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.


Monday, 27 July 2020

The Chinese Cab Driver

He began with: "From the ages one to ten they follow their parents, then from ten to eighteen they begin to gain independence, and then once they're eighteen they're gone." and we all laughed. Then he continued, "But that's only white people. Asian people, we're different. But now, here we are, in this country, and our children are over eighteen and they hate their father." and the mood instantly dropped. "We raise them for eighteen years, and now are left with nothing."

Prior to this my father had overtly expressed his concerns about my sister and I living in a different city, and that we were unhappy to see our parents visit for the second time in three weeks. Due to his tendency to speak in black and white terms, he said "my daughters hate me," which set our immigrant cab driver off into his preaching spiral... a spiral that hit a little too close to home.

Of course our circumstances are different. Our world views are different. My sister and I believed in leaving home and forging our own paths, and our parents were forced into being okay with that. To us, this was reasonable. The Chinese cab driver's university-aged children were living at home with him, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Our parents are thinking of moving to a different city altogether. The Chinese cab driver was a strong advocate for remaining in the same city, even if it meant my parents should upturn their lives to follow us here, for fear of abandonment. To this, my sister responded in her bratty eighteen-year-old manner, "We didn't leave to make new friends. We left because we wanted to get away from you. You coming here would defeat that purpose."

I can say we have a different worldview all I want. I can say that we no longer live in the era of the three-generation household - of children never leaving home, of the same neighbourhood for generations, of no aeroplanes and immigration. The Chinese cab driver was yearning for something that I tragically cannot see being possible given our circumstances, and in a way that makes him right. My sister and I are too far flung, too focused on our own trajectories, and according to Asian values, that makes us selfish. We have no consideration for our parents in our lives. They are always welcome, but they are not considered. The welcome into our homes, the promise that we will support them if they come to us, is the Asian compromise. But the sacrifice I see in the prior generation of uncles and aunties, who designate a child to remain home and deny a life in the developed world, to fulfil the responsibility to take care of their parents, that's gone.

Last night I began reading Min Jin Lee's Free Food for Millionaires. The novel opens with a Korean family sitting around a dinner table in Queens, New York City. There is a fight between the father, Joseph, and his westernised eldest daughter, Casey. The Chinese cab driver was less assimilated than my father; Joseph was less assimilated than my father; and the pain they seemed to feel watching their children - their misunderstanding of Western values, their sadness at the loss of their own values - makes me feel both guilty and angry.

The Chinese cab driver advocated for the simple life. He wished for a world living pay cheque by pay cheque. He wished for a world of always thinking ahead - find a house before it's too late, find a job before it's too late. He understood a world where you must work to get by, and that is all. He will forever live on the third level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Who cares about finding a job filled with passion? who cares about success and prestige? who cares about enjoyment? Who cares about finding the meaning of life? when the most important thing is family.

Casey in Free Food for Millionaires heads to the roof to smoke after Joseph tells her she must leave the house by morning. She contemplates where she will go - will she follow her rich, white friend to Italy and find a job there for a while; or will she bunk in with her white boyfriend? She thinks of the first time she saw the stars outside of New York and the awe she felt. She looks into windows of the buildings around her and studies the lives of others. She explains to her sister what sex feels like, and her sister studies Casey's impulsive, headstrong, raging personality - one that opposes the safety of Asian values in all their conservative and disciplinary glory.

In the last week I have seemingly exited my quarantine reverie. Suddenly I feel the need to do the chaotic and unexpected. I want to meet new people. I want to go on adventures. I want to try new things. I want drama and excitement and stupidity. Over lunch with a friend I felt suddenly invigorated, and left with a head full of plans. I felt like I was in a new and improved world - like I was a college girl once more, except this time with autonomy.

And then I got in that cab and I could feel my mood crash and burn. My face mask felt too hot and heavy, and my eyes were slowly closing, resolved after attempting to defend my generation to an immigrant man who would never understand. As the first-generation immigrant girl I feel as if it is my right to live the Western life our parents always dreamed of. That's why they moved here, right? They wanted us to assimilate, right? 

And before Joseph slaps Casey at the end of their fight, she thinks "As her father, he deserved respect and obedience - This Confucian crap was bred into her bones." Because it is. These values will forever be a part of me, and it's all so conflicting. I believe it is my right to live my life to the fullest - being one full of the individual, one that implements the selfishness of both the socialist and capitalist views of the West, of looking out for oneself. Meanwhile, the Eastern values of living, which do not fit into this Western way, are sitting in the background. 
And there they may collect my residual guilt.


Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Latest Obsessions #4

I've been leaning into the binge - the satisfaction of knowing full well that you are over-consuming, and grabbing the soft roundness of your belly like the prosperous fat woman you are. The gluttony of resting Ferrero Rochers, one by one, across the surface that is your abdomen, and the dichotomy between the fullness of your stomach and the sweetness on your taste buds... and being totally okay with it. Lean into the binge.

I feel that lately I have been consuming only the world's finest creations - the culture-forming, the most iconic, the ones that are inescapably on my newsfeeds...

Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Beginning with season one: Kim is on the brink of fame, Rob Kardashian is my age and sublimely somehow both cute and hot, little Kylie Jenner is an absolute crackhead, and Bruce Jenner is unfortunately born a conservative with an obvious discomfort towards his own identity. Everything about the Kardashians warms my heart. Throughout all their ups and downs and endearing stupidity, each episode ends with the ultimate lesson that family comes first, always, which is perhaps the feel-good feeling that makes the show so addictive.

While episodes are filled with sisterly yelling and valley girl accents, accompanied by a questionable trashy version of 2000's fashion, there is something very realistic about this reality TV show. Sure some events seem to be exacerbated for the sake of drama, but everything has a sense of uncensored realness, as if the Kardashians are saying, "Watch me. I'm all yours." I am fascinated by how this family came into fame at the brink of widespread social media. The stars were aligning just for them. The world wanted to watch real people in all their realness and people-ness. 

I am fascinated by how this family singlehandedly managed to change beauty standards and culture as we know it. Season one is filled with Khloe's snide comments towards Kim's butt, and come season two Kim's butt is suddenly something to be envied?, and come 2020 the majority of people who seek plastic surgery in Hollywood refer to a photo of Kim Kardashian? Keeping Up With the Kardashians, in all honesty, is a show in which Kim and her family run around just being them. They have no message, they are unpolitical, they do not critically think about their cultural influence... They simply run around being pretty and famous, only they redefined both prettiness and fame. It's the Kardashians' world and we're just living in it.

I never thought that the day I'd ask for my sister's DisneyPlus password would be to sit down for three hours to watch a political musical. Hamilton is pure genius. It somehow consists political rap battles and all the complexity and nuance of history, while retaining that classic over-expressive, thematic dynamic of musical theatre. Alexander Hamilton is rich with words and perspectives, with the recurring inability to just 'speak less, smile more', as people look at him in envy. "How does he write like he's always running out of time?" Oh, what an ode to passionate people with one-track minds who want to live a life bigger than themselves. And his wife is kind and loving and feminine, and while I was never rooting for her, I see power in softness with the show's conclusion. And the one song from this musical - there's always one song from a musical - is Satisfied. I mean... just listen to those lyrics.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
To me, this film portrays everything it is to be feminine. It is not a Matisse 'paint me like one of your French girls' because the painter is a woman. The film illustrates how a woman perceives a woman, in all of her fiery personality, in her laughter, in her sadness, in the things that move her. To be loved is to truly be seen, to feel understood, and to still feel beautiful in spite of this vulnerability. To love is to be hurt by how another imagines you. To play the role of a poet rather than a lover is to truly see a person in this present moment, in all their breathtaking glory, and to want to remember them this way for the rest of your life, even if you never see them again.

Flesh Without Blood - Grimes
When a friend told me that Elon Musk courted Grimes because he saw this music video and thought she was smart, I knew I had to watch it. Grimes is interesting in that she is the imagining of a small blonde Canadian girl who talks like a nerdy teenager. She is an otherworldly character with no inhibitions; with coloured hair and massive sunglasses; a masochistic Marie Antoinette, a menacing angel, a dark basement gamer girl. Claire Boucher says that Grimes is not sweet. She is not cute and she is not pop. She is meant to be scary, and she is fun, and I love that.


Thursday, 2 July 2020

The safety of these four walls

I've been writing a lot about how I've been cracking under isolation lately. My 'artist statement' for my creative writing class was a four paragraph rant about my reminiscence of overstimulation - my craving for people I don't know, places I've never seen, and each day filled with unexpected events. I pitched a piece about how Ottessa Moshfegh's My Year of Rest and Relaxation is bullshit. How the f*ck can one rest and relax for an entire year? And my diary is filled with constant monotonous loneliness. "I cannot stay inside any longer. I need routine and I need new people."

