Tuesday 30 August 2022

Reflections on a month in the countryside

I'd like to preface this by explaining that I was living with three productivity-prioritising boys, who recorded voice memos in order to collect 'anecdotes' come our interviews at the conclusion of medical school. The whole idea is calculated, inorganic, and also quite smart. I too attempted to record a voice memo while cruise-controlling my way through rural northern New South Wales, but unfortunately I speak in jumbles - not that my writing is much better, stream-of-consciousness and all - and the majority of the recording consists my commentary regarding a small yellow spider dangling from the rearview mirror.

Instead I am here, attempting to convey what it is I learned from a month-long placement in the countryside before the experience slips my mind entirely. Before I left I honestly thought I'd be writing a manifesto overlooking lush green fields and orange sunsets (trust that I'd romanticise a small town filled with cows and pubs). The picture was actually true to my imagination, except instead of manifesto-writing I was reciting flash cards. While the quiet repetitive nature of the place was subtly always present, I felt I was floating through this space over this time, unaware that anything was different. It's as if my life was put on pause and I have returned as if nothing happened. I can feel that I am different, but at the same time slot right back into my life before. This can be my version of a countryside-inspired piece, except with the overall intention of communicating medicine-related lessons to my future self in a digestible way.


I'll start by describing a few patients I found interesting. 

Mrs. K was a 52 year old woman who had been in hospital for 92 days when we first encountered. She had two broken tibias, and was majorly depressed in COVID isolation at the time of my arrival. This woman was immobilised in bed for the entire four weeks I was in town, plus the 92 days before, plus however many days she might have to go - probably a lot. She had broken both bones following a fall, and was left lying on the floor for 24 hours by her husband and son before an ambulance was eventually contacted. Mrs. K was not considered a surgical candidate due to her many co-morbidities, and instead the dice was rolled to see if her bones would heal on their own. Spoiler alert, they weren't healing and this woman has been bed-bound for over 100 days now. I wondered what kind of solution this was, to condemn a woman to months - if not a whole life - in bed. Would physiotherapy ever be enough to solve the problem? Would she be better off if an orthopaedic surgeon took their chances? Would an orthopaedic surgeon ever bother to take a chance?

Although, surprisingly, as I came to talk to this woman day-in-day-out once she had overcome isolation, she seemed to be adjusting quite nicely. She had finished all 15 seasons of Criminal Minds and was joking with the staff. I wonder if humans truly can overcome and learn to love any situation if they have endured it for long enough.

Mr. R was admitted to the hospital from a nursing home due to aggressive behaviour. The man had a history of a traumatic brain injury, with half his frontal lobe excised, leaving a visible dent the size of a golf ball in his forehead. His aggression was the product of paranoia - a real fear that everybody was out to kidnap him. The frightened patient held a finger gun to the door, hands shaking, hair crazy like Einstein. His antipsychotics and antidepressants had to be crushed into his food. His referral letter from the nursing home read, "Mr. R has had four wives, wishing he could go back to the second," which I found only very random and endearing. As the days passed, Mr. R calmed down and could be seen sleeping peacefully or dopily eating his breakfast and whispering to his favourite nurse in a childlike manner. "Honestly, all this man needs is a single room," explained the nurse. "If you leave him alone and close the door he's perfectly happy. He's just scared of people coming and going in the nursing home and that's why he becomes aggressive." 

Mr. B was a 92 year old man with a humeral head fracture and a sour mood. He really hated the hospital. Mr. B lived alone in a caravan and broke his arm by crashing his motor wheelchair into the side of the van, without his glasses on. Having explored these caravan parks and isolated beaches that stretched for miles, I could finally appreciate what people meant when they said they enjoyed camping. A friend I was hiking with marvelled at a woman serenely sitting in the back of her van, covered in Turkish blankets overlooking the ocean. I tried to picture Mr. B independently mobilising through the tiny amenities and long extension cords, and couldn't see that going well. 

To be honest, the patient interactions on the north coast were not dissimilar to those I've observed in the city. Albeit, I have spent my last few placements in the West, where health literacy is much poorer and immigrants make the majority of the population. Differences in healthcare were due to the limited services available, with considerations made regarding the logistics of patient transfers to larger hospitals for specific procedures. 

I was also told that the town had the second-highest population of Indigenous people in the state, and spoke with the Aboriginal-liaison officer who made two important points: 1) that a transfer to a different hospital is a much bigger deal to an Aboriginal person than to you or I, because they are travelling onto land that does not belong to their tribe, and 2) that family comes first. I recall a patient of ours who disappeared from the ward to go on a drive with her sister, missing an iron infusion. Any healthcare procedure or investigation was a commitment that went straight over her head, and if a family member wanted to hang out, she would waltz out of the hospital. As soon as she was told she could go home during ward rounds she left, before a discharge summary could even be written.


To comment on the doctors employed at the hospital, the consultants were overqualified immigrants attempting to re-climb the hierarchal ladder in a new country, and the single registrar and junior doctors were locum workers. 

At the head of our team was a fellow who played the role of the consultant - an incredibly intelligent Pakistani woman who previously worked as an internal medicine consultant at a tertiary hospital. She treated each patient as a problem to solve, asking questions as if ticking blank boxes in a game of Cluedo, and concluding each consult with an answer narrated to the patient. Once the answer was an endearingly direct, "If you ask me, honestly, I don't know, but here are the possibilities..." Her method of teaching was to make up a scenario as if she were writing a long question for a math test. She was mechanical and graceful. This was the first time I had seen medicine performed so clearly and logically. 

If anything, the male consultants paled in comparison, coming off as both less competent and more self-entitled. I watched as a male consultant became upset when his name was not present on the progress note, or argued with a nurse for interrupting him, or childishly yelled "WRONG" when I gave him an incorrect answer. He was not handling his demotion in this country with grace, but instead saw the unfairness as a direct insult to his manhood or something. And yet, he still asked for help in a small voice when called to a patient's family meeting, acknowledging the difficulty of explaining concepts of life and death when using a second language. Perhaps this was a reflection of male versus female roles in foreign countries, or perhaps men simply have bigger egos and less consideration than women in all countries.

