Back to Basics

A few months ago, my life spiralled out of control. And as quickly as I rose to what some people may consider the pinnacle of academic success, it took me just as fast to tumble back down. But I am glad to announce that I’m back in school. 🙂

These few months have really been a journey for me. Law School drop out (LSD) turned amateur writer, I had to pick myself up and brush off the dust from my mighty fall, apply for various jobs and finally walk out of the nights I would spend burning mindlessly through readings I did not understand and days in which I would end drowning in my own tears. Its not easy walking out of your comfort zone (when has it ever been?), definitely not easy having to pursue your passion when your skills don’t back you up, and worst of all (applies to me only lah), having to experience a change of environment over and over again.

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Its my second day at school, and although I’m not quite close to being happy again, I think I will be soon. I can feel opportunities bashfully hiding in corners of my lecture halls, and seedlings of comfort eagerly awaiting blossom. I cannot say I feel right here, but I think I will feel that way soon. At least I hope I will—and that’s a great start.

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P.S: I’m the new food writer for Poached Magazine, so show me some love when you spot my reviews!

Apprenticeship—A Must-Board Vessel

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I went for 5 interviews-Nylon, Cosmo, Catalog and Goodstuph (twice). And whenever the perennial question of “Why did you quit Law school?” comes along with flabbergasted tones of disbelief reeking with judgement, I answer as though I’ve been anticipating its cliched arrival: I like to create, and mould things out of thin air. I like to tell stories and make people fall in love with what I adore. I like to help you visualize, craft words and spin webs held together by both truths and lies-and writing lets me do that.

Completing my 2 very short stints at Cosmo and Catalog have been very very rewarding. Don’t trust people who tell you that apprenticeships are not worth your time or effort-they are wrong, terribly so. Granted, the renumeration constantly disappoints. Its not a very lucrative industry, so you either write for them and gain that 5 seconds of fame when your name appears in the credit roll in font size 2.5, or you don’t write for them at all. But what you get back from just sitting at a random desk with a decent machine is immensely gratifying.

Every first day I have at a new office (okay, so I’ve only had 2 first days), I spend the night tearing my hair out trying to put together an outfit that says “Hey bitches, I’m stylish but not overly so.”. Its so frustrating because its you leaving your first impression so you’re desperately trying to achieve that delicate balance between “fashion forward” and “trying too hard”. On my first day at Cosmo, I wore a navy blue peter pan collar-ed shirt and mustard jeans, and for Catalog, a leaf motif black tank with dark blue denims. I remember it so vividly because I possibly went through a hundred combinations before settling on my outfit, yet the harsh reality is that possibly no one else but yourself remembers it. For the first few days, I’d breathe really lightly, walk really softly and pretty much tried to be invisible around everyone, even preferring to email my questions to my Ed-in-chief when she was seated 3 steps away from me. Some part of me decided that no attention was better than bad attention, so I simply went incognito. You’ll be scared, and rightfully so. You’re the newbie, the temp, the intern, the lowest life form in this office. But don’t forget that while you’re meeting new people, so are those around you. Granted, they’ve been around longer and possibly know where the pantry and smoking area are, but everyone’s afraid of the unknown. And guess what’s the good news, you are the unknown. My eye-liner and colored contacts act didn’t last past 2 weeks. Props to me.

When it comes to the writing part of the job, know this: I hate writing about fashion, simply because I cannot give a hoot about it. It is not where my interests lie, nor do I have a keen eye for the season’s latest trends. Its not like I dress like a hobo, or piece my pinks with my greens, fashion just doesn’t appeal to me. And when I first started work at Catalog, it was a complete nightmare. Finding out that 80% of what they published revolved around fashion meant that I was going to spend most of my apprenticeship writing about something I simply could not tolerate-FASHION. I couldn’t find words to describe the yellows, whites and browns, neither could I illustrate the cut of a dress or the fluidity of its hems. But now, words like neutral tones, cool palette, pops of colors, vivacious splash of purples, strong silhouetting, futuristic necklines, psychedelic prints-they all come naturally to me. My ability to learn surprises me, every single day.

