On writing.

young adult old soul writing magic realism

Do you know how your voice gets rough after you have just woken up? I think something similar happens with writing when you don’t write for a while. My language gets rough from disuse, my pen gets tongue-tied. It takes a little time for me to regain my bearings, to know where I am going with an idea once it has passed through my head and has flowed to the tip of my pen. I experience momentary amnesia, as though I had never written before in my life and had just been handed a pen. How do I operate this contraption? How does one write? How did I manage to do it before? How can I replicate my earlier writing?

It’s always like this in the beginning: an initial awkward phase, an embarrassed attempt at catching up.

“Oh hey, how have you been? Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Yeah haha, just…been busy and stuff, you know how it is.”

“Yeah, tell me about it, hah…”

“Soooo, what have you been up to?”

But after a while, it’s like falling into the familiarity of an old friend. After the habit of writing has taken form again, I no longer have to tiptoe around it, afraid of committing another faux-pas. I can be honest, too. I can say:

“Writing, you’re great and all, but I kindof hate you sometimes.”

And writing will be honest and say:

“Yeah, me too. You’re so flighty sometimes — you jump from one idea to the other and you don’t finish half of what you start. Your notebooks are filled with stuff you’re never going to finish. And we need to talk about all those run-on sentences and complex structures you use. Also, that’s not how you use a semi-colon.”

Writing is a terrible passion to have; I wouldn’t recommend it. But I’ve said it before: I am helpless to it. I have surrendered utterly and completely after years of denial, of convincing myself I was better off as something else, nurturing some other harmless passion like puzzle-making. It’s what I feel called to do, in a way. And it’s time I stopped rejecting the very thing I’ve been praying the Universe for.

Besides, there are benefits to it, too. Writing keeps me real — in no uncertain terms. It tethers me to myself, helps me to process things I would otherwise never notice. Writing provides a peek into myself, a reflection from the corner of a mirror. It is one of these things without which I feel I am incomplete. It’s like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips. At this point, it is that central to my identity.

I wish it wasn’t, truly. Life would be so much easier without this kind of passion hindering me. I would be great at not writing, better than I am at writing, actually. I wouldn’t have to try to explain what it is I write about. I wouldn’t have to dissuade people from wanting to read my writing by saying:

“It’s just…it’s weird. It’s not fictional, but it’s also not non-fictional. It’s based off of reality, you see, but actually…”

But you know, que será, será. Or in the words of Lemony Snicket:

“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.”

So I’m embracing it wholeheartedly: I’m a writer.

I’m not the best one around, my stories aren’t the prettiest, my characters aren’t that well fleshed-out and I could use some help with semi-colons and sentence structure. But in spite of all that, I am a writer. An imperfect writer. Before, I was an imperfect person who happened to write. Now, though the difference may seem small, everything has changed.


Note: I have used a semi-colon in this blog post and I am hoping against all hope that I have made correct use of it 😂. It’s just my favourite kind of punctuation. After the dramatic interrobang (?!), of course.

Soul-searching.

young adult old soul writing magic realism
Art by: thelunarfeline

“Who are you?” is never an easy question to answer.

I mean, how do I define myself beyond these fill-in-the-blank questions, beyond a selection of names, numbers and practical facts? How do I explain that who I am now is not who I was a minute ago, and yet there are parts of me still rooted in the days of childhood, the dawn of my life? There is no way to explain all the times my skin has cracked apart and the light has mended it with a golden thread. How can I say that I have been dipped into the darkness so much so that its stain remains; that I have loved as ardently as I have lost?

Who are you?

It takes a lifetime of soul-searching for some people to find out; journey upon journey through the world and through themselves. Some never do. Others still, drift in life, unaware. Yet, at times, it is quite by accident that the human essence bleeds out. In casual conversation, during middling days, boring car journeys as we experience time in the most unexceptional ways.

It was maybe a year ago now (and yet with everything that has happened, it seems so distant…). We were strolling around a deserted mall that Sunday afternoon. You could say that I was with “the girls” although most, if not all of us would object to calling each other that. We are not that to one another. I have another group of friends who are “the girls”, who I will go on dates with to trendy cafés, with whom I can be a little daring when it pleases me. But this group and I are like childhood friends. The fact that we have grown up together, seen each other everyday for 7 formative years, creates a bond that cannot be erased. However much we may lack a natural connection, there is something underlying, a common thread of Time that ties us all together. It’s hard to forget. To let go, because in so doing, we cut ties with parts of ourselves, the ones that reside in others. So we are not “the girls” to one another — we do not carelessly hang off of each other or exchange makeup tips; but we are friends. This is a label we hang onto quite possessively, protecting it from Time, distance and changes in who we are as people. We are not the girls we used to be. We do not slot as comfortably into each other, cannot bounce off the same experiences or share the same crucial opinions anymore. The conversation doesn’t flow as smoothly and we sometimes resort to small talk to fill in the gaps. They have grown so different from the 13, 16 and even 18 year olds I once knew. But it doesn’t matter. Some part of me recognises some part of them. That is enough.

