Time in tangles.

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Art by: 9jedit

All my dreams have already been accomplished. Somewhere in the future, everything that is meant to be has already happened. My job is only to remove the obstacles in my way, to clear the path my future self has already walked and meet her there, on the other side of fear.

Lately, I have been plucking at the tangles in Time (mostly because I’ve grown significantly older), wondering at how many of my worries I can actually control. Michelangelo believed that the sculpture was already present in the block of stone, that you only had to find your way to it. In the same way, I must carve a path to what is already there. I tell myself I am not stepping into newness, not plunging headfirst into the unknown. No, it’s strange but I am actually going home — home where I am meant to be, a home that has always, always been waiting for me somewhere in the future. My longing is for the person I am to become.

And yet much of who I am going to be comes from who I was before.

Much of adult life has been a slow return to old loves, to passions gone cold. Once I had graduated from the watchful eye and stern disposition of formal education, I simply bounced back in shape to what I had been before. Like a rubber band, I was stretched out over the years, meant to fit every kind of shape (a diligent student, a good daughter, a promising member of society, a “success”…). Now that I’ve bounced back, I am not the same. Of course. But there’s nothing to do about that. You can’t change the past. You can ignore it or remember it differently, you can add or subtract meaning, you may write it or tell it whichever way you wish, exaggerating or undermining any number of details. But you can never change that it happened the way it did. Besides, what a waste of time it is to chase the past, to look at it not to learn from it but to live through it. Very much like a dog chasing its own tail, it is a futile endeavour and you only end up hurting yourself…

Now to make myself understand what I already know to be true… It’s a slow journey, it always is. Yet ironically, you can only tell how far you’ve reached by looking back to where you were before.


Note: I’m still alive! 😂 And happy to be posting again ^^ And as I read this post again, I realise part of the first paragraph is very likely inspired from the poem by Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi I mentioned in a previous post:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

A writer.

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Art by : cadmiumyellowdeep

Since I stopped being a child, I’ve always taken care to keep my dreams and the real world separate.

Even if I would dip my toes back in the other worlds on bus journeys or open a window into daydream in the middle of class, both these worlds were left relatively estranged, sealed off from the other.

By day I slipped into reality and meandered down its labyrinthine alleyways. By night I flew into dreams, and strange visions awakened in me, tickling parts of my psyche I did not even know were alive. It felt strangely like I was sectioning myself, partitioning two opposing sides. Without need for any foul concoctions, I had somehow landed myself into a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde kind of conundrum.

And yet, one without the other was incomplete : the real world without dreams felt hollow ; dreams that were not grounded in reality lost their meaning, fading like smoke in a gust of wind.

Still, it had to be done. My dreams were far too great to ever achieve. I didn’t, couldn’t possibly have what it takes — everyone else said so. Or rather, they didn’t have to. Their deep-held beliefs spoke for themselves. You see, my dreams bled into life every time I held a pen and while that meant I was good at languages and writing, it was not a very special skill to have. Everyone can write. Millions of people master two languages. At any point in time, your skill and therefore you, are replaceable. There are countless other people who are better at it than you anyway, who’ve been doing it for longer. How likely would it be that of all the writers in the world, I would be the one to make something out of my writing ? Not very, apparently. So if you have a replaceable skill like that, don’t turn it into a dream. Don’t take it seriously. Try something else, and do some writing on the side, if you want.

That’s what it started out as : “Writing is not a real skill. Languages are easy. Only the very few people who are really good at it ever succeed.”

For my own good, I should not dream big. I should settle for some average occupation or the other, safe in the knowledge that I would never have made it had I followed the inconsistent path of dreams. I would have lost momentum halfway through and would have fallen flat on my face. And yet, in spite of all that being drilled into me, in spite of me telling myself these things, dreams kept spilling onto the well-constructed reality others had built for me.

Disbelief met with determination, and after many years, my dreams infiltrated reality, and I am now a little of what I thought I would never be : a writer.

