Skinned knees.

young adult old soul magic realism writing

Trigger Warning: mentions of injuries, blood and corporal punishment.

At 23, I think I’ve passed the age for skinned knees.

And yet, here I am.

This whole week has been a slow journey back to childhood, no different to how it always is with me, right? I am always returning to these vestiges of the past, attracted to crumbling structures and their stories. Except it didn’t once feel like escaping, like I was swapping my adult responsibilities for memories of simpler days. Instead, it felt like returning to myself, to where it all started. The great wonders of childhood, the great truths in them.

You know, I skinned my right knee so badly as a kid that I still have a scar from that time. It is a raised bump, all scar tissue, that really stands out from the rest of the surrounding skin. To begin with, I already think knees are not very pretty (they’re necessary but awkward-looking). Now having this large scar tissue on my knee is no improvement.

And today, to add insult to injury, I skinned my knee again. As a 23-year old.

It was just a slight graze, lacking any fantastic blood loss. I fell off my own two feet as one does, smack down in the corner of the street. And as I was falling, all I could think was:

‘Wait, am I really falling here, now, in the middle of the street??’

You have to understand that not a minute before I was walking like an independent woman with a new Kate Spade bag (my sister’s, not mine) and the next I was getting up close and personal with dirty bitumen.

When I promised myself I would keep my inner child alive, skinned knees was not what I had in mind. Wonder, creativity, joy…That is what I meant. But as I was falling, I think I also fell back into childhood, the way Alice falls down the rabbit hole.

The burning sensation on my knees and palms, the light sting on my right knee, the trickle of blood and broken capillaries all brought me back to my formative years — not the ones where I was struck on the knuckles, where I emerged head bent, palms burning a fire that was nothing compared to my shame. No, it was not even those days when I futilely crammed mathematical formulae in my head, when I studied without learning much or recited print-outs on exam papers.

The world would want for this to be my formative years. The system dictates that this should be it: my turning points, my significant encounters and the course of all my personal rebirths. But it’s not. And this — this quiet discrepancy, this refusal of the world’s ways is the greatest of rebellions to me.

In this rebellion, in this choice, lies all of me.

No, as I fell into the rabbit hole, I found myself transported back to the gardens of my childhood, to free, blue skies and days that gave me all the liberty to follow the course of aeroplanes crossing the sky and birds taking flight to who knows where. It took me to quiet classes in the school library, encased between tall bookshelves made of golden wood where we would discuss the significance of Thomas Hardy’s “The Going” — hours that saw the unravelling, the rising of my being to new life. I returned to the heart of my own being, who I was before I needed to be anybody.

‘Like Ulysses returned to Ithaca’  my childhood self supplies. Oh yeah, that was a thing. I grew up adoring all sorts of mythologies. Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan… I spent my days wondering about them all.

It’s funny how I walked away from all this without knowing.

Inch by inch then all at once I left these quiet pleasures, these little, potent truths for a world that needed me to be someone else. An obedient student. A good employee.

A trickle of warm blood, a skinned knee like a blood sacrifice and here I am, back to where it all started.

Remember, remember…

Remember who you are and don’t let the world take it away from you again.

In the moments after the fall, after I dusted myself off and got back on the road, shaken, I spoke to the child in me again. Long conversations that did not require many words. Many things became obvious to me; the lies I had fed myself began to fall apart.

Now, I am almost laughing at the me who wrote that she was not sure she wanted to be a writer after all, the me who was still looking for her “thing”. Too afraid of not having what it takes, of the long road ahead, it was easier to look for something else, to not pin all hopes onto this one silly passion…It was more sensible, more reasonable to pursue something less whimsical, more stable, more profitable.

But if money didn’t matter, would I really be going to an office everyday from 9 to 5? If I knew I was dying, would I really be okay with living like this? Would I not want to formulate a plan, a getaway, an adventure?

But I am dying, aren’t I? Aren’t we all?

The real challenge in all of life, in this young adulthood stage is to conciliate the ephemerality of our lives, the suddenness of death with an existence that endures day by day and leaves us feeling secure, complacent in our momentary triumph over death.

‘So, wait, am I leaving my job?’

