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Sunday, 10 October 2021

baby steps

for kester, thanks for never walking away

The overcast weather makes me feel like God cares about my dark and gloomy soul. 

I relapsed today, after doing well for so many weeks. I thought this was it, as I watched all my hard work and effort to get better go down the drain.

I woke up with my throat parched from the alcohol last night and my hunger intensifying with every passing minute. But I didn't get up. I laid in bed for the next five hours. It felt impossible to get up. 

But. I. eventually. did. 

I remembered that there was work tomorrow. I briefly considered taking the day off to rest but I really didn't want to. I knew I had to get my shit together before that. It's amusing that instead of being a stressor, work is always one of the things that drive me in life.

But more importantly, I remembered that only I can pull myself out of this shithole of a brain. Over the past two years, I placed so many expectations on my partner to make sure that I'm okay. But I've come to learn that it is completely unfair and pointless. Because when it comes to the brain, only you can and should help yourself. So, I willed myself out of my shithole. 

This morning, it felt like there was no way out but here I am now, just a couple of hours later, writing this with courage. I guess I would call this baby steps.

Remember. It's temporary. It is always temporary. Every cloud has a silver lining. And every storm will pass.

And we'll always be good.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

perhaps we shouldn't take life so seriously?

I started journaling my mood some time ago, and I noticed that my best days are the days when I choose not to take life so seriously.

They are the days when I choose to be unproductive and that's okay.
They are the days when I let my phone buzz away, and am unbothered by it.
They are the days when I'm not multi-tasking.
They are the days when I pause to listen to the lyrics of my favourite songs.
They are the days when I'm filled with inspiration and the words flow effortlessly.
They are the days when I lie in bed with you, and listen to the sound of the rain.

I'm turning 27 in less than a month. Two more 27s and I may well be lying in my grave. So, instead of mulling over the past, being anxious about the future and feeling sad about things that are beyond my control, I might as well savour that cup of coffee in front of me and bask in the beauty of every passing moment while I can

Or perhaps, these are just the reflections of another privileged person, typing away in a cafe at the centre of Raffles Place.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

how we get there


 "Sometimes, I wonder if I will make it till forty," she said matter-of-factly, as she stared into the bleak evening sky. "It feels like it is a matter of time that I will succumb to the pain, the depression, and the darkness."

She pulled out her mood journal, which she had begun writing 96 days earlier. It was either 'sad' or 'meh' on most days, with the occasional 'contented' (usually when it was a windy day, when her 10a.m. coffee was perfectly brewed and no one yelled at her) or 'suicidal' (when thoughts of how the world would be better off without her intruded her mind).

She can't remember when she started becoming so acquainted with sadness, or how it even happened. It was like learning how to walk - no one teaches you how to do it; you just slowly get up on your feet and walk one day. 

She flipped to a page that said 'suicidal', and showed to it him. 29 Apr 2021. 'Walking was hard today. Had to hold railings to make it across the overhead bridge. Syncopated breathing. Thought I was going to die.'

She wasn't quite sure why she was showing it to him. Perhaps she wanted to caution him of her emotional baggage. Or perhaps it was a cry for help.

But he wasn't surprised. Neither did he seem too concerned.  

Instead, he took her tiny hands and wrapped it inside of his. "Don't worry about forty. Let's focus on today. And we will do the same for tomorrow, and the day after. That's how we get there."

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Choosing the responsible life

Two thousand and six.

That was the year when everything became apparent to me. The fact that life isn't as rosy as it seemed when I was a child. The fact that more often that not, people have bad intentions and hidden agendas. The fact that even though the world wars are long gone, people all around the world are fighting their own battles every day. 

-

I have my own battle scars too.

The scars on my wrist remind of a time when I was young and reckless, using physical pain to overpower the emotional pain and emptiness that I felt inside. The scars on my fingertips remind me of a time when I knew not how to remain calm in face of intense pressure and anxiety. The scar just above my left brow reminds me of a time when I thought I couldn't survive a night without getting intoxicated.

