December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014

Here we are saying goodbye to 2014. Ah how time flies so fast. Well, I didn't achieve much this year. But I must say that 2014 is the year of so many firsts. I spent the whole year teaching primary and high school kids. It's one of the best things I've ever done in my life, a wonderful job and I love those kids. I also bought my first iPhone as the reward for my own effort and I think it's gonna be my last phone (or not. Lol.). And this year, Ifo got his first job at Essem Corp. ^^ Annnnnnddd this year, on 23rd December, marks our 6th anniversary of being together. 6 years and counting. ;)

Also, since my mother has retired from the government in September, we started a small family business: catering. We cater for any events or occasions that require some food. We had our first experience on catering for 2-days Islamic Program in our neighborhood which went so well. We've also signed contract with soldier camp at Lokkawi and now we're catering for the army field commanders and some officers (I don't know what to call them) everyday during breakfast. It's been great so far. I don't mind getting up at dawn to work at the kitchen with my mom. Cooking is a fun thing to do anytime anywhere. 

Besides, I have another reason to get up before sunrise: fitness routine. I've been running and doing some workouts that I learned from Youtube; squats, sit-ups, push-ups and burpees. Morning is the perfect time to do my fitness workout. Well I don't quite know why I start doing it, I just do it, you know. Even my mom says I'm not too fat to exercise. But it's not the matter of losing weight actually (I'm underweight, for the record), maybe I just want to be fit, maybe I want a body like Jennifer Lawrence, maybe I want to climb Mount Kinabalu in 2015, or maybe I don't need reasons at all. Just do it. 

I don't want to write about my new resolutions. Apart from being too mainstream, it never works. I mean for me..please, don't let my words ruin your spirit. I do think about my goals..short term and long terms, but I'm not gonna write it down here. While we're all faced with different circumstances, our journey of trying to feel whole, improve and face our trials is the same. No matter what goals you may have for this new year, may I suggest that you look at your life and your beautiful self with gratitude. And depending on where you are in your life right now, even if you can't think of much to be grateful for, be grateful for the opportunity you have to change. Even if your circumstances are not changeable, YOU can always change and become something greater than you are.

And, as we work to improve ourselves, may we not dwell in negativity because of any weakness, flaw or inadequacy we have now.  May we go after our goals with all our hearts? Yes! But dismiss that harmful script in our head that says, "we aren't good enough."  Instead, as hard as it may seem, let's accept that our weaknesses are necessary for us to improve, and embrace them and be grateful for them. That tiny change in perspective is huge. Have faith and be patient. That's what I've learned in 2014. 

Have an awesome 2015. Happy New Year!

December 22, 2014

Blog Manifesto

I'm learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me. - Tracee Ellis Ross

I was 17 when I started blogging, nearly 18. I was fresh out of school and unclear on how-to-live-my-life-and-live-it-well.

There's something really joyous about blogging then (oh do I sound old?). Blogs were sort of deliciously imperfect. And I needed that in my life. That joy, that delicious imperfection. Very quickly, blogging became a lens through which I could see the world: the details, the absurdity, both the loneliness and loveliness of everyday life. And it became a way to reach in the direction of the future at a time when my personal future felt very tenuous. I couldn't imagine life beyond 20, couldn't imagine getting better, or growing up, or anything after.

There's an Elizabeth Gilbert's quote I think of often:
Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing.

Some part of me knew that at 20, ill as I was, my life's changing. And If could recognize it as it's happening, bear witness to it, then I could transform the most heartbreaking moments of my life into the most meaningful. So the purpose of blogging, for me, was to document the in-between-ness of my life. To document this difficult, but important, events.

For the record, I realize I'm still in the in-between. But I feel a hell of a lot closer to one end than the other. I didn't know that I'd like writing so much, find so much meaning in it. Didn't know I'd fall so hard for words and their endless variations. I like blogging. But I don't know if I like what has become of it. Can I say that? I'm gonna say that. Let me explain. It seems to me that as blogging has evolved it's become far more commercial, but what this means is that more and more blogs look the same, feel the same; similar content, similar interface, and a sort of homogeneous cultural refrain: happiness as the ultimate end.

We're bombarded with images all day, every day, on television, the internet, in magazines, that make the desirable life seem just beyond reach. Images that make us want things we have no use for. It's a pretty simple formula actually: put something that has no immediate value to the consumer, next to something beautiful (the aesthetics of beauty having a higher value than almost anything else) and suddenly it becomes important, desirable.

The thing about blogs now is that they seem to be selling a way of life, one in which nothing bad happens. In which everyone's always cheery and smiling and dressed in impeccable and expensive clothes. This is nothing new of course, we as a culture and country seem to have cornered the market on happily-ever-after. But the thing about blogs is we think of them as non-fiction. And that's where it gets tricky. We mistake a very small, very edited slice of life as the whole of the thing. And few things are as they seem. Images flatten, words distort, and photo filters enhance.

I like fashion blog as much as the next person, I really do. The pictures are like candy, immediately satisfying. But here's what I wanna know: who can really afford to wear Jovian dress, carry a Chanel bag, and dress their arms in Tiffany & Co jewelry day after day? Certainly, I can't. And do I need to feel bad that I can't? It's that second question I worry about, because that's the question that sticks around longer than the immediate hit of pleasure. And that's the question that, if I'm not paying attention, sort of chips away at my self-worth.

Perhaps other people don't have the same experience. But what if they do?

