Beach day

Sand dunes, mountains with pot holes. He’s skidding along the slopes, his tiny feet plodding and skipping over certain death.

A little girl piles onto an ever-growing bucket of sand, a castle in it’s own right. “Cover the seaweed, cover the seaweed”, she chants with a rhythm and inflection that births a jingle.

Pink sun-hat on her head, she grabs at star-shaped biscuits the with little crabby hands. Hand to bowl, smash to mouth and repeat.

The young leaders: “guys!” They keep digging. “Guys listen!” They pat at the walls of the trenches they have dug. “Guys listen to me!” This time exasperated. “Let’s dig a third hole, right over there!” He gets started and the others nod.
Another girl whips her head around to her friend and says “I’ll show you where to go”. She jumps into the sea without looking back to see if anyone is following.

He wades in tentatively. Stares as the sand suck at his feet. Forwards, a cool flush, backwards, the liquid rolls.

A watering hole. A puddle surrounding the pipe. Good for washing hands and feet, he’s discovered.

Things flow downstream. Just dig a line towards the sea and pour water from the very top. Watch as it flows like a viscous substance. Slurred, languorous.

Little boy follows the trail, the dip in the sand. It must lead somewhere, it’s a path after all.

Dark barley grains, black almost. They must be collected and separated from the lighter sand. How else does one layer the cake?

From time immemorial, the fetching of water. To the sea they go, and back to home base. Used for building. Used to refill the temporary well, the water mysteriously disappearing underground.


Drunk with the spirit

Woke up this morning red and splotchy, like I’d run a mile. Eyes wrung dry, swollen the size of golf balls. This is why I shouldn’t drink.

I didn’t set out to get smashed. I painted my eyes gold with no roaring excitement for the shimmery feelings of inebriation. I was blissfully unprepared, failing to exercise an inkling of forethought. I believe it is called “living in the moment”.

It is this morning that I remember what my brother told me about alcohol completely disrupting our sleep cycles. I testify to the sort of sleep that is not sleep as I know it at all. Not restful or restorative, just empty, static. The slow passage of time. I woke with ease; had I slept at all? Am I still sleeping?

I am a wreck, nauseated by the mere thought of sweet foods and powdery lemon. I’ve aged overnight, aching with every step, my body resistant to motion. How equipped we usually are, never to pay any mind to inertia. I feel defilement in my cells, my body in reparation from the inside out. Bloated and disgusting. It is exhausting to smile, the muscles in my face slumped and unable to hold themselves up. I don’t feel like myself. I know, I know, I’m a youngin’ and we bounce right back, but still my body doesn’t deserve this battery. What have I done to the dwelling place of God?

I’ve been here before, not too long ago. Said to myself: no drinking, because you let your guard down and act like a fool before God. Now I’ve added another layer to my wall of defence: no binge drinking, because you are destroying your remarkable body. How many times do I need to suffer through my mistakes before I learn to be cautious? Well, I’ll take a stab at it with Psychology. There’s this cognitive theory of alcohol expectancies, directly related to dem dranks. We exaggerate the good times and forget the hangover. We remember the intensity of the buzz and forget the shame. These positive expectancies reinforce our drinking behaviour, so we need to adjust our expectations to better reflect reality.

Plot twist: replace alcohol with your name and we have a pattern of addiction. A cycle of ups and downs, where two years later I’m recovering from yet another trough of this infinite sine wave. It was alcohol that made me numb to the cockroach in the kitchen, the risks of honesty, earlier this morning. It was alcohol that pushed me to the brink, that fanned the anger- what I suppressed and thought I could handle, beneath the positive expectancies and all the good I sent you in my thoughts- into flame.

