Seeing circles — in a new skirt and a turquoise ring, and in a much-less-fun ultrasound scan yesterday by a doctor who essentially likened two tiny organs of mine to chocolate chip cookies… Not as cute as it sounds, but also not as bad as one might think? It should be easy when all you have to do is wait and see, but I’m having trouble focusing on meeting deadlines today. In the meantime, take care and be well everyone, and get your butt on over to a doctor if you think you’ve got the bug that’s been going around x
this week felt a lot like coming full circle. after so long i know i am finally in a good place, liking work and soaking up every minute of the day. i have never written about it here, but i was hired to work in autism research at my university on a couple projects full-time (as a stepping stone to a spot at graduate school? another question mark). on a good day, i conduct psychological assessments, run focus groups with parents of children with autism, and on slower days I try very hard to convert qualitative data into numbers and codes in little excel cells — the start of the long road to publishing in a scientific journal. however, because one project has yet to start, half my week is completely my own.
what i did with my half of the week: watched the national day parade, pitched in with set and costumes for the SMU law musical (sam is director/writer/composer/lyricist!), deciphered dots and notches on a dress pattern i am trying out, visited a master tailor with white hair and canto-peppered speech for a live demonstration on how fit and flair is molded into shape, and how it can be destroyed with something as simple as a misplaced buttonhole.
yesterday i told my mother that i was angry with myself for putting writing and learning to sew on hold for most of my teenage years, despite knowing very early on that my happy places existed in front of words and behind a gently whirring sewing machine. was it because these skills did not have enough potential cca-record value, or because i did not dare? then again, all of that is irrelevant now and completely overshadowed by the gratitude and joy of having these passions in my life again and here to stay. i will not have this same flexible-schedule, part-time luxury forever, but the best of times is now….so live and love as hard as you know how!!
Some days feel as if they belong to you. A special departmental lunch is being thrown in your honour, handshakes and congratulations are in abundant supply, and you’re the one whose name is read out as you walk across the stage. You worry about tripping in the new shoes you bought for the occasion. Perhaps you won an award, so the applause is even louder? Soak it up, they say.
Last monday, we filed a lesson in the exact opposite. Of course it was a special day, but it was never ours to lay claim to. It belonged to the friends who lived, learned and loved alongside us, it belonged to the parents, lovers and friends who have been generous with their time and affection. My sister rushed down from work, sam was waiting by the end with my favourite flowers, and when the valedictorian asked for a show of hands from parents whose love would not change regardless of their child’s qualifications or accomplishments, I looked up and saw my father’s hand shoot up high and proud. I had promised myself that I wouldn’t get weepy, but in that moment it could not be helped.
Other favourite moments: losing my friends in an ocean of blue robes and clumsy tasselled hats after leaving the auditorium, only to find that our parents had magically happened to cluster in the same area. We had split up to find them, but somehow that led us all back together again. Free-flow hugs. A dinner of margaritas, crab cakes and chocolate tortes. Realising two things — that I can finally have my boyfriend and family at the same table and no longer break a sweat (!), and that there are no clean ends and beginnings here. We are still ourselves, and holding that constant, have things not been set into motion already?
1. outram for impromptu tea with wans 2. exam time means chipped polish 3. wonderfully blue sky 4. another day another sunset
i’m fresh from my last official day of undergraduate life, and in the past four days alone, people have asked “what does liberation feel like?” at least ten times, and here is my answer: it does not feel victorious, as younger versions of ourselves would have liked to believe. yes, days are displaced and heavy with anxiety and shades of desperation, but they are also vast, and this time we get to choose what we fill them with. and choice is not ‘i studied business so i can either work in a bank or be a social media marketing guru’… one day i will look at my sisters, young cousins, nieces, children, kiss their foreheads and say — you can be anything you want to be. don’t think about choosing careers or chasing a grand but blind wanderlust. instead, choose happiness, chase meaning, and stop long enough to spot stories in the clouds.
Writing an honours thesis taught me many things, but the most ridiculous one is that I somehow prefer a hectic life as compared to this feeling of floating — spent last evening in front of the television with a dinner of fish soup mee sua, when on any other night I would have been glued to my chair, sitting down by MS word and just bleeding sentences. This morning saw me rushing to school, but not for a meeting. Instead, I caught up with suyee over late plate’s corned beef hash, had the pleasure of taking an hour to hand-write (gasp) points for tomorrow’s presentation script, am having a muffin for lunch, and just found the tiniest chocolate chip smear on the inside of my left ring finger…? What the what!? WHAT IS THIS FEELING I DON’T RECOGNISE?
Though this transition is the strangest yet, I would do it all again. No hindsight bias, promise. The past year of work on this thesis has shown me the limits of my patience, politeness and working memory (now proven: will lose train of thought somewhere around the 14,000 word mark) but it has repaid itself many times over with good, good people and the pleasure of having their lives overlap with mine. We get by with a little help from our friends.
