Monthly Archives: July 2014

Raindrops, Clouds, And The Other Little Things In Life

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The movement of water over a polished, tiled floor always fascinated me as a child. With the naïve eagerness of innocence, I would sit cross-legged and wide-eyed, watching precariously as rivulets of smooth, clear liquid slid gently from one groove to the next, a tantalizingly slow trickle that weaved intricate patterns as it went along, leaving a glistening trail for my gaze to follow until it resolved into a single, shapeless puddle. I wasn’t certain, at the time, what so enraptured my attention about the steady progress of the water from meager droplets to a full-formed body. I don’t think I really wondered about why; I was just too riveted by the seemingly effortless grace that enabled something that started off small and unnoticeable to grow into something that could actually made an impact. The same went with watching raindrops on a windowsill. Whether it was on the panes of the old family car or against the glass of the windows attached to my room, I was hopelessly infatuated with water of any kind. My gaze would remain stuck on droplets as they chased each other rapidly down the windows, my kid-side silently rooting for “my favourite raindrop” to win until it rolled off the bottom of the glass and I picked another random droplet to cheer for. It was good fun, and the repetitive motion was soothing and relaxing to someone like me. It was one of the few times I would actually willingly sit still – when I was witnessing water travel.

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Eventually, I grew bored with watching water and turned my attention to homework and other more important things. I still “raced” raindrops when they pattered onto my window, but when my mom and I moved into an apartment where my room faced the hallways instead of the outside, that stopped as well. I don’t often tire of things, but for some reason, watching water ceased to hold any meaning for me as I grew older. I would skip over puddles instead of watching them grow and would irritatingly wipe droplets off of objects instead of joining in on their journeys. Perhaps it was because of my temperament. You see, I’m more of a fire person by nature, really. I’ve got an occasionally overly intense personality and a temper that threatens to blow up disastrously and has been likened to a very volatile volcano. When I get passionate about something, like a book or a topic of discussion, I get fiery and expressive about them. The same way, after a while, the fire sometimes burns out. I guess that’s sort of what happened with my interest in water – there was a spark, followed by a heated blaze, then it just sort of died down and fizzled out.

Accurate description of my temper.

Accurate description of my temper.

I sound a little like I’m romanticising the whole thing, but to me, the time I ceased to view water as anything more than a necessity for basic life and an occasional nuisance was the time I stopped appreciating the little things in life. We’re all guilty of that, in a way. We stop noticing the pigeons landing on the pavement, stop caring that if we squint just right that cotton-candy cloud looks uncannily like a cross between a dog and a clown, stop pausing at regular intervals to curiously reach out and touch a particularly vivid flower poking out of the hedge. Instead, we start walking around a lot faster than our legs have the capacity of carrying us, in consequence moving around far too fast for our eyes to fully register what’s going on around us. In the words of Sherlock Holmes, we see, but we do not observe. We give excuses like, “I’m far too busy”, “I’m in a bit of a hurry”, “I have work to do” – and then we bustle along away, completely missing everything around us, focused only on ourselves and the Very Important Work that we have to do as Very Important Adults. The childlike wonder we were born with, which makes us love everything in the world and become endlessly fascinated by all things even remotely new to our eyes and minds, dissipates, replaced instead by boredom and the need to act like Grown Ups and Responsible Adults. It’s not that we can’t see the beauty of everything around us, we just don’t. And that to me is something very upsetting.

