Dear past-self

a gratuitous birthday photo

As of now, I have been alive for a grand total of 210,435 hours (that’s one way to be sneaky about not revealing your age, but a bunch of you will probably google it anyway, so eh).

That also translates to:

757,567,200 seconds.

45,454,032,000 electric jiffies.

12,626,120 minutes.

0.02402 milleniums.

0.00000010444477532923 galactic years.

Is that not cool? I would tell you I’ve calculated all that by myself, but I’ll have to expend credit to this nifty program I found here.

Random trivia aside, that’s a relatively long time to be alive! I’m certainly a different person I am today, compared to who I was 10 years ago. For today, I’d like to do something special, and retrogress back 210,435 hours, so I can tell my past-self a couple of things I’ve learnt along the way. Without further ado, let’s get the time-machine ticking. Here we go.

Dear past-self,

photo credit:

1. Grocery shopping. Believe it or not, there will come a day when grocery shopping actually seems more fun and fulfilling than playing computer games and trying to beat that final boss in Sailor-Moon R. You’ll find it an engaging and oddly-reassuring experience, akin to domestic bliss. You do get to push your own trolley. You’ll also develop a love for Asian and Korean grocery stores, with their charmingly stocked rows of Asian sweets, milk-mints, matcha-Pocky, and melon ice-cream.

2. You can live without Pepsi. Aligned with that, you’ll also learn that sweets, junk food, and canned cream soups are really bad for you, and you would have stopped drinking Pepsi entirely by now, in favor of fresh vegetables, fruits, tofu, chickpeas, and clear water (you’ll drink a hell of a lot of water). So you can do it! You can live without Pepsi!

it was free burrito day in uni!

3. Aunty-pride. You’ll pick up “aunty-pride”, and understand the beauty that is paying “half-price” for something usually “full-price”. You’ll also develop an embarrassing but useful knack for spotting free samples, which is pretty awesome, considering that you’ll be getting things like burritos, cheese-crumbles, fresh food slices, sausages, and even pizza, without paying a cent.

credit: Sasaki Asahi

4. Make-up. You’ll learn how to wear eyeliner like a pro. It won’t always start out that way though. Your first few attempts will look something along the lines of being punched in the eye multiple times. But it’s okay. You’ll soon learn how to do it within 5 minutes or less, without missing an inch. Practice makes perfect.

5. Cross-dressing. You should also probably know, that ironically, the reason you picked up make-up in the first place was so you could cross-dress as a dude. Lol.

6. Being a failure. You would have understood the meaning of being a failure, of being lost, of being at the seemingly absolute lowest point in your life. More than once. Multiple times. It will hurt. A lot. Especially if you’ve always defined your value by your achievements and grades. But you would have also understood the meaning of picking yourself up again, and pressing on. On days like this, when it feels like you’re not going anywhere, and that you’ll never get any better, remember that all things will come to pass. You need to press on. It will get better. Perhaps the hardest lesson is learning that sometimes, you do need to crumble empires, and start from scratch. And that’s okay. New beginnings may sometimes be exactly what you need.

“The Missing piece”- Shel Silverstein

7. Healing. Heartbreak will not, contrary to its name, break your heart. Not permanently, at least. Again, this will hurt. But in the bigger picture, you’ll understand that you can heal from anything, even if it takes a while, even if they’ve left the deepest imprints within your heart, even if they’ve lit bonfires in your soul. Trust me on this one, it’s a lesson and sentiment worth learning. And until you do heal, you’ve always got Nutella. And friends. Haha.

8. Plans. You cannot plan life in a neatly drawn map and hope that everything falls into place. Instead, plan and visualise key goals, with (wide) margins of error. Sometimes, nothing will go according to plan, and it will be an absolute blessing in disguise.

a day I stood under blooming jacarandas

9. Take leaps of faith. You won’t get answers by standing still. You need to keep moving in spite of fear, not in the absence of it. That is courage. Remember that every-time you’re about to make a big, important decision, it is going to scare you. Terrify you, even, because you actually care this time and you’re giving all the damns in the world. You’re taking a risk even if you don’t know where you’re going, and what is going to happen. That is a marvellous thing, because you are being very, very brave, and at that very instance, and you should feel proud of yourself.

