dear diary...

Just A Little More…

Why is it that all things have to be rushed?

The voices around us relentlessly indoctrinate and perpetuate:

Time is of the essence.

Time is our only non-renewable resource.

Time is a scarcity, unfortunately, that will only run out.

But some things, only time can tell;

some things require precisely the growth and maturation

that can only take place through time,

like wine,

and feelings fermenting.


Why is it that everything that has happened between us

is all but a means to an end?

Why is it that even if the shot has missed the bullseye

by just an inch,

the bow has to be broken, shattered, abandoned

and never to be picked up ever again?


Why is it that we could have climbed a million steps

to get to where we are today,

but a slip,

an innocent stumble

has the magnitude of an earthquake

revealing the vast chasm between us

crumbling the very delicate road we once tread?


Perhaps all is needed is

a little more time,

a little more patience,

a little more understanding,

a little more forgiveness.

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dear diary...

“So…what do you see us becoming?”

As I let the words frolic around in my head and its awfully familiar timber ring in my ear, an unsettling chill shot through me. In the piercing momentary silence punctuated by nervous heartbeats, I slipped into my subconscious, and entertained an internal dialogue between a me who is still paralysed by the heartbreaking vestige of the past and a me who, despite bearing a hurtful history, choose to sally forth in bold steps into the wild unknown.

This is all too familiar. The tone, brimming with anticipation, pregnant with hope, an overture to innumerable other promises, exclusive companionship, unbuckling support, to a future together. I fixed my gaze upon him, thinking about how incredulous it is of him to be asking me this question without a sign of uncertainty. It’s too soon for him to be asking me this, I thought. It has only been our second time seeing each other face to face, even though we have kept in touch very regularly via Telegram. I am faced with a sea of questions. Am I sure I know him well enough? Are we even compatible? What exactly does he mean by this? Short-term? Long-term? Friends with benefits? How the heck does he feel comfortable and confident enough to broach this question on our second date as we casually lied on our backs counting the leaves on the frangipanni tree, waiting for the sun to set? Lastly and the most daunting question of all, “Will I get hurt? What if he is not really ready?”

A couple of months back, I had to deal with the aftermath of a disaster, an unnecessary meltdown, a failure that could have never happened in the first place had he thought things through thoroughly and made the decisions that truly resonated with his own emotional state and readiness. I have long been toying with the idea of it alone in the confines and privacy of my own room on 3am nights. I was so, so ready to commit, the moment he popped the question, I immediately agreed. And so I plunged, headfirst, into the lacuna that turned out to be a lightless void, a dead end that did not take many steps to reach.

The answer I gave him was one that I felt was the most honest and true to how I was feeling but it was clear he wasn’t entirely happy with it. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s my fragile little mind already in the works of erecting a defensive structure around its soft and vulnerable core, maybe it’s me and my aversion towards risk-taking. Maybe it’s me and my stupid little romantic fantasies of meeting “the one” and knowing that he is “the one” for me and that I can rest assured that he would never ever leave my side for reasons trivial or otherwise.

I have never felt two contrasting emotions so intensely at the same time. In the moment, my heart was stretched to its absolute maximum, till the rubbery sinews became a ghastly white string, as fear and excitement tugged mercilessly in opposite ends, threatening to rip it apart. The ache, deep and tremendous, woke something in me. It’s not just me who is risk-averse. No one like to gamble, no one likes risky situations, especially if it involves putting out your heart, your deepest, darkest emotions and vulnerabilities on the table, exhibiting them to someone you think you truly know but can’t say for sure. I can’t be the only one so helplessly indoctrinated by the idea of romantic love, of meeting “the one” and seeing forever flash in front of my eyes in that instant. Won’t everything be smooth-sailing and easy and effortless and perfect if even the love of my life is served to me on a silver plate?

But, what, then, is life without taking risks, without failures, without the struggle, the fight we put up for the things we value, want and cherish? What is life if we aren’t willing to put ourselves out there, to revel in the nakedness, the rawness of our emotions, to hurt just that little more, to look back after a victorious pursuit or fight and finally realising the worth of our struggles even in hindsight? As much as we want to feel guarded, protected and go through life unscathed, we should know better that the scars we got from the things we fear — rejection, disappointment, unfulfilled promises or even the “forever” that got a full-stop appended to it at the most unexpected time — aren’t just injuries that should be plastered over nor avoided, they are battle wounds of a glorious, noble warrior, each with its own unique story to tell, each a symbol of the growth of an individual at a particular stage in his or her life.

