482: Remember 2016

I’m not going to lie. It’s been a shit year.

So I ended the previous year on a much different note than the one before. It should have been hopeful; it was not. It should have been glorious and I should have spent it in a haze of unworry; I didn’t. It should have been a lot of things. It wasn’t. Instead–crossing over to the new year was filled with familiar faces and unfamiliar sentiments, my thoughts swirling through familiar things but in unfamiliar directions. It was noisy and fun and through it all my mind went on journeys of its own, often more than once.

That’s it, though. I’m here and I’m not really here. In one place and not another, and in both places at once. At the end of 2015 I went to bed before the year turned and the fireworks went off, simply because I was far from home and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Uncharacteristic. A first. It wasn’t because I matured and I found something better to do with my life. Priorities. In truth I was just lonely. It seemed a better idea to wake up to a new beginning and restart my life on a less complicated day.

The past year has taught me a lot of lessons. I learnt that Hong Kong is fine. That the work is the least of my problems; and when the time came I dived right into it as a means of escape. It’s shitty and the hours are crap, but I chose this life. I hated the city for the most part of the year and gave a million excuses for why I would rather be elsewhere. There were too many people. The apartments were not big enough. The buildings are soulless and the connections are transient and all communication in general is pointless because nothing lasts forever and we all know hearts can change. Then I realised eventually that the reason I hated the city was because it was keeping me away from where I wanted to be. My heart kept wanting to fly across the ocean and never come back. And I resented it because I placed myself in this exact situation of my own accord, and I could do nothing about it without hurting myself in the process. Through the first half of the year I let myself drift through the city, never really being here and never really settling; my body was here and my heart was elsewhere. I learnt that distance really has no way of making love understandable. It’s been a while since we all had to deal with this; we’re older now–you’d think we’d get better at it. But no.

I fell in love, I think. I’m not sure I should have, and I’m still not sure that was what it was. We take chances on so many things nowadays and it seems absurd that your heart, fragile and important and useless as it is, should be one of them. It’s been a long while since I could say this to myself and even longer since I could say it out loud. But nowadays what’s the point in subterfuge? It is what it is, and for better or worse, it makes us who we are. Would I rather not have gone through the entire thing? Yes; maybe; I don’t know. A younger me would give you a different answer and tell you the experience was worth it in the end. Hindsight is usually 20/20 but in this case it’s a bitch. There were wonderful moments but for the most part being in love was more emotionally draining and more trouble than it was worth. I’m rarely this unenthusiastic when it comes to describing human relationships but this one in particular I feel like packing into a box and leaving untouched forever. I suppose I’ll reopen the wound some years later and scrape at it till I feel better; but now is not the time. I suppose all this shows you is only that age is not an indicator of wisdom and if anything we do the stupidest things only because we think that time is running out.

As the months went by I found more purpose. We save ourselves or we remain unsaved, and cycling through the endless launch calls and pricing calls and closing calls meant that we found our escape at the end of the night with a drink or two and a friend or three, without whom the days would have been unpassable. And so it has been. Slowly re-emerging, slowly finding ways to remember who you are. Forgetting. Travelling. London, Scotland, driving endlessly, laughing in the sunshine. Bangkok, with new friends and old friends and much needed hilarity. Macau, with the limitless lasers and snaking queues and drunken escapades through the casinos. Going back home, and home and home and home, all the time, each time with changing emotions. Who knows where else we will go? How do we know where we will end up?

The year, for some reason, brought more downs than ups. It’s sad because in all my years of chronicling the previous year, I’ve never felt as unenthusiastic about recounting my experiences as this one. I suppose it should be good enough that I remember where I was supposed to go at the start of the year. I still don’t know where the hell I’m heading right now. Let’s try, at least, if not to make things right, to make some things happen. The road is still the only way you move forward.

481: think

And… never mind. I’ve decided I don’t really want to know. It’s strange to be caught in this limbo of half-knowledge and half-wants. The world would be a better place if I stored up all my knowledge and kept it in a jar somewhere, and if I curbed this endless desire, this endless curiosity, this endless need to know more and furnish my imagination with the confirmation that only real life knowledge can give.

I want to know things so I don’t imagine them. My mind is too capable of making up stories and worlds that don’t exist. Imagination leads us down rabbit holes from which we will never surface.

 

480: life

Suddenly it’s 2017. Where did the year go? When all is said and done, all we want is to be happy. The easiest things to say are always the hardest things to do.

479: There is no guarantee of shore.

I turned 29.

These days life is different on the other side. The lights are still bright, and the air still yellow with smog. We are subject to the weather as we always are. But the buildings huddle against each other like old men, and through the windows the dreams of thousands leak, like sunlight through the fog. The taxis wind their complicated chains through the city, their meters jumping through each traffic light like hoops, while the roads behind us close up like zips. The clouds are heavy and come from far away. The rain always promises to come, so we put some strange irrational faith in the weather forecasts, counting the days, but all that floats by is dark shadows and the water never comes.

The city is an ocean. Everyone merely beats the waves, against work, against time, against distance, against love. The boats toss. Our hearts follow and rush up and down with the sea.

Once in a while your heart diminishes and returns to reason. The hard drumming dies down to a calm tattoo, the fog clears, and you feel like turning away for a moment or two. Maybe there are other boats, other rivers, other seas. Other lands. Other shores. Sometimes you feel as if you could and as if you couldn’t, and sometimes even turning away leaves us with few places to go. We must find a boat and sail in it. There is no guarantee of shore. The sea remains. Would we burrow inward, through the city and its endless skyscrapers? But the streets are like jail corridors and there are no pots of gold, only more buildings, more rooms, more problems, more rivers to cross, at the end of the rainbow. Should we get out of here, and out of this city? Where would we go? How would we get there? Who knows? Now it must begin, that slow process. The tap must shut itself off, or someone might drown. Meanwhile we wait for the rain to come again. But like everything out of reach, it only comes when it wants to, not just because your senseless heart calls out for it. But the heart wants only what the heart wants.

478: Remember 2015

I didn’t write one for the previous year; I’m not sure why. It might have been because I was too caught up in the whirlwind of the beginning of the year, having convinced myself that I was too happy and had so many other, better, things to do; unknowingly, the first week of the year slipped by and writing about the year that just passed seemed less and less relevant.

Strange because so much has happened in these two years. So much has changed. I began the first day of 2015 uncharacteristically not hungover from the festivities the night before (although what I actually did, I can’t for the life of me remember anymore), waking up at the ungodly time of 6am to rush to my cousin’s house to prepare for his wedding, and then the hubbub of the whole affair died down to just a few family members, dozing by the armchairs of the outdoor bar in Capella, talking about our lives over drinks and tea. It was a sunny day; the weather was great.