And I really have been seeking for this newness the only way I know how - with a new institution. I woke up this morning believing that the universe was sending me signs. My morning routine, classes and chores lined up so I left the apartment at exactly 1pm. As I walked, I thought, today is a sunny day and it is my destiny that I feel compelled to hand out my resume today, to a comforting place that I know will be filled with new friends and interesting people. And of course, as I was contemplating my destiny Faith by the Weeknd began to play. The signs were all there... until I got to the cinema and they weren't open, and when I returned half an hour worth of adventure later, they informed me that they weren't hiring. I guess fate didn't want me to undergo round two of cinema employment after all. My horoscope has been telling me to "allow things of the past to fade and allow the future to be born out of their ruins." I can't be searching for old routines and old solutions any longer.

I've been noticing a pattern amongst my mid-quarantine self. I self-proclaim that I enjoy being alone, and I defer plan after plan to prove it. I mentally put down the excuse as 'unnecessary social anxiety.' I never want to be as anxious as I was pre-quarantine - where my hustle-culture, pocket-rocket self said yes to every plan and took on every responsibility. But then an invite will come along and I will accept it. It will be with people I feel safe with, people I know well, or people I know I can manipulate, and I will immensely enjoy myself in this little social respite. 

But then I wonder, if I am craving new people and unprecedented events, if I want something overstimulating, then why do I keep rejecting all the remotely scary plans? Why am I constantly searching for new beginnings and new scary people, when I already have so many scary people that I am intentionally leaving behind? 

I've noticed that running and starting over is easy, and perhaps even healthy, when you're young... but as you get older it becomes harder and harder. I'm an adult now and should be settling as people begin to bottleneck around me. High school friends, college friends and friends from my medical degree, my future colleagues; well, that's all the people I really need to meet, right? By now I shouldn't be searching for new circles. I should know who I want to be around and who I don't.

Perhaps this is what they mean when they say "I'm content in my bubble." I've always been a bubble burster: mad at private school for being too sheltered, mad at college for being a world of its own, mad at med school for being filled with the same personality type over and over - but I don't think I ever truly left my safety net. All the scary people outside my bubble I would hang out with until they expired. I learned and observed but they were still at an arm's distance. Not truly understanding them, I left them and searched for the next scary person to fill my void - a constant cycle.

But perhaps by 'scary' I just mean that a level of comfort was missing. We just weren't meant to be. 
Perhaps if people cause me social anxiety, it's not because they are a challenge to my bubble, but because seeing them does not fulfil me.

I feel confused by the comfort I feel lying on the couch with a face mask, hot tea and a television show each night when I could be somewhere more exciting. That couch feels safe. That couch feels predictable. And perhaps as I grow older, predictable is okay.

In my half hour adventure before returning to the cinema I entered a quaint bakery filled with kourabiethes, macarons and lemon meringue tarts. A kind elderly Greek lady stepped out to greet me and interviewed me on the spot. "I'm looking for someone longterm. Do you know what I mean by longterm?" In my twenties, as I finally walk the streets in a style I think is mine, as I wear business clothes to the hospital and drink cocktails instead of tequila shots, as I settle into my own tidy space and my fulfilling friendships, I think a quaint, classy, homely bakery sounds like perfect symbolism. Maybe destiny was on to something.


Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Latest Obsessions #3

Every morning I wake up, make a smoothie and a cup of tea and read. I sit at the dining table with my roommate's plants (God forbid I ever own a plant), sunlight streaming through the balcony windows, and that mirror we have from my old college dorm room, reflecting myself straight at me. My reflection is actually quite sobering, and as a result I've started to make my face presentable, just to appease this reflection me each morning. This homely life with a surprisingly adequate sleeping schedule needless to say results in plenty of time to scour the internet for new things. Here's the latest:

READ: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Of course it takes a book I'd always assumed was about an oppressive strict Asian mother to feel such deep love for my culture. You see, the book isn't a "how to" for torture after all. Instead it's a memoir highlighting the nuances of Asian values and their place in the Western world. Yes, Amy Chua has the same unreasonable psychopathic tendencies as my own mother, but like, on steroids - with the same kind of nonsensical rules that made me want to shake her and scream "Why won't you understand" in the heat of my teen angst. However, the way Chua speaks of pushing her children to be their best, unapologetically expecting them to achieve first place because she holds them in such high regard - that's true respect. And then her children succeed, and are driven and ambitious, and teach their mother a few lessons about happiness and rebellion - and then I read articles about the ultimately delusional Western socialist view of "everyone's a winner"; and Chua's description of the violin as a symbol of excellence, refinement and depth, in contrast to the brashness of American consumerism, fast food and Facebook - and I feel myself swell with pride.

For my creative writing class today I wrote a passage about a jade necklace resting against my chest. It was carved into the shape of a rabbit, my Chinese zodiac. The necklace was a symbol of regality and femininity, of control and poise, in an almost Joy Luck Club elusive intergenerational Asian mother-daughter way. The writing prompt was 'treasure'.