PS: You’ll end up in a beautiful country with warm people and purple jacarandas because you decided to take a leap of faith. 

10. Validation. The things that you love and enjoy are validated. Don’t be ashamed of them, even if nobody else but you sees its value at that time. If it gives you peace, it is validated. It is real enough, for you, and that’s all that needs to matter.

11. The world isn’t as scary as you think. People are kinder than you think. And yes, you’ll find friends. You’ll never be completely alone. They are good people, who will make you laugh until your sides split, and whom you’ll find not just company, but mutual solace in.

Art by 川野

12. Being alone isn’t so bad anymore. Although, ironically because you’ve been alone for so long, you’ll actually learn  to enjoy being alone. Grocery-shopping alone. Traveling alone. Waiting in airports alone. Having lunch alone. And you’re actually going to prefer it, in some instances. So it’s the best of both worlds!

Not for too long though. All happiness is within balance. Don’t let go of the people you know you want to keep in your life.

13. Confusion. You’re not gonna have all the answers, unfortunately. You’re still confused as hell, and you’re figuring out what to do with your life. But while growing older doesn’t always come with clarity, it does come with the emotional maturity and coping tools needed, to handle things like uncertainty, failure, fear, and loss. Life is not a series of checklists you tick, in chronological order. Sometimes, you need to U-turn and reverse. Sometimes you travel Route C just to come back to Route A. Through the fog, you gotta keep going until you find the sun.

14. Directness. Solves so much problem. Just be honest about the issues that are bothering you. Get it out there. Don’t let it fester.

15. Do not give up. Just don’t. It’s less about the outcome, and more about the damage it does to your own faith in your self-efficacy. It’s going to cost you a lot of guilt. Sometimes if you start something, even if you’re falling apart halfway, finish it. At least, there is honour in that.

16.  Love. You’ve spent just over 2 decades trying to be comfortable in your own skin, and while you are not quite there yet, somewhere in hopefully not-too-distant future, you are getting there. Until then, you’ve learnt to love and forgive yourself for taking a little while, warts and all.

17. Carrots and broccoli take longer to cook. Put them to boil first.

18. Irons. For the love of God, please do not leave irons plugged in, especially if they’re on flammable, easily burnt carpets.

Happy Birthday. To the future. 


Satan’s Pincushion

Dear Seafarer,

I just killed a cockroach and it took me half-an-hour to remove the grisly carcass off the insecticide pool on the floor, and into the rubbish bin; because I couldn’t bring myself to go near its body. Even if I used a broom, the visual of the broom touching the cockroach made me feel as if I was touching it with my own fingers. Gross.

I ended up devising a method to move the body by using a toilet paper roll, and two large sheets of newspaper. I placed the toilet paper roll vertically on the floor, in such a manner, so that the cockroach sits within the hollow of the roll, with the cylindrical cardboard sides surrounding it. This way, I can no longer see the offending thing, with its 6 hairy legs sticking up like Satan’s pincushion.

I hold the toilet paper, blocking the top with my palm, and gingerly move it, along with the cockroach inside, until both items are atop a newspaper, which I have previously placed on the floor. All this time I was imagining all sorts of horrid scenarios where the body falls apart, and I’m left with cockroach appendages scattered all over the floor. The thought horrified me so much that I felt my hands and thighs quake.

It was a momentous time indeed when I finally watched the toilet roll cross the border between the floor and the newspaper, with the cockroach still in one piece within the roll. I was so worried that the cockroach would get stuck as I attempted to push it onto the newspaper. It would be my worst nightmare. Again I imagined cockroach appendages coming apart and I retched inside.

