Friday, 27 January 2017

Scissors & Glue

My desk is a mountain of colourful strips of paper because in my spare time - in those moments between breakfast and doing my makeup -  I'm preparing myself for the dreaded yet inevitable beginning of school.

Dolce & Gabbana

Alexander McQueen



Unlike this year, last year's collages were actually related to the subject they were covering.  Perhaps that was a little less confusing.  These collages are the only remnants left of whatever education I received in 2016.





Monday, 23 January 2017

School starts in a week

The last few months have been spent floating with no intention.  This continuous routine of planning, walking, eating and when none of these things are happening, deciding on TV shows to watch, have made me forget what life must be like when you're trying to be productive.

My head's been a little muddled in the wrong place lately.  All I seem to be exposed to are friends telling me about boys, sex and alcohol.  What's the latest status? Virgin or not?  They'll tell me about the latest outrageous thing they did while drunk at a party, and I'll be wondering where I've been all this time.  Why have I been missing out on all this?  What are my thoughts on all this?  Are these experiences really that important to me?

With school moving further and further out of the picture, all the stigmas of this teenage culture are moving in.  If all experiences and opinions involving drugs and boys are what all these people seem to find important, then should I be finding this important too?  They talk about it as if however far you've gotten with a boy is what defines who you are.  They see it as a status rather than an act, and without school occupying my brain, I'm slowly being sucked in to these absurd ideas of importance, no matter how hard I resist.

I've realised that saying yes to alcohol is a lot easier than saying no.  Being interested when people tell you about their sex lives is a lot easier than changing the subject.  Acting as if I know more than I actually do is something I feel pressured into doing, and it's absolutely stupid and shocking and immature.  They don't get that having sex does not suddenly make you more mature.

And then, last night, someone reminded me that school starts in a week.  I realised that my life with school involves a lot less talking and thinking about boys, sex and alcohol, because my priorities are different, and neither is better or worse.  This is the age where people are experiencing all these firsts at all these different times, and it's confusing and needs to be seen as nothing more than what it is.  

I am sick of 'living in the moment' and being dazed all the time.  I am sick of not knowing what I find important without it staring me in the face.  I am sick of feeling lesser when people tell me about all the things I'm 'missing out on'.  And for once, maybe I feel as if I'm ready for school to start in a week.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

3 countries

So, in fact, there are many different ways in which a person can be 'Asian'.

To acknowledge and notice the nuances of the vast difference between the cultures of the East and the West, sometimes being born of one but thrown to the other can cause you to think, and think for your whole life.  As an Australian-born-Chinese, I've seen all the differences in food, attitudes, priorities.  I have seen what it is to belong and not belong, to feel unique and proud and frustrated.  A lot of my identity has been built around being 'Asian'.

But, you see, calling myself 'Asian' is already a somewhat misleading, broad term.  Asia is a continent.  Asia consists of India and Korea and the Middle East.  I may be from both China and Malaysia, but that's two countries out of 48.  And that's where I go wrong.  I call myself 'Asian' because in a predominantly white country, I'm of a rather large minority, and we label ourselves as 'Asian'.  'Asian' isn't a culture.  Chinese is a culture, but 'Asian' is many.

Two days ago I flew back from Malaysia, a country consisting of three major cultures: Malay, Chinese and Indian.  All are Asian.  There, my cousins and my uncles and aunties label themselves as Chinese.  Chinese people have their own stereotypes, as do the Malays and the Indians.  None of them call themselves 'Asians' because being Asian is a given.  While people from Vietnam, China, Japan and Korea may 'look the same' to people here, in Asia there is a wide distinction in culture, food and appearance - I say food because food is very important to most Asian cultures, as it should be.

But then, with internet and movies and Netflix taking over the world, pop culture in Malaysia has become quite westernised.  While girls my age do enjoy K-dramas and Animes, my Aunty has said that 'nobody tells anyone they watch K-dramas.  It's one of those things they want to sweep under the rug.'  They all enjoy looking 'tumblr' and eating at 'hipster cafes'.  They'd rather eat eggs benedict than roti canai.  As my cousin said, 'they're all trying to act white these days,' and as my uncle said, 'P A T H E T I C what does that spell?'

