Their encounter, the summer they had spent together —caught in between afternoon siestas under flowering bougainvillae and warm beaches stirring under summer’s breath— could all be summed up in one moment. It was like accidentally looking into the sun with naked eyes — they were too tender, and the light scalding. Neither of them could hold that light, burning and fierce with the will to live.
Looking back, their relationship (the nature of which neither he nor she could ever bring themselves to settle on— “romantic” seemed too cheap a word for what they shared, “friendship” left a lot uncovered) had happened, in its entirety, in that instant. The one that leaves you momentarily blind, that catches you unaware before you can even think to turn away or flinch. A moment in life when you stumble into something you cannot handle.
The light pierced through their tender hearts as though fragile retinas, burning holes in them every chance encounter, every stolen moment. They snapped away, for the first time feeling the true burn of their encounter, when the first cool night settled in the all-consuming heat of the summer, first her, then him. The gravity of their common mistake fell over their heads like a bucket of ice water, extinguishing any hope of deciphering that odd relationship.
Years later, when they would meet again in a crowded street in some foreign city, passing each other by, they would not know where these burns came from, except from a summer a long time ago, on an island already subsumed by the water. What once was a happy place.
Decluttering, cleansing, finding myself again underneath all of the debris.
Ever since I first had one up until now, my desk has always been a mess. The result of a scatterbrained eagerness for any kind of learning, an ache to pick up new skills like a child wants to adopt every stray puppy they see.
Fountain pens for calligraphy,
charcoal for sketches,
pages of Spanish vocabulary,
a mandarin handbook.
There was always a story to be found in the messes I made. Always something to read in between the layers of stuff strewn all over. We all leave traces behind. Like the wind carves unfathomable patterns into sand dunes, like the waves imprint the shore in abstruse motifs. Like paw prints left in the mud, marks left against a tree trunk. Oddly, I felt this was mine.
Something about it felt deeply personal. Like that mess pattern was one only I could create, one wrought from my whimsical thinking, my moods, my interests, my states of mind, my worlds. Something that was entirely different from what another person’s mess would be like if they had the same items at hand. It also gave me a lot of places to hide behind. Behind a book or wads of paper, lead staining my fingers to keep people away, making them believe in the idea of intense creation, of passion and creativity running wild, something that should not be interrupted, obstructed.
But I also kept a lot of junk.
Ridiculous things I was too afraid to throw out. Because somehow, they became not souvenirs, but escape routes. As though holding onto them would take me back, away from not so pleasant realities. I hoarded these insignificant things, bits and bobs, almost compulsively. I dug my nails into these scraps from the past, into wood shavings left from once impressive moments. I kept so many things because sometimes the present is scary. And the future both marvelous and uncertain; foreign. But the past, the past is home.
It was then, I think, that nostalgia sank so deep into my skin. Filled my pores with the scent of old pages, of yellowed memories. Gave me this faraway look that I cannot shake from my eyes. Cloaked me in gentle sadness, in longing for a place and time that no longer exist outside of my brain and its peach-coloured memories.
I lived in the past. In worlds spun from idealised, romanticised memories. I swam in diluted truths also given new life by a bored imagination, a creativity itching to get started again.
I have began throwing them out, now.
Detaching myself from the havens they once promised.
It’s a sort of materialism, too. I realise. By wanting to keep a moment alive through an object, you end up glorifying it instead, sometimes forgetting why it even matters so much— you just know possessively, agressively that it does.
So yes, I am done with the button that fell off one of my clothes at some point in time. Done with random junk from my school days. And old receipts.
But I am still keeping my movie ticket stubs. Still wondering how I am going to reuse the unstitched sleeves from my ship-wheels and sailboats dress. Because, come on, that’s symbolic. I’m also cleaning out my phone. Deleting near-duplicates of the same shot. Keeping only what matters truly (and well a little bit more, too).
And I am not obsessing over keeping things either. I am not digging my nails into things, not wrenching my arms possessively around overflowing cardboard boxes. I am learning to let go. To enjoy now.
