in silence

Category: Journals

reading period

i stare my body down in the mirror and ask myself if i am strong enough.

some days i tell myself i’m done, i’m out, i don’t have to do this. other days i ask myself what is it all worth if i leave so easily? those days i tell myself i’ll stick to it till the point where i think it’ll really really wreck me to stay on. some of those days i tell myself i’m just being dramatic, that things are not how i see it.

i feel like i don’t know whether or not (or how??) i should trust my mind anymore.

good morning!!

it is 10.47 am and here is the peace of the morning. i can’t decide if i am a morning person or a night person – i think i like both and i think i care far less about the mid-afternoon. just yesterday i was sitting on my bed past midnight telling my roommate about how calm the night felt. how there was no longer any need to think about a place you had to be in two hours or a meal you should take within the next three.

i woke up today and worked out for an hour before taking a shower and starting on my day. i always forget how much better that makes me feel. i feel so at ease and ready to take on the day now. was looking at my arms, my body, in the mirror and thinking about how glad i was that i’d begun to do lyra. i’ve always been kind of self conscious about my arms/ my shoulders (i have pretty broad shoulders). working out and getting stronger arms was always a thing of tentativeness for me – i wasn’t sure the added muscle was something i wanted. but, having started lyra, i’ve found that i can look in the mirror, see myself getting more muscular and genuinely feel at peace and really excited about that. it’s no longer just about what that looks like but about how i feel closer to being able to do a pull-up onto the hoop, how i feel closer to holding my chopper, how i’ll feel more stable in the air.

i feel like i’m in a good place with the person i am and the person i’m becoming. it’s a nice way to feel, i’ve missed feeling like that for a bit. counting down the days till i’ll be home but i know i will miss all of this when i’m back too.

the sun sets over harkness today; the eggplant-purple, the pink we didn’t quite like as children, the marmalade orange (the orange that so often cloaks the other hues).

“i thought the sunset was really beautiful and really wanted to share it with you”

“thank you, it is really beautiful”

we look within ourselves, pause, draw out all the parts that could be faulty and lay them out across the table. we miss the warmth under our soles, the sticky wind across our faces, the saturated drizzle of home.

we stick our tongues out only to taste the cool dry air.

here is the growing up, here is the striving to be good for each other (alongside the striving to be good for ourselves), here is the yearning, here is the sorrow. we sit outside on a bench because, for the first time in a long time, the wind is not an assault on the skin. we feel the shudder of our bodies; i feel the heaving of my chest then the slow calming of my breath. there is laughter too, there is laughter amidst all of this.

after it all ends i get an email from my father that reads “in one month time”.

in one month time.

in one month’s time i’ll be home.

i miss the feeling of home.


hoops & tarot cards

i’m breathing and there are days, moments, where the world is so startlingly beautiful. we did tarot card readings at teeth the other day and it was somewhat consoling and encouraging to feel like the world was throwing me signs to remind me that i was working in the right direction, that i am capable of so much and that i will remember what it feels like to be myself again. however, something i’ve been trying to remember is that all this, all the gravel beneath my feet, that is me too – it is a path i’m working through but while it is heartening to know that i want to and can do more, it is impossible to live without remembering that the struggling parts of myself are, too, sincere elements of who i am.

i went for lyra class yesterday and it was just one of the best feelings, thinking about nothing else but the movement of your body on the hoop, thinking about where to place this arm, that grip, that foot. what to catch on, what to let go. the strangest feeling was being upside down, suspended in a split by my ankle, calf and hip bones while feeling like if i let go of my hand grip  i would surely fall. yet, when i did let go, i found that everything else felt exactly the same, only that I now had my hands to use.

“a lot of people use their arms to pull themselves up into that position, so it feels like you can’t let go. but once you actually let go and sit into it, you find that you are perfectly stable.”

it feels phoney to make these comparisons between a lyra class and the other, broader, aspects of my life. but perhaps these are merely parallel threads running through my life at the moment. lyra class isn’t teaching me to let go (i worry too much and think too far ahead for that) but, slowly, in my life, for mostly unrelated reasons, i’m seeing what i’ve thought of as my safety nets fall away, and i’ve been finding that i’m okay. that i’m happy, i’m beaming, which is so so freeing.

i am tired, that is certain, i can’t wait to return home, that too is true. but it is also true that i believe i have enough strength in me to make it through the remaining weeks of the semester positively, that i really really can do this.

give me even the autumn leaves

everything is tense, i’m struggling to remember what i have been or could be, we’re struggling to remember and to be what we know we could. i don’t know how to find a way out, i don’t know which way is out, it’s harder trying to do this on my own but i think i need to recognise that we need to be able to do this on our own.