I understand that depicting total realism is impossible and not the point of blogging. I've heard time and time again bloggers explain that their corner of the internet is their space and therefore they have the right to choose what they share. But we don't live in a vacuum. And shared content goes into the world and has an effect. Free speech is sort of a misnomer, isn't it? Because it's free to a point. There's always a cost..we just don't always know what that cost is.

Of course I believe in personal responsibility and accountability, that we can't entirely control how what we say is received. "Perception is reality" is one of those principles that drives me nuts because it's such a lazy way of unimaginative. And let's be honest, you can't reason with crazy. And if a crazy person perceives you as crazy, does that make you crazy? But the thing is, much evidence exists to prove that the onslaught of doctored images in favor of "flawless" bodies is extremely damaging. So what about "flawless" lives?

I took this blogging break to work on other things, but also to give myself some time to figure out if I wanted to continue. And the thing is, I do. Because I actually quite love it. But for the last few years I've attempted to reconcile what I love about blogging with what has come to be expected from the medium. And I'm not sure I can. Or that I need to. But what I did feel like I needed to do was create a governing set of principles to remind me of what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

 A Blog Manifesto

1. This is a writing blog. Not a lifestyle blog.

2. I do this because I love it and it has meaning for me but if I stop loving it, I will stop doing it.

3. I'll occasionally be abstract and private, but I'll do my very best to never paint my life as something it's not.

4. This space is a part of my life, but only a part. If it ever gets in the way of living, then enough.

5. My purpose here is to document what has happened (and occasionally dream of what might be). I believe the moment I do something specifically for the purpose of blogging about it, it cheapens the experience and undermines the content.

6. I have no interest in distilling my life into a three-sentence-bio.

 7. I believe in women. I believe in women who speak up for themselves and ask for what they want and demand more out of life. I believe in a woman's brand of intelligence and wit and grace. I think we need more of it in the world. I want to see more women in leadership positions, more women who aren't afraid to ruffle a few feathers. And I believe because we live in a world that is tremendously connected, the bonus is on each and every one of us to encourage the full realm of a woman's potential.

8. I'd love to say that I'll blog every day. But it's just not possible. There's only one of me and I can't generate that much worthy content. So I'll blog when I can.

9. I'm not interested in more content for the sake of more content (or more clicks).

10. If you're uninterested, move on, I'm not counting numbers.

11. And if you come here and then head elsewhere with the sole intent of gossiping amongst internet strangers...well, I just don't get that. And for the people who run and moderate those blogs, I'd like to ask what value you think you're adding to the larger world?

12. Maybe that's the question I want everyone to ask: what value are we adding?

13. I've met more than a few internet mavens whose lives seem far cooler and more vibrant online than they do in person. They have secured a niche and figured out what works for them and that's great. But my goal is, and will always be, that if someone were to meet me offline they'd think me just as they imagined. I'll very often fail at this, but it's nonetheless my intent.

14. I write the best version of myself, always. But I do believe that's a very different thing than writing a different and better version of myself.

That's what I got. And hopefully it's still a little deliciously imperfect.
Too long? Sorry.

December 16, 2014

Run Baby Run

It's been interesting for me to see what keeps popping up on the blog, the topics I return to again and again: writing and places and spaces, colors and lists, tiny moments from the everyday. For whatever reason, though, I never wrote about running. Well, I used to be an avid jogger. I'm not an athlete but running was a big part of my life when I was 18, 19, 20..the center of my sanity, really. Those great moments..went to sport track every evening (that's where I met Ifo for the first time. Hah.) and ran like my whole life depends on it. But then I went to college and stopped going to track even it's just few minutes walking from my hostel.

I believe that sports were the relief of the day, the cutting loose after hours and hours spent sitting at a desk. But I don't really do sports, so I turned to running. Well now I'm not an overly enthusiastic runner. Not really a consistent one, either. Because, well, let's face it: some days it's just not happening. Some days, sleep feels better than any run ever could. But when those days turn into weeks, that's usually a sign of my disposition and I can say with confidence that running is the marker of my state of mind.

When I look back on the roughest patches of my life, the times that I lost myself, or someone else, I realize that running was absent. Whether it's because I didn't have the energy, or the time, or the drive, it just didn't happen. As soon as my feet hit the pavement again, things began to turn around, each and every time.

If I had to say why I love running, if I had to explain what it does for me, I think it has something to do with the memories it carries. When I run, I sometimes feel a bit like a kid again. Like I might be part of a police-and-thieves game, or playing tag, or on the soccer field. My senses bring me back to those moments: steady breathing, aching legs, sweaty face. I love running because of this: for once, and for one heavenly hour of my day, my mind moves from the mental to the physical. I stop worrying, stop over-thinking, stop planning and re-planning, stop making mental lists of everything under the sun.

Instead, I listen to my breath. The pounding of my feet. My heartbeat. And it's listening to my own heart, I think, that saves me, that brings me back to myself. It's the only thing that keeps me present. And isn't that the best way to be?

Since I've got a pair of new shoes (thanks, bae), I've been running a lot. I'll take that as a good sign. So let's run.

December 15, 2014

One Night at Circus

The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones. - Erin M., The Night Circus

The Great British Circus is in town!!! 

I went to the circus with my friends on Saturday night at Likas Sport Complex. It was my first experience ever and it's truly amazing! Oh what's not to love? There were funny clowns, acrobats, wheel of death, globe of death, flying trapeze, etc. Mesmerizing! You should pay a visit too! It's worth every penny. Even now it brings a big smile to my face. Plus, we got the chance to greet and take pictures with the performers. They're so friendly! 

