Dec 30, 2012

We all think we're right, but maybe we're all wrong.

"Just as the Infinite can never be totally objectified in words, always transcending our finite definitions of God, perhaps the words themselves, at least in their totality, also always lie beyond our reach, escaping any final objective meaning."

Christians never fully agree with one another on their beliefs. There are the many denominations, and then each individual chooses to accept and reject certain teachings according to his/her own understanding of God and the faith. How we perceive God is shaped by our era, culture, and personal experiences.  Is there a physical place called Heaven and Hell? Is a more Calvinist or Armenian outlook correct? Should baptism be conducted via sprinkling or immersion? Should babies be baptised? Is it right to do this and that?

Maybe all of us are right. Maybe none of us are. Who are we, anyway, to think we can even come close to understanding the workings of His Kingdom? And do the intricacies even matter? I personally believe that regardless of whether we're all partially right or completely wrong, what really matters is the desire to seek and love God. In other words, it's the motives that God wants you to get right more than the little details. He might not want us to fuss over these questions as much as He wants us to simply commune with Him and dwell in the relationship.

 John receives a very vivid vision of Heaven in Revelations. Is only his vision the right one? If anyone else - prophets, leaders of the Church, or even any sibling in Christ - receives a vision of what they believe is God's revelation to them about Heaven, are they all wrong if it doesn't correspond with what John describes?

 Of course not! Again, I'm quite certain that we could all be right, or wrong. Who knows for certain what Heaven might actually be? Whether a place or dimension or the Kingdom here on Earth, what does it even matter? Perhaps all the visions that people have received over time is just God trying to reveal Himself to each individual in a way that they themselves can somewhat fathom. Maybe it really looks nothing like what anyone has ever received in a personal vision. But with the limitations of the human experience and understanding, it is all that God can give us to help us understand a Heaven that is magnificent, wondrous and glorious beyond our imagination.

Dec 29, 2012

Where is God in tragedy?

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so:
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death; nor yet canst thou kill me.
From Rest and Sleep, which but thy picture be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow;
And soonest our best men with thee do go--
Rest of their bones and souls' delivery!
Thou'rt slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke. Why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die!
- John Donne

I'd just like to start by saying that this post isn't meant to prove God's existence to non-believers; I'm not trying to prove anything in this post. This post is meant to provide a personal viewpoint for believers who are struggling to find God's love and care in a world of pain.

A friend of mine mentioned how in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many people questioned how it was possible that there was a God in this world who would allow something like this to happen. How twenty innocent, potential-filled children and six wonderful, selfless adults could die at the hands of one murderer while God simply watched on.

I think it's important for the believer to remember that while God always has a good plan for us, He also loves us enough to give us free will. Because we are His children, He gives us the liberty to make our own decisions. And free will is something He has given all of us; it's a gift that He won't take away. And many times, our free will clashes with someone else's will or even God's will, and we can't help the fact that some use that will very destructively; that a man used his free will to destroy innocent, beautiful lives. And God let the consequences of his will play out.

What about natural disasters? I'm not going to try to justify it; I'm not going to pretend I know.

Then again, what is death but the ushering into a new life? I like to picture us as fish in a tank. When a person dies, it's like God takes a fish out of that tank and simply transfers him to another tank - the transition from the mortal to the eternal. And all of us in the first tank are distraught, because our friend is gone forever. God, why did you allow an innocent one of us to be taken away?

But he isn't gone. He's simply in a different tank, one we can't see.

Death is definitely destructive in other ways. The shortest verse in the Bible - "Jesus wept" - follows the death of Lazarus. Jesus was the visible image of of God on Earth, the full example of His love. And even though he knew that death was simply a transit into eternity, He cried at the thought of losing his friend here. Jesus, the full representative of God, cried upon a friend's death. Death destroys human relationships, and God Himself understands our pain of losing a loved one; it's just important to remember that it never ends there.

I pray that even when we're distraught and dealing with the immense pain of losing people we love, He reminds us that their real lives have only just begun.

There are a lot of related but separate issues, like that of poverty / suffering, salvation and the age-old question: "Why would a caring, loving God allow evil and pain?" All three issues are entire separate discussions and it'd take me too long to type out. Maybe I'll talk about them in another post someday, but I guess I can just give a really brief summary of my thoughts on those issues:

On poverty and suffering: I think all of us are born with a life's test, something we struggle with our whole lives. For some of us, it's emotional vulnerability. It could be things that many people don't see as wrong but might struggle with in their Christian walk, like greed, selfishness and pride. Maybe it's the struggle to be a filial child, or a responsible parent, or to stay true to yourself in a corrupt world. Maybe it's lust. And for others, this test could be sickness, poverty, disability. These 'tests' are a lot more tangible and obvious, but they're a test of hope and character, too.

Salvation: I believe that Jesus is the way to salvation. Now, I know that what I'm going to say next might draw a lot of questions and some might call me a blasphemer or whatever, but I don't believe that God will look at a non-Christian whose heart was full of kindness, love, selflessness and faith in a greater hope and say, "I'm sorry; you were a great person, but you didn't believe in Christ and therefore you're going to Hell." After all, aren't we all His children? Weren't we all made in His image? (If you then ask "Well then, why become a Christian?", Christ is a lot more than a ticket to heaven, and well, Christianity works for me; Jesus's authority and existence is real to me.)

Classic question about evil and pain: There's so much more to God than our comfort. He is so much more than a needs-meeter. I think most of us agree that God's more interested in our character than in our comfort. Remember Job? God allowed everything - family, possessions, health - to be taken away from him, but He had a much greater purpose. Remember Judas? God allowed Judas to choose to betray Jesus and cause Jesus's death - but there was a greater purpose, and Judas's betrayal became His way of elevating Jesus "to the place of highest honour".

These issues and more will take forever to discuss, and I'm not planning to delve into them in greater detail right now. This post isn't meant to justify my faith or justify God; I just hope it brought an alternative point-of-view to any Christian (or curious non-Christian) who struggles with questions like I do.

Into Your hands, I commit again

It's a hard day for me. Tears ready to fall, a mind wallowing in doubt. I don't know if the recent decision I made was the right one. What if I had taken the other road? Would God still fulfil this goal He has given me, regardless of the route I decide to take? Why choose the path of pain? Is it necessary?

And at worship, I bow my head and say, God, why? Give me strength to do Your will... Am I suffering for nothing? Does it even matter?

And they sing.
This is my desire: to honour You

And later it comes, a song I sang while leading Chapel in school: Into Your hands, I commit again, with all I am, for You Lord. 
It tells me that it doesn't matter whether or not God would have given me all the same blessings had I taken the other, less painful route. What matters is that I made the choice because I made my fear of God a priority, and that is a worthy sacrifice, and it's my thought process - how I arrived at this decision - that God sees. 

Dec 19, 2012

Literature and the Liberal Arts

Q: I'm having a real hard time deciding what course to do in University; it seems as if I can never make up my mind over what I want to do as an occupation. My interests are very similar to yours, so I was wondering if you could give me some advice?

You know what I'll say. Liberal arts!

I was very bent on going to the UK to do a Literature / Creative Writing degree, but after a while I realised that writing is not as much about learning how to write as it is about ideas. And ideas come from everywhere, every single discipline, every issue in the world. In the UK I'd have spent three years on Literature, and pretty much only that. I mean, there'd be the chance to take other modules, but not as much as I'd have liked. I don't think it would inspire me as much as studying a whole range of disciplines and issues would. The thing I love about the liberal arts program is that they teach you to view something through multiple lenses - not just that of a writer but also through that of a historian, economist, chemist, philosopher, psychologist, whatever! The liberal arts introduces you to a range of issues and teach you to view them in different ways, analyse them from every angle.

And then, when you've been exposed to the various disciplines, you draw links between them, because in today's world, no discipline stands alone. With these links formed, you then focus on your major, and then your major becomes more than just one discipline. It's everything.

Literature, to me, is not a discipline. It's a whole range of world issues. Studying Literature means studying how people write about different issues and portray the human condition. You can learn how to write by looking at how other people do that, but not without taking a journey through the root of their inspiration, the issues themselves.

So if you're looking to study Literature, go for the liberal arts. Learn about Africa's history, or genetics, or Confucian ethics, so that when you pick up a novel that happens to address issues like the slave trade or genentic testing on fetuses or Chinese family values, it means so much more to you.