we were born in the summer heat.  that sticky, tropical glow, perspiration beading at our foreheads, staining the back of our shirts, lining our palms – this was not nervousness, only biology. we were born in our bid to catch the last traces of time, we fought the transience, we thought we won.

the seasons bleed into each other, i no longer remember what it feels like to be warm, to feel confident enough to walk outside without a coat in the knowledge that the world will not feel like an assault. even sunlight does not bring the same joy when it doesn’t know heat. the trees have been bare for so long, and i am waiting, waiting, waiting on the spring to come.

i don’t know whether to grit my teeth and pull it together (i don’t know if i can) or if i should reach out and ask for help. i’m finding it hard to see how anyone else could help, i’m trying to convince myself that i have what it takes to figure this out on my own, that i’m stronger than this, that i need to be able to do this. i know i need to give you the space to sort through yourself before you can come back to me again.

i miss so many people back home, i miss alysha, i miss regine, i miss jon, i miss my sister, i miss my parents. i just want the semester to be over so i can be home. i so dearly want to be home.

i have had a thankful few days where i am rediscovering what it is to dream again, to see your future not as static but evolving with every decision you make in the present.

it was the one consequence that i did not forsee when i made my decision. so much of my motivation to work, to be, has always been bound to the sense that i was actively discovering for myself what sort of future i want to create, what kind of life i want to lead. and to feel like that, at least in the near future, had already been deciding felt slightly paralysing. but i’ve realised that it doesn’t have to be. and i’m grateful for that.

fingers crossed, moving ahead.

to write in a bid to transgress your own privacy, but to write and to transgress the privacy of other lives when they are entangled with your own?

E.L Doctorow – False Documents:

Therefore I have to conclude that the regime of facts is not from God but man-made, and, as such, infinitely violable.

(…) there is no fiction or nonfiction as we commonly understand the distinction: there is only narrative.

i am so much stronger today than i was a week ago and i want to relish this, i want to remember how i made it through, i want to be able to be there for myself.

i didn’t want to feel scared tonight

it is 10.40pm and i am walking home from teeth where two women shared their poems about the fear of sexual assault. i walk halfway back with another freshman and then we part as i head off to pick up a book from the library before it closes. before we part i laugh about how annoying it is to be wearing the hood of my rain jacket, about how, with the hood on, my peripheral vision is basically non-existent because all I can see is the small triangle of the floor before me.

it is the kind of annoying that balances on the edge of being funny. or at least it is until i turn the corner to walk alone and i hear male voices and male bodies running swiftly up behind me. when your peripheral vision is non-existent and you cannot turn your head fast enough to catch a glimpse of what is running up behind you, a male body shaking with a chilling cackle is enough to make you seize up with fear. they pass and it turns out to be two college boys running from the rain, laughing at each other. they were the ones doing the running but as they dash across the street through blinking traffic lights i remain on the pavement and i am the one catching my breath.

even as i write this, it feels like paranoia, it feels like unwarranted fear – but how do i explain that i would not expect to have reacted in such a visceral manner to their presence, to his cackling by my side, how do i explain that when i seized up i shocked myself with how much fear i could feel from such a brief moment? how do i explain that i was walking on a road that was supposed to be safe, that i was just outside old campus, the gated community of freshmen suites, but that i still felt like my body put me in danger?

a week and a half into freshman fall i was just a few metres from the spot i was at tonight when a drunk middle aged man stared at me, moved towards me (i backed away) and then mumbled “sorry, i can’t help it, you’re beautiful”.

that same night (when i was still collecting myself from the encounter with the drunk man), a lady with only her incisors showing clutched what looked like a pregnant stomach and approached me, tearing and asking me for money to get food. she says, “i’m sorry i know i’m scaring you, i would ask someone else but-” it was clear why she’d picked me – was my vulnerability so obvious that night? how do i explain that i wanted to help but i was too scared at that point to know how to react, how do i explain why i just couldn’t respond until a female upperclassman saw how lost i was, passed the lady a dollar bill and pulled me away. how do i explain why the two other male upperclassmen who had seen me in the same situation did not think to do anything but thought to condescend upon the female upperclassman saying, “you shouldn’t have given her money, she’s a well-known regular and she’s been saying she’s pregnant for years” after she had stepped in to pull me away?

i don’t want to be angry – i don’t want to be angry at the male upperclassmen.

more importantly, i am not angry with the woman who approached me that night – living as a yale student in new haven means having to constantly reckon with the reality of social inequality that surrounds you. it is likely she did what she thought she had to do and the reality she has to contend with is one that i cannot at this point comment on.

