The trouble with being self-aware

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Cloudy Melbourne, 2017

Dear Seafarer,

I believe that some of the hardest people to help in the world, are the ones who are the most self-aware. Self-aware people, as the name suggests, have great insight into themselves — lot more than we might ever notice, as outsiders.

They’re the ones who have taken a problem they’ve identified within themselves, and analysed it through and through, multiple times inside their heads. That perspective you so cleverly thought you’re giving them for the first time— they’ve thought of it ages ago. They know everything that’s broken within them, and they probably know how to fix it.

When talking to people, I reflect consciously on their levels of self-awareness. I recognise that there is something presumptuous about parroting a problem or issue that might seem obvious to them. There is nothing much I can say, that might be helpful at all. It’s like telling a blind man that he can’t see. Perhaps this is why I put in effort into offering the most genuine, and novel insight I can think of, whenever someone confides in me. Bland, generic advice or feedback doesn’t do much at best, and demotivates at worst.

Perhaps deep down, I too, wish that when I’m troubled, that someone would say something that I’ve yet to realise. I feel like some of the most powerful moments in life are when I’m shown that there could be a different perspective to things. I want to feel alive, I want to experience paradigm shifts! I want someone to say something that will move me. Perhaps it will be akin to getting a sign from the Heavens. I’ve always been drawn to eloquent, deeply reflective people for this very reason. When they speak, more often than not, I am learning something new.

However, the truth is, very rarely can someone say something perfect, in the immediate moment. So much can happen, merely within an iota of vulnerability. I am often at a loss for words. It is both a humbling and confusing moment, to watch someone else in pain.

Words do not solve problems. I have to remind myself, that for a self-aware person, this might not be the first time they’ve grieved over a vexing problem. They’ve probably tried every solution in their book, and nothing seems to have worked out.

It is a painful situation for anyone to be in.

And so, sometimes, the best thing I can do, is to hold my tongue, and wait with them, within the discomfort of their emotions. There is a time and place for silence, just as there is a time and place for offering solutions.

Truly hearing someone out is a difficult art. I have yet to master it myself.

All said and done, I’ve always believed that transformation requires two main steps. The first step is awareness of the problem. The second step is internalisation, and is what I believe to be the game-changer.

Knowing something, and internalising it, are two different processes. If knowing something was enough to change our behaviours, many of us would have stopped procrastinating, a long time ago. I myself am terrible at internalisation, which is why most of my problems start, and stagnate at self-awareness. Internalisation is also the reason why I recognise that some people need to come to terms with things within their own pace, even if it seems obvious to me.

Ultimately, everyone helps themselves, just as I need to help myself. All this self-awareness is for naught, otherwise. I have a boatload of problems and perhaps, within me, I’ve already come across the solutions.

I’m working on internalising that.

To those who already know their demons, I sincerely wish that you’ll find the courage, wisdom, and discipline, to let your self-enlightenment guide your path.

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Happiness concept: apartment

Dear Seafarer,

This is my happiness concept, a snippet of a vivid future I want to work towards. I think about it a lot, when I feel down. It’s a bit like mental time travel. In your happiness concept, you should be able to envision where you are, the time of the day, what you’re doing, who you’re with, the feelings you have. I feel like the more clearly you can see it, the more likely you are to achieve it. Everyone should have their own “happiness concepts.”

May all these come true in good time.


Apartment

Where am I?

It is the year 20XX, and I live within a bright and clean apartment. It is a nice place; not too big, but not too small. It has a minimalistic, contemporary design, and pleasing colour schemes. Lots of muted monochrome colours, with a mixture of smooth teakwood and marble floors.

I don’t have much of a green thumb, but somehow, I’ve always envisioned plants within my home. I’d like to believe that I can keep a tiny pot of sage, and perhaps basil, alive. I would place this somewhere in the kitchen, where they get light. A corner of the apartment (perhaps a windowsill), would be designated for terrariums. I especially  like the way succulents look; soothing pops of green within clear geometric vases.

I like the sound of “furin” (Japanese wind bells) too, so I’ve hung one by the window. When I slide open the glass to let air in, I can listen to their sparkling chimes. They greet me cheerfully, every morning.

What time is it within this apartment?

It is late-afternoon on a weekend, and the sky is dipping gently towards dusk. I’ve installed flat Korean blinds in the house, at the advice of my mother (“It’s easy to clean!”). They are the texture of rice-paper and tatami mats. I pull on them to let more light in. The apartment instantly gets flooded with warm, golden light.

My partner is coming by this evening. I decide to make some soup. With my hair tied up in a loose bun, I get to work.