The best part is, I have no idea what career I'll venture into in the future, too. Right now, I think I'll probably work with an NGO. But with a liberal arts education, does it matter? You have the ability to connect ideas and disciplines; analytical skills and critical thinking skills are useful for any profession; most importantly, anything can be learnt. If you feel like going into medicine or law or something else that's very specialised after that, you'll do a postgraduate, but what you gain in the liberal arts will always stay relevant.

Random lookback

Freaking can't stand the crap I write. It's so bad. T_T

Dec 12, 2012

English Language & Linguistics tuition!

Okay guys I know my blog hasn't been properly updated for too long. I've yet to summarise my UK trip, talk about Australia, and everything else. Here's a short post.

I'm currently giving ELL lessons to two students: a home-schooled girl and an army guy. Enjoying it a lot. I love ELL. ELL tuition is really hard to come by 'cos it's such a new subject and those who are willing to teach it are mostly currently teachers who will probably charge you too much.

So. If anyone ever wants ELL lessons... contact me! I wasn't actually good at ELL in school until the last bit of J2, so I'm not one to contact if you're already doing it in school and just need an extra boost to make sure you get that A. But if you happen to be a home-schooled student or if you're retaking the 'A's as a private candidate and all, I'll be more than happy to help!

Dec 3, 2012

The easy way out

My flesh and my heart fail,
but God is the strength of my heart 
and my portion forever.

My grandmother told me about my aunt who had a terrible relationship with her mother-in-law right up till the death of the latter. My aunt was a Christian and had influenced her husband, and the husband's family hated that. Don't get baptised, said my grandmother. That way, if your husband was a Taoist or something, you could just convert, and you wouldn't land yourself in the same fate as your aunt.

The best thing to be, my grandmother said, was a free-thinker. That way, you could attend any religious festival. You could eat at a church or at a temple. You could pay your respects at a funeral with joss sticks or a prayer. So much easier, no conflict.

Faith was never the easy road. That's why it's worth anything at all - you believe in a God who loves you, and you want to spend your life loving Him, too. It's a high price to pay, but it's not about convenience. It's not about me and what's best for me. I'm no longer myself, I no longer live; Christ has taken my place in my life. It's about Him.


I said, well, why not? And he said I don't want you to take this road just because it's the easier one.

I made a difficult decision today. I decided not to take the easy way out. My life shouldn't be about me. I want He who is in me; I want to be His broken vessel.

I made a tough decision, and I hope I successfully stick through it, stay true to myself. I could have said yes and had a good time. It was so easy. So easy to linger in the comfort of limbo, or to make a convenient choice.

At worship today, I bowed my head and said God, I did this because I want to put You first. Won't You acknowledge it? Won't You come and be here with me? Is it worth it? Worth You?
And then the eleven-year-old sang:

I have a hope so sure; an anchor for my soul 
My peace in the worst of times, I trust in God alone 
Let every voice declare it now

My God reigns; His love will never fail me 
My God reigns; He's ruling over all 
In all my life, in every situation I know
My God is greater; my God is over all

Look into an old person's eyes.

You are cowering against the wall, enduring hunger pangs and gun shots. You are watching your siblings die in the hands of a faceless Japanese.

You are mourning over your hero of a father, but you must stay silent.

You will suffer, you will toil, to make sure your own future children will have a good life.

You're a timid mouse on the streets that reek of brutality. You hurry past a soldier. A blow. A stream of shouts across your head: you forgot to bow. You feel the flash of fear, real fear, where you don't know if you'll live another day.

Peace is nothing but a faraway dream; one they say you must forget. You force yourself to take these grains of nothing and create your own courage now, all by yourself, because the world always tramples what you live for.

You watch the smoke clear and a small, rebellious spark in your heart hopes that hell just might be passing over, even if only for a day.

And you realise, in the blink of an eye, that the poverty and simplicity you've always known have disappeared; this island has been scrubbed clean of its bloodstains, like none of it ever happened. Spick and span, gleaming with skyscrapers and technology, university degrees are given out like food rations; children are whining about not getting the latest video games. Your own kids have left you to lead a better life, just like you've dreamt for them.

But the Singapore you know is an old, old lady, a friend you haven't forgotten; her veins bleed stories of suffering and tears. The younger ones don't get it, they don't care. They don't see this old friend of yours; they see her immaculate makeover, complete with botox, whitening and spotless glamour. History is little more than banana notes and torture tales. Oh, how much you want them to know. You try so hard, but you can't do more than relate excruciating memories that live in your head as vividly as yesterday, at a family gathering around the dinner table. They don't bat an eyelid because the stories are too dramatic to be relatable. Too much to seem real.

You never thought you'd hit eighty, you never thought you'd be one of the tired ones. You feel it with every day. Your pace is slower, heavier. Your pauses are longer. Your voice is feebler. You are but a speck slowly disappearing into the wind, and the stories will be gone forever.

Nov 21, 2012

Quick update

Hey everyone! Was going to do a post about the UK but haven't found the time. It's been great meeting the Yale-NUS people again - movie on Saturday, baking on Sunday and work with the awesome interns on the weekdays. Also had a great time in church :) Will be going off to Australia to visit my dad who's finishing up his master's! SEE YOU

Nov 14, 2012

Wainbody Wood: The Search for Beauty

(long overdue post!)

7 Nov / Day 24 / Coventry

Yesterday I walked around Tocil Wood in the University of Warwick where I'm staying (with Jaslyn), and walked and walked and ended up at the math building and walked on beyond Heronbank to some farmy area outside the university where there was no one around to see me fall in mud. Yes, I was wearing my suede boots, the only pair of footwear I brought with me beyond London. Today I'm still determined to check out the woods, although equally as determined not to fall. I set out in the same pair of boots - they're already muddified, anyway - and walk through Tocil Wood this time, out of the University again. I have to get back by noon to go with Jaslyn and her friends to Birmingham.

By the time I'm out of the University, it's already past ten. I see a Wainbody Wood on Google Maps that's really big, so I head towards it. I don't expect it to be such a long walk.

Tight on time and aware that I'll be taking the same amount of time to get back, the walk down this endless road seems to take forever. The blue dot on Google Maps never seems to touch the woods. Then finally, Maps says I should cross the road and turn into a smaller lane.

I'm really anxious about the time now - it's eleven and I haven't even entered the woods yet! - so I take the first entrance that I see (first picture). It's lovely and woody, and I'm excited, but after a while the path gets too muddy for my noob boots. But I really want to looks so pretty up ahead... I don't want to turn back when this path looks like it's going to get really pretty...

I hear the tinkling of bells before a bunch of dogs appear, followed by a friendly woman who tells me I should go back to the small lane and walk a little further, to a different entrance that will lead me to a less muddy path. Reluctantly, I turn back, abandoning the beauty of the forest that seems to lie just ahead. If only I could walk a little further down this path.

I find what seems to be the main entrance. It's very pretty, trees and leaves all around, and every now and then when I take my eyes off the mud on the ground (very cautious about falling now!), I think, wow, look at what lies ahead! It seems to be a nice clearing / nice stream / nice dense area / nice leafy ground / group of pretty trees up ahead! I've got to get there!

And every time I reach 'that point in the distance' I realise I'm not in some nice clearing or in any area that's any prettier than where I was before, but then I see another point in the distance and think HEY it looks like something pretty lies ahead! and set off again. 

Thing is, I never reach a nice clearing or stream or any point of breathtaking beauty, any point that's any prettier than the other, before it's time to head back. Now, I realise that I kept thinking that there was a more beautiful area up ahead. Did I appreciate the beauty of wherever I was at those points in time? I was on a constant search for beauty without realising I was already in the midst of it.

The most important thing, then, was that I treasured each moment of being in the woods, taking in the beauty of every second. I hope I didn't neglect the beauty of the present in my pursuit of greater beauty that lay ahead. The future was no more beautiful than that present. Each second was equally beautiful. 

You know, you always hear people say "I just have to get through these few months, and then I'm out of here". We perpetually see ourselves as stuck in a crappy situation, when the good stuff lies just ahead. All we need to do is grit our teeth and get through this tough period, and then forget about it forever.

But that way, we'll never find true happiness. Truth is, every stage of our lives contains an obstacle, whether it's the exams or the army or university insanity or idling around having nothing to do with life. Or the stress of the workplace and the politics, or annoying kids that demand attention 24/7, or a marriage on the rocks. If we keep adopting the same mentality, we'll zoom through life never having found happiness. We'll be lying on our deathbeds thinking, what happened to the life I was supposed to have, what happened to the good times I promised I'd get to?