It didn’t turn out exactly how I pictured it, but it is what it is and it is more than what I ever thought I would get.

The greatest point of tension is that now the two worlds do not mix well. They are each wary of the other, unused to being anything but two separate entities. Now that my dreams are grounded in a kind of reality, I don’t know what to do next. I cannot tell apart the dreams I have just for the sake of having them from the ones I actually want to bring into the real world.

I mean, is writing even my thing anymore? I just happened to be good at it and did it. Could it be I’ve yet to find my “thing”? I don’t know.

I cannot keep being content, stagnating in the kind of joy I am experiencing now.

Because I am being gifted a luxury very few people have the privilege to experience : I have a little bit of everything, and the winds are in my favour. I have some time, some money, perspective, freedom, support… I am being given everything I need to achieve my dreams.

The question is, do I even have one?

I’m not sure what I want. All this time I’ve told myself dreams were impossible and now it turns out they aren’t all that unusual here in the real world.

It’s that feeling, you know, when you just want to make something out of yourself. It would be such a waste not to.

 

An Introvert’s Sunday Reverie

“…lingering in between the sheets just a while longer, drinking in that sweet warmth, the last remains of starry dreams still clinging to your lashes.”

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Art by : Yaoyao Ma Van As

I don’t want to be famous.

Although I think everyone —at some point in their lives at least— has wanted to be, I don’t think I want to, now. A while back, I decided that I sank perfectly well into anonymity. That no amount of fame or glamour could ever bring me as much joy and peace as the kind of Sunday I’ve had today.

Waking up a little later than usual, and lingering in between the sheets just a while longer, drinking in that sweet warmth, the last remains of starry dreams still clinging to your lashes. Then waking up not out of obligation: not because of the time it is or the things that need to be done that day, but simply because you are ready.

And then you walk around the house idly for a while, chuckling as you take in the look of your bedhead, and smiling because it doesn’t matter, because you like it, somehow: that tangled wilderness that bears proof of all the past night’s half-forgotten dreams.

And then humming, doing weird dances while nobody’s looking, while nobody knows. Right there, in the quiet warmth of a house no one would think twice about. Still, you go about in a sleep-induced haze, zoning out as you prepare breakfast, taking 10 minutes to pour some milk and cereal and not knowing where all that time went, not caring about it. Because it’s not lost time. It does not feel like a waste. It is part of taking care of yourself. Besides, you always manage to emerge from these inattentive spells with a song on your breath or an old memory replaying in your mind.

And then you watch something nice, or you draw. You write, you read, you paint, you make music.

Quietly, introvertedly.

You try one of those homemade face masks, and somewhere in the middle of looking for refined sugar, realise that there is nothing more important than this, in this very moment. You find that amidst all the layers of self-doubt and self-hate that you wear all week long, you actually like yourself. You’re pretty fun to be with, really.

And then as the day passes and afternoon comes, you take a nap, because you can. You stare at the ceiling, thinking up improbable scenarios and laughing quietly. You think about odd things, about all the other things that must be happening around the world at that exact same time. You think about your friend in Italy and the other who’s…well you’re not exactly sure where. And there’s no envy there either, just wonder.

Either way, there’s not much that could move you at that point. There’s not much that could take away that sweet, quiet anonymity.

So no, no fame for me. No, thank you.

I just want to be that quiet neighbour who sings really loud sometimes, and who spends her afternoons surrounded by overgrown plants on her balcony, watching as distant airplanes weave through the clouds, and drinking peach iced tea while wondering when it would be a good time to fly a kite again.

The Smell of Memories (2/2)

“The scent of baked goods, of melting butter and chocolate eased my breathing, their warmth soothing my nerves. And slowly, stuttering and speaking too softly, I unraveled. “

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Art by: 9Jedit

I had yet to reach the heart of the city, though.

