More is Less (Or how wanting is confusing when you’re a young adult)

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I think it is a shift worth noticing that as you grow older, you want less.

You want less pain, less worries, less of this feeling of being the only one to feel so horrendously lost.

But as a child, you had always wanted more. More sweets, more time being awake before going to bed, more tickles and more piggy-back rides.  More, more, more.

It reminds me of a child, a prince who lives in a faraway planet with his rose.

Dessine-moi un mouton // Draw me a sheep.” And then the one sheep wasn’t it. It wasn’t enough. And so, one more. And another. Until he had the one he wanted. I wonder what he would think sometimes, of the adults we have become.

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I have never been greedy for the world. Have never chased fame or money.  But now, I might think about wanting more. More happiness rather than less misery. More days out with friends in the place of less responsibility. If you think about it, to want less without also wanting more is the premise for a miserable life, the recipe for unwritten novels and untrodden paths. To want less without wanting more is to live off of a waning survival instinct which, like a blade, gets duller each time it is used.

Yeah, I think I cannot wait to crave Life again. And that’s already a good sign.


Listening to:

Scared to Be Free

Regate
(Somehow, this photo caused all this writing.)

“People,” I recall her saying, “They are like boats in a harbour. They think they are free, but they’re really not.”

“Where’s the freedom in only being someone you’re supposed to be?” she asked. “Where’s the freedom in being moored to paperwork, to rules that are unspoken and unwritten? How free do you feel to be made to enjoy the sun’s bright glow behind a desk in an artificially lit room?”

“We’re too scared to be free.” I whispered. “Freedom is dangerous. Out at sea, there are storms. The waves are so monstrous that their very shadows instill fear in our hearts. How much trust can you put in one boat?”

“But don’t you want to know?? Don’t you ever wonder—”

I shook my head. And her voice, the light in her eyes died down.

Later, she was gone, her risk had not paid off.  And I was safe, warm and well-fed. But it still felt as though she had won much more than I ever would.

If You Are Waiting For “Something”

 

HeoJiseon
Art by: Heo Jiseon

It is 1 a.m. and I am sitting under the stars.

I am 20 or 21, I’m not sure; Time has stopped mattering.

There’s a whiff of sadness in the night, I wonder if you can catch it? Yet here I am still, an idiot, looking at the stars and thinking of you. I don’t even know who ‘you’ are. A mirage. A daydream. A feeling I am holding onto because if I don’t then nothing else matters. ‘You’ are like a mix of a face I lost in a crowd once and a person who has visited my thoughts in that time between sleep and wakefulness. Evasive. Haunting.

And yet, I am not entirely sure ‘you’ are ‘someone’. Maybe ‘you’ are something else entirely. Maybe ‘you’ are a calling. Maybe ‘you’ are a whisper from the past, or a novel that will change my world. Or an epiphany or a sunset. Or stars. Or maybe you’re the person I want to be. I don’t know, but I’m still waiting. I’m still waiting for you to happen.

I might be a little drunk on the dizzying freedom of the cool night air. Drunk on the mystery of who or what ‘you’ could be. So drunk that all these problems braided tightly into my hair have stopped straining so hard.

It’s 1 a.m. or 5:30 in the evening; I am not sure. I know nothing but that I am a soul, waiting, waiting, waiting…

And the odd thought crosses my mind that maybe you are waiting for me too.

(And so we will never find each other.)

The Promise of Youth

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Gif from: Howl’s Moving Castle

This beautiful life is no longer without consequence. Time has begun taking its toll out on you, dear. The late nights are now mapped out on your face, the sorrow weighing down the skin under your eyes. The memories of us have turned into sadness, who would have known?

Who would have known that one day on a roadtrip with no destination would change us so? You see, not even Youth is without consequence. Every happiness is to be paid for. So now we are sad adults, you and me, experiencing not Life, but the drudgery of everydays, reminiscing. Reminiscing about a pair of teenagers, wild and eternal, whose footsteps echo ever so briefly in the hollows of our chests.

Perhaps this is grief. Perhaps this is regret.

Because we killed them. The people we used to be. The dreams we used to have. We gave in to the world. We bowed to the storm and let it strip us of all we were.

