198: Burn The Night Away

Burn The Night Away
There for Tomorrow
A Little Faster

It’s 3 in the morning and I’m still not sleeping
’cause I’m finally running your race
The mountains you’ve been climbing
seem like they have steepened
Since I decided to pick up the pace

So don’t look back
The hourglass is running empty
You’ve got me buried with your every move
Your fine lines have me at a loss of memory
I’m right beside you in an empty room

If the whole world told me I should disappear
Could I fall right next to you?

You’re making me it hard
For me to just start
Over like we’re new

Oh the whole world told me I should disappear
’cause I’m falling in love with you

Just let me burn the night away
Oh baby just let me burn the night away
By thinking of the simple things you say to me
That get me through the day

And it’s so hard to catch your feelings
When you always run away
You keep me wide awake
You keep me wide awake

Thinking back, I always thought it started that overcast day 4 years ago when I ran past her during training and went “Hey, nice weather huh?”

In truth, it probably started when I posted this song up, on a similarly cold and drizzling afternoon as I’m writing this now, and she replied with an innocent comment.

“If the whole world told me I should disappear…”
“Don’t.”

It’s always the simple things that people say and do that helps us get through the day.

I’m right beside you in an empty room. You keep me wide awake.

;’)

197: Faces in the Crowd (Part 2 – Dinner)

I headed for Jurong Point opposite, needing to have my first meal of the day after quite a hibernation.

I was craving for KFC, still having my boycott of McDs in effect, but was arguably disappointed with the prices I see. Similar to how irritated I felt at a cup of cheese having increased from 50c to $1 to $1.50 in 9 years, I bulked at the price of a 2pc chicken meal being a shocking $7.70, having remembered it being a mere $5.50 in secondary school, and $6.50 in JC. Times have indeed changed.

My hunger overrode the need to save, and I was craving for chicken, so I ordered an ultimate box and sat myself down observing the people around me. I used to hate dining alone, believing a meal is one of the best times one could connect with others. Now, I find myself enjoying the solace it brings, and I wonder what others dining alone are thinking. Eating with others made conversation so natural that silence was uncomfortable during a meal. These days, thanks to technology, perhaps those dining alone are still having conversations through their phone, or at least keeping themselves distracted through reading or a game or what not. Me? I was just sitting there looking at others, enjoying my meal and waiting for onion rings which never came.

I left, onion rings forever lost in limbo, and headed out for a smoke which I have grown accustomed to appreciating. It is remarkable, how smoking is just like a bus ride, where people gather for one purpose yet completely unconnected with one another. Sitting there alone observing the rest was quite comfortable, I blended in completely with the different faces in the crowd, all having their own purpose and reasons for smoking. I thought of the stereotypes of smoking, and somehow it replayed just like what we see on TV and films, or advertisements in posters. There’s the working adults, smoking as though to blow their work troubles away. There’s the foreign workers, smoking as though to reminisce about their home. There’s the old uncles, smoking as though passing their time away, waiting for their own time to come. We all have different reasons to indulge in a destructive habit to comfort ourselves that no matter the path, we all share the same fate.

I took the bus back and buried myself in Letters to a Young Poet immediately, and without me noticing I reached my bus stop within moments, but already so far deep into the book. It’s time to get back to the reality I find myself losing touch with, and hide my thoughts within the pages, the words and the lines of each book, blending myself into one of the faces in the crowd again.

196: Faces In The Crowd (Part 1 – Library)

edit: I realised that this would be quite a lengthy post for a short trip of 2 hours, and have divided the post into two parts.

After half a day of sleep, which felt like half a second, and missing both lessons and meetings, I decided to get myself out once again. 

I needed to get my hands on The Journals of Sylvia Plath and found it available at Jurong West library. Decided to take the bus instead of my bike simply because I needed to reminisce about the old times when I roamed the nights and realising there’s something about being an anonymous face in the crowd which I needed to relive.

As much as I like to be on the road on my bike – it keeps me distracted from thinking and forces me to concentrate on riding – I do enjoy being on long bus rides with nothing but music or a book. I’ve been feeling that I have lost sense of time, I sleep when the sun rises and wake when night falls. Spending time alone has found myself caught up in my thoughts for hours and they felt like seconds. Studying makes time fly without me really absorbing anything.

