Goodbye, 2016.

(I have been delaying this post since the beginning of December for many reasons. Plenty of things have happened indirectly, or directly, to me and it just takes time to admit them to myself, before actually keeping a typed record of how the year went. Events occur, and life happens. I obviously cannot lie to myself through this. Just doesn’t help. Now that it is December 30th, it is now or never. So I choose now, as a promise to myself and this little data waste of a space.) 

2016 is a year of great disturbances and discoveries. 

For the world, we have reached the point of confrontation on plenty of issues – healthcare, poverty, gender inequality, sexuality and of course, politics. There are heartbreaking moments that I doubt anybody would forget when the elections happened, the constant terrorism and on-going plight of refugees. 

Sometimes, I really question what there is to live for when human-beings no longer save each other, but only ourselves these days. Or if dreams and passions can still be grasped when chances only seem to come by with money and who you seem to be on the outside. Or if the future will happen before my eyes when the earth is dying and innocence is spilt everyday on rubble. 

But I’d still like to believe that with conflict, conversations may happen. Important conversations that start revolutions, spark change and serve as reminders that we shouldn’t lose ourselves, or forget. 

And in my own way, I think I try to live that. Change myself, remember who I am and where I come from and keep going to the place I want to go – hope. 

2016 made me question everything about myself, and what I think my life is built upon. 

My parents are going through a divorce, but with that, us kids will experience it too. The emotional turmoil and the distancing from the situation just to not lose it. Empty spaces in the house and objects that no longer hold much meaning when one is gone. Suddenly remembering sounds, smells, habits and behaviours of the one that supposedly left us for change. And the rest of us wondering when did the change begin. And then discovering how much we ourselves have changed. 

How little it meant to live in the same house when we never really did grow together with time. 

Presence and absence is like the subtle tugging of the heart whenever you breathe. Always unnoticed but there, in the space between. 

Friends I went to school with mostly spent the year on their overseas exchanges. So while I was regretting not being in university to go through this, I surprised myself by how much I do place my heart in people. Solitude is a friend, but sometimes knowing that you have people to care with is a beautiful feeling. 

In the distance, I found my loneliness and it was an intimate process of letting go. My close friendships last for years on end with low maintanence, but it was a good reminder to always see them for who they are and not what we were when together years ago. 

So in the midst of losing some friends, I rediscovered them again along the way. Chances may be precious, but I am glad it worked both ways. 

It is so easy to forget all these little big things. Always something out there more exciting, more distracting, more frustrating and I lose my way back. 

School… it took away a lot from me. My time, part of my youth, my hopes and my perspectives on certain issues. There were many questions, doubts, frustrations for the institution, individuals and myself. With that, I took away lessons learnt, when I should stand my ground and reaffirmed who I am at the core of my being. 

No longer do I actively seek validation, because I have learnt to validate myself. Who’s to say that being younger means inferior? 

As long as I am certain of what I am doing, and that I own my actions as well as their consequences, I think I am ready to be seen for what I am beyond my age. 

I am also thankful that I met teachers who have given me nothing but kindness, space and safety to question/hone/develop/own my craft. To guide and remind me that I do have power in my two small hands to mold the world I am in. It is in darkness that you see the light, and they were mine. 

Along with other aspects besides these I have mentioned from the top of my head, I think I have changed quite a bit. From all the experiences, lessons and memories, I have gained and I have lost as always. 

But I would like to think that I kept everything I have always held dear to me – values, beliefs and people. 

Goodbye, 2016. It’s been quite a year and it is time to move on. 

Thank you to everyone that stayed and left. Thank you for always showing me what love is. x


Photography: Darren ‘Merovign’ Tan

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Flame.

The flame sits on my tongue. My words stinging and my breath sharp. 

The flame sits in my chest. My pride swells and my heart quickens.

The flame sits in my abdomen. My impulses uncontrollable and my gut is on fire. 

The flame sits in my pelvis. My desire wild and my hips loose. 