It’s supposed to be a bright year ahead for those born in the year of the Snake. Zodiac predictions proffer luck, romance and windfalls, but the only promise I want fulfilled is the adventure of change and new beginnings, with the courage and speed to power through. In a spur of the moment I went for an interview last wednesday. The next day, I found myself armed with the job and a plan for the year ahead, and you talked with me about buying a house.
It feels like the future is here. Some days I resent it for feeling like it’s not going to stop for any movie afternoons or book nights, not going to give me any comfort about my thesis draft deadline which is in exactly a month. On the other hand, some days it feels like — bring it on, bring me to the next stage of a butterfly’s life cycle, amaze me, move me, take me any way you like. All I can think about are these lines from Go to the Limits of your Longing by Rainer Maria Rilke: let everything happen to you / beauty and terror / just keep going/ no feeling is final
Standard. Reunion dinner steamboat, my grandparents lovingly fussing and offering us drinks, then oranges, then ice cream — easy, comfortable chaos. Then, day one breakfast of peanut porridge, yam cake, glutinous rice at Kent Road. We move on to our grandaunt’s place later for bowls of chap chye, and sweet drinks in the same crystal glasses with the pewter saucers we’ve been drinking out of for twenty years. This year, mostly thanks to new media and age I feel a bit closer to my cousins, and our cousin Jason is visiting from Scotland all on his own. I watch him in conversation with relative after relative, the occasional friend, and think about how brave he is to fly solo on such a mammoth, potentially intimidating holiday.
Alex and I with our handsome dad, a gentle warrior at 50. My parents continue to amaze and surprise us with their sartorial choices. My mum looked gorgeous in a cream cheongsam with peonies this year, and my dad wore some slim cut dark, dark jeans. They both don’t fancy our usual shopping habits very much either, but that got turned around real quick when they encouraged us to go out and find all the necessary happy/red/kumquat-coloured components for a complete CNY wardrobe. We’re talking top level dress code commitment here, people.
Reunited with my sisters this year for cny. The night before, we played blackjack on my bed, using multicolour plastic beetles, elephants and deer as our kuti kuti gambling chips. Overslept the next morning, hugged our parents and received our angpows with our hair slightly stringy and damp. Throughout the day Alex and I mouth the lyrics to Beyonce’s Love on Top and do micro versions of the dance moves, and sing if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it over and over, slumped on the couch with our little cousin, tummies filled with lou hei crackers, shredded radish and slivers of raw salmon…is there any other way to say, blissed out?
1. Begin Anywhere
When you arrived, I barely noticed — too busy heating up canned soup, memorizing how roads curved around buildings and houses — the crude, basic sort of things you need to do to begin an existence, before you can build a life. My resolutions were simple: Have an adventure, and keep every moment close. Despite these aspirations, I was perpetually apprehensive about where to go, what to do next, how to avoid getting knocked off my bike on the Davis roads. But then, a chance postcard in a supermarket told me to Begin Anywhere, and so I did.
I am happy to report that my Christmas eve was spent in the company of loved ones, their loved ones, and a huge feast we all chipped in with in the kitchen.
Introducing new guests into the family dinner table circle is always going to feel a bit antsy, i think, but above all I am completely grateful and glad for the evening and its players. I’m a shy singer but I found myself humming out loud, realised a split second later that I wasn’t the only one, and let myself enjoy the carols and jazzy finger snaps over the sharp shuffle of mahjong tiles. A candlelit cloud of an evening laced with the scents of cranberry, peppermint and portobello, the walls of my living room echoing laughter, dave koz & friends, and the click of my camera shutter.
Wherever you found yourself this year, I hope your Christmas was very merry, and send you the warmest wishes for 2012 :)
my favourite ornament on our tree this year: a postman-elf, sleeping and satisfied
a dress i wore today that reminded me of rorschach blots
My mind has been elsewhere. It wants to curl up in a conversation or a pair of strong shoulders, prepare for an adventure, exist outside a list of to-dos. The adventures of early 2011 have taught me to go out there and take it all, expect bigger and better things from life. The one thing I forgot was that newness is an automatic adventure, and expecting bigger&better from the mundane doesn’t get anybody anywhere. The only solution might be to keep moving and keep making — light your own fire, fan the flames, spark a revolution!!
This is my mission for the next week. In a day or so, we will be taking off to the land of hawker food, beaches and my father’s quiet childhood and I’m leaving emails and work behind. I’m not typically a sea-and-sand girl, but I’m looking forward to the sun and soul time I desperately need, and to feel the sea swirl in between my toes. My camera will be with me the whole time, and a notebook for all those word clouds that form in my head when I least expect them…Get ready for some food porn, see you on the other side!
ps. happy 5 years + 2 months to my (only sometimes) better half. He’s off on an Australian roadtrip and I miss him terribly, but for the first time EVER we will actually be spending christmas together this year.