Jul 31, 2013

the thing about books

Sometimes you randomly click on a friend's Facebook account and you look at the pictures of her back in high school or at a concert or performing for an event or in a garden with who are those people who look so beautiful? and you wonder how much of a galaxy there is behind her eyes. It could even be a good friend - pictures that take you back into a shared experience, as well as pictures of her working at Garrett's (hello dearest) and shopping with a guy you don't know and at a party with more people you don't know. And if it's a good friend, you wonder how much about that person you really know. Even a childhood friend (hello again). If it's an acquaintance, you marvel at the chapters and chapters of stories untold that make you realise she is so much more than she seems. You realise that behind her pretty eyes is a soul that likes crude crass comedies, an avid punk music lover, a DJ at a Chinese pop radio station, a figure-skating enthusiast...and what about her other friends? Maybe she hangs out with music producers and they go for drinks on Thursday nights. Maybe her church friends all own expensive cars and live in Bukit Timah. Maybe she's from a single-parent family and stays in a two-room flat.

What an ocean to explore behind every pair of eyes in the lecture hall. As they stare blankly at the lecturer or raise their hands to ask questions, you wonder what their lives are like. What they're thinking about right now, and the stream of experiences that led to this present thought. 

I wonder if anyone thinks this about me. I'm pretty much an open book and I share pretty openly, so I wonder if anyone thinks I have my own hidden ocean to be explored, or if they think I simply come as I am, an open platter.

don't you worry there my honey

You see people hanging out in groups and you realise you haven't spoken to half the school yet because you yourself have been keeping to your little comfort circle; all them HTHTs and wondering whether you're intruding and wondering how much you don't know and feeling like you need to start making friends now, now; pictures of things going on and friendships being formed and feeling like you didn't get the memo, like there've been a lot of memos you haven't been getting. people getting all close and touchy and all that glitter in the air and just, wondering. Wondering if you should be feeling like there's something wrong with you.

Meanwhile fire continues to be fought and I can't be bothered at all anymore because I know what I know, and I don't have to prove myself to anyone. And that's a funny thing to say coming from me because I always see the need to prove myself. I'm always afraid of someone getting an inaccurate impression of me.

And then I'm reminded of my 16-year-old self, the one who looked at people I wished I was closer to but nah I always decided they had better things to do than want to hang out with me. I don't want to trouble anyone or make them feel like they're obliged. And somehow right now all I feel is lonely. Like I'm hoping for a good friend to be coming down the stairs and going hey karen and just sitting with me. hoping for an arm, a tousling of hair, a comfortable neat silence, just enjoying each other's company. And who would that good friend be? Who can I call my good, comfortable friend? With whom am I confident in our friendship, confident enough to have a quiet sit and just enjoy the moment and know that he's not feeling obliged?

What's wrong with me this month? Lost the ability and desire to form good friendships? Feeling jaded? Worn out? Missing the environment of simple, pure accepting love at SOT?

I've made some great friends and I'm so glad, though. So grateful.

Jul 30, 2013

on new people

'And like all books, there will be those which you just want to Fahrenheit 451; there will be those which come and go, browsing on borrowed time, passed around and never yours; but there will be the one which you find in a secondhand bookstore and fall in love with and want nothing more than to share a quiet evening together curled up in front of a fireplace forever and ever until your pages are dog-eared and tattered and yellowed around the edges.'
(a quote from a friend's post blogged ten hours ago whose topic is incredibly relevant to what I was intending to blog about today)

**There is a poem that Adriana Ortiz wrote called Love in Steps that is entirely, entirely relevant and too beautiful and I need to put it here but I'm not fond of the video version because there are a lot of loud oohs and awws that disrupt the flow and emotion of her beautiful heartbreaking poem as she reads it aloud so I'll try to get her to send me the text so that I don't have to use the video. But dang, when she read it aloud to us in the library, I found what I aim to become someday.**

she is of lavender and dandelions, as placid and lovely as a spring morning by the lake. yet impenetrable. frosted glass. you sense something lies amiss within but you are not one to find out, you will never know, you will never and this hurt is not for you to heal.