Those days are long gone. When you have a family of your own, there's no other responsible way to live but to flee from those battles. Selfish and irresponsible. That's what you are if you let those battles weigh you down. 

-

It started as a musing. At that age, depressive thoughts were romanticised; in books, film and music. 

And then, I found that I had a predisposition for melancholic tunes, sad endings and philosophical pessimism. I could spend hours ruminating about how fleeting life was, and wondering if there was even a point in living another day. I indulged in my depressive thoughts, a lot, and walked around with a dark cloud over my head. I didn't seem to find a problem with it, as I continued to fulfil my obligations as a good son, friend, and worker. 

Not until I fell in love and started a family of my own. 

It's funny how it never crossed my mind that I would ever have to bid farewell to my depressive thoughts. They had been a part of me for almost a decade. I wouldn't call it an addiction. Perhaps, a disposition; a way of life. And I guess I made the mistake of presuming that this is me; and to love me is to accept me for me.

When I first saw her tiny hands and legs, I knew that what my wife had been saying for the two years of marriage was true. We couldn't raise our kids in such a pessimistic environment.

-

When I see my baby girl running around in the garden, playing catch with our Goldie, the sides of my lips curl up as I know for sure that I did (and am doing) my best to raise her in a healthy environment.

But sometimes, just sometimes, as I take a long walk around the neighbourhood, I still let the dark thoughts creep in for a second. In that split second, it feels as though my heart is being ripped into pieces and the tallest building in the distance seems so alluring. Thankfully, I time my walks such that I always make it home in time for bedtime stories, before the darkness takes me to a place I never want to be. 

And seeing her sweet and restful face is always the emotional pat on the back that I need.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

The Gin Parlour


The Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin. It wasn’t her number one choice. She would’ve preferred a Botanist or Four Pillars, but it wasn't too bad for a Happy Hour drink. 

She had been wanting to go to the Gin Parlour for some time now. For someone who claims to be a gin connoisseur, she thought that it was slightly strange to have only gone to the parlour a decade after its opening. It sits across the Marina Bay Sands, with an unobstructed view of the flyer, the ArtScience Museum, and arguably the greatest Feng Shui building in the world. She counted the number of windows that were lit up at the hotel, and pondered about how lovely it would be to be on a Staycation. 

But this was not too bad either, she thought. Sipping gin at one of her favourite areas in town on a Friday evening, all by herself

She usually spent Friday evenings with friends, chugging pints of beer and playing pool. It was nice, too, but wasn’t her, her. She was a gin person; she wasn’t one for small talk; and she would choose reading a book over playing pool any day. 

Today, she was unusually tired. Perhaps it was the five reports that she had churned out the past week, or the fact that her social battery was low. Either way, she said no to pool and beer; and boarded the bus to nowhere in particular. It was only fifteen minutes into the ride that the idea of visiting the Gin Parlour popped into her mind. 

She spent the entire evening there, sipping gin, reading The Queen’s Gambit, and taking in the scenery. As the hours passed, she felt more and more tranquil. She was free to be herself and enjoy the things that she loved. And she knew that she needed more of this in her life. Perhaps a Friday a month, at the Gin Parlour, by herself

But with that sense of peace came a profound sense of loneliness. And it then dawned upon her that the price to pay for freedom seems to be loneliness.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

pointing a middle finger @ anxiety

I've been thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict lately, and the Palestinian refugees that have lost their homes since 1948. I imagine being born in an era of war, spending your entire life fighting to survive. I imagine not having a proper education, let alone a constant supply of water. I imagine violence, bloodshed, and the screams of my neighbour as a social norm.

And then I think about the problems that we deal with every day. Hating on the government for making us stay at home. Whining about the weather. Playing office politics. Feeling anxious about what other people think of us. Veganism. (jk! or not...) And how these problems are so. damn. trivial lame. I know therapists say that every problem is different and should never be trivialised but really. Our problems are lame. 

