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.”

Slow Living.

Magic Realism Young Adult Old Soul 9jedit
Art by : the wonderful 9jedit

“Slow living” is a concept I have been reading about for the past year.

For context and in the words of people more qualified than I am on the subject :

“Slow” encompasses several layers of meaning that go beyond simply “sustainable.” Slow is the opposite of “fast” — fast food, fast money, fast living — and all of the negative consequences “fast” has had for the environment and for the health of people and societies. “Slow” embodies cooperation, respect, sustainability, gratitude and resilience.

— slowlivingsummit.org

I have been exploring how others live “slowly”: the careful attention they infuse every aspect of life with(from the practicalities of eating, dressing, consuming to more abstract ideas like living, thinking, creating) and the intention they so mindfully build. All serve as a reminder to slow down as life speeds past us. I have seen these people weave meaning into everyday tasks, into their slices of life so that the routine we are all accustomed to does not become “small” or negligible in any way, like something that you are glad you are done with.

I’ve seen people cherish their Time. Guard it like a temple.

I’ve never wanted to lead the kind of life that makes me say “Thank God It’s Friday” every end of week, as though all the week had been a waste, a drag. Yes, this kind of week happens every now and then. But to have a life that happens to me is not my ideal.

With slow living, I find that everyday is imbued in greater thought—as if the day were a seed you were considering how best to set out: What is the weather going to be like? How do I feed that plant? How do I make it grow? It’s organic, from what I find. And the thought process isn’t meant to be overthinking, not meant to cause worry. It just wants to guide your day to where you want your life to take you.

This is something I often forget in my big-picture-oriented mindset : that life is not just this huge, heaving, mysterious, existentialist, ever-expanding entity. You see, the thing with the big picture is that you can often get lost in it. You see so much that you don’t know where to get started. You don’t know where it’s right to start. Which part of your life deserves most of your immediate attention? Why? And then you start thinking about greater concepts like Time and its constraints and its probable, potential nonexistence. You lose yourself further in this greatness, because however great you are, you are also relatively small.

Some days you are the universe, yes. Other days you are the remnants of a single star. Other days still, you are a face in a crowd.

Slow living makes me realise that. That life is also made of individual days and hours and minutes—none of which deserve to be unremarkable, bland, lacklustre…You don’t have to feel like a face in a crowd even if to the world you are one, some days, most days.

Because it’s about how you feel about your life. How you lead it, regardless of how others perceive it. The everyday can be just as beautiful as the Big Days, is what I am learning. There is much that can be done in a day that is not some major life change. Reading the books you want to read, watching movies that move you and make you laugh, writing, painting, exploring a garden, going cycling, being with friends and family, creating, expressing yourself even if it’s not objectively good. There is so much that makes life worth being lived, every single day. Besides, life can’t all just be Big Events. You cannot derive meaning from the few Big Days then waste your time waiting, waiting for something unexpected to happen. Meaning does not have to come in jerky bursts ; it can be a slow, steady stream following the seasons of life, changing with them.

Slow living is about making the days count. Slowing down and not always taking the highway in life (lots of traffic there), instead taking an interest in the small road that leads to the ocean— a place where you can simply breathe, one slow inhale followed by a shaky exhale. And it’s so grounding.

So it is something I have been trying to implement in my life, to a certain extent. It requires some organisation, will and hard work—but we only have one life here at the very least. It would be a shame to not give it your all. To not go after what you really, truly want because it is hard, because it is uncomfortable.

It’s like the time I found out about magic realism all over again. It felt like looking into a thousand puddles at the same time and seeing myself reflected in every single one of them, if that makes sense. One of my lecturers back then (a really cool person) asked to see everyone’s blogs. With great nervousness and after a lengthy preamble about anonymity did I send him mine. Among other kind things, he mentioned that my writing reminded him of magic realism.

I looked it up and Pfouu!

Mind. Blown.

I think slow living is a natural complement to magic realism. It’s about finding beauty and purpose in the small, everyday things and being grateful for them. Slow living may just be magic realism applied, who knows.

Make no mistake though, I am dying to branch out, too. I find that both magic realism and slow living can give me a bit of a narrow view whenever I dive fully into them. I am in great need of a wider spectrum of life, and will be looking into other ways to live it.


Note : When I say that slow living can give a narrow view, I mean that in my own very personal case. I know there are lots of people out there who lead the most fulfilling lives thanks to slow living, but it is just my personal view that I might need to diversify. Also, I wrote this in February but then convinced myself it wasn’t that good, which is why I am only publishing it now.

Listening to :

Unmemorable.

Young adult old soul magic realism writing
Still from the movie “The Darjeeling Limited”, directed by Wes Anderson.

A realisation: you do not actually fear the passage of time. Rather, you are afraid of the responsibility of Time. Time is like a child you have to raise, a blank canvas in your hands. What will you do with it? What will you make of it?

“You are not scared of Time passing by,” I tell myself, “you are scared of not enjoying it. You are scared that you won’t be able to make the most of it. Because you know Time never comes back.”

Tick and tock goes the clock, and your Time goes with it too. Another day has gone and your canvas is blank, still unmemorable. What will it be tomorrow? Time is precious, the day you are given is a treasured blank page— and Ah, how you fear this. How you fear ruining it.

You want to make something worthwhile, something grand and spectacular to prove your worth to others, to the world. So you think and think. You refine ideas, create worlds in your head that you can’t put to paper. You plan and you study and you intend so much.

Simultaneously though, Time is a train you have to catch and you are already running late. All your plans are weighing you down as you drag them around in stacks of luggage you hold too close to yourself. And as you’re running, you hit other people with them and you’re apologetic but you can’t look back. You really have to catch that train. You’re not a bad person, you just want to do well, you know? You just want life to go okay, good even.

You are running and planning at the same time, heaving all these plans until you realise if you are ever going to get anywhere, you are going to have to make that train. No matter the cost, you will have to jump aboard.

And, and the suitcases aren’t going to make it—this is something you only realise mid-jump as the luggage behind you threatens to bring you down, to pull you with gravity and bury you in their weight.

You just have to let go, even as you dig your fingers into the suitcases, your suitcases, even as you break your nails trying to hold on to them.

And then you’re on board finally, but now you have no plans left but the rudimentary ones that you started out with.

And that’s okay. That’s fine. You’ll figure it out.

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:

Not all fires burn.

young-adult-old-soul-magic-realism-cadmiumyellowdeep
Art by : @cadmiumyellowdeep

The nights are growing cold here, and I’m using old memories to kindle a little warmth.

Just enough to feel my fingertips, to not let my heart freeze over.

There was a time when I would have lit a blazing fire, enough to outlast the wintry winds, the night shivers. There was a me who would have fed off of the warmth of another time, who would have nurtured back to life the smouldering remains of dying fires.

But you see, I am not this me anymore. I am brave enough now to venture into the cold, to let the chill crawl up my bare arms and invigorate me.

Now, if I want warmth, I have just enough spirit to reach for it, trusting that it will not burn.

(Because that’s the thing about memories, isn’t it? They warm without burning. But you can never tell what it will be with the present, you can only experience the full shock of it when it happens.)


 

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.