What pains me the most is knowing that someone is hurting, but never being able to know why or just be there for the person. Pain is universal. Heartache, loneliness, self-doubt, longing, hurt, tears, desperate distress, a jaded sort of fear, these are universal. And I know. Maybe I cannot relate to the situation but I know. Even if I don't know, I have the curse of the gift of empathy. I cry, anger, question God, when a friend is in distress. I burn myself out over her. I become her. My goal in life is to speak to hearts through words. For people to feel like I understand. For a heart to become less lonely when they realise that I know, too. For the world to have fewer lonely people hurting. Because the blank page is my friend and this is how I am not alone and I want to spread this blessing. And people are books - sometimes the cover tells you a lot and sometimes it's a big fat deception. And there are the books that gladly open themselves to people and there are the books that will never be for you to read. And what hurts me most is knowing that there is a sad story I will never be able to read. A sad story whose pages I won't be able to superimpose my own story onto, to let it know that it isn't alone.

like watching a drama but i am not a passive observer

please, please know that you are beautiful, that you are lavender and dandelions, placid and lovely as a spring morning by the lake. Please see what I see. please be aware of how beautiful you are. and please see what i see, do not misunderstand, the one you trust is worth it, worth all of it, will not break your heart
trust me.

Jul 29, 2013

kitten kor kor

"I think what you're looking for is a relationship with God. You're looking in the wrong place."
 "My definition of relationships has changed. A relationship is God's love manifested in a person."

4am conversations on friendship, love, and awkwardness;

that aside, on a separate and yet completely related note, thank you. Thank you for the trust, and for allowing this friendship to be on its way to attaining the highest level: confidence. Maybe not fully so yet - maybe I'm still reserved - but thank you. Thank you for your honesty and sincerity and for the trust and the effort and for talking to me. For letting me know that I am a friend - it's tough when insecurity makes you look at your friendships through the lens of skepticism and doubt. Just... I can't find the words to say it, so thanks. Just thanks.

Someday I'll go knock on your door at midnight and make you drive me someplace we can lie on the road and look at stars and drink virgin rum and coke. And you cannot refuse. Confidence.


Jul 19, 2013

in his eyes

She grabs my hand and we're running down the flight of stairs. I don't know what's going on but look at her excitement, her smile, look at the gleam in her eyes, she's beautiful. The brick-walled stairway spills into a brick corridor in the basement and she slows down to a happy stride; she's so happy. I'm keeping up beside her and I don't know what's going on but it's heaven anyway. Suddenly she guides me to the wall and both her hands are holding mine, I'm backing up against the wall and with a single stride she steps up to me and I laugh and bewilderedly mumble wait and she kisses me


when we break away all I can do is hold her. She's gentle. Small. A surge of love, time stops, she is a precious soul and all the beauty of the world is in this moment and it's only for us.

Jul 18, 2013

It's noisy here at the dining hall

and there are a billion meetings going on for everything you can imagine - dance groups, singing and acapella, performing a musical number, forming a sports council - and people are at the Clinton Crossing outlet or at the museum and we've had two lectures today and a third one's coming up in half an hour's time and we have so much to read, three books on top of our daily lecture readings, and I'm in the US for the first time in my life for three weeks with my classmates for the next four years.

People are chilling out at the baby grand and a group's here listening to Theo on the guitar and my computer's left with 23% I need to get my charger for the emotional intelligence lecture and our social pressures talk has been postponed.

Too many meetings for too many new things and everyone can't wait to start their own thing and there are so many new people you know by name and have made small talk with but the talk just can't, just won't go any deeper. Beyond the weather and the lectures and what readings we have to do tomorrow. We don't know each other's passions, insecurities, we don't know what warms each other's hearts or why we cry.

And yet right now I just can't be bothered. I'm not really sure what I want right now. I love these people, but I'm tired of trying, simply because there's so much to do and we're all open to making friends but we're all trying so hard right now, and there's so much to do, I want to retreat and just lie somewhere with someone I'm truly comfortable with. Someone with whom I don't need to try. These people can be found here too, but everyone's trying now. It's a race.

I guess there's also the insecurity of not being able to hang out with those I'm already comfortable with. Everyone's running around making new friends and all I want to do is chill and walk or lie on the hammock in silence. It's too slow for them. And too silent. And too comfortable. They want to make friends, not hang out with someone familiar. I'm too afraid and jaded. I'm just not in the mood.

Pardon me now.

Jul 17, 2013

Incredibly quick update (Post-birthday to pre-Orientation)

1. KL

So, two weeks after my birthday, I went to KL with Andrew and Sam to check out churches, attend services, see what the Christians there were like and what they were concerned about right now... it was Sam's personal project; I could provide lodging at my aunt's place, and Andrew knew Malay, so we made the perfect trio. (Except that we didn't have a car or navigational skills, so we got lost and cabbed / got free rides a lot.

