Soaking In Gratitude

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A knock echoed through my empty apartment one unassuming Tuesday afternoon and a raspy voice followed after. “Kuai di!” he bellowed and I tottered towards the door, expecting to receive yet another parcel — the result of cheapass China products and too efficient online shopping.

Receiving mail is one of the greatest joys in this tech-savvy era, but when you receive 20 tightly wrapped parcels in the short span of a week, it can turn into the biggest pain in the ass. This time, instead of brown cardboard boxes mummified in too much cellophane tape, it was a Styrofoam box.

Attacking it with skilled finesse — something I have mastered over the months of opening countless parcels, it revealed bubble wrap. A layer of bubble wrap so thick it completely concealed what it meant to hold. 2 ice packs fell out. I lost my mind. What the heck did I buy?

After layers of peeling, it revealed a 1.5 feet long (think in terms of Subway sandwich lengths) pumpkin tartlet. From who? A friend I happened to meet up with while visiting Beijing. Why? Because she bought it for me once and I couldn’t stop complimenting it. It sat there, in that huge Styrofoam box, smothered in bubble wrap and ice packs, still cool to the touch. So cool it burned a fiery hole in my heart.

I haven’t met many people after moving to Shanghai. I’m a firm believer that socialising takes too much effort and I’m not the kind to build relationships I don’t see lasting the dissuasion of time. Exchange students? Not my type. The locals however, surprise me. Generous, companionable and down to earth, they have found an incomprehensible way of wriggling into the depths of my heart. They are the kind that grow on you. The kind you never expect to root in the depths of your soul and flourish into something larger than love itself.

Thunderstorms

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I have a habit of listening to music at deafening volumes in complete darkness whenever there’s a heaviness in my heart that I can’t seem to comprehend. When I developed this habit I don’t know. I don’t even know if it makes me feel better because twenty minutes into this and I still feel suffocated by the still night air.  

Storms are supposed to make the sky look darker, like a foreshadowing of ominous thoughts or baleful wishes. Yet tonight, the night sky is unnaturally lit by what seems like an impending torrent of rain. It’s funny how when you eliminate the potential threat of deafening thunder roars, streaks of lightning actually seem easier to appreciate. They illuminate the darkness in a brilliant yet almost artificial manner and in that fraction of a second they burst into light, everything is crystal clear.

If you were here, perhaps I would have righteously proclaimed the storm as “cuddle weather”. But since you’re not, and the weight of the night has proven too much to bear alone, I’ll resign to doing what I do best — escape. When the world is bent on sending torrential downpours your way, the last thing you want to do is to fight it. When the universe is hell bent on making you break, maybe the easiest way to emerge unscathed is to hide somewhere they can’t find you. That, I can do.

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

Ideas are Bulletproof

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School makes you appreciate the lesser things in life — like showering at absurd times of the day and seeking refuge from the scorching sun beneath the comfort of your blankets and artificially chilled air.

I just spent the afternoon curled up in the fetal position on fresh bedsheets when I should have been halfway across the island, stiffly sat upon a lecture chair fighting sleep. I tell myself sacrifices have to be made in order to retain whatever’s left of my sanity on a stuffy Monday morning and guiltlessly enjoyed my midday nap. A 10 hour work day is way too intense for the second week of school.

While waiting for the train in the sweltering heat and mindlessly scrolling through my Tumblr feed, I realised we fall in love with the idea of things like a moth helplessly attracted to a burning flame. We repost images we see online of people we’ve never met and rolls of cigarettes we’ve never really tasted. We fall in love with the simplicity of an image and the endless possibilities of perfection it brings. Flowers that never have to wither, balloons that rise without limit and love that’s captured infinitely in the summer.

I once asked why he never bought me flowers, insisting that I was being denied the one thing I truly loved and brought me immeasurable happiness. (Peonies particularly. Others not so.) In return, I was told what I loved was the idea of receiving and not the actual act. That I fell in love with the images of bouquets with the pastel hues against the flushed skin, the smiles and joyous laughter I was conditioned to expect when I held a stalk between my hands. In reality, I wouldn’t know what to do with them the moment the excitement faded. I would trouble with where and how to dispose of them, I would fret when they gradually lost their elegant disposition.

We fall in love with the idea of things because we can’t help it. Because things are always so covetable, so beautiful, so flawless when we only see them in a two dimensional world. We replay scenarios in our heads, convinced that we’re irrevocably smittened, until one day ideas become reality and we begin to grasp the unfathomable knowledge of why and how ideas are and will always be better kept in fantasy.

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I don’t like the volatility of life. The fact that one day you can feel powerful enough to conquer the world, yet on another, you’re huddled in bed wondering what sick higher power insists on keeping us alive. 

 

 

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.

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!

Fighting Battles

It feels a little lonely tonight. Just a little. Maybe the air is two and a half degrees too cold and the night sky four shades too dark. Maybe its six and a quarter decibels too quiet and three minutes too fast. Maybe there are no reasons to why I happen to feel alone tonight, just like how there are no reasons to why I shouldn’t.

I have somehow or rather accepted the fact that I won’t be getting any sleep tonight, and I still don’t get why I’m still trying so hard. I am desperate to leave this mess , and this desperation seems to escalate with every case I am forced to dissect and every word I am forced to burn into memory. I am lesser of who I am, and more of who they want me to be. I don’t try anymore, I don’t fight.  I have possibly given up on most of the things that I thought were extremely important to me, but now seem to be of no value to anyone, or anything here. I am desperate to leave and to reclaim the things I have lost. I am desperate to leave, but afraid that this mess extends further than what seems to be.

Sometimes people will make you feel worthless. They will make you feel like you’ve been relegated to the bottom of the food chain. And for 6 weeks now, I’ve been swimming around like krill, my sole purpose of existence to fill the bottomless, souless bellies of these whales that surround me every single day. And for 6 weeks now, I have failed to retaliate. But soon you will realize that, when cornered, desperate people can achieve even the most unbelievable feats. And right now, this is me.

I am messed up, I admit that. I have no solid plans for what lies ahead, neither do I have any plans for now. I am about to throw away what seems to be a blindingly bright future and walk the unknown path in the search for happiness. I am not sure if it even exists, or if its too elusive to belong to someone like me, but unhappiness is something you should never get accustomed to. Happiness may not exist, but you should never stop searching for it. And if in this course of forage brings broken noses and scraped knees, count me in. There is never a losing battle, because every time you put up a fight, you’ve already won.