The fun didn't just stop there because we headed to Escapee after having some McDonald. Yes, we played the escape game again! Since we're still in the mood of circus, we chose to play in The Circus room. It's the hardest among all the rooms. We challenged ourselves to win or break the record. But damn, we lost the game. We're already at the end of the puzzles, we're on the verge of the last door but we ran out of time and didn't make it. I think if we had 10 more minutes or so, we could win. You see, fighting against time is one of the hardest battle in the world. Time couldn't be kept at bay huh. Still, we had so much fun!!

December 4, 2014

Always Betting on You

As you might already know, Paramore has released a Selt-Titled Deluxe album recently and I'm truly psyched about it! I dropped by at Hayley's blog just now and read one of her entries. Well, as a fan, I sort of cried reading it..I don't know, it's like she wrote me a letter. Hahah. Here it is:

Embarrassingly, it’s been a little while since the last time I did any sort of bloggin’ whatsoever. Now, I find myself near the very end of a long year having said nearly nothing about it! What a year it’s been for Paramore. Taylor and Jeremy and I are so thankful, so exhausted, and so satisfied. Thinking back on everything from The Self Titled Tour in OZ to launching “Ain’t It Fun” on one of the biggest pop stations in the country, to Parahoy and Monumentour… I just don’t know that there’s been another year in our career that has felt both this sentimental (like show #2 on the cruise) AND this triumphant (like having our first top 10 single at top 40 radio) all at the same time. It just keeps getting better, you guys.

2014 really changed me in a lot of ways. I guess it’s one reason I kept away from blogging and sharing as much as I usually feel inclined to. I grew up a lot and the process wasn’t really expected, nor was it always fun. Since the top of the year, I’ve gone through a “break-up”, a “make-up” (YAYWOOHOOO!), had a really promising hair-dye business opportunity completely fall through, got sick a TON of times on Monumentour and had to cancel shows, and just got plain tired. Well, we all did! Oh, I also got a dog (YAYWOOHOO!). The reason I’m saying all this is to show you that even when things look simple or wonderful on the surface, there’s always a battle to be fought. Don’t let it stop you from getting where you want to be. It’s not about where you think you should be, or even where you think you deserve to be. Where do you want to be? 

I’m so eternally 100% absolutely ridiculously grateful for people like you who have given my life, as well as Jeremy’s and Taylor’s, a major purpose. We are constantly learning along with you. Existing along with you. Singing along with you. But more than that we are always FOR you. This is so cheesy, omg… but you can’t water down the truth and when you do, it loses all its power.

I hope that, at the end of this year, you realize how the hard times made you. I hope for you that you allowed those times to make you better. I would bet that you’re better. 

You already know about this but, to bid 2014 goodbye, we’re leaving you with a re-release of our Self-Titled album. The re-release includes tracks from our favorite show on Monumentour, which took place at Red Rocks in Colorado. We didn’t originally intend to ever do anything with the recordings. It wasn’t planned. We just loved the show so much and felt it embodied the rawness and the fun that we had with you over the summer. The songs we chose to include from that show are mostly ones that weren’t on The Final Riot (save for “LTFB”, which we just HAD to have since we played that and “Part ll” back to back!). These recordings are un-touched and though they’re not perfect, we are psyched that we caught it on a recording because it was so special for us.

The re-release also has ALL 3 B-sides! Maybe you’ve already heard “Escape Route” and “Native Tongue” but there is noooo way you’ve ever had the pleasure of “Tell Me It’s Okay”. It’s such a cool song. I’m so happy we finally found a home for it. For whatever reason, at the time, it just didn’t fit the album. We never even finished recording it! This is the scratch demo that we recorded all in one take while Ilan was tracking drums at Sunset Sound. I later added some harmonies, Taylor threw an extra guitar bit here and there, and that’s pretty much it! The lyrics were always important to me and very true to that particular time in our band’s life. Maybe I’m giving too much away here but… it IS okay to be happy NOW. 

Lastly, there’s the duet I did with Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars) on “Hate To See Your Heart Break”. We recorded our vocals (to the original track) in Santa Monica, CA about a week after the Monumentour ended. Joy has been a friend and a mentor of mine since I was just 12 years old. I met her, by fate, about a month into moving to Franklin, TN. She was on her own musical journey and I was chomping at the bit to start my own… (little did I know I would meet the guys like 6 months later). Joy has been an incredible example of strength, perseverance, faith, and grace throughout all the years that I’ve known her. I always wanted to be able to sing like her and being able to duet with her actually felt like an amazing tribute to the inspiration she’s given me. Taylor and his family are also close with Joy and he is actually the one who brought up having her on the song. It’s the first time we’ve ever collaborated with anyone as a band and we’re all really really proud we were able to invite someone into Paramore’s world who completely understands multiple aspects of who we are. Whether you’re a Paramore fan, a Civil Wars fan, or you just like pretty songs… This one will satisfy, I swear! 

Alright, this is long. I’ve typed for DAYS. My fingers hurt. I’m a little rusty! I won’t take any more of your time, except for to say this: we love you and we can’t wait for what’s next.

Always always always betting on you, 

*shedding tears*

Now I leave you with 2 of Paramore's songs from Self-Titled Deluxe.

December 2, 2014

Escape and Evade

Yay! My friends and I got a chance to play escape game at Escapee, KK! There are 3 different rooms: The Circus, Time Travel and Prison Break. We chose Prison Break. We had to solve a series of puzzles to escape the room within 1 hour.