Mentally too, it’s liberating. Like I’m shedding years of old relationships that no longer hurt now that I am freed of them. No longer am I fractured, either. I am not whole, but…pieced back together, even if sometimes it feels like I just stuck a band-aid on it and prayed the bits and pieces would hold themselves together.
Under the weight of clutter and memories, I feel like I shrank a bit all this time.
Even now, I am still messy.
But I clean up more often. I throw out old bills, pamphlets. I don’t let things clutter my space, my mind. After all, with all these useless things out of the way, I can finally set to work on creating a mess that is all me.
A little while back, I considered (tried) going on a writing hiatus. My anxious mind, always eager to veer into the extremes, had me toy with the idea of leaving this blog altogether. What if, it wondered, you took a hiatus and just…never came back? What if, in that moment in time, something drastic happened and life changed so much you couldn’t get back to writing, blogging?
It wasn’t the first time I asked myself this question. Not the first time I tried quitting, more or less.
And it occurred to me, in between all that advice that “You should write for yourself.” and “We should all admit we write for others too.” that I’d found my one reason why I write. I won’t deny that I like having people read what I write and relate to it, or just think that something I made was just a little beautiful. But do I write for myself ? Maybe sometimes.
As critical as I am of my own writing, there are some pieces I am very fond of. Because reading them, I am not only taken back to a moment in time, but also to the moment I put pen to paper and extracted a memory combined with a feeling and an atmosphere. I am taken back to the time I was able to describe what, to me, was indescribable, overpowering, nameless.
Writing on this blog has been like curating my own little world. There is my writing, but also things I find beautiful, things I love. Sometimes it’s a painting, a song. Sometimes a quote. It all adds up to this little stash of things I love. Or have loved at one point in time. And sometimes I have cool people tell me they really like the same things I do, which, I have to admit really does make me smile.
And now I’m writing this here because…because this feels important (?). Like one of the things you’re meant to write down just in case you forget.
It always feels weird to post something so self-centred and not have a straightforward answer as to why I’m posting it. I wasn’t even going to add an artwork to this, but it really was just too beautiful not to add. Either way, I’m guessing I’ll just have to take a leap here.
It has been 200 posts ever since I first started this blog. Some are no longer visible now, others are lost in the multitudes. But they’ve all led to this number today and I am really grateful. To everyone who has been reading, passing by and saying hi, and leaving your thoughts here: thank you ! This blogging journey would not have been the same without you.
“Every birthday journal entry since has featured the same kind of sentence: “I don’t feel older. How can I be turning 20 when I don’t even feel like I am 19?” […] It felt like the equivalent of celebrating a loveless marriage —an age-less birthday.”
Today I woke up 20 years older than I was yesterday.
What I hadn’t achieved in all the years since I had turned 18, had happened to me overnight: I had gotten old. Ever since turning 18, all of my birthdays have been meaningless. The time just never seemed to pass. I never felt a year older. I felt the days as they passed me by, but never the years. I never felt 19 or 20 or 21. I could never say how old I really was without confirming with myself first: “Is that how old I’m supposed to be? Is that the number I’m meant to say?”
Every birthday since has been me wondering why all these other people were cheering me on, getting me to cut a cake when nothing had happened to warrant that. Every birthday journal entry since has featured the same kind of sentence: “I don’t feel older. How can I be turning 20 when I don’t even feel like I am 19?”
“I used to think the years would go by in order, that you get older one year at a time. But it’s not like that. It happens overnight.”
— Haruki Murakami, Dance, Dance, Dance
I was not older. Somehow, time had passed and I was still trying to catch up with it. To me, it was like celebrating a cargo ship that had arrived empty. It was just a ship that had gone around the sun for a year and had absolutely nothing to show for it. It felt like the equivalent of celebrating a loveless marriage —an age-less birthday.
