2018 fin.

I’ve spent enough time travelling to know that plane rides are best reserved for building-up and internalising some random musings or philosophical nothings.

And as I find myself on a flight to the land of the rising sun, comfortably confined for the next 7 hours, I figured I’d better do some timely reflection.

MILESTONES

The past year has been a year of – you guessed it- learning and growing up. A series of events unfolded as the year progresses, some highlights include:

  • Embraced the title of a freelance writer cum photojournalist.
  • Began college.
  • Half-sponsored an overseas trip, by which I mean I paid for flights and accommodations, for my parents.
  • Published a poem.
  • Published two print magazines.
  • Flew to Yogya with The Travel Intern.
  • Won an award for a photo.
  • Felt immense happiness for my mentor who launched her book, ‘Stay Gold‘.
  • Wrote so many human-interest stories, such as the story of a 23-year-old football manager and the story of a drag queen.

In many ways, 2018 has been slow, exciting, yet excruciating in some ways. I have met so many wonderful people in my life, many whom have helped me better myself as a person, writer, son, and a college undergraduate.

Clara, Pam, Dom, Hendric, Cherie, Marissa, Melissa, Seth, Mindy, Bel, Trish, Ryan, Lye, Denise, Jason, Jax, Os, Xin Hwee, and so many more … Thank you.

LESSONS LEARNT

My biggest takeaway? Learning to take a stand against ignorant people.

I have learnt that everyone has an ego and to overstep someone else’s ego is a sin. I have learnt that not everyone has a fluent grasp of the written language, and when it comes to giving criticism, patience and tactfulness are keys.

I have learnt that people gossip about the things they don’t know about you, about things they are unsure of, and oust you out of their life.

I have learnt that people can be two-faced. There was a time when I needed to clear the air of uncertainty. And I did, only to find out later that even the manner I cleared the air was frowned upon.

This incident had made an impact in the later half of the year. Before I knew it, I was falling head-first into the depths.

Long story short … I had posted an FB status on issue A and some people mistook it for issue B. And that someone countered by publishing the story on IG story, which I was initially oblivious of and later learnt through a third-party. I apologised with a video of a certain Telegram chat, clarifying the issue and clearing the air.

But it was too late. My reputation was tarnished and I had to make certain decisions thereafter.

I have since moved on. (Still slightly salty because I DID NOT get an apology.) But, I’m happy for this person because s/he will go on and do something great for the next year.

BEST STORY

I have written rather extensively this year. My favourite story was the one when I shadowed local veteran drag queen, Sammi Zhen.

This project came together spontaneously. For what was supposedly an academic paper for a gender studies class eventually became a full-length human interest story.

I remember sourcing around for willing interviewees, liaising with Sammi who was at a parade in Taiwan, following Sammi around from hotel halls to pubs, and chatting with him amid sweltering heat and boisterous crowd at a fast food outlet.

Seeing a drag performer up close was an invigorating experience. The manner a drag performer acts on stage is one filled with flair, sass, and savage jibes. It was very interesting. Very, very interesting.

For this, I thank Professor Lacey Stein, who had told me to “Take (the idea) and run with it”. And of course, Sammi, for sharing this elusive craft.

***


So here’s to a better and more enriching 2019!

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あの人の答え …

私:「ね お母さん、もう少しで、二年後で僕は卒業ですから、君は卒業式に行きませんか」
 
はは:「私はあなたの卒業式に出て欲しい?」
 
私:「え。。。欲しいです。」
 
はは:「面倒な。。。」
 
あの時は僕は本当に悲しいかった。。。
 
二年前に僕の閲兵があった。ははのこたえはもうおなじでした。
 
残念ですね。でも、友達があるので、未来はだいじょうぶですよ。

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.

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.