In a phrase to cut these lips

A record of the things I cannot trust to memory.
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
I live in a city state I have loved all my life, but now I am not sure if I like it any more.
For 23 years this city has been a home in all senses of the word - where I grew up in the safety net of an education system that caters to all (if embracing only a select few); where I learnt childhood games recited in dialect I can still recall today; where I cut my teeth and learnt to fall and later learnt to fly. Home meant I would look to a red and white flag every day, sing an anthem I still know by heart, clench a fist across my chest during the national pledge as though it meant something - as though by clutching stubby fingers to my heart I could possibly reach in and grasp hold of the pride I felt for this country, as though if I could hold patriotism in my fingers it would become something tangible.
I loved - love - it for all it has given me, things I am grateful for, things that still matter. The way it has given me roots and wings, taught me how to use them and known both when to hold on and let go (now I look for the exact same combination in a partner). Security in all senses of the word. The pride I have in calling this country my own.
But I look around now at streets I have known intimately all my life and suddenly they seem foreign, the lit windows of little boxes stacked atop one another housing lives, stories I should be able to relate to better than this. Now the city pulses around me with a heartbeat out of sync with my own. Every morning on my way to work the clicking of kitten heels and dress shoes washes over my head in a discordant frenzy; disjointed voices packed too tightly into aged trains curse everything from their jobs to their paychecks. It is like gnarled fingers have reached into my soul, clawed out my worst thoughts, and are speaking them aloud to make them real.
Now this city’s dreams are no longer my own. The chorus of nation building sentiment splashed across our nation’s daily paper has slowly ceased to make sense. The flats we are meant to buy, cars we are supposed to drive, economic progress we laud, suddenly rings hollow. The material goods we are supposed to aspire to, lit up and held aloft on billboards and instagram news feeds, have never felt more irrelevant. I’m not sure if she’s changed, or if I have. I’m not sure when all this stopped being enough.
They look at me and all they see is youth in this freshly-minted graduate. Some days I wish I could buy contentment as easily as them, packaged in a tidy shift dress and a black leather bag toted on a proud forearm. Some days I am jealous they find it so easily. But most days I am scared to death of growing up, if growing up means wanting the same things as them.
They tell us we have it good, and I cannot disagree - but when did having it good become synonymous with being happy?
When you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born, it’s time to go. I still love you, Singapore, but I need to leave, so I can learn to like you again.

Little boxes made of ticky tacky

I live in a city state I have loved all my life, but now I am not sure if I like it any more.

For 23 years this city has been a home in all senses of the word - where I grew up in the safety net of an education system that caters to all (if embracing only a select few); where I learnt childhood games recited in dialect I can still recall today; where I cut my teeth and learnt to fall and later learnt to fly. Home meant I would look to a red and white flag every day, sing an anthem I still know by heart, clench a fist across my chest during the national pledge as though it meant something - as though by clutching stubby fingers to my heart I could possibly reach in and grasp hold of the pride I felt for this country, as though if I could hold patriotism in my fingers it would become something tangible.

I loved - love - it for all it has given me, things I am grateful for, things that still matter. The way it has given me roots and wings, taught me how to use them and known both when to hold on and let go (now I look for the exact same combination in a partner). Security in all senses of the word. The pride I have in calling this country my own.

But I look around now at streets I have known intimately all my life and suddenly they seem foreign, the lit windows of little boxes stacked atop one another housing lives, stories I should be able to relate to better than this. Now the city pulses around me with a heartbeat out of sync with my own. Every morning on my way to work the clicking of kitten heels and dress shoes washes over my head in a discordant frenzy; disjointed voices packed too tightly into aged trains curse everything from their jobs to their paychecks. It is like gnarled fingers have reached into my soul, clawed out my worst thoughts, and are speaking them aloud to make them real.

Now this city’s dreams are no longer my own. The chorus of nation building sentiment splashed across our nation’s daily paper has slowly ceased to make sense. The flats we are meant to buy, cars we are supposed to drive, economic progress we laud, suddenly rings hollow. The material goods we are supposed to aspire to, lit up and held aloft on billboards and instagram news feeds, have never felt more irrelevant. I’m not sure if she’s changed, or if I have. I’m not sure when all this stopped being enough.

