Storms Before the Calm

i am a field mouse once again, with the world swirling around me and a heart with open seams down the middle. selfridges feels like a lifetime ago, even further away from the bus in penang and the ashes of 12 sultan ismail. but here i am in another raging December snowstorm, as all the other Decembers conflate to reveal to me my true self, who i really am. it’s funny how much time has passed since i was last a field mouse, but the same old questions still run through my mind – what does it really mean to be on the same team? what does it mean to love? what does Radiohead’s song really mean?

in these snowstorms i like to think of the times in my life that have been pure, idyllic, and right. i move from the latte in coffee bean mt kiara to the stone bench at columbia, and then from under the teacher’s table in sri garden to the dusky rivers of pahang. these memories calm me and i feel real again — real enough to understand why it’s so important to keep my heart open to people and the small but special moments that they bring with them. i do see that the more wretched things one encounters — be they part of the world or part of oneself — the harder it becomes to remain open. but in so many ways there is something invigorating about the pain. it’s like a workout. it wrings you dry and stretches you, and suddenly there is just so much more skin to feel with. pain feels even more painful, but then the most wonderful things also expand and bloom to cover the entire sky, as far as the eye can see.



whenever i find myself on the cusp of doing something emotionally risky, i tell myself to sleep on it. inevitably when i wake up i no longer see the urgency and i pat myself on the back for being patient and making the safer choice. but in my dreams i find myself asking what if? what if something big, crucial and incredibly magical happened because i took the risk? but i guess i will never know



it occurred to me yesterday that a full day had passed, in which i did not think about her. it troubled me. had i forgotten her? was this the slow beginning of a spiral into the ether where people left secret smiles on the faces of their beloved and then disappeared? but then i remembered that death can be a good thing. i tried to be very happy for her that she had finally found release and slipped free from all the pain that had caged her into herself for so long. but the truth is that i miss her very deeply, and that she had also slipped free from me, so quietly away into the evening humidity. i have now not known her for as many years as i have known her — her real, full, true, beautiful self who walked and talked, and sometimes laughed, and twice cried. this thing about the years is a fact that i find quite unfair. it is quite like art class in primary school, when we would paint half of an art block and fold the paper in two, to make a butterfly print: is the second half of the whole butterfly even real? did i only get twelve years or did i get twenty four? also, my memory is fading and sometimes i can’t remember if i’d held her left or right hand as we crossed the street to go to the market. and sometimes i feel that she went through so much suffering that there can’t possibly be anymore of it left in this world. i do wish she was here with me to experience this world without suffering… she is the only person i have ever met whom i have loved unconditionally. i can only hope that when she passed, she remembered me, my name and my face.



one last thing about hong kong, this city perennially fatalistic and scowling, before i go: i will always think about you, and be grateful for how you found me at the wrong time and made something right out of it. it is far from biographically accurate but in so many ways i feel like i was born here, and then ripped away, and then joined back with shoddy glue, feeling out of place and like a stranger as i watched myself live a parallel life to this city’s own. it sprouts new and dangerous heads and limbs each time i visit, biting at my ankles and forming a far cry from the hong kong i first made the acquaintance of in the early 90s– a hong kong full of roast pigeon, naivete, my mother’s sheer laughter and this red lacquered sedan chair that i would never come to see again. then there is the hong kong of the evening sun that oozed its yellow yolk all over The Peak; and subsequently… subsequently the curtains upon curtains of spacemen and an ever-expanding lifetime over the edge of reason. it was an era characterized by hope, by true belonging, and the accompanying anxiety that somehow, somewhere, someone is going to do something very wrong and everything that has been achieved so far will be for nothing.

each time i come back here i peel back an old layer of skin from my footpaths around this place, and realize how blind i once was to what the truer ‘hong kong’ is. everything that makes it tick is not what i thought it was. i was totally oblivious to the superficiality and rugged judgments that strung its people together. and i’d also constructed this false sense of myself that earnestly believed there was a place for me here. why? was it because hong kong is so magical? was it because i could spend all day deep in the lungs of tsim sha tsui or the paper-thin cracks of hollywood road’s antique stores? was it the beautiful people i met who talked so often about awakening the sleeping dragon of 1960s HK? but hong kong is so magical. it is altogether accessible (you can buy a plane ticket) and mysterious (so many dark secrets). it welcomes you but doesn’t confirm anything. if you are lucky maybe you will catch it on a vulnerable night, and it will spill something out its mouth onto your shocked soul. and, still lucky, you will have no choice but to carry it with you for the rest of your life, never telling a single person or even whispering it into a wall.

i am aware with each thing i eat here that i am having all my favorite local foods in a silent sort of farewell. i am laying to rest something that is enjoyable but painful, like love or deviance… it’s just that at the end of the day a city is just a city, and it doesn’t at all owe you the obligation of loving you back.