It might not be the most ideal of situations, but treasure every second of the experience. If it's a bad one, we'll learn from it, and someday we'll look back and laugh at the days we allowed ourselves to fall. If you're in the middle of doing pushups for an hour straight in the sun with a heartless guy a year older than you breathing down your neck, someday you'll look back at the memory and admire your tenacity. You'll bask in the glory of the suffering. If you're on your bed crying and wondering if you'll ever get over that asshole, one day you'll look back at your younger days with a melancholic fondness. You'll look back at the strength you managed to muster and say you did well.

Stop yourself from time to time and ask if you're treasuring the present. If you aren't, change your attitude, or change the situation. The future isn't going to be any more beautiful than the present; all we have to do is remember to look up from the mud ever so often.

Oct 22, 2012

Friends in the worst of times?

It isn't that hard to find a friend to hold you up when you're at the lowest of times. If you're in the darkest of moments, those around you would be concerned; they wouldn't want you to land yourself in anything stupid, and they'd be concerned, they'd give you a hug, listen to you cry.

But that's just the deepest point in a valley. It's dramatic and people don't want you to die, so they'd feel obligated to be there for you. Those who show up during the hardest of times are definitely true pals, but don't forget the ones who notice and are there with you in the points leading up to the lowest, darkest moment, as well as those who bother to follow through that, who are there with you in the weeks you spend climbing out.

There are those who sense that something isn't right before you hit the bottom, who bother listening to your whines the whole long way down. Weiliang, for example, listened to my emo rants for a whole year before the real hurt arrived, at all the points leading up to the pit.

And there are those those who keep on checking if you're okay after that period of deepest darkness, making sure you don't fall back in. Alex was also prominently there for me at my lowest point, and he also saw me through every day of my upward crawl, sending me lovely quotes and great encouragements every single day for weeks leading up to the A's, making sure I was doing fine.

Those who are there for us before and after the worst of times are those we often forget to be grateful for. They're the ones who know we're not doing all that badly yet, but still make the effort to help us feel better. They're truly selfless, too.

Oct 20, 2012

Day 5 and I'm stranded

After lunch, Aunty Sian drops me off at the train station to try and get a refund for my ticket (to no avail). And then I'm off on my own, map in hand, determined to check out at least two museums.

I stray into a clothes store.

Forty-five minutes fly by and I'm still trying to convince myself not to get the beautiful Christmas cards. (Will have to sell some away, just a heads-up, they're REALLY PRETTY) I instantly fall in love with a wallet. And then it's drizzling outside, so I hop in and out of shops - from Next to River Island to Fatface. And then I'm like shucks it's almost four-thirty I need to get to the museums before they close!!! And then Mum reminds me that I'm supposed to Skype her, so I spend another twenty minutes in Starbucks. And then half an hour in Boots trying to decide on which face moisturiser to get. And WAIT TWELVE POUNDS FOR BURBERRY WEEKEND?! I spray it on my wrist and love it, and fall into the buy-or-not-buy dilemma again. And then I decide that I really need to get to the Ashmolean Museum.

I spend about forty-five minutes there and cover the basement. Gotta go back there soon. And then it's almost 6pm so I decide to head to Castle Street where I'm supposed to take the bus back to the vineyard.

- Okay, actual rant about interesting experience starts here -

So the bus arrives at 6.15pm - strange, the electronic guide said it was supposed to arrive in 24 minutes -  but I decide not to take it because I'll arrive at the bus stop before Aunty Sian and Uncle Richard get home, so they won't be able to pick me up from the bus stop, and in the dark, I'd rather wait at a lit, crowded bus stop near the city centre than at a completely unlit, deserted bus stop in the countryside.

A kind girl directs me to the bus timings schedule, and it turns out that the bus is scheduled to arrive at 5.50pm, 6.20pm and 7.20pm. So the bus that I deliberately missed was probably the 6.20 bus, and now I have to wait till 7.20. Argh!

I wait at the bus stop for another fifteen minutes looking at the electronic guide to see if they'll tell me when exactly the next bus will arrive, but my bus number never appears on the screen. At about 6.40 I give up and assume that the next bus will arrive at 7.20, so I make my way to a nearby restaurant to get a £5 burger meal -


I say "shit" out loud and walk back towards the bus stop (for what?) and wonder what bus that was - the actual 6.20 bus, or the 7.20 bus, the last one. I stay at the bus stop and stare at the screen for fifteen long minutes (that's sixty seconds times fifteen of standing there craning my neck, mind you), hoping that my bus number will appear on the screen - if it doesn't, that might have been the last bus of the day.

Okay, okay, calm down now. Sniff your wrist. It smells so pretty. Gotta get that Burberry perfume.

Finally, at about 6.55, my bus number appears on the screen! It says it's arriving in 27 minutes - someone near me exclaims "twenty-seven minutes?!" - but I don't know how reliable that is since the count was 24 minutes off just now, so I decide to just sit there and wait until it arrives, so that I don't miss it again.

It's cold now, and the sky is dark. The crowd at the bus stop has now been reduced to two, including me. All my Whatsapp conversations have stopped - it's sleep-time in Singapore. Battery's low, so I switch off my 3G. Cut off. Now, I think, this is the kind of scene that is supposed to fuel some emo blog post - memories are supposed to be flooding me and I'm supposed to be all gloomy and wistful now - but there's not a hint of any of that. I'm cold and I need my bus to arrive. I look at the bar nearby and wonder if I should risk going in and grabbing a bite, so I wait for my bus number to pop up on the screen again, just to be sure.

After forever, the screen displays my bus number again. 19 minutes. That gives me until about 7.15pm. I go into that bar and check out their food and the burger meal's also £5, so I order one and ask if I can do a takeaway. "No, we don't do takeaways... The burger takes about ten minutes to make..." I'm like ARGH NO SERIOUSLY and my phone says 7.07pm so I say ah nevermind and rush back out. And the screen says 14 minutes more -.-

Cold, cold, where's my bus, and then FINALLY it says the bus is "due"! I'm so relieved that I even take a photo of it.

And I wait, and wait, and wait, and the bus doesn't arrive for at least another five minutes. Finally it comes and I get on. One stop later, these men get on and one of them goes, "So I was waiting for the 6.20 bus and I missed one that came at 6.15, and then I tried to get the timings for the next one but the system wasn't responding, so I walked into (eating place) and then I saw the bus go right past me! So I had to wait an hour for this bus!" I turned around and said that it happened to me, too. "Yeah, what a donkey, ey. Hate it," he said in that English accent.

I almost miss my stop at the countryside - everything's totally dark outside so I really wouldn't have known where to get off if I had not walked to the front and asked. When I get off, it's a starless, moonless sky, and the only lights come from the red traffic lights and the small Shell station sign (not the station itself) a distance away. I turn on my iPhone flashlight so that I can see where I'm walking. My breath makes that fog thing. I'm shivering. I'm carrying my coat, but I can't stop and put down my stuff and put it on when it's almost pitch dark. Being cold while your coat's draped over your arm - it's like thirsting to death in a boat in the middle of the sea.

As I'm heading towards the petrol station (where there's light), I hear someone call out to me. It's Uncle Richard! I cross the street and make my way to him. I'm all shivering and jittery in the car.

"So how was it?"
"Man, that was... an experience."
"A bad one?"
"An interesting one."

Oct 19, 2012

Reflections on what Christianity means

This will be a quick one, because lunch's coming soon.

A few months ago someone asked me why I was a Christian and how different my outlook on life would be without God. For me, knowing that there was something bigger than this life was so important because things weren't an end in itself. I mean, we dream to impact people and change lives, leave a mark when we pass away, but these people we impact will pass away too, and there are six billion people in the world right now, and if once you die everything about you vanishes with a poof and everybody else vanishes with a poof and the whole world will one day die away, then what's the point of this endless cycle of creation to death? Basically, God gave me meaning in life - life here is merely a preparation for an eternity with Him. It doesn't matter if I'm a law student who dropped out in my final semester or a kid who never does well academically or a businessman who loses everything overnight. What is success but transient? Bigger things await, and the key is in how you take what God has given you to glorify Him, whether success or failure, big or small.

I saw it as a selfish reason, though - my relationship with God was something I needed to have meaning in life. What if I was just holding on to a piece of philosophy because I found comfort in it? What was the point?