Chinese New Year came. The predictions for the year promised great things. I spent the months mostly being optimistic and bored, a fact made more glaringly obvious by the fact that I can’t remember what I did at work (besides drink) nor outside work (besides drink). Life was peaceful and painless, and uncharacteristically quiet. I was alone for the first time in ages suddenly, and strangely enough I didn’t know what to do with myself. And then: I turned 28. There were too many questions. What should I be doing with my life? What am I doing with my life? Do I really want to be here? Is life too easy? Am I going mad? I read more books in the first 6 months of 2015 than I have in the past five years, which just shows what life in practice does to you. I’m not really sure why I jumped back in again — but I did, and now I’m back to stealing moments from work to read a book whenever I can. I talked about it to everybody and anybody who would listen, trying to find someone who could explain to me why I felt this strange disquiet in my head. But I savoured the fact that I had a Blackberry but never needed to check it, ever; I read my emails at the end of the week and nobody would say anything. I abandoned my Blackberry and the thought of endless blinking red lights and the multitude of horrors that it implied, not so secretly laughed at those who were still chained to their jobs, and went out to explore the world, as I imagined I should have, many years earlier.

So, I travelled. Burma; the first South East Asian country I’d visited (other than Thailand) ever. It was beautiful, but I’m not sure I’d go back so soon. Watched the sun rise 300 feet off the ground, us hanging in the air like lanterns. Lazy days by the pool because it was too hot to do anything else, drinking cocktails in the water and reading Burmese Days, just because we could. Watched the city crumble around us and rise again from the ashes of a long, drawn out past. Thought for a moment that I was back where Singapore might have been, 50 years ago. Revisited Tokyo for the first time in 5 years, fell in love with it all over again. Ate too much. Drank up a storm. Did stupid things like go to a club with all our shopping and two huge shoeboxes. Saw the cherry blossoms rise and fall, got cheap thrills out of the cold wind and the sakura-related everything that they were selling, had numerous conversations about what we wanted to do with our lives, our loves, and more. Fell down the stairs the day after I came back, cut my foot, remained invalid for a week. Nearly didn’t make it to Bali, but somehow I did, with my crazy bandaged foot and industrial-strength injury tape and a shit load of painkillers, more lazy days around the villa, gingerly testing if my foot would explode with bacteria if I waded into the pool, reliving nights at Bounty just because we could, and having strange and wonderful walks back home to our villa with drunken friends and drunken conversations. Life seemed wonderful.

But wonderful is as wonderful does and life does what it likes. Somewhere along the way we lost ourselves and for me at least, it took a long time to find myself again. It’s still taking a long time. Maybe as we get older the time seems shorter, only because there’s not that much for you to find. What can you know that you don’t already know? Are there still parts of yourself to discover?

“Just because we could” seemed to be a recurring trend, for some reason. But that’s just it, isn’t it? Suddenly I realised I was no longer 21 and I was not standing on the cusp of my fullest potential. This was either my peak or the best was yet to be, but either way I was no longer at the beginning. I could no longer tell myself that there were this many second chances, that life was always going to be awesome and filled with endless joys and surprises (not that I’ve really ever done this), but when you’re 28 the only way to go seems to be forward. And so you do things, just because you can and there is no other way. We’ve come too far now; we’re too old. Either we try this, or we never do. And if not now, when?

And then where else? There was a point halfway through the year where I asked myself too many questions. The world changed. If it was at all possible to believe, I grew older (again). And then what was there left for me? I wanted to check myself into an island and never appear again. The days passed, and somehow I couldn’t. When I finally did run away it was the opportunity of a lifetime. And so started the camping, the rain, the fireworks, the dancing, the friends… It was tiring, it was amazing. It’s still tiring as hell, but I don’t think any amount of writing really adequately conveys the highs and lows of this year, and even just thinking about it makes me feel drained. And…

Now I’m here. It’s too far and not far enough from home. Here is a new life I never thought possible, and yet sometimes it seems as if I never left. This is a new city, but all around there are old connections. For all that it’s worth and all that I left behind, it was something I never expected to really do. But now I did it, and I’m finding pride in things that I never really expected to. The work is hard and shitty and I’m chained to my job just like I used to be, there are even more late nights and documents and possibilities of going blind, but part of me now knows that some day all this will pass, and I have options, choices, life decisions, alternatives, to be here or there or nowhere, just so long as it’s somewhere my heart is.

I don’t know where it is now. This year turned out like nothing I expected. It’s raining outside the window of my apartment where I now live alone and the only thing I come home to is the sound of myself. I think in time my heart could be here, but every other week I get the urge to fly home and stay forever. Strange because once again I feel like I’m standing on the verge of something. I wonder if this time it’ll take me three years to realise I should have just done it right at the beginning. I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things anymore. And I’m still bumbling through life dreading all the hellos and the goodbyes. But I’m here. Just because I can be. And some day I’ll go home. Just because I can.

There won’t be many opportunities to feel this way again, I reckon. Some days I wake up and the air is swirling with uncertainty, and I think to myself that none of this is worth the battle that goes on in my head every morning. Some days I feel as clueless as a twelve year old kid, lying in bed thinking about her first crush. Some days all these words get stuck in my head and they can’t come out. Some days my heart’s a mess. I didn’t think it would still be a mess at 28, but here we are. Here we are in a city of skyscrapers and heartbreakers. But we’ll make it work. We’ve got to make it work somehow.

We’ll see what happens this year, but who knows. Some days I wish there was someone who could tell me where to go and how to get there. But in the meantime I take long drives in my head to nowhere, and hope I don’t get lost along the way. How is it possible to still be scared at this age? But it’s possible, if only because there’s so much less time left and so much more to lose. We’ll see if we find the correct question to the answer this year. How much longer do we have anyway?

The answer bloody well isn’t 42. It’s yes.

 

 

476: Crossing the Rubicon

I see: endless faces. I find: quite easily, those who try to lose themselves. They come in as the music plays on in the back, their footsteps agitated, purposeful. There is a heavy thump of anger as they call for a beer. It’s happy hour, I say to the uneducated. Most people fall for it, since the mode of transport to hell is irrelevant. Everyone is coasting, in any case; I just provide the oars.

I’m not here every day but these two appear more often than they should. They sit by the bar and as I serve their drinks they leave ajar the window to their private lives. The conversations are never grey or static, and sometimes there is another or two or four people. They laugh quietly, then loudly, then there might be an awkward silence, a pensive mood, when the conversation gets too heavy and too private and someone wants to run away but knows they shouldn’t, not just yet. Two or three agonising seconds later they request more drinks and I save the day. Somewhere else, somehow, a boat struggles to stay afloat. The days fade to the sound of some invisible countdown. They sit closer to each other. There are more words, and too many ways to say the same thing. The air hangs down, heavy as lanterns, and maybe their feelings blur as the music swirls with possibility. Once in a while it’s too much, and they dart outside to recharge. Inside between the drinks, over where I stand, is a river neither of them dares to cross. But they lean towards it, swaying against each other, waiting for the truth to drown them both. Each time they leave the universe readjusts. The rest of them mill around, soulless as flies, and the dances continue amidst the alcohol. I make the rest of the drinks as I am commanded to.

One day, she stops coming. The boat does not sink. The river flows. The universe remains undisturbed. He continues as he always has.

475: Rethinking

I’ve been meaning to write about the things that happened last year, as I always have at the end of the year. I didn’t. I thought this told me something. Six months later, I think it is telling me something else. I didn’t. I haven’t; I will.

What has changed? I thought I would enjoy being free. But I grabbed at time previously because I knew I had none. Nowadays I have so much of it I don’t know what to do with myself, and as a consequence I don’t do anything with it, because I can always do it later. That is the problem with being free. And I’m just a lazy fuck.