WATCH: Scrubs

My friend once told me that Scrubs, unlike Grey's Anatomy, is an accurate depiction of working in the hospital. And from that moment, I vowed that I would not watch Scrubs until the year I become an intern. If the show is a sitcom about hospital life, then I want to be in on the joke. But with the virus wiping away my first clinical year, I caved. I have been living vicariously through John Dorian - as he gets yelled at by residents, as he encounters patients from all walks of life, as he develops crushes on girls way out of his league - and I am left with nothing but anticipation for my own future, when I will be let out to finally buy coffee from the hospital cafeteria and be exhausted every day like I oh so crave. But for now I live through the comical, endearing life of JD, snacks in hand on my couch laughing out loud. It's just a genuinely good show.

ART: @247.k tattoo artist on Instagram

I made another Pinterest board, about, like, my Instagram feed. I was envisioning a mix between a soft girl and an ABG, like small floral uber feminine dresses and trays of croissants but also completely badass. I'm not sure if I'm playing with a dichotomy between two different aesthetics, two different personalities, but that's besides the point. In the process I discovered this tattoo artist, with her delicate zodiac designs and outlines of sitting tigers. It makes me want to impulsively get a meaningless, pretty, yet somewhat masculine tattoo on my side or my back. Other tattoo artists I've found include @tattooist_basil and @keshna.sana.

The Netflix show starring Ben Platt, Gwyneth Paltrow and Zoey Deutch, to name a few, is amazing in itself - perfectly intense, socially and culturally relevant, chaotic and entertaining. But its soundtrack... the amount of times I've unsuccessfully attempted to use shazam on snapchat, then paused to google 'that song from the politician episode x' is countless. It began with the theme song - the first time I forewent clicking 'skip introduction' was to listen to Chicago by Sufjan Stevens. And then of course, expecting nothing less after last year's obsession with Dear Evan Hansen, Ben Platt belting his solo River for the death of his friend, the impossibly attractive David Corenswet. And then came Yes I'm Changing by Tame Impala, to which I announced to my roommate, "this song is amazing." And then came a fond throwback, with Astrid dancing to Clearest Blue by Chvrches, my favourite jogging song of 2016, one that cannot help but expel bursts of spontaneous energy. And as I scroll through this playlist for songs that have yet to come, I see Troye Sivan, the picture of pretty teen angst; Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, queens of pop; and many many songs I cannot wait to discover from this newfound library.

BEAUTY: blush!

I like the colour pink, almost like an anime character drawn with youthful rosy cheeks. I dust the powder over my cheeks with a small smile, then across my nose until I look positively sunburnt, glowing and girlish. I've been thinking with my new skincare routine, of foregoing foundation altogether. Instead I envision myself buying a liquid blush, adding colour to my skin the same way I massage in my moisturiser and sunscreen each morning, with effortlessly satisfying self-care.


Friday, 12 June 2020

Time Is Passing

My notebook is running out of pages. While my diaries usually span a year, if not more, this dark blue leather notebook is barely going to last me until the end of June. I flipped to the first page in horror, to see that my entries began within the four walls of this apartment and are destined to end within the same four walls. Nothing has happened. And so, on a whim, I fished another two notebooks out of my drawer and decided to title them in permanent marker. 2018 I wrote on the plain black notebook, followed cheesily by consisting the summer I moved out of home and my first year of university - the transition from a high schooler to a girl living in the real world. Then, 2019 I wrote on the soft brown notebook covered in golden outlines of woodland animals, with another corny title: consisting an insecure girl finding her place amongst the people around her.

I've noticed a running theme in the material I've been consuming - of time passing in phases, in people coming in and out, in changing philosophies and careers and passions.

I spent the last two days bingeing that new romantic comedy series starring Anna Kendrick, Love Life. While the show is light-hearted - another one of those meaningless stories about a twenty-something girl living her life in New York City - its timeline spans almost a decade. I follow as she meets her first real boyfriend, gets married and divorced, becomes a mother, and finally finds herself with the job she's always wanted. I watch as her friends end up in their various places, in relationships we never predicted, with problems that only show their heads with time. And I watch as her priorities change, as she matures and learns to validate herself.

I spent the last month reading Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, following four boys from their time as roommates in college, through their various relationships, through their various careers, until their deaths. I watch as the people in their world bottleneck, their circle getting smaller and smaller, and the different ways they deal with this. Just yesterday a friend messaged "as you grow and mature in life, I think you discover more and more what kind of people you like, and by virtue your friends get fewer and fewer," to which I replied that the idea makes me sad. 