There’s possibly a whole bucket more of interesting stuff I’ve learnt in these short few months (like how you’ll hate having work to do, but hate not having work to do even more), but in the end, you’ll get hooked on writing. You’ll be stoked looking at black words staining the blank canvas, you’ll be exhilarated knowing that your thoughts, those words you’ve carefully chosen and pieced together is being read by hundreds, maybe thousands of people everywhere. You feel like what you’re doing has meaning, it bears fruit and its a fruit so sweet and juicy, all the days you’ve spent in labour is worth it. I love writing, and every time I write, I feel like I can spend my entire life doing this. For the first time in a long while, there is clarity when it comes to the future. There is a certain sense of comfort in knowing that I will enjoy what I am doing, and I can see myself breathing life into text for the rest of my life. I’m not good at this, heck, I sometimes forget how to spell ‘disappoint’ and ‘occasion’, but there’s a warm fuzzy feeling that bubbles deep inside me every time I write-it is a feeling so complex and beautiful, I can only foolishly term as love.

Back On Track

“When I love someone else, someone new, I will see parts of everyone in him. All of my old lovers will come together like artifacts in a museum and rest on top of my new love. You go everywhere with me, don’t you understand? If I gave you a piece of my heart once, you have permission to hold on to it forever. “

Read more at http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/a-note-to-anyone-whos-ever-loved-me/#kHLCcIAYiSHOcXyK.99

Haven’t really gotten the time to sit down and write something (granted, I’m writing everyday, just not for this blog…) but I am still reading! And enjoying myself quite a fair bit at work. I’ll be back really soon! But in the meantime, hold on to your chairs and countdown…because its FUHRIDAY!

And its time to party. <:-)

(Yep, that’s a party hat.)

Oversized Singlets

When I do it, I open a blank document and start my usual routine. 1) Change my font to Times New Roman, 2) Adjust my font size to 10, and 3) set my zoom level to 100%. I like seeing my thoughts stain the pristine white background with its coal black words. Its like watching the nectar of an overripe beetroot bleed into the cuticles of your skin. I never saw myself doing it, but I ended up doing it all the same.

The blister on my left index finger is making this a very trying job. Its making every ‘w’, ‘e’, ‘r’ and ‘t’ key I press feel like a subtle punishment. Like when your mother cooks peas for your every meal after a failed your math test. I don’t like to think that I’ve lost touch. That after having not done this for a while, I have forgotten what its like to have the contents of your mind emptied onto the platter that is this vast social network. That after having not done this for a while, I have forgotten what its like to have veiled unfamiliarity react to the aforementioned thought vomit as if it had been written by a long lost friend, a stranger you’ve known your whole life. The other day I told you, I felt my heart breaking – as though someone I was to love so very much in the future had just disappeared. That I was mourning for someone I had yet to love, and now would never have the chance to do so.

I like seeing my words fill up blank spaces. I would scribble them on whitewashed walls, I would chalk them on concrete grey pavements. I would inscribe them with the pebbles on the road, I would mark them with the blood from my fingers. I would write even if they came out illegible, I would sing if they wouldn’t come out in words. I would cry them even if I choked.

I like them the way I fill up loose singlets, like there’ll always be space for more.

Shapeless Existence

The most important things in life sometimes don’t exist. Love, friendship, happiness, courage, faith –they don’t come in solid, tangible forms. You don’t see them take shape, you don’t feel their weight when you pack them into duffel bags prior to your next great adventure, you don’t smell, see or feel their soft furry edges. You feel like they don’t exist, that they’re a figment of your imagination, a puzzle piece from one of your wildest dreams. A formless, cloudy mess that you never know whether really is there.

