February 2019.

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A relatively short month when considering the number of days, but feels so long since it has been a month of obligations and looking for my centre once again. I have been feeling pretty poor in more ways than one, and coupled with falling sick, it really hasn’t been all that great.

Sometimes I wonder how much it is about me relearning all these societal norms that have been ingrained in me and how much is it about me finding excuses to cut myself some slack.

Ah, I don’t know.

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January 2019.

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I no longer write about the kind of love that gives my heart away.

I write about the kind of love that radiates from a heart well-protected and never lost.

A love I lost but recently regained, never to part with.

January has been a strange, strange month. The highs and lows were pretty extreme with tiredness as the only constant. 31 days did not kill me, but damn, some days I woke up wondering how I am still here.

I am not particularly keen to discuss incidents that are too personal for now, since I am still taking time to process them and come up with a way to deal with them. But I think in the grand scheme of things, I am happy especially with things/events/decisions that are entirely within my control.

Boundary setting and following through with it has been especially rewarding.

If you are personally struggling with possible codependency issues, toxic relationships or just curious about how you can take better care of yourself, look up how you can try to practise and establish good boundaries for yourself/others. Personally, helping myself has put me in a good place to reach out even more and be present for other people in my life. Who knew?

Anyway, before I end off this post, I’d just like to say that I am still taking on interviews/conversations on the Aim For Zero campaign with Aware. These interviews may seem repetitive because they all kind of start with my experience and what exactly happened.

But I will say that the incident itself is just a starting point for conversation and the important thing is to further the discussion into understanding rape culture, prevention and what you can do when you encounter a survivor of sexual violence.

Anybody can be a victim, just like how anybody can be a perpetrator.

So keep talking about it, ask questions if you are not sure and let’s get these horror stories to stop.

x

Missed Months 2018.

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November and December 2018 posts were missing, and I only just got around to having a bit of motivation to type on my blog. I entertained the thought of deleting this space altogether because the internet can get tiring and what is the point of keeping my words when they are just thoughts constantly changing and me having conversations with myself?

Then I remembered that I am typing so I get words out of my head for breathing space and maybe when I want to, I can look back and read and wonder where I come from back at a certain point in time and space.

One way of having conversation with a past self, for sure.

2018 was really good to me. I think that is all there really is to say.

Plenty of things happened – some drastic and sudden, others a matter of sooner or later. Not all ideal, but good for me to experience and go all the way through with it. I made decisions that I might not have been able to even just one or two years ago. This just goes to show that I am in such a different place now – my mind more settled, my mood improved and my will to live that much stronger. It feels great.

I think the underlying philosophy that really managed to push me through is this: if horrible things can happen to other people, who am I to think that horrible things should not and will not happen to me? 

This epiphany woke me up from this place of blame, shame and I will say bitterness. I don’t blame myself for going through that phase of heavy emotions and confusion because feelings are to be felt, and I had every right to. Some shitty things have happened, as usual, but well.

But I also have to move past those feelings, and I am happy that I have. With such great company around me, my heart opening to let all these other people in and so many more realisations that I truly understand now, I am happy.

Feels fucking fantastic.

Here is to 2019 being all great, and even if the bad starts to outweigh all the goodness once again, I know I am able to take it all on and keep going. x

 

October 2018.

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Somehow I am already living in November, October days way past. Everything mostly a blur; day and night bleeding into each other.

Perhaps plenty of thoughts find ways to enter my mind and miss the exits to leave. All the time taken up by tasks or just brain olympics. But I am grateful for the new revelations, questions and words that I somehow made time for. Be it through the transcribing work that I lose sleep over, the books I find myself reviewing or the research and interviews I conduct for work, they all give me new material and perspectives to ponder over.

It is such a privilege to keep practicing the need to stay open and to learn from all sorts of avenues I can get my hands on. And enjoy it.

So needless to say, October has been great to me. x

Lyrics to Certain Things by James Arthur and Chasing Grace looping in my head.

Poverty and inequality has been quite the topic in recent times. There are television programmes, newspaper articles and even sociology studies floating around the social media sphere with thousands of shares and opinions on the issues involved.

