I cycled home on my own today
It felt almost like a salvation, to find out that I now have a source of autonomy in Singapore, when I spend my life navigating through structures, hierarchy, finding ways to resist succumbing to the current of pragmatism, materialism, the obsession with extrinsic motivation – the harried lifestyle.
Today was a particularly difficult day because certain conversations I had with people dredged up unhappy memories from the past – I told L that it was almost as if someone had dug through my skin and pulled back the scab to expose old wounds that were buried underneath the surface. I suddenly felt vulnerable again, I felt like I had retreated back to my old self when I thoroughly believed that I could never be good enough.
But tonight I was acutely aware of the environment around me, much like how I felt when I was blindfolded and led through Holland Close to the Hakka Cemetery on Saturday. It was an exercise in mindfulness , feeling the sounds and air melt around you, becoming sensitive to the terrain around you, the eco-system – every little bump on the pavement, every hop and jump, the parts where the wind falls cool against your ears, the moments when a wave of hot air rises and brushes against your face
I need to practise this calm, so that I can stay true to myself, so that others don’t make me stumble and fall off track. I need to stay focused – not chase after things that are not meant for me, but continue building upon what I am already good at, and addressing things that I can be better at. There have been so many subtle changes and new revelations in my life in the past few months, and I have been feeling drifty. But I feel that today is a distinct turning point – I think I am slowly finding the right direction, the right way to go. I have to remind myself that I am strong like a wallflower – I will never falter.
shut the f up when someone is talking
speak slower and listen more
don’t assume that you are always right when you talk to someone
esp someone who has more experience and who has seen more than you
Happiness comes in full measure when you realise that the effort you’ve put into something translates into something that extends into society : when you spend hours surveying strangers in the sun and the rain, when you spend time persuading people to open up, when you stay up on Sunday night to make sure your copy is ship-shape, when you overcome layers of superiors implicitly questioning why you’re doing things a certain way, suggesting that you need to change or tone down certain things. When you actively mobilise resources available to you to see your work through, when it translates not in terms of page placements but genuine engagement – and the next day you get messages. An organisation telling you that it was thought-provoking, people saying that what you articulated resonated with their personal experiences, a teacher telling you that she is using your piece as teaching material.
I came home and sat down for dinner with my parents and had a proper conversation with them – a rarity given our erratic schedules. I told my mum about all the obstacles but also opportunities that work presents me; we shared about our love for feature writing and honing in on the lives of others; I told her all these lessons I have learnt in the space of this month. Why write? Write not for recognition or ego or money or fame – write for self-fulfilment, to give back to the organisations and forces that have shaped you. Write to be read, to be heard, to strike a chord. Be a writer first – do your duty, not your job. 不做工作，做责任
I met KW for lunch today, it was both a contemplative and bemusing experience. I’ve written about how he has intrigued me even when we were back in school, even amidst the teasing and judgment – they seem to roll off him like nothing mattered, and he stayed honest and true to himself. I think those are very admirable traits and I have always respected him for that regardless of what others have said. I like people like that – people who are wired a little differently, people who don’t play by the rules, people who aren’t afraid to be themselves. When I was younger, I almost rejected and suppressed that part of me who was defiant and idealistic. But now people tell me that what I am doing encourages them – and I feel so encouraged by that. I’ve never seen myself as being someone who can lead and change things – but then again, small things turn into big things, and we have to always trust that our divine discontent can lead us somewhere.
Because if I don’t try – who will?
‘Ya you’re helping to develop a vocab/space for dealing with this”
Things said in the paper, things said over lunch, things said over social media platforms with long-forgotten acquaintances. As much as I’m wrapped up in structures and institutions I’m glad that I didn’t let others’ doubts and considerations cloud my own will – if something gets read, something makes an impact – I’ve more than done my duty (and not my job)
It’s been a bit of a drifty period but I feel like there are more changes, decisions and bigger things afoot. A little reminder today that if I keep pressing on, things can be overcome : no matter how big or insurmountable they can be. I’m a reckless idealist but if you don’t keep being this way – how can things change?
“Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly. Just as water springs from a fountain, creativity springs from every moment. You must not be your own obstacle. You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind. This is being free. There is no way you can’t open up your creativity. There is no ego to speak of. That is my belief.”
I was a blue collar kid
My brother and I piled into the back of my dad’s van when we went out for dinner as a family; we sat on wooden blocks built over the sides where the back wheels were, avoiding splinters and playing games so that I don’t get dizzy. Name me a song that starts with A. Guess which Britney Spears song I’m humming. When I was younger we all squeezed in the front, me on my mother’s lap, my brother next to me, dad at the wheel
We were close to our neighbours, a Malaysian family. I played with their daughters and every morning they said bye to their dad. Once I asked my mum: Why does their father wear long pants to work and why does my dad always wear shorts? Why doesn’t my father wear the same stuff as their dad, doesn’t it make him look smarter?
My brother is at a new school where the kids speak English and 60 per cent of them get ferried to school. I slumber in the van while my dad drops him off before sending me to school – the route is smoother that way. My brother is being bullied and suffering in silence. One day, someone laughs at the van and makes fun of the whisky ad emblazoned on its exterior – Wild Turkey. My brother tells me the story and my heart wrings on the inside. I learnt the meaning of class and shame.
But when I was in primary school and my dad had a loading trolley that he brought home for work, we were granted the rare treat of piling into it. He pushed us along the corridor, going at top speed – we were screaming in joy, hair flying back in glee. We were unadulterated, we didn’t care – nobody understood what it was like to be us.
I was going through my column which will likely be published on Sunday and thinking about language and my life and family and my personal history. I have such a complex relationship with my mother tongue but now that I am 25 I recognise that my bicultural lens has given me so much rich content to mine and so much more depth when it comes to how to connect with and understand humans. L the opinion editor was telling me how great it was that my parents come from this sort of background, how I should speak to them more as fodder for writing ; it made me contemplative because I realise despite how much I struggled with this tangled mess of culture that I have inherited from my parents, in a bittersweet way it has set me apart from so many of my peers and given me a unique voice, a unique lens – what I need to become the writer that I have wanted to be ever since I was young.
When I was in Primary 3 I remember my Chinese teacher asking us ‘Who wants to be a writer?’ and everyone in class casting their eyes at me while I shyly put my hand up. My teacher eyed me and said: Writer? They get paid little and you have to spend many hours writing into the night. You will lack sleep. This was a few weeks after I got my first ever piece of writing published – a short essay that I wrote about getting a face paint at an event, after Lianhe Zaobao editors saw a photograph that my mother took of me as an accompanying biographical photo and were so taken with that image that they asked for text to go with it. That was the first time I learnt how important visuals are in a publication.
I also remember getting angry with my mother when I was struggling with my Chinese homework. She started to give me pointers but I kept getting something wrong and in my frustration I yanked my pencil back and didn’t see her behind me; it stabbed her in the eye and she had to see the doctor after that, and had an eye patch on for days. I felt so guilty and wondered what will happen if I was the one who made her blind; that was the first time I learnt about how language, identity and trauma come together in very complicated ways.
I’m remembering my summer internships and thinking about how, in so many ways, life has its own mysterious ways of buffeting me to places that I have wanted to go. I remember being in Secondary 3 and having difficulties at school ; I remember how reading a column by Mui Hoong about how happiness lies in productive, meaningful activity encouraged me. When I was at TNP I learnt how to be street smart and chase breaking stories, hunt people down ; When I was at Life I learnt how to write compelling features and add colour to stories ; when I was at ST digital I learnt how to do research and trawl through historical articles and NewspapersSG became my friend. And ST news taught me how to be patient and resilient and never lose hope.
I know that everything happens for a reason and I am always surprised at life’s poetic uncanniness. Maybe it takes a year; maybe it takes 25 years; but if one pursues something single-mindedly it will make sense in the end, it will leave a mark. And all I ever wanted in this life was to leave something behind that can do good to society.