biting my heel

terminally young and coming to grips with how little control I have. is this adulthood? spent today in a recognizable emotional cycle- began the day ebulliently, set to raze everything with productivity: then sorted through readings for class that day for the next like three fucking hours with great quizzicality and increasing frustration. Also struggled with wondering if i was doing much for price or if the rest was doing too little. Then went for class and sank deep into boredom and despair. Started to hate everyone a little bit when I didn’t get to call panel for next week’s readings even though I got to VJP before the last guy who asked for it, because I just stood there without speaking up and VJP didn’t get to me until I was last. Then went home and was non-communicative. Grimly got through more price readings and then in a fit of temper with the world went to read a heist novel for the entire evening.

Just this morning I was convinced that I knew my business, that I had it down- God, it’s infinitely changeable. even as I try and wrestle it it morphs in my arms. And that’s just myself, my emotions. I fooled myself into thinking it was simple for so very long but it’s not, I can’t take my eyes off it for a moment. 

help me transcend

I always feel overwhelmed with tenderness when i talk to my younger cousin about studies. she’s thirteen and in her first year of secondary school. we were just talking about her chinese oral yesterday, then the new exam modifications and her school mid-autumn festival celebration, but it seems that it always comes back to her subject choices. she’s doing a special art program that she enjoys but that she worries about because later on she can’t do biology or literature and has to elect between only history or geography. it’s not that i can see her making the same mistakes that i did- we’re pretty different people- but it kind of comes from the same root of like, ‘i should do what i’m good at’; and deciding too early that ‘i’m bad at that so i should avoid it’. in some ways having a strong self-conception may be a bad thing at that age (or indeed at any age): it makes you too fixed in what you expect of yourself, what you can see yourself doing (ie, not failure). but i said tenderness because i come not at all from high ground where i can say that i am above all these troubles: i still struggle with them, every day. with not closing myself off to things because i feel like i’m bad at them. with embracing failure as a necessary but incidental part of life, as an inevitable stopover on the way to reaching something greater. i’m drawing upon what el said on monday now- ‘if you cannot fail at something it’s not worth doing!’

when she said ‘i like art but what am i going to do with it later on? my friends want to become illustrators but I don’t,’ I said ‘it doesn’t have to open up a future career path to be worth doing; do i have to want to be a historian in order to want to take history?’ i wonder how we get such a utilitarian bent when in the larger scheme of things what we learn in secondary school is so useless.

in other news but also relatedly, in the sense that it’s all about trying to figure out how to make a life- things are coalescing in school, and so the shadow of panic is stooping over me again. yesterday was a relatively disciplined day, but it’s hard to keep your feet when you survey the time left and wonder if you are making the most productive use of it. i have to write 2.5k on what? especially when you have to do something grinding that always seems like it can be put off till later. but i will not resent making time for chores, for trying to eat right, for spending time with people i love. i won’t withdraw into my assignments and away from life. i want to make giant glittery posters for farisha on sunday and wave our huge obnoxious love for her in everyone’s faces so she knows she’s supported. i want to cook for my family, because my mom went to the trouble of getting so many ingredients for me to do it and it’s relaxing and we always eat more vegetables at home. i want to talk to my cousin and show her that she has my entire attention even when it’s against my study plan because it’s important that she knows that i’ll listen to her and that what she says is important. i’ll write this post even though i was supposed to start work again at 9 because it’s how i process and remember.

when i’ve read too long my eyes feel unfocused so i have to remember this for when i can’t see clearly for myself: there is never only one thing that matters in life. especially when it’s academic.

when ms wong said on saturday that SJLS isn’t supposed to take away from your life but to teach you to enhance your capacity, that struck me a little. i’m trying! i’ll challenge that this year, i think.


seeing each other thrice in one week is truly unprecedented. 6am wake up calls and 8pm wolf whistling from the stalls. I used to think that group conversations could just never reach the intimacy of those between fewer people, but my friends teach me every day the strength it takes to be vulnerable and the way sharing can heal. as always, I can only hope that I am as much a comfort to them as they are to me.

recognise ourselves completely/ in what can be seen on earth

“Just think: is childhood not difficult in all of its unexplained contexts? Are the years of girlhood not difficult- don’t they pull the head like so much long and heavy hair into the depth of great sadness? And nothing is supposed to change; if life then suddenly becomes more bearable, more carefree, and more joyful for many, this is only the case because they have stopped taking it seriously and actually bearing it and feeling it and filling it with their most authentic selves. This is not progress as life intends it. This is a renunciation of all of its expanses and opportunities. What is asked of us is that we love what is difficult and learn to handle what is difficult and heavy. In difficulty there are the benign forces, the hands that work on us. In the midst of difficulty we are meant to experience our joy, our happiness, our dreams: there, against the depth of this background, they become visible and only there we may recognise their beauty. And only in the darkness of difficulty our precious smile attains its meaning: only there it shines with its deep and dreamy light, and in the brightness that it spreads momentarily we behold the wonders and treasures all around us.”

– rilke, translated by ulrich baer

auden called rilke the ‘santa claus of loneliness’. i laughed at first but then now after reading excerpts from rilke’s letters there really is something behind the sardonicism. i like rilke best for the tentativeness of his advice, when he acknowledges that what he has to say is tempered by the narrowness of his own perspective: i lost patience when he started advocating seemingly umitigated loneliness, as a way of life and as a means of self-knowledge. even if he lived four years speaking only to his housekeeper and writing letters, increasingly eclipsed by his pain. are people innately social animals or not?


“the force of rilke’s letters results from his awareness that his life and ‘world’, in a profound sense, surpassed and exceeded him. This is what constitutes life’s richness for us all; it’s also what can make it difficult. The reason the world ‘surpasses us’ is because we make choices and form intentions that are wiped out simply by what happens; we take recourse to names and titles and seek happiness, but all of those forms of refuge may prove transient. Our ways of compartmentalising the world and our failing to see with equanimity each of its aspects without preference, judgment, or distraction, Rilke writes… ‘puts us in the wrong, makes us culpable, kills us’. And yet this fear of a gradual death brought about by our failure to be mindful- really a death of the imagination- reminds us that it is in fact not a question of mastering or subduing life but of living it.”

can and should

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realise that you control your own destiny.”
– Albert Ellis

if you feel like something isn’t working then the only person that can do anything about it is you. you think you can drift through things without it touching you but that’s not true; stop being surprised when you discover damage when turning it over later.