So that drowsy Sunday, as afternoon was melting into evening, we roamed about an abandoned mall in a coastal village, still too full from the buffet lunch to form words.

It seems a miracle now, since I went back several times and never saw her again, but there was a woman with a jewelry stall in one of the building’s wings. She was probably one of these woman entrepreneurs, who have a skill and who are trying to develop it into a business. This could explain why she was there, alone, on a Sunday afternoon, and probably why I never saw her again. It’s a shame, because the jewelry she sold was just beautiful. Brooches, pendants, bright bracelets, earrings, shell necklaces and other kinds of pretty trinkets were all laid out on a table.

So, remember that part when I said we weren’t “the girls”? Well…we do love to accessorise.

I didn’t have any particular intention to buy anything; I’m not much of a shopper. A. and M. were picking out bracelets and the lady, previously overcome with ennui, was eager now to tend to 1,2,3,4,5,6! 6 young women flocked around her stall. The jewelry was pretty, in that way only simple things are. Dainty as a snowflake, light as a grain of sand.

And that’s when it happened. When some essential part of me showed itself without me knowing. I was eying the pendants and their myriad designs: stars, hearts, moons, circles, triangles, the tree of life… I was quite partial to the ocean themes; all these delicate pieces of metallurgy were gleaming like treasure from the sea. My heart was hesitating between two of these pendants. “Why not have both?” is an option I, for some reason, did not seriously consider. Back then, I was still on the fence about many things in my life.

“Anchor?” I asked, bringing it to the hollow of my neck, “or shipwheel?”

“Whichever one you like best.” M. replied.

“Yeah!” cheered A.

Let it not be said that my friends are not supportive. Now, helpful is a whole other thing. But supportive, still.

Y. still had this sort of aloofness about her but volunteered her opinion anyway, which goes a long way to show how she’s changed, actually. Before, she didn’t care to care for more people than she already did. Now there’s an opening for vulnerability, carved by the wounds of life. She’s softer now, but also a little worn out. Her answer didn’t much help,though.

“Whichever one you want. Take both, actually, if you like them both equally.”

Y. has always been the logical one.

But in my head, it was this dilemma. I wanted so much to decide, to not just choose the easy route by buying both (and yet, what’s so wrong with taking the easy way sometimes? Why does everything have to be complicated, so labour-intensive?). There were so many decisions I was not making in my personal life, and I wanted to get this trivial one right. So which one did I just have to have? Which could I bear to leave behind?

“Shipwheel. I want the shipwheel.”

And that was it: shipwheel. Nothing more, nothing less.

Like the cheesiest person, I wore this shipwheel pendant with my sailboats and shipwheel dress for far too long.

But why all this talk about an old necklace all of a sudden? Well, now this necklace lays in my hand, its clasp broken. I have been decluttering (again) and finding it has made me realise a lot of things about myself and the year that has passed.

Shipweels or anchors?

Do you want to explore and risk yourself out there? Or do you want to settle here, content but mostly unchanged? Back then, without even knowing it was a question, I had already chosen an answer. I was just a girl buying a necklace, how was I to know?

The symbolism I could not grasp then is not lost on me now. The fact that I ever stopped wearing it already says something. But so does the fact that I’ve found it again now, as I am rising back to myself. Still, fittingly, the clasp is broken and I wonder what it means for me.

I am unsure when it is that I will be at the wheel again. But I look at this pendant and somehow, I know who I am. I am the kind of person who chooses a shipwheel over an anchor, who fears stillness more than adventure.


Note: Behold now, the (not so) mighty shipwheel necklace I have just dedicated 1200+ words and several hours to. It has lost some of its lustre but should be good after some polishing and a new chain! Also, I’m curious to know, have you had any small moments like these, which later turned out to be huge life realisations? I’m always worried it’s just me 😂

Imbroglio.

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

I am having too many thoughts again.

All of them orbit around my head day and night, at their own paces, each one with their own sunsets, their individual low and high tides. I feel like the lamplighter in The Little Prince, who lights and puts out the street lamp on his planet some 1440 times every day.

There is not much time for anything else. As I tend to these overgrown thoughts, all else falls into a corner of neglect and I worry even more.