As I keep reading, each boy's philosophy of life changes, and time seems to pass like water - so naturally, so tragically, until I'm at the end and the journey is breathtakingly over.

During quarantine I've been reading personal essays, scouring sites like Nearness Project, Uniquely Aligned and BobbleHaus, perhaps searching for some form of individual understanding in these disengaged times. Over the past few months I've read many essays speaking of the 'lack of control' the corona virus has sprung onto peoples' lives, and the anxiety that stems as a result. While I appreciated authors bearing their emotions and souls onto the page, I can't say I particularly related. What did they mean a 'lack of control'?

Today though, I came to the realisation that yes, the corona virus has left me in an ultimately uncontrollable situation. I would never have fathomed that I would be spending 6 months with no real structure to my life, with nowhere to formally be besides this apartment. Obviously the virus has left me in its fateful wake just like the rest of us. But no, I never felt anxiety or anything but a complete, delusional control. I've realised that delusional optimism just seems to be my coping mechanism, my mind stubbornly unshakeable, chanting "You are doing just fine."

And with this understanding that the virus has in fact altered my life in ways I would not have personally chosen for myself, my mind is clinging to this idea of life moving in phases - unpredictable and out of our control whether we like it or not. And so, on my blue notebook that is running out of pages, I wrote 2020 - the corona virus. a time of contemplation. In the grand scheme of things, this 6 months is another phase, one in which we have been blessed with much needed quiet and self reflection. And around us, the world is contemplating too - as people learn to be with their families, be with themselves, tune into injustices external to themselves during this lull in their lives, and simply experiment with a different way of living.

And while this has been an important phase,
life will then return to normal, and this phase will be over and a new one will begin.


Saturday, 23 May 2020

Latest Obsessions #2

In the never-changing environment of quarantine, my only stimulus from the outside world comes via the internet. So I wonder, is this becoming a series?

ESSAY: The Story of Caroline Calloway & Her Ghostwriter Natalie

The nine lives of Caroline Calloway never fail to entertain and intrigue me. There was her 'creative workshop' which ended up being a complete scam but was still honest work (it was so Caroline), her new OnlyFans account (again, so Caroline), and that drama about her breaking quarantine to hang with her new e-boy 20-year-old boyfriend (I die). I'd always likened Caroline Calloway to Tana Mongeau - like, insane but in a bad bitch self-aware way. But this article blew the doors open. Caroline Calloway is NOT self-aware in the slightest. She's like that friend we've all had - the narcissistic, unreliable one who always tells you about their fantastic plans and fantastic stories when you know that's not how it happened, and you know they'll somehow never pull through. But then their entire character is just SUCH A VIBE so you choose to admire them anyway. Like, if Caroline has managed to paint herself as this random-ass famous creative bitch who can do whatever she wants, and her fan-base believes it, then who's to say she's delusional? Like, if everybody thinks she's this person, then doesn't that make her this person? I guess social media can be utilised to solidify an identity in this way, and honestly, it's kind of a great asset. A girl replied to my Instagram story saying, "I just think her whole self aware idiocy is kinda chic sometimes."

FASHION: Peggy Gou's clothing brand, Kirin

I don't think it's so much that I like the clothes than that I like Peggy Gou's entire persona. In her latest Q&A at the Oxford Union she talks about why she left design school: "I realised that I only like styling myself. Styling other people is a different story," she laughs. But now she's a major DJ with a truly amazing Instagram filled with winged eyeliner, arm tattoos, and bright printed button-down shirts and kimonos and jumpers. She's in Bali, then Japan, and she's from South Korea, and apparently she lives in Berlin? She describes her clothing line as effortless. "They look like pyjamas." "They make you feel confident." F*ck she's so cool.

YOUTUBE: Hyram on skincare

This week I did a full 180 towards self care. I began by making the Pinterest mood board above, then proceeded to eat three (and only three) meals per day, wake up by 10am, and ambitiously jog 5km before religiously following my latest Chloe Ting workout challenge outdoors. After relaying these new-found habits to a friend, she told me about her new obsession with Hyram. So of course, the next day, I spent 6 hours watching Hyram's videos, researching, and impulse buying an entire new skincare routine. I feel self-loved already.

