in my life, i love you more

There was a time in my life when I did not have to think about what to write, how to write. I found it in 2011, in a walk-up apartment in a small american town — clarity that came along with the shifting of seasons and the blind, unquestioning wonder of starting life somewhere new.

Everything is salient when everything is novel, and we are grateful and plugged into moments, desperate to memorise every detail because we know change is going to come. It makes things good, easy, beautiful, even if it may not seem that way to someone else. I still remember so much. What it’s like to wake up cold, and find a sun-patch to sit in. What it’s like to barely notice the quality of a secondhand bicycle because you belong to each other. Negotiating the curves of the bike path, finding my way through the fog at night, to San Francisco and Oregon and Boston and New York alone, accompanied, absolutely happy.

Fast forward a whole SIX years and here we are! I was a student then and have become a student again. The thing is, I’m not sure what I remember about the time in between. I know worked a lot but it never felt like enough. I spent a bit too much. But I also triumphed through things that made me terrified. I found love again in the hum of a little sewing machine and in working with my hands, and fought to keep the ways of the world from tainting that love — time, money, competition, comparison, all of the things which shouldn’t matter but do. There has been so much to be grateful for, but there is a difference between gratitude for the sum of all things, and gratitude simply for coming out the other end unscathed, and these have not been in the proportion you’d hope for.

Six years is a long time to be fuzzy on the details, a long time to spend in the company of routine. Too long to go without tuning in and really listening, without writing anything more than reports (after report after report) and instagram captions, without just doing without thinking. Far too long to go without claiming that clarity again.

So six years and four paragraphs later, here we are indeed. Nothing’s changed since four paragraphs ago but I already feel better. The world is a different place but we are still standing, leopards with the same old spots, more like ourselves than we think. Today, that is a comforting thought. Hello, little white box on the internet. I’ve missed you!

who needs coherence

the scared is scared: i come back to this special short once in while, when i need a little wisdom. tonight is one of those nights / just as i was about to forget the feeling of being exhausted, of having your heart hurt from bruises, of a fully formed tear making its way down your face. we nearly made it. just shy of a winning streak / i am studying for a test tomorrow. in assessing and evaluating levels of ability, there is norm-referencing and there is criterion-referencing. the former says you’re not the best, but compared to the other 90% of the population, you’re a star. don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. but the latter dares to tell the ugly truth: that a defect is a deficit, no matter what shape it sits in / so, my darling, reflect or deflect?

what keeps me going

sunset sew

my day job is lovely. but as a bonus, i spend a few hours sewing and drafting every week and it’s when i am happiest. and then, if i’m lucky, sam is waiting outside when i’m done, and what a feeling — to know that your heart still skips a beat.

it’s been a long time since i’ve filled up this little white box. i’ve been good. in four words: very tired, very blessed. have a happy weekend x

one teaspoon of stars

i wandered around/and finally found/somebody who could make me be true/and could make me be blue

on our first proper day in the city we sat in the planetarium at the museum of natural history, staring upward at a domed imax ceiling for a show about the stars, and it was the most beautiful thing i’ve ever seen. every time the sky swirled around and we danced across galaxies, i flinched from the vertigo, but also because i kept my eyes wide open to take it all in. the push and pull of magnetic waves, a star burning bright, slow and fierce, leaving a legacy of light that travels millions of miles even after it ceases to exist. did you know that by some evolutionary marvel, we each have one teaspoon’s worth of star-matter in us?

last day in the city and i can't believe I still haven't seen everything. oversize city + unyielding appetite for adventure

my first time in new york was selfish, all about firsts, thrills and broadway dreams coming true. it’s the kind of place that puts you on top of the world and in the centre of the universe.

a recurring theme this week: how big and beautiful our world is, and how we are made small in comparison

this time though, i loved the city because it made me feel tiny too. you are: one light in the distance, one more set of ears for the underground platform jazz to wrap itself around, one-fiftieth the size of a tree. we are humble and small, but only because our world is so big, and so unbelievably beautiful. a tradeoff in our favour, really.
so flinch, be overwhelmed, but take your place and take it all!


an unseen world

Dear 2012, you mostly made me very scared. And you were kind of a lot less charming than 2011. Is that okay to say?

When I think about you, I remember a lot of doors. They were mostly brown, like the one that separated my thesis/work supervisor’s office from the psychology department corridor, like the ones that hid job interviewers from plain sight. I’d always have to take a deep breath before going through those. There were the ballroom double doors and glass shopfronts with cameras waiting on the other side, ones I walked through in a series of small efforts to chase a big writing dream, new worlds I wanted to pour myself into. Then, of course, there were the metaphorical ones, entrances to a life after graduation. This was hard. I’d pick one way and second-guess myself a week later, pick another and then walk down it to find myself at the centre of the same maze. I still can’t say if I’ve found my way out, and I can’t be certain about what waits around the bend.

But that’s the thing about doors right? When they’re closed, they’re awful. They give you that first-date feeling, make it your job to step up and ring that doorbell, then there’s that little lurch you get in your gut as you push them open. There’s a quiver in your step, but you find a smile to wear as you walk through, and then hey presto — you’re on the other side.

So what I’m trying to say is: 2012, thank you for kicking my butt and for bringing me to 2013. You were rougher to deal with, but the reward is somehow sweeter. May the next 365 days be as challenging and beautiful.