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Personally, I have always been the kind of person who notices everything around me and gets distracted by it. This probably also explains why I am extremely clumsy. I am simply not capable of walking down a crowded shopping complex without overhearing a million different conversations, observing what people are wearing, or taking an unconscious survey of the number of people there alone, with family or with a partner. If a girl looks remotely annoyed that her boyfriend has his eyes on another girl in a skimpy outfit on the other side of the polished shopping mall floor, I will see it. If a boy attempts to sneak a couple of candies into his mothers black probably fake Prada bag, oblivious to the fact that a little girl sitting nearby has noticed and is giggling about it to her father, I will notice it from all the way across the shop, where I’m standing behind a stack of magazines. If a waiter’s watch flashes from his right hand three tables away, I will observe and draw the conclusion that he’s probably left handed. And yet, despite the fact that I see all these things on a daily basis and do not possess the ability to focus on only one thing at a time, I choose to ignore the things I see around me. It’s not a conscious decision at all – it’s just something that has been hammered into me. I don’t have time to stop and observe that the butterfly with blue wings has a pattern on them that looks almost like a cat. I am simply too busy. I have things to write and people to meet up with and assignments to get done and university to get to – I simply don’t have time for useless extra bits of attractive-looking information that will add virtually nothing to my general knowledge or do anything that will help with the test I have to sit for today.

Why do I think this way? Maybe it’s because time flies so fast that I feel I have to move even faster to keep up with it. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Time flies, and life is so short. Granted, it’s the longest thing we’ll ever do, but when you really get to thinking about it, life is a painfully, frighteningly short thing. Think of all the beautiful things we miss on a daily basis when we dash by without so much as glancing at the world around us, all the sights and sounds and scents that our brain wants us to notice but we dismiss immediately as unimportant. That’s why I’ve made a pledge with myself. Despite the fact that I have a rapidly increasing workload and a lot of commuting back and forth to do, I will always make some time to stop and smell the roses – even literally, if I must, because roses are my favourite flower.

I’ve thought about this long and hard overnight (when I couldn’t sleep and just passed the time staring at the ceiling for several hours enshrouded in darkness), and I came to the realisation that it’s the smallest things in life that really make everything more fulfilling and wonderful: A genuine, honest smile from a stranger. Your favourite song playing on the radio and drawing to a close just as you pull into your parking spot at work. Taking that first sip of coffee in the mornings, or hot chocolate on a cold, rainy, lazy Sunday afternoon. Finding an extra five bucks in the pocket of that pair of jeans you haven’t worn for a month. When you wake up before your alarm rings catastrophically in the morning and can savour the glorious feeling of being able to go back to sleep again. Getting a curly fry in your order of regular fries. A sweet little text message that consists of no more than maybe ten words but still brings a smile to your face, even on the most stressful of days. What’s life, really, if we don’t enjoy the little things?

Anyone watch Zombieland?

Anyone watch Zombieland?

A few days ago, while I waited for the bus on a tiled pavement, it began to rain. Water fell into the grooves between the tiles and flowed slowly through the path paved for them. My eyes fell on them and a wave of nostalgia washed over me like a wave. I hesitated for a moment, then put down my social science textbook and drowned out all thoughts about homework. And just like that, I was back in my childhood days, surrounded by noise and bustling people but focused only on the slow travel of the water before me.

I think it’s because I finally realised that the things in life we tend to overlook are often the most beautiful.

Wanderer

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I am a wanderer by nature. My feet tend to unconsciously take my body places I did not originally intend to go, my heart aches for distant lands, my brain yearns for new sights to process and experiences to learn from. Anymore than my body and restless soul cannot be kept in one place, my mind and being cannot be kept grounded.

…which is why things like this tend to happen during a particularly uninteresting class.

In a monochrome, grey, air-conditioned room, my eyes may appear to rest upon the screen before me, indicating that I am attentive and present, but as a monotonous voice drones on, my gaze minutely averts, flicking around the whitewashed walls and noting the exact shade of the floor while my imagination, inevitably, begins to wander. I watch as swirls of yellow reminiscent of jasmines begin to creep upwards from the corners of the not-quite-white walls, filling the blankness with vibrant hues. The floor appears to begin to fissure, cracks surfacing against the papered cream floors, a violent orange threatening to burst from beneath the cement like molten lava. Images of starry skies filled with falling comets crashing down towards me start to form on the ceiling. As much as I try, I cannot control the directions my brain chooses to shoot off towards when held inactive for too long.