On the bus, I realised we do not take particular note of everyone else despite being surrounded by faces. We do not care nor wonder what is going on in others’ heads, how their day has been, what makes them different. We are all anonymous and oblivious, filling up empty spaces in each other’s lives. Our presences, or the lack of, makes no difference. We are no different than the chairs in the bus, the street lights outside or the ez-link reader. Perhaps you could argue the only person who would make a difference is the bus captain needed to drive the bus.

I got off, headed for the library, and made my way up to the adult section to find my book. In the lift, joined by a family of three with a child in a pram, it felt no different than being on the bus. That is, until the baby broke the conventional silence with a randomly loud “Hello!”

I was pleasantly shocked by it, and can’t help but to stretch a slight smile at the corner of my lip with a muted return greeting. I wonder when would the same child no longer see the world as pure as she is seeing now. Usually, they stare at me in curious wonder at my difference than them, be it due to my skin colour or my eyebrow piercing. I crack a smile and they cower behind their parents, as though they could sense the darkness I carry within me.

Being in the library, browsing fast through book titles gave me a flashback to eight years back when I first started finding true solace in books. I remember venturing to AMK library alone in sec 2, finding books to entertain my restless youth. It’s ironic how I find myself heading to the library for the very same reasons still, as surely back then I wanted to reminisce my curious childhood when I spent hours in the library finding books I still remember today – one prominent Where’s Wally? style of book was The Stone In The Sword.

Much to my surprise, I couldn’t find the book I was looking for, despite it being listed as available. Instead, I found books which I have quoted from and are in my readlist – Rumi’s Little Book of Love, Sylvia Plath’s Poems as chosen by Carol Ann Duffy, and most notably Letters to A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.

The first two are a collection of poems, a medium of expression I find myself using yet accepting that few would actually understand what I’m trying to convey. I believe that every form of expression, be it through writing or dance, serves as a mask to a deeper meaning. The meanings, intricately hidden through a myriad of literary devices or musical/dance techniques are usually so raw and so ugly that the simplest words fail to highlight the severity of the feelings behind it. It is ironic how the most beautiful of things are innately ugly on the inside – think of how the Mona Lisa, one of the greatest pieces of art known, is technically a combination of oils on poplar. Yet, it is what others perceive as ugly that holds the beauty in itself.

The third, and quite a pleasant find, is a collection of ten letters written by Rainer Maria Rilke to a Franz Xaver Kappus. The latter found himself connected to the former, due to being in similar situations with similar thoughts, and similar aspirations. Every word of it so far – I’ve read six letters – echoes the conversations I held with myself. Naturally, I could only think of one person who would entertain me the same way in the style of words used, and I wonder if I would ever find more people like us. Naturally, I thought of her as well, how willing she used to be writing in a similar way, how proud I was of her for embracing her creative spirit. The topics touched on resonate so clearly in me and what I’m facing that I can’t help but to read the letters over and over again.

I looked to the tables occupied facing the window, and as expected, finding streams of students studying for their various examinations. I wonder if I looked the same way when I bothered to save myself through O and A levels, so dead and lifeless, yet pushed by fear of the unknown if we were to not do well enough for the examinations. Yet, their faces spoke of hope for their future, of faith in the system. Foolishly blind in my opinion, but being hopeless and faithless with eyes wide open is worse.

I decided to browse the philosophy/psychology section, remembering how curious I was at seeing things differently that I have forgotten about immersing myself in the mundane questions of life. I must have browsed until the Women’s section, and guess what I found – the holy grail of the pickup artists: The Art of Seduction, all tattered and faded, pages ripped and held by tape, just like how one would find such a prized treasure in the movies.

I contemplated on borrowing it, knowing it would only feed that other part of me that I have grew disillusioned with when it comes to relationships. I do not want to be thought of as manipulative anymore, reading and applying all that I have learned has made me realise how eerily easy it is when it comes to people. This unsettled me quite a bit, and I have concluded that perhaps this is why many people have left my life, feeling themselves to be manipulated and played on when they wanted no part in a person so dark inside. And perhaps this is why I no longer search for someone to connect with, and perhaps this is why I am beginning to turn back into the person I once was. This is why I am reluctant to let people in anymore, and to put it bluntly, unable to trust. It’s unfortunate, but I guess this is a part of me I have to accept and hope it does not consume me wholly until too late.

