People-watch: Origami Birds

I have always thought that people are much like books. Some are thick (take it to mean depth or density, as you will). Some are thin. Some are open. Some are closed. But we all have stories; past, present, future. We are a collection of chapters and scripts in progress, unfolding one after another. And then there’s the special little traits, the idiosyncratic bits; revealing snapshots of personalities and character. These are the things that give our stories humanity, and heart. A glimpse into a person is perhaps one of the more quietly beautiful, or quietly devastating things one may experience. 

In this particular post, I will talk about something I found quietly beautiful.

I spotted a boy in lecture, folding origami birds from discarded flyer paper. In a sea of people, I was lucky enough to sit right behind him. I remember his hands. They were pink and healthy looking. There was something about them which seemed sturdy. He had fingertips which were slightly rounded, like the ends of spatulas. His fingernails were slightly yellow, but only at the untrimmed bits. Perhaps indication of a rather relaxed personality. Might cut his nails when he wants to, not when he needs to.

I’m not sure when I noticed him folding birds. I believe it happened when I drifted out of focus. The lecturer had put up a slide of a lion and a lionness fornicating as a joke, in keeping with the Freudian sexual undercurrent of the lecture. Ah, perhaps it was somewhere there. 

I remember first seeing him folding a strip of paper. Initially, I could not tell what he was folding it into. It looked to me, to be a geometrical conglomeration of triangular shapes.

A frog? A paper crane?

His fingers were steadily folding the tiny strip of paper into something tangible. It was careful folding, so the corners met with precision. There were no overbites or flashes of uneven paper. It was almost as if he had invisible lines guiding him, point to point. I admire people who can fold things with such exactness. It is a skill I have never amounted to. I am always messy somehow. There is something jagged and unrefined about the way I fold origami. My paper boats came out as strange, mutated looking things. If I were an architect, I would build a house on a blueprint of approximates, and pray to God that it does not crumble. 

Back to him. 

The boy folded a flap. And another one. And another one. 

He would fold, then slide his fingers across the newly made fold or crease, to ensure it stayed there. It almost seemed like a conclusive act to me. With each fold or crease, he was transforming the paper permanently. The lines on the paper would never be undone. 

It was a hypnotic rhythm. I found myself imagining that I was a piece of paper, manipulated into a tiny origami sculpture by his careful hands. With each definitive fold, each crease imprinted into my body, I was one step closer towards being transformed into something entirely different. 

Finally, he stopped folding, and pulled out two tiny flaps, tucked within the pleats of the paper.


He placed the completed origami on the table in front of him. It could stand upright.

A tiny paper bird.

I’m not sure why, but I felt immensely relaxed and satisfied after that. I felt as if I had been following his folding all way through, and I could appreciate the final product so much more, having understood the process behind it. Also, there was something soothing about the orderly, effortless manner in which he performed the folding. It was a structured and unchaotic work of art.

I wanted him to fold more birds. 

I watched him pick up another strip of flyer paper, and tear it into a perfect square. 

Fold another one. Please.

It was then that the lecturer moved into Freud’s psychosexual stages. The boy put down his half-folded origami, and began to scribble notes. I snapped back into focus momentarily. When I looked back, the boy had decided to stop folding, in favor of taking notes.

Fair enough.

After that, the lecture continued as usual, but for some reason, I could not stop imagining that I was a piece of paper, firmly manipulated into an origami paper bird…



A Capable Adult

A post I wrote from a year ago, from a different time of my life.  

When I was younger, I used to have the perception that everything would smoothen out with age.

An adult can tell me that you should eat your vegetables, that it’s not okay to go out on rainy days, that I shouldn’t stick my head out of windows, that it’s okay for a negative number to minus a positive number, that I won’t die even if I swallowed ( a small ) chewing gum by accident, that I won’t get lost if I hold on to their hands.

An adult can buy anything they want. Drive themselves. Dress themselves. Wear make up. Kiss. Reach the highest shelf on the cupboard. Go places alone. Swim without a float. Things like that.

An adult can solve problems. An adult has answers.

That is the feeling I got when I was a young child, looking up into the faces of people towering above me.

My parents reinforced this. I was often told that;

“When you are older, you can do anything you want, you can be anything you want.”

So I believed them. I thought that when I grew up, I’d naturally be cooler, stronger, better looking, less awkward, smarter, braver, capable. I’d naturally transition into university, get good grades, get a good job, live independently, fall in love, start a family, live happily.

I would become a capable adult.

But this was not to be.

I was severely disappointed to find that, the older I grew, the more I shrank as a person. I would battle constantly against puberty and wrongly aligned limbs and unfortunate heights and gaining weight at the wrong time, wrong places. I would battle constantly with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, self loathing. I would make wrong choices. I would make mistakes. I might or might not learn from them. I would feel lost. I would learn to fail, and fail horribly. I would develop a fear of driving and buses and people. I would be nervous when I need to answer the telephone, or make my own calls. I would need chairs to reach the top shelf of the cupboard. I would feel ugly, stupid, small.

Things like that.

It’s like somewhere in between the timeline where I was supposed to transition into this “capable adult”, someone pulled some strings, made a few knots, cut out certain parts. And as a result, every step of the way, I constantly felt as if something was missing.

Something is not right yet. This is not happiness yet. This is not “me” yet.

12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21…and counting.

When will I finally feel complete?

I’m afraid. Sometimes I don’t know if I am a painfully late bloomer, or if I’m just…late.

Still, I won’t say that I’ve completely lost hope.

I tell myself on days like this, that everything happens for a reason. That roads may diverge just to converge again. That at least there are things I can do now which I couldn’t do back then. It might be small things, such as cooking, or going to places by myself, or answering phone calls and making them ( even if I still get nervous ), or taking buses ( even if I am afraid of angry bus drivers ) or slightly bigger things, such as driving ( still working on my road anxiety though ), or taking charge of the house, or being able to give advice of my own. And then there are other things, such as patience, or empathy, or the ability to appreciate.

Did I lose my point somewhere through this rambling? I’m sorry.

I guess what I’m trying to say, overall, is that, maybe being an “adult” is just a number and category. There are things you may or may not be able to do when you come to a certain age. Sometimes you’ll fly, much faster than everyone else. Sometimes you might take a little longer. And maybe, you’d still be afraid of things you were afraid of when you were 10. You might not have all the answers. But maybe that’s alright, because that’s where maturity and inner growth counts, perhaps even more than the number or “category” you have become.

The landscape might not change much, but because inside, you have, you might see a difference. And maybe, it would be a good sort of difference. And you might find yourself smiling in spite of yourself.

Perhaps inner growth is like standing still on the Earth’s tilting axis. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t moving, it’s just that you don’t notice its movement.

And hey! Look at what I’m doing now. I’m comforting myself when I’m feeling sad and hurt. I’m attempting to comprehend and deconstruct my emotions and thoughts. And I’m teaching myself forgiveness. I’m teaching myself to curb self loathing. I’m on a roll with this whole “being an adult” thing!


Through small glimpses of “this person”, I can come to believe that I’ll find her one day.

This person who is no longer afraid of buses, or phone calls, or driving, or loneliness. This person who is confident. This person who is doing everything I’ve never dreamed I would be able to do. This person who is strong and independent and capable. This person who is passionate. This person who is loved, who is in love. This person who is happy and smiling for real.

Today, maybe I am already becoming a “capable adult”.