The two junior doctors on our team were reflections of a role I would play in the near future. However, both were post-graduate medicine graduates who, as has been a recurring attitude of my superiors on previous placements, were somewhat put off by my flippancy toward this whole medical school ordeal. Of course I am not flippant, but neither have I prioritised my degree much until now. Medical school is just something I sort of do in the background of my life as a silly girl in her early twenties. The perspective I achieved from this is that undergraduate medicine thrusts children into an educational journey they are not ready to prioritise. 18 year olds simply could not care less about how the kidneys work. As these 18 year olds progress into 22 year olds they have won an easy ticket into being final phase medical students, having spent the last four years scraping through exams and partying and finding love interests and, most importantly, finding themselves. They never had to sit that big GAMSAT exam, or worry about their WAM, or make an executive decision about their career as they came out of one degree and willingly thrust themselves into another. I've been taking my learning much less seriously than these junior doctors had, and I'm behind. 

The hospital itself was a textbook come to life, with bread and butter cases from all specialties of medicine. As the registrar grilled me regarding heart failure and elderly falls, the amalgamation of knowledge we call medicine became more cohesive and revealed the many gaps in my basic knowledge; and for the first time, I was actually excited to fill them. I wouldn't say my knowledge was destitute, but would instead admit that portraying your smartness to somebody is a gift in itself. My general flawed life philosophy has always been that the show doesn't matter. I'd never been one for aesthetics. I'd never understood the need for a clean room with nicely arranged furniture, or the romance of a candlelit dinner, or the purpose of nice-smelling perfume, or the problem with wearing pyjamas in public. In medicine, I never understood the need for jargon. I'd always thought big words were a mechanism of gatekeeping, and I may not be wrong. However, the one piece of feedback I have often received is that I must expand my vocabulary. I honestly think I am a little linguistically challenged, but the medical language is one I think I should learn.

On our last night in town, I made the boys watch Clueless. Their stream of commentary consisted complaints about Cher's stupidity - unable to see that she is endearing, and actually quite smart. Her intelligence is portrayed through pop culture and hot-girl anecdotes, rather than some elitist string of monologues. While I definitely think these boys are wrong, their perspective provided evidence that not everybody can see past the elitist or non-elitist surface. Sometimes the show means everything.


Living with these boys day by day taught me that planning is an advantage. I've always naturally been a planner, as most medical students are, but throughout the last few years have suppressed this urge in favour of the romance and chaos of spontaneity. Deep down, I am also aware that the suppression of calculated moves comes from a fear of an unexpected outcome despite meticulous planning. I am afraid of failure and disappointment in a way my naive younger self never was. Watching these boys sincerely try their best and blatantly move the pieces in their favour, I realised that I can do the same. 


The countryside was really more of the muchness of muchness of life. They all said it was a 'city-girl goes to the country' situation, but I never really saw it that way. 


Saturday 11 June 2022

From the shoe store


This is very much an e-diary entry from a sterile shoe store on the verge of closing down. A motionless A2 Emily Ratajkowski will be staring me down for the next 8 hours, I will probably buy an overpriced Poke bowl for lunch and feel like a boss bitch, and I am planning to take a highly professional self-timer photo for my CV behind this faux marble counter. Today was meant to be a (paid) administration day - full of catching up on flash cards and life administration. The constant flash cards and life administration.

Instead here I am, planning to write down my thoughts and goals for the moment. I guess that is a form of life administration in a way - to sit back and think about ways to improve. For the past few years, I've rendered self-improvement unnecessary. It's stressful and nothing matters anyway, right? You may as well have fun. It was either that or that in my perpetual state of go-go-go, I never had time to stop and think about self-improving; or perhaps the coronavirus sucked all motivation out of me, and many others. The monotony of ground-hog day can't have been productive for the evolving psyche. However, on the topic of nihilism, I should take a page out of Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck *but giving a f*ck about the things you choose to matter*, or Evelyn Wang's optimistic approach from Everything Everywhere All At Once, and decide to make certain aspects of life important, to actually have some goals.

I wonder at what point I stopped thinking I was special, and whether this was a positive or negative change of mind. I wonder at what point I felt I was floating, devoid of personality, pushed around into whatever situation I happened upon, as my routines devolved month by month into a blur of inconsistency. I wonder when I started calling myself a "random girl" instead of just using my name. If my 16 year old self saw me now, she'd think it was all exciting. She'd think this was what living is - the disconnect, the randomness of the human condition. I don't think she'd understand that spreading yourself thin like marmalade on toast means that you do not know who you are. You are defined by nothing.

In the past few months I've been told by superiors and new friends that I am too impatient and hasty. I do before I think, and then I second-guess myself. I am full of second-guesses. In this world the multitude of choices is deafening. An undefined person is unsure whether they are doing everything wrong, while also assuming that everyone is in the same boat, doing everything wrong or right or averagely too. Observing the 20-something-year-olds around me, I feel we are all floundering and inconsistent. Even those who are certain, who think they know best, find themselves surprised the next day. It's anxiety-driving, and makes commitment to anything frightening.

So I guess if I were to make some definitive goals, that are really portions of one big goal, they would be to:

- Slow down and take things step by step. There's a process to everything.

- Be unafraid to commit to what I decide to do, and then do it properly.

- Be confident in who I think I am. I can always change my mind later.

- Think before I speak, and say things with more conviction. Vagueness is not attractive.


Friday 1 April 2022

Do I, Like, Love Lena Dunham

Yesterday, while I was making lasagna, I felt this overwhelming gratitude for the fact that I'm a 20 something year old girl living her fun free life. Just before bed I walked past my roommate's room and she was blaring party music and doing her makeup like she was going to a rave or something, and she turned to me and said, "omg I just love doing my makeup alone when I'm drunk." This was following a potluck dinner with a bunch of girls I'd describe as 'fun and hot', with red wine and garlic bread, in this large house we made and call our own.