And that’s the problem isn’t it?

I am unable to dedicate myself wholly to one thing. Worry nags in the back of my mind, creating bumps in a moment that otherwise flows like river-water. I do not allow myself be taken by the moment. There’s just too much going on, too much to worry about. And I feel guilty if I don’t worry. I feel guilty for enjoying myself when I should be working to get things done.

It’s like kissing someone while thinking about someone else.

Evicted out of the present moment, I am neither here nor there. Instead, I watch on the situation, worrying, gnawing at my nails.

I have so much to catch up on that I act like every moment not spent working on my problems is a stolen one. I feel guilty for living in the moment, for not being busy.

And that, that is how I, how we lose inner peace.

By giving worries more rights and power than they deserve.

I mean, I cannot do everything now. There are too many stories, too many people, too many musings and anecdotes and each deserves their rightful share.

After all, how am I supposed to split one second into the many, endless fractions I need? How do I find infinity in what is hopelessly ephemeral?


Quote of the day :

“I would have you consider your judgement and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.
Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.”

—Kahlil Gibran, On Reason and Passion, The Prophet

A true sadness.

young adult old soul magic realism 9jedit writing
Art by: 9jedit

I have been looking into myself this past month.

After a few weeks of dedication to the task, I have come upon something a little troubling: a well of deep sadness. Not a deep well of sadness, either but very much a well of profound sadness.

It’s hard to admit that this is the result of decluttering my heart and clearing my mind.

But I should have known. I have reached here before, I have come across this precipice and turned my back to it, preferring a mellower life and sweet, honeysuckle days. But whatever I do, I ultimately return to it. Whatever paths I take in life, when it matters most, it is this silent force I encounter.

Should I continue running, turning from it ? Perhaps I can avoid it all my life?

Bu really, what else is there to do but accept it?

This sadness, it’s not fun. It’s not exciting and definitely not what I want. But it’s true. It’s authentic.

And so, it deeply characterises me. I’ve been writing about it, scratching its surface, knocking its door for a long time now. And I think it’s time. I have enough strength that now I can choose a true sadness over a distracting joy. I’ve reached a point now where I can accept whatever this sadness says about me.

I suspect it’s a lot of grief for the world, an idealist’s mourning of injustice. But perhaps there is regret too, resentment.

But I must go there. I must face myself, I must accept who I am, whoever that is. It is the only way, the true way.

I would be lying if I said I was unafraid, if I wasn’t clinging onto old joys, onto materialism and comforting clutter— all those things, really, that I turned to so I could avoid facing that sadness.

I am so scared of losing myself. It is so difficult to surrender, to let these waves of change carry me away —or worse yet—to let them wash over me, carrying away the parts of me they want, keeping the parts they want.

And yet,tremulous as my heart is, it feels right. My heart can stand up to this.

Every path has led to this. Every crossroads, every person I have met, every event and non-event, every stranger I have ever wondered about, every 2 a.m, every night I shivered on the balcony.

Every turn in life has led here. If I back out now, I lose myself again. I wander, no, I err again, uncertain to my core. I drown again in shallowness, chasing moments of infinity forever.

All I fear is touching an energy too raw for me to handle, of stumbling on an emotion too close to my heart.

But wells run deep, I tell myself. Their depths do not spring out of nowhere. It means that as long as I follow this sadness, I get closer to myself.


Listening to:

Black hole matters.

young adult old soul magic realism writing dionmbd
Art by : Dion Mbd

I have been so busy questioning Life that I can’t seem to live it.

My tenderest years I spent feeding my doubts, utterly taken by greater-than-life hypotheses about Meaning and Existence. The questions grew large and looming, dwarfing me in the process, until one day I fell into one of them, into the black hole of one “Why” too many. Further down the rabbit hole I fell, to the point where it became all I knew; I could only vaguely recall there ever being some other life before it.

And so I spent many years surrounded by a kind of darkness, in the search for “Truth” (although, in reality, it was more complicated than that). I was looking for the Truth, the kind humans have been searching for since the dawn of Time, but also for my own personal truth, my own story. I was looking for myself, trying to see, through the very limited lens of my consciousness, the whole truth of the human condition, the efforts of mankind sketched against the then-vague concept of the Universe.

It was a lot.

And it didn’t help that I was so young and weirdly empathetic.

Ironically, by trying to widen my worldview and deepen my consciousness, I became monomaniacal, so astoundingly focused on the task I couldn’t see what I’d become.

Life graces us all with at least one piece of irony.

Then, I spiralled.