We get so hung up with that one person who always seems to be better than us in that one area that we think matters the most. We let it get to us and make us unhappy. But it has occured to me while I was doing all these thinking just how pointless it all is. Our anxiety. Our insecurity. Our inadequacy. On what grounds are we not good enough? If we were struggling to survive a series of artillery shells, it is not the person with the highest education that is going to come out alive. Neither is it the one who is most popular, most eloquent or most beautiful. It is the one with the best survival instincts, and a good dose of luck. I guess what I'm trying to say is that society has shaped us to measure our worth based on a certain set of rules; but when the rules change, our worth is going to change too. And when the rules break down (a n a r c h y), everyone will be nothing but a mere human being. 

There are certain things that trigger my anxiety. But as I ruminate about the Arab-Israeli conflict over the past few days, I think I've learned to point my middle finger at anxiety. 

i am a flower slowly fading, here today and gone tomorrow,
a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapour in the wind.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

a slow day


I like slow days. Work is as tiring and fast-paced as it gets.

-

Just two weeks ago, we were sailing out to Sisters’ Island on the yacht that you chartered for our first anniversary. The wind in my hair, sun rays bouncing off the surface of the water, the CBD skyline in the distance, and the thought of office workers writing papers and crunching numbers while there I was, beside you, with your hand in mine, gave me that familiar sense of liberation that I haven’t felt in a long time. I like slow days.

We had been looking forward to our staycation for a couple of months now – yes, I didn’t know I was going to end up on a yacht. The plan, in the name of gender equality, was for us to each book a night at a hotel as a surprise for each other, starting off with your surprise for me.

When I opened my eyes and found myself on the yacht, I felt loved. You always knew how to cater to my needs and preferences. You knew how much I loved the ocean. And there was no better way of making me happy than to take me out to sail. 

-

The past two years have been a blur of events but what I was most acquainted with was pain, guilt, feeling constantly tormented by my own infp brain, and yes, the perfect garnish to complete the dish – alcohol

You found me at my worst. When I was drinking too much that it almost cost my life. When I was prepared to live a frivolous life. When every little thing triggered my anxiety. You found me and you loved me. 

Ours wasn’t a cheesy love story that blossomed like the Dutch tulips in Spring. Some days, it felt like a bloodbath, as we dealt with past hurts and trauma. Other days, it felt like learning how to walk all over again, as we figured out how to love each other properly. But most of the time, it was you patiently walking me through my pessimism, my depression and my defensiveness; even at the expense of your own well-being. 

-

So when you promised that you’d always tell me that ‘we’re good’, even in the happiest of times or toughest of moments, and asked me to spend the rest of my life with you, the answer was simple.

I like slow days. But it in a society where every single day is passing by so damn quickly, I’m thankful for you. 

My sun and moon, my afterglow, my better man, my bad guy, my mi pan su su sum 

Sunday, 4 April 2021

sweet spot


silence is deafening.

i like sounds. white noise, in particular. like the rumbling of thunder, birds chirping at the break of day, cars passing by...

but loud jarring noises drive me crazy. misophonia, they say. babies crying, parents yelling at their kids, heavy traffic, sister's alarm... 

-

boredom is suicidal. monotony is poison. 

i like to do things. friday night drinks, a jog around the neighbourhood, a bouldering route. a good challenge.

but then i get too tired and want to do. absolutely. nothing.

-

people annoy me.

especially when they talk too much. i like to spend time alone. read a book, write my blog, pop a can of beer.

but then i get awfully lonely...

-

is there a sweet spot somewhere in this world where i can thrive with the perfect decibel of white noise, activities that require just the right amount of energy and people who are limited to three thousand spoken words a day?

Thursday, 25 March 2021

nth hurts anymore i feel kinda free

there's beauty in hitting rock bottom.

goddamn rock bottom.

where there's no distance left for you to fall.

where there's no room for anxiety because things can't get any worse.

where every tear has dried up and all that's left to do is laugh.

where fear is just a memory and lunacy turns into courage.

where nothing hurts anymore and you feel kinda free...

Thursday, 18 March 2021

coming out of the introvert's closet

I am an INPF. As far as I remember (since the first time I took the MBTI test seven years ago), I have always been an INFP.