I've been watching a lot of Girls lately, which Binge describes as '4 girls in their early 20's figuring out life in New York' or something like that. Following the theme of personal essayists, the show is definitely a mirror of Lena Dunham's life as she saw it. I mean, in the first episode the protagonist, Hannah, asks her parents "What if I'm the voice of my generation?" which interprets as both a sardonic and accurate representation of a girl who literally wrote a tv show about her own life. The show received a lot of criticism regarding its lack of diverse representation and the nepotism involved in getting picked up by HBO (they say she came to them with a general idea and half-baked script - so basically 'the worst pitch ever'). However, I do believe the show was created with the utmost earnest intentions, being that Lena, her narcissistic self, wanted to accurately represent her life as a white privileged 20-something year old because she believed it meant something.

And to be honest, she did it well. The show won Golden Globes, the Peabody Award and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best New Series in 2013. Sure, nepotism and privilege can get you a certain distance, but at some point there needs to be some actual work put in, some actual merit. Besides, her parents are painters and sculptors who probably just gave her inspiration growing up in the New York art scene (romanticise that shit). It's not like they owned HBO or had anything to do with television whatsoever. As for the whole lack of diversity issue, like, I don't know about you but I don't want some privileged white Jewish girl writing from an Asian perspective. That would be weird and wrong in so many ways. I do understand that I probably like her work because I am a privileged girl in her 20's who is financially supported by her parents, and therefore very much resonate with shows about self-involved emotional women, but hey, here I am resonating. People need to stop being so goddam PC. Like, isn't the artist's goal at the end of the day to use their voice? Surely someone else can be hired to write about their marginalised experience. Although, that takes us back to the nepotism and privilege thing, and injustice is really not what I'm here to write about. Neither is Lena, clearly.

A lot of people find Lena excessively annoying and problematic, probably because she is. Sometimes I don't enjoy watching Hannah strip in every public place ever or eat a bagel in a bathtub or whatever. I mean, it's cathartic on the same level as watching Phoebe Waller-Bridge masturbate to Obama's speech in FleaBag, but there's only so ratchet a girl can be before you're like CONTROL YOURSELF AND PUT SOME GODDAM CLOTHES ON. Lena Dunham is also known for saying stuff like, "I wish I had an abortion for the experience" or defending a co-worker and friend against rape allegations, but to be honest, I feel this all runs along the same white privileged girl theme of someone who is kind of self-involved and can't see past her own experience. As in, it's wrong, but it's all done in earnest, so I don't hate her for it. 

Perhaps I both like and dislike Lena for her too-open honesty. I remember reading her book Not That Kind of Girl when I was 18, and within the first chapter she described losing her virginity to some guy and lying about being a virgin, and then like, dissociating out of her body. My young innocent self took the whole thing as a universal experience when clearly it's not. At that point I wondered, what was the point of writing that? Did you just feel like sending all these details into the void when nobody asked? It feels kind of graceless and narcissistic. Every single one of Lena Dunham's personal essays seem to revolve around boys and sex and marriage and hysterectomies. As a young woman, I really do eat that shit up because I wish more girls would write as openly and shamelessly as she does, but at the same time I get kind of annoyed that it's literally all she thinks about.

While you'd think that a writer who obsesses over everything that makes up traditional female gender roles would make me spiral into a desperate mess of stressing over male validation, watching Girls has done quite the opposite. I guess this is what happens when a female writer focuses on a bunch of complex female characters. The male characters play supporting roles. They are simply tools for self-discovery, to figure out how to be loved, to love, and whether one needs to be loved at all. When discussing their distrust of their daughter and her seemingly terrible life decisions and coping mechanisms, Hannah's mother quips, "She does what she wants, has her fun, then goes home and writes in her diary and thinks about her fun." 

Girls shifts the focus to the trajectory of these girls' lives - the nitty gritty desire for validation and companionship. I think of Hannah oversharing to the man who's dumpster she wrongly uses to dump trash: "When I was young I decided that I wanted to experience everything, just so I could soak up all the experiences and tell everyone about it. But I'm so exhausted. I just want to be happy." There's scenes with one girl depressed in one room while the other is writing a novel across the hallway, doing well; with one girl crying in the bathtub while the other tells her to stop blowing her snot through the bubbles. It's messy, it's real, and it makes me love my girl friends.

I think about our potluck where we pass pieces of lasagna and salad across the table, as somebody yells, "Who wants margaritas!" Two girls talk about their online dates this Saturday, about sitting in the jacuzzi and raising their body counts. Across the table, girls yell about mental illness, therapy, long-term relationships, boredom and past heartaches. I realise that we are never going to experience this again. We are never going to be this hot or intelligent or have this much room for chaos and unpredictability in our lives. 


Ps. God, why do I feel like I wrote this in Shoshanna's voice? Sometimes I think I have Shoshanna's voice. F*ck she's so annoying though.

Pps. This was literally me oversharing my opinion about something I kind of know nothing about, and then making it about me, which is honestly so Lena Dunham I can't.

Sunday 26 December 2021

My Holiday Post: Resolutions, a Feminist Comment About Spiderman? lmao

This is a homage to the annual New Years' blog posts of my teenage self. 

Sitting on a couch in an airbnb, a friend of mine deliberated over whether she should start a blog. She meant so in a 2011 pre-tumblr era way, where people were more interested in long-form media than over-stimulating tiktoks or snappy Instagram captions or whatever. Like, people would literally ramble their weird opinions or pour their heart out in an essay or take really cringey fashion photo-shoot pictures and unsolicitedly tell you details about their family holiday in Hawaii. I miss those days. Honestly, I will read about your really boring week in the 11th grade at school with JOY. I told my friend that yes, I very occasionally do still post on this slightly deranged teenage blog, but it is never planned and almost always involves very shit un-edited writing. Her response was that blogs are meant to be this way. Here's the latest.