The road long forgotten had open gardens that swam in several inches of cold rainwater, the potted plants almost floating to the surface. With the raindrops on my glasses, it looked for all the world as though the red-leafed plants, the ferns and thyme and tomato leaves were gently levitating off their designated pots, their roots hanging in the air, threatening to fly off.

It really felt as though I were barging in on something private. Some sort of elaborate concert/ art show thrown by Nature on rainy days, something humans weren’t meant to witness. As though to prove that point, the winds turned more violent, threatening to overturn my polka-dotted umbrella and take it away.

But I didn’t mind. Not a little. Not at all. It had been on my bucket list (back when I still had one) as a child, to be taken away by the wind, even as my mother warned me to hold tight and stay rooted. But if even plant roots were levitating and flying away, there was not much sense left to this world, was there?  So it seemed a doable dream: to be flying with the wind on my face, holding on very tightly to an umbrella and waving away at the people below. As a child, it had been right there on my to-do list, along with ‘going to the beach’ and ‘befriending a dragon’. Who knows, if the wind had spirited me away at that moment, it could also have dropped me at the bakery before picking me up again. I wouldn’t have minded. I would have said thank you, really.

I reached a bridge then, and I thought to myself —in the way in which you do not command thoughts, but rather in the way in which they arrive to you— that I would not mind staying there. Not forever, not for 10 minutes or an hour or any amount of time. Without ever counting the minutes or caring for the clock, I would not have minded staying there, simply. I would not have minded listening to the sounds of rushing water, which made that little stream seem so much like a waterfall hidden somewhere in the city. It seemed such an important thing to witness. It became something I had to live.

I stayed by the bridge.

Then, when it felt right, when my head had been filled with just the right amount of waterfall images and water sounds, I moved on.

I reached the bakery, all warm and fragrant, submerged in strong waves of vanilla essence crashing at the entrance, with just the slightest undertone of orange blossom. I sat for 15 minutes in a tiny, crowded office within the bakery filled with ledgers and pens and non-bakery things. The scent of baked goods, of melting butter and chocolate eased my breathing, their warmth soothing my nerves. And slowly, stuttering and speaking too softly, I unraveled. Layer upon layer, like a pain au chocolat, I explained what the cake was meant to be, picked out colours and sizes, fillings and tiers and decorations. Right as I was about to leave though, the smell of the bakery pulled me back in. It seemed a shame to return empty-handed. So, among other things, I returned with a warm—no, hot, hot— pain au chocolat . The golden, buttery layers of puff pastry and the softly melted chocolate warmed my heart on the journey back home.

On the way back, the rain sent me a present. Or a memento, I’m not sure. The smallest little flower, as bright and as luminescent as the sun. A flower from the storm,  stark yellow against the greyness of the pavement. As I looked one last time back at the road long forgotten, I realised that my wet boots had left prints on one piece of marvelously still dry pavement. These prints seemed to be proof that I had been there. That I had existed in that evanescent world of rainy days. Though less ephemeral than ripples in the water, these footprints would also very soon disappear, washed away by the water, dried by the sun.

And I thought to myself that this may just be what life is. A walk in the rain down roads unknown, in worlds too impermanent to ever truly matter. But it is this mortality that makes everything so damn beautiful.

 

A World Away From The World

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Photo by: Masashi Wakui

I went jogging in the evening to eventually go up my trusty, 10-minutes-away-from- home hill. But the same streets I have walked for give-or-take 20 years now, the same faces I have watched the baby fat melt from, the same eyes that I have seen growing weary, seem so alien to me. Like I don’t quite know what I’m recognising.

The reason —and it’s a futile one—: I am wearing workout clothes.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes, the littlest things are enough to set us apart? In a sea of grey, a red string —however thin it may be—will always stand out. With just that, I am foreign.

