. It makes finding the best of you a little more interesting and a whole lot easier.

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P.S: I am trying to create a page where I can share images unabashedly with you guys, but I’m still working on it. It’ll be up soon!

The Day I Went to a Cafe

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I never liked cafes. It makes me uncomfortable in a way that I can never fully comprehend, almost like being trapped in a glass chamber under heavy observation. I think it has something to do with the rise of indie culture and how people in cafes are always dressed in an artificially laid-back manner that sets my skin on fire. Intentionally comfortable dressing that looks comfortable but actually isn’t. I don’t like the indie culture very much.

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Yet on a rainy afternoon, amongst hectic schedules and intense editorial meetings, I found myself walking into Loysel’s Toy, looking for something I wasn’t sure if I was going to find. But my shoes were wet, and my shoulders heavy. For once, the scent of fresh brew and the clinking of cutlery seemed inviting.

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What was I trying to look for? I don’t really know. Perhaps it’s the budding of first loves or the reconciliation of lost ones? The serenity on the faces of coffee drinkers? Or the fluster and frenzy of the servers hurriedly pulsing black liquid into the bellies of white mugs? What do you look out for when you’re sitting upon wooden chairs and eating upon wooden tables? What captures your attention and gives you a reason to stay? The food wasn’t sublime, it never is and never will be. But yet there’s a strange attraction that cafes have that keeps the seats filled and the coffee cups empty.

I don’t like cafes, but I keep going back, only to be left more confused every time.

I don’t like cafes, but I do?

There is Potential for Love

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Sitting in a corner of Coffee Bean shivering to my icy death on a painfully uninspiring Thursday evening, a text from a long-time friend makes me realise that the elusive love we spend our entire lives looking for are actually seeds sown in the ground and waiting to bloom.

There is potential for love everywhere. A slight liking towards a new friend, a flush that blossoms on your cheeks when he calls out your name to say good morning along the hallway, the slight touch of an attractive stranger when he shuffles restlessly in his seat. Perhaps we’re all too blind from the lists we have subconsciously constructed from the people we would like to have in our lives to notice the ones that actually are.

While we’re constantly searching for the coifs of perfectly gelled hair and rolled jeans that leave a perfect amount of his ankles exposed, we miss out on the things we wanted in the first place altogether. We push away inklings of love, the could haves and the would haves, in search of what reality tells us to be the perfect relationship. The healthy one.

And while we put on veils, masks and a wonderfully set up disguise, we miss out on the ones who love us for we who are underneath. We miss the ones who internally acknowledge the relentless efforts we put into making ourselves perfect yet love us blemished, crumbled and crushed anyway.

Of Politics, Transport and War

Tomorrow will mark my 16th day in school. And out of these 16 days, I’ve spent 2 and 2/3 days travelling to school. That makes 64 hours.

I live in the far east (or more specifically, Pasir Ris) and that’s a whopping 27 stops away from the nearest train station to school. On good days, I take 4 bus rides and 2 train journeys to complete my voyage from home to school and back again. On bad days (really horrifyingly bad ones that include tastings at inaccessible places), it takes me 6 bus rides and 4 trains. Cringe.

Money aside, travelling sucks away your energy in the most unfathomable way possible. You’re well rested, excited about school, board the bus/train at 7am in the morning and you’ll realise that there’s a mysterious force in the universe of public transportation that’s slowly but definitely siphoning your energy away for its own use. I call it war. PT (public transportation) war.

Classes that begin between 9-12pm can hurt my sanity, because even when I’m taking the train from the depot, the fucking thing arrives half filled. Why? Because Singaporeans have mastered the distasteful art of bouncing. Residents of the next few stops (ranging from Tampines to Tanah Freaking Merah) take the train in the opposite direction so they’ll be able to sit comfortably to work. Even if it means wasting an extra 10-15 minutes bouncing from station to station. I live in Pasir Ris. And during peak hours, I can’t even get onto the train that supposedly starts its journey from this station. I cannot even fathom how many trains others have to miss.

The congestion, the rush, the heightened senses and magnified grumpiness — it can hurt sense and sensibilities sometimes, and it can bring out the worst in people. I’m not really a fan of politics, because I come from a country I’m proud of for being safe, efficient and wonderful to live in. But there are some small things that’s easy neglected in a forward looking nation like ours. Tiny little things like how people like to have both feet planted firmly on the ground.

With a population density of 7252.43/square kilometre (that’s about 7 people per square meter), we have gotten so accustomed to spending most of our lives upon the cemented floors of our HDB homes, or the glass panelled surfaces of our latest malls, forgetting that these are not set upon solid ground. I don’t need much space. I don’t think we all do. I only hope that one day, we can stand side by side on real solid ground and not feel the sound of our nation whining beneath our weight. I only hope that one day, this nation will be able to comfortably fit us all.

I’m Looking For You

“Don’t worry, you’ll blend in really soon just like in high school.”

“Ya, that took me six years.”

I feel like a kid waiting for midnight so the magic can begin—knowing very well that eventually, the clock will strike 12, but still remain tortured by its final countdown. School’s been great, it’s just easier to feel lonely amongst people who’ve already found their place you know? And despite being lost around campus, having to battle long train rides and experiencing loads of laughter, there are still pockets of emptiness that’s patiently waiting to be filled. By what I’m not sure, but so far, loneliness seems to have been calling it home.

The feeling of familiarity has been so misunderstood—perhaps we only see its value when everything seems alien and strange. I don’t like change, and my patience and hopefulness in welcoming familiarity is running out. I know the feeling I’m looking for will come soon enough, but this time, the wait seems unnaturally long.