I think having read Professor Teo You Yenn’s book This Is What Inequality Looks Like has helped me gain the relevant vocabulary and find a way into thinking critically about this topic. The past month I found myself transcribing some videos on poverty and they made me think critically about the stereotypes/assumptions/misconceptions we readily dish out.

The book definitely opened up my mind about inequality and the whole concept of dignity needs.

If you are able, please read the book. The perspectives and situations detailed are necessary to think about – regardless of class.

Anyway, in the videos, the same reasons are raised over and over about needing these families or persons to prove themselves. The need to work hard, to prove that they are trying their best and for society to not spoil them or give them the chance to “wait for hand outs”.

It is strange that we assume the worst of these people and they constantly need to prove themselves to get a couple of hundred dollars each month. Why do we not give them the benefit of the doubt? I am sure most people are hardworking and are just unfortunate in their circumstances, instead of fitting the assumption that they are lazy or actively make lousy decisions.

(Come on, there are rotten eggs everywhere but there’s always more good eggs than bad. Right?)

I mean, every decision comes with risk. Just like how you award scholarships and then all these scholars appear on the papers for having child pornography for example. How do you justify all that money spent on the person’s education in that case?

It’s a risk. Everything is.

So why are we not rendering sufficient help in this aspect and taking the risk that is obviously worth taking for obvious change to be sparked?

Poverty should not always be assumed to be a punishment. Sometimes, it is just a crappy situation and help is really needed.

I am happy we are finally openly discussing and talking about this. I really am. Conversations are great starts to change – be it on the ground level up to getting policies to change. But we can’t just start conversations, we also need to keep them going. And I hope we don’t just talk about it either; actions do make better change than words do.

I am more than happy to carry on this conversation actually. This is a topic quite close to my heart and with more discussion points, the merrier.

Also from transcribing, I came into contact with another topic altogether. And that really made me ride out an emotional rollercoaster for two and a half days due to its tight deadline.

(Yes, I have come to enjoy transcribing while earning money from it because the topics are so random yet relevant at times. And while listening and typing out these various voices on a Google Document, I learn so much. One of the best jobs I have ever chosen to stick with, to be honest.)

This particular series got me thinking a lot about modern life and the way of living we have subjected ourselves to. Basically, whatever we deem as “basic” and “necessary” now are not really how it is supposed to be.

Our basic needs are air, water, food, human connection and the need for a purpose – whatever that is. But in some sense, one can view money, technology, fashion and all else we choose to prioritise and pursue as First World distractions.

Unnatural living.

There are individuals choosing to find their way back into nature. To connect with Mother Earth. To abandon their frivolous pursuits of money and power and search for an organic culture we are all born from.

And this kind of made me relook at the system that adopted me and the ways of living. I have always had a strained relationship with money and power in particular; they become so toxic so easily. But this has been interesting – to travel to the other extreme.

Be it by choice or through the force of nature.

Who are we then when we are stripped of material wealth? Who am I beyond these clothes I choose to spend on, the car I will never purchase and the obsessive habit of showering twice a day?

What does being only human mean and what is truly necessary to keep living?

And besides the recommended books I am waiting to be shipped in from Book Depository as well as the books I am to review (sitting on my desk patiently), I managed to read The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by the late Nina Riggs.

About her own journey with cancer, how a “small spot” turned terminal in a span of just a year. The procedures she had to go through, her emotions and her conversations with her family, friends and herself. Heavy topic and definitely not easy to even write about, Riggs managed to keep a light tone and pepper the book with humour here and there.

It never gets too gloomy, though it took me a really long time to finish the book. Even thinking about it now causes my eyes to tear, just a little bit.

I personally wonder about death a lot and what exactly is the value of a life – my life, in particular – and what it means to go “before your time”. Everyone dies, but at different times and places, but who is ever to know when it is “my time” to go or not?

Anyway, the book broke my heart in pieces but in that act of breaking, gave me clarity and a sense of resilience to carry on. For that, I am thankful for Riggs’ words and her generosity in baring her soul in words that will live on in her place.