“…stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.” — Brave New World | Aldous Huxley

So, fear nothing and take the plunge. It will all be worth it.

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dear diary...

Don’t Lose Yourself

You spend hours in front of a computer

till your eyes begin to water.

Cherry-picking words

that you think best flatter.


Nouns

/naʊns/

Do they make me sound hip enough?

Exotic places

Underground bands

Book titles so unheard of,

you’ve got them penned down on the back of your hand.


Adjectives

/ˈadʒɪktɪvs/

The bigger the word, the bigger the impression, right?

An eclectic taste in music

A Flexitarian foodie

A sapiosexual nerd who embraces all things geeky.


You take the bits and pieces of your life

and your self

Curate them

Examine them

Process them

Until they don’t look like you no more.


Arrange them in order,

like pieces of artefacts in a museum.

And you,

play the docent who walks them through.

Exhibition after exhibition,

room after room,

spinning stories that you know aren’t always true.

A haphazard patchwork of tales.

And like a chameleon,

your opinions turn from red to purple to blue


Sand down the rougher edges,

the distressed voices,

the disagreements.

Polish the panes till they glisten

with a glare

a little too bright

for those who stare.


When you get back home near midnight,

graceless,

and hollow;

after being touched all over,

scrutinised and

consumed,

and the ice of the marble flooring slowly bites away

at the antecedent warmth of

loveless cuddles,

you peer at the three strangers in the mirrors,

and wonder,

“Who the hell is this?”


 

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dear diary..., wanderlust

Adieu, Bangkok

I can’t believe that my four days in the Land of Smiles is finally coming to an end. This thought sunk in me as I lie on the bed in my hotel room, staring into the whiteness of the ceiling. As I do so, memories of these few days seem to stain my vision like how watercolour does on loose paper. They were somewhat vague and fleeting like the diluted blotches but sometimes were filled with the kind of vivacity and clarity of a single focused moment. As I lied down there and let my mind float upon the rapids of an intense flashback, I can’t help but feel a sincere and profound resonance with the statement: “Time flies when you’re having fun”. These four days have been nothing but exciting, eventful and enriching.

Day 1:

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Even before we touched down in Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok had already greeted us with flashing lights, roads packed to the brim and a symphony of vehicle honks that’s a little too loud for comfort. As dusk swept across the entire city, the hustle and bustle only grew more prominent as lights from various sources flood the streets — street lamps, car floodlights, storefronts and neon lights. It was as though the city flipped to its other side, exposing an alternative version of itself and its own true beauty.

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Without any hesitation, we hopped onto a tuktuk to take us to our dinner location. The tuktuk is a common mode of transport in Bangkok that consists of a motorcycle front and a metallic hind that carries about 3-4 passengers. It is the modern cousin of the cycle rickshaw.

 
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Our driver drove with wild agility and impatience. In that moment we were drowned in excitement and fear and the loud puttering of engines, and choking on concentrated car exhaust. The entire ride was a blur. In the chaos and confusion of that moment, there arose in me a strange feeling of sedation, of zen. It was like bubble embracing me in its exclusive space insulated from the hustle and bustle of my surroundings. It had a meditative quality especially when all around me, the roads were a sea of monochromatic red. I stared straight ahead at the tuktuk driver’s head and let a million random thoughts run through my mind like how a kite runner in Kabul runs after his kite with childlike innocence and vigour.

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Nightlife in Bangkok is basically synonymous with a trip to the Night Markets. We made our way to one nearest to our hotel and dinner place — Pratunam Market. Captured here is a moment of intense concentration by a street artist amidst all the distractions, lights, passerby and secondary opinions.

Day 2:

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We heeded the advice of one of the locals and took a boat trip down one of the tributaries of the Chao Phaya river. Thanks to him we managed to escape being scammed on our tuktuk ride to the jetty. Thanks to him we discovered a less touristy and more locally authentic side to Bangkok and those making a living along the river that runs through Bangkok city. Thanks to him, we learnt how important it is to make an effort to assimilate into the culture of the host country and that one of the best ways to do so is to try to speak in their native tongue. If you look like a Thai (asian features) and speak Thai (even if minimal), you pay so much less than the average tourist, at least for tuktuk rides.