There’s a guava sitting on my work desk, a gift from my colleague to my mother. Its not just any guava mind you, it’s a Thai guava, lovingly marinated and preserved till a stunning shade of jade green. It may look like any other guava, it may smell like any other guava, it may taste like any other guava, but this is definitely no ordinary guava. There is also a wooden chopstick sticking out of the guava because my colleague wanted to make it look like a Toffee Apple. This is one lucky guava disguised as a Toffee Apple. One lucky guava.

When my mother gets the guava, she’s gonna hold it and say “Wow, this is one heavy guava.” But what she will fail to notice is that the guava is probably a lot heavier than what it weighs. She will put it on the kitchen counter and hear it hit the wooden surface with a significant thud. “Wow, this is one heavy guava.” she’s going to exclaim again, once again failing to notice that it would perhaps made a louder thud, a deeper thud, if only she was willing to listen. She will never know that within the guava bears the weight of someone’s thoughts, of someone’s love. That’s why the guava hit the table with a significant thud instead of a silent mew. That’s why when she held it in her hands, it sunk into the flesh of her palms and stained her with the concern of someone else.

When my mother slices the guava, she’s gonna cut it and say “Wow, this is one amazing smelling guava.” But what she will fail to notice is that the guava probably smells a lot better than what she perceives. She will put it on a plate and feel herself salivate from its aroma. “Wow, this is one amazing smelling guava.” she’s going to exclaim again as she contemplates finishing the fruit in its entirety, forgetting to save some for me. But what she will fail to notice is how, with every slice, the scent of someone’s love permeates every nook and cranny in the room, filling up the spaces between the refrigerator and the kitchen cabinet, filling the spaces between her lashes and filling the spaces between her teeth. That with every breath she takes, she inhales the love of someone else, letting it seep into the veins beneath her skin, seeping into her.

The most important things in life sometimes don’t exist. You feel them filling up the cemented floors and whitewashed floors, you feel them seeping through the cuticles of your skin, you feel them escaping from the pores on your palms and you feel them bursting from every beat of your heart. But you never know for sure if they exist, unless you happen to receive a very green guava on your daughter’s last day of work. Maybe then you can try to feel the weight of someone’s love and the scent of their concern.

Recipe For Perfection

I love to cook. Okay, maybe love is an understatement. I love watching beef brown in a pan, love hearing the sizzle when a shank hits the grill, love the feel of fresh herbs when you pluck them from your garden and the residual smell of Dill on my hands. Cooking is like free falling for me. I think of a dish (or an ingredient) I would like to make, type in a few keywords into the all-knowing Google search bar and its all instinct from there. I wish I could give you a better description, but recipes speak to me. I just know when I’ve found the perfect recipe, even if they include ingredients like Saffron (that, for your information costs about USD$3/gram) and Heirloom tomatoes (impossible to find).

Just yesterday, I was sifting through recipes during work and trying to stealthily prevent my colleagues from discovering pictures of mouthwatering chicken stews waving to them on my computer screen, and I happened to chance upon Cat Cora’s (First ever female iron chef, mother, pretty woman and every feminist chef’s dream come true) chicken stew recipe. At first I was like woah woah woah, this is a must make. Even if it calls for half a bottle of white wine. (You should know that I have had minor accidents in the kitchen while handling alcohol. Some include getting high near an open flame while trying to finish up the left over red from my beef stew and almost lighting my kitchen on fire while attempting to flambé quails in Cognac.) Actually, cooking is easy, if you’re able to follow instructions and pick out the right recipes, you should have no problem whipping up something moderately palatable. But I guess to me, cooking really is about experimenting. Back to the Cat Cora story. So I bookmarked that page and got ready to choose a bottle of cheap white from my cellar and suddenly I felt odd about Cat Cora. No, not the chef herself. To be honest, I am deathly afraid of her actually. The way she yells at people on Iron Chef? No thank you. When the right recipe finds you, you’re supposed to be smiling. Whether or not there are pictures of the final dish on the site, whether or not there are a million reviews raving about how it’s a 5 billion star recipe (true story), whether or not it came from a site like food.com or some dubious place like nytimes.com (the chicken stew recipe that ultimately spoke to me came from here. No joke.). The perfect recipe makes you feel like the dish is going to be a hit, even with your grumpy aunt who seems to hate all cuisine and all meat types. Its supposed to make your tummy rumble even before you’ve gone down to the grocer to get your ingredients. Its supposed to make you want to match it gram for gram, salt grain for salt grain so you don’t mess up.