But what’s most interesting, is reading an article written by her widowed husband – about finding love about a year after losing his wife of 17 years. My reaction was of shock, disbelief and that made known to me that I have some questioning to do. I was like: what? He is already with someone new? What of that relationship? Wouldn’t the grief last longer? Isn’t that fast? Do emotions evaporate so quickly? Oh my god, I cannot keep up. Hold on a minute!

Somehow I associate time so strongly with commitment and genuineness. Which is actually, extremely inaccurate and… disturbing. I think it says a lot about me and I am happy to be consciously aware now.

Time and commitment don’t have to go hand in hand. They are two separate things. Just like how I can stick to a programme or a person for years and half-ass it. That’s not commitment.

If you think that’s commitment… Well, You probably got to do some thinking too.

Also, moving on and forgetting don’t mean the same thing either. Sometimes we forget I guess. And I can speak for myself that I have moved on, but I don’t necessarily want to forget – there were golden moments that will always have a place in my heart, lessons learnt.

And with that, I can still make space to welcome new feelings.

Still learning, but I will get there.

Okay. Enough talking to myself and bringing myself back to these thoughts. Anyway, casual shout-out to all the amazing people I spent October with, and reminding me that I am entitled to happiness that I earn for myself. Love is to be given, as well as to be received.

And I have been receiving so much. All of you know who you are, making me smile and laugh endlessly, thank you.

Back to living in November. xx

 

September 2018.

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September was good to me, and I think you can see it on my glowing moon face.

The past 30 days have been nothing short of amazing: I met friends I never thought I would reconnect with ever since high school. All the times I went out dancing were fun, safe and with people I absolutely adore from the bottom of my heart. I caught up with familiar faces at various events that I attended to just keep myself updated with the happenings in the various scenes. Then I was again blessed with the amazing company of the women at Aware, who always fill me up with hope for change and a sense of empowerment.

There have been so many conversations I have had with people, with works of art and of course, with books, that gave me new perspectives on certain subjects I may not be very well versed in. And somehow, these conversations always happen to come at a good time in my life where I have the space and energy to take them in and really dwell on them to feel them fully.

Is it true that somehow everything will work out and that the universe is listening?

Who knows, but I know I have been lucky in more ways than one. The people I find myself surrounded by are all brilliant in their own ways – in work, in aspirations, in achievements. But more than that, they have big hearts and they are people who live for more than themselves.

It is not always the easiest decision that makes things worthwhile. A reminder I should keep close to me for certain events have been trying but I am okay. Still hanging in there and not letting the doubts overstay their welcome.

I will try to focus on things I can actually do and work towards changes I can actually make happen. It is more productive and useful that way.

Anyway, if you only have the time to read one book this year, I really urge you to pick up This Is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn. It will deepen your understanding of Singapore and reaffirm how the power of your words, your behaviours and ultimately, your individual choices can gradually help shift a system to benefit more people.

What are basic needs? And what does it say about us if not everyone has easy access to them?

Yes, I am talking about equality and with that, the repeal of 377A.

I honestly don’t believe that another person getting granted to a basic need and a human right threatens another person from those same privileges. It only threatens a stubborn world view that the world should be how one views it, and that one is always right.

This argument is not about morals, values, procreation or even religion at its core. It has become about pride, ego and how one is right while the other has to be wrong, “different” and an “other”.

Not everything is so unreasonably competitive, and rights shouldn’t be like this. Rights are for everyone, regardless of difference.

What makes us inherently human has to be divorced from our economical value, ability to procreate and the expectation to fit into a system forced upon us – and a system that is not natural, for that matter, but built by humans who are already buried for centuries.

Systems are made to carry society forward and to right the wrongs made acceptable in the past. Systems are made to serve us, and not the other way round.

So if the system no longer works, we should be throwing it out instead of trashing each other for not fitting into old-fashioned categories, binaries and checklists of a “normal” life.

That’s why this year has been so powerful thus far. We are fighting for change, and though gradual, I think I will live to see it all happen.

x

August 2018.