For the past few days I've been ridiculously sick, the only housemate remaining in this big white wooden five-bedroom of ours. I've been dawdling from my bedroom with the KFC bag full of tissues and the fan on full force, to the lounge room couch which I never use when my housemates are around, to the kitchen where constant rounds of honey lemon water are being concocted. Yes, I spent the entirety of Christmas day slipping in and out of a feverish sleep - watching wholesome Instagram stories filled with perfectly set tables and not wishing to be there one bit. It could be because I was just so goddam sick, but it could also be that for once I was resting and completely present. Time was non-existent.

My teenage self was such a sucker for making New Years' resolutions. I've always been obsessed with making continuous. progress. and like, reflecting on everything I've learned in a year. I'd ask myself questions like: In what ways have you changed since this time last year? Yuck. While my intentions were good, and very self-help-book-esque if I may say so myself, this year is different. For once I feel as if so much "progress" has been made that it speaks for itself, and what I wish for in 2022 is arbitrary, unknown... It's not like I can plan it anyway. Whatever happens happens (is that what depressed people say?, or just enlightened ones).


Anyway, moving on to some commentary regarding Spiderman: theoretically, if I were a legit writer, I would only give my opinions after watching all movies - and I really have watched all movies over like I don't know the last 15 years (minus No Way Home which just came out) but obviously, as with every Marvel movie ever, I remember nothing.

Over several watching-sessions interspersed with more feverish sleep today, I got through the first Toby Maguire movie: Spiderman (2002). That's the one where Kirsten Dunst dyes her hair red and dates every boy on the show ever before finally settling on Spiderman and has basically no personality other than being the classic "girl next door". Let's be real though, Kirsten Dunst was the ultimate symbol of the girl next door in the early 2000's. There's something about her dimples and unphased positivity and the fact that she's endearingly ditzy. Take Torrance from Bring it On for example, or Kelly from Get Over It. She literally never has any idea of what's going on and the main guy is always in love with her. One thing I noticed from the Toby Maguire movies is that Kirsten Dunst is always in trouble. She does nothing but play the damsel in distress over and over again. Like, I don't know how many times we can watch Peter Parker save MJ from falling off some building last minute, and why won't she stop screaming for like one second?

Moving on to the Andrew Garfield movies (side note, but why does Tiktok suddenly think I'm super into Andrew Garfield. I have never expressed any interest in this man and do not understand why I am being succumbed to watching thirsty edits of The Social Network, but anyway): I literally do not remember anything about the Andrew Garfield Spiderman movies because they were really shit. They were so shit that Marvel scrapped them before they were even done. However, from what I remember of Emma Stone, which may or may not be based off my opinion of the actress rather than the character Gwen Stacy, the girl is smart and quirky. I also don't necessarily think we should disregard the casting of Emma Stone, because the choice of actress does say a lot about the direction they wanted this character to go in. While Emma Stone has a varied repertoire of movies - literally, she's in The Favourite which is just a weird f*cking movie - even in rom coms such as Easy A or La La Land, she never plays a stereo-type. She is always distinctly Emma Stone.

And finally we have Zendaya as MJ alongside Tom Holland. The first thing I noticed about the Tom Holland Spiderman movies was that the characters in the high school actually looked like teenagers. They were all short and wearing braces and sort of unattractive. I loved it. Anyway, at this point I think we're past describing whether MJ plays a stereo-type or is a damsel in distress. See, look how much movies have changed since 2002. You guys....

The main thing I'd like to take from the most recent Spiderman movies is that Zendaya and Tom Holland are dating IRL... and everyone supports it! even though she's taller than him! I'm gasping. This shows that at the end of the day, people really do prioritise love over appearances. You know what? Maybe this post is actually just a shocking revelation of how vain I can be, or how the vanity is attempting to leave my system? Or just a post to say that at the end of the day, we support short kings <3


Wednesday 1 December 2021

Charli XCX among other things

I was having dinner with a friend from high school who's been staying with her boyfriend and his roommates, and she was like, "I've noticed you've been listening to a lot of Charli XCX. My boyfriend's roommates love Charli XCX and I just don't understand!" Of course, as a result, her boyfriend and his roommates have ascended in my mind from mere people-I-don't-know to people-I-don't-know-but-respect. I spent a portion of time explaining to her the appeal of Charli XCX, although it turns out my reasons for loving her are much less intellectual than her boyfriend's roommates'. They love Charli because her music production is beyond good, because she's the queen of hyper pop... etcetera etcetera... you know, stuff that arty people would say. My explanation for loving Charli is that she is simply a bad bitch, but sad; she makes interesting noises that nobody else does, which was exactly what I needed in the throes of lockdown boredom. She was there for me.

Anyway, as per usual we also discussed starting a podcast, which is something every single one of my incredibly interesting and intelligent girl friends will bring up on any given day, and this time I was like yeah, I literally feel motivated to buy a microphone and recording equipment and start dishing out my opinions right! now! However, why would I do that when I have a perfectly established blog that I never update and nobody reads? I've also been meaning to write in my diary for like days now. The opening of the entry was going to be "Hiii just thought I'd check in" but I haven't had any damn time and honestly can't be assed. Instead I'm here.

*It looks like this is going to be a self-aware stream of writing. My incredibly scientific thesis also seems to have been written as a self-aware stream of consciousness, but I'm not going to lie, it kind of works.*

Now, back to my seemingly throwaway claim that Charli XCX is a bad bitch, but sad: Charli XCX is not one of those celebrities in the media who we can hyper-analyse like Kim Kardashian, nor is she a literal lyricist like Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo or Lorde (Lorde is questionable. We're still unsure if Melodrama was about Jack Antonoff), but I am going to attempt to make conclusions about her character through her music anyway. 

The first thing I think we've all noticed is that Charli is kind of a bad girl. Well, not bad per se, but adventurous, chaotic, inherently restless. Take Break The Rules for example, or No Angel. She literally opens with the lyrics "Always been a little fast and wild / and mama always said I was a problem child." Then there's 5 in the Morning where she basically sings about partying until 5am while some dude tries to keep up (but probably can't lol). In fact, take a look at her music in general. Every album gives us a different sound, not only compared to each other but also compared to like everyone else in the music industry. 