INFPs are known to be one of the laziest, most disorganised, most poetic, most idealistic, most depressed, most averse to conflict and most introverted people in the world. (See INFP memes below.) And this very accurately describes, me; mostly when I'm all by myself or with the people that I'm most comfortable with.



But the funny thing is that most people (especially the people who have worked with me) guffaw when they hear that I'm an introvert, let alone an INFP, because I have always been the outspoken and confident type - very much like the stereotypical extrovert. As a result, I'm always trying to explain that while the confidence or candour of a person may be a by-product of one's level of extroversion or introversion, they are by no means indicators of extroversion and introversion.
(Note: One's level of extroversion or introversion is determined by where one draws energy from, with extroverts drawing energy from social interactions while introverts draw energy from spending time alone.)

What, then, explains the disparity between my personality type and my behaviour (around most people and at work)? Without going into the details of Carl Jung's theory of cognitive functions (from his book Psychological Types), let me introduce you to the dominant and auxiliary functions. Each personality type has certain dominant and auxiliary functions that help them consume information and make decisions. The dominant function is the most developed psychological function of a person - the one that you're most familiar and comfortable with; the 'default'. Whereas, the auxiliary function is the secondary function that complements or balances your dominant function.

As an INFP, my dominant function is 'introverted feeling', which Jung describes as 'continually seeking an image which has no existence in reality, but which it has seen in a kind of vision. It glides over all objects that do not fit in with its aim. It strives after inner intensity, for which the objects serve at most as a stimulus. The depth of this feeling can only be guessed—it can never be clearly grasped. It makes people silent and difficult of access; it shrinks back like a violet from the brute nature of the object in order to fill the depths of the subject. It comes out with negative judgments or assumes an air of profound indifference as a means of defense.' It's spot on, and perfectly describes me and what goes on in my head most of the time.

But this is not what most people see, especially not when I'm at work. Why? Because I know that in my line of work, as with most kinds of work that require a lot of human interaction, my dominant function is of little value. Instead, my auxiliary function thrives. Extraverted intuition. Jung writers of extraverted intuition that it 'is never to be found among the generally recognized reality values, but he is always present where possibilities exist. He has a keen nose for things in the bud pregnant with future promise...He seizes hold of new objects and new ways with eager intensity, sometimes with extraordinary enthusiasm, only to abandon them cold-bloodedly, without regard and apparently without remembrance, as soon as their range becomes clearly defined and a promise of any considerable future development no longer clings to them.' Not a hundred percent me, but something I can still bring out as a high-functioning INFP, albeit always feeling a little tired.

If we, introverts, could all be true to ourselves and not give two hoots about meritocracy that is so narrowly defined performing well at work and unrealistic societal expectations fulfilling our social obligations, we would probably be a lot more comfortable in our own skin and less tired all the time. But that's a utopia (that yes, my INFP brain has taken its natural course to conjure). 

In a society where there is barely any room for poetry and the loudest person commands the attention of the room, where idealism fall to its knees in the face of realism, and where networking is basic survival instinct, we are forced to conform to become the perfect man that we have construed in our own minds. And to make our auxiliary become the dominant. Thankfully, I have that glass of gin and tonic waiting for me at home after a long day at work, that Spotify playlist that I've curated for a quiet Sunday afternoon, and this little rant space of mine that I can write. for. myself. to remind me that at my core, I'm still an INFP. 

And more so, a proud one. 

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Introduction to my best friend













Thursday, 28 January 2021

something about the rain

There is something about the rain that makes it so calming. 

The way it blurs out everything in the distance.
The way it makes you want to cuddle up in bed.
The way it serenades you in spite of its monotony.
The way it invokes both feelings of sadness and contentment. 

There is something about the rain that makes it so calming. 
Maybe it is because it reminds me of you

Monday, 18 January 2021

just keep swimming

After 26 years of living, I've come to realise that the best feeling in the world is not one of blissful ignorance or a prolonged state of happiness.

It is that few moments of deep conviction that everything is okay and that there's something - or someone - worth smiling for, amidst the weariness and affliction. 