However, this is a huge generalisation.  Unlike the way she describes some of her school mates, my cousin dresses a lot more 'kawaii' as her friends put it.  With school-girl skirts, stockings, pastel colours, shiny miniature boots and pigtails, she is the picture of one of the Japanese school girls in her Animes, and I think that's cool.  Every day she uses a cushion foundation and lip creamer, all bought from Korean makeup shops, going for the dewy look rather than matte everything with wings as sharp as knives.

This seems to be the picture of beauty in Japan, where we visited for a week before the new year.  In advertisements all over subway stations and Shibuya Crossing, girls had perfect, moist-looking skin.  Their eyeliner was much more discrete than those I see here, and to my surprise, their wings were not turned up but rather finishing with a little straight flick.  Sometimes the wings would even be turned downwards.  This difference in beauty, which I thought was actually much more attractive, must be the manifestation of a thriving Asian culture, which, for the first time I'd ever seen, was not trying to be white.

In Japan, everyone walked fast and everyone was well dressed, including the boys.  Girls would wear pink and white long furry jackets, outrageously sparkly eyeshadow with blue eyeliner, or Moschino-style embroidered jackets or pants, and nobody would blink an eye.  It was rare to see a girl in simple jeans and a coat.  It was much more exciting.  Boys would have hair sitting perfectly, wearing bomber jackets and hipster glasses, somehow making their pristine Adidas sneakers look classy rather than basic.  Walk into a 10 story Forever 21 and you'll find that floor 5 upwards is men's clothing.  They have their own celebrities, pop culture, technology and language; and they're proud.  Now this is an 'Asian' I want to see more of.

But then, in some ways, while factoring in the westernisation, there has been a beautiful modernisation of the Chinese culture in Malaysia as well.  Walking into a cheongsam shop, the beautiful Chinese patterns, silks and collars have been fused into beautiful, plainer dresses fit for any Western girl trying to branch out, or printed on batik the same way Indonesians make their clothing.  While tossing the Yee Sang we add salmon, because it is both easy to find and tastier, and when eaten it tastes like a salad with balsamic vinegar dressing.  Pineapple tarts sit on kitchen counters alongside butter-cream cupcakes.  While this culture in itself is Chinese-Malaysian, and while they may not be as acquainted with western culture as people who have immigrated over, they still, in some ways, have the best of both worlds.

And, in my case, how can I truly be Chinese-Malaysian if I do not live in Malaysia and I have no memory of ever having celebrated a true Chinese New Year?  Being 'Asian' in a white country is an entirely new 'Asian' in itself.  While in Malaysia, my Aunty was telling me about her experiences going to high school in Australia at the age of 15.  She said that as a new immigrant, she realised that other Asians, those born in Australia, didn't want to be associated with her.  They were ashamed of their culture.  Back in that time, there weren't as many immigrants, and being non-white was an actual rarity, 1 in 100.
Watching Fresh off the Boat, set in a similar scenario in a slightly later time period, while the eldest son isn't ashamed of his culture, he is aware of the stereotypes and fights against them, saying to his younger brother on his first day of middle school,
'So you want to be what everyone thought I was when I walked in on the first day.  You want to undo all the work I've done over the past two years... I'm keeping them on their toes, blazing trails, breaking chains.  Then they see you coming with your violin and your camera, and we're back to where we started.'
And then there's second generation Asian immigrants today.  Stereotypes still exist and we make fun of them, but I can't tell whether we despise them or love them.  I can't tell whether we're fighting them or accepting them as predominantly true.  In an overly politically correct world, I think we are beginning to take pride in our culture while everyone else is afraid of being racist.  It's a newer, more multicultural world in which girls wear traditional clothing out to dinners and dances, and I'm glad to have been born in this time period where it is easy to be proud of being 'Asian'.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

1st of the 1st

January number 1 - what else could this post be?  As I just wrote in my diary, this day marks the end of living in torturous hazy bliss each day, and the beginning of working towards something.  I've decided to spend a good chunk of today reflecting and looking forward, because as of the last few months I have thought of nothing but fashion, money and how people perceive me.  New year, clear head, right?

January - Gelato in Italy!!!
Looking back at 2016, well, it feels as if 2015 may as well have not existed.  It was a year of complete metamorphosis, in both myself and my day-to-day life.  Reading over last year's resolutions, I feel as if I have completed every single one except for "be nicer to people".  If anything, I have been meaner to people, becoming more condescending and less empathetic.  Perhaps that is something to acknowledge and work on coming into 2017.