I snapped out of my thoughts when I felt a presence browsing in my area, and she probably didn’t realise the power I held in my hands, busy looking for her own books. For all I know, she was looking for a different form of empowerment, and I hope she finds hers in between the pages of the thousands of books in the library.

After completing my loan and renewal, I headed out for dinner, blending in among the different faces in the crowd again.

194: Great Expectations – Read / 195: Shelter

Related: Great Expectations – 155157, 160

Great Expectations (2011 TV Series)

 Great Expectations (2012 film)

I’ve just watched Great Expectations (2012 film) last night – or rather, morning – after another bout of insomnia. It’s quite disappointing really, a hell lot of good parts in the book were removed, and both the film and 2011 TV mini-series focussed more on the romantic relationship between Pip and Estella. It certainly doesn’t do the great novel justice, Great Expectations is definitely more than a love story – it is a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story told through Pip.

Of course, the part on Estella struck me deeply, forcing me to reflect upon my own feelings and views on love naturally. Despite the nightmares and memory flashes that has been recurring for more than a year, I still insist that we’re not meant for each other. That I do not miss her, nor do I miss the idea of her. It’s not about missing having someone I could love, nor missing having someone that could love me. I have concluded that I am incapable to be loved, especially not in this state, and the sad thing is that when I finally get myself back up by myself, it’ll be too late to let anyone else in. (There’s this voice in my head going “If nobody can’t love you at your worst, and they can only do so when at your best, then they do not love you for who you are, but what you have”, which explains why I hoped, beyond all hope, that someone could see through this all and find value in me)

I miss myself.

I miss feeling alive, seeing the brighter side of life, feeling things. Pip’s love for Estella is unconditional, and that is definitely the way love is supposed to be. Yet, I have long learned, and accepted, that love is not about possessiveness which Pip exemplifies. Pip, despite his heartbreak and still being in love with Estella, accepts that he could love her, without being with her. My faith in love is what kept me alive, and I miss that because I no longer believe in love the way I used to.

Back to the movie, it’s really disheartening to view a large chunk of important events being excluded, and it reminded me how books are always better than their move adaptations. It struck a chord within me that the last time I felt better with a renewed sense of hope was when I finished Great Expectations before school started, and what kept me alive during the last moments of my relationship was reading Simon van Booy, which strengthened my understanding of love. Yes, I still have the idea and hope that love as I understand it exists, but unfortunately, I don’t think I can find anyone who is willing to accept the way I love – being told it’s too overwhelming many times over, yet never enough.

I’m starting to head down the Sylvia Plath route, seeing that I would eventually build myself up strong enough alone to the point I do not believe in love, and resigned to loneliness. Loneliness has such negative connotations, but I do see strength in it. I think it’s better to be lonely than to be hurt, or worse, to end up hurting others. We draw strength from not allowing ourselves to be hurt or hurt, seeing it as the most rational decision one could take.

How I felt after reading Great Expectations is a source of hope for me, and after losing joy in things I once enjoyed I desperately need something, anything, to feel better again. This is why I need to start reading again, through all the other texts of modules I’m taking, and this would start with The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. There’s another book I wish to read as mentioned here (The Beautiful and Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald), but I guess that would have to wait. If I can’t connect with others, I can connect myself through words and the characters created through them.

I hope reading could reignite yet another burst of creativity and life within me.


Shelter
The xx
The xx

Shelter
Birdy (originally by The xx)
Birdy

I find shelter, in this way
Under cover, hide away
Can you hear, when I say?
I have never felt this way

Could I be, was I there?
It felt so crystal in the air
I still want to drown, whenever you leave
Please teach me gently, how to breathe

And I’ll cross oceans, like never before
So you can feel the way I feel it too
And I’ll mirror images back at you
So you can see the way I feel it too

Maybe I had said, something that was wrong
Can I make it better, with the lights turned on?

193: Hopeless

“You believed in what everyone else said were the most hopeless of people.