First of all, 1 hour goes ungodly fast when you're in an escape game. You know all of those times when you wished that time would go faster? You never have that problem in these games. By the time the clock is running down you'll be begging for more minutes like you've never begged before.

Secondly, the puzzles challenge your brain in ways that not many attractions can offer. You're forced to think and work with your team to solve challenges that you don't normally face. We did so hard to try to figure out the locks combinations in order to unveil the next clue.

We had a complete blast playing this room as it was challenging enough to keep you completely engrossed in the game play, but not challenging enough to be discouraging. We learned a lot in our first escape game experience, including the fact that you really need to work as a team in order to be successful. Another thing we came to realize is that you can't look at the same object for too long. It's a waste of time! Get fresh eyes to look at something if you're stuck. They were inventive and really made us think outside the box, which was very fun. The clues led to a code to unlock the next step of your game, but how the clues were put together was totally different, so it was lucky that we had some "geniuses" in our team.

It's not easy, but we made it! We escaped the room in 52 minutes, just 8 minutes before the time's up. Ultimately, it's a great way to spend time with friends. And teamwork is the key. We had so much fun. It tests your intellect without making you feel stupid. We'll definitely be coming back to play again!

November 18, 2014

Grief Is..

My grandmother was a tiny force of a woman. When she died, she was so light. They say moments live on in your bones, like words layered brick by brick. You're a skeletal foundation of stories and your knees are muddy. I cried at her funeral and the sound of death broke on my skin, falling like rain.

I started this post, "Grief is..." and couldn't find words. I laughed at first, but it's hard. A sad little knot in your stomach. It's hard when something you do doesn't come easy. It's hard when one of your things, your way to process and pull apart life and say, it's still good, still beautiful, feels foreign. Like realizing you're speaking gibberish and you thought it's a language. Unsure. Hesitant. Tasting out words on my tongue and trying to remember if they're the same. I'm reading what I write and telling myself I can't delete the words. That to put something out there, anything, is better than nothing. That the first step to get through is to dive deep.

It's messy. I say that about everything. But life's messy. It's gory. It's gritty. It's unpredictable, in a laugh so hard tears come out your eyes and ache so hard you stay up all night weeping way. I read something on weeping the other day and it hit me right in the face. One of those pieces where you breathe a little deeper and shift in your skin. Because someone tapped into a raw place and pulled out something still beating. Someone put words to it, like touching a frosted glass with cold fingertips. Brushed the edge of something.

Weeping is not the same thing as crying. It takes your whole body to weep, and when it's over, you feel like you don't have any bones left to hold you up. - Sarah Ockler

I had chills when the word weeping caught my eye and I was crying at the end. Maybe that sounds silly. But to be walking through long and lonely moments only to turn and find someone next to you, saying, I get it. That's a relief. That's what's so delightfully, deliciously, dearly human about us. That we're not alone.

Grief is a funny thing. It's unnerving, unsettling. I start to write a sentence and stop. Everything is heavy. There's a weight we carry, unconsciously. Grief clings to our back with cold fingers and we hunch over to compensate. Curl up, close in. I need to apologize more, because I'm so damned shaky. I'm sorry, I just feel so unsettled. I've said it more than I can count to someone. I'm sorry, I feel so uprooted.

The irony of feeling uprooted when my 2014 word is seed isn't lost on me. What I'm trying to say is. I'm sorry that it takes me so long to reply. I'm sorry that I cry about stupid things. I'm sorry that I ask you what you think twice. I'm sorry that I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, especially now with that last sentence. I'm sorry I snapped at you.

It's just. I'm so tired. Of waiting and hoping. The hoping is what hurts the most. It's like carrying hot coals close to your chest because just a little further on, there's wood. That's what you believe, anyways. It's coming. But the journey, staggering forward and faltering's numbing. It's exhausting.

I feel sapped. I feel heavy. I feel unhinged, in a quiet, curl up with my cat and cry it out way. I gain weight. I cut my hair. I'm tired of writing when everything feels old. November is turning me into a hermit. I want to throw off the stale scent of indoors and last year and scrub everything clean. I want to strip back to the foundation and rebuild with good wood.

I'm waiting for this earth to unthaw enough to plant something new. I don't know. I don't know. My hands are shaking and my head is spinning and all I can think is, the days are lengthening. I make my coffee in the morning. I say yes to green tea. I'm practicing being kind to myself.

Sometimes, it's enough. Right now, it's enough. Grief is. And maybe it's not grief anymore. It feels different, not quite so raw. Maybe the swelling has gone down and it's a sad, slow sorrow. Maybe it's an undercurrent, not the whole melody. The days are lengthening. Thank God it's not the end.

November 16, 2014

A Routine

There's really nothing better than waking up early, taking a walk around the area, then sitting on the porch swing, coffee in hand, watching my cats stir and awaken. The air is still, the sun bright and warm without being too hot, and my mind clears. Opens itself to the day.

When people ask whether I have any writing rituals, whether I have to do anything special before sitting down to write, well, this is probably the closest thing I have to a routine.

Because the real secret? Well, it's just to sit down and actually write. Don't feel bad if nothing comes to you right away, that's not the point. The point is that you're giving yourself the time and the space to do something you love. And that right there is enough to feel good about, don't you think?

November 14, 2014

Of Becoming an Adult

Do you still remember those times when you're becoming an adult? Did you experience this? :

There was a time I spontaneously decided that I was ready to be a real adult. I don't know why I decided this; it always ended terribly for me. But I did it anyway. I sat myself down and told myself how I was going to start cleaning the house every day and paying bills on time and replying to emails before my inbox overloaded. Schedules were drafted. Day-planners were purchased. I stocked up on fancy food because I was also planning on morphing into a master chef and actually cooking instead of making instant noodles. I prepared for my new life as an adult like some people prepare for the apocalypse.