So we go through this cruel existence, paying the penance for our crimes with unhappiness and misery. If you are miserable, then their deaths will mean something, right? If you feel hollowed out, soulless, then it is because you deserve to be, right?

Right?

But even now you appear right when I have scrubbed my memories clean of you. In the supermarket, outside a café. Grocery bags in hand. Sadness in your eyes. And for a moment there, I see the spark of the 17-year old you used to be. I see this tingle of Life that wants to awaken. And for a brief minute, Life allows us this repose. This breath of Youth that erases the fine lines and the great walls alike. And all disappears. As though Life had an undo button, a ‘restore to previous version’ option that could take us back to that summer when we were 17. Where the sunlight was warm on our faces and our days were boundless. The grass was tall, and the pink carnations swayed in the wind as the nearby brook ran its course.

But you chose, long ago. So you turn your head and in a heartbeat, take the sunlight away with you.

Éclat De Vie

JinXingye
Art by: Jin Xingye

So much of who I am today comes from others.

I find comfort in the idea that I carry a piece of the souls I have met and loved with me, wherever I go in Life, wherever I may wander on this Earth.

On days when I face the numbness of reality, I remember the peals of laughter my Grandmother would burst into and I smile a little brighter.

When I feel like I keep messing up, I think of that kid I went to school with. She never could whistle and for a year she tried, spitting all over the place as she did. Until one day, she did. And flowed from her lips a feeble melody.

On rainy days, the ones that are thunderous and grey, I think of the stories my Father used to tell when the lights were out and we were all gathered in the living room, hiding from the storm. And it makes me a little braver.

Life, I am learning, does not have to be lived alone.

To All You Idealists, Dreamers and Lost Wanderers…

Gif Source: Tumblr (Artist Sadly Unknown)

The sun is shining down hard on my head today. My ears burn red under the heat, but I continue to wander my way through Life.  The people around, they all seem to know where they are going. No-nonsense business suits and straightened hair; their ties are smoother than the road ahead.

“Put-together”

They do not hesitate. Their gait is sure, their shoulders firm. They are not afraid of the road. They rule over it. They decide where the road will take them.

Which is why sometimes, it feels like their eyes are boring through me. As I slip in and out of alleyways like a needle through a piece of cloth, as I wander and then abruptly stop to look around me, panic-stricken and lost.

I am not yet like them. My hair is a tangle of dreams, my steps wobbly from fear at times. But also from joy, at others. And I don’t look at the road sometimes, because the huge palm tree that tickles the skies is too beautiful to ignore. Because the port is not too far away and if I strain my ears enough, I will hear the boats with their multicoloured flags rocking, splashing in the water. And the birds. The birds are soaring. The wind is blowing, carrying the smell of salt and the sea.

The sun is shining down so hard, but I’m still looking up.

And I wander.

I look on the world like a wayfarer.

I breathe in; I am not yet like them.

But every so often…Every so often, I will see a soul in a business suit. A young man with slicked back hair, still curling at the edges, still a little light from the sun. I can never look at the eyes. Full of drowned hopes and dying dreams. And yet eyes that are still searching.  Still searching the sea of people, still hoping with a last thread of Hope that the tide will bring something.

I am not yet like them.

But wanderers are a dying breed. And soon, soon… The sun will be too much. And I will stop looking up.

 

Let The Wind Take You Away

Grafolio's portrait.
Art by: 현현

The wind blew across the prairie where I laid, carrying with it the scent of foreign lands.

I could smell the salt of the ocean on its breath, and I shivered a bit at the cold that it spread. There was the unmistakable tang of fish, but also the freshness that you get when you are far, far at sea. I could hear the crashing of the waves, this soothing “Shhhhh” sound. But also a soft animal cry that I could not place.

Today, in a small piece of land in the middle of nowhere, I got a hello from the South Pole,or the North Pole or Norway or Alaska or….

And I was content.

Because the wind, like a messenger, also carried the picture of that beautiful afternoon I had with it. The tall grass and the warm sunlight that makes you sleepy, the smell of wild flowers and freshly laboured soil. The happiness from a giggle, the fluttering of butterfly wings.