They look at me and all they see is youth in this freshly-minted graduate. Some days I wish I could buy contentment as easily as them, packaged in a tidy shift dress and a black leather bag toted on a proud forearm. Some days I am jealous they find it so easily. But most days I am scared to death of growing up, if growing up means wanting the same things as them.

They tell us we have it good, and I cannot disagree - but when did having it good become synonymous with being happy?

When you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born, it’s time to go. I still love you, Singapore, but I need to leave, so I can learn to like you again.

11:11

I think now that there are different kinds of happy.

In the past few months, the extended summer break that never seemed to end, I have known too much of exhilaration, the sort of happiness that takes your breath away standing at the roof of the world, feeling dwarfed by the magnitude of the panorama. It is the kind of happiness that steals words from your lips, that makes your chest contract with wonder and gratitude that expression only cheapens. It is happiness that affirms: somewhere in your wicked, miserable past you must have done something good.

There is happiness that stems from the humans who make you whole; as much as you would like to consider yourself a self contained, independent individual, you are also the sum of all these parts. It is the blanket of comfort that old friends cloak you in; the love the envelops every time you walk through the door after a trip abroad, be it four days or a month long. It is the way love can change and still remain a constant; it is a leap of faith into familiar arms and the ensuing joy that overwhelms.

And then there are nights like this, when happiness is less an exuberant swish-and-twirl and more a quiet acceptance of where your life is right now. You are not a special and unique snowflake; nonetheless there is happiness in the possibility that is yours to create, thrill laced with fear, but then fear is a familiar bedfellow and by now you know it drives you. Happiness is when you can go to bed as content with your choices as you are with the open ended potential that the future holds. I have always held that happiness is a choice - but really what choice do we have than to make it?

First ever camping trip amidst the rolling hills of Tagong, a Tibetan prefecture in Western Sichuan.
Summer of 2013: China grad trip
"Let the cards fall where they may," I say sometimes, when the world spins a little too fast and life wrests control out of my hands. 
No better time to live by this than 2013, or what it has been thus far. The year began in a flurry of fireworks, all-night poker, a corgi dressed like a panda and a dimsum meal that could have been either supper or breakfast. It began and I thought I knew what was to follow, only to find out that I had no fucking clue. You wake up each day with no inkling as to how it is going to end.
I decided on China on a whim, in impulse spawned from heartbreak, the morning after Daniel and I relinquished a five and a half year relationship. A month and a half in the Middle Kingdom seems minuscule now, in comparison to the two year work contract I returned to sign - but back then, safe in the confines of undergraduate life, the expanse of time loomed large and intense.
In other words I was as terrified as I was excited, the idea of adventuring without (much of) a plan a completely new concept to this Singaporean who likes knowing what comes next. It was a chance I made myself take, and with the clarity of hindsight, one I am glad for. 
Almost three months on I am home and (largely) desk bound, still trying to wrap my head around the China trip so I can write lucidly about it, still trying to quell the wanderlust that I know I must temper in the next two years.
Despite that, and for now: Never expected the cards to fall the way they did in the Summer of 2013, but life dealt a pretty damn awesome hand.


First ever camping trip amidst the rolling hills of Tagong, a Tibetan prefecture in Western Sichuan.

Summer of 2013: China grad trip

"Let the cards fall where they may," I say sometimes, when the world spins a little too fast and life wrests control out of my hands.

No better time to live by this than 2013, or what it has been thus far. The year began in a flurry of fireworks, all-night poker, a corgi dressed like a panda and a dimsum meal that could have been either supper or breakfast. It began and I thought I knew what was to follow, only to find out that I had no fucking clue. You wake up each day with no inkling as to how it is going to end.

I decided on China on a whim, in impulse spawned from heartbreak, the morning after Daniel and I relinquished a five and a half year relationship. A month and a half in the Middle Kingdom seems minuscule now, in comparison to the two year work contract I returned to sign - but back then, safe in the confines of undergraduate life, the expanse of time loomed large and intense.

