“It’s only one life from birth to the burial ground – from the womb to the tomb.”
– Shanti Zaveri, A Book Without a Title.
– Lady Maclehose Centre, Hong Kong
Everyone’s on the bandwagon of resolutions for the new year. Honestly, I spent more hours on social media this week than the time I’ve ever spent going shopping for clothes. Even Snapchat had a special stream of “New year, New Me.” I watched the snaps sardonically. Previously, I believed quite strongly in that concept like the innocent person I used to be. I believed that as the new year rolled in, I’d be magically renewed to be able to become someone I aspired to be. It never happened though. I never allowed it.
These past few new years that I experienced were not about creating a new me, but various opportunities to clear up the steam on the mirror to know myself better. At various points, I also picked up new accessories to better embellish this person I have come to become. I also left behind old habits I wasn’t happy with. I realised that a new year didn’t necessarily mean a new me, it could just mean I could create a better version of me, an enhanced version.
“the clothing he had worn, by now unbearably old and too tight, could be discarded at last. A new suit was waiting for him.”- Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game.
Last year, 2016, was an eye-opening year for me in so many unimaginable ways. 2016 marked the start of my final 2 years in a formal education system. As exhilarated I was when I started it, I am now struggling to continue being motivated. I’ve come to meet many interesting people – all with different stories and experiences. Some make me smile, some drive me up the wall, some guide me when I assume there’s a dead-end. I also was introduced to the world of philosophy through Demian (thanks to BTS) and then Yuri On Ice. I finally found out what happens when I break under pressure. I started doing what I loved – writing and photography. I committed myself to a space to freely express myself. I finally become aware of world affairs and even local ones thanks to the introduction of General Paper. I finally stepped out of my world to become one with our world, the world we share. The year also completely proved that I was not crafted to appreciate the sciences in any way. This realisation brought about the post-promotional exam crisis where I intensely deliberated about staying back another year and doing subjects I actually liked and felt motivated to study. After some heated debates with the family, I succumbed to my fate. After all, it’s only one more year. ONE MORE YEAR of struggling with things and people I disliked. I also experienced new cultures and educational environments through my Junior College (JC) journey and a trip to Hong Kong University (HKU). In all, 2016 was an important year in crafting who I am.
The new year literally started with a bang with the Turkey nightclub attack. I wasn’t surprised. As much as I wish to not admit it, 2017 will be the year that will ultimately define my path in life, for I’ll be attempting the currently unsurmountable A-Levels. After writing that examination, I’d be set to go to university. PSLE & O’s were child’s play to what I am going to write this year. As much as I wish to argue that society emphasises too much on grades, ultimately that’s not changing this year so I still need to channel my attention to attempting to pulling up my socks. The result of this year will create an irreversible chain of decisions. Also, I’m turning legal this year. I’m going to be 18, a person whose decisions would be recognised by the country. I will now be seen as someone who has adult-like maturity. The thing is, I don’t have that. I never actually explored that concept of maturity, except when I make age-inappropriate jokes. I’m actually convinced that this year would be a rollercoaster, hopefully just not one that goes down all the way.
& all of this is purely in my hands. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of drama, a lot more mental persuasion and control needed. I’m scared, to say the least. I do realise this is an elusive attempt. The past year, late nights held secrets I do not ever wish to revisit. It spelt times of despair, loneliness and confusion like a lost deer coupled with blinding headlights. Knowing beforehand that there would be more times of this intense self-questioning doesn’t help me look forward to the year. Let alone motivate me to strive to achieve my goals.
Since it’s a new year, I thought it would be apt to make resolutions, especially because it’s an important year for me. The chances I finish it through the year is highly unlikely, I’ll put in my utmost effort in keeping it up. It’s a promise to myself.
The years I’ve spent in secondary school and now my junior college have allowed me to experience a lot of activities. I gathered a lot of hobbies in that time, just there was one mistake I made every single time. I would find any reason to discredit my efforts or ability and abandon my hobbies all together. The thing is, a hobby isn’t meant to enhance your abilities. If you are able to make your hobby your talent, you’re one of the lucky few but the purpose of an hobby is not that. It’s for you to discover yourself and take you to another place, away from your reality. I really want to use this year to spend some time with useful (Keyword: Useful) hobbies and get in touch with who I am.