So yeah, she's a creative baddie. We get it. But alas, with every restless girl comes a little bit of self hate.

You know how there's that dumb Instagram trend going around where everyone's posting the urban dictionary definition of their name? Well, my group chat decided to send our definitions there, and of course everybody got favourable definitions - hot, smart, kind, cute, the best friend, so lucky to call them yours etc. Meanwhile, I got "will perpetually try to ruin her own life," which everyone found fitting in a funny way. Normally I'd find something like that funny too.

Honestly, Charli would probably find something like that funny. I mean, she wrote a song called Vroom Vroom, which is literally about driving a fast car so "these sluts no they can't catch me VROOM VROOM"; and Porsche, which is about dreaming about a Porsche; and that song with 100gecs where she's like "my boy's got his own ringtone" for the whole song. Clearly she's a silly girl.

However, this time round I was super triggered. I was like ohhhmygod am I always ruining my own life??? You see, most people in this world, they try their best. By a person who tries their best I mean someone who pats dogs for their mental wellbeing, and someone who genuinely tries to talk to people about the things they like and the things they're studying and the things they're proud of, and someone who receives nice urban dictionary definitions and all their friends are like awwww that fits you so well, and someone who says what they mean, basically. I, unfortunately, have come to the realisation that I have never been this person. I seem to veer towards the tumultuous route, the one that I think is funny and emotionally stimulating, but overall like three thousand times more difficult than if I just, I don't know, tried my best at life.

Charli, I feel, is the same. Not all her songs are silly even though she likes to give us ironic silly skinny hot girl vibes. Even some of the silly ones have a bit of a serious undertone. Take Porsche for example. She definitely says that she's been dreaming of a Porsche to get some guy out of her head. I listen to one of my all time favourites White Mercedes, where she sings "I hate the silence / that's why the music's always loud"; and Gone where she's like lol I hate everyone here and being perceived. I'm leaving; and Track 10 which is the best song to dance to even though the only lyrics are her yelling "I BLAME IT ON YOUR LOVE / EVERY TIME I FUCK IT UP"; and there's that video I once watched where she says that she wishes she wrote i like america and america likes me by the 1975, and the only lyrics I remember from that song are "I'm scared of dying" and "being young in the city" amongst a dreamy electric backtrack.

Then there's her recent release Good Ones, where she basically sings about how she lets every good guy in her life go. This echos back to White Mercedes where the entire premise of the song is about how she's a white Mercedes, uncatchable, running too fast, not deserving of some guy. I didn't mean for this to be an analysis of Charli XCX's relationship with boys, but the girl clearly knows how to love. First of all there's Boys where we all feel the fun excitement of aha boys, but then there's Official where she sings in her hyper pop out of tune voice about all the best parts of being close to someone - the little things like being in the kitchen, or laying in bed late at night; and ILY2 where she's like wow it's so weird saying I love you, never thought about it. Side note but she also totally understands sex, or rather, being desired. Take White Roses, party 4 u and Emotional for example. 

Charli also writes a different kind of break up song. Take So Over You, where she screams "I'M SO OVER YOU / TELL ME BABY ARE YOU OVER ME" which is so effing cathartic; and Cross You Out where there's a heavy bass and she's all like lol when you're not around I cross you out and I'm sooo much better; and a whole lot of songs referencing tears - "century of tears / sadness was my only smile" and the song Tears which is literally about her tears - because understandably there's a lot of crying involved; but then she comes out with songs like Forever where she's like byeeeee let's never talk again but I'll remember you forever.

Anyway, sorry for this poorly written midnight spiel but my conclusion is that Charli XCX is a bad bitch, but sad, because her music is literally so funny and cathartic and different, yet also relatable in a chaotic emo girl way. Does that make sense?



Wednesday 8 September 2021

Imaginings of Quarantine Letters, or Rather Essays, Monologues?

As I read more of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and 1993 essay E Unibus Pluram: Television and US Fiction, I feel as if I am morphing into a white man. His characters are troubled skinny white boys who smoke copious amounts of marijuana and have existential crises concerning their erudite brilliance. Of course the tennis academy's skinny white drug dealer reads books entitled Cambridge Refractory Indices of the Camera Lens, 4th Edition or something along those lines; and the skinny white author self-insert has an interest in Byzantine erotica; and the not-so-skinny white older brother regards women as inconvenient objects, pieces of furniture to serve his character; and of course they all have issues with fatherly disappointment and social anxiety and glory. White boy problems. 

I, personally, would love to be concerned with my own brilliance if I could bring myself to give an unhealthy shit. At times I do feel discernment, or rather pride, towards my own wit that can translate to dry humour that can translate to the complex funniness of my entire being. I have taken on the priorities of an overthinking white boy who simultaneously watches the Kardashians and 'that girl' videos on YouTube. 

In my admiration of Wallace's writing, I have become inspired to expand my vocabulary. Nobody does the internal monologue better than Wallace - with his essay-like structure backed up by nil evidence and a paragraph finale of a colloquial, jesting sentence that is inappropriately out of place.

A word: 

solipsism (n) - the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist

If this does not scream overthinking white male, I don't know what does. The word also accurately encapsulates the experience that is quarantine, social isolation, solitude. No mind seems to exist outside the entity that is my own anymore. She is whirring of her own accord, desolate, uninfluenced, going rampage.


dilettante (n) - a person who cultivates an area of interest without real commitment or knowledge

Synonyms include dabbler, dallier, myself in each new phase of quarantine

As I read Wallace's outdated essay regarding the US population's addiction to television, as I read the fact: The average American watches television for 6 hours a day over and over again because he writes the phrase incessantly, I feel guilt toward my own perpetual media consumption here indoors. However, to Wallace I must say, I would love nothing more than to be living my very real exciting life if I were allowed to live it. My dear dead brilliant friend, you could not have predicted this global pandemic. You also could not have predicted the predicament that is social media as it is today - inclusive of all its addiction, anxiety and vanity - though you came close, and your imagining of the way such an invention would affect people was almost spot-on, and you would be frightened if you saw society today; but that is a whole essay in itself.