Right now, when I question myself again, I realise I've had another way of looking at this for quite some time. Right now, God, to me, very obviously exists. I just can't deny it. Whether it's the God of the Christians or Muslims or Jews, it's a higher power in control, one that created everything and whom I can feel. Being  a Christian, to me, doesn't simply mean acknowledging that God exists and believing in Jesus; it means wanting to have a relationship with this God. You could acknowledge that God exists and yet not be a Christian; believing doesn't mean wanting to take the time to cultivate a relationship. As a human being, as something with life, love, compassion and goodness wired into me - along with the capacity to sin and areas where I fall drastically short, I am a testimony of God's work. As a body with life - not just a mass of cells - I am proof that God exists. Being a Christian just means I want to be with Him.

Oct 15, 2012

UK Day 1: Oxford

We're in London! And as I look down at the mass of buildings I think, there are so many people. How can there be so many buildings in one city? How many business, families, schools, just so many people and this is just one city -
And think, every single one of them knows Justin Bieber.

I mean, Michael Jackson, sure, practically the entire world knows him, and he was a legend. He deserved it. But Bieber? It's just...not right.

I walk out of the airport and realise I haven't cut off the Espirit label on my jacket.

I narrowly miss the bus to Oxford twice, so I'm stuck here for an hour. I step outside just to get cold. Lovely weather! Okay, it's getting bit too cold... why did I get an iced drink? Noob Singaporean. Well, good, cold is good! Treasure every biting second! Finally away from the Singapore heat!

Low brick walls, the cold, pigeons indoors, "Do not feed the birds" signs... this is it! I'm here!

At Gloucester Green, Oxford, Aunty Sian and I wait for each other for more than an hour - a misunderstanding about the cafe at which we were supposed to meet. 

In the car, Zoe and her friend sing along to We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, and Sasha has Mean on repeat in her room - I immediately need to Whatsapp the Taylor Swift fanboys Dylan and Jackie (CRAP I just realised that sounds like "Divian and Jacqui" :OOOO); how much they'd love it here!

Their house is lovely, and the girls are so friendly, open and genuine. Zoe warmed up to me really quickly, and made an effort to be friendly. The family is so close and loving, it's really nice just to be here with them. The girls are lovely and loveable, and as they have their funny chats with their dad, it isn't hard to see how a father will lay down his life to protect his children.

Oct 14, 2012

Old posts

Okay y'all, my old blog posts make me cringe. It's just that I can't hide a whole chunk at once - I'll have to click 'Save as Draft' for each individual post, and it'll take too long. Just... don't bring up my old posts to me and then laugh at me for being so dumb when I was younger. Dude I was fourteen. I was entitled to be dumb.

On a happier note, I'm going to the UK today!!! I'll be there for a month, and I'll be going to Oxford, central London, Edinburgh, Warwick and Barnet. Really excited, but I'm so unprepared - if I have the time, I'll do a post later about my Yale-NUS journey so far, something I've wanted to do for quite a while.

I love lazy Sunday mornings (where I don't have to wake up early to give tuition).

Oct 12, 2012

We can be heroes / Just for one day

The Perks of Being a Wallflower:

"Why do nice people choose the wrong people to date?"
"They accept the love they think they deserve."

"Why can't you save anybody?"

You know how sometimes you come across an old friend's Facebook status or Twitter feed and you realise she's going through crap and you know exactly, exactly how she feels, but you can't just text her because it'd be weird since you haven't talked to her in forever? Or how you might overhear a conversation and you feel like the stranger's words are your very own, and your heart really hurts for hers, but it'd just be weird to go up to her and say something? Or how you feel so much for a friend, and you want to give him a hug, but you don't want him to take things the wrong way?

I hate standing by watching and not being able to do anything to soothe the pain, because we all know how hurt feels; we all can relate to it, and we know that what we all need is a little bit of love. I've been so fortunate to be blessed with so many friends who are there when I fall. And I'm okay with being really sad. I know I can take it; I'll just write and cry and whine a little and tomorrow things will be okay. But I hate it when others are sad, perhaps because I blow up their emotions in my mind since I feel so intensely, and especially when there's nothing I can do to take away the pain. Or when someone's on the road to disaster at full speed and all you can do is watch. They won't listen; they don't want to.

We can't save anybody. We all need to crash into walls ourselves.

When I write, sometimes I hope that a broken heart finds this blog and realises that she's not alone in feeling that way, that I speak to her soul, and that I can bring her out of her pain. A few strangers, acquaintances and friends-of-friends have emailed me before to say that they came across my blog and I helped them emotionally in some way. That's when I remember my dream: to speak to hearts like a close friend, and let people know that I share their pain, to bring them out of it.

Sucks that I've been blogging too much emo crap that doesn't really help anyone. Just gets people bored of reading this blog.

So this is to anyone. If you've got a hurt, you know that I will empathise. If you're willing to open up to me, I will listen. Just a disclaimer, though, that I might feel very intensely for your situation, and I just might feel inspired to do a blog post about it. And you must accept my hug.

Train wreck

But love is not a victory march 
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

I'm sorry. I made a promise to a friend that the next post would be a happy one, but I keep putting them off and pain can't wait.

 There are some things that are doomed right from the start, like a train doomed to wreck. We all see it coming, but some stay at the platform and let it pass by, while some decide to hop on. Maybe we love the brilliant tragedy.

 I don't know what this is, but my hands are trembling. I'm taking deep breaths. I really feel like throwing up. I need to cry. I knew what I was doing. I built myself that train and took the front seat. Why? I didn't have to deliberately head for the wreck. I took the front seat and went full speed toward the wall.

 What is this, the deep breaths, the trembling, the nausea? I need to get off. I need a field. I need a hug and a cry.

Come on skinny love, just last the year 
Pour a little salt, we were never here 
Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer 

I tell my love to wreck it all 
Cut out all the ropes and let me fall 
Right in the moment this order's tall 

Oct 8, 2012

Oct 5, 2012

Forced distance

Ever felt like you had to force yourself to numb over, go cold, because if you relaxed your grip on yourself you'd start flying again, and you couldn't afford that kind of pain anymore, you couldn't afford to feel that raging fire of life?

"Just leave me alone," she cries. "It's what you want anyway."

"If you're going to put words in my mouth, then I'm going to put some in yours," I say. "I know what you're doing, and I know why you're doing it. I realise you're mad."

"Thank you, Captain Obvious," Lucy mutters.

"But you're not mad at me, You're mad at yourself. Because against all odds, in spite of the fact that you were so damn sure that you would hate working with me and coming to music therapy sessions, they started to work. And you like coming." I put the ukulele down on a desk beside me and stare at Lucy. "You like being around me."

She glances up, her face so raw and open that, for a moment, I forget what I was saying.

"So what do you do? You sabotage the therapeutic relationship we've built, because that way, you get to tell yourself you were right. That this is a load of bullshit. That it would never work. It doesn't matter how you do it or what you tell yourself is the reason we're in a fight. You ruin the one good thing you've got going because if you ruin it, then you don't have to deal with being disappointed later on."

Lucy stands abruptly. Her fists are clenched at her sides, and her mouth is a livid red slash. "Why can't you just take a hint? Why are you still here?"

"Because there's nothing you can do or say or any way you can act that will drive me away, Lucy. I am not leaving you."

She freezes. "Never?" The word is like tempered glass, broken and full of beauty.

I know how hard it is for her to lay herself bare, to expose the soft center under that hard shell. So I promise. I'm not surprised when the tears come, when she collapses against me. I do what anyone else would do, in that situation: I hold Lucy until she can hold herself.

- Sing You Home (Jodi Picoult)

Oct 4, 2012

Pour a little salt, we were never here

Emotions are measured by the level of energy in your voice, and by how difficult it is to smile. You don't feel like doing anything. You don't want to try to describe it because no words can suffice, and it'll just come out sounding stupid and inadequate. You'll let the songs do the talking for you. You'll just sit in the sunshine, feel the outside air take the million tiny specks of your burden far far away, take away the suffocation of a closed room.

You chance upon a glittering speck on the floor, and you find yourself smiling 


that was the last straw

Sep 29, 2012


Do you know what it's like, for example, to want alcohol so much that even when you aren't drinking it, all your thoughts morph into it? Even though you're not drunk, you're never really sober. You can't snap out of it. You aren't actually taking a sip, but that's not enough. You should be steering your thoughts away from it.

Slap yourself awake. Get addicted to something else. Give your thoughts something else to cling to.

A Warning

You think you're back on deck, dry and comfortable in your change of clothes, when the fish catch up with you to let you know you've dived into the deep again.

Where's your face mask? Your depth gauge? Your lifeline? All on the boat where you left them, along with your brain.

