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.”

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.

Escapist.

writing young adult old soul magic realism james fenner
Art by: James Fenner

And now, the truth I have been unwilling to admit to myself: I am escaping. Sentenced to unexciting realities, my mind cooks up elaborate scenarios, my body busies itself in all ways it can think of.

I am living for dreams that have yet to be, trading the certainty of “now” for the maybes of tomorrow. I know that no matter how much I plan, there is always so much that is left in the air, so much I cannot control. These doubts infiltrate my small, ordinary day and grow large and looming until they fill up my breathing space and the only way away from them is distraction.

Daydreaming, entertaining the idea of smoking, putting music on every time silence stretches or boredom reaches to the bottom of my soul, risking myself in brazen speech, scrolling through social media, snacking on things I don’t even want to eat, texting “people”… All things I’ve done or attempted in an effort to escape from life, actions very much like the moments when, as a child, I would plug my fingers in my ear and go “Lalalalalalalala, I can’t hear you!” at the world.

So I’ve come to abhor silence; these thoughts only echo louder in it. Instead of facing them, I fill every moment of idleness with something else. I drown out my thoughts in loud music, I forget about my troubles through conversations, I escape reality with all the swiftness of a gazelle being chased by a lioness. This is nothing new, it is something I’ve always done. I just thought I was past it. That I had harnessed this proclivity to escape into something beautiful that I could use at will. But I am reminded that this is what it looks like when I mess up: I run away, I hide, I escape. All that’s left to do now is to understand, to look at the wreckage left of these few months and examine them without trying to criticise.

The real world.

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Art by: Unknown Artist

“Out of the frying pan into the fire” is an expression we use a lot where I’m from. Not without reason: there are times when you truly believe you have it bad until the situation gets significantly worse and you realise a bit late that there were nastier turns for life to take.

So from the all-too quiet, forgotten village, I have been moved (very much like a chess-piece) to a more strategic location: a city that is not a city but a machine in disguise. Its skyscrapers spit out fumes like a steam engine, in constant demand for more fuel. And the people like me break their backs shovelling in their time and youth and energy — the very marrow of their bones — into the inferno, keeping it burning and churning for everyone else.

This is the fire into which I’ve been tossed. This is the real world. A term I only see people use, by the way, when describing the unfairness of the world, the harshness of working conditions, the disheartening realities of the world at large. And the people who use this term uphold the very laws of the world they are imprisoned in. They accept the world as it is, their conditions as they are. It’s almost as if they do not wish to admit that this is the world they live in, that this is their life. Attempts to dismantle or discredit the system will be regarded as laziness, not-having-what-it-takes, weakness. And the weak are crushed into fine powder.

But alright, I might be exaggerating a tad here. Not everyone there is profoundly unhappy, not everyone is desperate for another world…But however you look at it, this monster-city is a labyrinth, a complex network of channels wherein circulate colonies upon colonies of ants, each knowing precisely where it needs to be at every hour of the day. All follow a schedule, a meticulous routine. And the machine is, in this way, well-oiled, its cogs turning day and night.

I once said I did not want to be a damsel in distress in some glass tower. Well, here I am. At least, for the first few days that’s what I was: knocked off track, disoriented, living  over again the same experience of being in a new place. I run into walls and people, not yet possessing the grace to juggle the many intricacies of this overwhelming (yet in so many crucial ways, underwhelming) city.

But at the same time, I am what I’ve been cultivating myself to be: efficient, productive. Though I cannot say I like it. See, that’s been me all my life. Very much able to fit in the system. I’ve been a straight A student, somehow managed to snag a first class and now I’m handling projects and clients very much on my own. Yet, just because I can cope with longer hours, a heavier workload, working at night and a doubled up commute time does not mean I want to. I sometimes get looks when I explain I do not want to be there, looks that say:

“What are you complaining for?”

Because I’m one of theirs, even if I’m too quiet at times, even if I don’t partake in all their rituals (formal clothes, chronic coffee-ingestion, water-cooler chats…). They cannot seem to comprehend why, if you were able to fit in, you would ever want to be somewhere else.

But I dream, I remember.

I am so far away from the anonymous village I was in before. Far away from its orchards and quietness, its one empty main road always sighing into the heat of the afternoon. And it seems it was in another life still that I was out on a balcony, gazing at the coastal village underneath. It feels like light-years ago, I was strolling by the beach during my lunch break, getting momentarily lost in its concrete roads interspersed with sand. And was it even in this life that I was sighing at The Place with the Flowers? That was someone else, in some other world.


Note: Hello WordPress 👋 Guess who’s backkkk

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.”

White dwarf.

young adult old soul writing magic realism

You meet impermanent people in impermanent places, fading, fading into the mist.

You meet dying people, waning humans — people who die as children, as teenagers and who are never reborn. You meet them in the last light of their days before they fall, before they fade. And for one moment, you glimpse eternity in them, in their soft lostness, their innocent erring into the world. You see the fates of millions before them and millions after them mirrored in their existence. In their frail bodies, you glance at a flicker of permanence in a world of ephemeralities.

At the crack of dawn, at no hour, you chase that bit of rawness in them, warmth against warmth, feverish for that last light in them because you know it will die — and you don’t want it to be alone as it does.


Note: “White dwarf” actually refers to the remnants of a star that has died. The “white dwarf” that remains is actually what used to be the star’s core.

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.