Working on my thesis is so mind-numbingly boring that I must blast music to get through the transferring of references from this side of EndNote to that. In 2021 there has been the release of Kanye's Donda (very thinks-he's-brilliant-esque, but I do love music with a God complex), Halsey's If I Can't Have Love I Want Power (I think the title says it all), Lorde's Solar Power (very disappointing), Drake's Certified Lover Boy (eh, it's just Drake), and the soundtrack of Shang-Chi (so underrated). My personal favourite noises, however, have been the blasting of Charli XCX and Grimes, and my latest playlist consisting of angsty 2000's teenage music. I kind of wish I were a teenager in the 2000's - like Julia Stiles driving her car to Bad Reputation or Cher giving Tai a makeover to I Wanna Be a Supermodel.  I think you can tell what mood I'm in.

One day as I was perusing through Spotify, I noticed three boys I had previously hooked up with all listening to the same song at the very top of the activity bar. Okay, they weren't actually listening to the same song, but this is my analogy for the fact that I came to the realisation that they all have similar music taste. Perhaps I have a type. As I had a quick scope of each of their playlists I came to the conclusion that their tastes seem to chronologically improve.

We begin with the first boy, who listened to an abundance of Tyler The Creator. He was symbolic of the aforementioned skinny white boy - the one who does drugs and ruminates on his white boy problems. The second had neatly organised playlists, more relaxed, more endearingly revealing; only slightly cringe but still respectable, admirable even. And the third had playlists thirty hours long. Who has playlists thirty hours long? They were playlists of a variety of genres, playlists of somebody who clearly loves sound, playlists of somebody who I now recall asking me, "do you ever just empty your mind, and like, think of nothing?" God, his Spotify almost makes me wish I weren't so horrendously depressed when I met him. 

I'd have loved to turn my telling of these boys' Spotifies into a David Foster Wallace-esque commentary on pop culture, but alas, I cannot make fun of them (and myself). It feels too disrespectful. Perhaps there was no interesting story here to begin with either.


Spring commenced with bike rides with my father. Canberra truly is the city of lakes, cycling and hiking. I recall a high school friend of mine once describing Canberra as a valley between mountains, with seven peaks from which you can see the whole city. I'm not sure if that number is correct. I recall her driving us up to secluded lookouts with views in the middle of the night overlooking the speckling lit city after a party or post-KrispyKreme runs; or on a scorching languid summer's day, where we would sit and gossip about irrelevant people and things.

There are differences between riding back then and riding now. The hills surrounding the lake used to feel insurmountable, but I can now ride the kilometres without even changing gear. I guess that's what happens when your legs are a little bit longer, when you're a little bit stronger. While I used to ride in front of my sister, I must now ride behind because I cannot help but slam the brakes when encountering a downward slope or remotely sharp turning. I guess that at some point over the years I must have developed fear.

We rode past that red slide that used to seem so gigantic, but now appears rather quaint. We rode past the bench at the top of the hill where I used to always complain of thirst, but now instead look over the lake at the tower while taking an appreciative breath of fresh air, Eat Pray Love style. Being Spring, it is swooping season, and there is a single stretch of road in the suburb called Ainslie guarded by one menacing magpie. Head down, unthreatening, fearful but quick, you must cycle through the dangerous stretch. I feel bad for refusing every cycling trip with my dad throughout my teenage years. 


Thursday 19 August 2021

Paris Hilton and David Foster Wallace

My book club is reading Infinite Jest at the moment, where-in-which at our last meeting I characteristically had not read the allocated pages and sat nodding dumbly as I stared at my reflection in the Facetime camera (I looked cute that day). A girl commented that the book made her wish she could write, to which I thought to myself, perhaps I should actually read said book instead of mindlessly skimming pages of Wallace's psychobabble. To be honest, it is psychobabble. Infinite Jest reads like the monologue of a ridiculously intelligent, spiralling man who took the time to sit down and write the most epic, inner-voice-replicating autobiography slash character study slash society study that he could. He wrote the world as he knew it into a book, with fun footnotes and all. His voice is satirical and ironic, yet somehow you know he means every word he's written - in all its absurdity. It all probably really happened to him. He seems narcissistic enough that he'd write specifics as they happened to him. Real life is absurd like that, after all.

I cannot think of any way to describe the book besides... reflective of the modern condition, as cliche as that sounds. The author has a cyclone mind. He makes me think of that character from Sally Rooney's Conversations with Friends - another one of her silly elitist female Irish characters who is probably pale and drinks tea while staring at the ocean - or are the ocean-watchers Scottish? Anyway, her name is Frances, and she narrates, "I fantasised that I was smarter than all the teachers, smarter than any other student who had been in the school before... I'm going to be so smart that nobody understands me." Wallace's cyclone brain is whirring within his skull as his expression remains placid. I doubt his words came out in real life as they do on the page. I mean, he introduces the novel with silent words and a seizure in the middle of a college-admissions interview. As a friend messaged me, in anxiety-inducing social situations she is like :|. A realisation I've been coming to recently is that respect must be earned, and minds cannot be read. 

Last night I painted my toenails, with little pink toe separators and all, while watching Paris Hilton open her glittering notebook filled with recipes written in colourful texta. "This is so you," Kim Kardashian-West chuckles. "I swear travelling with Paris is just... do you remember? You'd bring all these stickers and we'd sit on the plane and all we'd do is collage for the entire trip." As absurd as the specifics of Wallace's characters (or should I say, Wallace himself) are, the specifics of Paris are both endearing and filled with personality - from her stiletto shaped spatulas to her pet pig, Princess Pigalette. Paris has never tried too hard to demand respect from the public. Instead she's always milked the blonde bimbo persona. She built an empire out of not caring and being dumb.