Example: Where’s my writing gone? At the beginning I wrote a lot more, simply because I could. But now as I do less, I think less, and perhaps I think less clearly. I meant to rewrite my profile to suit my new life, only to realise that maybe my new life didn’t suit me; and as we come full circle, nothing has changed and maybe there is nothing to rewrite. Am I, as usual, overthinking this? Zzzz.

472

Here’s an unanswerable question of the universe for you. Could it be that I actually like being oppressed? Part of me wants the old solidarity. Part of me is just bored. Part of me finds this new world too new. Part of me just doesn’t want to grow up. Part of me thinks I was just not made to slack. Part of me feels sad that when people talk about lawyer things, I remember less and less.

We’re an age where everybody is still (still!) deciding what to do with their lives. Will we never find out? Do we just keep convincing ourselves that we know where the next road will go?

471: about time

So I was reading my “about” page a few minutes ago — I thought maybe it was time for a change. It’s funny how that one single page, those few lines that you put down to describe yourself to other people, provide a far clearer snapshot of your priorities and what has changed or remained the same about you in the intervening years, than all the years of blog posts combined. And I’ve written a lot. 

I thought all this was lost to me, in any case, because while I write mainly to not forget, who really remembers what revisions are made, draft over draft over revised draft? But those things appeal to me, the changes in words, the documents, and in some strange and terrible and probably psychotic way, blacklines have this weird attraction for me. So you can’t take the Dobby out of me, it seems, and in any case I too wear this pride like a badge on my sleeve, whether I like to admit to it or not. So I might as well, I guess. (Admit it, i mean.) I am a lawyer at heart, and I will still lawyer the fuck out of anyone, given a chance.

But WordPress is pretty amazing. It told me that the first time I wrote my “about” page was eight years ago (has it really been that long?), back in 2006. About the time when I finally decided to move from the old place, and leave all my teenage angst behind. (Well, whatever. I imported it all over anyway, two or three years back. The Internet is forever, whatever you do.) It told me I had made eight revisions, all the way up to now. It might be that I already knew myself fairly well back when I was nineteen years old, or it could just be that fundamentally, most things about me have not changed. But what surprised me was that each of the amendments, though minor, represented a personal paradigm shift. I remembered those times, all the self-doubt, what was happening, why I put it there. And that slowly, slowly, I was changing. Who’s to say I wasn’t growing up? I must have been (I am, I hope), but that wasn’t it. It wasn’t the same thing. 

Now I am changing again. I’m not sure what to say, so I’ll think about it some more. But it might be the first time in these eight years that I am thinking seriously about erasing everything, and starting from scratch. Even if it doesn’t happen at the end of the day (would I really get rid of “alcohol”? I hear the mocking voices already), this thought, this minor thought — this too is the beginning of something major. I imagine this is what it’s like to take journeys, not escape routes. 

 

470

What to say? What to say that has still not been said? What to do? What to do that has not already been done? You’ve always known that some roads are shorter than others. But for all the platitudes we spout, who really expects to take a sharp right from the mundane everyday trundling and crash head-on into an oncoming train? Stuff like that only happens in movies, you say, but you continue to run around finding excuses to be selfish anyway.

Not so, as it happens. The roads are long and short, alternately bumpy and full of surprises, not always good. Sometimes you run, or sprint, or hurtle inevitably towards adventure. You only live once, you say. But mostly you prepare. Mostly you wait, or walk slowly, or take a stroll by the wayside underneath the open sky and look toward the open fields. Mostly you pave these untrodden roads with all the good intentions the world has to offer. There must be a light at the end of the tunnel. But in this world and maybe all other worlds, nothing lasts forever, and we all know roads can change. Nobody quite sees the accidents that are waiting, furtive as thieves, to happen. You are neither a cat nor a baseball player. Strike one knocks you out. You have done nothing wrong. All the logic of this world does not add up and something is rotten in the goddamn state of the universe. But the u-turns on these roads do not allow you to take them.

What to do, then? You suppose you must keep at it. Inevitably the roads get shorter and more insurmountable. Some days you wonder if these are battles you must fight. Some days you wonder if moving forward is really all that necessary. The future up ahead is overrated, you say. Most days you imagine you can fly up and then all of this pain will end. But not yet, and not quite. Who said you would never walk alone? A lie. Who said you would always walk on sunshine? A lie. Who said the experience is in the journey? Still a lie. You suppose you will carry on somehow. The storms, however, continue. The rain ensues.

But remember your invisible, invincible summer.

469: W X R K

So, interestingly, another one bites the dust. And the eternal question: how long can we keep doing this? Why do we push ourselves so hard? Is this normal?

It’s strange to realize that one is busy and not busy at the same time, and stranger to realize that one can be meaningfully occupied (most of the time) throughout the day and still be able to escape when the sun goes down. These are the limits and boundaries that most of the population lives by, the ones we throw out of the window voluntarily when we enter the profession, whether we like it or not and whether we planned it that way or not. This was something we expected and were expected to do and expected from our colleagues and juniors. Everything was planned and hierarchical and everything would come to you in time, in time just like with everybody else, and we dug ourselves into a hole of comfort in which we went about our business in our little isolated world, our only contact with the Great Beyond being the dial tones of conference calls and that sole window in a partner’s room.

It seems trite to elaborate on, whine about, what is essentially hard work. It surprises me to know that life can be so much easier now. To think about whether life is actually supposed to be this easy. It can’t be, right? It makes me wonder whether I am missing out on something, or whether I was too used to functioning on such a high level that it is difficult to come down now. Which is not to say that there are no learning points and nothing to do, but now that I only have ten things to do a day instead of forty, it means my brain is possibly working four times slower than it can. Which is not to say four times slower than it should. I am not at all sure my brain is wired to function four times faster than the average individual, and with twice the number of working hours. Is this an adequate use of my talents (however meagre and few there are)? Probably not. One could argue I was probably not made to take life so easy. My mum in particular would agree. When I was just born, I was told, some famous fengshui/geomancy/whatever person came to see me. I would earn lots of money, he said, in the typical Chinese way of measuring success. But I would have to work very hard to get there. For years throughout my adolescence this sentiment bugged me every time I forgot to consciously bury it. So I thought about this hard work vs. your life thing, probably way earlier than most people. Probably one of the reasons why my ex-boyfriend could never understand why I was so, so terrified of graduating, of stepping out, into this world where I could no longer coast and would actually have to earn my keep. All in all, I can do it, and enjoy it even as I’m doing it (negotiations alone at 3am in the morning? Bingo!), but intrinsically I have a great and overarching dislike of hard work. Who doesn’t? I am a fundamentally lazy piece of shit. My desired state of mind is vegetative. Actually no, not really; but my desired state of mind is thinking about something other than work. And so that is what it is. Brain challenging? Living up to my fullest potential? Could I go much further than on the path I have otherwise set myself upon? Probably. The level of uncertainty for the answers to those questions is astounding. No. I’m not saving the world, but I earn a healthy amount, and as one can probably tell, I am writing a lot more nowadays. I am thinking a whole damn lot more these days. Which is exactly where I want to be. How long it (the way I think, the way others think, societal norms, inflation, monetary stability, my mother’s wellbeing…) will last I don’t know. But I’ve been where I’ve gone. My mum always accuses me of not thinking things through. Yes and no. As regards certain things I am probably the #1 overthinker on this planet. For other things it’s exhilarating to just do. I’m contradictory. As are you. What am I trying to say? JUST DO IT, WHATEVER IT IS. Do it. Carpe that fucking diem, as they say (grammar probably wrong, and fuck that #yolo shit). Be selfish to the extent that you can (haha). For a Chinese girl this is maybe harder than most. But really. Somebody gave up their dreams so that you could have a chance at yours. Waste not, want not. 

