First win for 2021

I’ve been feeling quite down the past few weeks because I’m dancing two steps forward and one step back with eczema. It would seem like my skin is healing…and then it isn’t. I’ve grown very desperate, and so far I’ve tried:

  • Raw honey / manuka honey on my skin
  • Tea tree oil
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • Probiotic supplements
  • Hayfever tablets
  • Not wearing pants (I’m always at the cusp of healing when I’m working from home, then everything is aggravated after a day of wearing pants)

Are they working? I’m not sure.

What I haven’t tried:

  • Less work. In fact, I always find myself getting new responsibilities on a regular basis, I’m on a solid self-denial that I am constantly feeling imposter syndrome.
  • Less stress. I was crying almost every evening the week before Christmas. Some nights I can’t sleep. I felt a similar tipping point sometime in January, which thankfully didn’t last long.

With the way things are going, I am not winning my battle with eczema. I’m stuck on a stalemate, and that’s not the happy news I wanted to write about.

Things have a bright side, as cliche as that sounds. Because if I don’t believe in bright sides, I don’t think I’ll convince myself I have the grit to endure. Ever since I’ve tried to emulate Secretary Kim, it’s been ever so slightly easier and more habitual to take on every thing Life tries to fling at me. (And with an idol like Secretary Kim, I aspire to handle every thing with finesse.)

No, my first win for 2021 is not my battle against eczema. It is my 4-day work week!

I’ve always been secretly envious of my colleagues (past and present) who work only 4 days. It’s been a while but ever since I received docked pay due to COVID-19, I’ve always wanted to negotiate for a 4-day work week. Now that I’ve reached a milestone at work, I finally achieved it!!! (My colleague says once you experience it, there is no going back.)

I don’t know yet how this will change how I live, but I know for sure it’s a big, good thing.

A New Normal

I don’t think there’s any going back to what the world was before COVID. 2020 has forced people to move, forced some to stay, forced people to make decisions and hurled others into unexpected problems or setbacks. It forced people to adapt and change, or risk being left behind.

More than a week into 2021, I’m trying to get into my new ‘normal’:

  1. Cooking at home and learning new recipes
  2. Going on road trips and exploring new places
  3. Doing ‘some’ outdoor activities
  4. Buying physical books (!!!)
  5. Forcing myself to write down the conversations I keep in my head

I’ve spent most of 2020 trying to survive and cope. But I need to start growing again.

Footnotes:

  1. It was a long journey for me before I felt comfortable cooking, but lockdown and work stress turned cooking into a destressor and something to look forward to. I could barely cook when I started dating my current boyfriend, but look where we are now ;)
  2. We are overcompensating from a hard Victoria lockdown.
  3. Trips with a primary ‘eating’ itinerary was less than ideal for the weight, hence we are slowly trying hiking.
  4. I can finally imagine myself settling down here, so I greenlit myself to start building a collection of physical books again.
  5. My friend did a tarot reading for me recently, and I was advised to get a hobby.

After the rain, earth hardens

There’s a number of things that I feel I should write down. The last two weeks felt like tall waves crashing onto the shore — natural, even expected, forceful and a little strong. I’ve left my first job in Melbourne to start another journey of self-worth. I’ve ended a relationship of 8 years. I’m relearning what it means to trust and rely on someone.

The earth continues to rotate, space continues to expand, and life goes on. This time I don’t have to carry the disappointments and unmet needs that built up over eight years. I’ve let go of the expectations and missed opportunities of the last eight months. I’ve been exploring what it means to not be alone in the last eight days.

Maybe some of the things weren’t what I expected. It took a long time for me to accept breaking up was the best decision for myself. Work goodbyes felt lonesome, but some people I didn’t imagine were supportive and I received words that touched me and made me believe I’ve done my best. I never would’ve guessed I’d hear, “I’ll take care of you”, from someone when I’ve been well enough on my own. Those moments felt poignant, but also sincere and heartfelt. Maybe I should trust myself a little more. I’ve already gone a long way, after all.

Moments of impulse

Fuck, I can’t remember some bits from last night.

That’s my wake-up thought this morning after getting home from a night of drinking.

Well, shit.

I should scold myself more for my lapses of judgment. I mean, I’m not a college student anymore seeking short-lived highs and thrills.