So cage up your heart! Keep it under constant guard. It slips away like a wish, disobeys like a child. Throw away the keys; why didn't you lock the gate in the first place? The heart is a deceitful girl; she makes you tell lies so you don't realise she's gone off again, on an eagle's wing, delightfully seeking the worst spot to take the plunge. Chide the monster. Hose it down with oil, so that it loses the ability to attach. Dehydrate it; let it squeeze itself dry, so that there's nothing left but the blackened walls and the stone.

You don't want to be anyone's doll. You're a heck of a gem. Don't let the child reduce you to a copper-coated soul and desperate tunes. Stop being that pathetic dog. Have some backbone; show yourself who you can  be.

Sep 18, 2012

On Meeting Someone New

Sometimes I'm too eager to unwrap myself, too trusting too quickly, I forget to take a breath and stop to think. Some people who don't know me well say I'm a mystery they'd love to read. They want to know what makes me sing these melodies of words. Well it's nothing really. My life isn't interesting; it's just that my heart soars and crashes very easily.

I'm a lot like you. I'm a lot like most people. Maybe the mysterious package I'm looking at right now is how people look at me. Hello friendly face, we both know there's more to your happy eyes and my droopy ones. I am, pretty much, an open book; all you have to do is hold me. Let me unwrap you; take me through the crimson deliriousness and show me the bare bones. I will, in turn, unwrap my glass shards, which are a heck of a reward, because they cut into me when I hold them up for you to see, too.

Nice to meet you.

Guess who :)

Sep 17, 2012

when your heart breaks for those who know the truth

Sometimes you want to believe in something so bad. You've given your life to it. The hungry demons are at your every corner trying to lure you out of your little idealistic hole. You try to fend them off but you only have two hands. No, I know this is right, I know this is right, but the only other person who agrees is God, maybe, hopefully.

People tell you you're just being stupid. They've seen the world. They know nothing turns out like you think. Doing well in school doesn't mean you will have a nice family and a nice house. Putting trust in people means you'll either get cheated or very disappointed. Thinking you have the power to make a mark in the world is simply delusional. Being ever-ready to help only means you're asking to be walked over. You can't make it big through honest means. There is no such thing as a community of pure love - there are always the politics and the gossip, or they just want your money. You'll never get anywhere if you don't take the tried and tested route. Going into education to inspire and enlighten young minds is a spark you see only in the eyes of young, newborn teachers. Trust the vetrans. They know.

NO, they don't know; ignorance irks you, arrogance puts you off, selfishness is something you don't understand, but when you meet someone who has lost hope, all you feel is a hole in your heart. You suddenly feel listless. You don't feel like speaking to anybody, you can't even write, you don't want to listen to a song, you just feel like all of the light in your heart has been sucked out because you're imagining a minute in their shoes.

Hope is your every breath. Hope is the food of your soul. Sure, it only means your heart gets thrown down on the floor every day, but you just can't help but hope. It's irrational hope. They still say I'm naive. Some of them think it's cute, how naive I am. They assume I haven't been hurt by the world. Of course I have. I have more than those who don't hope. It's just that I can't stop from hoping. It's all I do.

it takes an ocean not to break

Sep 16, 2012

To: Every single person who knows me

Hello, this post is to everyone who knows me, whether we were classmates in primary school or acquaintances in ACJC or you're my future Yale-NUS schoolmate. I'd just really like to know what you think of me. Like, everything you can think of - be it a particular memory where I helped or hurt you, or a string of personality traits, or behaviours I should change.

You can drop me an email at, whatsapp me, Facebook message me, drop me an anonymous Formspring...whatever. But if you would rather not leave your name, I'd love to know at least how we know each other. Or in fact, I don't even really have to know you. You could be a random Crescent / AC junior who chanced upon my blog or something. I'd just like to know everything you think about me - whether I'm a friendly listening ear, or whether I need some backbone, or whether I need to stop being such an airhead, or whether I wasn't a fierce TRIC. I'd just really like to know how other people see me. Please do include constructive negative comments; they're more helpful in the long run than nice ones.

Thanks in advance, everybody. :)

Sep 9, 2012

RE: Letter to Singapore

You’re more than people just scraping by, dreaming of money and five-star hotels. You’re a hell of a lot more than just a good air-conditioning system. You’re everybody, not just the dream citizen; you’re the Malay kids skipping school, hanging out at Peninsula Plaza in black jeans and trucker caps. You’re the unemployed kopitiam uncle with his songbirds. You’re the schoolgirl holding hands with her classmate, hoping the teacher doesn’t see. You’re every one of them, but for some reason you just won’t acknowledge this. You like to hold on to this idea of you being this clean, perfectly efficiently city, when really it’s the dirt that makes you who you are.
- Letter to Singapore

No, it's true. The crime rates are low, the sidewalks are clean, the restrooms are good. Singapore's a great city to come to to work, but I've always felt like it was never much of a place to live. To grow up. I've always felt more than safe here - the closest I've ever come to being a victim of harassment was when a couple of guys wolf-whistled from the park across the road in the afternoon (and that was when I was fourteen and butt ugly) - but perhaps it's been a little bit too safe. I always tell people that you can't live unless you've died.

Singapore isn't a place to die. There's no room to die when you've got the grades to worry about, the endless piles of homework and the teachers and parents breathing down your necks, the school that keeps you engaged in a myriad of activities from before the sun rises to after it sets; the focus on the safe route to success. People assume that one always strives for the best - "best" isn't a personal perception, but society's. People assume that if you're capable of getting into law, you're going to go to law school. If you're doing the humanities in university, they assume it's not because you chose it, but because you had no better option.

We all know this, really. But it's okay, because we're equally as tired of it as you are, and our generation is about to change this. Give the nation some time. We're such a young country. Most of our parents are older than Singapore. This nation has only just crawled out of its years of hardship, turbulence and turmoil - third-world status, racial riots, the war - to become the efficient, safe, rich country it is today. The dream of our grandparents. We've only just realised this dream, and the ecstasy of having reached it is infecting the minds of those who grew up with Singapore. Mainly our parents and grandparents. It's only understandable that they make sure we continue to fight for that success. Dog-eat-dog. Fierce competition. They're terrified of returning to that state of turbulence, even if they see only a glimpse of it again.

My paternal grandmother survived the war, where six of her brothers died. My grandparents' house was broken into, and the millionaire family became bankrupt overnight. My mother grew up in a village in a family of ten, and all of them would share a single fish or chicken for dinner. Poverty was real, even just forty years ago.

All of my mum's sisters climbed out of that. From that lovely village in Ipoh, they're now in KL, Singapore, Australia and America, big houses and nice cars and a great education for their kids. Their generation has seen a lot - from the times of poverty to the present, where university education is the norm. Where you can be a millionaire and still be unable to afford a condominium. Of course you would expect their generation to want to make sure their children find nothing but success. Never find their way back to that hole of despair again. And what better a route to success than the tried and tested way?

"You’re more than surviving. You’ve done well. But now you need to stop holding your breath, stop acting like everything can be taken away from you in an instant. This kind of warlike paranoia isn’t doing you favours. You could be so great if you just relaxed and let go, just a little."

Singapore is, like you say, a bit to obsessed with this idea of material success. We've achieved it - streetlamps at every corner, Marina Bay Sands, one laptop per student and two per working adult - but this success is so new that the generation that fought for it is still so afraid of going back to what we once were. You're twenty. I'm nineteen. We grew up in a time of peace. The times in which a people grows up do affect the characteristics of the country when that generation takes the lead. A large part of our current workforce and leadership grew up in a time of hardship, and despite the success, they're still in fear mode.

And it's almost time for us to take the lead in this place.

Sep 4, 2012

so, write

There's no way you can fully accurately describe this feeling, this stone heaviness in your heart that spreads to the rest of your body like an infection that seeks to paralyse you one inch at a time. Freeze you over so that all that remains is a blank expression and that stone. You want to make it known so bad but there’s no word that puts it across well enough.

So if you can’t describe the feeling, you try to let others know how you feel by bringing them into your pit. You craft a story that transports them to a similar dark world, that makes them feel the same heartache that you do. Then you can go, “That heaviness you’re feeling right now? That’s what I’m going through.”

Aug 29, 2012

to society's rejects, to the queers,

the ones who feel they've been cursed with a talent in something so unique that there's no way to quantify it, no way to show it in a qualification, nothing useful to get you where you are told you need to be. To those whose parents want you to do what earns the most money and respect, but you know all you want to do is work with paints or words or music or people to create immeasurable beauty.

