Lessons #1

Going to Indooroopilly

Exit Indooroopilly Shopping Mall using Station Rd or Musgrave Rd.

The U-turn is slightly on the right.

Going to Suj’s house

You can stay on the middle lane to get to M3

Cooking breaded tofu

Use firm tofu. And mayo. More egg. Keep the tofu dry.

 

Making matcha cheesecake

Cut the cream cheese into smaller bits. Let it melt for a smooth finish.

 

The Alternate Universe of an Unremarkable Life

Dear Seafarer,

I am dying, and I know it.

I mean, yes, technically, everyone ends up dead at some point, but I am dying in a way far more terrifying than the biological atrophy of my body.

I am dying in my soul. A death of the mind and its passions. An intellectual decay.

I profess that I have been feeling rather demotivated lately. I’ve recently flown home for a bit after completing an intense final year in my degree. I am now a graduate. In cruder terms, I  am also “officially unemployed,” and at a complete loss as to where to go from here. Prospective offers which once seemed promising no longer feel within grasp. My visa progress seems to also have stagnated. I have no idea if the application will be accepted.

There’s something terrifying about not having a concrete plan, and realising, with rising urgency, that time is ticking. The twenties seem to surge past us by like bullet-trains. Suddenly the thirties loom just around the corner.

My life, I feel, has not yet begun.

So here I am, back at home, attempting to recalibrate my life. I find myself back in limbo, deeply uncertain of the future, and threading the line of apathy and hedonism. I wake up as the morning tips into the afternoon. I eat what I want. I catch up with my friends. I talk to my parents, and listen to my mother complain about the maid. I watch mindless Youtube videos of a bleached blonde ranting about her cheating boyfriend, and manage to be strangely invested. Occasionally I’ll indulge in a documentary, or an intelligent commentary about the veiled meaning behind so-and-so movie, but that only slightly  alleviates the guilt that I am wasting my life, potential, and opportunities away.

It is effortful to plan and get productive. Somewhere within the recesses of my mind, I recognise that I am being foolish and irrational, but I simply cannot bring myself to do anything. My brain is trying its best, sparking off with lists and creative fun activities and miscellaneous things that will probably make tomorrow a better day, if I committed to doing them. But somehow, I don’t get to doing anything substantial. One by one, I feel my ideas die within me.

It’s a disconcerting feeling. Each idea feels like an electric impulse, travelling down a neuron, only to meet a dead end, because it isn’t paired with immediate action. The idea fizzles out at the synaptic terminals, and I go back to my mindless Youtube surfing, with guilt and self-admonishing mounting within me. My mind palace is  gradually beginning to go gray, and crumble.

This has prompted me to start thinking about the lack of momentum I’ve been experiencing in my life, and how this could pan out, a few years down the road. Here is one plausible scenario:

In an alternate, bleak future, I’ve forgotten how to feel passionate about anything. I haven’t drawn in a while, and I no longer get creative visions. Art no longer excites me, and I can’t be bothered to try either. I’ve missed out on amazing opportunities, because I haven’t been able to stick to something long enough to see it through. I’m still dependent on my unfortunate parents, who are worried sick for me, because I haven’t been able to find a job. My peers and siblings have moved on, and are flourishing in their careers. I’m poor, afraid, lacking in imagination, and terribly lost. I don’t have much job experience, or skills that I can offer. This affects my self-esteem, and I end up developing social anxiety, making it difficult for me to make friends or sustain a relationship. In attempt to cope, I delude myself into making grand plans, none of which I’ve actually taken action to accomplish, out of said anxiety. I stay within my comfortable bubble of “anticipation,” without actually moving an inch.

Also, I probably still use cheap dollar-store make-up (gasp).

Back to the present.

I’m here, today, writing this blog post, in attempt to dissect the anatomy of this rut. I have 48 drafts of things I’ve started but never finished, but somehow, I feel like I need to push through for this entry. If I do not force myself to break the spell, I feel like my life will somehow go on, underwhelmingly, comfortably. It is one of the most dangerous things that can possibly happen, to someone of my placcid personality.

I am thinking about my unremarkable future, and I wonder, from where I stand now, if I could still change it all. Crossroads terrify me because they unfold the story in very different ways, should one road be taken over the other. I have this feeling that there’s no turning back.

I do not like to seal my own fate. It is far too much responsibility. If I screw up, it’s on me.

However, in the words of Thomas Carlyle,

Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. 

I’ve been there before, rooted to the spot, afraid to act out of fear. Suddenly, my life passed me by, and I was struggling to keep up. Will I make the same mistake? Is that a future I can accept?

I shudder to think of it. I must not allow it. I must do something, anything.

Tomorrow, I’m driving myself to the salon, to cut my hair. I will make my bed, and declutter my room. It is a small thing, but it is a start. Perhaps then I will write my goals down in a little notepad, and think deeply about how to go about achieving them, over roasted green tea.

Come to think of it, I’ll need to make a dental appointment,  call the immigration centre, update my resume, and work on that drawing….

I must move, somehow. This amniotic sac of time will only last me for a bit, before life ruptures upon me, and grants me rebirth.