ESSAY: How Street Culture Shaped Asian-American Identity

THIS! ESSAY! I love how it talks about how "much of what it is to be Asian-American is still up in the air" because we've always had this immigrant culture of 'keep your head down and assimilate'. We never tried to aggressively fight against racism or define ourselves. History doesn't talk about our major struggles because we didn't have any, or perhaps we just didn't speak up about the injustices we were facing. We never saw them as injustices in the first place. We're worker bees. But street culture changes that. It's a creative space where we, subtly, have a voice, creating an identity through pure aesthetics. My favourite part of this piece describes Anti-Social Social Club as probably the most Asian-American brand around, with a quote from ASSC founder Kyle Ng: "It speaks to the Asian condition. You're anti-social social! It's kids wearing supreme, but they're quiet and shy. How many nerdy Asian kids have you seen that rock the craziest fits?"


And going off that essay, there's a new streetwear brand in town. I first discovered Bobblehaus because of its blog. It's a brand bridging East and West youth culture, with a multitude of essays on their website doing exactly that. And then there's their clothes - androgynous, block colours, simplistic, effortless, confident. I freaking love this website.

MUSIC: Here's the last few songs I added to my 'pop music I run to' playlist
  1. Forever - Charli XCX
  2. In Your Eyes remix - The Weeknd, Doja Cat
  3. Waves - Kanye West
  4. Friends - Justin Bieber, BloodPop
  5. Detonate - Charli XCX
  6. Adore You - Harry Styles
  7. Faith - The Weeknd
  8. Physical - Dua Lipa

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Latest Obsessions

I've been eating chocolate cookies like they're my sole energy source. Two chocolate cookies for sustenance and suddenly I'm finishing a 2,500 word research report in one day. Another few chocolate cookies in the evening and I'm watching a 2 hour lecture on data structures in C. Another few chocolate cookies at midnight and I'm drawing all 9 quadrants of the abdomen, listing differential diagnoses for abdominal pain. Honestly, days are short and weeks are short and time is simply flying.

Here's my obsessions for the week:

WATCH: Now Apocalypse
One morning I discovered Karley Sciortino and spent 2 hours in bed watching Instagram video excerpts from her show Slutever - "Your p*ssy is God", "How cool would it be if you went to school and people were like, this is how to say no, and this is how to c*m. Haha. That'll never happen." She's so blatantly funny. And then I listened to her first Love in Quarantine podcast. And then, finally, I watched her television show Now Apocalypse. Like, I never knew how much I needed to see Avan Jogia (Beck from Victorious) and Tyler Posey (Scott from Teen Wolf) make out until I actually saw it happen - with all these hallucinatory fireworks going on in the background no less. And then there's Beau Mirchoff (Matty from Awkward) doing naked photo shoots and crying a lot. The gender roles are like, completely switched, with Carly, who is a dominatrix cam girl in the most nonchalant, realistic way possible, and this European genius robot lady who only wants polyamory (No monogamy. God forbid.) Like, if somebody made a chaotic mash up of all my teenage celebrity crushes in the most modern, fluid, random, constantly trashy fluorescent environment, it would be Now Apocalypse.

SHOP: Muji
Okay, I know I'm late to the party, but I finally succumbed to buying Muji paper and Muji pens in every single colour (which only came to $14. Why did I ever think this place was overpriced?) and suddenly my notes are BEAUTIFUL. It's literally magic. I can't explain it. My sister speculates that it's the delicacy of the lines on the grid paper. I speculate that it's the perfect relationship between the ink of the pens and the texture of the paper. Overall, I think that the Japanese brand has a keen eye for detail, proving once again that being rash and inpatient will never give you your desired outcome.

WATCH/LISTEN: Jhene Aiko's BS animated visual
Jhene Aiko's levelled up her vibe once again with this anime-inspired music video. Why does she get to do stuff like this? Why does she get to be so cool?

WATCH: High Fidelity
Zoe Kravitz is a record-store owner in New York City who obsessively reminisces over all her exes. She's a sad girl living her best life in the New York art scene. She makes me feel so in tune with my emotions - like it's okay to not know what I'm feeling? Also, she wears this yellow jumper with jeans and low pigtails and looks really f*cking good. And then there was that time she wore a Hawaiian shirt as a... jacket? And that time she wore a massive band t-shirt but tucked it into a pleated school skirt with vans as she tromped into some divorced eccentric art lady's house on the Upper West Side. Can I manifest that?

WATCH/LISTEN: Christian Yu play the guitar on his Instagram
I recently discovered Sydney-born past K-pop star, now video director, b-boy, dude who's been posting his jam sessions on his Instagram. I have a celebrity crush, but it's on a whole other level.