The first day or two of my plans went okay. 

For a little while, I actually felt grown-up and responsible. I strutted around with my head held high, looking the other responsible people in the eye with that knowing glance that said "I understand. I'm responsible now too. Just look at my groceries." At some point, I started feeling self-congratulatory.

This was a mistake. I began to feel like I've accomplished my goals.  It's like I think that adulthood's something that can be earned like a trophy in one monumental burst of effort and then admired and coveted for the rest of one's life. 

What usually ended up happening is that I completely wore myself out. Thinking that I've earned it, I gave myself permission to slack off for a while and recover. Since I exceeded my capacity for responsibility in such a dramatic fashion, I ended up needing to take more recovery time than usual. This was when the guilt-spiral starts.  

The longer I procrastinated on returning phone calls and emails, the more guilty I felt about it. The guilt I felt causes me to avoid the issue further, which only led to more guilt and more procrastination. It got to the point where I didn't email someone for fear of reminding them that they emailed me and thus giving them a reason to be disappointed in me.  

Then the guilt from my ignored responsibilities grew so large that merely carrying it around with me felt like a huge responsibility. It took up a sizable portion of my capacity, leaving me almost completely useless for anything other than consuming instant noodles and surfing the internet. At some point in this endlessly spiraling disaster, I was forced to throw all of my energy into trying to be an adult again, just to dig myself out of the pit I'd fallen into. The problem was that I entered this round of attempted adulthood already burnt out from the last round. I can't not fail. 

It always ends the same way. Slumped and haggard, I contemplated the seemingly endless tasks ahead of me. And then I rebelled. Internet forever! LOL.

November 4, 2014

The Joy of Choosing

Lately I've been thinking a lot about balance. I've been thinking about moderation and stability, about pushing hard but knowing when it's time to pull back. All too often I find myself in a "go, go, go" frame of mind that I'll maintain just as long as I can, usually until I burn out or get sick or someone tells me that I need to dial it back. That I need to breathe. All too often I'm 10 steps ahead of the present, my mind lingering somewhere in the future until I realize that the here and now is passing me by.

In reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, this idea struck me: One of the hardest things about being an adult is realizing that while you can do anything you want, you can't do everything you want.

This, I think, is one of the things I've struggled with most. I've always wanted to be out there, somewhere, to write, to be a children's book author, to design shoes, to name crayons, to teach, to act. And yet, I was forced to pick one dream from the giant pool I'd been collecting for years. Decisions, truthfully, have never been my strong suit. I crave the security of a black-and-white choice, but at the end of the day, I tend to feel a bit more comfortable in the gray area.

Still, I chose writing. When faced with the potential of anything, when I had to choose something, I opted for writing. Language, words, the end of the day, I knew that's what would make me happiest. And part of growing up..a marker of maturity, I accepting that there will be days when you say: What if?  But then there are days when you wake up and pinch yourself because you get to do one of those things. You get to see one of those dreams come true, and isn't that enough?

It is. It's more than enough. And it's in that epiphany in that gratitude where joy's found.

ps: Thanks for your feedback on my previous post! ^^

October 31, 2014

Everything has to Start Somewhere

I've been afraid to say it aloud (much less in print) but here it goes: I'm writing a story. Should I call it a novel? Yikes. I'm not sure yet. But I'm really writing this time. 

For whatever reason, I've felt too nervous to tell anybody. I've felt nervous, embarrassed, worried that I'll seem too bold or presumptuous or some other terrible, negative adjective. I need to mention it, though. I need to see how it feels when the whole thing becomes real.

See, there's been a cast of characters dancing around my brain for the past few months, and their story has slowly come into focus as I've opened myself up to the idea of actually writing it. But the truth is, I've been scared. Really, really scared. The idea of writing a novel carries its own weight, its own pressures and assumptions. What if I can't finish it like previous times? What if I do and it's no good? What if?

The what-if fears have been plaguing and paralyzing me forever, but hey, why not huh? So I don't finish. So it's terrible. So what.

As I slowly but surely move through this complicated story-writing business, I'd love to know: what's the best, most inspiring or helpful writing advice you've ever heard? If there's any?

October 30, 2014

On Love and Looking In

Recently I was talking to a friend about relationships, about the ones that work, the ones that don't, the ones that would have worked or could have worked, and the ones that probably, definitely never should have worked. Eventually, inevitably, the conversation turned to ourselves.

I love talking about relationships. All kinds, really. But I especially love to hear what people have to say about themselves in relationships. It's interesting, isn't it, to think about who you are to someone? To think about the best, worst, and strangest parts of you, all tangled up in love and sometimes loss and sometimes everything all at once? To think about what it's like to love you?

In my younger age I went through a handful of dark and heavy things that forced me to look inward. To look at myself and my place in the world, at why I was who I was and what that meant and where that would take me. I learned to reflect and look inward very early on, too early, maybe..and that, coupled with my writing habits of stepping outside a moment, make me self-aware.

And it must be interesting, so to speak, for better or for worse, to be in a relationship with someone so drenched in that sort of awareness. I think about how odd and tiring it must feel to be in a relationship with someone so aware of moments, someone who steps in and out of them and back in again, all the while internally narrating the ifs and the buts and the maybes. And then I think: seriously, Aemy, stop thinking so much.