The flame sits in my thighs. My control stiffens and my quadriceps tense. 

The flame sits on my knees. My age a reminder and my joints softly creaking. 

The flame sits in my calves. My instincts serve flight and my legs tighten. 

The flame sits on my feet. My groundedness strengthens and my being settles. 

The flame rises back again into my chest. But gently, gently. 

The flame sits on my shoulders. My burdens melt and my torso relaxes. 

The flame sits in my arms. My desperation quietens and the need to reach out softens. 

The flame sits in my palm. My future calm and my fingers rest. 

Breathe. Eyes close. My mind follows the body; the flame. 

I swallow the flame, and let it ignite. 

Kitchen. 

I watch the fire burn and turn water into steam. I smell the gas that leaks. I feel the heat on my empty palms and watch. Watch the flames dance and the water boil; hypnotism made simple. 

I haven’t cooked in a long time, or spent more than an hour in the kitchen on usual days. I barely stay home. 

But the past two days, I have been staying home to finish work and chase deadlines and get back on track with my emails. Nobody else is home, so the entire house becomes my space. 

All I can say is that cooking is so therapeutic. From looking through the fridge to actually setting the dish on the dining table. Step-by-step, from beginning to end. 

I have become more patient and comfortable within my home environment. To be able to do something may be mundane, but it is a comfort that I have finally earned for myself. 

This is a small victory I claim for 2016.

#ordinaryseconds

Passengers; Thoughts. 

Christmas was simple. It has never been a grand affair, considering I am not part of the festivities from a religious point of view. 

Came back from a party in the wee hours of the morning. I had a great time with close friends and amazing food. Surprisingly got into a fight afterwards and was all teary-faced. Spent a good hour crying before falling asleep. Woke up and cried again. Took a shower, ate lunch and did some illustration work before dinner with family. Then I caught Passengers the movie at a cinema. 

So this (hopefully, short) post is about my thoughts that Passengers left with me. 

Having been through quite a bit in my short 22 years of living, I particularly enjoy independence. Or for a better description of my character, non-reliance. 

Rejecting cigarettes, frequent drinks and constantly needing my own space, is from this belief of mine. It is nothing moralistic, and if anything at all, mostly pride and the need for self-sufficiency. I have been through enough to know that people are unreliable most times, and so am I. 

But I am stuck with myself, so I might as well live with it. 

So many would have known by now that I seldom ask for help, or cry in front of people or admit that I have more than I can handle. I would rather die than ever be a burden or not live up to my own expectations of who I can be. I would rather die trying. 

Then wouldn’t it be great if I am all by myself? Not loneliness, but solitude. Nobody to bother me or for me to bother them. I exist because I am alive. No need for anything else. 

That’s a very naïve thing to say, though. To a certain extent, anyway. 

Honestly, though, just the idea of having people around is just safe, or familiar. I do not have to ask for help, because I wouldn’t, but just having that possibility there really changes things. Just having them be there, live their life, walking through the streets and minding their own business. The physical presence. The life. 

It is a complete nightmare to one day wake up and find myself the only person living. Living by myself with no one else to connect, communicate and cohabit. Living with all the space – dead space. 

I think I would never really know until what I take for granted is slowly taken away from me – crowded streets and just people. All sorts of people. 

On that note, I think I have grown quite a lot on this. Though my belief is still stubbornly strong, I let myself break in front of people I trust. Because if I love them, I have to break to make more space in me. Vulnerability, honesty and love works both ways. 

The process is so slow and I still catch myself taking a couple of steps back from overthinking. But I am moving towards the balance of the self and the other. 

So thank you for the accidental brushes of interaction, and all the patience. 

Indeed, no man is an island and I am learning to swim to another shore without forgetting where I come from. x 

UNESCO World Heritage Ground. 