The search goes on.

I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone

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Placeholder image until I draw my own. The night at Mt Cootha. I was supposed to take pictures of the Supermoon. Oh well.

Dear Seafarer,

The worst part about getting used to someone else’s warmth, is forgetting how to sleep alone. Some nights start to feel tougher than most.

But ah, it’s not all that cracked up to be, when you really think about it, right?

First, there’s the stickiness, perhaps of sweat, and the stink of other bodily fluids. Sometimes it gets a little too hot. You’re cramped up a tiny space, or you swear to God that some part of your body’s blood circulation is getting cut off. The blanket-to-person ratios are off-balance. You tangle limbs. You turn around, and your face is buried in the crook of someone’s armpit hair. The bed feels too damned small. You become an automatic audience of gassy fanfares (farts and all). Let’s not get started on the sonorous symphony of snoring, or the flattering view up someone’s nostrils.

But then, they reach over, and pull you close. You feel their heartbeat. You feel their flushed skin. The softness of their fat, or the hardness of their bones. The rise and fall of their chest. The sound of their breathing. Their warmth, right next to you. A tangible reminder that you are not alone, not tonight.

It is a sweetly comforting feeling. I’ve always wondered why strangers crawl into bed with each other. I do believe I am beginning to understand why.

We don’t want to sleep alone. Not all the time, anyway.

Touch is one of the most basic foundations of human contact. We hug, kiss, hold hands, make love. We are reminded of how we are essentially one organism, pulsing together to the beat of life. We connect when we touch; silently, powerfully.

In this wide, wide universe, with specimens as vast as the stars, we are not alone. What a miraculous, beautiful blessing that is! It is one I hope to never take for granted.

But these days, I think, I will have to get used to sleeping alone again.

Yesterday, I wrote one of the hardest message I ever had to, in my life, and sent it. I essentially told a man who loved me, that I didn’t know if I could love him back, at least to a similar intensity. I had been agonising over this conversation for a while, and it finally came to a breaking point.  I had to confront it, as difficult as it was. I felt like scum. I felt foolish, selfish, ungrateful. I cried the whole night through. But, it was done.I did what I thought was the most honest thing I could do, to honour him, and his feelings.

Despite all that, I was miserable, and I only had myself to blame.

I don’t wish to romanticise loneliness. Sure, they wax lyrical about self-empowerment and being “your own person,” before you get into relationships. They tell you to sort out your emotional baggage, or it’ll come back like a demon and haunt you relentlessly, no matter who you end up with. And yes, I largely agree with these principles.

But there are some days when I honestly just… don’t want to be alone. I had gotten a glimpse of warmth, and I craved for more. However, I couldn’t do it, at the expense of someone else.

Yesterday night, after sending the difficult text, and crying my eyes out, I texted a friend. Then, I made mushroom soup, entirely on a whim. I chopped a bowl of button mushrooms, a potato, and some onions. I simmered them with almond milk, covered the pot, and left to cry some more. The pot boiled over. I rushed back to the kitchen, and cleaned the mess on the stove. Then I added salt, herbs, and left it to simmer some more. I started crying again. My friend eventually came, close to 10. P.M. I answered the doorbell, red-eyed, with tear-stained cheeks.

We sat down on the couch, and talked.

I sobbed about how I was afraid I had made a mistake, about how I was afraid, fundamentally, that I’ll end up alone forever. What if I don’t find a man who will love me that much, ever again? What if THIS was it, and I had royally screwed myself over?

She spoke, softly, gently. Her hands were on me, her eyes were tender.

There it was. The touch, the human connection.

The conversation eventually drifted to other things, but I didn’t mind. In that moment, I was not alone.

Warmth, I had to remind myself,  takes different forms too. Sometimes in a friend. A mother. A cat. A cup of tea from a stranger. It most certainly is not exclusive to lovers. But we can forget, sometimes. Somewhere along the way, within a quarter of a century, I myself had forgotten how to sleep alone. It would be a struggle, for a while, to get comfortable again, in my own silence.

But while I sleep alone (for now), I would not be lonely.

Today, I woke up, and my hand itched to text him. Itched to tell him I was sorry. Itched to ask  if he would take me back. My emotions were taking me for a ride, and I knew I would cave in.

So I did the only thing I could do. Remind myself, that I didn’t have to stew in my own loneliness.

I spoke to someone else. I messaged my sister. I confided in a friend. Then, I studied. Surprisingly, I was pretty productive. I hadn’t been flowing in my work, not in a long while.

Around midnight, I went to see the supermoon with another friend, and her sister. I had my tumbler of home-brewed chrysanthemum tea with me. I sipped it on the viewing deck, underneath the stars. The “supermoon” was bright, but still small and blurry from where we were. My camera could not adequately capture it. I did  not bother taking photos, and just took in the atmosphere. Couples were everywhere. The place was abound with chatter. It was noisy, chaotic.

I thought about him, and if I wanted him by my side, at that very moment. I realised that while I wouldn’t mind it, I suppose, I wouldn’t mind this temporary solace, either.

My friend came bounding back to me with her camera. We got up, dusted ourselves, and went home, both agreeing that it was an underwhelming experience.