It’s like I’m asking for it because something’s wrong with me and I like the loss of control. I close my eyes and ears and put on this whatever persona. Have fun now, think later.

But adulting means I should know better. Overcome the convenience afforded by stupidity.

It’s been an awful week. I believe I was totally asking for that opportunity to get drunk. I reverted to my college self the moment I’m in a house-drinking party (or, who am I kidding. The moment I’ve decided to go for it for an evening).

I can be introspective now but I still won’t recover memories my brain failed to save last night.

Well, no shit.

A scattering of motivations

I think I’ve holed myself up in a corner of disappointment and self-loathing over my writing. I’ve been staring at writing prompts and whenever I do, my brain freezes into a black hole of blankness. I imagine characters with no plots, and I’ve been writing short, bland pieces that’s never interesting enough to comment on. I just feel like I’m just really incredibly awful at writing fiction and I’m trying to make up for it by reading shoujo manga heroines that point me towards optimism and mental litanies of “I will work harder”, “never give up”, and “I will do my best”.

So rather than not writing at all, I’ve crawled back into this online blog of mine to ramble about my lack of progress, an absence of passion (since I’m not trying harder), and maybe a great deal of procrastination. What I’ve done most of, these past two weeks, was consumption.

To be honest, I haven’t actually read so much manga (and shoujo at that) in possibly the past three or four years as I have been these past couple of days. I’ve been reading on the train, in the toilet, during lunch breaks. I feel like I’ve forgotten what life felt like in high school and college and somehow believed I’d get some pointers from manga aimed at young girls. While most of them were a far cry from the complexities of characters in science fiction YA novels, there were girls that I identified with even at (gasp) this late age of almost-thirty. There were even a few gems that made me laugh, and stories with plots that kept me glued until two in the morning. Then I’d get up at seven, go to work, and force myself to bring myself down to my offline avatar persona.

Somewhere along the way I thought it’ll inspire me to write something, or figure out what I want to write exactly, but it hasn’t been the case. I mean, if anything I should probably continue to sit down and force myself to type anything even if the words don’t end up spinning any kind of story.

I’ve been thinking a little about this and also, why am I doing this again exactly? I need a short story written by March if I’m to remind myself of this quarter’s Key Result for Writing. For no other reason than a small desire to become a Light Novel author (maybe more like wishful thinking or imagination on my part. A shallow reflection of an alternate-universe me who took up writing as a career). It’s not really clear to me what this is for at the end of the day. Like, how would this ever benefit me or my career or my personal growth, I don’t know. Maybe I’m still hoping I’d eventually connect with someone through writing communities for as long as I keep trying. That one day I’d finally write something that would trigger any kind of response from a stranger. I don’t think I’m ever writing for the sake of telling a story, but rather I’m always looking to elicit a reaction, a reply, from somebody.

Most days though, it’s just silence and more silence much like this blog is bereft of conversation.

to desire everything and nothing at once and to desire it all the time

I pulled those lines from the poem Want, by Carrie Fountain.

To desire everything and nothing at once

I’ve managed to work an extra 36 hours in the past two weeks. My spirit is tired. Waking up at seven, leaving the office at five, then back in front of my monitor in my room-turned-office at eight. Watching a slice-of-life Chinese drama (Story of Ming Lan) and reading shoujo manga in between and I’ve managed to fill the vacant seconds with things — to do, to pay attention to. It’s dangerous, sometimes, to be in a tea party with only me and myself.

But there are still minutes, like the walk from the house to the station or the bus stop to the house, where I’m left alone with my thoughts. Without work or stories to distract from the memories that prod the scabs on my heart — it’s exactly like my skin eczema — I’m always subconsciously scratching on the thoughts of people, of something I don’t have.

In those free moments, I’ve been imagining my characters and their stories. I’ve picked up writing early in January and I’ve been playing out imaginary conversations, hypothetical situations, and non-existent relationships. Sometimes, they are what-could-have-been’s. While reading manga, I conjure scenes of friendships that endured. They are nice, and those moments make me wistful.

To desire everything

It’s not like the past hurts — those small wounds have scabbed over, after all. I just accidentally pick on my skin. I’ve been resigned, for a while now, of people that have come and gone. I’m not thinking things could be different for myself. I wake up every day, live another day. Life is like that.