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I have lived a couple of lifetimes this month. Death has come to me in many forms, but so has rebirth. If you are to weigh my heart, it is in equal parts of anger and love. Both born of the same fire, but one gifts light while the other just burns.

You don’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. 

But as someone named in relation to the daystar, I should know better. I would not have existed if there is no sun. I should have known right from the beginning that I have always been and will always be meant to burn.

A moth drawn to a flame, not through temptation or seduction, but responsibility and circumstance.

Song of the month: God is A Woman – Ariana Grande

Family

Ever since the most recent incident that has occured and still is occurring, I find myself questioning the idea of family responsibility. What should it entail, and when does it tip from being reliant to just toxic? Should blood really matter when it threatens and holds you back? When does familial responsibility end and individual agency begin?

I am sure they can both coexist and ideally, go hand-in-hand, but when this is no longer an option… What then?

All these questions have been weighing on my mind for a while now, but increasingly so, with a newfound sense of urgency and discomfort. There are no answers and it is such a tough space to navigate. What is fairness when everyone feels justified and entitled to prioritising their own experiences and perspectives?

Late Night Texting

It was a privilege on my part to be invited and be a part of this year’s Late Night Texting programme with the Main Tulis Group. I rediscovered the joy and the exhilaration of performance. To lend my physical person to somebody else’s voice and being for those moments.

Thank you to the team for the welcome and the trust in what I can do. I was lost and uncertain for a long time ever since graduation about my place in theatre, and if I was a complete fool to think that I can carve my own space in the scene and make work. And be hired for work.

But this experience has been a reassuring one and one show that has really put a smile on my face throughout the whole process – from rehearsals to stage.

My thankfulness knows no bounds.

Onward to the usual hustle of auditions, crossing of fingers and working hard!

Personal Project

Still in the research phase since I got preoccupied with all the other aspects of my life, honestly. But I am back at it again! The worst thing I can do to myself is to completely cave, give up and just stay angry.

Yeah. I can blame my lot in life but what would that serve to do in the end? Exactly. Nothing. And nobody owes me a living so here I am stubbornly trudging on to get this project going.

Basically this is about the idea of womanhood, memories and objectification. I am gathering responses from as many people as possible to widen the experiences and the representation. Also, if more people participate and want to contribute in some way – performance, installation, etc. – I am all ears, so just hit me up.

I created a simple TypeForm to find out more about women’s memories so if you would like to share with me, click here.

This is the link you can share with others as well: https://dawn247.typeform.com/to/HG42vx

Aware Revolution Ball

Last month, I took part in a video interview with other women on a new campaign by AWARE that is to be rolled out later in the year. It is about the #MeToo initiative and would be a series of videos to raise awareness, educate and to keep the conversation about sexual assault/abuse/violence going in Singapore.

Most of us participants attended the ball on 25th August with the kind invitation of AWARE and our table was sponsored by the directors of the video. It was a very sweet gesture, and one that I am going to appreciate for the rest of my days.

All dressed up and sat together, the vibes were great and we all had big smiles on our faces the entire night. Through this experience, we found each other and bonded. There is so much trust, love and strength even though we all met only for the second time that night. It was amazing to witness everyone looking radiant, confident and comfortable in however they dressed and carried themselves.

I remember thinking, this is what healthy empowerment really looks like.

The first video was launched that night, and after having wine, we looked up and sat through the video with the rest of the ballroom. It was quiet and all the focus was directed towards the screens on either side of the stage. Hands were held, tears were shed but there was no loneliness. There was solidarity and power. Everybody present and just, there. Listening to the words that we said and have them echo throughout the entire room. Our truths there to be heard.

It was emotional and I was still feeling slightly unsure if I did the right thing, since vulnerability in the age of the internet is a double-edged sword, but all those worries vanished in that instant. I did what I wanted and thought was right, alongside all these other women who felt the same.

My hands were holding and being held by the women next to me. I was not alone. And even if I was, I believe in myself. There was joy in the newly found sense of fulfilment, pride and beauty. There was a glow around the table from encouragement and understanding. No words needed to be said, just smiles and that twinkle in all our eyes.