Comments Off on Xianggang

Geronimo! Part I

there are very many things that have happened and been roosting at the forefront of my mind since i last wrote, or even thought about writing. such as my graduation, my departure from the magnificent city of new york, my excitement at entering the world of the working, how different kuala lumpur currently feels, some deaths and some rebirths.

people ask from time to time if i’m going to blog about these things and i keep saying i’m not– i’ve somehow accidentally detached myself from this blogging persona, and no longer see that side of me as an outlet for the rest of myself. but more and more i’ve come to realize that the need to put things in words, in sentences, is inherent to how i organize my thoughts and feelings. it’s not even (just) about expressing myself anymore. without documentation, i become almost like a spectre, drifting across things, never quite getting anywhere. it is a rather uncomfortable sensation that i’d like to avoid experiencing too much. so i guess here i am again. for some reason, writing things down in textedit on my laptop is not quite the same as :)

where do i start. let’s talk about two things… firstly, some nebulous updates about the space i currently inhabit as a human being, which i’m quite strangely curious about myself, and secondly, how it felt to leave new york, which in many ways was devastating and rejuvenating. the first:

if i had to choose some marker or checkpoint of myself in history to compare my current self to, the most salient of them all would be my departure to college four years ago. oh college… so much to say about it but i will leave that account for another time. in 2008, i was happy, excitable, funny, interested in everything and in a perpetual state of potential energy. more importantly i was generous: generous with trust, knowledge, words, love. perhaps it is the experience of university, or being abroad, or quite simply ‘growing older’, but gradually over the small handful of past years i have lost a lot of verve and bigness of spirit. i became quieter, neater and quicker to judge.

in essence, i’ve retreated into myself and i don’t really know why. i’ve been trying to understand this so i can reverse it — it is the most contemptible feeling to recognize that you are someone else that you don’t want to be. i like sharing and i like people. but somehow i’ve become intensely paranoid, private and mistrusting. when i’m feeling lazy, i blame this on recent traumatic events that have scarred me for what feels like will be eternity… but ultimately i know that the mistake lies in me allowing the trauma to ripple across my life instead of letting it go. there are many platitudes out there about how we shouldn’t allow small people and small things to control so much of our mind and heart. in theory that sounds very acceptable, but in practice it’s not so easy for me. yes, some things are just not worth it, but some spider in my soul is just so incredibly sticky to these painful things and crawls the universe seeking closure. it gives me much grief and anxiety in its wake.

the reason i’ve stopped blogging as much is because i’ve been occupied at college, but the reason i’ve stopped liking blogging is this new and unwelcome paranoia and stinginess of spirit. i often find myself looking over a blogpost before publishing it, and thinking, no, i’m saying too much. or, i don’t owe anyone all these words and exposure — i don’t even owe them to myself! and then i delete it. but still longing to write, i wonder then about what kind of things i can write about that are consistent with my new misanthropy. candid and superficial updates about the day-to-day? pictures of food and travel? or the opposite: oblique thoughts on things i care deeply about but referred to tangentially and indirectly? i eventually settled on none of the above.

for a while i thought this was clever and that in time to come i would thank myself for phasing out the young and idealistic me who put so much of herself on the internet or in other people’s hands. some small shred of me still believes this. but i don’t know lah. the more i go down this path of losing my extraversion, the further away i feel from my locus. surely there must be some compromise that is both careful but allows me to be totally honest with myself about what i like and who i am. the crux of this strange newness is not merely about blogging or talking, or the risk/reward of sharing big parts of me with people i love or people i don’t know — it’s also about how little inclined i felt to interact with anything, how risk averse i had become, and worst of all, how i felt like i had all the answers to all the questions i wanted to ask and thus did not need to look any further. i was becoming disinterested, fatigued and hateful, and for some reason i felt that was okay, and that it was all part of growing up.

but actually, it is not all part of growing up. when one grows up, one doesn’t necessarily become bored, fatigued or hateful. the problem lies in being weak, in choosing flight over fight, in being too proud to admit that i’m over-generalizing when i say my lousy investments in the past are signals of all humans i am to come across, in being too scared and doubtful to realize that within me there is an expansive capacity to engage in battles and win them well. it only took me until my last couple of weeks in new york to see these things for what they were and to truly come face to face with them and how these distortions have affected me for so long. which brings me to:

leaving new york.

fourth of july fireworks, NYC

is it a cliche to say that my life has changed? but it has. but then, more soon, as i have a plane to catch and i am quite late!


Pages: Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Next

© 2001 - 2012 Powered by Wordpress.