Paris has a barbie voice on Cooking With Paris, with her on-brand quotes lighting the screen: "Couture in the kitchen means dry cleaning bills." You get the gist. Yet occasionally her guest of honour will share a serious detail about themselves, and her voice will slip into normalcy - not just normalcy, but the deep intelligent voice of an introspective girl friend and the founder of an empire. On The Simple Life (2003-2007), Paris is relatively conservative compared to her more brazen co-star, Nicole; and on her podcast This is Paris, her opinions are almost entirely neutral. Her only nuggets of wisdom are given as bedazzled anecdotes: "Be like that Chanel bag that nobody can touch. Don't be the fake on Canal Rd. that everybody can put their hands on." Paris doesn't offer us anything. The world floats around her: a seemingly simple-minded star who may or may not have a cyclone circling within. I mean, she doesn't strike me as easy-going (I have yet to watch her documentary).

To have a mind like Wallace but instead write it like Paris. That is how I'll conclude this Thursday night brain fart.

Disclaimer: We'll never really know about Paris. As @kardashian_kolloquium's theory goes, oversharing can be a form of defence. Make so much noise that the world doesn't know what's really going on.


Monday 14 June 2021

God Complex

The boredom used to creep in ever so slowly. I'd strategically empty drying racks and take down washing lines in intervals, breaking up the never-ending idle hours. I'd decide that I would paint as if by numbers, or cook the most tedious dish, just to kill time. When did I become somebody who needed to kill time?

I now sit on the floor at 11pm with a charging cable too short to reach the desk, which is sprawled with unstudied mandarin characters anyway. The cable is too short because I bought an iPad, for sleek new notes and databases. I also cut my bangs, renewed my idolisation of Christina Yang, and decided I want to become an orthopaedic surgeon, for now.

I felt such detachment from this person I used to be. There was once a version of myself who had something to prove. Her identity was pure ambition, goals and independence, and she was known for it. Oh, to be rough around the edges, and bossy, and perceived as capable. Oh, to want to play the game, to be vindictive, to have glory. When did I stop wanting glory?

Competition is ugly, I said. To be competitive is to be desperate and ruthless. It's like a cat scratching its way up the side of a well, snarling and scraggly as it reaches over the top, accomplished against all odds.

In the car, I sat quietly in the back as a group of girls spoke about feeling imposter syndrome. The next morning, I whispered to a friend, "Do people actually feel that way?" Despite no sound evidence of my intelligence, and no approval from my seniors, and no effort on my behalf, I somehow have always assumed that I am impossibly capable of anything. It's called a God Complex.

Also, I listened to Lorde's new song and she sings I'm kinda like a prettier Jesus. I love her. She is like a prettier Jesus. The song has grown on me.


Thursday 20 May 2021

The Tornado Calms for a Second

Or rather is calm in general. Or rather does not calm at all.

I attended an art exhibition yesterday; not one of those modern ones about the human condition and whatnot, which is usually my thing, but one of those with biblical depictions, European portraiture and Van Gogh's weirdly bright sunflowers. By weirdly bright, I mean positively glowing.

There were a few paintings that caught my eye: 

A depiction of Genesis 24: A servant stands by the central well, tasked by Abraham to find a wife for his son, Isaac. He devises a test, awaiting a woman with the kindness to draw water for himself and his ten camels. That woman is Rebecca. 

A blurred golden rendition from Homer's The Odyssey; the scene in which Ulysses escapes the island of the one-eyed monster. If I recall correctly from my bedtime stories, Ulysses introduces himself to the cyclops as Nobody, only to injure the cyclops' one eye. The cyclops then stumbles about, crying "Nobody hurt me. Nobody hurt me." This story used to make me laugh and laugh at the sheer simple ingenuity.

And a painting of Saint Margaret. Her expression is formidable. She knows her worth, her importance, her significance. She is dressed in traditional Spanish robes. Where she would traditionally be wearing a tiara, she is wearing a straw cowboy hat, a Spanish equivalent. And melding into the darkness of the background, at her feet, is Satan disguised as a menacing creature. He is snarling, and she is un-phased.

There is something eternally graceful about history. In these stories, the world seems bigger, time seems longer, and the present seems completely insignificant. I almost want to throw a splattering orange at the modern art in the middle of the foyer, or spill juice on the book I am reading. Adults: an obsession with Instagram, modern relationships and today's hustle culture. I read an article about the lonely pandemic. By this I don't mean the coronavirus pandemic that sent us into isolation (which was/is awful), but the pandemic that started in the last century, where-in-which we all seem to be paying for individuality, privacy and studio-apartments to live all alone. Modern culture is the bane of my existence. It is graceless, Facebook is stupid, and Tinder sucks. I feel as if I've done a 180 on my persona, or want to, anyway.


If we are to return to the whirling tornado, we are referring to uncontrollability. As my stupid, stupid book about the modern human condition writes, we need the courage to control what can be controlled, and a therapist to work through what can't. Perhaps this is how normalcy works: Complications will occur either way, but the harder you try to be normal, the closer to plan things will go. But I have never tried to be normal. In fact, I have always actively played in the other direction. I never realised that life would make that happen all on its own.

I listened to a podcast by a couple of acquaintances this morning, and they spoke about being irreplaceable. I love that idea: to be irreplaceable based on your experiences, your uniqueness, your hard work. I haven't felt that motivated in a while.

The tornado is exciting, if you let it be.


Tuesday 13 April 2021

Things I Want To Be

I read an article about personal branding this morning. The gist of the article followed the idea that capitalism is the worst! and we shouldn't try to monetise our personalities. That's irrelevant though. I took  this whole personal branding concept as a challenge for self-improvement. I'd like to think that how I am perceived is irrelevant, but at the same time, often people can be see-through. Well, often I can be see-through; and when you're see-through, how you are perceived rings some truth regarding who you are. Hence, working on perception is adjuvant to working on myself, etcetera etcetera. 

I'm at home at the moment and it's freezing and I don't like myself. I'm seated in the same spot where I would pore over Margaret Zhang's blog throughout high school. On a side note, she has now become the editor in chief of Vogue China - the youngest editor in chief of Vogue ever (of course she has). Her blog entries always rang personal yet private; emotional yet classy. Amongst an impossibly aesthetic collage of images, she could somehow write truthfully, and deeply, about her career and the social issues she cared about. Yet, she never revealed a piece of her personality. To have something to share yet be private is something I have always envied. How does one draw the line between being passionate and being too personal?