but i grew up a fearful child – my most recurrent nightmare was one in which i struggle to hold on to the lock on the door as a man tries to break in; one afternoon when my sister’s ex-boyfriend came into our apartment to drop off his bag when i thought i was going to be at home alone for a few hours, i ran out at him with a penknife. i don’t want to be a fearful woman, i try to tell myself that i shouldn’t have to be scared, i don’t have to be scared (i am lucky,  i am here, i am safe) but the fear continues to be a gut reaction i cannot shake. i continue to be reminded that my body is coded by the words “vulnerable”and “prey” even though i wish it wasn’t and i try not think so.

i don’t know how to end this post. i can only hope that the reminder that a woman’s body is still enough to make her feel unsafe on a street and the concession that i truly felt fearful tonight, despite not wanting to, are enough. i can only hope that these are more important than a neat ending to a age-long story that really hasn’t seen its conclusion yet.


30 november

on my to-do list – to finish my anthropology final essay, to write a new piece for teeth. it’s kind of hard to admit to myself that i haven’t written in so long, i begin to wonder if the reason i don’t feel like myself some days is because i haven’t created anything in so long after having had to do so for so many years.

i’m unsure what the reason is – am i just too scared? it’s hardly that i feel like there is nothing i need to process. i stand in the shower and think about the days that have passed me by – i think about returning from thanksgiving break and finding the intensity of american accents around me overwhelming (or surprising). after nearly ten days of resting in a slice of home i realize my tongue is no longer as adept at adapting; the ginger steamed cod, the ground beef and eggs, hainanese chicken rice (because primataste packs still count right??), rice and rice and rice.

i recall mentally laughing as five ethnically white friends of mine sat around in the common room asking each other “do i have an accent? do i” (“hmm… nah nah i don’t think you do” “maybe a little?”)

i read an essay in a singaporean magazine about race in singapore and muse over the graphic at the end of the piece. it mimics a child’s crayon drawings with check-boxes stating “jiak kentang”, “neighbourhood school one”, “elite school one”, “got accent” – i am wary about what i reveal about my thoughts but in both spaces i still check the “got accent” box, no?

but this is home now isn’t it? this is home – the sun that sets at 4.23 pm, off-beat alarms taking turns to pester their owners in odd intervals between 8 am and 9 am, waking up briefly to smile at your roommate before tumbling back into the half-formed dream (that makes both of us), early morning dining hall conversations where a friend asks if you still feel the same way about your friendships here as you did a few months ago (that so many were fleeting, tottering).

this is home that i am trying to build, over dinner time conversations with a friend where we laugh over the distant reality of protective parents, in the moments where i struggle to be fiercely myself, truthfully myself (a difficult task when you recognise that there are so many aspects of yourself that you are still discovering), through the twice-weekly breakfasts with familiar faces that keep my sleep covered eyes battling their way to math class if only for the sweet promise of homely conversation that follows.

i still write too long sentences, i’m still struggling to figure out the things i care about, there are still days where i don’t feel good enough, that i don’t feel like i’m the person i want to be (will i ever really). but today i wake up after an evening spent figuring out a new song on off-tune pianos, after an evening spent running, after an evening spent marvelling at a beautifully written introduction to an essay, today, i’m okay, today i will appreciate that.


leap day

it’s been so long since i’ve written. the process is beginning to feel foreign and realizing that scares me.

it’s strange, i’m confused. i’ve felt so much and so acutely over the past few months but haven’t had the urge to transfer all or any of that into writing.

looking back on pieces that i’ve written before and that i felt proud of at the time, i can see why they mattered to me but i no longer feel like i can write that way. i’ve always enjoyed a style of writing that is lyrical, emotive and evocative. but above all i treasure honesty in writing and i feel like i don’t know how to write in a way that encapsulates all of those traits.

to encourage the lyricism, i find that i drowned out half of who i am to paint my world as a more beautiful version of itself (even if tragically so). i don’t want to do that anymore?? i can’t do that anymore?? i think back on the selves that i inhabited when i used to write and they feel like drugged states. i no longer want to write in those states but i want to write nevertheless. it’s hard figuring out how to get there.

i want to be able to write in a way that is coarse but still beautiful, i want my writing to be able to permit oppositions and contradictions, to welcome them and encourage them. even now as i try to explain this it all sounds a little phony, i really don’t know how to get to where i want to be with my writing anymore.

for months i’ve been waiting for myself to ‘feel like writing’ and to know what to write about, how to write it but i’m so tired of just waiting. i’m going to begin making an active effort to figure this out and find my way there i suppose. i really don’t want to just give up.

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