First, I put chicken bones into my soup pot, fill it with water, and set it to boil. Into the simmering mixture, I add a dash of salt and pepper, a cup of shaoxing wine, and some sesame oil. Finally, I add the secret ingredients; garlic cloves, anchovies and peanuts. I’ve prepared a bowl of lotus root, which I’ll add towards the end, so they don’t overcook and lose their crunchy texture, the way my partner likes them.

The apartment begins to fill with the rich, savoury aroma of simmering chicken bone soup. I put on some music from my laptop, and decide to cook some rice. Soup and rice always go well together, I feel. Along the way, I randomly decide to drop some fishballs with the lotus root into the soup.

Should I make dumplings too?

The bell rings just as I contemplate this question.

I quickly freshen up in the mirror and answer the door.

It’s him. He smiles and holds up a packet of “tau fu fah.” 

“It’s chilled. I’ve asked them to serve it with palm sugar syrup.”

I laugh and tell him he’s read my mind.

He comes in, kisses me on the cheek, and sets the dessert on the table.

I bring out the cutlery and a set of blue rice bowls, with peach blossoms painted on them.

“Soup’s done! There’s leftover minced meat and vegetable we can have with the rice.”

He makes his way to the kitchen, and knows exactly where to find them.

We bring the pot of soup, rice, and leftovers out, and sit down for dinner. We talk about work, and our plans for the week. I’m working on an editorial spread for a mental health issue. I can’t decide between washed out greys or baby blue, for a healing colour. He tells me about a difficult case he’s working on, but right now he’s hungry and he doesn’t want to care.

In between, he comments on the soup.

“It’s good.”

I ask him about his thoughts regarding a strange dream I had, about me waking up naked in the middle of the ocean, while shoals of fish fly above me.

He asks if he’s in the dream too, because he should be if I’m naked.

I whack him with a spoon, and he laughs, before telling me that he doesn’t know much about dream analysis, but that leads into a conversation about an article he read on sleep paralysis. We debate on the existence of ghosts, then he brings up a knock knock joke. I whack him again with a spoon.

After dinner, we wash up, have dessert, and make tea. The tea of the night is “barley tea,” because it’s decaffeinated. We drink it in our special mugs. He wants his in a mug that brightens with constellations when filled with hot water. I want mine in a proper Japanese teacup.

We settle into a corner on the floor with our tea, where it’s nearest to the window. From where we are, I see distant city lights twinkling. He wraps his arms around me, and I rest against his chest, feeling it rise and fall.

We breathe, slowly, in sync, and say nothing, for a long, long time. Steam rises from our mugs. It is peaceful.

A quaint apartment, a job that pays the bills, a man I love (who loves me back), and a mug of tea.

At that moment, perhaps, I might not need much more.

This is my happiness concept.

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.

 

People-Watch: Suits and Skirts

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10.45 a.m | Eyeliner

I like my eyeliner to extend just a little, over the corner of my upper eyelids. I tend to draw them sloping slightly downwards, giving my eyes a gentler look. I usually choose liquid eyeliner, because they produce smoother, sharper lines. I draw it on carefully, following the curve of my eyes, ghosting across the eyelashes. Today, I’m keeping it minimal. Not too thick. Just barely there. For the finishing touch, I fill in the outer corners of my eyes with brown crayon liner. Next, I apply a peach-scented lip balm, shaped like a cute plastic cupcake. It was a gift from a friend. Then, I go over my lips with a sheen of plum purple gloss, to give it a dash of colour.

Next, hair. I pull it into a simple high ponytail. My clothes were set, too. I was wearing a sleeveless white, halter-neck top, and a black, high-waisted pencil skirt. Finally, I pulled on my flats. Black, with a ribbon at the tips.

I stared at my reflection. I looked like an office girl, with a 9 to 5 job, probably in a cubicle. My mouth tasted like apple crumble. It was the only thing I had for breakfast. Time to go.

11.45 a.m | ‘Ang Moh’ Couples

The train whirred clunkily, as it chugged along the underground subway tracks. Every now and then it came to a stop, and an unnaturally polite voice announced the name of the station, as the doors clicked open. People filed in and out. Everyone looked sombre, as if burdened by the weight of morning light. A pretty girl in a blue dress slept, in the seat opposite mine. Her salmon pink handbag lay vulnerable on her lap. I wondered if someone was eyeing it, waiting to grab it on the way out. An old woman and an old man chattered, two seats away from me. From the corner of my eye, I noticed the old woman handing the old man a ringgit note. The old man appeared bashful, but accepted it anyway. I overheard her saying, “Ini you ambil kasi family.” I wondered if they were friends, and what warranted her charity.