Longingly, I glance briefly out the window. My vision becomes enraptured by trees swaying gently in the breeze, an azure blue sky with just enough fluffy white cloud cover to promise a pleasantly warm (not sweltering hot) day outside. What I wouldn’t give to be basking in the golden glow of the sun instead of the glare of electronic white light! It would certainly be far more rewarding than wasting away seated in a cold, understated room where the musty scent of unwashed carpet, underused air-conditioning and damp walls mixes in with the lingering smell of metallic steel that is often associated with computers. Outside, just within my line of vision, someone saws down a tree growing right next to the windows of the library. It tumbles over, toppling far too fast, and crashes directly into the green-tinted glass panes beside it. There’s the too-loud tinkering of shattering glass, the screech of tables and chairs possibly being thrown askew, then silence.

I blink, and the destruction is gone – the tree is upright and sturdy as ever in its place, windows of the library untouched apart from the occasional gentle scrape of the tree’s branches against it. The person with the saw is nowhere in sight. Realistically speaking, I suppose it would be pretty difficult to cut down a tree with a manual saw. I shake my head and turn my attention back to the lesson at hand.

The clock on the wall ticks with a slow, determined rhythm, as if taunting me and reminding me that every moment I spend cooped up in this building is another moment that I’m away from the somewhat fresh air (“fresh” being the relative term here) I look forward to taking in almost every second of the day. As I stare at the second hand moving at its uniform, agonizingly slow pace, the hour hand begins to swivel in the opposite direction. My eyes widen minutely before I force them shut, knowing it’s just another illusion – my restless mind playing tricks on me. But this time, merely blinking does not chase away the relentless imagined vision playing before me like a strip of film that doesn’t fit with a movie reel. The hour hand swings dangerously fast, picking up speed and spiraling around the clock face until it is nothing but a bullet-like blur, racing past the other two hands and setting the clock’s face slowly ablaze until the plastic covering it shatters, sending all three hands shooting out of it with alarming accuracy right towards me –

I snap out of it as the teacher calls my name. Yes, what was it? What’s the answer to that question? Umm, it’s A, ma’am. Yes, I’m sure. Thank you, ma’am.

The crisis averted, I stare up at the ceiling once more, and this time, I do not even have to wait before dark, ominous thunderclouds appear high above me in place of the plaster and electronic lighting. Fiery hail is swiftly approaching from above, falling rapidly but with the same slow-motion melodrama one is always subjected to watching in B-grade disaster movies. A hailstone crashes through the already scarlet sky, slamming down with incredible force onto the wooden table before me. The stench of melting plastic and rusting metal hits my senses as ember begins to catch on the notebook that I’m messily taking notes with. I feel the heat rising around me, fumes assaulting my nostrils and flames beginning to engulf my body, prickling on my skin painfully, and –

Just like that, as suddenly as it arrived, the visual vanishes. It is just me, staring at a brightly-coloured Powerpoint presentation, desk and computer fully intact, bitingly cold air raising goosebumps on my flesh instead of fire. Class is over. Wordlessly, I pack my bag, sling it over my shoulder nonchalantly, stand up and start to walk away. As I leave, I cast a final glance sweepingly back over the room.

“What you looking at?” one of my friends asks me, only half-curious to know.

I shake my head to indicate that it’s nothing.

“Dude, how were you not falling asleep just now? I was, like, dying already. That class is so boring.”

I shrug. “I dunno. Got a lot to occupy me with, I guess.”

My friends stare at me, dumbfounded.

I look over my shoulder one more time at the room, and am just able to make out the lava sprouting out of the floor, the bright-yellow swirls on the walls, my flaming desk, the shattered clock face, and the ruined library in the distance. I smile reassuringly to my friends and close the door behind me with a final click.

They need never know.

A Whole New World

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I am more than aware that my last post was around two and a half years ago. I lost my muse right around that time and stopped being able to come up with new ideas every once in a while. My inspiration well sort of dried up. But beginning sometime in March, so many new ideas have been creeping up and pouncing on me that I just have to get them out and down somewhere.

