Opening closets: Chinese romance novels

I can’t remember when exactly I started getting into Chinese internet novels. I’ve been watching Asian dramas for years, and I think I started learning about Chinese novels around the time when Bu Bu Jing Xing was popular back in 2011 and I dug around the internet for novel translations (and failed to find ’em). I think I really got into it two years ago or less, back when I was still in Singapore. I’m already a fan of period stories, movies and dramas so I very easily joined the world of fan translations. I love being immersed in different cultures and different worlds. It doesn’t matter if it’s Western or Asian. I consume them as fast as I consume chocolate bars, sometimes unhealthily.

A lot of the stories that I’ve read have a mix of xianxia, Chinese folk lore, romance, history, and fantasy (time travel has been very popular especially around the time of Bu Bu Jing Xin). Because they are fan-translated, it brings me back to high school when licensed English-translated manga were rare and I hung around IRC downloading fan scanlations (scanned translations). Things made by fans bring more fans together so there’s a great community around novel translations — enough for me to recognize names of popular translators who’ve been pursuing this passion around 2014 or earlier. It’s also very easy to pick up some abbreviations people in the community use:

  • HE – Happy Ending: this is very helpful when looking for my next read because there are a lot of stories that are just so tragic. Sometimes I just don’t want my heart twisted and pinched after a long, busy day, you know?
  • MC – Main Character: all the stories I read have female protagonists. With the exception of Ever Night, I read female-centric stories exclusively.
  • ML – Main Lead: a number of stories also have reverse harem. Sometimes readers want to know who the Main Lead is so they can safely pick the right ship to jump. Shipping wars in the novel community aren’t intense like shipping wars in the K-drama community because the ML is usually easier to spot. Second Lead Syndrome is quite rare, but! but there are a few stories where I half-shipped for the second lead, heh.
  • BL / GL / GB – Boy’s Love, Girl’s Love, Girl/Boy: relationship types, depending on your interest. I’m into heterosexual stories so…I can only name GB novels.

The xianxia elements of the stories make it very creative and different from the usual fantasy stories I’ve read in the past. Humans, spirits, and gods exist in different realms but within similar worlds. There’s a concept of cultivation to achieve immortality, trials to gain more strength, and sometimes there are rules to abide by (i.e. forbidden love between a teacher and his/her disciple). There’s a glossary to know these terms individually, but it’s pleasant to learn them just through world-building in different novels.

I’ve never talked to anyone much about this not-so-secret interest of mine, until a good friend asked me what I was doing on Christmas. We have similar tastes so I was super excited to share that I did nothing but read Chinese novels, hahaha, then proceeded to ask if she wanted recommendations. I would’ve sent her links to novels even if she said no anyway!

(I was just super ecstatic to bring at least one soul to my dark side.)

I started my recommendations with stories that progressively went longer because it might be hard to justify reading 50 chapters when you’re not sure it’s your type of thing yet. These are some of my favorite shorter stories; the plots are simple without political intrigue. They’re just good stories overall, not too deep but not shallow either. The characters leave me a deep impression despite the simple plot, usually because of their loyalty or patience or strength in character.

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29 in 2019

One thing remained consistent from the moment I turned 20 until I crossed 29: I never felt truly adult. I am an adult now by virtue of age, but there’s so much I haven’t done that in many ways I feel like I’m still not old enough. I’m quite convinced that it’s either the height of my successes or the weight of my failures that would make me think, ah I’m a real adult now. I just don’t know when that height will be tall enough or that weight heavy enough to make me feel a lot less like Peter Pan.

Maybe I’ve been looking for adulthood in drastic changes in my life. The transition from an emotional early twenties to a calmer mid-twenties didn’t force any grand changes in personality or perspective in myself. More responsibilities and weightier decisions make me feel a lot more adult than usual, but I hadn’t made big risks. I haven’t made legal commitments like marriage, I’m not responsible for a life, and I haven’t committed wrong decisions that would’ve put me in debt. At this point, it’s easier to say 30 is the new 20 because I’m fairly behind the experiences and sacrifices my parents have achieved at my age. With a fairly sheltered upbringing, my journey in achieving adulthood feels glacial in its progress.

My early twenties was a balancing act of fun, focus, and failed friendships. I was a bit like the typical shounen protagonist — prideful, temperamental, and stubborn — minus the superpowers or luck or fate or a special destiny. Unlike Naruto or Ichigo, I didn’t exactly defeat my demons. Flight was easier than fight and I left my issues behind, literally, by moving overseas. Honestly, that wasn’t very adult-like. But I was young and a dreamer so I forced my way into a new arc by relocating.

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Lessons from the Spiderverse

It was a very enjoyable movie. I’m not going to write a review (there are many out there). But if there was one thing that resonated with me the most was Peter B. Parker’s answer to Miles’ question: “How do you know you’re ready?”

You don’t. It takes a leap of faith.

A leap of faith. Maybe my doubts can be answered by those four words. All it takes is a leap of faith.

And the next, and the next

It’s been seven years since the last Game of Thrones novel was published. That’s as long as my career. While I was traversing through startups, clients, and countries, George R. R. Martin has been trying to write what happened after a certain someone was stabbed and fell onto the cold. That’s how far behind the novel is from the TV series, and it feels like the same distance I am from where I want to be in my career. I’m beginning to think that maybe the next big step in my life will happen when he publishes The Winds of Winter.

I take that back. If that’s the case then I’ll never progress in my career.