I spent last year in a daze. I spent most of my time on shows and music. I’m going to cut off the dramas, just for this year. Note: I’m not saying shows, but dramas specifically, because other shows come once a week and do not ruin my schedules. I binge-watch dramas. Having to wait for another episode hurts me deeply, especially those with cliffhangers. Guess who has all the time after A’s to binge. That’s right, I do. So, let go of the dramas now.
Make realistic schedules. Having my calendar filled with colour columns stretching across three hours is aesthetically beautiful but I never stick to it. I lose patience once I exceed 1.5 hours. That’s my golden number. Stick with it.
Previously, I wrote about my fears in which I mentioned that I was afraid about being the odd-ball of the group. I still am afraid, but I need to spend my time more usefully. It’s important for me to understand that no one constantly thinks about me being weird and questions it. Everyone has their problems and checklists. I should think about the bigger problems I have – here’s a hint, my grades. Just go with it, your actions shape you. It is my choices brought me here, shaped me to become who I am. Spending time blaming myself over past is the best waste of time. I know that, I just forget it 99% of the time. Also, it’s fine to be a terrible person – saves you more trouble than you think. Just respect everyone around you, but their opinions do not ever dictate who you are.
This doesn’t even apply for the first 11 months of 2017. Recently I have wanted to learn new skills like dancing (largely due to my attraction to Korean pop dance breaks), to explore new places, etc. I never got down to it, for various reasons. Or should I say extremely convincing excuses. It’s not getting me anywhere really.
This year would be a year of challenges for me. I have to deal with things I wished I’d never had to experience. It’s okay. Take a deep breath there. Hear me out. It’s only for less than a year (< 365 days). Don’t break. A couple of cracks is inevitable but never shatter. Depending on the circumstance, what I just said could give you a panic attack. Sorry about that.
I can’t emphasise on this enough. Words give me peace. Having my thoughts strung in a way I can understand it gives me a sense of security and satisfaction. Write whenever you can, it’s one of the best things I can do for myself now. Pen against paper & the chatters of the keyboard give you more solace than human interaction. & that’s completely fine. Don’t ever feel like you have no way to express yourself. The only person you’ll ever need to express yourself clearly to is yourself. Others do not matter, especially this year.
When in doubt : Write
When in need for emotional support : Write
When confronted by new ideas : Write.
When expressing your thoughts : Write.
That’s it for my resolutions for this year. I’ll try my very best to be committed, for all of that helps me to become a better version of Shrey.
@2017, please don’t test me this year.
@Shrey, you can do this…hopefully. I’m praying for you.
According to science, we were born with only two fears – fears of falling from heights and loud noises. Yet today, I can’t seem to find the end of my list of fears.
I was afraid. I am afraid. I will be afraid.
Nothing changes except the fact that I do.
& everyone does, with time.
When I was young, my home was my oyster. It was rather safe so I feared mere creatures like cockroaches (I still highly dislike them). I felt safe under my parents’ shelter so I spoke my views confidently, got my way through tantrums and lived life spontaneously.
Slowly as I grew older and pushed my horizons further away from my abode to explore the sea, I came to face my first fear – the fear of rejection. Primary school wasn’t an easy period of time for me. Everyone seemed to have their own circle of friends, yet I seemed to always failed. That combined with my non-existent intelligence didn’t help me garner any brownie points either. It was the first time I was being rejected by the people around me for being Indian. It left a very deep mark on me since then. In attempts to gain some attention, I went about the wrong way and found myself in hot soup most of the time. I felt helpless and alone. During these times, I cried and pleaded God so many times. God noticed me, yet he decided it was time for me to have another fear.