You are blessed. Too many people have mastered the art of pleasing the system and satisfying people, working their magic formula through the years, without ever finding that spark in their hearts. They have never found something they loved doing so much that all their thoughts morphed into it. You pass by a grandmother embracing a child and you freeze and set ablaze the image in your mind. You hear a neighbour crying at midnight and you play a soothing song in your mind, your heart aching for whatever's breaking hers. You look at a friend's new watch and mentally take it apart right away, taking in every bit of the intricate work. Or a slow song plays in a store and you immediately picture the stage, the soft lights, the magic.

Few people see the beauty in the everyday things that you see. Few people notice it at all.

And then, when the road of exploring and igniting becomes overshadowed by adulthood and they aren't as blessed to have found that inner flame in their youth, they become too caught up with the endless demands of work and family to be able to care anymore. Nothing's more important than making sure you don't lose your job. Nothing's more important than supporting the family. The boss, the kids, the money, it will all eat away at their lives. Those without passion become jaded. They become dead. Or they might not, but they've never been alive.

You've been alive. You are alive in that flame that burns in you; it's the reason you were placed in this world. And no matter how much your passion is buried under the boss and the kids and the money, it ensures you never become dead.

You have a gift. A gift so unique that there's no way to quantify it in this world's free-size system. It's right for you, or you struggle to put it on, or you just don't fit. And because you don't fit, you're either a stick in a dress made for Other People, or too full of life, trying to contain it all, praying it won't rip apart and reveal all of you. Either way, you wish you would fit. You don't want others to look and laugh.

Let them look. Let them realise this world was never for you. It's a gift you were blessed with. Only you. It's your responsibility to bring that gift to the world. Go out, now, and try to bring life to those who never had it. Or show the others that they don't have to be afraid of their gift. If you have that flame, don't try to quench it. Let it burn. Let it spread.

this is for you, kev. and ian, and mad, and wl, and my writer friends 

Aug 24, 2012

A Yale-NUS education, anyone?

"Finally, our curriculum is being designed to elevate knowledge as a good in and of itself – not as a means to create a better employee for corporate life that we see increasingly driving higher education priorities in the American academy. We will champion the idea that the broadly educated person will be better qualified for professional careers and in business than more narrowly trained students in other bachelors programs. Their abilities in the arts, humanities, mathematics, social and natural sciences will indeed prepare our students to enter into corporate or professional life. But they will do so upon the bases of a wide and complex understanding of the human condition through deep humanistic and scientific inquiry as it developed over five millennia across the planet."

 - 'A first meeting of minds and a new philosophy of history for the liberal arts and sciences', Bernard Bate, Associate Professor, Social Science, Yale-NUS College

This is it, guys.

Aug 19, 2012

That's when Lisa spun out.

I didn't expect it, but I should've; she was standing there tighter than normal, standing with her four feet of self, that's it, that's all you got, said God, that's all I'm giving you to contain it ALL, and she had this blank look on her face and i was back to my elbow, still watching, about to close my eyes again when she gritted her teeth and in the center of a second reared her head back, and before I even knew what was happening, hurtled it forward and slammed it with all her might into the hard wood of the door frame. And before I even knew what I'd seen, I heard it, heard the batter and bash of her skin and skull, the weight of the blow, and her forehead split open, broken continents, bleeding.

She drew her head forward and slammed it back into my chest, ramming so hard it clipped me on the chin, socked me with the weight of her cranium, and I could feel the breath knock out of me for a second, feel my sternum bloom open and bruise, but I held on even tighter, and she tried again but this time I clamped a hand down on her forehead, palm on her skin, wet now with blood, mashing her head into the nook of my neck.

She was kicking up her legs, thrashing around like a drowning man.

Now you're going to get FIRED, she said. No more math class. Her head was bucking but I kept my hand hard on her forehead, pressing down, her whole brain, her small skull. She kicked her legs up higher and harder. And by the end of the summer, no more mother, she said. And soon a new math teacher and Ann is going to be going to the school for kids with no legs.

Lisa kept kicking and thrashing in my arms and she swallowed and it turned into a gulp and I could feel her whole body starting to shake. And she yelled, Let me go, and I didn't say anything back this time and she kept wriggling and thrashing and yelling Let me go! Let ME GO! Come on! I want to be one of the bloody children, I want to have cancer too, I want cancer NOW! and she was twisting and twisting but I kept holding her as tight as I could, fierce as a vise, and she said: I wanted to cut off MY arm, I wanted to do it, how come Ann got to do it, how come Danny's dad got to do it, how come Ann got the ax, I wanted to bleed all over the carpet, I want to have chemotherapy, I want to have no hair, I want to be in the hospital too, Mum's going to have to die all by herself, and she swallowed again, ragged and raw, wheezing, her body rabid with shaking, unstill, blurred, and her breathing was thick, and it was my turn to talk but I kept holding her close and I had nothing to say, there wasn't much I could say to that. No matter how many times she kept her mother company, it was clear who was leaving, and who was staying put.

- An Invisible Sign of My Own (Aimee Bender)

I found a tidal wave begging to tear down the dawn

to the sunflower:

I always thought of you like the Sun. Radiating all that life and enthusiasm and energy, unceasing. But a young sun. One that had only given life, that had not yet witnessed death. A beaming radiant ball too happy, too innocent, too pure.

We all have to die to live. It's just that one taste of melancholy. Death opens your eyes to how many shades a single flower can have. How it's pretty in the light, but even more beautiful in the dark, where all you see are shadows and outlines, where you're left to miss, to imagine the colours of daytime.

memories like bullets, they fire at me like a gun

You see the same world in a slightly different, slightly tinted lens. As you continue to swim, you'll choke on the salt water from time to time. The water will sting your eyes, make you tear, make you blind. You'll drown a little. Your muscles will cramp up.

I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun

But with each time you hit the dark bottom, you remember the beauty of the light shining through the calm waters. Darkness makes light so much sweeter. This is only the first flash of darkness. Blackout.

The light begins to come on again, slowly, as the bulb heats up. There's all the darkness slowly crawling away, but just a millisecond, a hair's breath away. It will creep up on you again, slowly, when you're alone and unsuspecting. Appreciate the beauty of day. Let the darkness add depth to your light.

Aug 17, 2012


You see his silhouette approaching you in this smoky place. You know what he wants. Not you. He wants any girl. You play along, but you turn to face the blinding flashes of green and white so that you can't see his face. In order to prevent yourself from falling into the trap, you must not recognise him. Must not make eye contact. You're just a toy, and he's just a silhouette.

A breath away from you, chuckles, whispers something incoherent, you don't want to hear. You smile, but you never look at his face. You concentrate on the deafening beats to drown out his voice; you don't want to recognise it, either. You both know what he wants. His hands slide onto your waist, brings your body closer. You look down, over his shoulder, close your eyes, but you never look at his face. Skin meets skin, you feel him hard. He's nothing but a silhouette, a mannequin maybe, a stranger you will never know and therefore can't love. That's how you guard your heart. He could be anybody, or nobody. The stranger has his hand on your neck now. You're laughing, your body's pressed against his. The stranger wants to take you out to the back. Yeah, you say. As long as it's dark and you can't see his face. His hand's in your hair, his head's against yours. Close your eyes. Close your eyes. You let your lips meet his, your tongue. Come and play me, stranger, because I don't know who you are, and I can't love you.

Aug 16, 2012

speak now

You, whoever you are, you might think you're hitting it off really well with him, but you don't know him at all. You don't know him. Do you like his jokes, the smile in his eyes? It doesn't tell you anything about him. If anything, it tells you about the other girls who have his name scrawled into their notebooks. Guard your heart, and remind yourself that you don't really know him as well as you think. He doesn't tell you what he hides in his heart, or the memories he buries beneath layers of hardened muscle, or the emotions behind his soft eyes. If he tells you something without much reservation, it means nothing to him. He's an iceberg, burying almost all of him beneath the calm waters of his smile. There is a lot more to him than the hilarious chats you have and the photos you take. Try it. Ask him. Ask him about me. You don't know anything.

these walls that hold us back will fall down

Growing up, half your life is surrounded by adults who gush over how brilliant and smart and talented you are, and how you'll grow up to be a beautiful bright young woman someday. The other half of your life is spent feeling inferior to all the other young people around you - the other girls in class who are prettier, or who sing better, or have nice hair and lovely eyes; the older girls you see around who exude beauty in every step they take. They radiate sunshine and their lips spill melodies and they don't even realise it. And how about yourself? You have fat cheeks. Your words always come out awkward and stupid. You have a chest as flat as a runway. You can't pull off anything pink. You look dumb in glasses, and even worse in braces.