These days I’ve been feeling like I’ve been running. I’ve gone on a sprint then slowed down, but I’m still running all the same. There was only one instance during university days that I did anything remotely close to exercise: for one semester I ran a few rounds at the university’s “oval” (a small indoor track, really). I ran twice a week with a friend who laughed at me when I confessed that I only managed to finish the rounds because I’d imagine there was a strip of ribbon at the end, marking the finish line. That friendship ended long ago, but the running never ceased. I was running to lose weight, then for love, then for dreams. Now I feel like I’m running after ‘success’, whatever that means. It’s such a narrow word for such a subjective term. And in this new country, I’m running alone. I observe other girls who seem to be running the same race, but I’ve left my ‘exercise buddies’ back in Singapore.

December’s halfway done. On a new notebook I’ve recently bought, I penned milestones I’d like to achieve next: career goals, financial goals, skin goals, weight goals. I didn’t want to wait for a new year to kickstart resolutions. Instead, I’ve been applying the concept of Objectives and Key Results to life outside of work. I’ve been aligning the things I’m doing towards those objectives. This is how I’ve been running these days.

I feel a little anxious. I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know if I’ll tick off the little things I’ve already set myself out to do. I don’t know if I’m doing the right things.

I know I’m not going to wait. I know I’ll keep moving. I know I’ll be unhappy if I don’t. Sometimes it gets a little lonely, sometimes it gets a little tiring, but the world doesn’t stop moving just because I want a little break. I just keep on running towards my next objective, and the next, and the next, and the next.

The more there is to miss

Nostalgia is a sickness that hits harder as I’ve grown older. Music is the worst offender. A few seconds in, the first few notes of music is all I need to trigger even the smallest wave of nostalgia all over.

Today it was Utada Hikaru’s First Love while having tempura maki over dinner. It’s one of the many unintentional moments that make me go, aaaahhhh, this reminds me of high school innocence. For a short moment, I’m pulled back into a smaller world where everything I knew and felt were experiences with friends, or from Japanese drama, books and manga. A time when things were less complicated and relatively easier to handle. Happiness was simple; life was less cynical.

The older I am, the more there is to miss. When I was 16, there wasn’t much to miss about being 12. At 22, I was too busy running after dreams to reminisce. But at 28, going on an imaginary trip with the feels is a different story. Now people have come and gone, doors have closed and opened, paths have twisted and merged. Age blesses a person with wisdom (if you’re lucky), but that comes with the burden of knowing — what it feels, what it means, what it’s like. Ah, the burden of experience. Somewhere along the way, I became old enough to feel a twinge of sadness at moving on beyond a life of school uniforms, of structured schedules, of silliness, of old friends, of happiness within a smaller world.

On most days, nostalgia ends almost as soon as the last note plays. I’m back to the present day, to present worries, to present dreams, to present joys. Just like that.

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2017 and the moments that were

When I got laid off at 27, I thought I was too young to be laid off. I should’ve known better — no one is. I knew what was going to happen the night before, because the calendar invite sent to me, at 9 pm, was from HR and the venue on the invite was set outside of the office. There was only one reason why I had to meet with HR outside of the office. I slept that night thinking, “I won’t have a job after tomorrow,” and dressed my hair up in lovely braids the next morning. If it was going to be the worst day of that week, I believed I should meet it splendidly.

When I was 19, I published this status message on my very new Facebook wall: “If you can’t blind them with your bullshit, dazzle them with your brilliance.” I can’t remember what possessed me when I wrote that, but I guess I was in the similar frame of mind eight years later. Ish. I didn’t dress up as fabulously as I should have. I was laid off along with 1/3 of the office. Some of them who also lost their job just moved to Singapore a few months before. They were probably going to break their lease. It was a good thing I was only renting a room. Their circumstances seemed more unfair, but no amount of silver linings made me feel any less uprooted than that moment when my big boss handed me that getting-laid-off-letter.

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The second love story

The closer it is to December, the greater my fears are. Like I’ve done so little, and I want to be so much, and aging is a curse happening every second. Maybe it’s just because I don’t feel fresh, or I’m full of self-doubt, or I link my self-worth to many external things, or all of the above.

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Melbourne first impressions

Right before I published my first post in two years, I’ve asked on Twitter what some friends would like to read about, and Mica asked for weird/unusual expat life stories. It’s been four months and twenty days since I’ve moved to this city (it feels longer) and I’ve gone through new experiences and some struggles, but none of them are weird…or unusual. It feels like my move here is a bit more tame and less exciting than my first move to Singapore (where I had my debit card eaten by the ATM within the first week). I’d like to think I’ve grown a little wiser these past few years.

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The march for kindred spirits

I’ve been in a melancholic mood over the weekend from tidying up this blog and skimming through memories.

I’ve been bulldozing through the last 12 months: 3 months looking for jobs, another 4 stuck in anxiety waiting for my work visa, followed by 2 months of misery and fear because of the Philippine government’s incompetency and OEC restrictions. Anxiety hovered around me during the last 3 months as I kept a mental checklist of things to do before I am settled down: get my tax number, find a place to rent, renew passport, file tax. Month in and out, there’s always something important I have to put in order. In the middle of all these, I might have conveniently underestimated what it meant to relocate and seeing some old posts, even from 2016, reminded me of things I’ve left behind.

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Hello world, 2018

It’s the last quarter of 2018 and I’ve finally punched the keys on my keyboard, and would have this published online in the next thirty minutes (best scenario). I’ve thought about reviving this blog many times. It’s been approximately 798 days since I last blogged. That’s two years, two months, and seven days ago.

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