Am I a masochist or am I just getting older?

Friday, 1 January 2021

Things that I have learned about growing up


I think one of the most surreal things in life is how fast time passes by. It seems like it was just yesterday that the government announced that our country would go into lockdown, that I graduated from university, that I took the leap of faith and enlisted into the Army...

In a blink of an eye, so much has happened, so much has changed, and so have I. I recall the days when I wouldn't think twice about doing something 'fun', regardless of the risk or how out of the way it is. Or when I got so frustrated that I would spend the whole day just thinking about how frustrated I am. Or the amount of time and effort I spent on making myself appear more likeable. I still see some of this in my baby sister, who's now a teenager.

Over the past few years, I've learned a couple of things about growing up that makes people become more mellow (almost by default) as they enter into adulthood.

1. The Art of Compartmentalising

As though studying for A Levels wasn't hard enough, I remember being completely useless and unable to focus on writing my essays whenever I fought with my boyfriend back then. I couldn't put my emotions aside and focus on the task at hand. It was just impossible. As a result, we would spend hours going in circles trying to settle the problem while we were still so emotional. Today, I'm amused by my ability to tell myself to get my act together, put on my K-POP playlist to distract myself from the negative emotions and complete my staff paper that is due in a couple of hours. 

Compartmentalising. I realised that a huge part of becoming an adult is learning how to put aside your emotions and go into 'fire-fighting mode' when you have an important task to complete.

2. Tact and Half-Truths

I'm a very blunt person. I always thought it was better to be honest and say things as it is rather than to beat around the bush and sugarcoat my words. When I first enlisted into the Army, I remember saying whatever the hell I liked, regardless of who I was talking to - and that got me into a lot of trouble. Over the years, like a dog being trained by its owner on how to behave, I learned how to say things in way that I could bring across my point without offending anyone. 

His ego, her face, your opportunities, the dynamics of the team, office politics, a good night's sleep... these are things you learn to consider before uttering a word. And most of the time, the words that come out of your mouth isn't the entire truth. Tact and half-truths - these the weapons and shields that help you survive adulthood. 

3. How Insignificant You Are

One of the things that I miss (and not miss at the same time) about the younger days are the friendship cliques (or #squad?). Bummin' around together after school every other day, late night phone calls, slumber parties, and sharing every little detail of your life... I look back at those days with fond memories but I also realised that I didn't exactly enjoy my time doing those things - I'm not sure if anyone really does. You do things you don't really want to do just because you want to be part of the clique. It's fun as a teenager but but as you grow older, you realise that life is too short for that and you start prioritising other things like personal development or family. You care less about being accepted into social circles. Why? You realise that the number of people who truly care about you is minimal and that's okay. Friendships come and go, and only a handful will make the effort to stay regardless of the circumstances. 

Becoming an adult involves coming to terms with how insignificant you are to most people and learning to channel your energy to those who truly matter.

4. Get Acquainted with Disappointment

Life is full of disappointments. And I've learned that the faster you come to terms with it, the easier it will be. I remember sobbing my heart out for an entire day (or two) when I got back my A Level results, which didn't meet my scholarship conditions. I was disappointed for a very long time and stopped giving my best in other areas - some of which I still feel the repercussions today. On hindsight, I wish I had accepted my reality sooner and focused on righting the wrongs rather than crying over spilled milk. I'm not sure if I've become more pessimistic or resilient (or both) but it now seems much easier to look disappointment in the fact, nod, and move on.

To effectively navigate your way through adulthood, I think you have to learn how to get acquainted with disappointment. Don't get too chummy with it but learn how to shake its hands when it visits and bid it farewell so that it doesn't overstay its welcome.

-

These are the things that I have learned about growing up. But then again, when I think about the brilliant people in this world, I realised that they are fuelled by passion, and their work and emotions are meshed together perfectly. That they never nuance their words; they say things the way they are because of their conviction. That they cannot stand to be insignificant and will keep striving towards being extraordinary. That they are so afraid of disappointment that they will do what it takes to make sure that they succeed. 

What a strange, strange world. 

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