I felt beautiful.

And the first night in a long time, I laughed unapologetically. I smiled with a quiet confidence. I danced to music without subconsciously subscribing to a certain gaze of how I look like.

I just moved, felt myself and did whatever made me feel good.

I think I found myself that night, and this is most certainly love. The best kind.

Sexual Assault 

Since I was typing about the Ball, thought I would articulate a couple of my thoughts on sexual assault as well.

Women aren’t the only ones who experience and survive sexual assault. There are men, non-binary and queer folk who have such experiences as well, though they tend to be less visible.

Less visible does not mean that it does not exist.

And there is no such thing as a perfect victim. I do not have to be crying with mascara running down my face, not eating and sleeping for days, refusing to shower, staying in bed all day or closing myself off from the world to be a victim of such violence.

Sometimes life has to go on. And life becomes a distraction before the confrontation within the self happens. Everyone copes differently, and the worst thing you can do is to deny somebody else’s experience when they open up about it.

Suffering takes on many forms – seen or unseen, in tears or in smiles.

It is also difficult to speak about, especially when a lot of the times, it is through words and trust that these incidents are being shared. There might not be tangible proof like bruises, scars or a sticker to say that I have been violated before.

And because of that, it is so convenient to dismiss or shut down someone sharing their sexual assault experience. Perhaps the media has built your expectations on how assault, perpetrators and victims should look like. What a scenario should be like. How this whole conversation about sexual assault should go.

But sometimes words are all we have. And all we ask for is trust.

For you to believe us and to be there so that prevention can take place instead of the constant back-and-forth of damage control.

On that note, no perpetrator is a perfect villain either. Just because you know someone and they are nice, does not mean that they are not capable of abuse to someone else. Just because they seem well-adjusted does not mean they might not make that mistake of assault.

So listen. Take time to think about these things. And know that things have to change now. It can change.

I am back to reading since I went to the library last weekend, just to get other people’s words to speak to me instead of my own. Tiredness is an understatement at this point.

But I can confidently say now that I am calm, I am okay and I feel a lot of love. For my friends, for the world and for myself. This tiredness is from the daily grind but not a sense of defeat or anger.

Perhaps turning 24 has shifted something in me.

Anyway, if anyone would like to share or speak to me about anything at all, I am all ears. Be it topics on The Arts, womanhood, rights, philosophy, sex, sexuality, assault and abuse. Really. The rest of my months are open and I would love to sit down with people and just have conversations or sing or dance or write or make work. Anything.

Being alive has been good. Difficult but good. And especially good when there are people to share it with x

 

 

July 2018.

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Do you think of me the way I think of you? A person so essentially flawed, a cracked mirror, a reflection familiar to any face of humanity. Your calloused fingertips and their gentle touch. Your tired eyes partially hidden behind your dark spectacles. Your uneven skin, slightly hunched shoulders and that cigarette hanging off your chapped lips.

Do you remember me the way I remember you? Always with nostalgia, and a permanent soft spot for the way you made me feel.

Romanticised, perhaps, since we lived in two realities.

Hearts too uneven in weight to justify all these spilt emotions.

My birthday has always been an excuse to catch up with family/friends/familiar faces – be it over food or over text. (And occasionally get some extra cash from birthday red packets since the last time no-strings-attached cash came about would be Chinese New Year.)

This year is no exception – a sleepover with lots of love and supportiveness, a staycation with bottles of alcohol and the underwhelming World Cup as well as Karaoke sessions for days. They were all great and the celebratory weekend came and went like a whirlwind.

An absolute high that ran on adrenaline before I crashed, and my melancholic self came crawling out from under my cheerful exterior.

I love all the plans, the happy distractions and the occasional surprises people who love me do. I genuinely do, and I am so thankful for it.

The melancholy comes from the fact I was actually born.