Happy new year, everyone! I wish you health, love and grace, enough to let the happiness come naturally.

Seek beauty. Keep going!!!


NUS psych page

so, this happened some time ago. a tighter, shorter version of my thesis about autism and anxiety won best qualitative research in the best undergraduate research category of the Singapore Psychological Society Student Research Awards. as most science-y things go, what a mouthful that is!

i was pretty chill about academics all the way through university and you know how it goes when you write your thesis — you slug and sweat over data collection & your keyboard, and past a certain point of desperation, you’re like, please just let me pass!!! so i never expected to see my face on the NUS psychology page but hey, it’s kind of exciting. if you’re so inclined to pore over scientific-speak, the SPS just published a book of the winning articles which you can download here. mine’s article no. 3, and that’s my favourite number! :)

as a bonus, my favourite style blogger girlsack, who happens to be a recent psych graduate herself, just started a daily psychology fact tumblr, Psychology A Day, and it looks promising! for psych-student humour, there’s always the psychology student platypus, and PhD Comics.

city-memories blurring

blurry cities

i missed this place this weekend. we’ve made it something of a habit to cycle for an hour to this clearing, sit for a while till our legs stop tingling, cycle back and then adjourn for coffee, gao factor optional. there’s a lot to see at east coast park — grown men inching forward fearfully on rollerblades, kids pedaling with fury like their lives depended on it, but this clearing at our halfway mark is my highlight.

it’s special because it reminds me of many places at once. first, there is the bend off the main road and past the short posts in the ground, quite like where my white cement south davis path met the charcoal gravel and the roundabout. then there’s wild grass you can’t quite see past, which takes me back to colder, slower mornings with sam. only now there are no karst peaks or riverbanks, and i’m not rushing to grab a jamba juice before fiction class, but that’s okay. no more mourning. I don’t remember everything, but i remember the most precious minutes. i know them well enough to realise that this clearing in eastern singapore is my personal portkey, and being here is like having a familiar hand to hold in the dark.

begin anywhere

today was really difficult for me. i am a perfectionist, so most of the time, all I need is someone to tell me not to sweat the small stuff, to remind me that today’s worries won’t matter a week from now and will be forgotten in a month. but sometimes, mountains are not made out of molehills. they are what they are — jagged-edged, imposing, and the terrain makes it unfeasible to lead up to a vantage point. it makes me sick, made me dissolve into tears today when my sister sat with me on the steps by the fountain, made me scoff at the irony because i can’t deal with these anxieties easily, even though i research anxiety every day — why we choose to avoid and escape when the rational option is to desensitize, grow used to things, change the way we think about unfortunately undesirable necessities — and also because it was only yesterday that i read Frost’s The Road Not Taken with my english class and stripped it of its misunderstood Hallmark-card surface meaning. Frost wasn’t telling us to dare to be different, but to just…take a road. Choose one and begin anywhere.

That’s funny. the last time I struggled with change, I found a postcard in a Californian convenience store that told me to ‘begin anywhere’, and it hit home so much that I took a photo of it (ha!), blew it up and framed it in the centre of my Davis bedroom wall. And here we are again. My scientific knowledge battles with the stories and poems that I carry all the time. Which will last longer? Here we are again.



Never/land ended its short run last weekend. It was a laugh-a-minute, happy-tears-at-the-end sort of musical, and I wish you had been there to see it. I’d been helping with costume sewing/art needs here and there, but I was roped in for the final week of rehearsals and for the shows to assist with makeup. Don’t know if I’ve ever been in a room with so many talented people — gorgeous, wide-eyed ingenues, pitch perfect soulful singers, dashing and hilarious leading men, adorable dancers.


As I was doing the makeup for one of the pirate henchmen (styled as chinese opera painted villains, no less), he asked “are you happy that it’s going to end soon? then you and samuel will get to spend more time together.”

“well, yes”, i replied, “but it hasn’t really been difficult at all.”

There are few joys greater than watching my love in his element. I always knew he was giving so much of himself to the production, but it didn’t really hit me till the lead actress introduced him for the curtain call as “the person who always inspired us and told us to believe to see. Our director, our composer, our lyricist…our everything”. In that second, your heart swells, and you just don’t forget a moment like that.

Continue reading “never/land”

how my best friend got engaged

Almost 3 weeks ago, I made my way to Harvard Square convinced that I was going to have dinner with Ali & his suite mates. But instead of Korean fried chicken, I was set upon an unexpected journey to find penguins around the Yard.

As I was on the way out of the Harvard T station, I got a text from Ali – “do you like riddles?” I told him that I guess so, but I was more concerned about where he was because we had agreed to meet outside Pinkberry.

My old fogey friend, Dilys, got engaged a few weeks ago, and has finally shared the story of her engagement here! The quote above made me laugh, but if you like, please click through to read it.

It is the story of an wonderfully thought out engagement and a long-time love, and her fiancé (!), Alastair, filled it with sweet personal details from their shared life together in Harvard/Boston. It should also be noted that Dil loves penguins, both the animal and the classic books. I cried when she recounted the story over FaceTime, and here I am three weeks later still gushing like a fool.

D, you’ve brought pure goodness into my life since we were teeny 7 year olds, and you and Ali have always been a source of inspiration. Also, I forgive you for pangseh-ing YL and I on 10th Feb ’06 to go on your secret ice cream date. Congratulations and kisses for you both xx