But still, it wasn’t unpleasant. I had company of my own. Within that security, I was fine being by myself, for a while. I wasn’t envious of the couples around me. I was okay, despite the weariness in my heart.

I suppose, that’s what it is. Ultimately, as long as we have loved ones to return to, we’ll be fine. That’s something we need to remember. Company and warmth does not start and end with a lover. At the same time, solace gives us the space to properly miss, and truly appreciate the people important to us.

Tonight, I sleep alone. Tomorrow, I will wake up fine, just as loved, and entirely blessed. I will miss him, of course. But life moves on. If we’re meant to be, we’ll fall into each other’s orbits again.

Let the healing begin.

I am a fairy (and maybe a cat)

Dear Seafarer,

I promise I have something more substantial to say after such a long time, BUT it’s Halloween, a time where I enjoy being simultaneously vain and creative. So, today, I became a fairy. I saw a make-up tutorial by Alienmoe and I was really compelled after to stick things on my face. I had bought a bunch of flowers but they ended up being tricky to paste on my face, PLUS they were too big. I ended up just layering them over me.

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Some outtakes!

 

And a VSCO-CAM edit from my phone.

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and here are some cat ones:

Make-up is all the work of my fairygodmother housemate Alynna Wong. How talented is this woman? Amazing stuff.

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Alright. meowing out for now. Happy halloween!

The Microwave Mocks Me

Dear Seafarer,

I am having the worst time of my life at the instance of writing this. I am a hair’s width away from snapping, and the seismic impact is going to feel like all the tectonic plates of my inner universe are sliding and shifting over themselves, crumbling and crackling into a wasteland.

Wasteland. 

It feels like I am almost barren of hope.

I am, currently, an inch away from my thesis deadline, and I am staring a mountain of things I need to correct. Almost a third of the digital document is pockmarked in red annotations. I begin to wonder if I had written anything salvageable at all, and in my mind, I am mentally calculating the outcomes of my future, and its dwindling alternatives, should I fail to remove myself from this downward trajectory.

Breathe and calm down, I tell myself, but that does nothing to quell the rising panic that is simmering at the pits of my stomach.

To top it all off, I am feeling immensely light headed.

How on earth did I get here with all these gaps in my knowledge?, I ask myself, and I feel almost instantly worthless, like an impostor, like someone completely out of place. I feel like I’ve spent 3 years in university on autopilot, and I have learnt absolutely nothing. I’ve been staring at the screen for the past 2 hours. The most I’ve done, was correct my references. I have yet to attack the meat of the thesis, and something in my mind is not clicking. Ideas are not synchronized, random concepts are floating all over the place, the flow is disjointed, and I am feeling incredibly confused by the growing minute.

I decide that I should eat something. Maybe the fresh air would help.

I get up and cross the campus, to walk towards the food refectory, thinking of butter chicken.

The lady behind the counter looks surly. She scoops the butter chicken into a small container and hands it over to me, in silence. I say thank you, pay her the money, and walk back.

In that span of 10 minutes, I pendulum between thoughts of wanting to kill myself, asking for forgiveness from God and my parents, encouraging myself to keep going, and breaking down into a ball and disappearing into a manhole. I wish I could erase myself, like a glitch in the Matrix, and none of this would ever have to happen.

I feel hot tears well at my eyes.

I finally arrive back at the library. I put my things down and head to the student microwave. I stick my packed vegetables in, and press the “start” button. The lime digits beep, but nothing happens. I try again. It beeps. Nothing happens.

Screw this, I tell myself. The curry might still be warm enough to enjoy, so that might balance out the coldness of the vegetables.

I sit down, open the lid of my food container, and start to eat.

An Australian girl comes in, and tries. For a couple minutes, she has no luck. I feel relieved that it wasn’t just me. There was no real reason to feel relieved from something insignificant like that, but I suppose, in that moment, I didn’t want to feel like I was exceptionally out of luck, in comparison to everyone else.

I tell her that I couldn’t get it to work either.

She smiles, and walks back to her partner. I continue to eat, and try to ignore the stress that is killing my appetite.

After a while, I hear her walk back to the microwave. Perhaps she’s trying her luck again. Beep, beep, beep, the microwave goes. And it starts.

Following that, a Chinese couple walk in. They try it too, and the microwave goes on without a hitch.

It is a stupid microwave. It is a stupid, irrelevant incident that warranted no further thought.

But at that moment, I couldn’t help but think;

Even the microwave mocks me.

For a while, I contemplate the absurdity of the situation, and I almost manage to snap myself out of my negative reverie.

There are billions of people in the world right now, and everyone is stressing over something and something. Maybe someone’s lost their homes. Maybe someone’s just found out they got cancer. Maybe they’ve got bills to pay and they’re hanging by the next paycheck. Maybe someone’s lover left.

I am sitting in a student kitchenette, feeling upset over a microwave.

Thoughts of my thesis came back to me.

I need to keep going. I need to keep going.

I have finished my dinner, and am back at my computer now. After writing this, I will try my best to focus, as heavy as my heart feels.

Wish me luck.

I’ll need it.