READ: A Little Life
There's a boy with no past. Well, he has a past, but it's so excruciatingly different that he may as well be a blank slate. From birth until he arrived at college he didn't exist. As somebody who attributes much of who people are to their upbringing, this is intriguing for me. You see, people are predictable. Meet enough of them and they all start to fit into (relatively flexible) boxes. The other characters in the book do. There's an eccentric boy from a large encouraging family, a confused boy from a mix-raced wealthy family, and a kind struggling actor from a broken family. But the boy with no past... he's so sad, and beautiful. I'm still only at the beginning of the book, so perhaps his past will become clearer soon. For now though, I can't put it down. This is the book I needed to get me out of my impatient, constantly buzzing, non-reading funk.


Thursday, 14 May 2020

Lady Bird in Hindsight

The first time I watched Lady Bird I cried. It was the summer of 2017/18 - the summer I turned 18, received my acceptance letter to a university in the big city, and moved out of home. Tears spilled out of my eyes as Lady Bird described how much she loved driving in Sacramento, with shots of greenery and lakes in the picturesque suburban town she'd spent her entire senior year trying to escape. I even imagined her describing the excessive roundabouts I love about my small home city, with my favourite road alongside the hills of baby trees, driving towards the mountain and the tiny tower in the distance on a sunny day. When I first moved, the thing I missed most about home was driving too.

I didn't cry while watching Lady Bird tonight. The emotions were there, like a tiny thing of the past, but not enough to bring my eyes to water. Having come home during the virus, I've been marvelling at the beauty of my suburb. I've been climbing mountains with views of the city I know so well - the urban city, they call it; a city built amongst the lakes and the trees; each place marked by my past footsteps - climbing the mountain we drove up the summer of 2016, standing through the sun roof, wind blowing my hair and my face and my eyes, but I just had to keep them open; and finding the rock we stood at before I left for the summer, where we took off our shirts and flashed the barren landscape. Perhaps I didn't cry because this city doesn't mean as much to me as it used to, which makes me sad. In Lady Bird, after reading her college admissions essay, Sister Sarah Joan remarks, "You clearly love Sacramento... you write about Sacramento so affectionately, and with such care." to which Lady Bird responds, "do I?" I guess we all move on.

To me, now, Lady Bird is a reminiscent slice of life. In 2018, Lady Bird was symbolic of my move -  zoned in on that final summer, working shifts, her mother crying, and arriving at the airport. However, now, I see the wider picture. Perhaps Lady Bird resonated so powerfully with me because the story was relatable the entire way through, even towards the end. In 2018, Lady Bird's final scenes in New York seemed scary and surreal: getting way too drunk, saying things she didn't mean, and kissing boys she didn't care about. In hindsight, the moment I arrived in the big city, I did exactly that. And a month later, I was back on my favourite road with the tiny trees and the mountain and the tower, feeling very emotional about it all.

Lady Bird is reminiscent of going to an all girls' catholic school, with the measuring of skirt-lengths, defiantly not saying 'amen' after the prayer during school chapel, and that one girl in class who brags very loudly about the first time she had sex. Now that these things no longer matter to me, I laugh at how we needed a school co-curricular to meet boys. I laugh at how our sheltered minds, who lived off romance movies and young adult novels, could see a boy perform on stage, or at a piano recital, and immediately develop a crush. I laugh at the intensity of school socials, seeing our crush across the gym dance floor and mustering the courage to talk to him. Lady Bird makes me feel seen. It makes me feel less contempt towards my infuriatingly sheltered high school experience, and instead find the humour in it. I learned a lot.

Lady Bird is reminiscent of meeting the boy who is different from all those private school boys. He hand rolls cigarettes, listens to obscure music, and is most definitely a soft boy. He teaches you things about culture, and you admire him. He is so cool. Lady Bird is reminiscent of feeling so out of your depth as you walk into a deserted parking lot where everybody is smoking. You don't know how to smoke, you don't know what to say, but you feel as if you need to act like you belong there. Lady Bird is reminiscent of being high in someone's kitchen, waiting eagerly for food to come out of the microwave, giggling but also having no idea what's going on. In hindsight, I wonder how these experiences could have mattered so much to me back then. As stupid as they seem now, they shaped me.

In hindsight, I wish I'd figured it all out sooner. Lady Bird seems to figure out what matters to her by the time prom comes around. With every experience, she is honest, and wild, and ultimately unselfish. I was not like that.

Lady Bird makes me think about my final year at home with my mum, and all my feelings of not-enough-ness. My mum used to ask me why I was always reaching. How many times would I have to level up before I would be content?
I spent the entire year reaching for ambiguous dreams of leaving the city. Just like Lady Bird's mother, mine pushed back - "How are you going to pay for that?" "Why do you want to get away from me so badly?" She didn't want me to leave. We had the kind of relationship where we would fight every single day yet still make up. An arbitrary conversation could hit a soft point and immediately become aggressive. Her honest comments about whether a dress looked nice on me would make me defensive, because while I told her I didn't care about her opinions, and truly thought I didn't, I think her opinions always mattered the most. In hindsight, I think these were the growing pains of raising a teenage girl on the cusp of independence. I was trying to be convictional about what I wanted, while having no idea what I wanted; and she was finding it difficult to let go.