In other words I was as terrified as I was excited, the idea of adventuring without (much of) a plan a completely new concept to this Singaporean who likes knowing what comes next. It was a chance I made myself take, and with the clarity of hindsight, one I am glad for. 

Almost three months on I am home and (largely) desk bound, still trying to wrap my head around the China trip so I can write lucidly about it, still trying to quell the wanderlust that I know I must temper in the next two years.

Despite that, and for now: Never expected the cards to fall the way they did in the Summer of 2013, but life dealt a pretty damn awesome hand.

The way he speaks your name

Two syllables of a proper noun are all that is needed to send longing across the crackly static of telephone lines that usually render conversations stilted and details ill-defined.

He drags out the last letter just an instant, and then stops. As though sound can bridge distance; for a moment it does and his hunger is real, tangible, and then suddenly yours is too. In your head you fill in the blanks he leaves with words unspoken, words that mean everything and nothing at all. You are aching, hopeful, and perhaps so is he.

He says it again and this time it is quicker, strident, purposeful; you imagine him traversing miles and oceans, the rhythm of his footsteps crossing flatlands to your door. It speaks volumes of promise and stasis at the same time.

You want this to be real and you exhale possibility in the way you speak his, breathing it out into the balmy tropical afternoons you call home when you wonder where the world has taken him, or if distance can ever consent to share people. You exhale it like a secret, heavily aware of its weight, and transience.

In the end only Time will speak both of yours.

1,200 pictures from a month and a half in China and no way to express all these crazy feels.

Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful/Will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul

Spotify knows I’ve turned 23.

Sunday night earworm of truth. (Tumblr > Instagram)

Sunday night earworm of truth. (Tumblr > Instagram)

Comes The Dawn

After a while you learn the difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning 
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure…
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn…
With every goodbye you learn.

- Veronica A. Shoffstall

I remember reblogging this poem in freshman year, and wondering when I would learn. I remember thinking it an aspiration, a coming of age, a tribute to love and loss, in forms I could not fathom then.

In the rush of FYP submission and how we flailed and lunged through through Oral Presentation (and how I left the country less than 24 hours later in the cloudy residue of drink; grateful to postpone the reality of the real world), I never had the chance or the composure to look back upon four years of undergraduate life.

This is not it. I knew the university would change me, and at various points I distinctly recall thinking, Is this what growing up feels like? But perhaps the past is hazy in its distance, and today 19 feels just as young as 21, and 2009 feels like a lifetime away. And all I can think now is that no measure of undergraduate life could have readied me for the amount of growing up I’ve had to do in the last two months.

Despite proclamations to the contrary I thought I had my life largely figured out, but being forced to confront multiple new chapters of my life at a go brought out a resilience I did not know I possessed and zen I never thought possible in the face of uncertainty (read: job search).

Wisdom from sophomore year: Sometimes things have to fall apart before they fall together. And while I do not yet see how they will fall together, as I told several people, one day this will all make sense. 

While these may all sound like platitudes, they have strung together the frayed ends of my soul; shored it up with sanity when I could not find my own. In the same vein, company does not mean security but some nights, it is enough.

In answer to the one question I have been asked countless times over the past two months: Yes, I think I am going to be okay.

You never know how much people care about you until you fall apart a little and everyone picks you up, piece by piece, and puts you back together again.

- Emily Urquhart

Residue

i give myself five days to forget you.
on the first day i rust.
on the second i wilt.
on the third day i sit with friends but i think about your tongue.
i clean my room on the fourth day. i clean my body on the fourth day.
i try to replace your scent on the fourth day. 
the fifth day, i adorn myself like the mouth of an inmate.
a wedding singer dressed in borrowed gold.
the midas of cheap metal.
tinsel in the middle of summer.
crevice glitter, two days after the party.
i glow the way unwanted things do,
a neon sign that reads;
come, i still taste like someone else’s mouth.

- Warsan Shire