The years go by too fast. And I once wondered whether it would change anything if I could be 20 for 2 years, for 730 days. I mean do you realise that you only ever get to be one age for a year? (Even so, I feel like I was 17 longer than I was 20. Although I once heard that it’s because the older you get, the more…relative time seems? Because when you were 5, you were living a fifth of your life, which is not much, and now you’re living one twentieth, one thirtieth of it. So it seems like less time in comparison to the whole of time that you have had. I mean, it explains why a year seems like an eternity to a child, but very little to an adult. Does this mean that the older we get, the less whole we feel, the more fractured we are? I don’t know). But if the years were twice longer, and our lifespans remained the same, what would we be like by the time we turned 50?
This next birthday though, I will feel the full weight and strength of all these years on my shoulders. These additional 20 years will show on my face, all these sands of Time dragging down the skin under my eyes, then my voice, my heartbeats.
I understand, now.
How it is that I can have friends who are having children of their own and how others still have curfews to respect. I understand, in a way that is all too real, that it is not ever the number of years that counts.
“In some strange way, maybe one form of art complements the other. There are things I can say in writing that I can’t express in drawing. And there are things I draw that I could never fathom into words.”
Art by Agata Wierzbicka
Art by: Agata Wierzbicka
Lately, I have been trying to find out what my state of mind is by looking at the things I draw mindlessly. Thinking that somehow, these pencil strokes, all textured graphite, hold latent thoughts, secrets my brain keeps from me. It has been a great many figures with tilted heads, as of late. Looking up, swan-like necks stretching to reach something far beyond what the eye can see. Ballerinas and other dancers have also been popping up in my sketch book —all strong, graceful muscle and pointed feet. They were solitary figures making art, being beautiful, impeccable even if nobody cared.
But there have also been flowers instead of retinas, petals instead of lashes. There have been bodies buried underneath autumn leaves, worried eyes peeking from the orange and yellow foliage. It has been windy in my sketch book, too. Hair flying to the wind, long, mermaid locks covering limpid eyes. Or dark, dark skin burned by the sun and sea salt, topped by a froth of white hair. There have been faces, young by default, hiding behind large, fanning palm leaves, their dark lashes brushing against smooth, freckled skin. And there have been balconies housing stretched out limbs, and curly hair tangled in a myriad thoughts disguised as planets, stars and pastel moons.
I remember one day, writing a story about a boy named Athens, who drew people so much because he was lonely. The story didn’t go far. I couldn’t find a denouement, as though there was no moving beyond the loneliness, as though that would be his world, until the very end.
The stories I write don’t have very many people in them. They mostly figure nature and feelings that are hard to describe. But the things I sketch are mostly human figures and not much else; hardly any background or detail.
In some strange way, maybe one form of art complements the other. There are things I can say in writing that I can’t express in drawing. And there are things I draw that I could never fathom into words.
I don’t know what that’s supposed to tell me about what I’m feeling though.
Well, actually, I do. But I’ll ignore it for now, because my brain usually hides things from me for a reason.
Note: Art by Agata Wierzbicka because my own sketches don’t best express my own thoughts. Do check her out, her art is amazing 🙂
Like how the dying sun turns the top of the trees red and colours part of the mountains in a foggy gradient of peach and blush pink. And how that creates a door that could carry you anywhere in time. I want to write about how I am slowly dragging away clouds with the tip of my fingers. About how the moon popped in to say hi in the middle of the day because it was lonely and it’s always scared we’ll forget about it. But then the moon only showed part of itself because it’s shy.
I want to paint with words the image of large, white clouds drifting behind solid mountains, casting shadows that provide shade to these proud giants.
I want to write about how the old mountains have roots that insinuate themselves deep into the Earth, and how the clouds are nomadic and are perpetually destroying and creating themselves all over again. I want to write about how they are both immense and mighty forces of Nature, how they are both beautiful and yet look nothing alike. I want to write about how beautiful it is to watch the two together (If they can be so disparate and share the same patch of Earth and sky, why can’t we, when we are all made of clay and a singular spark?)
And I want to write about the awful midnight feeling travelling somewhere in my body—but there’s too much to write, and there’s simply no time left.