But before I get into that, first thing’s first – where have I been?

Let’s begin with two words: existential crisis. If any of you guys watch danisnotonfire on YouTube, you’ll probably be able to understand instantly what I mean. I was forced into the Science Stream of my high school after achieving good results in a mid-high-school examination, and let it just be said that saying Science isn’t my thing is the understatement of the century. Don’t get me wrong, I love Maths (though that’s not really a Science subject though, is it?), and Biology was one of my favourite subjects (partially because I had a really good teacher), but I simply cannot picture myself doing anything related to the field for the rest of my life. I want to be a writer, and that’s all there is to it. At first I thought, hey, I’m interested in engineering, that’s as good a reason as any to enjoy being in the Science stream…well apparently not. I’m colour blind. Colour blind people really, really can’t do anything related to engineering, as I discovered.

And then I spiraled into a horrible cycle of questions such as what the hell am I doing with my life? and why am I even here? and other ridiculous things like that. So yes, I had no idea what I was doing and why I was doing it, and I just sort of found myself going through the motions and making the best of the situation. Looking back, it wasn’t really such a bad experience, but at the time it was pretty confusing. The only subject I enjoyed was the elective I took up, Literature in English, and that was what kept me sane till I finally graduated. 

A dream of mine came true when I was selected for National Service (a three month military type camp) and was stationed in Sabah from January to March of this year. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Sabah is in East Malaysia while I live in West Malaysia, which means I have to get on a plane to get there (not that I mind, because I love travelling and planes and other such things). I’m not going to go much into that, but suffice to say that it was probably the very best experience of my life. I got to meet incredible people and received the opportunity to do a lot of things I’d never done before, like shoot a gun (another thing to check off my bucket list, yay!) and learn traditional dance. I even got to choreograph a very short RnB dance, which was lots of fun. I came back home on March 18th with a handful of fantastic experiences, higher self-confidence, wonderful new friends and a very bad tan. It was awesome.

I have just only started going to university, where I’m taking up Foundation in Arts and Education in hopes of pursuing a degree in English with Creative Writing a year from now. After spending eleven years trapped in a government school system, having the freedom to spread my wings and take control of my own path feels a lot like bliss. I love the more interactive learning I get to do here, where I feel like I’m actually gaining knowledge and being educated instead of simply being schooled. It’s really amazing, plus all the lecturers are wonderful and the people I’ve met so far are nothing short of lovely.

That being said, the workload is going to pile up pretty soon so I’m going to have to focus right on the assignments and projects at hand, diving headfirst into them and immersing myself in new (and frankly, pretty awesome) experiences and a lot of stuff I don’t quite understand yet. It helps a lot that I’m finally able to take up what I’m truly interested in. I feel like I’m able to give my very best and participate fully in every single one of my classes. However, being in university also means I’m away from home and miss my family and friends every now and then, but I’m sure it’s all going to be very much worth it in the end. Besides, I’m enjoying myself so much now, and it’s only my third day!

I’m slightly out of practice as far as writing is concerned (as you can probably tell) because lately I’ve been focusing my efforts on poems and songs, leaving my incomplete novel-in-progress to gather dust in a corner and abandoning short story ideas by shoving them somewhere underneath other slightly less fun obligations in hopes that I’ll have time to dig them out and sort through them later. Hence, I’m making myself a little bit of a goal – to publish something on this blog at least once a fortnight (hopefully every weekend, if I can) that will get my creative juices flowing. I have a list of things I want to write, I just have to find the time to actually type them all out and post them here. It takes a little more effort for me to do that because I prefer the sensation of an inky blue pen scratching against notebook paper a lot more than I enjoy the clickity-clack of a keyboard, but I have to admit there’s something satisfying in watching letters appear across a previously blank, white computer screen. Hmm…that’s quite a good topic, actually. Maybe I’ll go into that a little more later on.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now. Life is good for me, and I hope it’s going well for you too. Till next time!