My Hustle Story

My parents were once hawkers who sold prawn noodles in Eunos Crescent. When I was younger, I would plea my guardian to let me visit them and when I did, I would sit from afar and observe my parents at work. I remember how Ma would man the storefront, fearlessly handling the forthcoming slew of orders and managing the cash register, while Pa would hold the fort in the kitchen, singlehandedly ladling scoop after scoop of prawn broth into the customers’ bowls. It was a beautiful thing to watch and it is something I cannot forget.

I knew nothing about food then. But from the never-ending throng of customers that patronised the store, I guess we were managing fine. It wasn’t until later that I learnt of the predicament that was to come. Exorbitant rental eventually took us out and the family business ceased to exist.

As I continue to grow older, my parents’ prawn noodle narrative hasn’t really ended. From time to time, I would come to hear Pa’s kitchen stories and Ma would eventually divulge how the entire business started. Along the way, I learnt that, even while I was still in Ma’s womb, Ma continued her part of their daily hustle. I also eventually came to know that it was only until when Pa realised that Ma’s huge tummy proved how dangerous it was for her to be travelling to work on a motorcycle that he decided to get a car instead. I guess, looking back, I was already part of their narrative.

In many ways, I am appreciative of what Ma and Pa told me. In many ways, I am grateful for being involved in their legacy. I guess somewhere in between, Ma and Pa would have thought of passing down their skills to me. Yet, sadly, it was not meant to be. The inherent skills of cooking up a bowl of delicious prawn noodle were something that belonged only to them, and they are something I don’t possess. Even if I tried to learn (which I never really did), my lack of culinary dexterity (proven from the countless times I cut myself) largely determined my ultimate failure and incompatibility with Pa’s golden ladle.

And so, I decided to focus my attention elsewhere – hosting and writing.
I picked up hosting during the later tenure of my Junior College years. I wasn’t motivated to study and wasn’t doing exactly well academically. Yet as much as I disliked studying for the sake of studying, I enjoyed serving the school. I joined the Debates Society and volunteered to host for the bulk of my alma mater’s concerts and events. Like every son of the nation, conscription happened and I stopped hosting altogether.

Fast forward two years later, with my A-level results being substandard and nothing exactly available on the plate, I decided to take a gap year. It was 2017 and I was 21. I took my first writing photojournalist internship and learnt the nuts and bolts of the media industry. I picked up new skills, such as copywriting, copyediting, photography, Lightroom editing, and some iota of videography skills, along the way. Most importantly, I met my writing mentor, Clara Lock, who has been most generous with her feedback and criticism. I will have to be honest here, from the kind of articles I have been writing about, I am not a writer-writer but more of a journalist. Even so, I dare not proclaim that I am good at what I am doing. There is so much to go, and I am barely scratching the surface. Beyond that, I have also managed to travel quite a fair bit. Most of these travels were part of media trips that I was fortunate enough to get. I never really had the chance to travel when Pa and Ma were working and so these new experiences really shaped my perspective of the world.

Somehow in 2017, I decided to give hosting a shot again. Worried that I am unable to cope with the stage fright and present messages eloquently, I decided to give myself training — a part-time server job at a local restaurant. Deliberately putting myself back into the front lines where I get to relive some part of Ma’s hustling days and be forced to speak to customers, I gradually rebuilt the confidence I once had.

Today, in 2018, aside from the three job titles — writer, emcee, and part-time server — I am holding on to, I am also an undergraduate student in a private university. I know life is going to be even more hectic from now onwards. But I guess, I am someone who thrives in being busy. After all, if I don’t hustle, I won’t improve.

Advertisements

Ma & Love

When I was young, I didn’t live with Ma.

Many thought the both of us weren’t close. But distance has a way of bringing the hearts closer, and we were, as cliche as it sounded, the best of friends.

At 10pm every night, knowing Ma was home, I would pick up the cordless phone, lie on the sofa, punch her number, and call her. And we would chat.

When I was young, school was everything I cared for. Naturally, my conversations with Ma would revolve around that topic. We would talk about everything. Many times, I would imagine Ma standing by the balcony and listening compassionately, nodding her head and breaking into smiles as I shared snippets of my stories.

We would talk about the food I ate, the bus ride ‘home’, the girls I liked, the people I met, the things I learnt … Sometimes, Ma would reminisce her younger days and I would struggle to stay awake because it was past bedtime.

Sometimes Ma shared about her experience as a rebel. How she would get into fights to protect the weak and for the righteous. Sometimes Ma shared about her dating stories. How girls used to chase her when she was the notorious tomboy of the crowd. But mostly, she would share about how I came to this world.

She used to mention how I was a rebel like her because I refused to exit her vagina. And after 24 hours of deliberation, the doctor, had to resort to using a vacuum. She told me what my name meant. That is, when translated, “happy” and “lofty”.

Those 60 minutes conversations would be lost amid the receding radio waves yet remain forever etched in memory.

Life was simple then. Until age and responsibilities caught up. The 60 minutes conversations would fall short to 45 minutes, then 30, eventually 10. And sometimes the frequency of dialing would decrease altogether. Ma must have expected it.