I am going away, too. Spiritually at least, far, far away from the mindset sat on the heads of most of these people. I feel as though, if I were to stumble into someone, that I would just walk right through them. Like we were in alternate universes not meant to meet, sharing the same space on different planes of existence. I feel like that explains my clumsiness. I’m constantly going up a road you’re only meant to get down from and bumping shoulders with invisible people from other worlds.

I feel as though, in their universe, that quiet little green space has stopped existing. Or it never did. It wasn’t that big of a hill to begin with. But it was never about that. It only ever mattered that it was there, like its existence proved a point. That we weren’t simply city people. That there was more to us than deadlines and schedules and social status.

As I jog away, I wonder what their world is like. A world of neon signs and chit-chat, waiting for the clock to reach 5 pm, date night and TGIFs every week.

A world that is, most days, also mine.

No matter how much I tell myself that it’s different for me. Because I’m aware. Because I’m dreaming of some other place. Because I could be something, something. I could outgrow this tiny, cozy place.

Yeah, but life isn’t lived on intention alone.

That world unraveling before me is mine; there is no doubt.

But just not now, it isn’t.

Just not now.

 


Note: My body can’t seem to comprehend that it doesn’t have to write anymore now. At least not everyday. It seems all I’ve done this weekend is jot down half-born ideas. Also, I am planning on making some changes to the blog. Refine the category area and re-define barely-there publishing schedules. And haha, I’ve gotten used to writing these little notes at the end of posts. Another habit to shake off, I suppose.

Young Adult…Old Soul

“But dreams are bubbles: beautiful, flimsy and with a certain habit of drifting away, far away into the sun. And I have drifted with the winds and the currents, have touched the skies and stars, possibly in sleep. I have felt nebulas bursting underneath my skin, lighting up rooms in my mind that were never before there. I have had lights and darknesses poured over me in equal measures, have had fires ignited in my heart and extinguished in the same minute. I have touched a little bit of infinity. “

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Art by Narae Kim / 김나래

I never thought I would live to be an adult.

Never thought I would be roaming the Earth for as long as I have now—20 years and then some. I didn’t think I would “die young”. No, I just never saw it coming. It was all just so far away; an abstract future I told myself to not worry about just now. But I also never thought I would change, evolve, and sometimes even…bloom.

But between then and now, in that time when I was supposed to learn how the world works, how to put on make-up and make connections, I dreamed. Days and nights that were simultaneously long and short, I was tucked away in a world of my own making. And I invited a few people in sometimes. They were called Saint-Exupéry or Frost, Rowling or Tolkien, Kahlo or Jalāl ad-Dīn( Yeah, first-name basis).

But dreams are bubbles: beautiful, flimsy and with a certain habit of drifting away, far away into the sun. And I have drifted with the winds and the currents, have touched the skies and stars, possibly in sleep. I have felt nebulas bursting underneath my skin, lighting up rooms in my mind that were never before there. I have had lights and darknesses poured over me in equal measures, have had fires ignited in my heart and extinguished in the same minute. I have touched a little bit of infinity.

I have drifted back, now.

Into what turned out to be a forced landing into adulthood. I did not have the pleasure of pulling an Icarus, of reaching for the sun earnestly, of knowing how to fly and never wanting to go down again. I did not have the pleasure of loving the thrill of zeniths so much I would die in the pursuit, refusing to go anywhere but further ahead. I was not prepared, so it was not a graceful landing. I was all fumbling limbs, bruised knees and awkward words. Like when you crash a party and everyone stares at you.

The days of wandering, and indeed the days for wonder are not all lost now. But even so, adulthood comes with a few restraints. Restraints which I balk from calling shackles (For fear that is exactly what they are). Yet here I am now.  A young adult. Slightly unlike, I’ve been told (at times pityingly or with a sneer, at others kindly) other young adults I know. There are only few my age who do not find intense passions for words, spoken and unspoken, a little weird. They are not many, those who view solitude as a season to blossom, a door, an adventure.