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“Why not get a nice cool beer for the uncle?” asked the lady who approached us in her wooden boat chocked full with all kinds of things to sell — from country flags, to tidbits and beverages to oriental fans. Here, we witnessed the sense of community present between the families and people who live along the same river. The informal economy that has boomed because of the river and its surrounding religious monuments has benefitted those living nearby. Many, like the lady in the picture, set up their own floating markets and take advantage of the influx of tourists into their ‘backyard’ to earn a few extra dollars.

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When you are immersed in a society of friendly and compassionate souls, you can’t help but feel the same. Happiness and joy become irresistible and inevitable.

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A little gentrified area near the Grand Palace.

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Taken along Yaowarat Road, Chinatown. The buildings exude an old charm that is reminiscent of those I’ve seen in Hong Kong, an aged but timeless look. A tuktuk in an ostentatious shade of pink whizzes past, its engines roaring as if to flaunt its own presence, consequently disrupting the serenity and solemnity of the scene.

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Where are the bus stops in Bangkok? Wherever the bus stops.

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Enjoyed a cone of matcha-cum-charcoal flavoured ice cream in the blistering heat.

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Reunited with my college suite mate at a relatively new night market — Talad NEON. It is right smack in downtown Bangkok and it is everything you would love to see, eat and do after a long day at work.

IRRESISTIBLE.

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After several hours of walking around, we decided to just chill at one of the many bars at Talad NEON. The bars in Bangkok are commonly double-decked and beautifully decorated with fairy lights and themed graffiti. Needless to say we headed straight for the upper deck, got 2 cocktails for about S$4 each and a Chang beer. We talked the night away and learnt a lot from my suite mate about expat life here in Bangkok and what she does to integrate herself as much as possible in this society. This photo features me and my non-existent glass of margarita because I finished it too quick. It’s delicious.

Day 3:

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Boat Noodles @ Union Mall. Each bowl was barely S$1. Two of us ate 11 bowls in total but we still had space for more.

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In the evening we visited another night market — Ratchada Train Night Market. It was on a slightly bigger scale and had more bars, more shops, more food and certainly more people. Certain parts of it felt European and gave off a Christmas Market vibe, except it’s 33°C and everywhere you go you hear Thai pop blasting.

 

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We drank at a bar that directly faces a barber shop, so that provided some entertainment. 😛

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Frozen Blue Hawaiian and a slightly tipsy me.

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Our last full day in Bangkok and a very empty Rachathewi Station. My heart shed a little tear upon realising that fact.

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Thai spices and condiments.

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Looking around me in Chatuchak Weekend Market, the place was teeming with expats and tourists like me. The place had a really nice vibe and I would have stayed for even longer if not for the killer heat. Yes, we surrendered, we surrendered to the heat but not before we filled our hands with Thai handicrafts, new pairs of shorts and tops.

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Leaving with a reluctant heart. Final glance.

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Post-massage meal. Nero pasta with prawn and tomyum sauce. We went to a very Westernised cafe for dinner and even then I looked for a fusion between Thai and Western cuisine. It was a match made in heaven, I would have ordered another if not for the hole in my wallet.

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This was just next to the cafe’s cashier. What a beautiful thing to stare at while munching on some food. For a moment, the sight of this transported me to one of those humble small shops on a random quaint street in Paris or London.

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dear diary...

Romantic Grocery List

Since young, I have been confronted with societal ideals of the kind of men I should be dating, and resultantly, marrying. They were subtle back then, appearing in the form of male protagonists in superhero movies, television shows and comic books. Some of them weren’t even human in form, but the fact they they prevailed at the end of the day appeals to me. I had known, that I wanted a hero, someone who can save me from all my problems as much as cure the world of its diseases, someone who can tirelessly give me all the material and emotional comfort that I crave.

Then in my teens, and as the societally approved dating age range approached, discussions about our ideal “types” of guys began to surface frequently, often being a hot topic among close friends. My group of friends was no exception. One day, someone initiated the discussion and I found myself running through a grocery list of things I want and envision to be consumed in the next few weeks, except that this list wasn’t about vegetables and ready-made food, it was about a human being, one that I forsee myself being attached to.

He is to be tall, have a matching sense of humour, attractive (a lean physique, and nice facial features)… I had ran out of things to say. As embarrassment visibly spread across my cheeks, I scrambled for other traits previously spoken by my friends and made them seem like I had included them in my list as well. Ambitious, financially stable, chivalrous, responsible… Having averted a small crisis, I was contented with myself and did not put much thought afterwards about the traits that I had just listed about my “dream guy”.