When I was 10, my grandfather left me. He passed on. That’s when another fear joined the list – the fear of being left behind. It’s not as if I was really close to my grandfather to begin with. We shared a few minutes of calls every other month, a paragraph of his letters and a month every two years to spend with him. My brother spent his majority of his childhood with him and so did my cousins, it was only me who didn’t spend as much time with them. Yet, when he passed on, I cried incessantly. Partly because I won’t see him again, it was for the first time I saw the people around me that weak. It knocked me off this high pedestal of victim mentality I had – that I was the only one going through hard times. The thing about death is the fact that the deceased leaves everyone in difficult times. I was left behind in this atmosphere of sorrow, mourning and self-reflection. That incident changed so many things drastically. My tastes flipped, my interests changed. From this girlish person who never looked past the pinks, now only saw the blues and embraced the pitch darkness and embraced the tomboy style. From being this person who excelled in athletics, I moved to make academics my aim in life. Obviously, my parents were glad because I was beginning to see what was important to me. Yet, to me, this was my way of saying goodbye to my past self. Leaving the essence of me behind was my definition of goodbye.
The fear of being left behind has many different interpretations, many applied to me.
The fear of being ignored – I couldn’t bear the silence. The silence was a dead-end to me. I always had a conversation going, also earning myself a label of being talkative along that journey. It sounds bad, but to me then, it was lighter than silence. Not having to tiptoe on thin ice, not having to decipher what the other person is thinking gave me such relief.
The fear being left alone – I buried myself with company, to the point where the only times I was alone was the the restroom and in my bed, ready to sleep. I did anything and everything to keep them around, agreed with everything they said, praised them. Yet, I would always be left alone. I learnt afterwards what kept people around you was not what you did for them, but you can offer them in the future.
The fear of not being able to keep up with the pace – I attempted to keep up with school to the best of my abilities but it didn’t go my way because everyone was already used to the grind. I was spit out in pieces and yet I pushed on. The end comes – was my motivation. However, I forgot the most important thing about the end, it signals a new battle, a new journey. I would never actually be done.
The fear of being forgotten, getting left behind in memories – many people may mention that I have a bright personality (that’s at least what my report cards say) and I’m very spontaneous. I needed a place to feel safe to be me and the only place turned out to me. To ensure it stays safe, I built great walls to throw off people from thinking I had worries. My social media only sung tunes of good memories. However, just like everyone, all this was part of a facade I made for myself. I found the need to portray myself as this really happy person who had it all going for her, so that people would remember me longer. Day by day, I fed more traits to this “alter ego” personality I created. Somewhere along the journey, I lost the true essence of who I was, I lost myself. To me, it was taboo to talk about struggles and suffering. This period of time was specifically houses the darkest memories for me.
A year later, I moved on to a neighbourhood secondary school. I was hell bent to avoid people because I had enough of fighting off previous fears I faced in primary school. I decided to stay away from the root cause of my fears – interacting with people. It obviously failed, but the first year I did successfully pushed everyone away. Secondary school didn’t give me much time to face my fears, I was caught up in how to be the best in everything. I joined endless competitions, I mindlessly committed myself to any opportunity that came my way, I spent day and night studying for I couldn’t bear to lose without a battle fought. 2 years passed and I grew to hate myself more. I couldn’t prove anything to anyone. The passionate fire waned and it merely simmered enough to study before the exams in hopes to at least pass. On the good side, I met new people who had passions for different fields. Talking to them, sharing experiences with them and spending time to know them better made me a better conversationalist. Every once in a while, the small fear of parting after graduation turned up like an uninvited guest. I sat it down, had a small talk with it – assuring myself that we could stay in touch if we made the time and effort – and sent it on its way. It turned up on many other occasions and the cycle repeated.
Around this time, I came face to face with the concept of love. My previous opinion of anything to do with love and romance, was not exactly a bed of roses. It was a bed of roses with roses cut off, all it had to offer was thorns. It was irrational, unreasonable and waste of people’s time when they were all going to break up in the end, especially at my age. I loved having crushes – the suspense, the hide & seek sequence, the shy and nerve-wrecking encounters, the nights spent over-thinking each conversation and gesture. I never thought beyond it because it sounded crazy to me. Somehow, I ended up in one.
It was nice having someone to care about, to be affectionate towards. Maturity kicked in much later than it should have. I ended up thinking I found someone I could be one with and mapped my lifetime, painted an unrealistic dream. I saw myself change so drastically, from this cold human to an overly affectionate person. I got scared yet again. Scared of change, scarred by the fact I could no longer retain the essential bit of me – I backed out, like a coward. No regrets, but I chose to live out my fear. I wanted to be alone for the time to come. Not because I didn’t feel anything, but I feared myself, my ability to commit, I certainly didn’t want to hurt anyone. The best remedy, lock yourself up in a bubble so that all possible damage is reflected back to you. I wanted to become my fear – I wanted to exist alone.