At times too, without pretension, without arrogance—without wanting to disrupt the smooth flow of normalcy—my hand catches onto the inherent sadness of life. I breathe in the history of places, I let the dust and the memories of forgotten lives settle in. In crowds, I let the untold stories of the world wash over me. So, at times, I am older than I really am. Old, ancient, almost. And all the odder, too.

Because what a mess of many things I am.

A young adult, ambitious, eager to see the world yet unwilling to succumb to the cold, harsh ways of the adult life that comes with it.

Young, then. But also old. As if it was not enough, there is also a child’s laughter, bubbling to the surface. The world through a child’s eyes, brilliant, full of wonder, yet also eyes that are calm and a little weary, even distrusting.

The story hasn’t come to an end. Even now, as I am writing it, I watch it unfold. And I write it, I do, in part for others, and in part to reach myself.


Listening to:

Boring Sundays and Warm Loneliness

Before, there was no room for boredom. Only space for: “I am soul-deep tired. I want to stop.” But now that there is nothing to do, my mind seeks out dreams covered in dust, like old diaries.

‘If I can’t create a new feeling,’ my mind reasons, ‘why not visit an old one?’

“Sundays are boring.” my sister complains like she does every other Sunday of the year.

It could be true though. We, as a collective, as a family, rarely leave the house on Sundays. But as someone who has been known to enjoy laziness and quiet moments of introversion, Sundays such as those suit me just fine. Even if they are tinged with loneliness, it is a loneliness specific to Sundays, something I have known all my life. So, in its own twisted way, it is a comforting ache.

This warm kind of loneliness, I feel it especially now that I have yet to be taken by another engrossing project that does not let me sleep the dark circles away. I have time now, I guess. With the stress gone, I see more clearly what life is. I am not charging ahead, heart bursting, breathless and with eyes on the prize and nothing else. Now, the prize, the purpose is gone and I instead take walks that ease me back into slow movements and quieter states of mind.

When your eyes are not on the prize, when there is no prize, you suddenly find yourself in possession of a peripheral vision and of the empathy that comes with it too. Working for your dreams can be a horribly self-absorbed thing sometimes, I realise.

Eyes on the prize. And nothing else.

So now, I notice that the neighbour’s kids have grown. They have a dog, too. The thyme in the garden has flourished, the daisies are blooming a radiant orange and with a tinge I notice the joy is fading a little from my Mother’s eyes.

At noon, I reach the point of hazy, unsettling loneliness and think Sundays are boring. Before, there was no room for boredom. Only space for: “I am soul-deep tired. I want to stop.” But now that there is nothing to do, my mind seeks out dreams covered in dust, like old diaries.

‘If I can’t create a new feeling,’ my mind reasons, ‘why not visit an old one?’

‘You used to fly kites, remember?’ goes the memory ‘You’d gaze at the cheap thing, all fluttering plastic and frail sticks tied with some piece of string you found in the garage, feeling so proud. But then your gaze would be lost somewhere between the clouds, in the valley between the green mountains and you’d think: “I wonder if someone else is flying a kite somewhere in the world?”

‘Greece,’ you thought, unknowing, uncaring of time-zones or geography. ‘Yes, Greece, with its statues and fables — mythology, actually— someone must be flying a kite there. Or China: dragons and great walls, emperors and dynasties. They must have beautiful kites there: large, red and gold in the shape of a dragon or a swan spanning grand wings in the sky, a crimson dot in the open world. 

It’s evening when, like the kites I used to fly, I am reeled back to Earth. Back to this feeling of Sunday boredom, this dull loneliness punctuated by music coming in from the neighbours, the drifting clouds, the obvious wanderlust, the soft orange skies of sunset and the smell of chicken in the stove.

Yeah, all that, that’s the fragrance: Eau de Boring Sunday.

And yet, I won’t make plans for next Sunday, just like I don’t for many, many Sundays of the year.


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I am a boring person, y’all.