Once, in college, a girlfriend joked that our friendship would steer her straight into therapy. She said that my self-awareness is rubbing off. I cracked up, knowing all too well what she meant. We eventually became roommates, and no, she didn't end up in therapy. But there were a lot of late-night talks. And snacks and movies.

Still, that stuck with me, the idea that my self-awareness was something other people were aware of, and that my tendency to reflect might somehow wedge its way into my relationships one way or the other. For better or for worse. I found myself thinking about those faded friendships and relationships with a new sense of clarity, a genuine empathy, realizing what a real turn-off that might be for someone who'd rather not look back or inward. Because not everyone wants to doubt and change and shift and evolve all the time. And that's okay.

I talked to Ifo about what that friend said back in college and he agreed, saying my sense of self is a tangible part of me. I felt a bit embarrassed, then, at 1st, a bit ashamed of that curious, sensitive piece of me. But then I thought about what it all meant, because if it's true, if that piece of me somehow really does rub off, then how lucky I am to be there when that self-awareness strikes, when those walls come down. How lucky I am to grow into relationships with people who look in at themselves, and at me, and who hold both of us accountable for being our best and truest and most sincere selves. For better or for worse.

October 27, 2014

Let our Scars Fall in Love

We're all seeking that special person who's right for us. 
But if you've been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there's no right person, just different flavors of wrong. 
Why's this? 
Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way.
But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. 
And it isn't until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems, the ones that make you truly who you are, that we're ready to find a lifelong mate. 
Only then do you finally know what you're looking for. 
You're looking for the wrong person.
But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person, someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, "this is the problem I want to have."
I'll find that special person who's wrong for me in just the right way.
Let our scars fall in love.

October 20, 2014

You Listen and Let Go

Sometimes you know and bury that knowing underneath petitions like, I should do this, or this is expected of me, or people will be disappointed...and that process is called forgetting. Trying on faces and wanting them to fit..but they don't and this is called confusion. 

By this time, you've forgotten what it is and wonder what's going on and why's this not what you thought. Small things trigger small thoughts that remind you of that thing, the knowing. Seeing an image in a perfect swell of music. The stars. Driving past yellow lights in the black of night. A moment that triggers a dream you had, but before you can stuff it away, you grab the ends of it by the hands and say, wait. And, what's that?

This part of yours that knows is like an old friend that you lost touch with. Only now, you're remembering how things used to be and how you wanted them to be and how they aren't that way now, so you suck it up. You call her up. You apologize. You say, "tea?" with a sad laugh. And when you get together, it's awkward, hesitant, neither of you look like you remember. 

You're meeting a piece of yourself that you pushed away for years and coming to terms with who you are. You're looking yourself in the face and saying, I don't know you. But you sit there. You drink your tea. You have another cup, force yourself to be still. But most importantly, you listen. You don't interject what you thought, what you think. You listen and not say a word, and when she's done talking, you're weeping. Shaking from apologizing. 

Calm down. Now what? And she's saying, well, you know now, you remember. So, go do, kiddo. And you're laughing, what, it can't be that easy? But she's got a smile borne out of waiting and shakes her head slow, sipping the rest of her tea. It's not that easy, but it's that simple. You know. Her smiles slips and she's serious now. To not go after it now is to say your desires don't matter. That your authentic center isn't worth it. That your deepest beliefs and truest hopes and realest loves can't measure up. That your story, message, song isn't enough. Don't do that.

Now you're at the door and you can choose to part ways, say let's talk again soon. Or, you can listen. And you can let go of what you thought, of all the shoulds and coulds and woulds. And you can be brave enough to start over and live out what makes you come alive. You know, a part of you knows, that the same part in your heart that stings listening to this music or cries from that film or feels lopsided and soft in your hands is the same part that knows what you're supposed to be doing, what you want to be doing, what's your thing. Maybe it's like finding out that you knew where home was the entire time, that it wasn't where you thought or what you dreamed, but upon discovering it, walking into it, you realize it's better than what you thought you wanted.

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.- Joseph Campbell

October 14, 2014

If You Love Something, Set It Free

If I knew that there's a happy ending at the end, I wouldn't be afraid of letting go. But that "if" strikes untold fear into me. But then again…I guess that's what love is…you love them anyway, despite the fear of pain. ;)

October 12, 2014


Lately, for whatever reason, I've been having a lot of conversations about relationships and friendships; why some of them work, why some don't, why others sort of straddle a strange line between the two. Almost always the conversations begin and end with empathy. And really, that's usually what it boils down to, isn't it? Understanding, appreciation, insight. All those words that run along the spectrum of what it means to be a compassionate, self-aware sort of person. Of course, someone can be as kind and as thoughtful as they know how to be, but that isn't always enough.

Wait, I take that back. "Not enough." That's a phrase that's always bothered me a bit. "Not enough" for what? For who? So often I've heard someone say, "I did everything I could, but it just wasn't enough." Or, worse: "I wasn't enough." To me, that isn't the point. It's not that you aren't enough for somebody else. It's that you aren't enough for you in that relationship, because whatever is or isn't between you and another person doesn't make you feel good. That's the point. It's how you feel about yourself, not how you imagine you stack up against some made-up measurement or expectations.

Because here's the thing, if you're putting your all into something, fully invested in a friendship or a relationship, it better be a something (or someone) that makes you feel good, right?