Time went on, the list grew, never lessened. I got past some fears with new experiences. I went through some to only see my ideals change vastly – what I wished for was not what I truly wanted. Some experiences proved me right that what I wanted to do was the road to walk. Through those, I changed vastly. It was only bound to happen. What changed most in this so-called transformation was the perception of me. When I was younger, I loved myself, yes to a level of a narcissist. What was good about it, I had lesser reasons to discredit myself. I could be assured that the results I received were purely my effort.
As I grew up, I began realising what my family expects of be, what society expects of a perfect woman and what qualities my friends needed in theirs, I turned out to be the complete opposite. I am not inclined in academics or anything whatsoever, I turned to be a tomboy who has gamophobia and even Wikipedia labelled me as a bad friend. I had it going for me…downhill. I can’t say I was scared to be different, I’ll talk about this in a bit. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being who I am, but as me, I don’t like me. Of course, that means we start the journey of self-realisation and what I really want to be.
Start from self.
Start small and go far.
At least that’s what I want to do.
I may have used an unfamiliar word before- Gamophobia. Fret not, here’s what that is.
It is the fear of commitment, can also be the excessive, persistent, uncontrollable and irrational fear of marriage. It is derived from the Greek word Gamos which means marriage and phobos meaning fear. – Wikipedia
The thought someone having to tolerate me for the rest of their lives sounds like a great disservice. As for me, I can’t imagine being tied to one person/thing for too long. Things can change in the future – I’ll keep that possibility open. I personally believe in experiencing the new, and for that it’s important to move from the old- be it relationships, places, routines, lifestyles etc. As a girl, movies and school tells you that your fate is to find your prince charming, working as something you aspired to be and live happily. The thing about commitment is the fact that it feels like shackles to the person involved and I. I don’t want to hold anyone back from experiencing new things, meeting new people, gaining new knowledge. Some may say that these are choices made by one, to choose to spend their time with you.
One of my fears at the present is to be different – to stand out. As a Leo, you’re considered to be the life of party. I used to agree with this when I was young. I understand society and communities love to propagate the idea that being different is important – in an utopian case, everyone who is skilled in different fields would be able to come together to become a group of people who are self-reliant.
It’s okay to be different. It’s at these very words that I shudder. It brings back so many memories of how I was told off for not doing what I was expected to do at my age – study and end up in the best schools. Surely, I am not saying that being different is bad. It’s not as if you being different drags your soul into the dark side and the mediocre people are safe by following the paths taken by their ancestors. I actually applaud people who can decide against following the safest routes and set path on their journey of self-discovery. However, it is one of those things where it’s okay to others but not to me. The argument what makes you different makes you you never actually resonated with me, especially going into secondary school. I personally believe, everyone is born fairly the same. Their background, experiences, education level, travels etc. shapes them to become the way they are.
Everyone has their own fears. In my opinion, fears define you for they are formed by your experiences. Of course you shouldn’t make that the sole definition of you. There’s so many other factors that define you, we should never forget that. Fears are like mini challenges that you have to get past to reach the next level of a better self. Technically, I am relating video games to life. Each level gets a little harder but with the XP, the never ending collection of armoury and skill sets, you can get accomplish your goals and tasks.
It’s okay to be afraid. You just need to know what you’re afraid of. People may say life has no time for “useless” fears. It’s only easy to speak of it. First step is awareness and with time, you’ll grow to face them.
According to Dr T.A. Richards, we can stop thoughts that lead to anxiety by consciously replacing them by more rational thoughts like the following:
When Anxiety is Near:
1. I’m going to be all right. My feelings are not always rational. I’m just going to relax, calm down, and everything will be all right.
2. Anxiety is not dangerous — it’s just uncomfortable. I am fine; I’ll just continue with what I’m doing or find something more active to do.
3. Right now I have some feelings I don’t like. They are really just phantoms, however, because they are disappearing. I will be fine.
4. Right now I have feelings I don’t like. They will be over with soon and I’ll be fine. For now, I am going to focus on doing something else around me.