Not quite. But I am going to make space for adventure. I am going to dedicate time to doing the things I’ve always wanted to do. Like, I don’t know, write a book. Travel the world. And maybe I’ll quit my job too when it starts holding me down.

Who knows what’ll happen?

“That’s the best part,” the child I used to be says “You can walk out the door and have a million different things happen in the time it takes for you to return.”

Putting the stars back.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: Chootalks

There are times when I need to leave my brain behind.

And I don’t just mean my overthinking, my overly critical mind. But everything. All of my brain, save for practical functions like recognising danger.

I just need to air my mind out, to not carry around all my thoughts and experiences and history with me wherever I go. Because there’s this person I have to be — that other people count on me to be. It is a person I have chosen myself, as we all do when faced with the challenges Life poses us. We all reach difficult situations, turning points where we have to decide what kind of person to be.

Are we the kind of friend who leaves well enough alone when an upset friend assures us they are fine? Are we the kind of person who probes? Are we the kind of significant other who hates conflict, who would rather wait for tension to pass, unaddressed? Or are we the kind of person to meet it head on, ready to make or break? Would we rather be hurt or hurt someone else?

We carry all this and a million more choices in our every step. Because that is who we choose to be.

But I’ve discovered I need a break from my choices.

Whether it is as a friend, a sister, an employee or a young woman, a twenty-something. I need to remove all these skins, these layers of identity and air out my inner self. It does me so much good to be anonymous like this: to be just a girl with no worries or concerns for the day.

So I walk and walk and walk until I can’t feel my feet, until I’ve forgotten they were aching or even there. I go where I want to go. This Saturday, it was an unknown city — a passing place along the motorway where people stop for a while and then…vanish. It’s hard to believe anyone lives here. It feels like a reflection of a city: a wavering image in a puddle somewhere in another world. Maybe this is all a dream, a scene playing in someone else’s mind.

I walk and I explore, I poke my nose in the unknown, tiptoe past too reasonable boundaries set by anxiety.

It feels like opening a window in a closed-off room, like putting the stars back in the sky.

A windy place.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: Unknown artist

I am enjoying having lunch alone, under the swaying palm trees ripe with the promise of tranquillity, in the windy corridor between building A and B.

I love being here at odd lunch hours, it really cements what this place is about: nebulousness, off-the-mapness, in-betweens. It is the liminal space between the work world and individual life, a bridge where, crossing between two buildings, you stop being an employee for a hot second, the kind that can spill into infinity. You enter building A a worker, spill out into the windy corridor all-too human, all-too much of a star, all-too other and foreign even to yourself. Your self stretches out as though an accordion to showcase its multiple intricate layers, and the palm trees take you away to bygone summers. You are not a name on the payroll before you enter building B. No, you are an in-between, a free spirit. You become a kaleidoscope of yourself and the corridor is the light that shines so it may exist. You don’t think about work, you wonder about possibilities: maybes, perhapses, what-ifs.

I love going there for lunch at around 13:00 (start-up mentality lets me have lunch when I want basically) when the courtyard is free and deserted. For an hour long, it is all mine. Even now during the winter time, when it is too cold to be out, when common sense calls for warmth and safety, I somehow still find myself making my way to this windy place, peering through the gaps between the fronds of the palm trees to catch a look at a strip of sky or moving cloud.

1 p.m finds me gazing into the windows of building A, watching the reflection of clouds pass along one window, disappear into the concrete between the other window, then re-emerge into the next one.

Lunch tastes different too.

My senses are focused, attuned, at peace. I am in the moment as my nails dig into the fragrant skin of a clementine, peeling it and pulling out each plump, juicy wedge translucent with the promise of sweet citrusyness. And the spaghetti tasted more of home than tomatoes, every bite a step further inwards to the cherished, overgrown garden of memories. And oh, the melon iced tea in its glass bottle that tasted so sweetly, so gently of summer.

I wish I had brought a book with me today. It is this wondrous, ordinary-looking setting that has witnessed my exploring of “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. It is here that I have found myself over and over in his words and even in the spaces between them.

I am going to miss this when I leave one day, invariably. And even as I tell myself that this is neither here nor there, I am reminded that half the year has already passed and that I may well be leaving too soon.