I need to remind myself that you are not only the guy who told me my hair smelled like gingerbread, made me feel adored by your wistful eyes whenever I left you, charmed by the cloud of energy you engulf people in, but also the guy who made me cry because you gave me silence when I spared nothing on my mind and heart. You asked me to stay even though I was dying in my guilt, and I did because I didn’t want to ruin your moment. I kicked my spirit to the curb so that we could indulge in each other. And you insult me when you don’t acknowledge that-when you expect it from me. You are so selfish with me and you can’t even see it. I’m done with preserving the good I stubbornly associate with you. I’m done with feeling trapped because I still want you to think the best of me, that I’m the one you want despite it all. Am I pleasing God or man? I’m taking on an eternal perspective on what matters in my brief existence on Earth. I want to sever my attachment to the things that won’t let me move forward in faith; the people who won’t let me be my best self. Think what you want about me. You are not my God.


The parents are coming back soon, tomorrow-soon, which means two things: I’ll have the luxury of considering a wax and I won’t be won’t be able to blast music or play the piano in the late am. I remember the glorious first day after they left; the clothes came off and the music came on. I shimmied in the mirror and swirled my imaginary skirt like a queen because I owned this place. It was so liberating. I had the license to grab the wine, sleep on the sofa, do whatever I pleased. Almost like having my own apartment. Minus what it takes to survive in real life: bills, cooking, cleaning. Thank God for grandmothers.

Have I been wearing clothes at home for a month? No, the answer is no. And I don’t want to do away with this privilege. My grandmother and my aunt have grown accustomed to the butt cheeks peeking out of my undies. It’s kind of funny how my grandmother so cooly remarked: “oh you’re not wearing clothes again”. It’s fine as long as there are no dudes around, she says. We both pull up our shirts when it gets too hot.

This summer, I’ve learned that I’m more like her than I ever would have imagined and hoped for. I remember delighting over the fact that my grandmother and I were both born in the year of the Rat… Because nothing feels better than being comparable to someone or something you love dearly. My counsellor said that we resemble our greatest influences and attachment figures, and this has revealed to me a completely new and refreshing dimension to self-discovery. When she said it, I was like- of course! But it never occurred to me that it applied to me too. It gives me such hope for the person I’d like to be and the person I’m becoming.

She and I share commonalities on many levels. We both love talking to people and learning tidbits from them; stories with morals, testimonies, anecdotes and transgenerational wisdom. We love to laugh and she is often the object of my teasing- only because she is such a good sport. In fact, I basically christened her with another English name, because ‘Susan’ didn’t quite suit her. It was kind of a joke but it stuck. She’s animated, expressive, creative, and she loves to do things. Sounds like I’m describing myself. I love her honesty and her innocence, although she has seen and suffered more than I ever have. I would like to think that I evaluate my intentions with the same conviction she does, with the same brutal honesty: I am wrong. Even if it is normal because everyone participates to some extent, I am still wrong. But the thing that makes her a gift to everyone she meets is that she is selfless, loving, and generous. If I’m to pinpoint something that sets my heart on fire and makes me happy to be alive, it is to witness the joy of one who receives love. I am compassionate and forgiving. Not all the time, I regret, but these are qualities I love and treasure in myself. Where did I learn them? I can’t say for sure but I think I have a pretty good guess.


You know when your body tells you something and you can’t read it? Like, when you’re craving coffee does this mean ‘more’ or does this mean ‘rest’? It’s like walking along with your earphones in and snapping your neck at the sound of a siren, forgetting for a moment that it’s part of the song. Like, when you roll out of bed with him and you wonder: is this lust or love? Do I hate the professor or do I hate the challenge? And then you decide that this is it, this is the reason. “I’m just on my period” and the room is silenced. She taps you on the shoulder and cocks her head. “Hey, why aren’t you outside with the rest of us?” She hands you a beer. “I don’t know, I just want to be alone for a bit”. And it’s the perfect answer for the chronically inadequate. It’s like going vegan because you believe the body should be meatless. Do you know what it’s like to eat plenty but still feel empty?

Can we be still for a moment?

I want to know what you thirst for.