That is the thing with birthdays for me. It is a celebration and a reason to be happy, but at the same time, I have never been happy about being born. Ever since I have been able to be self-aware and able to articulate my feelings, I always find myself going back to the question of my birth and why I am even existing. Is there really a purpose to my being given life? Do I need a purpose, even, to justify this existence? Why me? What is ‘me’ even? If I have a different name, a different background and a different culture, will I still feel this way?

“No, I regret nothing, all I regret is having been born, dying is such a long tiresome business I always found. – Samuel Beckett.”

All these looping questions, thoughts and emotions that never drown in me for good; resurfacing year after year with zero closure. I just live with it and its accumulation. Sort of like the physical habit of hoarding I guess, but I do it invisibly in my mind and my heart.

Appreciation is free, and one gesture I am proud to keep up every July of every year. Letters written and sent. The better parts of my heart given away to better places.

I might not remember all the words I write, but just know I meant every single one of them when I was writing. Moments immortalised on paper.

Thankfulness should always last forever.

Internalised judgement drives one towards madness, and I wonder how much of myself is built upon all the societal ‘norms’ I have been trying to break.

Earlier in the month, I decided that I am ready to share about sexual assault and specifically rape for a campaign AWARE is running for its Sexual Assault Care Centre. So after a group consultation of sorts, I participated in the making of a video to share personal anecdotes and some thoughts I have about the relevant topics.

There is power in placing a face to a story, and I wanted to lend that strength to other individuals who may not be able to speak as openly about their experiences. To make it more real for people who still choose to not believe. I want the movement to finally become more preventive, instead of relying on the current model of name and shame.

Some life lessons we should learn by ourselves, but sexual assault is certainly not one of them. So I want my own lessons to contribute to the lessening of this unnecessary violence and its eventual extinction.

Though truth be told, this ‘coming out’ is anything but bravery. I still fear especially since it is a video that will be rolled out and my face will be right there. Also doesn’t help that I did it after my hair got dyed pink. There are fears about future employment in the performance sector especially, where my face and body is the vessel, and if the general public will recognise my face only for the experiences I shared, forgetting about the other aspects of my person. If I need to declare this involvement when I go for auditions leading up to the video’s release. If my family chances upon it, will they be angry and feel ashamed about me. If I should be afraid of possible backlash, losing acquaintances/friends and not being dateable, among other things.

And that’s where I catch myself having internalised all the bullshit I actively call out.

Why should I be made unemployable, if it even happens, because I stand up for something I believe in? Why the hell will I render myself undateable and by extension, undesirable because of something done to me and I speak up about it?

Would these say more about me or about them, and if they choose to make these decisions about me then… Were they worthy of my time and attention in the first place?

Why do I scare myself with these rhetorics told to us again and again with the intentions of not addressing misogyny, gender politics and to avoid having productive healthy and positive discussions about sexuality and sex?

I am angry with myself and yeah, I am still scared. Worries occasionally crossing my mind but I guess my belief in what this step can do outweighs my personal fears.

And hell, I have a lot of unlearning to do.

Painting has been therapeutic and when the wall I am working on now is complete, I hope I will get to focus a bit more on portraits or more blank walls. I really need to keep up with the art-making so I don’t lose touch.

What is family and is the bloodline really of any importance?

I think about the idea of inheritance – riches, poverty, mistakes, ancestry and all the history that flows within my blood – and feel like throwing up. Why must the shade of compulsory responsibility be such a dark maroon?

Typing poetry with the Proletariat Poetry Factory has been a gift, honestly. The chance to just sit in front of a typewriter, receive a prompt at random and just type whatever comes to mind with little judgement and scrutiny has been great for me. My brain starts working and I just focus on the sounds played into my ears and let go.

Auditions. Personal project #1. Redoing of script.

Gain a rhythm and just keep going.

Betrayal, similar to grief, might just be something you never get over. You just get better at overlooking its presence, but it is still there. You learn to live with it, work around it and leave it be.

But it shape shifts and changes its form when the words used to tell it are no longer the same. Some parts hidden by choice, and others exaggerated to suit your truth. Words cannot be replaced without their intentions and nuances changing.

Would you like to see a heart break more than once?