As you grow older, the light begins to shine in you. You realise there's more to a person than the features she was blessed with - you take an interest in astronomy or singing or animals, and your passions show in the spark in your eyes. It's passion, not physical attractiveness, that makes a person's face radiate with the aura of youth. As you're learning this, people begin to gravitate towards you. No longer the loner with low self-esteem who sits in a corner. You take on different interests, meet different kinds of people, and realise that it's a person's personality that captures you, not her looks.

You become a person with passion. People start to know you as the passionate, enthusiastic ball of light. You realise that all a person needs is to come out of her shell to become the beautiful lady she's always dreamt of being. You know what you're worth now. People appreciate your contributions, and you realise that you are, in fact, significant. You know your worth.

And then you swim out of your little wading pool into the rough, infinite sea. The roaring currents hit you on every side. You try to keep afloat. They try to put on different masks on you, tell you what you are not. They'll say that you aren't fit for the seas, but you know what you're worth. You know what you can contribute. Nobody seems to be believing in you, and there's no lifeboat to save you, no pillar, no stronghold. It's just you now. It's a reversal of roles; as a child, others brought you up to uncover the light in you, but now they try to bring you down again.

You've gotta swim, swim for your life
Swim for the music that saves you when you're not so sure you'll survive
You've gotta swim, and swim when it hurts
The whole world is watching; you haven't come this far to fall off the earth

The currents will pull you away from your love
Just keep your head above

I found a tidal wave begging to tear down the dawn
Memories like bullets; they fired at me from a gun, cracking me open now
I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water, I'm not giving in
I swim

The currents will pull you away from your love
Just keep your head above

- Swim (Jack's Mannequin)

Jul 29, 2012

Random friend feature

I'm doing this because on my birthday in JC1, when I walked into the Math classroom, you passed me the cutest soft toy bear; I took it, said thank you, proceeded to sit a seat away, and didn't speak to you the rest of the lesson.

Also because in JC2, I walked into Econs class in a horrible mood. You asked what was wrong; I ignored you for a long while, and then proceeded to pour out a fiery rage, and then went back to ignoring you, and it was only quite some time after the lesson that I realised it was your birthday.

And because you've endured the worst of my moods. You've listened to me rage unceasingly about the same thing over and over again. I've ignored you countless times, not because you did anything to upset me, but because I just wasn't in the mood. And every single time, you were so patient. So full of concern and love. Just wanting to see me happy. All your random magic tricks and sudden bright moods in an attempt to make me smile. Your willingness to wait it out with me. You never fired back even once, or gave up waiting.

But mostly because I suddenly feel like doing this. And you take such good photos.

So, Derrick, I was in a pretty crappy mood the whole week, and I thought it was probably time to meet up with friends I've known for a longer time, friends who know me well, friends with whom I feel completely comfortable, whether in silence or in endless conversations. I knew I had to meet you and WL soon, spend some quality time together and remind myself that I have people who truly understand and love me, and friendships that have proven to (and will) withstand the test of time.

So here's a list of random memories I have of us.

- Raymeo, Teressa, you and me in the front row of the classroom, and the way we blatantly passed notes to one another on a daily basis. A whole foolscap paper at a time. Four-way chats. I remember the time Raymeo kept writing about being 'lovesick' but not wanting to reveal who he liked...because she was sitting right beside him!

- The time Mrs Foo was giving an English spelling retest for those in the class who had failed it, and we were one of the very few who didn't need to do the retest. So we were passing notes to each other without even bothering to pass the foolscap paper under the table. And she was standing right beside you. I remember we somehow ended up writing stuff like "F*** ah" "FISH ah" "FOOD ah" in increasing size, trying to come up with four-letter substitutes for the F word, and then all of a sudden Mrs Foo took the paper and looked at it for quite some time, and I was just like oh no, we're in trouble. And then she seemed to be chuckling. And then she put it back on your table.

- I think it was when we were in the hall for assembly in P5, during the period of time we were in that Gunbound craze. You passed me a piece of paper with all these complicated calculations. For your favourite Grub machine, you were able to determine how far you should press your space bar to attack, depending on the wind speed and the distance between you and your enemy. Or something. I was just like, WHAT?! NERD ALERT! NERD ALERT!

- The time I suddenly felt like you were gross and I started to avoid you. I can't remember why, but according to you, it's because you had told me you liked me HAHAHA

- Your angmoh eyes and your fat face in primary school.

- I think I've seen you in your secondary school uniform before! When was that? We didn't go for tuition or anything together, right? No, wait, there's a hole in my memory. I know we talked from time to time in secondary school, but I can't remember a thing.

- Lisa, you and me at West Coast Park after the O's, going crazy on that spinny thing.

- Taking the train to school together in JC1! I remember in the beginning we were just crazy about AC. Doing AC cheers in the train. Most mornings you'd find me in my half-awake state on the train, groaning in sleepiness and incapable of registering your words.

- Your birthday (left), when we went back to Jurong West Primary and weren't allowed to enter, and your birthday dinner with the JWPS pals!

- Your sky-high Econs marks for every exercise. Mdm Yati loved you. I'd look at your 8/10 and stare at my 3/10, wondering what I'd give to have your brain...

- One day in Econs class, another one of those days I was ranting to you, and you went "Haiya...why is love so hard..." and before I knew it, although you were sympathising with me and listening with all your sincerity, your carefree and happy nature had lifted my mood too.

- H1 Math class, when during one of the tests, you got 22/25 or something, and I got 11/25. And I kept vowing that I wouldn't fail the next math test, but I failed three times in a row. And once I got 12/25 and went "HA! I PASSED!" and you went "Um, 12/25 isn't a pass...wah you really fail at math."

- You topping the cohort in H1 Math, while I got a C.

- You showing me your coin trick in math class. And your iPhone card trick. And various other random tricks. Usually when I was in some bad mood. You'd be quiet for a while, then suddenly your face would brighten up and you'd say "Eh Karen I show you something." And your desperate enthusiasm alone would be enough to lift my heart.

- That night in Macs before the exams, with you helping me grasp all the Econs concepts.

- One of the days just before the A Level Math paper. YOU GOT ME TO RIDE ON THE BACK OF YOUR BIKE AND WE CYCLED TO GEK POH! I remember screaming throughout. It was the first time I had ridden as a passenger on a bicycle, standing at the back with my hands on your shoulders. That was insane. Anyway,I hadn't touched Math since the mid-years, and I was determined to get an A. I kept bugging you every couple of seconds because I couldn't do a single Math question. Thank you so much for being so patient with me and answering every question I had, even though you probably didn't manage to get any studying done in the end.

- I can't remember if this was on the same day, but we were also at Gek Poh and you set us a little contest for speed and accuracy with each question on the Math paper. Thanks so much for always trying to help me, for making studying fun.

- Lisa and you and me at Jurong Point for dinner, and I was suanning you so much without realising that I had, again, forgotten your birthday.

- Your random gifts to girls when you meet them, because you're such a gentleman. Hershey's for Lisa and me, and a lollipop for me when we met for the birthday dinner I owed you.

- And, lastly, today, an awesome chill day with your camera and going to random places and just hanging out and enjoying the company of a friend. Love your photos!

And where are the lousy photos I took of you?! Now I only have your photos of myself to put here!

Jul 27, 2012

Wings of fire

From Antoinette of fire and colour and vibrance to Bertha Mason in the closet in the cardboard home, a secret. A lifetime of passion and fever-burning love hides behind those closed doors. You will not tell that story. Jane must never know anything, any of that magical escapade that resulted in tragedy. She must never know, other than the fact that it was a mistake.

Does she know you? How much about you did you reveal? How far into your soul did you let her reach, in between the jokes and the teasing? Does she know about me? Was there anything to tell? Or is it all untranslatable, only that the images flash through your mind when they shouldn't? Did I tarnish your soul? Do you wish you could erase it all and get on with life? Do you wish your white slate hadn't been stained with blood? I shouldn't have let it.