I put my feet up on the chairs not out of blatant disrespect.
If I were an infant, would you be more forgiving?
I retreat into my sheets, just thinking about the marathon of a day.
The list of things I’ve failed to do grows like my laundry pile.
Maybe I just won’t do anything; I’ll never leave this bed.
I shrug off ugly feelings when boys don’t approach me.
I can’t seem to focus today; my thoughts are vortexes.
I must propel myself above the storm-
like rising from a pool using just my arms.
If I were depressed, would you expect me to?


When I find a good blog, I go on a rampage. I’m voracious, like I’ve been starved of words. I get through a year’s worth in no time, familiarising myself with a voice I’ll probably never hear. I’m that person who gives you 100 views on a day. Sorry not sorry.

I love it when people stop on the street to stare at dogs or babies. At first, I’m taken with the dog/baby. Then I’m taken with the person. It’s a soppy fest. Stop being so cute, all of you.

I might be a creep but I really like it when people are into their food. When they’re not doing anything but taking the time out to enjoy something as simple as a Subway sandwich. He was sitting there, no distractions, no headphones, no phone. Staring at his sandwich, biting into it. No laboured bites, no unnecessary mouth stretching. Not trying to get everything in now, at once. But slowly. Enjoying life.

Strangers who smile at me make me so happy. I mouth a thank you to the driver who lets me pass and I get a smile in return. I am waiting for the light to change and the construction worker smiles at me deliberately. Someone in a Ralph’s uniform shoots me a smile as I’m dazed by the pastry section. It’s a shot of happiness.
I was reading up on synesthetes on acid and a redditor describes in detail what it’s like to drive to music. I’m not going to share that though, because this is the best part:

‘But OH MY GOD WHEN PEOPLE SMILE. Sorry to shout, but it’s the most amazing thing. I make an effort to smile at random people all the time, because I love the feeling I get when someone gives me a genuine smile. It’s almost like an orgasm. I can see and hear and feel the happiness and friendliness. Almost any emotion, I think, is made more extreme by my synesthesia’. 

Yesssssss! Mirror neurons at play? When you smile, I smile. My brain is literally firing smiling neurons before my lips get tURNT. And when you smile, I am reminded of the best feelings. Humans are so cute sometimes. We feed off each other’s joy. There’s a word for it– Mudita: pure joy unadulterated by self interest. When we can be happy of the joys other beings feel, it is called mudita; the opposite word is envy or schadenfreude. Unselfish joy inadvertently benefits the self, because nothing feels better than love. How selfish is love when you have obtained the most incredible gift ever? I see these paradoxes in the gospel. Lose your life to gain it. Jesus speaks the truth!

If you happen to lock eyes with someone, go an extra step: smile. I dare you. But not in a scary way. Practice in the mirror first.

An interesting book

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
– Whitman, Song of Myself, lines 1325-7

When I don’t feel like myself- basically when I experience cognitive dissonance, there are two things that happen. Either I change my beliefs or I make exceptions for myself, explaining away the discrepancies and compromising the original thought. I’ve been reading Brainwashing, The science of thought control by Kathleen Taylor for a while now and it’s great to read something and think THIS APPLIES! THIS IS RELEVANT! I can catch myself when it happens now, so I can mull over what it is I truly want to stand for.
If it’s really so frighteningly easy to change and let external stimuli influence our fluid minds, I want to defend myself, ground my beliefs and resist. Of course, this means I have to make sure my beliefs are examined and worth fighting for in the first place. So how can I make them strong? Apparently through reinforcement, so it becomes habitual, imbuing the belief with emotion, and forming wider connections and associations (expanded by experience) so that it becomes interlocked with the many cognitive webs in the mind. The belief must be stronger than any incoming idea that you are bombarded with. I might just make a list of things I believe in, with as many reasons and feelings to support them as I can. If I can stick to what I believe, I can be more sure as to who I am.

The book talks about emotion: ‘Their function as short cut to action can weight decisions in favour of short-term indulgence rather than a greater but more long-term benefit…’
Yes. Every time I fail to stick to the plan, it’s because I become short-sighted for a moment. It’s rarely ever worth it. Gotta #werk.

