I feel like I’ve been swerving in and out of depression and anxiety as of late, and my natural instinct is to delve deeper and deeper into art as a way of surviving that. Fiction isn’t just an escape into another world and a distraction – fleeting as it may be – from the things that weigh on my mind. It also keeps me grounded to who I am and what I believe in, in a time when trials and tribulations test me and what I stand for. When I create, it is all a magnified manifestation of my thoughts, dreams, and world view. And that keeps me anchored to what I am at the root of my being.
Recently I’ve been watching a bunch of films and enjoying the sort of escape it provides. I think I’ve watched Hot Pursuit (2015) about four times in the past month, The Heat (2013) twice, and A Clockwork Orange (1971), but I started off with The Proposal (2009). I love the scenes in Sitka, Alaska: seaside towns, sleepy mountains, the midnight sun… It also brings the fishing communities of Scandinavia to mind.
I’d love to go travel that region one day – to stay in a house that dips its feet in the water to test the coldness and wake up to the scent of the sea. Realistically speaking it probably doesn’t smell all that good and the cold is probably freezing, but I like to be optimistic. Besides, the languages fascinate me. I’ve been exploring Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish (haven’t gotten my hands on Icelandic yet) and have fallen right in love with them.
It’s a bad habit of mine to live and envision life like a piece of fiction – romanticised and dramatic – but I tend to conflate the idea of living in a Scandinavian country with 20-minute-long Indie films with stoically quiet scenes and shots that quiver between blurry and focused. Hikes in the forest, boat rides on lakes stained by the sunset, wooden cabins bejeweled by fairy lights…
But I suppose it’s all part of an escape too. I’m an avid daydreamer and have always been, but as I grow up, I find myself seeing a lot of those dreams as more concrete and attainable than before. I realise that by working hard and staying on track, I can go wherever I want one day, learn what languages I want, meet friends from all over, and build a story that’s non-fiction. I don’t mean that in an angst-driven, teenage-rebellion “One day I’ll be out of here, Mom and Dad, you’ll see!” sort of way. That sort of attitude probably faded out two or three years ago as I grew out of adolescence. On the contrary I think that on the precipice, when I’m actually on the verge of leaving and living those dreams, I’ll probably hesitate only because I’d miss my family for such a long time.
Growing out of childhood and teenage-hood has made me a much more nostalgic and sentimental person, with the propensity to hold on to dear memories and want to relive them. I’m no longer a little child, which is all good and fine, but what I miss more than the innocence and carefree nature of childhood is the way things used to be in my family back then. We used to go out to Changi beach to watch the planes landing and taking off, smell the sea-spray and eat ice-cream. Those memories were conjured up a few days back in camp when those commercial jets flew overhead as I talked to my mother on the phone. The overwhelming roar of the machine and its tiny flashing lights all painted those memories so vividly. It moved me to think how I’ve been so detached from my family for so long – days on end spent in camp, talking to them for ten or fifteen minutes on the phone, and isolating myself to work on my studies when I did come home.
It only served to emphasise how much things have changed since my mother’s heart attack two months back and my father’s operation last year. When he started going back to work about a week ago, as a taxi driver, I somehow felt troubled by the idea. I’d gotten so used to him being at home that the thought of him spending twelve, sixteen hours out of the house daily seemed like such a huge loss. And my brother is on course now because he’s signing on with the military, and he’ll be in camp five days a week. Mom will be alone at home, and I feel bad for her because things haven’t been easy on her to begin with. More and more I find myself withholding my worries and thoughts from her because I don’t want to give her any extra stress. One part of me says it’s a mistake because I’ve always tried to trust her with everything, while another says it’s the right thing to do. I’d like to think I have some leeway in making not-the-best choices as I grow up. That sounds terribly like decadence. I think so. But I still think it’s best not to worry her unnecessarily.
I’m trying to be optimistic, though. My mother always said that this too shall pass. I love how simple yet beautifully artistic the ancient adage is. She quoted it from My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) and it’s something that I’ve held on to through quite some difficult times. I find it ever more important now because I hate being constantly pessimistic and gloomy. That’s part of the artist’s condition, I suppose, and it tends to fuel my writing, but self-renewal is also a part of art.
So I’m trying to keep it together and be productive – my first exam in Chinese is in a month’s time. It’s a speaking exam and I did well the previous time, but I still have work to do. I’ll also have to work on French and German, find some time to fit in some Greek (I’m taking an online Rosetta Stone course as part of a skills development programme by the army for its conscripts), and fill in the gaps with those Scandinavian languages.
My original intention in writing this blog was to keep track of the goings-on in my life so that I can reminisce and get all emotional in the future, but it got philosophical and reflective really fast. For that reason, I think I’ll give a round-up of some of those things.
I jumped on the bandwagon and got myself a fidget spinner! It’s relaxing to watch, hear, and feel – the weight shifting in your hand as it spins is actually quite soothing. My friend E was fascinated by it over the weekend and I decided to get one for him – it’s also a farewell gift because he’s leaving my team after 14 months of doing duties together. K and A seemed somewhat cynical about it (I sort of relate because it’s one of those flash-in-the-pan fads right now) and EN was only mildly interested.
This Saturday, N, R, Y and I are meeting up to hang out after nearly a year. Like the previous time, we’re going to a Ramadan bazaar in Geylang and I’m super excited. Being with good friends like them is therapeutic and I can’t wait. We’ve sort of traipsed into adulthood together and gotten each other through the struggles via endless WhatsApp conversations. I think we’ve all watched each other step out of childhood innocence and comforted each other through all the obligatory mistakes of youth. I love them so much.
I ought to meet P too before she goes back to Thailand. She’s one of the purest souls I know and despite the infrequency of our meetings, she always inspires me to try to better myself. And last Saturday, L, C and I were supposed to meet but I was on duty. Like N, R, and I, L and C have been wonderful friends who dragged my half-dead corpse through Junior College.
Meanwhile I’ve just finished reading A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Anthony Burgess and haven’t decided what I want to read next. In terms of music I’ve been hooked on Chillstep. I’m not sure if it’s strictly a genre or just a loose term used by content creators, but it refers to slow, dreamy instrumental music that makes you think of outer space. It’s good for focusing, especially when you’re reading or writing and can’t afford to be distracted by lyrics.
K introduced me to E. E. Cummings’ poetry and the paintings of René Magritte. He and I don’t exactly have the same taste in art, but it’s nice to meet someone who nonetheless has a patient appreciation for the abstract and philosophical.
Time to get back to work, I suppose. I love that art and language are so infinite. I’ll never stop having something to work on.