5. That picture (image) in my head is not a healthy or rational picture. Instead, I’m going to focus on something healthy like _________________________.
6. I’ve stopped my negative thoughts before and I’m going to do it again now. I am becoming better and better at deflecting these automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and that makes me happy.
7. So I feel a little anxiety now, SO WHAT? It’s not like it’s the first time. I am going to take some nice deep breaths and keep on going. This will help me continue to get better.”
When Preparing for a Stressful Situation
1. I’ve done this before so I know I can do it again.
2. When this is over, I’ll be glad that I did it.
3. The feeling I have about this trip doesn’t make much sense. This anxiety is like a mirage in the desert. I’ll just continue to “walk” forward until I pass right through it.
4. This may seem hard now, but it will become easier and easier over time.
5. I think I have more control over these thoughts and feelings than I once imagined. I am very gently going to turn away from my old feelings and move in a new, betterdirection.
When feeling overwhelmed
1. I can be anxious and still focus on the task at hand. As I focus on the task, my anxiety will go down.
2. Anxiety is a old habit pattern that my body responds to. I am going to calmly and nicely change this old habit. I feel a little bit of peace, despite my anxiety, and this peace is going to grow and grow. As my peace and security grow, then anxiety and panic will have to shrink.
3. At first, my anxiety was powerful and scary, but as time goes by it doesn’t have the hold on me that I once thought it had. I am moving forward gently and nicely all the time.
4. I don’t need to fight my feelings. I realize that these feelings won’t be allowed to stay around very much longer. I just accept my new feelings of peace, contentment, security, and confidence.
5. All these things that are happening to me seem overwhelming. But I’ve caught myself this time and I refuse to focus on these things. Instead, I’m going to talk slowly to myself, focus away from my problem, and continue with what I have to do. In this way, my anxiety will have to shrink away and disappear.
The chill air hits me. It wakes me right up from my slumber.
I shudder, yet I don’t flinch away. I love how it feels against my skin, cold yet so tantalising & I fall in love with this moment. The rain has this special thing only it can do, the way it sounds as it falls and all my lingering feelings oozes out as one’s hidden emotions. When the rain initially ushers in, a strange silence falls. The sound of the rain is far louder, or it is…in my mind.
In a way it makes you feel more free to express yourself. Before it falls, it makes its arrival known with its dim lighting and chill winds. It’s as if nature places a wintry arm around you, and tells you to be true to yourself. It does the same to show that it’s okay. When even nature can’t hold its tears back, why should you?
The rain has a tendency to calm you down. Cool you down if I may. Lulls you to sleep. The sound of it sounds like sparklers lit. As you hold your hand out, you feel it. A concentrated pressure hits you, you can’t bring yourself to hate that feeling. The ends of my lips curve up in happiness and yet I’m afraid, just like this rain, this happiness is not for long. I lose strength in my fingers, gather them into a fist and retract. This is no time to enjoy the rain and let yourself be free. I couldn’t bear to leave the side of the rain, so I stayed.
I stand by the window and look on. Each’s expression so different. A solo silhouette, with hands curled in sweater pockets, walks on as the rain relentlessly batters. A couple huddled under a small umbrella, shy smiles every now and them on their faces for the rain tonight has brought them closer. The head of the family scurrying his loved ones into the nearest shelter. I realise the rain brings out the true emotions. Not the emotions you show on your mask, but the emotions you feel in your mind & heart. Your true emotions.
The evening air is filled with laughter of children, the sirens of cars, the chirps of birds, cars splashing through roads and the clouds as it makes its interaction known with a flash of light across the sky and a thunder that announces the fated meet. The rain sizzles more as if the ground was a heated pan. Yet it calms me down that much more. As the drop reflects the light from the lamppost as it falls, it creates a moving spectrum. Oh it’s a beauty alright.
The rain gets heavier, so does my non-existent hangover. The car’s blinding lights sets the spotlight for stage for the raindrops to dance upon. The leaves and twigs of trees and plants swaying side to side to show that even they wish to be part of the performance of nature’s. The accompanying sounds of thunder, the lighting effects of lightning, oh kudos to the the director of seasons, you sure make tonight so much more meaningful. My ears perk up along with orchestra of rain drops, I yearn to stand beneath it. For my skin be the stage for the rain to dance on. Close your eyes, feel each drop fall into your embrace. Feel it trickle down, taking away all tension along with it as it moves.