A difficult lesson to learn

What’s worse than harsh words? Perhaps no words at all.

I had a conversation with a friend today in Starbucks after my biology exam. What was supposed to be a quick sip and chat became a two-hour long heart-to-heart. As I drank my Cappuccino and listened to her speak, I felt every word. Every feeling. The hurt in her voice, the self-pity. The anger, the resentment, the love (really, the source of her anguish). You’re only mad because you care. And I thought: never underestimate the effect of words or the power of silence; neglect can be brutal.

Some people just love to flaunt their problems. Air them out in front of you like laundry, gesticulating with their hands with dramatized expressions to match. Sounds annoying right? They may appear to make a big fuss out of nothing, and you may even joke at their immaturity and sensitivity… But when you uncover why and when you see where they’ve been bruised, you start to understand. Your judgement was undue, condemning, Cruel. We’re not all thoughtless creatures, masochists or sociopaths. There are often underlying reasons for seemingly asinine behaviour. For example, these ‘annoying’, pestering people could just be trying to find an outlet, a way to feel better. They need sympathy- that much is obvious, because they’ve been truly hurt. They’re fighting for the attention they’ve been deprived, or desperately trying to jettison a sense of guilt. They want to make known that they are victims. When you think of it like that, they’re people again. People who you can’t hate.

I’m seeing this time and time again though it never ceases to be a wake-up call. On grad night, I sat on a bench in some dodgy park with a guy I seriously didn’t like. We talked. Civilly. By the end of it, we’re still drunk and suddenly on good terms.
See, he’s one of those guys with an IDGAF attitude. He makes you think that he could care less about you or anyone in the world besides approximately two other friends. He’s abrasive, frank, and frequently called an asshole (not that he cares). He deserves it, I thought. The way he treats people is the way he should be treated, which is with a combination of indifference and disrespect when it comes down to it. But when we talked and I remembered, I knew that he wasn’t always this way. Sure, he’s not the model gentleman but he’s lost faith in a lot of people. He never could get over certain events in the past, when he was ridiculed and alienated by people he thought were his friends, and that has affected his relationships to this day. His self-esteem is guarded by this rough, nonchalant demeanor and shielded, I exaggerate, by his colossal exterior (he’s certainly not the tiniest boy I’ve ever encountered). For the first time in a long while, I felt sympathy for him. When authors are able to create this hate-love relationship and make you feel sympathy and repulsion simultaneously towards a character, they capture the essence of the human. The universal truth that we are so much more than meets the eye; sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly. Tennessee Williams is one of these gifted writers with the ability to construct complex characters like Blanche and Stanley, who are both arguably annoying, troubled and flawed. #relatable

People are so fragile! You may think they don’t care as much as they do but they do care- deeply. You may not think they’re affected by your off-hand comment or your cold shoulder, but they are. We’re really too quick to judge- I’ve caught myself many times. It’s almost natural to think that the person is weird or simply an asshole without all the information (hello heuristics and the fundamental attribution error). Reminds me of a post from way back: Pidgeonholing.

This made-up word by the dictionary of obscure sorrows captures something along the same vein quite succinctly.


n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Another thing I’ve learnt is that if you value a relationship, honour it with honesty. Even if you no longer value the relationship as much as you once did, honour the person with respect and acknowledgement. Be it a friend or a significant other, do not choose the easy way out simply by opting out altogether. Neglect is brutal because not only does the person feel betrayed and irrelevant as a person, but you’re leaving them in a cockpit with their own torturous thoughts.

End rant.
Yes! Just two more subjects to go and my exams will be OVER. Then, I can breathe easy again.