It’s pretty simple to me: If you could find hope in the most hopeless of people, you could find hope in the most hopeless person you know -

yourself.”

192: Too Late

“And then the queen wept with all her heart.

Not for the cruel and greedy man
who had warred
and killed
and savaged
everywhere he could.

But for the boy
who had somehow
turned into that man,
the boy
whose gentle hand
had comforted
her childhood hurts,
the boy
whose frightened voice
had cried out to her
at the end of his life,

as if he wondered
why
he had gotten lost
inside himself,

as if he realized that
it was too,
too
late
to get out
again.”

Orson Scott Card,
Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card

191: Why I Don’t Want To Be Successful

“Why do you want to be successful?”

We were asked this during a (sponsored) discussion today, and the replies were what people would expect. To attain my life goals; to have a happy family; to give myself a sense of pride. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with those answers, but I immediately realised I have no interest in chasing success.

I mentioned that success is defined by two things, which is aptly supported across three dictionaries. 1) Achievement of personal goals and more importantly 2) Receiving recognition for said achievements

Merriam-Webster

suc·cess noun \sək-ˈses\

: the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame
: the correct or desired result of an attempt

Oxford Dictionaries

success

Line breaks: suc|cess

Pronunciation: /səkˈsɛs

NOUN

[MASS NOUN]

1. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose
- 1.1. The attainment of fame, wealth, or social status
- 1.2. [COUNT NOUN] A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.

success

noun UK   /səkˈses/ US  
-  [U] the achieving of the results wanted or hoped for:
 – [C] something that achieves positive results:

Not that my answer getting brushed off matters anyway, but I do start to wonder what is it that makes us all want to be successful, be it in our or society’s eyes? They claimed the answer was to make people around us happy, skeptically, over any personal benefit. My thought is that success leads to money, which buys us the opportunity to make people around us happy. Success alone does not make people around us happy, even if they feel happy for us.

I agree with the making people happy part. I have always believed in doing things for others jusdt to see them happy, even if that beautiful smile on them lasts barely a minute, simply because I can’t feel happy doing things for myself. I have never felt much sense of achievement despite success – my proudest personal moment thus far was commissioning from OCS, yet it felt empty because I couldn’t share the joy as I would have liked.

What I can’t agree, is how they disregard the second definition of success I offered. A word of measurement, in this case success, is a social construct. Society defines what success is, the word itself is meaningless on one’s perspective. I gave the example of a myself playing soccer – no matter how successful I think I am at my level, I wouldn’t be considered successful in others’ eyes until I hit a certain standard, say being in the school team. Simply put, for all the definitions offered by people, one wouldn’t think of a happy beggar with a family as successful.

I do not want to be successful not because I lack ambition, but because I have grown disillusioned with chasing success. It never ends really, achieving goals only leads to the creation of more goals vertically, rather than horizontally. I want to stop seeing the need for recognition in things I do, because success perpetuates society’s perception of the desired route in life. It’s crazy here, how success as a teenager means getting straight As, into branded schools, a perfect GPA, then a high-flying career. This is how success in Singapore is seen from society’s eyes, and I do not want to be any part of that. I had good grades before, but that did not make me any happier than I was. It’s lonely at the top, and I rather help someone else to the top and be successful, if that what makes them happy. Being successful means you are seen as a model for people to follow, when people should choose their own paths in life instead.

Success, to me, is not important in life. What is important living true to one’s values, one’s faith. I believe happiness is being encompassed by what we believe in, where we actually feel complete and in line with our life goals and views. That no matter what society pressures us to feel, we are at peace with ourselves for the things we do. This would give happiness far more empowering than what success brings.

I do not want to be successful because neither would the chase nor attainment of goals bring me happiness. I do not want to be successful to perpetuate society’s guide to life. I do not want to be successful to limit myself from being happy.

I am learning how to be happy without being successful.
Ironically, if I do make the above happen, that would make me successful doesn’t it?