Two pairs of foreign couples came in. I noticed the women. In the first couple, the woman was wearing a grey top, and grey sweatpants. She had a regal look, with black hair, cropped extremely short. Her thighs and calves looked full and bulky, but her face was sharp and defined. I remember thinking about the stunning contrast between the white of her skin, against a backdrop of leathery brown, and tanned yellow people. The second couple appeared to be the polar opposite of the first couple. Where the first couple was understated and monochrome, the second couple was vibrantly technicoloured. The woman was brightly dressed, in a lilac tank top, and orange Bohemian print pants. Scarves hung down from her full waist. She wore strangely thick make-up, with sharply drawn, exaggerated eyebrows, and red lipstick. Both couples left the train before my stop.

12.00 pm | Wet Butterflies

I arrived at KL Sentral, a bustling hub of people. Some were dragging luggages behind them. They were probably transiting to the airport. Some looked like your regular office workers. Security guards and police stood on standby. I blended into the ecosystem of the station, and moved silently through the sifting crowd.

I recalled that we were supposed to meet in front of McDonalds. I made my way over to the gaudy, yellow sign. For a while, I stood there, unsure of who I was looking out for. A smartly dressed young man approached me, and asked if I was with TalentCorp. I nodded and mouthed a “yes.” He smiled and motioned for me to join them. Suddenly, I see an entire group of youth, dressed in work clothes. I see a flurry of blues and whites and blacks. Ties. Sleeves buttoned at the cuffs. Pinstripes and blazers. Pencil skirts to the hem. Covered shoes.

I wondered how many of us there knew ourselves, or what we wanted to do with our lives. There we stood, a group of baby-faced, round-cheeked youth, in stiff, formal adultwear. I felt out of place, like a butterfly ejected too early from the chrysalis. I was fully developed, in the physical sense, but my wings were still wet.

1.00 pm | Gentle Girl 

I am in a bus, talking to a girl. She has a gentle face, clean of make-up, except for brown contact lenses. Somehow, despite it being our first meeting, we ended up talking with ease. We spoke of the differences between introverts and extroverts, between thinkers and feelers. She tells me that she has a wide range of interests. She goes lecture hopping. She had a quiet, but thoughtful manner of speaking. Something about the way she spoke made me feel as if she was always deep in thought, thinking about something faraway.

Before I knew it, the bus rolled to a stop. We were at our designated office.

I decide that I like her.

This doesn’t happen too often.

3.00 pm | Don’t Understand

I am sitting in an office pantry, a few good floors up, in a towering glass building. We are discussing a case. The room is hushed, and everyone is listening intently. An ex-Yale Professor is talking about FTAs and how industries collide, like interstellar galaxies. He spoke quickly and decisively, never missing a beat. There was a complicated looking graph, projected on the screen. I wondered how many people in the room were following his train of thought. Perhaps that’s the thing with confidence. If you speak fast enough, everyone will think you know exactly what you are talking about. This professor definitely seemed to know his stuff. His explanations sounded extremely logical, and yet the concepts weren’t quite meshing in my mind. I only captured the gist of it, at the very end.

I glanced outside the window, and memories of someone’s laugh lines flashed in my mind, for some reason.

5.00 pm | Regrets

The second office had walls of marble and cream. We were in a meeting room. A collected young woman is presenting in front of us. She had a round face and a grounded manner of speech. Somehow, she reminded me of a good friend. She wore a blue dress, with a silver pendant dangling from her neck. She was a civil engineer. Now she is a consultant. The topic shifted to one of happiness.

“When we talk to the top CEOs, all of them legends in the field of consulting, with highly successful careers, they all say the same thing.”

She paused.

“They wished they spent more time with their families.”

8.00 pm | Pleasant Strangers

We are having dinner, sponsored by the company. The waiter brought out pizza, plates of canapes, fish rolled in pita bread, salmon, calamari rings, and pasta.

One of the consultants is sitting opposite me. She is young, pretty, Indian. Small nose, short hair. Wore a yellow dress. We attempt to make conversation. It goes a little awkwardly at first. We simply asked questions that required no effort to answer, like dispensing data. I felt a part of my brain tune off, as I grappled to make a connection.

Finally, we hit the topic of personality types, and MBTI. Something in me sparked, and we began talking with more ease. My new friend, the gentle girl from the bus, joined in. I could see she was taking interest in the topic too. We chatted about the differences between Feelers and Thinkers, and how they complement each other. We also spoke about misconceptions people usually have of introverts. Something about being able to give and receive genuine insight excites me.

The conversation petered out, but I still enjoyed dinner.