Today, I am 22 and Ma is 53. I moved back and am living with Ma. I am in my prime but she is experiencing menopause.

Today, I know that the idyllic portrait I painted for Ma when she speaks with someone over the phone would never materialise. On the contrary, she would sit on the sofa, beer on the table and cigarette in hand, chatting away.

Sometimes, I would try to start a conversation.

“I’m not managing my life well.” I’d say.

Silence. She would look at me, hold her hand up, speak something into the speaker, cut her call promptly, before looking straight into my eyes and telling me to deal with it. She would take in a sip of alcohol and a whiff of cigarette, and wait not for my response but my solution.

Distance has a way painting false pretenses. But false pretenses are not necessarily all benign in nature. In any case, my interactions with Ma taught me many life lessons that I am grateful of.

Perhaps to Ma the manner she interacted with me was her way of teaching. To her, the 60 minutes calls were a substitute for the lack of contact comfort in my childhood. While her savage face-to-face communication was her way of telling me to solve problems and not rant about them. Ma was uneducated but she has always been an educator at heart.

Perhaps to Ma the way she greeted my question with silence was her way of encouraging me to try even if that meant I would come face to face with nothingness. Perhaps to Ma, trying was all that mattered because if everything fail, I would walk away with no regrets.

But for the longest of time, there is one thing Ma is constantly silent about relationships.

And I pray she never will.

Writing for the sake of writing is still writing

I have had very differing opinions on this.

One moment, I can hate those who write for the sake of writing. (For those who know me, I’m pretty sure ya’ll would have guessed who these groups of people are. But no, Nicole Choo is something else.) And almost instantaneously, I can empathise with them. I am pretty sure they have their reasons, and I wonder if I have had done something along the lines in the past …

Turns out, I don’t have to think far.

Academic writing, as it turns out, is a cliche classic. Everywhere, college undergrads and grads are writing, some nonchalantly while others voraciously, for their grades. I doubt anyone would succumb their minds to this voluntarily, or at the very least, wholeheartedly. But hey, there are some who do so right? And I applaud those who do. But let this piece define the former and not the latter, aye? (Sounds wholly academic here)

So, here am I, writing for the sake of writing in the confines of my relative’s place, hoping that the completion of this will prompt me to finish reading that last chapter of my textbook.

There is value in “shitty” writing. Because, at the end of the day, writing, regardless of authors or poets or writers, is telling. Writing is telling because it sheds light on the writer; writing sheds light on you. Writing tells a lot about you, a denizen of this sad, sad world.

In every piece of writing, you are writing about yourself. You cannot escape it. It is about the internalisation of details in the head and generating them eloquently onto a medium. Sometimes you get it right, and sometimes you don’t. Not because you lack the medium nor the medium, in question, is lacklustre in nature, but because that manifold transition from the head to the hand, and the hand to the pen, and pen to paper, is entirely tedious.

So, here’s to those who continuously strive to be better, to those who succeeded in writing things they never thought they would have otherwise done.

Because,  im damn tilted la. #writingforthesakeofwriting

EDIT: I SWEAR I WILL GET BACK TO THIS.

ughasff

somehow cny doesn’t feel like cny

i am overthinking alot

i hate the feeling of suffocation that’s in my chest

i wish i am a faster worker

i wish i am a better reader

i wish i can an efficient reader

academic rigor? im not used to it

ugh

ugh

ugh

i didnt sign up for this.

my father did.

update

I think I am happy because I have friends who care, people who eat lunches with me, and people who compliment me.

I think I am also mildy sad because things are happening in me, and it’s not puberty. I wish it was though.

I was also told that things happen because they are meant to be. I no longer believe in destiny. It’s not bullshit but nothing is really happening. On a brighter note, I was also told that my writing has a voice and it means so much. The same people also told me that I used the ’em dash’ incorrectly.

I think life is going well for now. And I am becoming braver. I no longer apologise to the things I shouldn’t be feeling sorry for. Likewise, I learnt that apologies shouldn’t be given for the sake of it; it should be sincere and precise. The one drawback is that it may not work and I am still trying to learn how to recover from that.

It’s also strange because people think that I am smart. I’d thank them instead and tell them I am not. I try to be but words and logic don’t pair well with me, and this explains my sporadicity (if it’s even a word).

I wonder if anyone would die for me. I think some would. On the contrary, I doubt they will ever live for me.

I mean, you live your own life, right?

Open Heart, Open Mind

I told you the word it takes for me to crack and crumble, and I told you to tell no one else because I want you to be the only one, who knows and be the only one to hold on and never let go. I told you who my favourite band is, why I like ‘Misery Business’, and why red was never my colour even though it is yours. You told me cryptocurrency was the way to go, and you built me the way fools would jump on the Bitcoin bandwagon, only to fall steep and whole, and for some, never the same again. You beamed as the lights transitioned from electric blue to neon red. You shuffled away as DNCE got on, as the lights turned bright scarlet. The dance floor was never lonely. I was. But I still danced to the flow, keeping pretence, even though I felt myself crumbling. It was never the alcohol, it was you. Picking up whatever remnants of self-dignity and self-respect, I left, never looking back, never returning again.