P.S: I’ll leave a quote from what many would consider definitely a successful person:

Stirve not to be of success, but of value

Albert Einstein

190: Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent

Enter RICHARD, Duke of Gloucester, solus:

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain

Act I sc i
Richard III

(From No Fear Shakespeare)

But I’m not made to be a seducer,
or to make faces at myself in the mirror.
I was badly made and don’t have the looks
to strut my stuff in front of pretty sluts.
I’ve been cheated of a nice body and face,
or even normal proportions.
I am deformed, spit out from my mother’s womb prematurely
and so badly formed
that dogs bark at me as I limp by them.
I’m left with nothing to do in this weak, idle peace time,
unless I want to look at my lumpy shadow in the sun
and sing about that.

Since I can’t amuse myself by being a lover,
I’ve decided to become a villain.

189: Rebirth

“The most racking pangs succeeded:
a grinding in the bones,
deadly nausea,
and a horror of the spirit
that cannot be exceeded
at the hour of birth
or death.

Then these agonies
began swiftly to subside,
and I
came to myself
as if
out of a great sickness.

There was something strange in my sensations,
something indescribably sweet.
I felt younger,
lighter,
happier in body;
within I was conscious
of a heady recklessness,
a current of disordered sensual images
running like a millrace in my fancy,
a solution of the bonds of obligation,
an unknown
but innocent
freedom of the soul.

I knew myself,
at the first breath
of this new life,
to be more wicked,
tenfold more wicked,
sold a slave
to my original evil
and the thought,
in that moment,
braced
and delighted
me
like wine.”


Robert Louis Stevenson,
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

188: Chandelier

Chandelier
Sia
1000 Forms of Fear

The chorus of this song has been stuck in my head in patches for the past two weeks, yet I was unable to put a name nor rhythm to it until today. I don’t know why I woke up today (at 4pm, no less) suddenly being able to recall the song. A check on the video and the lyrics kinda made everything clearer how beautifully deep and dark both this song and MV is, and something I could relate to.

Party girls don’t get hurt
Can’t feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down

I’m the one “for a good time call”
Phone’s blowin’ up, they’re ringin’ my doorbell
I feel the love, feel the love

Sun is up, I’m a mess
Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame

1,2,3 1,2,3 drink
1,2,3 1,2,3 drink
1,2,3 1,2,3 drink

Throw ‘em back, ’til I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ‘cos I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ‘cos I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight

If people notice, I usually skip the repetitive parts of a song’s lyrics in a post to capture the essence of the song. However, for Chandelier, each repetition in the verses is important to highlight the addiction the persona is struggling with.

I like how some parts have double-meaning, a superficial happy one with a possible dark undertone. Read the lyrics “I’m gonna swing from the chandelier” and “I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night”, and it’s easy to imagine someone having a good time releasing herself for the night. But if you think harder, and deeper, it’s easy to imagine more morbid images as well considering this song is about struggling with addiction, as expressed explicitly by the post-chorus.

The video is another matter altogether, showing a young ballerina dancing through a modestly-furnished empty house. It’s important to note that this is a young girl portraying Sia, and struggles with life addictions usually stem from traumatic events faced at a young age. Expressing herself through dance in an empty house is a way of setting herself free. The greatest struggles are always faced alone, and we have to find ways to keep ourselves sane. (Interesting to note how she started in the middle of the doorway above ground. Gives a chilling image when you enter the doorway and someone’s feet is off the ground in mid-air doesn’t it?)

Her room looks more run-down than the rest of the house, with a concrete floor and faded paint with graffiti on the walls, differentiating it immediately. The kitchen looks a little better, yet still gives a dark atmosphere, and when we move into the living room it turns brighter with a warmer tone. She transits from the living room to the hallway, getting close to her room, then running back to the former immediately – showing how easy it is to return into the comfort of darkness, but struggling against doing so.

Notice how each repetition of 1,2,3, 1,2,3, drink is the same dance move, showing how it’s a familiar routine already ingrained subconsciously. And that what addiction is, it becomes a part of us and consumes to the point of dependency. But for each scene (in the room and living room), she breaks away from the repetition at the last 1,2,3 drink.

I think the part where she plays with the curtains is the most chilling one, especially when she enclosed it further up her neck and waved goodbye.

Not to mention that last part when she gave a little curtsy three consecutive times with a twisted wide-eyed smile, only keeping it when she does the move. In between, it is expressionless, showing how we put up a fake front for the world (a curtsy is usually done after a dance performance) but truly dead inside, no matter how alive others see us.