(I do love Jean Rhys. Who she was, her brokenness on paper.)

your name a film of tears on my lips

I woke up to memories of you today. I let myself indulge in them for half an hour. Not the daffodil sweetness of the beginning, but tulips, young sunflowers - my arms around you in the lift that last night; "aww, what's this?". Your arms around me so tight, the way your eyes looked so close just before you closed them. The December night we started talking again, my voice struggling to hold together, your every word. The little scrapbook I gave you as we bade goodbye, and your comments on it weeks later. What have you done with it since? How many times has it seen light? In a movie, it would've been thrown away - the pain of a gift and the memories it holds - but I don't believe you'd do that, especially after you said that I shouldn't have made it. You'd be courteous enough to keep it, right? Perhaps I don't even want to know. I don't know why you shut me off so completely. I know you cried, and I want so much to know when you've cried for me. Simply because I've cried more in those few months than I have the rest of my life, and I deserve to know when you shared that pain. I know there's no hope of a future; I don't even want it; it'd be too painful. But I wish you'd tell me your side of the story. What I've always wanted to know. The questions you smell a mile away, those that send you hiding.

Jul 26, 2012

This is me.

I present me to you in a basket on the floor. Not a pretty, pristine bundle - unwrap me and you'll find a red and black infested gross mess. The healing power is at work, though, trying to piece me back together. Will you accept all I have to offer, and run a reassuring hand over the shattered glass?

Jul 22, 2012

arrows part 2

I stand in the open, surrounded by a ring of both familiar and nameless faces. Innumerable faces. They hold their arrows. A sea of them hits me at once. Here I stand, with all that I stand for. Arrows of fire pierced into my chest like the back of a porcupine.

Then the Lord Jesus Christ, so full of goodness, love and mercy, the Lord who knows every bit of me - my hopes, my dreams, all my weaknesses - the God who created the earth, who knows every inch of ground and every living thing and everything about every person ever lived -

the Lord Jesus Christ, all God and all man, steps into the circle and stands beside me. He pulls the arrows out of my chest and pierces them into his own. The Son of Man standing with me, pushing my arrows into his own body. Bearing my pain.

What sick image is this? I am disgusted at myself. Guilt rises in me. No, God, don't even do that! I can handle it. They're my arrows. Please don't hurt yourself. I'll take care of it! You're God, and I'm just me! Who am I, who am I that you should do that for me? 

This. Is the most amazing video. Heart-wrenching. It's a little slow-moving, but impactful beyond words.


I've been feeling like waves of fire have been hitting me recently. Waves and waves of debate and fiery questions with regard to my future university, my church and my faith, both directly by my friends and indirectly by posts online. Like arrows, each one deflates my heart a little.

It's not that my stand and beliefs are easily shaken. I know what I believe in; I can talk things out with people. It's just that one of the institutions is going to shape my tertiary education and my path ahead, while the other is the place where I have found God, and where He has moulded and changed my life. I love both tremendously. Although university hasn't even started while I've been in this church for four years, I find my home in both; in both I feel comfortable. I have dedicated myself to being a part of them.

And here I am, listening to what people have to say, telling me why my belief in them is unfounded, not right. Telling me that I need to wake up. Start thinking a little more. Stop being so blind, stop swallowing mouthfuls without chewing first. This thing about the public having a negative perception of my institutions isn't exclusive to these two cases, either. The public's perception of my junior college is improving, but still not the best. Party school. Rich assholes. Ragging incident and toilet saga all over the papers. The media loves us because the public hates us. I didn't have the best impression of the school myself - until school started. ACJC isn't perfect, but I definitely don't regret making it my home. The same applies to my university and my church. I know what I've experienced in each of these places, and I can't see myself anywhere else.

I stand firm in my decisions and beliefs because I have thought things through myself. These questions that people fire. I've gone through them in my head before they talked to me about the issues. I am, after all, a thinker. Choosing to stand by the institutions is a decision I've made after a lot of pondering. That's why I'm standing strong now - my beliefs are founded on something solid, after all that deliberation.

But the fire, the arrows, of course they still hurt. You commit your life to these things, and people continue to shoot those arrows; they don't believe in what you've committed yourself to - what you've decided to call your home, your family - and they choose to attack instead of support.

Stick to those who choose to pray instead. Find those who support, who continue to prove to you what you already know, and who help to protect you against what's unnecessary. You might even want to confront those who hold the arrows. If they're willing to listen, and you're willing to hear out each other's views, go for it. In all things, stay in the atmosphere of love and care. Seek only to build up, and focus on those who seek only to build up too.

This is such a badly-structured post. I'm sorry. It's because this entire post went off-track from the second paragraph. I shall start anew. New post!

Jul 16, 2012

Slippery bricks

Four years ago I thought I was flying, but I was flinging myself down a well instead. One day I realised I was in a pit of nothingness. I tried to climb out, but the bricks were too slippery. I grabbed onto what I could, desperate to get out of the wet and cold. I vowed never to let my grip loosen on the bricks as I slowly climbed upward. But then I fell again. And again. And again.

They always say they're sorry, but then they come again. And you can't even put the blame on anyone except yourself. You let them.

Each time you let yourself slip you hate yourself for it. You fall all the way back to the bottom of the well. You hit yourself hard. Your bones don't break but your heart does. The cement at the bottom is hard and unforgiving, and the icy water soaks you through. Slowly, you have to get up again. Make that arduous climb back up, ten metres, fifteen metres - how high will you climb before your next fall? Your heart doesn't even have time to heal.

Lord let that be the last time. I don't want to fall anymore.

Into Your hands / I commit again

Jul 12, 2012


(a continuation of my previous post)

"The change in my attitude was the result of realizing the implications of belonging to Him. The Son of God died for me! He came to free me from the hopelessness of living for myself. That had to change everything..."
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Joshua Harris)

With my baptism, my old self shall no longer be revived. It has died with Christ, and I have been risen again into a life with Him.

So why Hannah? Hannah Karen Ho isn't the most elegant-sounding name - I could be Karen Elizabeth Ho, or Karen Danielle or Karen Esther or Karen Catherine Ho. I considered all these, for various reasons. (I put Hannah before Karen partly because it reflects putting God first in my life - but, I admit, mostly because Hannah Karen Ho sounds better than Karen Hannah Ho.)

Because I was resolving to live the rest of my life for God, I wanted to search for a biblical character whose problems I could identify with, yet who brought herself out of them, so that I'd remember her in my own struggles. My weakness lies in emotional dependence, in the need to feel needed. That hole in our heart is torn flesh, raw and yearning. I was searching for a fallen character who was able to hold on to God's promises and strength.

Hannah's story is told in 1 Samuel 1 and 2. Hannah was one of Elkanah's two wives - the one who couldn't bear children. Elkanah's other wife would taunt Hannah for it, such that Hannah would be reduced to tears, unable to eat. One day, she came to the Lord "in deep anguish, crying bitterly". She prayed that if He were to look upon her sorrow and answer her prayer with a son, she would give that son back to the Lord; he would be His for life.

"But I am very discouraged, and i was pouring out my heart to the Lord... I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow." - 1 Samuel 1:15-16

After doing so, and after receiving Eli's blessings, she "went back...and she was no longer sad" (1:18). Soon after, when she slept with her husband, "the Lord remembered her plea, and...she gave birth to a son" (1:19-20). She called him Samuel (asked of God), because she "asked the Lord for him" (1:20). And when Samuel was three, she brought him to the temple.

"I am the woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. I asked the Lord to give me this boy... Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life." - 1 Samuel 1:26-28

And then comes the beautiful 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hannah's prayer.

My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong.
Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because you rescued me.
No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
No one will succeed by strength alone. Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered...
He gives power to his king; he increases the strength of his anointed one.

Those who know me well would understand why I fell in love with Hannah's story. When I read her prayer, I knew this was it.

I sense Hannah had her problems - infertility, inferiority to her husband's other wife - and she seemed sensitive and emotional. Hannah gave herself the space to cry. But she lifted her problems to the Lord, and promised to give her blessing back to Him. Imagine the joy of having a son after so long! Yet she remembered her word and sent him to the temple to live, dedicating his life back to Him. (And she was blessed with five other children later.) And after it all, she rejoiced in God's strength, declaring that no one succeeds by their own power.

I am very sensitive and emotional. I give myself the space to be sad, as anyone who reads my blog can tell. But do I let it end there, sad and lost? Or do I turn them over to the Lord, leave my life in His hands, and promise to follow Him all the days of my life? I am so weak, and my greatest need is inner strength. This is God's greatest potential in my life. There is no greater anchor for my soul, and my aching heart, than God and His unshakeable love and promises.

And when God blesses me with His strength and grace, do I remember Him and my own promises?

Here I declare it: as my old self has died with Jesus and I come to a new life in Christ, I will seek to follow You all the days of my life, as You love me. I am still weak and imperfect, but I will let You take control. My heart will continue to break as I falter, but Your grace will see me through; I will not succeed by my own strength, but by holding on to Your perfect love.