This afternoon will never die. The wind will carry it until it reaches a soul that can uncover all the treasures it holds. And it will be safe there, this memory.  But it will eventually fade away, as all things do. It is the kind of feeling that gets lost in between the years. But only one scent, on a day like any other, and the memory comes rushing back to you. And suddenly, the summer when you were 16 is here again. Suddenly, the world is new and so huge that it’s a little intimidating. And like this, out of nowhere, you find peace.

Grafolio's portrait.
Art by: 권민정

 

The grief in her eyes

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Art by: Maria Ngyuen

If Grief is a look, then I saw it in the eyes of someone not much older than I today. And it was only a flashing moment, only in the slight squinting of eyes against the harsh sunlight did I see the mark of Grief painted there. She sat, leaning into the hard seats of the moving train, her eyes closed, as if nursing the pain that had been gathering for 3 years now.

3 years. That’s what her arm tells me. 1967-2014 and a few birds flying away into freedom. I could not catch the name written across her skin, but I have a feeling it is something in between “Mon Coeur” and “Mon Amour“. My heart, or My love.

The dulled tingle of Grief awakes again now. I imagine how it must have been, 3 years ago. I imagine the shock, the disbelief.

Then plummeting into reality, crashing into the overwhelming truth and thinking that you did not sign up for this. This wasn’t meant to happen. It is a breach of all human laws and of all fairness, all decency — and the person you have known and loved all your life, the person you have not had time to cherish yet, is “no more”.

But what does “no more” mean when they have never existed more wholeheartedly for you than in that moment?

But I, 3 years ago, I was probably stressing out about an assignment. 3 years ago while she cried, I was probably binge-watching some show. The day she went to get her skin inked, I was probably lying in bed, quietly contemplating the meaning of my existence at unruly hours, my gaze shifting to the stars for guidance. It always baffles me how your world can change and turn on all its axes three times over in a day without it ever meaning anything to anyone else. To others, it’s just a regular Tuesday that will soon be lost in a sea of everydays, gasping for breath in the foam of memories and ultimately sinking into nothingness.

How strange a thing it is, to exist.

How much stranger it is to be when Grief claims you. When all of the sudden, there is all this love that has nowhere to go. All those ‘Be careful’s, ‘Have a good day’s and ‘See you tomorrow’s that have no place to be. So you keep them in, you close the lid. You close your eyes one day in the stuffed train and let the world be.

3 years is a lot of time for anything. But not for Grief.

 

 

Nature, Not So Beautiful.

EditedPhoto

Orange and Lavender? Not a colour combination I would have chosen myself, but Nature has beauty standards all its own. I am sometimes convinced that Nature could even make sandals worn with socks look beautiful.

I mean, when has Nature disappointed? When have you been in a field brimming with flowers and thought: “There’s too much going on here. Too many colours.”. When have you seen a running stream and said: “The stream is too narrow. The water pressure too low and the pebbles on either side could be more polished.”. When has Nature been too much or not enough?

But then, when we are ourselves part of this Nature we so glorify, why are we not this accepting? Why are our noses too big, our lips too thin and our faces not symmetrical enough? We do not compare every river to the Nile nor every mountain to Mt Everest, then why are we never enough on our own, and must always compare to those who the world says are the prettiest?

And who decided that Orange and Lavender could not go together? Who decided that people could not all look different and be beautiful?

Cup of Life, Anyone?

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The tea leaves swirl in the old porcelain cup, Her wrinkled hand, darkened from long hours in the sun, energetically draws circles of steam in the air as She tries to infuse the dried, blackened leaves in the boiling water.

In the old days, She would often predict your future after one hard look at the remains once you’d had your cup.

But right now, I cannot think of futures. I am the leaves twirling inside the hot water. I am losing my essence, and all of me is becoming undone in the stifling heat, in the dizzying turns the cup takes and the growing tornado threatening to gulp me whole.

Storm in a teacup, Life in a nutshell.

I am being stirred, dissolved into something else. They hope to take the elixir that hides beneath the obsidian-clad body and then discard what is left of it.

Squeeze the soul out, throw the body away. It’s a consumerist society. Fast-food, fast-everything.

So now, She tosses the tea leaves in the bin even before the old, knowing eye can even take a look.