The pastor on the right is Pastor Daniel Ho of Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC). Their church is amazing - it's so community-like and warm, although also big - and we had a great chat with the pastor. He's an amazing guy, implemented some amazing things in the church (like the public can actually use the recreational spaces and stuff in the church, and even though things get stolen or damaged, the church simply compensates for the damage - the spirit of community and inclusiveness of the public is more valuable to the church than damages and expenses, and that's really pretty amazing), and he had some real golden words to share. He's an amazing guy and I have so much respect for him.

It's also pretty noteworthy that out of the five services / prayer meetings we attended, the one that impacted me the most was DUMC's Chinese service. I mean, I actually understood it, and it was fantastic - I took six pages' worth of notes or something. Frantically scribbling and nodding and God touched me at the altar call. I loved how the Chinese pastor came across as so real - unashamed of being an ex-gangster (he talked about how when he first became a church staff he was able to drive his own pastor around because he knew all the small roads since he was a thief before and gangsters don't go by the big roads, and other hilarious things like that), yet so completely in love with God, and so down-to-earth. I loved the way he preached, and his message was amazing.

And City Harvest Church KL is BEAUTIFUL. Some of the churches we visited used to be warehouse spaces, so they're really big. And CHC KL is amazing.

So that's my KL trip in summary. Photos on Facebook, HERE!

2. Pre-Camp

The week after that, we had a camp for team leaders, assistant leaders and game masters in preparation for our church's zone camp (that didn't take place in the end thanks to the crazy haze). Don't really have much to blog about here, except that I found it very interesting that during the worship sessions and stuff, I felt completely out of the mood and unable to connect with God and unable to experience or be touched by Him like everyone else. And I was all tired and grumbling. But on the morning of the second day, my cell group leader got us to do some individual quiet time along the beach, and all I had to do was plug in my earphones - the second I closed my eyes and started to pray, I felt God touch me right there, and I started to tear immediately. And I was like, wow. Here I was getting all annoyed at everything and getting frustrated that I couldn't feel God in any of the worship sessions and being all exhausted and whiny (silently), and here, in my simple quiet time, God came so quickly.

3. Mission Trip

The following week I had my SOT Mission Trip to Jakarta with Team 16. Although I was bummed about not being able to go to Myanmar with my own SOT team (because they're going while I'm here in Yale), I thoroughly enjoyed my mission trip to Jakarta. Team 16 was so welcoming and treated me like one of their own - I didn't feel out of place at all, despite the fact that I was a stranger to most of them while they had all already known each other for months. Made great friends and learnt so much. For the first time, I led a cell group of people aged 18-22+ in the preaching of the Word (I used my 'Barren Women, Countless Children' sermon), and did a bit of ushering (at GPDI Gideon, the ushers shake everyone's hands as they come through the doors!).

We also went in groups of three to houses around the area to do home visitations and pray for them. Many were ageing and sick. It was an amazing experience - exhausting, but incredible when you pray for them and realise God had a different word for each of them. To one lady with a lot on her plate, God spoke through us that He had blessed them tremendously and that He was so happy with them; to another, God showed us her struggles with bitterness and her exhaustion. To one elderly, sick man, God clearly spoke of strength through our prayers; to another elderly, sick woman, God told us that she needed to remember how to thank Him again.

Oh, and I rode on a motorcycle.

That van on the right? It's a BUS. A bus is a blue van with its door always open. It's insane. I LOVE IT.

So, all in all, I really enjoyed Jakarta. It was my first time there and we stayed away from the city centre - tending towards the rural side - and I really loved the place. The post-trip diarrhoea wasn't fun, but I'll just be more careful with the water next time.

The week after Jakarta was supposed to be the church camp, but it eventually got cancelled because of the haze. And the week after that was our Yale-NUS Orientation Facilitators' Camp. And I shan't talk about that - not ready to blog about Orientation yet! But June was a whirl and everything was going at a crazy speed and there was Singaporientation and now here I am in Connecticut, loving the architecture and the environment and my classmates and everything to come. 

P.S. Guess that wasn't 'incredibly quick' after all. It's currently 2.53am. I had planned to sleep at 11.

Jul 14, 2013

I don't know what beauty is

Sometimes people tell me they liked a certain piece of writing I did, or that I inspired them and helped them feel like they weren't alone, or that I wrote well in a particular post.