9.00 pm | Chinese Soaps

The industry insight session has long ended. I felt like my social tank was exhausted, but in a good way. I learnt new things, and made good connections. I decide to pull down my hair, and walk to the bookshop. I particularly love this place, with its bright lights, classical music, and wooden floors.

I passed by a paper diorama, by artist FeiGiap. It was a pop-up, featuring old town coffee shops, akin to the sort you would see on Malaysian streets. His buildings were extremely detailed, down to the rust of the windows, or the peeling paint on the walls. In contrast, his human figures were simple; doe-eyed schoolgirls in pinafores. I appreciated his aesthetic a lot. There was a deep sense of nostalgia from looking at his drawings. I was happy that somewhere out there, an amazingly talented artist shared my sentiment on the evocative atmosphere of looking at buildings, and old architecture.

After that, I grabbed a book on problem solving, and another on “Kawaii Things to Do in Japan.” It was written by an Australian artist from Sydney, who runs a blog titled “Hello Sandwiches.” I sat down by a corner to read.

Before I left, I stopped by a shelf of Chinese soaps. They were all an earthy, brown hue. Some were slightly yellowish. Some had blocks of texture in it. The labels looked interesting. Tea-tree. Pinewood. Mandarin orange. Wild Patchouli. Jars of diffusers were arranged above the soaps. They were labeled with things like “Calm”, or “Revitalizing.”

Wild Patchouli was my favourite. When I inhaled the soap, I was overcome by a deep sensation of calmness, spreading throughout my body. The scent was gentle and earthy, but also refreshing. It distinctly evoked the imagery of brown parchment paper, a Chinese medicine shop, and 1930s China, for some odd reason.

Then, I thought about my late grandmother.

10.15 pm | Goodnight

It was time to go.

I bought myself potted milk tea (oolong, with oreo crumbs), and called it a day.

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Good Night! ❤

Burdened Heart

Dear Seafarer,

A fair warning that this will be a negative post. I do have days where I struggle, immensely, with my own psyche. It’s not all positivity and shine, and wisdom. This is one of those days.

My heart is burdened. A few minutes ago, I just submitted my acceptance letter for commencing an Honours year. I waited until the last minute to do it, because I was putting off the decision, out of anxiety. The truth is, I’ve been penduluming between deciding if I should commit to it, or completely changing course, to something I know I feel more excited about, but is also rather unrelated to the momentum I’ve set for myself. Right to the end, I was still wavering, like a fickle-minded fool. The year hasn’t even started yet, and I’m already reverting to avoidant coping mechanisms. I’m not proud of it.

Honestly, one part of me is grateful, while the other part is feeling terrible. It feels like I’m about to do something completely inauthentic to myself. Signing that letter felt like signing a death cert. I’m not inclined towards research, not one bit. And even at the end of it all… do I even see myself in a Psychology career? Is it going to be worth the agony and the anxiety and all the effort? I feel like I’ve just spent 3 years in university on autopilot, for a career I’m not certain about. But what is certain? Nothing!

I know I shouldn’t be whining because I’ve got an amazing opportunity to pursue my studies (and it’s not exactly cheap, either!) in a prestigious university, that’s supposed to give me that confidence and headstart I need in life, but why do I feel absolutely miserable and unprepared for the world? I’m behaving like an entitled child. It’s shameful.

I’ve been feeling this way since last year, the minute I finished my last paper for my undergraduate degree. I knew that I would need to come to yet another deciding point in my life. The last time I had to do it, I ended up paralyzed with anxiety and not making any decisions. A year went by, wasted. It was a terrible feeling of shriveling up inside and dying.

I’m so disappointed in myself because I feel like I’ve learnt nothing from that episode by reverting back to this mentality. I’m not getting any younger. I can’t afford anymore mistakes. I can’t afford to waste anymore time.

In attempt to reason out my emotions, I made a pro and con list.

Reasons for doing Honours:

  1. It seems like the most logical, progressive option; given that it is directly related to my degree.
  2. Finishing off an honours year now would at least mean that I have the necessary qualifications needed, should I decide to pursue a career as an actual Psychologist.
  3. Should I decided to take up a group thesis, I know people I’m happy to work with.
  4. The first three years are unrepresentative of what it actually is like to work in Psychology, so it would be inaccurate of me to base my future projections of the career on them. In other words, I’ve barely seen the tip of what Psychology is about.
  5. I should just finish it off regardless, and then if by the end of the 4th year, I really cannot see myself in Psych, then I can safely say I’ve tried my best, and move on to greener (?) pastures. Breaking the momentum now would render my first three years rather useless, in terms of a Psychology career.
  6. It will force (?) analytical skills and organisation down my throat.
  7. If I do go all the way and end up as a Psychologist, it’s a wanted skill on the PR list.