I wonder if this is something I’ll bury with me when I die.

and nothing

The past is past, but today I thought, I must truly have been such a rotten person for two friends I kept close to reject me like that. I must have been disliked a lot.

at once and to desire it

Nowadays I’m not close enough with anyone to feel rejected, or betrayed. No shared moments, or special memories. Everything is as expected. Everything is okay.

all the time

Two weeks in

  1. Every 15th of the month is pay date. I look forward to a few things. Tomorrow is one of those.
  2. I’ve managed to accomplish so much design work on the first week after holiday season that I’ve filled the team’s backlog for two or three months.
  3. I’ve picked up pace on my writing. So much so that I’ve been participating in 5 different writing prompt communities. Look at this. A good soul made a list and there are so many. It is so good. I missed this.
  4. I’ve received 80% more comments on the journal themes I shared on Dreamwidth than any of the ficlets I’ve published. Ha! CSS themes were addictive and fun design exercises. I’ve now calmed down after obsessing over it during the last two weekends.
  5. Seems like I’m picking up some freelance work again, soon. Starting tomorrow.
  6. I haven’t been exercising either.
  7. And I’m getting break-outs on my face. I don’t know how long it’ll take for my skin to adjust to this city. Every season irritates the individual pores in my body.
  8. Some days I’m floating in a lake of lonesomeness and I’m just creating ripples with this whole writing saga. And freelance work. Touring the city alone, eating alone, exploring alone — there are too many activities outside that reminds me my friends aren’t here. Is it irony that staying home keeps me more occupied?
  9. Some days I just feel like I still don’t really have friends, and I’ll call it quits and move back to Singapore. People at work are nice and friendly, but they’re not my friends. Meanwhile, some of the colleagues I shared drinks with from my last job felt like we at least had post-work connections. We hung out, ate together, and with them I wanted to say goodbye. I read that lonesomeness is a step lighter from loneliness. Perhaps this is it.
  10. Maybe one day I’ll decide not to leave because I’ve grown to like my work so much. And this lake will cease to be a lake. I have a preference for rivers. They’re more unpredictable.

Writing (again), LJ, and (now) DW

Glossary:

1. LJ – LiveJournal

(n.) A popular online community before Tumblr, before Facebook, before Instagram. Or maybe, it was popular only to a some niche groups (namely, individuals who were a fan of something). At sixteen, this was the place to be (online) — the place to make friends, the place to download music, manga, and movies, the place to digitally record puberty with no shame (thanks to the concept of friends-only posts). I’ve always believed that its communities held it together. You can find almost any fandom, and if you didn’t it was so easy to create one. Unlike Facebook groups where people post statuses or share links, on LJ communities you publish work: fan icons, fan sound tracks, fan fiction, etc. etc. all hidden behind the anonymity of usernames.

Last week, I tried to tell my Singaporean friend that I used to write on ‘LJ’, only to find myself clarifying: No, I don’t mean penis. I certainly mean LiveJournal. Which goes to show how old I am, or how young my friend is.

Continue readingWriting (again), LJ, and (now) DW

To meet is the beginning of parting

[逢うは別れの始め] To meet is the beginning of parting. The first time I read this, it felt like the perfect title of a story. It clues me in — prepares me for a bittersweet reality — and somehow I feel the words are beautiful as it does so. I know we will part, and I’m not scared that it will happen.

The most memorable times of my youth were college days. Four years aren’t long, but things that happen in our youth always seems to dig deeper than they should. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt so much more than ex-friends and ex-boyfriends, don’t you know? Didn’t you know? It didn’t make any sense. Why why why? I’ve spent some years willing to forget, fooling myself and trying not to regret, and only now can I say that I could look back at it with some detachment. The good was good, the bad was bad, and the good moments are better remembered fondly than never.

I’ve always been angry and resentful but time has been kind. Six years and finally I’m no longer scared to think about the past. Some moments have been fun, and real, and genuine — these are worth keeping. The old friends I wrote about in my older entries are different from who they were when friendships fell apart, and still different from who they are today. The versions of themselves in stories written by a girl who’s not that much older than a teen were transient moments worth capturing. Why why why? We’ve all changed, and the hurt doesn’t last forever.

Continue readingTo meet is the beginning of parting