Note: Alternate title for this blog post: “The one where I make up all the words.”😂

Sleepless world.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by : Hajin Bae

It is nights like these that I think of you most.

Hot summer nights when the humidity, exceeding the 80 percent bar, weighs on my skin and everything in life feels so heavy. Always, in those rare instances when I have managed to drop out of the routine that clings to my skin, an image of you comes unbidden to my mind. You must know them as well as I do, those kinds of nights when I pierce a hole into my “schedule” and can finally let some air in, as though life had become an airtight, windowless room.

Out on the balcony, I breathe in the night sky, feeling the cool outside air sliding down my arms, picking up my ample t-shirt dress, making it billow on my back as though it were the sail to a boat and I was about to be taken away. Like a ship sailing in an ocean of stars. To get to that place only we know. With my hair untied, loose for once from its bun, not even the railing could anchor me. Not even the warmth of the orange light behind me, not even the letters in my room.

In the developing coolness of the late night (01:16 a.m. where I am now), something constricts in my heart.

It has been so long since the last time, but I remember you. You and this feeling : light and hazy, confusing : it takes my whole mind apart in the gentlest of ways.

Somehow or other, I always come back to you. It is always this scene that lies in the background of all the stages of my life. Like a parallel life running alongside mine, that I can only see when I stop for a moment and look around me.

We know each other but I do not remember ever meeting you.

But I have thought of you too much as I breathed in lungfuls of loneliness on cold, star-speckled nights. I have imagined too deliberately what it would mean to meet someone like you, to not know you when you are right in front of me.

I have sent too many thoughts into the night that have only reached you in early morning sleep for you to not wonder why a stranger feels so familiar.

You see, I know you. I’ve known you all along. I have spoken with you, with the idea of someone like you at 2 a.m. when I could not find rest, in classrooms filled with friends as I looked out the window or in clattering buses as the sun set.

I know you. I don’t remember much about you; I don’t really know your name. But we know each other. A relationship held together by stars and nights willing to carry our heaviness, our ache for friendship to another blue soul somewhere in this vast, sleepless world.

I have shared so many moons with you, so many new years and eclipses; so many hours of sleep. Still, we have never met, not until now. Not until now when, for some reason, all of my life is pouring out to you in casual conversation. Not until now when opening up has never felt so right, when I speak in half-sentences and obscure references only for you to nod gently, a light of understanding glinting in your eyes.

27.10.18


Listening to :

Lonely stars and unnamed moons.

magic realism writing young adult old soul hajin bae
Art by : Hajin Bae

Did you know that during winter, you can still see stars at 05:30 a.m?

When I woke up to them, still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I thought I might still be dreaming or that I was seeing these strange light visions you get when you rub your eyes. I thought I might have woken up on one of Saturn’s 9 unnamed moons (out of a total of 62 moons with enthralling names: Thrymyr, Ijiraq, Telesto, Lapetus, Titan…) and was seeing the universe laid out before me, all engulfing darkness and lights that shine all the brighter for it.

It felt decidedly surreal, to be visiting the universe one dawn in my pyjamas, hair ruffled and warm from sleep, my fluffy eye mask snagged in one direction around my neck.

It was an honest mistake, and a beautiful one to boot. But the world was silent, the city young and asleep. Not even the sound of an altered motorcycle exhaust. Not even the barking of a dog. Nothing. It was quiet, like how I know the universe must be. In the hour before dawn, I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, stars have this ethereal pinkish glow, something a little peachy and warm. I woke up to the universe outside my bedroom window, to moons hanging low in my backyard, grazing the balcony overlooking the city.

Or so it seemed.

Of course, I would realise they were stars as time went by.

And yet somehow, instead of disappointment, I felt all the more thankful for them. For how they accompany us even in the last hours of the night, fearing we might lose our way.

Finally, finally, after a lifetime of contemplation, under the protective glow of pinkish stars, I realised that stars are for me companions, friends, who see me through the darkness of night, holding my hand until the small hours and beyond.

I am never alone when the stars are with me, when the Universe sends them my way to guide me through the dark.