But you are not being wasted. Why do you want? (Thanks, Margaret Atwood.)

A few months ago, that would have been an unanswerable question of the universe. But alas. Things change, shit happens, paths get rejigged, the roads retrodden. Yet the majority of us plow on, content to glorify our own labours. Whatever we say, our pride spurs us on, and we all take some perverse pleasure in advertising the insane number of hours we work each day. This was me. With the introduction of normal working hours I have taken away my own right to complain.

Not everybody considers this a trade-off at all. So what do you do when you reach the Promised Land, wherever it may be? Is this a question I have asked myself before? Yes. Anything. The world is full of possibility.

468

I turned 27. The days pass.

So I’ve been reading horoscopes recently, and more than ever before. What they tell me is nothing new in the grand scheme of things, but possibly mind-blowing only because it’s been a long time since I’ve heard it. Something new is coming your way, there will be eclipses this month, planets crash and stars misalign and you are caught somewhere in between, be careful. Be careful because things, new things, may drop in unannounced and knock you off-balance, somewhere between fear and uncertainty. You may have to rethink many existing foundations. How is it that one day life is orderly and you are content, a little cynical perhaps but on the whole just so, and then suddenly you find that the solid floor is a trap door and you are now in another place where the geography is uncertain and the customs are strange?

There have been many articles about the woes of our generation lately, and mostly how technology has transformed our social lives and interactions. Particularly that Rolling Stone article. I told someone recently I didn’t (never did? Now don’t?) believe in true love. S asked, but what is true love? To which I replied, well your question just answered your question, no? And isn’t that the eternal question?

I remembered that answer, and the only question you’d ever want an answer to. The answer bloody well isn’t 42, it’s yes.

467: How much remains the same is the scariest question

Is it really true? I think it is, though I’ve never truly known what it’s like to grow up in a generation unmarked by technology. That as young people nowadays, we are generally shitty conversationalists, having been prone to over-analysing, over-thinking, writing and rewriting endlessly those text messages that flow from our phones. Or our computers, back when it was the medium of choice.

So, that I remember. I was eleven when the Internet really took off. Suddenly the school sent round flyers urging parents to give their kids the gift of Internet; all the better to do their projects with, all these newfangled individualised research projects (God, too many of those…). I got my first e-mail account. I listened to that familiar tone, the same one I heard as a young child over the fax machine with its replaceable reams and rolls of smooth paper, I listened as it became the first recognisable ring tone of the decade, complete with the grey box window that would pop up whenever you tried to dial up. How, as a child and an irritating sibling, one would deliberately pick up the phone during critical moments in order to disrupt the connection. It was exhilarating. Thrilling. The promise of something new over the horizon, all this new and wonderful information, all these sources of information, and a whole new world. My cousin, 6 years older and infinitely wiser at 17 to my 11, introduced ICQ to me at a family gathering. I remember his number — it was 6 digits. I remember mine too, the way I don’t even remember anybody’s telephone number these days. I caught on to a whole new way of speaking. I was eleven. I talked to my friends but also random strangers who asked me how old I was. I always added two years to my age. I got sent porn videos. It’s also kind of disturbing now that I think about it, but back then the world was so big and I had so many things to learn. Back then there were no pop-up blockers, parent-child filters, and the web was a cowboy town and a lawless place. In a way, the Internet forced me to grow up faster than I ever would. That familiar sound (“eh-oh!”) — I still smile when I hear it, and it has become a sign of solidarity, for those who still remember and still recognise. As with “rehi”, the use of the slash to denote an action (“/slaps around with a big trout”), to make someone an op, and back when the hash sign was only used for channel names. A different generation. 

I was from an all girls’ school. Everything was unknown, including boys. Yet somehow they figured in our lives prominently, not least because the Internet helped to speed things along. I remember being in one of those enrichment classes when I was twelve, on a Saturday. There was a boy I thought was cute, in a bright blue t-shirt. We had been in the same programme for years (I had also been eyeing him for years). The programme ended; we turned thirteen. I forgot about him till I went for one of those stupid GEP camps, and there he was, amazingly. I have an excellent memory. I generally consider that a shortcoming. I think I used the age-old line (“Hi, you probably don’t remember me, but …”) — he responded. I think we had e-mails; we exchanged them. I don’t exactly recall what happened then, but we found each other on Napster, back when it still existed, back in its hey day. He sent me music. We talked. I told him I only listened to Class 95 and Jacky Cheung. He sent me more music. (I think we see where this is going.) Then MSN Messenger came on, in a big way. I added friends. He introduced his. I started chatting with more and more people I had never seen, back in the days when there were no digital cameras, no data messages, no way to identify anybody at all other than from the way they spoke online. So much overthinking. The way the change in your username, your font, your font colour, your font size, whether you used alternate caps or a full stop at the end of your sentences, meant everything and nothing at the same time. How you would agonise over whether to initiate the conversation given that there was no such thing as “last seen” and you would never know if he was just busy or did not want to reply, and nobody at 14 could handle that kind of mental trauma. There were times when it made me happy just to see someone log on, even if there was no conversation. This continued all the way up till I left school and stopped using MSN Messenger. A good ten years. There were also handphones. Snake, Snake II, and then Space Invaders, on that indestructible Nokia phone that everybody had. The way your parents knew you were dating someone because your monthly message count went through the roof. How you would avoid the phone ringing in the middle of the night by calling his mobile phone, then he would use his house phone to call your mobile phone, and then finally you would drop off and connect the land lines. Nobody needs that anymore. The art of sneaking thus has disappeared, simply because there is no more need for it. All around Singapore there were shy school going teenagers who arranged to meet at the crossroads of secondary schools — Popular, Junction 8, Orchard MRT, Starbucks — kids who had no idea how these strangers looked like, bringing along an entire army of friends for moral support, heart racing nonetheless. It occurred to me recently that this was more than ten years ago, and more than ten years later people are still doing the same thing. (The other day someone asked me, hey, have you ever met anyone from these dating apps? I replied no. Because I have no interest and no need. But you see.) Blogs came. We over-analysed further. There were all these words I didn’t know what to do with, words that are still floating around on the Internet somewhere, I think. Throughout all this my heart raced and my heart broke. More than ten years later I’m still talking about it. Now I still pick apart my emails. All my sentences are a test.