Everything is relatively empty though. With an idle year staring me in the face, there is not much food for thought beyond the personal. Two days ago I sat on the bus with a boy who had an impossible amount of hobbies. He described hiking, and fishing, and fixing his motorbike - which all seemed like incredibly boyish things to do - yet he seemed grounded just by keeping busy. Speaking to a boy my age with different priorities to myself and those around me felt like a breath of fresh air. He asked me if I had any hobbies, to which I asked for suggestions. 

A high school friend patted me on the shoulder and asked me what happened. I used to be the queen of hobbies and personal projects, she said. She's right.

My immediate thought when thinking about new ways to fill my time was of a colleague of mine who has been posting videos of herself figure skating. She spins, and she falls, then spins, and falls. It's all such a pretty work in progress. Rather than finding bouts of inspiration, I instead envisioned myself in the act of working on something - glasses on, using my brain like I haven't in years; or physically exerting myself with glowing skin; or playing a sweet-sounding instrument with the discipline of a small Asian girl. Visualising the aesthetics of a project rather than actually doing it is rather shallow, but at least it's a start. As I said, working on perception is adjuvant to working on myself, etcetera etcetera.

The one personal project I do come back to time and time again is writing things down. While diary-keeping has been a constant - the teary non-sensical entries don't quite make for anything productive. I want to sound pretty like Margaret Zhang. However, at a party three days ago, I recall speaking to a girl who writes impersonal pieces for Vogue. Completely tipsy, I blurted out the name Tavi Gevinson. I remember the way her eyes lit up either due to nostalgia or some deep emotional connection with Tavi's work. The personal essays of Rookie Magazine meant something to us. They weren't necessarily pretty or deep. They were conversational, relatable and rife with emotion. 

By the end of this party, the girl looked me in the face to see that my eyes were puffy from crying in public. I think I have always wanted to be seen as someone hard and untouchable, so the shame from showing so much emotion eats away inside of me. However, have I not been showing too much emotion this whole time, my whole life? I am a see-through person, after all. I am beginning to wonder whether I could deal with my emotions on the inside without disclosing how I feel too quickly and too soon. My mother always told me that I don't owe anybody an explanation. Yet, friends also tell me to not change the way I am. Perhaps showing emotion displays vulnerability and brings people closer together.

My mother brought back the same thing she's told me time and time again: that I am never content, continuously reaching for the next thing. I think of the final page of Jessie Tu's A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing. Her mother describes her personality as hungry. It's not something that can be changed, but perhaps something that can be worked on. A personal essay-ist wrote about how she has started to stray away from personal essays and write about other things. There are so many ideas and events outside those in our small tiny minds, but being caught up in my own has always been a terrible habit. Being self-focussed is difficult, more so for some than others. 

But I am home now, and here to practice empathy and living slow. I hope to be softer, kinder and less confused. I hope to be there for others the way they have been there for me. And I hope to feel settled, for once.


Wednesday 23 September 2020

Homage to this blog's beginnings: A Muddled State

I've been trying not to journal lately. I decided that writing down my thoughts was my bad habit - too self definitive, too limiting. Yet on the phone to a friend last night she described her steps to self improvement: You should journal she said. It helps with emotional awareness. To which I thought, what about manifesting to the moon or God or the universe, and believing that fate has your back? I've tried to make that my mantra lately, with eyes squeezed shut, telling myself to stop planning and writing and vocalising my thoughts.

Yet I came home, reversed into the bush behind my house while listening to Lorde, sat in a cafe with my high school friends, and watched television from my childhood bedroom (I can't seem to sit still for long enough to watch television anywhere else). I wrote in my diary again, in a planned essay-like manner rather than the sporadic erratic entries my notebook has been receiving for the last few months. While my essay entry ultimately ended up ~inconclusive~, the whole ordeal made me feel grounded.

I think about this blog's beginnings; the way I categorised my posts into 'books' and 'travel' and 'ramblings'. Almost all my posts ended up under ramblings. From the glass table in the dining room, to failed attempts to write on the dusty windy outdoor table, to the empty study room below the science building at school, I would type my uncensored thoughts and sort life out systematically like the mini mathematician I was. 

And I sit here with things I should be writing instead: meaningless articles I've committed to, notes I've been intending to write for weeks - but the only thing I want to write about is myself. I used to love writing about myself as if I were a special journal girl with special thoughts, as if everything in my life had a higher meaning. I get nostalgic driving past places I used to despise, thinking there's some divine symbolism in every aspect of my uneventful life. 

But writing about myself is so unsexy. I feel lame, confined and un-mysterious. Lucy, the protagonist of the book I am reading, describes the single women at her love-addiction therapy group as diseased. My high school friends with their serious boyfriends describe choosing a day curled up at home over a loud meal with friends. They seem so settled, so grounded.

Coming home to buildings of wide-spaced interiors with earthy tones, surrounded by green grass, red leaves, wattle trees and pink spiky flowers, I can feel my mind soften. I can feel the contrast to in the city where I visualise my psyche as a tangled conglomerate of wire - hard and muddled. But perhaps to be unsettled is what I've always wanted - with big dreams of a forever spontaneous, ambitious life. Perhaps to be unsettled for longer is in my nature. But I wish for something different now. I wrote that I want to get 大 (big) tattooed behind my ear in an almost masochistic way - because I wish to be seen as small but feel anything but.

Even after writing, I still do not feel content or clarity. I believe I have been subconsciously vocalising less because I am more unsure of what exactly I want to explain now more than ever before. As a consequence I have been listening more, though. I've always wanted to be able to listen more. Perhaps for now I can give and give and give for a change, rather than receive and receive and receive as I always selfishly have.

As per usual, I feel I must level up. This cannot be it. Yet for once I am not sure what the next level is, which is not necessarily a bad thing.