Key word: Supposed. Because when I cook, I never follow the recipe. I mean I do to a certain extent. I add sage into the minced pork because the recipe said so, just that I add the entire pack instead of the recommended amount of 2 tablespoons. I add laughter, I add love, I add a broken pepper grinder to the recipe, even when not required. Sometimes I add tears, I add heartbreak and a dash of determination to live a little better. There will never be a perfect recipe, only recipes that speak to you and tell you “Hey, you might want to give me a try.” Just like how in life, people may hand you recipes that, tried and proven, is the route to a perfect life. But only you will know how much disappointment, pain and sorrow, how much happiness, joy and laughter you have to put in it to make it YOUR perfect life. You. Cooking is about finding out what you want. There will never be too much salt in a dish, just someone with too low a tolerance.

Ashes To Dust

Coughing with a lozenge in your mouth is a bad idea. Tilting your backward to cough with a lozenge in your mouth is a worse idea. The slippery bugger keeps trying to make its way into the back of your throat and nestle in the depths of your esophagus. Not a good idea. Then again, coughing alone is a terrible idea itself.

In spite of the cough, the dizziness from wearing coloured contacts and it being another Tuesday at work, I am in high spirits. Perhaps it is due to the seventh lozenge I am consuming this delightful morning (in addition to the 7 tablespoonfuls of cough syrup I had after breakfast) that is making me a little lightheaded and ridiculously easily tickled by everything my colleague is saying, or perhaps it is due to the fact that I have come to terms with what seems like my biggest fear in my dramatic teenage life – losing people.

Just this morning while on my way to work, I was autopiloting, watching the trees morph into a huddled mess outside the car window and lamenting about how lucky my pet rabbit was while my conscious mind thought of the friends I used to have, and those I now have left. There are about a million and four ways how people can vanish from your lives. Some, you can pinpoint the exact moment you knew they were slipping away through the gaps between your fingers. Others just happen to vanish, like how you know you remembered your dream just seconds before, yet you have zero recollection of it the next.

I choose to believe that its no one’s fault. That when tea dates which used to last hours, filled with the sounds of clinking teacups, our boisterous laughter and incessant chatter are now empty staring sessions where we try to color the silent void with meaningless bits of information which we already know. “So…how’s the army?” “Same old same old, we had physical training yesterday and I almost died running. Improving though, I am now inching my way to Silver instead of a Fail.” “Yeah, I knew that you told me the last time we met remember?” “…Oh yeah.” “…”But I guess awkward tea sessions are way better than no awkward tea sessions because we’re both still trying right? As much as a cup of Earl Grey and a few butter cookies isn’t going to transform our relationship back into its old comfortable state, it means we both miss us. And perhaps that’s the best funeral for a friendship that is slowly fading away.

I am still using the bottle you gave me for my last birthday, the one you hand drew my crazy ass smiling face and my Chinese surname on it. I still open our group conversation every day and regret the times I muted the updates. I still have the friendship band we bought together on our night coffee dates of Caramel Ice Blend from Coffee Bean. I still keep all of you in my heart and as much as I would like to try to mend what seems like cracks in our relationships, sometimes things are better this way. People are more likely to be careful when they handle delicate things, they make sure they don’t make a wrong move, one wrong step. They make sure they don’t tilt their heads back to cough when they have a lozenge in their mouth, for fear friendship slips away like that slippery candy down their throats and into nothingness.