February - on a hike that feels so long ago
With a perpetually dazed mind, it is incredibly difficult to look back at 2016 and remember any progress in particular.  

With growing confidence, for the first time I was doubting and seeing flaws in other people, and suddenly their desperation for attention and approval seemed so pathetic.  But, at the same time, I was adopting more of this desperation myself.

With growing confidence, I began to take pride in my appearance, starting with hair, then clothes and finally makeup.  

The quantity of friends I have depleted drastically, but the quality of those stuck with me increased dramatically.  And, for once, I feel as if I don't need anybody else.  They make me feel special, and that can only be a good thing.

March - the 'cousins' spend a day at a farm
Freedom came in the form of understanding that milestones don't have a time limit.  Freedom came in the form of independence and driving.  Freedom came in the form of realising that a person has layers, and that you don't have to put yourself in a box and act accordingly for people to comprehend you.  In fact, you don't have to stick yourself in a box for you to comprehend you.

April - Riding a bike around the lake

New year's eve was spent on a plane from Japan to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  With massive headaches, we watched the clouds zoom past on our descent into humid weather.  At midnight in Australia we were eating a massive buttery roti tissue in a hawker shop with no walls, followed by Baskin Robbins on the 31st.  And at midnight in Malaysia my sister and I pulled our beds together, listening to the fireworks exploding above while watching Bon Jovi sing to Katherine Heigl in New Year's Eve.

May - took these pics in this jacket because I felt so supah cool

And now, here we have it.  2017 is spread wide in front of us, and here are my resolutions:

Lay off social media

This has been a terrible problem for me that must've snuck up at some point in 2016.  I spend 3 hours on average on my phone each day, according to the app Moment, and while this may not be awful, it is unacceptable and unhealthy to me.  Enough external approval... it's time to have a little mystery.

June - candid photo waiting for N2 ice-cream
Be more appreciative of my friends

Sometimes I forget that I have them because I know they'll be there, unconditional of the way I act towards them.  It's time to show them a little more gratitude and do something for their benefit once in a while.  It's a lot more worthwhile to spend my time on my phone catching up with them than stalking strangers on Instagram or replying to "streaks".

July - at an art gallery
Be happy for others

Enough with the twinge of jealousy every time something good happens to someone.  Enough with the excuses as to why what they have couldn't possibly matter.  Enough with the grasping at every other thing I have that they don't.  It's okay to acknowledge that what they have, they deserve in every which way.  It's okay to acknowledge that these things can only be good.  They say that you know you're happy with yourself when you become happy for others, and perhaps that's the first step in completing this resolution.

August - my first ever concert
Be confident despite my appearance

Makeup or no makeup, hair up or hair out, contacts or glasses - no matter what, I want to be able to hold that same level of confidence.  I want to be able to speak to people, still feel like an accomplished, confident girl, even with my hair up, glasses on and face bare.  I don't want it to be necessary for me to look great every single day.  Even when ugly, my personality should shine through.

September - eating cake

Stop looking up to people who don't matter

And this is where my desperation for approval needs to end.  There are select people I barely know who I think are awesome.  They'll be beautiful or accomplished, and every time I encounter them at my best, I'll feel a sense of pride and happiness.  If they're in the same room, I'll claw my way into making a good impression the same way you would if they were your crush, and it's downright stupid.  Those who matter are those who make their way into my life naturally, not because I have some sick need to make them notice me as much as I notice them.

October - candid photo waiting for the light rail

Be less shallow

While it is easier to portray yourself outwardly and only judge people skin-deep, we are so much more than that.  It's time I work on what's inside as well as out.  Just because other people don't know something about you, doesn't mean it's not true.  

In 2017 I would like to work on realising that I am not the only person in the world and seeing other people's needs.  Better late than never.  
I would like to be more grateful of my family, even though I may not show it.  
I would like to explore my own morals rather than blindly believe those of others.
I would like to actively learn new things unnecessarily rather than shun those who do.  It's time to educate myself.

November - picnic at the beginning of summer
Work hard for myself 

We don't achieve things so we can yell it out at the world.  We don't work towards something just because it's what society deems as "successful".  We work towards the kind of lifestyle we want, whether in the short term or long term.  Whatever makes us happy.  This year I would like to work my butt off in my final year of school - but I'm doing it for myself, uninfluenced by anyone else.

December - birthday

Here's to 2017.  Happy new year!