I’ve been thinking

If I can write it all down without feeling anything I’ll know that:
1) I’m completely over you
2) or you were never really that special
3) I’m not good at writing

I’ve found that I can talk myself out of feelings after they have been diminished by time, like a shirt that’s shrunk from being washed too many times. See, I only saw you a few times, it doesn’t make sense to be attached. How could I think more of something so short-lived? Besides, who is to say that I knew you for who you really were? What if I only saw the good in you and gave you every opportunity to impress me? What if I wanted to believe that you were different and so I disregarded every other sensible reservation I had? That was probably the case. We had a good time, I’m glad we met, but that’s what happens in life. You meet people and they enter into your bubble for a brief time before you part ways and look back only to smile at your memories when they are triggered by a particular word, topic of conversation or a place.

Chicken nuggets and pistachios are terrible for coughs and sick people. Do not eat them. I repeat. Do NOT. Unless you want to stay sick then by all means… Speaking of illnesses, Asian grandmothers have concoctions and remedies for everything. Have a nose bleed? Boil some tofu in rock sugar with black beans. Have a headache? Make soup with weird looking weeds in it. Old people wisdom is gained through experience and family culture, through standing on a stool besides their own grandmothers when they were young, sewing and patching up their own clothes and copying their own mothers as they pressed dough together beautifully to make dumplings. This reminds me of the Aboriginals that I met in Australia with all these skills passed on through generations. Like how to weave baskets out of reeds and how to spot which type of ant you can eat (the ones that taste sour like lemon drops).

I caught myself in the self-serving bias (I love it when the things I learn in psych classes apply to me personally). I realized a while back but I never got the chance to write about it. So, at the beginning of the year when I was assigned a new English teacher, I was deeply disappointed. I didn’t understand his teaching style (which allowed for more independent thought) and I missed being spoon-fed. He was off-putting at first, had a strange sense of humor and an awkward smile. When I received the worst grade I’d ever gotten for English, I blamed him. Oh he’s a harsh marker, it’s not my fault. I had done well in the other class with my other teacher; am not dumb. I didn’t want to see that I hadn’t worked hard enough and I had to protect my ego somehow. So I shifted the responsibility onto him so that I didn’t have to feel wounded and less intelligent (not that school grades are a good measure of that). As the year progressed, I began to admire him. He’s amazing at what he does. He’s a passionate teacher, an interesting person and I respect him. I’d say he’s a non-conformist (even though he’d never call himself that) and he looks like Loki from The Avengers (which makes him automatically cooler). He’s humble and opinionated and makes cynical half-jokes all the time. I could shower him with praise for days. It’s not fair to blame others for our own shortcomings. At some point we must let ourselves be hurt, put our pride aside and learn.

The other night, I heard fireworks or things crackling outside. Were dragon dancers surrounding our building? Apparently, dragon dancers enter into people’s houses to clean them of evil spirits during Chinese New Year. Tradition is a funny thing. I was just leaving my friend’s house when I saw a host of people by the doorway. When I walk down the streets I see families exiting houses and walking in groups. As a part-outsider who doesn’t experience all the customs of Chinese New Year, I can see how peculiar and awesome it is to have so many people celebrate the same event in the same way. It’s this shared understanding that Chinese people have (or anyone who takes part in their own cultural tradition) and there is this overarching sense of unity. Everyone’s in on the know. Everybody is in high spirits, exchanging red packets and happily giving away money, blessing others and yearning for the company of close friends and family. 

Just some thoughts.


My fingers brush the keys as I enter into some sort of reverie. It must be ‘flow’. The lyrics spring to mind and drip like honey, the rhymes coincidental, the cadences perfected. The melody forms and unforms, clenches and releases, wispy and translucent before finally settling into a shape with grooves and colour. It interlocks with the resonating chords and pedaled notes the way puzzle pieces nuzzle against each other. I tumble into the next chord progression and like ink in water the sound moves. I am drifting in a current and nothing else matters besides what I’m doing. On the page in front of me are scribbles that completely disregard the horizontal writing lines and are letters that only I can read and understand.

I feel so content and at peace when I compose songs, for it grants me momentary relief from everything else. It is my distraction. I sit at the piano and hours dissipate. I missed dinner today because I was playing and I didn’t mind. I was in the midst of writing my third song. And now I feel calm. Rested. Satisfied. And eager for the next session.