What’s so different? Nothing much. I’ve been having strange and meaningful conversations with strangers lately. It reminds me of the times when I was younger and I believed that these things would lead me somewhere. There have been requests to call. I refused, not only because it is not necessary, but also because speaking on the phone is a full-time endeavour, and I can’t write, rewrite, analyse. Think. I greatly prefer to write. Now you can’t meet someone for coffee and also bring an entire gang of friends along and like most people, I am a better conversationalist on paper. It occurred to me that the last time I had to deal with this sort of situation was more than ten years ago, and I’ve forgotten how to gently tell someone that I don’t want to meet them without sounding impolite. Or maybe society is just less forgiving towards 26- rather than 14-year olds. Who am I kidding, it totally is.

Just ten minutes ago I went searching for a quote in my archives that I wanted to re-use. I came across a list I made when I was 17, of books I had wanted to read. It now occurs to me I have read none of them still. How much we forget without knowing, only to remember at the strangest times.

466: Remember 2013

So, this post is later than all the rest of the years combined, probably. It’s not even January anymore, and I’ve just celebrated two New Years. I think I meant to say that I would have done this earlier, but given all that has happened in the past month, I suspect the tone for 2014 might have been entirely different had I written this towards the end of December instead. 

Strangely enough, I feel like I’ve spent the past month trying to think about how I should be writing this post. I usually rely on the previous year’s post to remind me of how the year started, but I guess I’ve told the story of what happened in Bangkok fairly often this time round, and that 2014 began in much the same way. 

But, in any case. The beginning — non-stop partying. Six people crammed into a tuk tuk to Chatuchak. Coconut ice cream. Many stories to tell, and much food was over-ordered. 100 sticks of satay. A drunken note scrawled and left by the room service trolley (“I know it’s dark, but — don’t trip”) which maybe should become the motto for the rest of our lives. The sunrises. Eternal hope. Coming back exhausted and yet not. Knowing that “exhausted and yet not” would continue to define the rest of the year, with months and months filled with files and mark-ups and emails. But funny how chance meetings turn out to be fortuitous, and as we stood by the roadside outside a club buried in the middle of a carpark in Thonglor, and I took a bite out of a random stranger’s chicken wing (who had spent a good part of the night hitting on R), we had no idea that we would shortly be seeing him again and again every other Friday (and sometimes every Friday). And so it’s been, this process of constantly meeting new people, at work, in bars, at clubs, an ever-expanding circle of friends, realising that everybody somehow knows everybody else, and that the world is very small indeed. But across the years since graduation (has it really been that long?) it is sometimes disconcerting to find that the ones you thought you might have been close to forever are not so close to you anymore now. Once in a while I think about it and it makes me feel slightly melancholy, and maybe you win some and you lose some, but sometimes the loss is so gradual, so unnoticeable that it takes a while before you realise that a deep connection might have been lost to any number of other demands on everybody’s time. Of which there are a lot. 

Which is not to say that it is a bad thing. Despite all the general angst about my job (although I’m not sure if this is just hindsight talking), I was not profoundly unhappy. In 2012 many people left and then I got thrown into the deep end a lot. And there were many days and nights in front of the computer at my desk slaving away at 3am for deals that I might have been running alone, to shitting out advice I never knew I had in me, the crazy whirl of being abandoned for 3 weeks and running into the conference room for a meeting at 4am in the morning (and what the hell? Seriously). Me getting lectured on contract law with partners with my measly C+ in first year but negotiating derivatives and securities. All this and more, but tellingly, despite everything and the crazy hours and my increasingly insane ability to appear to function on less and less hours of sleep each day, I did not feel like I fucked up. And maybe it’s one thing to realise that while there is always the urge to 远走高飞 to a better place, there is still some kind of fulfillment I can find in my job, if only just to prove to myself that I am capable of doing so. The eternal passive optimist in me probably still believes that there cannot always be just a downside to everything, even if the upsides are often (maybe always) harder to find. 

But still, a better place. Still looking, still roaming, and each year maybe I still want to roam more. What’s to stop you now from doing anything that you can do (especially if you’ve been taught, since young, that you can do anything? I blame my schools for this one)? As I grow older (and older) there are increasingly sensitive questions being asked, and there are a million reasons not to give the correct answer. It could be that these are childhood dreams that I have never really let go of, especially the innate desire to be carefree, or just to think about as little as possible. Last year I wrote that the oncoming years would be spent trying to recapture lost youth — I don’t think that anymore, not really, because I think I was mistaken. I realise the issue is not that I am growing older, because in the grand scheme of things I am, still, pretty goddamn young. This year during my birthday A handed me a can of Red Bull. I can’t give you youth, he said, but I can give you boundless energy. It was strangely touching and witty and also sad, all at the same time. But those words have stayed with me since, and so what this really is is a war against fatigue, which has nothing to do with whether I am young or not. Which maybe explains the continued need for catharsis every Friday through some form of total abandonment (always drunken) despite always, always, always being endlessly tired, why the first drink is always a Jager Bomb so that I can dance the rest of the night away and still wake up in the morning in time to go for brunch or yoga. I do it because I still can, I still want to, and I’m still young. There are still a million things I want to do. Study. Work overseas. Write a goddamn play. Vegetate. I realise I am still (always) trying to explain why it is that I need to do what I do, endlessly justifying, if only to convince myself that there must be some higher power at work, that I am shaped by events and circumstances, that maybe I can’t help it and that all this is outside my control. Or maybe it isn’t and I’m just lying to myself for the heck of it. 

I must have taken a million holidays this year. Bangkok, then Hong Kong, then Switzerland, Italy, Bali, Sydney, KL. Blown an exorbitant amount of money on bags and dresses and other frivolous and unnecessary things. Managed to sleep an epic-ly low number of hours where I went to bed at 4 or 5 or 7am and rolled like a comatose ball into work the next day. Waking up, going back to sleep, waking up, passing out, getting more sleepy, more tired, more awake at night. Eat sleep rave repeat. If I admit it to myself, this year was lived in an entirely selfish manner, and probably on all counts. 

But in between there was all this: new friends, better friends, good friends, fireworks, confetti at sunrise, the pulsing beat of the music with 20,000 other people, maybe some sense of connection, fending off creepy French men, coffee runs at 4pm, punch bowls, smearing lipstick on everybody for the birthday boy kiss, moving office and saying goodbye to cheap food and lunch dates. The world is filled with mad men and we are madder than most. Quiet walks, deep conversations, conversations I don’t remember having, doing things I remember and then doing things I don’t remember doing, drunken movie marathons, discovering new places to hang out, juggling the demands of a relationship during the weekends against my endless unfulfilled desire to have fun. There were arguments, but not that many. Mostly it has been happy and things are easily resolved by logic. I don’t know if this is the lawyering at work here. But it seems to be working, finally (finally), after cycling through naive hopes and starry eyes and heartbreak (not just mine), through the numerous road trips and journeys, forward to the next venture beneath the skies. A lot of beer and laughter. There was little sadness. My life is less volatile than it used to be, or maybe there is just less time to be dramatic about things. The losses were few. I found some time to stare at mountains and soak in the snow. Hung out on the steps outside our holiday apartment, bottles of wine in hand, the smoke drifting up, on the summer nights. Over-ordered as always. Struggled with my weight. Decided to exercise and then not exercise and then exercise and then just to fuck it only to attempt to take control of my life again. I sat on my broken computer for a year. Realised my music collection had not grown exponentially, as it used to, as it should have, because I still miss those songs and all the things they reminded me of. But always, always the conversations, which were alternately frivolous and not, alternately life-changing and not, conversations I’m not proud of, conversations that I struggle to remember. 