A few days before Mother's Day, I went through old photo albums from when she was my age. I saw her at 20, wearing the hoodie she's now passed down to me. I saw her at her 21st birthday party, opening presents, her face so much like mine. I saw her a little older than me, with my dad, travelling all around the world. I saw that she had a life, and I saw the parallels between her experiences and mine. I forget that she wanted things too, and that she once moved away from home too. In the final scene, Lady Bird asks her mum, "Hey mom: did you feel emotional the first time that you drove in Sacramento? I did and I wanted to tell you, but we weren't really talking when it happened."

After leaving the cinema in 2018, my mum and I sat in the car in silence. We had both just wiped tears from our eyes, and just like in the first scene of Lady Bird, I brought up my leaving and she got mad at me.


Friday, 8 May 2020

Currently: Feels like I'm on Adderall 24/7

We're well into the second month of quarantine so you'd think it'd be the perfect time to relax. Most people have succumbed to new routines with heaps of free time to do, well, whatever they please. Theoretically I should be tanning, or staring into space, or feeling calm, or like, not feeling like I have somewhere to be and something to do. Instead I feel more rushed than ever.

I won't cook anything more complicated than an omelette because I'm scared it'll take up too much time. Perhaps I just don't like cooking. Even exercise feels like too much of an unproductive time commitment. Is Chloe Ting effective? What's the point of doing a second booty burn video when it didn't even hurt that much the first time round? I can't binge watch shows, or sit through a movie without going on my phone. I attempted watching anime. Subtitles are hard to read when you're distracted. The only reason I can get through an entire 20 minute episode of Community is because I'm holding out for the end scene between Troy and Abed - the best part of the show. My brain is just bzzzzz... like real world rush hour but with instant teleportation, from one safari tab to the next, constantly doing something.

Quarantine has been like this build up of projects. With all that daunting endless time laid out before me, I felt pressured into being productive... doing every single thing I've ever been meaning to do... which is a lot. It started with writing too much on this blog, then learning how to code, then treating binge watching television shows like a race rather than enjoyment:
  • Russian Doll to be completed in a day - what an incredible chaotic New York vibe. I would like to manifest a part of Nadia.
  • Money Heist to take up all my time - I couldn't do it. 4 seasons in Spanish was too much of a commitment.
  • And now Hollywood for the eye candy - It seems as if 1 season, 8 episodes is the largest commitment I can make right now. And even after a cliff hanger, my fingers are still drawn to checking my phone, over and over... I need to assert my opinions. It's a one-way assertion when it's online.
And then came the obsessive writing - personal essays with fake deadlines, portraying ideas half-formed, writing with nothing really to write about anymore, because supposedly nothing is happening. But with the addition of my extremely difficult now-online degree (medicine, who would've thought that would be hard) there is so much happening. I find myself in the middle of class obsessing over different projects. I find myself unable to sleep because I'm obsessing over different projects. I have 50 million passions right now, and 50 million deadlines, and I'm exhausted. I'm bzzzzzzzz exhausted. 

It's a new manic episode every day. One day I'll fixate on making the most colourful, diagrammatic A3 notes on the mind-numbing topic of syncope - textas strewn across my desk, textbooks open, notes on my monitor, notes on my laptop - for 8 hours straight. The next day I'll be sitting on the floor surrounded by 100 of my dad's old photo albums. The next day I'll be covered in glue and scrap paper. I decided to become a collage-artist. I want to learn how to journal with washy tape. I want to do a workout challenge religiously. I want to become a better med student than I've ever been. I want to become a better piano player than I ever was.

I look at my definitive timetable, and our country's almost-definitive situation, and it seems as if things are going back to normal. That endless time isn't endless anymore. In 2 weeks I'll probably be invited to dinner parties again. Restaurants will be open again. Only 2 more online teaching blocks, which seem incredibly short now, and I'll be in the hospital 5 days a week. I'll have to dress up again. I'll have to talk to people again. I don't think I know how to do that anymore.

Quarantine is like a new life for me. I'm in so far deep, a different person. But I'm not emerging a butterfly. I feel like I'm emerging an alien. Nothing from the old world sparks enjoyment for me. Right now it's just me in my bubble, bare face, hoodie and leggings... and I don't really want to leave just yet. There's so much more to do.