Cars ride on and on. With its speed, it breaks through layers of stale chill air. Fearing for their lives, the air moves out of the ways of speeding cars and bumps into me. I continue to walk alongside the road for the repeated crashing into cool air intoxicates me. I’m in paradise. The memories surface. I didn’t realise it. Oh, oh how I missed those days.
In the present, I miss the past.
In the future, I will miss today.
When we were young, we sang songs to make the rain leave us for we can play without repercussions. Yet as we grow older, as we leave our childhood behind with each growing day, we crave for the rain. Crave for the escape it provides. Now that I think about it, when we were young, songs about the rain brought smiles to everyone. It told stories of times well spent with family and friends, warmly huddled up together smiling and laughing. Carefree. Now the songs I hear that pertain to rain is of loss and heartbreak. Of pain and suffering. How the rain falls or why it falls has remained the same throughout all these years. Yet how we perceive it could change so radically. What exactly has changed from those years compared to now to influence our perceptions in such a manner.
I look up at the sky and see white specks coming towards me. Is there a chance someone is out there contemplating seriously. Taking this downpour as their symbol of downfall. Contemplating the meaning of life. Wondering how it would feel to be a droplet, falling from the sky.
Would they try to attempt
To be like one, to be one
with itself on the ground.
Would they instead realise it’s
Just a passing thought and go on.
I recall a recent dream I had.
Of this girl cold and alone, by the seaside. It was raining then too. Alone under the light, she sat. Her hair dripped with no stop. She had a blanket wrapped around her, yet she shivered uncontrollably. Her lips were blue from the cold and waiting. Her voice faint. Actually, I don’t remember if there even was a voice or just the sea’s thrumming celebration of meeting its fated shore.
I didn’t feel sorry for her neither did my heart urge my mind to help her. The first thought that came in was Karma. If she was me when I was older, I wouldn’t have been surprised. All my life, I’ve been so afraid of letting people close to me. The fear of loving someone more than loving myself, fear of losing what I always assumed would be by my side, drives me crazy. Some distance would make all that yearning and pain lesser and that’s what I did. There has always been this impenetrable wall between family, friends and I. I always made sure that I showed the people I cared and loved how I felt about them. Yet, theirs never came through. The words they spoke and things they did would figure new meanings in this devastated mind of mine. Who would stand by my side when their sincerity couldn’t even be decoded. Or is sincerity not such a difficult concept to begin with?
The brightest lightning of all night offers me to show me the path out of this dark tunnel and I rejoice to be back to reality and the rain.
I slipped back home and returned to the side of my window. On the surface of the pane, a drop moves down & another follows. Somewhere, someone would have followed your path or you have followed another’s. As the drops follow, it creates a stream & then flows as one. But as it leaves, it leaves as a droplet. Just like how we come as one person so pure, with journey of life that colours and changes what we see to how or why we see it. Yet when we pass, we leave as one person so transformed. Would we even be able to leave a trace? Or would we be celebrated as a movement of life form and inspiration for the next generation?
Somehow a rain droplet reminds me of myself. As it falls on panes and knobs, it grows both in volume and substance in its attempt to push away what it is on. These surfaces represent the time I spend with family and friends. More time I spend with them, I grow both in memories and values. Yet I crave for freedom. To be as far away from them I could be. To face life alone, for the harsh cold reality that it is. The raindrop, once its journey is over or the weight is too much to bear, it plunges into a free-fall. Does it feel sad to be away from what it was on, or does it celebrate its freedom and go on about its journey?
The rain suddenly shies away from showing its tears, as it slowly moves from heavy showers to mere drizzle. Maybe it has realised it has given me all the solace I needed tonight and I had done about all the thinking I needed . I figured I could let the rain do me one last favour – put me to sleep. I return to my sleeping abode and fall asleep to the light chimes of the rain.
The next morning, the sky was as clear as the Blue Lake. It was as though the storm that raged the night before was all merely a dream.
P.S. This was written over a range of nights when it rained and I let go to write what really came to my mind.