I guess unlike the year before there’s no point in wishing that the losses will be fewer, so that part of the Winterson quote won’t get whipped out this time. In the first month of 2014 I have lost more things than I ever have in the past few years. Oh no, G said, I’m sorry. Hope they weren’t irreplaceable, he said, at which point I replied that past a certain point I suppose everything must be replaceable. (A bit tragic, how blase we feel nowadays, about our illusions of the world shattering.) Which they were. Replaceable, I mean. More easily than I thought it would be. It’s always been fairly easy to make myself let go, or otherwise I never would have made it this far without being fucked up. It is a skill I find hard to tell other people about, especially those close to me, who are close to me but don’t really understand, because they have never asked the same questions nor tried to find the answers themselves. And sometimes it is difficult to admit to yourself that there maybe is no real answer. And so what this is, as well, is learning to make the best of the cards that one has been dealt with. You win, you lose, I guess, and still you play. Is anyone else getting tired of me re-using the same quotes yet?

As the year begins I always feel like I am standing on the edge of something big. But this year the edge is closer than ever before, and the something is so big that I am alternately scared and excited and terrified the fuck out of my mind. (That’s 2 against 1, and fear still wins.) But we’ll see. It could be that I go places, it could be that I go nowhere, or maybe, like they say, true voyage is return. But even though I cycle through uncertainty and trepidation and wander fearful and lonely as a cloud, there is at least some hope that there will be journeys to take which are worth taking. 

So. To being young, forever young, and forever on the road. 

464: Undesirable Familiarity

First thing I thought when I walked in — oh no, here we go again. Might have been the smell or those endless rows of beds, but more chilling were the corridors that led everywhere except anywhere you wanted to go. Which, usually, was out. I can’t shake it off, as I told my cousin earlier this evening, that feeling that you’re only ever in there for a reason and of course the reason is a bad one. Nobody ever says “see you again,” in these situations, and over time one gets to know the in-house food options a bit too well. People start making slightly off observations like “Wow, this ICU is much nicer than the last one I was in,” and one must grin and bear it with characteristic good (black) humour or risk going insane. Or breaking down. Or both. Because it speaks of an undesirable familiarity, kind of like how you know what your ex does with his underwear at a certain time.

And, after a few days, here we do go again. As I was telling (yet) another cousin, it doesn’t feel too long ago that I was doing this. Being the one standing there and smiling and packing up the chairs at 11pm. But strangely enough I’ve forgotten how to do most of it, like the process is still new and strange and uncomfortable. When I went in I stood there looking all awkward and unsure, like, are you supposed to be bowing three times? Do I say the prayer before or after I do the bowing? You didn’t tell me I had to sprinkle the holy water! Not a bad thing, all in all, in the grand scheme of things. I think this also falls squarely within the purview of Undesirable Familiarity. I can’t imagine what the undertaker feels like.

What this all translates to, at the end of the day, is an Undesirable Familiarity with your own mortality. Which is not to say that one needs to be all Anthem for Doomed Youth on oneself, but clearly there is still some emotional distance between your young self and your not-so-impending death, since young is as young does and for a good long while, one remains blissfully free from the taint of one’s own mortality. Yet. Yet. The first passing of each new generation is always more poignant than the ones that eventually follow, if only because it marks a new wave of depression and self-doubt and self-medication and eventually funerals. Not of others. But your own.

So therein lies the problem with a family that spans four generations. It could have been for the past six decades you have thought yourself the child, even though you are also a spouse and a parent and a grandparent. And you accepted that people were ill for x numbers of years and went regularly into hospitals for strokes and heart attacks and hip operations, and sometimes it would be a slow decline and other times it would be overnight, but you were never too surprised by the eventuality. Because it was, of course, just a matter of time. Nothing to be surprised about. But a death irrevocably marks the paradigm shift from Child to undeniably, unmistakably, Adult, and even as the generation below you moves towards a blase acceptance of the inevitable, it is you who moves to the new class of people who struggle with those mundane everyday questions of “what shall I do to keep myself healthy”, “how do I avoid going to hospital so often”, “what I shall do with all my property when I pass away” and “what will happen to my children when I die”.

I think it is scary when you find you can no longer avoid the siren song of the end of your life.

463: Sweet summer sweat

Small joys — really small. 

When I was 13, Napster was It. There was nothing like it, and we used it for everything from chatting to downloading (I’m sorry, you meant, “sharing”?) to flirting online with your first love, tiptoeing around social niceties and the wonders and horrors of the Internet, strange and new as it all was (and all together at one go!). The rest, they say, is history. 

History has a way of repeating itself. So, when I was 14, I scrambled to get every video I could find. DVD? No such thing yet (I think). VCD? Concert footage? Pink Floyd? Led Zeppelin? Dire Straits? The Eagles? All in the days of their being wild, being young, in the days before I was even young. Still I watched. I collected. I remembered. I sometimes think, it must have been from there, watching close-ups of all these great players picking away expertly at their guitars, tugging at my heartstrings as surely as they were right here in front of me, that I began to think that I could only love those whose fingers were in the right places, whose tastes in music were in the right eras. Namely, that great period of rock, in which I (and them) was conveniently not born: the 1970s and 1980s. It is funny how we always think we love more those things we cannot see.

So, there was this one video. Memorable mainly because at that time (and those times after), it reminded me of a boy who could play just like that. But the boy came and left, and the crackly moving video remained, and from time to time I would re-watch it and let the music, those fingers, the smiles and the way they sounded the damn bloody same — take me away. It was 1977, in Houston, the Capital Theatre. Rehearsing Seven Bridges Road, rushing into the concert hall. Don Henley, sounding the same as he did 35 years ago as he does today. The drums. Glenn Frey. But those two guitars. Those two guitars

My computer crashed when I was 16. I found it again, which was easy in the days when these things were easy to find. I watched it during those cold days in Tilburg when the snow was outside my window and my mind still felt frozen. When I came back in 2009 my computer crashed again. But six years later, reality has set in and these things are no longer as easy to find as they used to be. 

Once in a while, when the urge takes me, I continue the search. There are many videos of them in 1977, some even taken by a member of the audience of that very same live show. But I’ve watched it so many times, too many times, to know that it was not That Video. 

Until today, when the urge took me again. I don’t know why it took me so long. But I found it. I Found It. It’s one of those things, you know? It’s like the times where you think in your head about what is going to happen when Love #1 pops up in front of you and asks you about what’s going to happen from here. What is it that you really want? What do you want to do?

I don’t know. I don’t know. Don’t know where I’m going, not going where I’ve gone. You can’t travel old roads, but you sure as hell can keep them in sight. 

462: Remember 2012

I feel like every year is a struggle to recap every memory that I’ve accumulated over the past year, but part of me feels like it will all go away if I don’t write it down somewhere. This is especially since the work week leaves little time for rumination; or if it does, it leaves even less time for writing it down. Things go by in a blur, mainly (and probably) because things which happen are generally the same things, week in and week out, and none of it is particularly worth remembering. 