October 7, 2014

Perfect, Sweet-Filled Birthday

3rd October 2014 was my 24th birthday. And, inevitably, I find myself considering where I am, where I've been..whether I'm who I expected to be at this age, whether I'm doing what I expected to do. Truth is: I am and I'm not. Some things have fallen right into place, right where I always imagined they would. Other things, though, have been surprises. Good and bad ones. But all of it, I'm very happy to say, feels right. As if it's inevitable. Certain, in the most wonderful of ways. And if I have one wish for 24, it'll be holding on to that. The feeling that everything, even the unexpected, is just as it should be.

When asked how I wanted to spend my birthday, I said I just wanted to spend it with the ones I love. Just like in the past. I didn't expect any cakes, gifts or celebration. But actually that's what I really got.....

After having a movie night (Anabelle..stupid creepy doll) and sleepover (it's been soooooo long since high school) with my girls (Farah and Jana) at Farah's place, Ifo took me out for a date on my birthday. It's a simple, lovely date; just me and him, watching Dracula Untold (awesome movie!), eating pizza, talking and talking and laughing. And hey, I got new books! If I stay and Where She Went, both by Gayle Forman. 

Two days after my birthday, we went out again, with other friends this time. It was raining heavily outside and I thought that something hot or soupy would be nice, so I suggested to eat at Natural Kitchen. But Ifo insisted to go to Secret Recipe, so we did. When we got there, Selvin and Russel were already waiting at the table. They hadn't ordered anything but plain water. Then Ifo excused himself to call Jasper outside, so we waited for them while browsing the menus. 

Few minutes later, Ifo and the rest appeared at the stairs; Ifo (playing ukulele), Desmond (holding a cake), Jasper, Mark and Carol. They're all singing out loud a Happy Birthday song, clapping..and I was....oh my God, I was so speechless, so surprised..I didn't know what to say. I just laughed and felt touched and ashamed at the same time. Touched, because I didn't expect any of those and it's been so long since I had that kind of surprise celebration..embarrassed, because everybody in the restaurant was looking at me and clapping along. Suddenly I became the centre of attention. Lol. It was all Ifo's idea..he'd been planning everything for almost a week, he brought The Baks and Wonder Women (girls group consisting me, Carol, Nelly, Fytt and Etha, but only Carol available that day) together as a team to celebrate my birthday. How nice! They even made a secret group chat to discuss the whole things. 

It was so sweet and wonderful. Thank you, everyone..thank you so much for surprising me good, I owe you guys a big time. I'm so grateful to have you guys in my life. And darling Ifo, I can't thank you enough..I love you. :)


I'm a happy birthday girl

the cake was awesome

my sweethearts

I love you ^^

October 1, 2014

And So, You Get Up

Sometimes, life's heavy.

You don't notice it at 1st. It's like collecting stones. You start slowly, gently. At 1st, you can't feel the weight. Then it becomes harder to notice what's in front of you. You can't see the scope, the slope of the landscape, because you're focused on carrying the foundation. It's easier to shoulder it all and numb yourself to the weight.

But there's that place. That point where you read your threshold, your valley. Maybe you've walked for so long that you're bone weary and ringed with grief. Or perhaps you ran, the entire way, and your breath's knocked out of you. And you realize you don't know where you are, how you arrived. You look back and see that you've missed the markers, missed the milestones, missed the moments. Too busy holding onto the heaviness of the journey. It's been like that for so long that you're afraid you won't know who you are without it.

You have to let it go. To not go apathetic. To not go numb. To not go quiet. Don't let sorrow swallow your song. You need to be awake to the world, to life, to yourself. It feels like running for the 1st time, like stretching your shuddering muscles, like walking in the cold dew of morning. It stings. You start in the dark, with only the promise of sun. There's no light to outline the path. It doesn't matter. You've forgotten the road anyways. You've walked so long without one that trails are unfamiliar and foreign.

There's no hiding from brokenness. There's no running from grief. Some manage to evade it for longer, others find it knocking on their door daily. It has a face you cannot forget, leaves its calling card everywhere it goes. We're each stitched with ribbons of our every heartache, except, some of us are frayed. Even the best of us have tears.

Sometimes it feels easier, better, to go cold. To give into the pain and become numb, and once again, pick up the skeleton of who you were before grief marked your face. To let your heart harden. Lock it away and melt the key and live in the motions, never the moment. At the very point of pain, it seems less exhausting. But passivity's a silent slow killer, a lie that laps away at the texture of life like water on the stone.

And so, you get up. You keep moving though your bones ache. You walk until you run. You hum until you can sing. You catalogue small things until you can once again take in the scope. You choose to be awake. It's surprisingly painful. It's sobering to look around and realize you have forgotten what it means to be alive, for so long. It's October and you're barefoot and the ground has still not thawed.

Breathe. Again and again. Dive into the core and pressure point of your pain, the heart of your ache. It's red hot and white and bitter black. It shakes like starlight. You swallow it like stones. But you emerge and understand, it hasn't added a layer to your heart, but a ring. It's not a mark, but a message.

The thing about being awake is you notice things; good, bad, beautiful, painful, sorrow, sweet, bitter, broken, dizzying between everything. You cry more. You laugh deeper. You understand broken things and encourage flowers to just be. You find your soul sprouting little green things, that the roots of the marrow of being haven't left after all. And it's painful, the fire of wakening running like blood. You've been asleep for so long feeling's foreign.

But you begin to appreciate what's small. You begin to breathe gratitude. You stumble on meaning, find grace woven alongside ache. It's not easy, it's not quick. It's gradual, a journey. This time, instead of collecting stones, you're collecting colors of the sky. You jot down thanks and let them go wild in the plum breath of the evening. The smear of jam on toast, black coffee in the morning, a walk in the evening that lingers.