I carefully fold the sides of the newspaper upwards, almost in a mock gift-wrapping motion, and end up with a funny bundled up package, with the toilet roll still vertically upright, the cockroach still inside. To seal the deal (because of my irrational fear that the cockroach would somehow fall through the insecticide soaked newspaper), I wrapped another newspaper on top of the bundle, scrunching it tightly.

Now I have something that looks sort of like this (except with newspapers):

With a deep breath, I toss the bundle into a plastic bag, tie it up, and bin it.

It was gone. I stared at the spot on the floor where the cockroach once lay, feeling immensely proud of myself. I wiped and cleaned up the insecticide, and checked the time.

It was 5 am in the morning.

What has this taught me?

Fear teaches you to be creative.


My boyfriend/partner/husband requirement must include “Ability to kill spiders/cockroaches/bugs/creepy crawlies/pests for me”

I am so done. Good night (morning).

And oh, Happy SWOTVAC!



I debated not posting this, but then I thought, screw the world. There are spaces in this world you need to claim for your own, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. 

The deepest thoughts happen in the shower.

more experiments for my photo series.

Parade Parade

I went to see a lantern parade, done in the name of diversity, equality, and justice for marginalized groups. There were various assortments of funny looking lanterns, ranging from festively garish to artfully done (my favourite were the fishes). They streamed down South Bank, and for a fragment of the night, I felt as if I was in the presence of ghosts and monsters from the otherworld.

Stuck at the jetty due to the streaming parade, I stayed and tried to take photos. My camera was overexposed, and I couldn’t fix it.

After a while, I gave up, and took in the scene with my eyes.

It was cold, and I found myself thinking about the past, and how I would have done things differently.

It’s funny what the night does to you.

DSC00618 DSC00627 DSC00628 DSC00629 DSC00635 DSC00636 DSC00637 DSC00638 DSC00643 DSC00651 DSC00655

Hot Chocolate and Strange Men with Cameras

paperchild courtesy of lovely Bernie

I was having hot chocolate by a street cafe with a friend when I noticed a guy pointing his camera at us. My suspicions told me that he was taking our photos, but my friend brushed it off by saying that we were probably in his line of sight. We continued our conversation, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling.

After a while, he got up and approached our table. He introduced himself, a clean cut man in a gray sweater and a French accent. He was fairly good looking, and had a DSLR camera with him.

“Hello, would you like me to send you these photos I took?”

I looked into his camera, and it was a shot of me, smiling at my friend, with hot chocolate in my hand. The background was blurred in romantic golds and earthy woods. Taken aback, I could only smile. He asked for my number and contact details.

My friend proceeded to banter with him as he showed her more shots on his camera. Apparently he took more photos of me.

I gave him my email.

My first thought was to feel flattered. I often don’t think my face looks like anything special, certainly not something that warrants a photo. To me, my features look plain, or wonky and distorted. But perhaps that is how it is, when you’ve essentially grown up with your own bone structure your whole life, you get so used to your features that nothing about it fazes you. I wonder what strangers see when they look at me.

We shook hands, he left, and I had a small feeling of warmth in my heart. It was just nice to feel appreciated (or what I thought was a form of appreciation) for things you would never notice within yourself. To be appreciated just for sitting in a bustling cafe, by the street, on a cold winter’s night, drinking hot chocolate. To be appreciated, just for being.

However, upon sharing my experience with another friend later on, I realized just how different our perspectives could be. She pointed out that he was possibly a creep, and that his behaviour was uncalled for.

I felt a little silly and naive after that. Now I don’t know if my own self-esteem is so low that I would take a creep taking unsolicited photos of me as a compliment, or if I’m generally too trusting, to my own disadvantage.

I somehow don’t feel too disturbed though. Perhaps I colour my world with rose-tinted glasses half-the-time, and I’m very much aware that I’d be in for a rude awakening once I removed them. Perhaps I was consciously keeping them on.

Do I still want to remove them ? Was I being appreciated or was I being taken advantage of? Does it matter to find out the true motive of this stranger, if it made me feel a little happy inside?

I don’t know. This became a confusing memory for me, with half of it tinged in warmth, and the other half grey and cold.