(Penang. December 5th to 9th. I visited with Darren’s family and met his extended family for the first time. We spent almost every single minute together, really, and that’s new to me. Did plenty of sight seeing, such as the temples and the war grounds. Some of the places we visited sparked something in me, and visiting the Penang Chew Clan Jetty was one of them.) 

The Chew Clan Jetty is situated in Georgetown; close to a bus interchange. Leading to the sea, you would walk through a narrow pathway with wooden traditional houses to either side of you. 

The entire walk will soon reveal a splendid view of endless ocean. The classic image of ultimate freedom and nature at one of its finest. 

Blue seas. Bright sun. Wind, if you are lucky. 

People live there, still, and try to sell any visitor whatever they have got to offer – jellies, drinks, candies, toys and tourist souvenirs. Otherwise, they hide in their own homes and hang “do not take photographs” signages outside their homes. 

Visitors are noisy, while the natives are quiet. Invisible, almost, for their homes are so empty on the outside. They kept the home exteriors clean – the wood naturally aged from the scorching sun and nails rusting with time. 

Is that a general rule because it’s a heritage site, or their own decision to have no personality in the space? 

First, I was fascinated like any visitor would be. It is not every day that I can take in such a sight and observe how the natives live in conditions from the 1900s, maybe. It is also my first time in Penang, so my curiosity was overwhelming.

After some time, though, sadness started to find its way into my thoughts and I felt so guilty to be in such a place. 

To disturb these people just to feed a temporary curiosity. They live here, yet prisoners to the visitors that come from every part of the world – to be observed. It is almost like they are kept here as exhibits – trapped in time and in past conditions, trying hard to get by and their privacy jeopardised. 

Were they given the chance to move? Are they provided a sum of money if asked to stay? Did they stay out of their own accord? Are they surviving fine? Why stay? 

It is scary to think they were coerced to live there just to live like people did in the past to show us, when they really are people of the present. 

They simply have not moved on. 

16th Nov; Temper. 

I seldom get angry. You will easily find me impatient, frustrated, cold, annoyed, irritated, detached and distant. I transform into these ugly colours so naturally in a short span of time once seeded in me. Happens every day, maybe, but I let go once it is over. Emotions are fleeting but its consequences everlasting. 

(Maybe that’s why I have grown more private, the older I get.)

But rarely would anybody get a taste of what I truly am when I am angry, right down to my guts. When my core burns and I have to control myself from baring teeth, shouting, throwing objects and hurting the other person to the point of complete destruction. I stop myself before I become the monster I grew so familiar with. 

I guess 16th November, night, was the closest I got to drawing blood with this temper of mine. 

Voice controlled but still filled with sharp edges, almost growling, gaze piercing, skin hot and my spirit on fire. My reactions were quick, snappy and fierce. Commanding, and demanding. 

(This is probably the energy I have to channel more in school. This is the animal I almost forgot.)

Now I wonder why anger comes so rarely to me. Perhaps I have better control, or just gradually grew a bit more patient by the day. 

But I think the real reason is that my own anger scares me. 

The idea of boundless release, unrestrained and strong scares me. With this energy, how does anybody come to you for love? But I also realised that I can’t hide this forever, and no matter how long it stays hidden, I still own it. 

I am a fire that I don’t know how to tame. So it sits there, waiting. 

Existing In Space. 

Objects and buildings simply exist for us. To look, be used and for decoration. No voice of theirs can be heard for they are always in silence. 

A quiet sense of waiting. 

Still, calm and just there. 

– 

As people, we are always so interested in dominating – explaining ourselves too much, caring about other people’s voices too little and sugar coating life from top to bottom. 

We simply love talking and over-using our voices. 

When you really think about it, half the things we say every day are probably redundant. There’s absolutely no use, besides us trying to feel visible or less lonely or important. 

And the thing is, we simply do not realise this until we spend time being quiet ourselves. Just being, and listening. 

Then we realise how much power our voices do have, and how much more we give when we only speak when needed. 

Instead of everything becoming mere noise. 

– 

We do not need to speak to exist.