Slowly, reverently, I trace my fingertips over the patterns of stars in the lightening sky. One, two, three, four and a few hundred more. Though side by side, sharing the same skies, they never meet.

Perhaps it is true.

I trace over the patterns of lights on the apartment complex a few blocks away. Every window that is lit up is at least one person.

It really is true : that each star represents a connection I will never make, a friend I will never meet. We are all strangers under one big sky, learning our own orbits, navigating our loneliness.

That morning, there must have been someone else like me. Another one or more, staring at the pinkish lights, keeling under the revelation of 5 a.m. stars, their questions floating in the sky, not unheard but still unanswered.

Is there someone out there like me?


Quote of the day :

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

— Frida Kahlo

Note : I have to admit though, Lonely Stars and Unnamed Moons is a pretty amazing band name. 10/10 would listen to their music if they existed 😂

An imaginary journey.

young adult old soul magic realism
Art by @lilmisch

Do you ever feel that this life is not really yours?

I have this deep, unsettling conviction sometimes that one day I will wake up, and it will all have been a dream.

I must have wandered off one late summer day, probably during a family picnic at the beach. Trying —without knowing— to touch a moment of infinity, to connect to the strange energy swirling inside of me. I tried to talk to the ocean, to understand the hidden language behind its ebb and flow, and the eons-old story it tells.

“Tell me what you know about the stars.” I whispered.

I let the washed up shells guide my steps, imagined waking up within one of them, bathed in a pinkish glow. All around me, the world was telling a story and I was listening. To the winds that told me where they go to rest, to the rocks that have only ever felt life, to the sands that murmured stories of when they were corals settled deep in the ocean.

I must have wandered so far as to get utterly lost. But I was unaware. Too taken by the secret magic of the world to notice. I wandered for years following that inner light, only looking up much later, far away from the beach, from any sounds of laughter, from any comfort of family.

And ever since, I’ve been trying to find my way back. Have been trying to connect to that same energy from that day on the beach, many summers ago, in the hopes that it will take me back.

So far, I have reached a desert, where seashells have been swapped for fennecs and other desert dwellers. The desert sand tells a different story : one of dunes and unfathomable mysteries buried in its breast. And again, losing a few years, I listen.

Once or twice, I think I collapsed from heatstroke. And in between my barely open eyelids, I glimpsed the beach from another world, another time. The backs of the people I love are turned to me, and even though I’m so near, they can’t see me, they don’t even know I’m gone. Or that I will be gone.

But then, on the third time, I wake up.

All the years I’ve lived in the desert dissolve into dust; they were never real. That is how life feels some days. An imaginary journey, something I was too young to embark on, something too dangerous. I’m constantly straying from the things that brought me warmth and comfort, and my whole life is spent seeking that lost haven, never knowing whether I will find it.


Note : Did that even make sense? 😂 I don’t know, but it’s good to be back posting.

Wispy warmth.

young-adult-old-soul-magic-realism-art-alexandra-levasseur
Art by : Alexandra Levasseur

I let my hair down at night so the stars will mistake it for the midnight sky and settle there. I think it works, because often I awake to stardust woven in my hair and galactic visions streaked in my mind’s eye.

My hair, I have noted, has grown out, giving an air of incredible softness to my face. A sort of gentle femininity I am unused to. For about a year now, I’ve been sporting what I call an office-girl hairstyle : shoulder length with long layers. But now I feel as though it’s all worn in, if a hairstyle can be that. The straight, sharp edges have mellowed out, the humidity is creating waves out of my hair, making it undulate with every nascent thought, every momentary, imagined world. My hair has seen one too many case of bedhead, has been too warm —spread out about my pillow during long, contemplative mornings— for it to be office-like.

An overlong fringe now brushes my cheekbones, long layers tickle the underside of my jaw all day long. My hair has ventured well past my clavicle. Can a hairstyle feel homey? Because this one does.

I have never known myself to be this soft-looking, even when I had hair tumbling all the way down my back. I’ve never woken up to so many stars caught in my hair. I want to think it’s this inner gentleness I have been working on, drawing it out gently from a well inside of me, wisp by wisp.

Now it’s time to cut this wispy warmth, but I feel in me that this won’t change a thing, that it won’t stop the stars from coming.