Case in point: I don’t remember how I spent the new year, crossing into 2011 — or at least I didn’t, until I read the previous year’s post. Then I spent it working (and working and working), going out every Friday night, till it came to a point where I was too tired to do anything other than sit somewhere and chill the hell out, purely because there was so little time to do any of that. But none of this is really worth noting because these descriptions will be the same each year, and I consciously refrain from naively thinking that any of this will change in the years to come. And maybe it finally is time to admit to myself that I have to grow up, whether I like to or not. 

What else is there? There have been too many extremes this year. So many people are getting married (maybe it is the season? The age? I guess), but there have been far too many losses. Days spent in the hospital, rushing there after work (and I am beginning to realise that maybe they deliberately kept me free so that I could run off on time, or maybe it was some kind of divine intervention, but in any case work was slow and there was still time to spend, together, by a bedside, filled with endless tubes and medicines). Flower parades. Prayers, family gatherings (funny how families only knit better together after a major loss), coffins, processions, hearses, funerals, a bit of mindless levity. To recover for a while, and then to have it all happen again. It would be incredible if it were not true. But why would anyone lie about this sort of thing?

I miss her, we still do. Strange how these things manage to make families closer together (some of the time), and we find ourselves doing more and more things together, or perhaps it is because the shadow of impending loss is now removed and for better or worse (and even if we might be afraid to admit it), we all feel marginally less burdened by it. So there were family lunches (that have not occurred all too often), increased communications, games, drinks, boat rides, after work dinners. Good is good, but if I never stand in the viewing chamber of a crematorium ever again it will not be a moment too soon. 

I have a feeling that the coming years will be spent trying to recapture lost youth. Trying to recreate feelings that seemed so new and momentous and stupendous, that made me want to hold on to it forever. And do it again and again and again. As a result I feel like my thoughts are no longer new, and even the sense of euphoria which we constantly aspire to through concerts and endless jumpings, the pulsing beat and the aching legs and the alcohol and the boys who pick you up — well, that’s just it. Trying to be back to something. Back to Bali, where we were young and stupid; back to London, where we spent endless nights just being Singaporean; back to Bangkok (I still don’t know how I feel about Bangkok, but that’s too complex and deserves a separate post by itself). I felt best when I was drifting through the night in the haze of music on the beachfront, not thinking and not worrying and just enjoying. I had no other purpose to be there. I would go just to feel it again. It makes me sad that it cannot always be like this. But maybe I would enjoy it less if it were always like this, though it cannot be the case that any of this is worth all that other pain. At least I think, it cannot be.

People talk about being depressed when they see the blue sky turn to grey to black in the confines of their small office, but in our firm success appears to be measured by the size of windows, and right now ours is a small pane of glass that looks out not into the messy sprawl of the CBD but the endless scroll of shopping options that pop up incessantly on my secretary’s computer screen. Sunlight appears to require rationing. It is as if we do not require any, and that unnecessarily depresses a person. It will be a long time before we graduate to the kind of level that entitles us to a window where daylight is allowed to stream in unmolested. But well, some people are more equal than others.

I liked Melbourne, and with good reason, since it has all the reasons why I should like it. Bookstores, cafes, bars, not much shopping (but no matter), good food, and I was not a stranger in a strange land. But what I liked more (and this is true of every holiday) was not having to think. Or do anything. It unsettles me when my desired state of mind is vegetative. Case in point: K gave me a Kindle for Christmas. This is one of the high points of the year, even though it came at the end of it. But all I’ve read on it are science fiction novels, fantasy novels, and romance novels. Things that I otherwise would never spend money on (but also partly because I tear through them) but also things that otherwise would not require much brain power. Case in point: my writing, if it even exists these days at all, is less reflective, less lyrical. Even my angst appears to sound less beautiful (haha). A dried up well of lost plots. 

This sounds like a whinefest. It probably is, because the general sense of drudgery appears to overshadow most of the good things, which are often numerous but have little impact. When I was younger I felt like anything could happen. When I was younger I was taught that anything could happen; I could be anything I wanted to be. This is probably true still now, but maybe the problem is that I don’t know what I want to be, or whether I want it enough. I feel like these days we keep setting ourselves up to fall. 

Where was I? This was meant to be an actual post in which I try to drum up all the honesty I have within me and give myself an account of the year to remember. But the truth is I remember less than I ever do, and everything bleeds into everything else. I’m stuck in a rut and I don’t know what to do. I think the aim for the year will be to find some direction, though chances are that I may lose myself searching for it. Maybe take some time off, go travelling (properly). Find a new job? Find a real job? Find something that allows me to do things that I didn’t previously know that I wanted to (because I didn’t have time to want them)? It appears to be a race, before the time runs out on me.

Like they say — “you play, you win, you play, you lose. You play. It’s the playing that’s irresistible. Dicing from one year to the next with the things you love, what you risk reveals what you value.”

May the losses be fewer this year.

461: it’s those restless hearts that never mend

All those times ago, you knew. Those were the times you felt most alive, thinking about your friends around you, sitting by the canteen during recess time round a round table, playing pretend-war with your cardboard drinks. When you were in junior college you hung round the edge of the building, staring across the courtyard, perching on top of your little hideout (and of course it was, who else went there? Your own little elitist paradise. Your moral high ground. What else was it?), waging mock battles across the lecture theatre. 

There we were, brown in our uniforms, sometimes white and blue, each the same as the other. Every day we ate the same things, did the same things, pulled the same tricks. I slept in almost every class. I had a whale of a time. I brought my own cushion. 

Now my cushion is being dry cleaned, and it will come back pure and new, for a new work day and many more late nights. I have said this so many times, but something has changed. When you are working day to day you feel nothing and you think nothing, but when the nights come and you are still awake because this is the time you are always awake (and still working), you remember the times when you did nothing. Thought about everything. Had thoughts about everything and wanted to write about everything. These days we are quiet and tired. Sometimes I think I drink mostly just to remember how I felt when I had nothing to care about when I was younger. 

Which is not exactly true. But nostalgia is powerful, and always available when you need it. At the end of the day the memories only get better with time. Were they really? I’ll never know. But as with these things, they are only what you think they are. 

Tomorrow I will be on a boat. Sleep is precious, but weekends are more so.

460

It’s been a very eventful (and long) four months. I feel like I keep getting thrown off-course by some unexpected frustrating event, and each time I try to just, you know, settle down, something else comes along again. In between all the funerals, the holidays, and the sicknesses, it seems as though I will never be able to get down to work, and to be honest I’m not sure if I want to. As it is, everybody knows that my attention span is woefully short. 

It’s not that I hate my work. But I’m just — bored. And while I’m bored, I don’t want it to become any more exciting, either. Really all I want to do is sit around and bum. And be on holiday forever. Sit in front of my computer and blog about what I’m cooking or doing today, finding beautiful stuff on the web, etc. But you know. Reality hits. 