I do not understand it. Every post of mine is a first draft, apart from checking back for grammatical / spelling errors; almost every post is done out of the need to simply let it out. If I'm feeling like crap, I feel the need to let it out here, do a little emotions file transfer. My mind lets go and my fingers do the uploading. And ten minutes later I feel better so I put my heart aside and get back to whatever I was supposed to do.

Even the pieces in my college application creative writing portfolios were conceived in the same manner. I cannot conjure something out of will, and I can't edit my work once it's done - it always turns out forced, disjointed, unauthentic. And if I'm not feeling it I just can't write.

I don't know why people call my posts beautiful, or which are nice. I don't even know how the words come. I'm terribly uneloquent in real life and I cannot express myself verbally. When I write, my fingers create the words, not my brain. I don't know how it happens. It isn't me thinking up these words. It's too eloquent to be from me.

I don't know how it happens and I don't understand what people say. When I write, it's for myself. Often I hope for others to see it in case anyone feels the same way and I help them with their emotions, help them articulate what they're feeling and help them realise they aren't alone, but I usually just type to vent steam. And I haven't done a proper piece of writing in such a long time. I was scrolling through my blog posts just now (I can't do it as I type because I'm typing on my phone, here in the dining hall at Berkeley College, Yale, squeezing on the piano chair with Kevin who's playing a Final Fantasy piece) and I didn't feel any sort of beauty at all, and then I began to get all worried and a bit disgusted. And then I remembered how Rohan said my previous post was really nice, and then I got scared. Because what is nice? How do I know what's beautiful anymore?

It's a weird kind of worry, but I suddenly feel an overwhelming sense of despair. Despair at the uselessness of creative writing and at how many years I haven't properly exercised this passion (that was relatively new-found to begin with) and at how I don't know how I create this "beauty" that others claim is there and how I can't even differentiate beauty from waste anymore.

Yeah, by the way, I'm in Yale now. New Haven, Connecticut! Loving every minute of it. Check out my photos on Facebook :)

Jul 12, 2013


Everything about you is alive and happy and confident and you don't feel a tad out of place in this society that tramples, condescends, makes one feel unworthy -
you are oblivious. The world's snides, and those within ourselves - everyone must have a dose of self-condemnation deep within - they are little needles of arrows shot only at your feet. You are above it all, oblivious, obliviously beautiful.

Yet I cannot fathom it. I cannot understand how you see the beauty within yourself. It is not an arrogant confidence; it's a knowing, full, confident confidence. One that brightens. Makes better. I do not understand it. The mystery of your life is what you base your confidence upon, and it is what I must learn.

My confidence cannot be based on my looks, my chattiness, my intellect, my competence, my heart or anything conditional. Maybe that's the reason I always feel inferior. I try to put a gauge on myself, but I always fall short. It's not about what I am. It's not even about the degree of my relationship with my Creator, because that's still dependent on me.

We are all beautiful, good, intriguing beings, all created, all loved, all created out of love. The challenge of our lives is basing our identity, confidence and all that we are on who He is.

Yet you are not the sort, and you intrigue me. I want to know how you find your confidence; how your aura is perfect, brilliant, warm, comforting. You don't appear to have any sense of self-inferiority, of vulnerability. You know who you are and you are satisfied, you are not jealous or regretful or wistful. I don't understand. You intrigue me and I want to understand it. I want to understand you.

(Future me: If you forget who this is, Kevin knows)

Jul 6, 2013

When something you didn't say could've changed someone's life

This is to you, to the one I to whom I should have spoken up. I should have verbally acknowledged my agreement and told you that you were right, that you are strong, and that I admire your stand. I shouldn't have kept silent. I don't know why I did. Maybe I was self-conscious. You were speaking your mind and you were right and I agreed and had more, bigger points in support of that, but I kept silent. I let you be interrupted by those who disagreed, who said it was okay, who implied that you were holding on to a useless virtue.

I didn't give you my personal opinion, and no one asked for it, since they assumed my argument was based on religion alone. I didn't make an effort. I should have stood up for my view, and for you.

I just hope that as I'm typing this, you're strong enough to make a decision that will not cause yourself hurt. All I can say is that I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't speak up. I'm sorry that I knew, already, the consequences, and I've been down that road, and I know what it does to people like you and me. I know. And I'm so sorry.

I should have said something. I'm so sorry. If what I didn't say has changed you, I don't know how to deal with my own regret. If things have happened, things have happened. But it doesn't have to change you. What's done is done, but you can still make a stand. You can still choose to circumcise your heart and decide that one regret was enough - there's no need to descend into desensitisation.