Days blurred into nights and Time melted under the sun until Life became Existence, and I did not know myself anymore.

I’d love to say I woke up one day to the sunlight caressing my cheek. I’d love to say its warmth shook something in me and jolted me awake.

But I stayed locked in the dark. I let my teenage years just go by. I never truly celebrated the year when I was 18. This feeling was all I was; it erased everything else, every other kind of identity. And it was so hard to explain — how could I when I didn’t even understand it myself?

But slowly, unwillingly, I crept out into the sun. I opened my eyes to it, its brightness burning my retinas. Then I crawled back inside for months in a protective darkness, in a safe stillness. Then I came out again. I would spend a day in, a day out. Now the days have turned into months, the months into half-years. And slowly, I am converting Existence to Life again.

This time around, I believe I am going about existentialism the right way: I ask questions and in so doing, uncover dark rooms, encounter still, darkened worlds within my consciousness. And in the midst of all this darkness, I try to find the light that shows me around it.

It is this simple: do not get eaten by the dark. Always carry some light with you, within you.

We all have that spark, no matter how dire the circumstances, how extreme our suffering. As long as there is life, there can be light.

Do not let the darkness overwhelm your light. Even if it is flickering, light always overpowers darkness.


Note : I remember when I started this blog, I was still in the throes of all this dark existentialism, of these huge concepts I could not fully comprehend, did not know how to handle. And now I am all “A kaleidoscope of butterflies” and “Warm, honeyed sunlight”. Whodathunk.

Listening to:

The wind chime.

Writing magic realism young adult old soul
Art by: @hello_dongwon

These days, when I’m silent and staring off into space, I think a lot about you. Not other worlds nor imagined sanctuaries. Just you.

In the blur between my dreams and reality, symbolism says that you are a wind chime.

Delicate, with a kind of beauty only something so obviously fragile can have. I approach you timidly, fearing that I may step on the wind’s path and break the spell that is keeping the very atmosphere on edge. Yours is a song the universe has waited a long time to hear again, so even the birds hold their breath. The clouds do not move for fear of casting a shadow and depriving the world of the sight of afternoon sunlight dancing off your stained glass.

Summer’s breath carries the ocean spray, freedom flies with the winds. Honeyed light mingles with music, and the world sighs : “At last.”. The universe sinks into your melodies, finds itself in the tinkling of glass in a little seashell house by the cove.

A feeling of undeserved privilege washes over me. But when life gives you music, you dance.

Yes, you are a wind chime of a person. You turn the wind into song, the light into elusive patterns beating to your rhythm.

But when you break, you cut all those around you with your angry shards. Distantly, it dawns on me then that you are just glass, like I am just clay, in the end. You are straying fragments picked up from the ocean floor, as I am scattered remains of a star — both of us longing to be whole. You are like me, earthly, normal.

It was foolish of me to see in you more than there was. Or maybe it wasn’t. But it’s hard to think straight with glass shards in my hand and the silent accusation ringing traitorously in my head: “I should never have trusted you.”

Time, spare change and pocket lint.

You won’t be hearing from me for a little while, and I hope that’s okay— is something I should have written 3 weeks ago, before my sister’s wedding completely engulfed my timetable, when I knew already that I would be too keen on 2 a.m. conversations and too tired from them to write anything, to want to write anything.

But in my defence, I didn’t worry about it much, entirely too concerned with living the present moment for everything it was. Man, I’ve lived these past 3 weeks. So much so that for a long minute, it seemed impossible that it had been 3 weeks and not 2. It’s like reading a novel and getting really into it, so that when you reach the end, you think : “Is it over already?”. In a way, it makes me think—why aren’t my weeks usually packed with as much meaning? Why is life wishy-washy, the waters so low and still that any movement, however small, becomes a major event? I should always be living. Be it in the great or small ways. This is the kind of battle I am leading these days : pushing meaninglessness out of my life. Making every second worth it.

This is something I’ve realised ever since traveling abroad for the first time, I’ve understood just how much a day can hold. I’ve re-evaluated my perception of Time, and —most amazingly, most importantly— of the realm of possibility. I’m not careless about my minutes now, I don’t leave them behind in my pockets with the lint and stray change, don’t forget them in the slack of the workload. Instead, I string them together like a beaded necklace, giving all moments this continuous flow, where they succeed one another in a stream of events that is memorable, that does not make me feel as though I’ve woken up from a 2 or 3 hour spell, not remembering where the time has gone and who has robbed me of it…

I am the worst planner I know, in my defence. All that daydreaming and world-building has to come at a cost, you know.

But I’m learning. I’m trying. It’ll work out, somehow.