Look at the trees, how they burn. Look at the fields, how they deepen. Look at the world, how it cries. It's a choice to go deep and live through your pain, to feel it all, to choose to be awake to what comes. Bravely, when the time beckons, to let it go. Knowing that the struggle and searching builds strength, story, a song. Only, you'are alive and present and find the words to sing inside you, and they were, all along.

September 29, 2014

Two Against the World

read my review in Goodreads

I began reading fiction in high school, I remember feeling that each book was an absolute revelation. Whether I was reading Jane Austen or Jodi Picoult or John Green, there had never been anything like it before in my life. The novel's novelty passes, of course. I'm 24 now. I've read so many books. 

But I've never seen anything quite like Eleanor & Park. Though I've wrote the review in Goodreads, I still want to blog about it. It's Rainbow Rowell's first novel for young adults which is a beautiful, haunting love story, but I've seen those. It's set in 1986, the year I hadn't born yet but I know there's bullying, sibling rivalry, salvation through music and comics, a monstrous stepparent, and I know, we've seen all this stuff. But you've never seen Eleanor & Park. Its observational precision and richness make for very special reading.

Eleanor is a chubby girl with bright red hair (kids on the bus call her Big Red) who has just returned to her home in Omaha, after being kicked out for a year and forced to stay with acquaintances. Every moment Eleanor is home is terrifying and claustrophobic. She shares a room with a mess of siblings and lives in constant fear of offending her abusive alcoholic stepfather, Richie. She's also poor, she can't afford a toothbrush or batteries for her Walkman.

Park is a half-Korean boy who's passably popular but separated from the larger social order of his school both by his race and by his passion for comic books and punk rock music. On the 1st day of school, Eleanor sits down next to him on the bus. Over time, she begins reading his comics over his shoulder. Then he lends them to her. They bond over music. Eventually, they begin holding hands on the rides to and from school.

The hand-holding, by the way, is intense. 
"Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat."
Evocative sensual descriptions are everywhere in this novel, but they always feel true to the characters. Eleanor describes Park's trench coat as smelling "like Irish Spring and a little bit like potpourri and like something she couldn't describe any other way than boy." 
Park watches Eleanor's mouth so closely that he "could see that her lips had freckles, too." 

After Eleanor criticizes him for saying she looks nice, Park thinks: "Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

Every romance has its obstacle: I have another boyfriend, my parents say we can't, you're a vampire and I,m not, etc... But the obstacle in Eleanor & Park is simply the world. The world can't stomach a relationship between a good-looking Korean and Big Red. The world can't allow Eleanor a boyfriend of any kind, because she's poor and fat and dresses funny. The world can't allow Park a girlfriend because he likes wearing eyeliner and everyone knows that's gay. The world's the obstacle, as it always is when you're 16 and truly in love. Park's parents serve as evidence that sometimes love conquers the world, and Eleanor's family is a reminder that sometimes it doesn't. As for Eleanor and Park.....well, I won't spoil it.

Early in the novel, Park’s English teacher asks him why Romeo and Juliet has survived 400 years. With Eleanor looking on, Park says: "Because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?" After a moment, he adds, "Is that right?"

It is.

September 26, 2014

Emma Watson on Feminism

This is the full transcript of Emma Watson's speech at the launch of the HeForShe campaign in New York City:

Today we are launching a campaign called for HeForShe. I am reaching out to you because we need your help. We want to end gender inequality, and to do this, we need everyone involved. This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN. We want to try to mobilize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for change. And, we don’t just want to talk about it. We want to try and make sure that it’s tangible.

I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women six months ago. And, the more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.

For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.

I started questioning gender-based assumptions a long time ago. When I was 8, I was confused for being called bossy because I wanted to direct the plays that we would put on for our parents, but the boys were not. When at 14, I started to be sexualized by certain elements of the media. When at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of sports teams because they didn’t want to appear muscly. When at 18, my male friends were unable to express their feelings.

I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even.

Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one? I am from Britain, and I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.

But sadly, I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to see these rights. No country in the world can yet say that they achieved gender equality. These rights, I consider to be human rights, but I am one of the lucky ones.

My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn't assume that I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influences were the gender equality ambassadors that made me who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists that are changing the world today. We need more of those.

And if you still hate the word, it is not the word that is important. It’s the idea and the ambition behind it, because not all women have received the same rights I have. In fact, statistically, very few have.

In 1997, Hillary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women’s rights. Sadly, many of the things that she wanted to change are still true today. But what stood out for me the most was that less than thirty percent of the audience were male. How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?

Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society, despite my need of his presence as a child, as much as my mother’s. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of a man. In fact, in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are, and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer, and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.

I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned, and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.

You might be thinking, “Who is this Harry Potter girl, and what is she doing speaking at the UN?” And, it’s a really good question. I’ve been asking myself the same thing.

All I know is that I care about this problem, and I want to make it better. And, having seen what I’ve seen, and given the chance, I feel it is my responsibility to say something.

Statesman Edmund Burke said, “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.”

In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt, I told myself firmly, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you, I hope those words will be helpful. Because the reality is that if we do nothing, it will take seventy-five years, or for me to be nearly 100, before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates, it won't be until 2086 before all rural African girls can have a secondary education.

If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists that I spoke of earlier, and for this, I applaud you. We are struggling for a uniting word, but the good news is, we have a uniting movement. It is called HeForShe. I invite you to step forward, to be seen and to ask yourself, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Thank you very, very much.

So...what say you? 


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