Losing Things

Coming back to work after a 19 day holiday is like one of the worst forms of hell anyone can condense onto a blue Monday morning. Maybe that is the reason why my head is spinning and I feel like I am floating on cloud 21, the evil cousin of the adorable cloud 9. I also happen to only have $6 left in my wallet and approximately $21.54 left in my bank account, which leads me to telling you why I am at work today-its supposed to be payday. But of course, judging from the extra cheerful and positive tone of this post, you would have guessed that my net asset status now still stands at $27.74 (I found 20 cents at my desk) and my sanity at negative 58.

I have yet to find the crux of this post, or my messy stream of thoughts for that matter. I expected to have matured at least a good 20 years after spending some time away from this city and the people that I hate and love so much, but I guess I only gained 5 at the maximum, not too bad if you aren’t picky. You know how people love to shrug their shoulders and send you a nonchalant look while telling you “Bro, you lose some, you gain some.” almost as if they have looked past the frivolous matters of life and into the real essence of it? I kind of feel that way now, minus the fact that there isn’t someone I can tap on the back and deliver that quote to, except my boss who I think will take away whatever Zen feelings I have now.

It is true though, that life is this never ending cycle of losing and gaining. Perhaps the only constant. You lose a toy and gain independence. Lose a lover and it leaves a gaping hole in your heart. Lose a job and get back freedom. We are habitual creatures. We complain and whine about what life takes away from us, yet never once consider the times where we get back so much more (ok, maybe just equal amounts) in return. I sound so ridiculously clichéd talking about this, I’m probably going to regret it the moment I hit update, yet I need to remind myself that while life forces you to leave some things behind, and stealthily promises something else in return, there are certain things that are too important to give up. Things like your conscience, your integrity and yourself. These are things that you cannot give away in hopes you get something better in return. There will be no better you, than who you were meant to be.

Social Detoxing

I remember when my mother was having this yoga phase, she would do these monthly starvation routines where she consumed nothing but salt water and swallowed banana slices whole at the end of the day. She called it a detox and was convinced it would rid her of all the toxins and poison in her body, just because her best friend at that time swore by it. Whether it worked or not, I have no idea. However, the yoga mats have been neatly rolled up in their corner for quite some time now and I can no longer recall the last time she ate a banana.

I like Facebook. I like being able to know what my friends are up to without having to engage in a long and dreary conversation about how their pet cat died last month or how their so bored at work. I like being able to see exactly what’s happening to them-how they look in their new haircut, how they look at work, how their new boyfriend looks like, how they now look like. I like being able to snigger behind the shield of my computer screen and make wicked (but honest) remarks that would put Simon Cowell to shame. But I also dislike it. Facebook is like a breeding ground for drama. It is like a bubbling cauldron filled with all the necessary ingredients for an emotional showdown, it is a nesting spot for the bitch, bitcher and bitchiest. Facebook is Sparta, it is an arena for the worst and the ugliest.

So I have decided that I need a cleansing. A social cleansing to be exact. Even if it means that the cute waiter at the bar who sneakily asked for my name so he could run a search of me on Facebook can’t find me there. There are bigger and better things in life to look forward to besides the lunch your friend had yesterday, there are greater and more important things in life that you should occupy yourself with besides the silly little blurbs your friends post online. Take time out to really ask them how they are instead of inferring and convincing yourself that they are okay. Even if it means you have to tolerate the whining, the dramas, the hoard of irrelevant information, do it.

I guess I’ll be off the social radar for a while then. Maybe I’ll even take up yoga, make a few hipster friends and run off to live in a cave high up in the Southern mountains in Mongolia. (Wait, are there even mountains, let alone Southern mountains? Whatever.) And if you’re really bent on knowing how I am, or how I’m doing, I’m sure you’ll find a way. They have snail mail there, I think.