I spent the flight back from Hong Kong sandwiched between two Chinamen. It was a strange experience (and certainly not wonderful). Strange because they were clearly on two ends of a spectrum, both about the same age, and clearly heading to Singapore for the same reasons. But one was dressed in a business suit and tie (tie? On a plane!) and the other, tanned and weary and in a polo shirt and presumably his best pants and shoes. Presumably, because by no other person’s standards they would be considered so. Yet he was flying a fairly expensive airline, which puzzled me. And it continued to puzzle me as he fiddled with the inflight entertainment controls like he had never seen them before, handled the cutlery like he didn’t know what to do, and spooned a bite of the Haagen Dazs icecream before making a face and leaving it by the side. I felt a pang of sympathy when he looked around and everyone seemed to have headphones (but he didn’t) and he could have looked under the tray table to find them (but he didn’t, and didn’t know they were there) and he also could have pressed the button to ask the stewardess for a pair (but he didn’t, and he didn’t know he could). I wondered if I should have helped him. I wonder if he would have appreciated it. But I didn’t, and I felt bad. 

Ah well. I feel restless.

459: go forth

How long has it been? Every time it seems you get weaker and weaker. It is not enough yet, to just go. I wish that somehow I could tell you that this too will pass, but my Cantonese is not good enough, and I know that it is not true. All I can do is talk to you, stay with you, make you laugh for a while. Maybe that is all you need, and time. But all 95 years have gone by, and maybe you think that you have already had all the time in the world. I want to tell you there are people who love you, though you are old and weak, though you are useless. That love is what keeps the rest of us going, in the hope that when we are your age, other people too will love us the same way. I know that in the middle of the night when no one is around, you lie half-awake through the medication and think about how long your life has been, and how it is already long enough. But above all things, there is someone watching over you, as there is for all of us, and there must be a reason you are still here. You’re a fighter, and we will fight with you. 

458: the well of lost plots

You could think about all the ways this could have ended. But at the end of the day, the road never leads to wherever you want it to go. There are routes planned, ways to end. I keep imagining a highway running all the way down the hill, you driving the car down the slope, a vision of the city appearing beyond the horizon. Like the world is before you, and everything is possible. Then you drive all the way to the bottom only to realise that nothing can be done. You always think there is a chance at reconciliation before you remember that the anger is more than the heartbreak.

How does it end? Will it end? Does someone have to give in? Could it be that, after coming full circle, to where it all began, things will still never be the same? There are too many stories about walking the long way only to realise that what you wanted was right in front of you. But at the end of the day, even to cross the road is difficult, and is a lifetime apart.

When the night is dark, it is painful to realise that, perhaps, you are the only one that wishes things were different.

457: remember 2011

Wow, how does one even begin? The beginning of each year is always so far away in your memory. It feels like you have to dig through so many things just to find the exact time all this started. Strangely enough, I don’t remember what I was doing at the exact moment the clock turned. I think I was at somebody’s house, I was possibly cheering with somebody with something in my hand; mostly I remember lying on somebody’s couch with two other people, and funny how that turned out. Our band of three quickly moved from one broken heart to another, then drifted away, then somehow we became four, fantastically and strangely, and now we seem to be back to two again, and everybody finds their ways in life, or chooses to go back to whoever they should love best. 

I started work. Work is a shitty thing, and it leaves no time for anything. The days pass as quickly as they come, and even though the week seems so long, Friday always comes soon enough, and when you look back on the past five days everything seems blurry and nobody knows where the time goes. When there is time there is always time for alcohol (and sometimes there is only time for alcohol), when we stumble out of our offices half-dead when the sun is always down. 

We went away. Every year I go away, because it’s just fine to get away and out of this city.  This year it seems worse, because the buildings are always the same every day in and out, and they press on you like dead weights. But this year there is no over-arching theme, no journey of self-discovery, no epiphanies. Or maybe I’m just too tired to think about any of that? These days I want to just leave everything behind and give my brain a rest, pretend I’m a kid again with no responsibilities, and I wonder how far it is that I’ve come and how far it is that I still have to go. But this year — it seemed like I went back to a lot of places, that I haven’t been back in years. So much revisiting. KL, America, Hong Kong, Fukuoka. To MAF, even, where I have not been back since second year, looking down from LT5 at the little kids and the little lights and the mass dances. As if after the previous year’s whirlwind explorations, it was time just to get back to where it all started. And it was strange, going back to see things you only knew as a kid. But I saw new places, and I loved new things. I never thought I would love open spaces, because I am a city girl, and the night lights are what draw me back to cities that never sleep and are always open with something to do, and something to see (and something to eat). But when the roads go on forever and all there is is nothing, more and more of that nothing, even the nothing is beautiful. When you are driving everywhere, always going somewhere, always stopping by, always thinking, looking, just being — it’s a great feeling. I felt free, with my head up over the sun roof snapping pictures like a crazy kid Asian tourist, far away from reviewing agreements and figuring out what derivatives were and drafting and amending and proofreading… 

This year I had hopes. Things happened. Things were bad, but bad things always get better. And funnily enough, though there may be no end to this tunnel, sometimes we find others in that darkness. It is good to have someone to conquer cities with, to walk side by side with you, to know where you will always be going even as you do not know how, to endlessly be able to see into the future, where things will not be as shitty as they seem now. It is a good thing, to have someone to journey with. It has been a long time since I felt like this. 

But every year it seems there will be something you pray you have to be strong about. To tell yourself that if you can handle this, you can handle anything. Last year I said that I will never be fully prepared for just how unfair life can be. I don’t think I ever will. Every once in a while, the child inside keeps emerging to ask “why me?”. There is no answer. It is a bit disheartening to realise, that no matter how old we are, some part of us will always be children. But adults have adult responsibilities, and have adult facades to maintain. We can no longer cry or hurt like we used to. There must be a new way of coping, of being strong, of going forward despite everything. Every December it will seem as if there is something to be strong about. Sometimes I feel like if I mentally prepare myself for this it will be better, but I’m tired of thinking that letting my guard down is a bad thing. We often wish that life would be simpler, and so we try to make it so. No strings, no emotions, no consequences. But our quest to keep things simple always leaves us in a mess that manages to get more and more complex. It would be easier to acknowledge that sometimes, it is not possible to not think about things and hope that they fly past you. But sometimes facing the problem alone is enough to want to make you give up the battle. But what else can we do? Be strong, be strong, and pray that each year will be better than the last. 

The last year passed in a quiet blur. No parties, no hoo-ha. Just a few people round a table, drinking beer like we always do, as the seconds passed and the shutters went down. Every year it is the same wish, and maybe this year more than others. I still wish life were simpler; and I still hope that I will be happy.

456: yes, here is a lot of teenage angst

It’s January, and I’m way overdue on a few things. My brain is fried from work and I would like to tell myself that if I distract myself for long enough, things will pass me by quickly enough. But things never pass as quickly as they should, and so we’re still stuck. Luckily, there are small joys. 

I am tired of pretending to be positive. There are times when all I want most is just to be able to sit somewhere, undisturbed. Alone. But time is so tight and so short, and there are so many things to do, always so many calls to answer, from everyone and anyone, and times like these you wonder why on earth do you promise someone that you will always be there? I used to, when I was younger, when there was more angst to go around and there were more broken hearts to assuage. Nowadays as we grow up, the calls come less, and not just because we hide our heartbreaks better. Nowadays I am tired of hearing the same old things. Nowadays I am tired of saying the same old things. I am tired of always being the only one, and knowing that at the end of the day, I will always be the only one.