Reasons against Honours:

  1. I dislike research, and I have no confidence in my abilities to do it.
  2. I am uncertain about actually wanting a career as a Psychologist.
  3. I’m really interested in a Masters of Creative Advertising, because I can see myself more as Creative Director, than a Psychologist, at this point.
  4. Even if I do complete an Honours year, there’s no guarantee that I’ll even make it to the Clinical or Organisational Psychology program.

Reasons why it’s so confusing to trust my gut instinct.

  1. I have no idea if the reality of working as a creative is entirely different from what I perceive it to be (it probably is).
  2. I still want to do something that can help people directly.
  3. I’ll naturally gravitate to what gives me greater cognitive ease, so clearly being a researcher will cause me distress, because it’s so counter-intuitive to my personality. But that’s me potentially boxing myself without actually trying.
  4. I’m a ball of anxiety and I screw up everything in my head by magnifying their consequences by a hundred times anyway.

The truth is, Psychology has always been, my Plan B. And now herein lies the frustration and confusion of not really knowing if it’s a good Plan B, in the first place.

Last year, I’ve seen enough damage done, when someone burns out about their career choices. Time, energy, money. Everything is a factor here.

Where do I thrive? When I’m allowed to be creative in my work. When I’m making or doing beautiful things that impact people on an emotional level. When I’m allowed to apply creativity to functionality and see how it is relevant and helpful. When I’m working in a supportive environment.

 

At the end of the day, I just want to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been given, so I can provide solutions and solve problems of need and demand, in this world.

And I don’t know if I’m going, where I’m supposed to go- to achieve that.

5 years from now, I don’t want to be wallowing in regret. I want to work in a place that will excite me. A place where Mondays feel better than Fridays.

And from here I am now… I’m really not sure.

I think the reason why decisions are scary, is because we think about them on a long-term basis. I feel like making a decision now, will impact the course of my life for the next 5-10 years. I don’t know about you, but the idea of that intimidates me so much. It’s a huge responsibility, and a lot to decide on, despite having so little information. We can’t even tell what’s going to happen tomorrow, so how are we supposed to project ourselves that far into the future? It’s absolutely ridiculous to expect that of ourselves.

We can only imagine, and plan to the best of our abilities, but anyone’s who’s lived a little can tell you that life never follows a script.

Dear seafarer, where is life taking me?

 

Uproot

feets

Dear Seafarer,

Everything is uprooting again.

This year is ending in a month.

My student Visa is expiring in 3 months (and so are my bank cards).

I may or may not be commencing Honours year.

I’m graduating in two weeks.

I’m going for my first job-workshop training thing in two days.

Certain people are coming and might be going in my life.

My exam results are coming out tomorrow.

I’m not sure how to deal with everything.

I like the concept of change, but to be honest, I hate the transitioning.

The in-between. The painful uprooting. The moments of panicked breathlessness.

It’s disorientating and uncomfortable and everything is going by in a blur. Not the dreamy, lovely kind. The sort of blur where the world is shape-shifting, tectonic plates folding in itself, and you’re losing footing one minute and gasping for air the next, and then you’re back in a stark white desert, rebuilding everything from scratch.

When I wake up from this dream, where will I find myself?

I’m emotional tonight. I want to be held, and to be told that everything is going to be alright. But will it be, really?

Sometimes I don’t trust  how things will just “work out” for me, because I’m not sure if I’m the sort of lucky individual where things just “work out.”

But for what it’s worth, I hope change happens anyway. Change is painful. Change is uncomfortable. But change is necessary. 

I remember what it was like, in a period of my life, where everything seemed as if it was stagnated forever, in an endless spiral of frustration. Life wasn’t moving. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know what to do, about the fact that I didn’t know where I was going. Every morning I woke up and my day wasted away, bit by bit, until a year had gone by and I realised I was still standing at exactly the same spot. It was the most sickeningly wasteful feeling. It was like watching my youth harden over, and then decay, until  all I had of myself was a cracked, stuck hollow of a person. All because I was too afraid to move.

If my world collapses on itself, then let it end in beautiful ruin.  If the earth opens up beneath my feet, then let me fall, hurtling and breathless through the universe. If I am to tear everything down again and start from scratch, then let me be unravelled into my rebirth.

Turbulence. High possibility of crash. Where will I go next?

 

Dear past-self

happybirthday
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: http://thetechportal.in/2015/04/15/peppertap-series-a/

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.