In college, after dating a few people, I realised that my list was futile, useless. It consisted of mere conjectures, of fantasies, an idea of romantic connection inspired by the unrealistic expectations driven into our young innocent minds by TV dramas and Hollywood Rom-coms. It has never felt the ground of reality. In reality, when I am attracted to someone, when I’m in love with someone, I don’t actually tick off all the traits that I had listed on my “grocery list on romance”. I love them without a reason, I love them for everything they are and everything they are not. In reality, “a good sense of humour” is as ambiguous as hell — someone could be funny but in an abrasive way, someone else could be good at cracking intellectual jokes but anything beyond that his jokes induce more of a cringe than a guffaw, nonetheless they are all compartmentalised under the trait “good sense of humour”. Sometimes, you find yourself in love with a guy who is not fantastic looking but makes it up in his character and how he treats you when he’s with you. Sometimes, you may be attracted to someone who’s not doing so well financially and is in a phase of limbo in his life. In all, human attraction is way more complex and unpredictable than just simply a fully checked list of traits, or a block of code that you type into a program expecting a desired end outcome.

When you are attracted to someone, you abandon whatever criteria or yardsticks you previously held. You like them for being them, even if they don’t perfectly fit the mould that you’ve constructed for them. You will find yourself loving how your hands fit perfectly together, how his touch could warm you even in the coldest nights, how he would run to the McDonald’s a couple of bus stops away just to get you McSpicy when you’re a whiny mess complaining of hunger, you’ll appreciate his courage even if his peck on your lips or cheek was sloppy, you’ll find yourself wanting to share with him every intimate secret about yourself, you’ll find yourself letting your guard down for once in a long time, because there’s nothing and no one to guard yourself from anyway.

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dear diary...

My Favourite Mode of Transport I.

Whenever I plug in my earphones — on the car, on the subway, on the treadmill, on a stroll, whenever — I’m instantly transported to another place, another era, I become a visitor of my own past, a spectator, sometimes a griever mourning for the bygone days.

Innocence — Avril Lavigne

Waking up, I see that everything is okay
The first time in my life, and now it’s so great
Slowing down, I look around, and I am so amazed
I think about the little things that make life great

I wouldn’t change a thing about it
This is the best feeling

A throwback song to when I took my first steps into the realm of sports — my first track meet and my first game of table tennis. A breach of innocence, I suppose, as the title of the song suggests, a boundary, a line that has prevented me from trying new things, a line that’s reinforced the ludicrous belief that as a girl, I should be more demure, I shouldn’t be out there, in the sun sweating, running, panting. I lost my innocence, but not in that sense of the word. Rather, I lost my fair skin and my “femininity” in the most restricted sense of the word. What have I gained instead? I couldn’t be happier. I gained a nice glowing tan, one that I preferred so much more to the sickly pale skin that screamed of insipidity. Deep down, I knew that I had worked hard for what I wanted to achieve on the field when the gun goes off and having tan skin (because of hours of training under the blisteringly hot sun) doesn’t diminish my femininity, instead, it strengthens my identity as a strong and determined girl on her way to womanhood. This song reminds me not to let social expectations hinder my interests, to continually challenge the boundaries and stay true to my passions.

 

Let It Go — James Bay

I realise that as I grow, my musical taste mature and I gravitate towards songs with an urban touch to it. The calm twanging of a Gibson electric soothes my bristling soul. It’s a song fitting for when I’m on the move, in transit. It’s a song that makes even that hottest day cooling and breezy, a song that somehow harks me back to the same landscape of a rainy winter evening on a nondescript street in London every single time I listen to it.

So come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don’t you be you
And I’ll be me?
Everything that’s broke
Leave it to the breeze
Why don’t you be you
And I’ll be me?
And I’ll be me

Bay sings like someone who’s been hurt before. His voice is gilded with a poignant and melancholic edge to it and when he sings and strains his voice with the all the passion in his heart and memory at the climax of the song, the lyrics and its sentiments permeate my entire being and my suffering is no longer a solitary affair. I found sympathy in his songs, I found solace and comfort during an emotionally turbulent and uncertain period. The imagery of rain that Bay evokes in me with his voice is probably more reflective of my inner state than his. He might have been singing about a love lost, a love that he fell out of, but the sotto voce rings of countless attempts to rationalise with a difficult reality with the gradual regression of optimism and patience.

 

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