This post is the result of a conversation I had with a long-time Internet friend. I was telling him about my personal reflection spell last July/August and how one of the most potent memories that crept up on me had to do with my high school group and peer pressure. I found out I was still angry at them even after all these years. At first, I thought it was because what they did ran counter to my life philosophy but then what came out during the conversation was that actually it had far more to do with lost opportunities to stand up for myself.
So I’ve been always quite peace-loving and conflict avoiding, which are perhaps two sides of the same coin. Like a few years after I graduated from Honours (which is at least 10 years ago) there was this incident that two of my colleagues were arguing in the secure data room and I literally hightailed it out of there. Why? I hate scenes, even if it was just me witnessing one.
I also hate any public scenes aka arguments with complete strangers in public. My default reaction is to not even talk to the person. I thought of it as my dignity but I think most people took it as submission. Like several years ago, one day after work, I arrived at my tram station and I was just walking to the front when out of the blue, a guy just accosted me. I stopped thinking he was a staff from the tram company flagging me over due to some safety concern or something. But then it turned out it was just some racist guy verbally attacking me for no reason. And I stood there dumbfounded (part of the reason is that I have very slow reactions, whether physically or emotionally).
Mostly I just brush off these incidents but sometimes I do remember them a few days later and concoct a different outcome where I did say something in response, in moments when my mind happened to be idle.
Having said the above, I still don’t know how I should react next time something like this happens. Perhaps I will go on as before or perhaps I will send them a withering glance. Hmm… food for thought.
Happiness has a slightly different meaning for everyone. Recently I had this really resonant one that came to me (or rather it was a rediscovery, I think I re-discover things a lot. I’ve recently thought about my core personality and it hadn’t changed from when I was a teenager) so I thought it worthwhile to record it here.
So what is my personal definition for happiness? I can basically sum it up in exactly four words: loving what I love. Coincidentally, its Chinese equivalent is also exactly four Chinese characters and the wording would be more or less identical.
So what does loving what I love entail exactly? For me, it’s the following 3 things:
- Loving myself every day
- Doing what I love every day
- Loving who I love every day
I am a simple person who has simple pleasures and having the above already makes me full. Once in a while, I get a bit more ambitious than usual and my mood goes up and down. But this personal definition of happiness is my anchor and brings me back every time.
And how does my current life tally? I’m hitting it on all 3 counts. Upon reflection, I tend to hit it on all 3 counts for most of my life so far. And I hope that I will continue to keep this in my sight and continue hitting it on all 3 counts in the future.
That’s my short share for today. Feel free to let me know in comments if you feel up to sharing your own definition of happiness.
In general, I don’t tend to display my emotions openly. In fact, it was my wont to suppress tears. But there are some exceptions so I thought it would be a worthwhile pursuit for me to record the sources behind such rare moments.
I’ve previously blogged about the fast food consumption aspect of my reading. And yet surprisingly, there was an online novel author whose work had brought tears to my eyes on multiple occasions when I couldn’t really remember a single published work that had done so (I think this is more of an artifact of the fact that I read more widely for online novels and perhaps the specific life situation I was under when I read them). So in this post, I want to dig a little into what was it about the author that moved me such.
Let me start by summarising/recapitulating my life situation when I first came upon this author. Basically, this was after I broke off my phD and became unemployed. I became a little lost as to career direction and all that. And to be honest, before that point I was always envisioning life as a linear path and also lived life that way. But then, suddenly my status quo went up in flames and I think at that time I had a deep yearning for having it back for comfort and security. And that’s when I chanced on a body of Chinese online novels where the main characters were given a second chance to live, specifically the opportunity of having their lives rewinded to their youth and basically take another go at it. So due to empathy with the main characters, I had a spell where I was devouring such novels and I think I still maintain a taste for similar themed novels to a certain degree now.
Now amidst such work, the one that really stuck in my mind was about a main character who had originally died in poverty after her husband who went from a nobody to a best actor award winner ditched her for another woman in his fame. The actual story was about how after finding that she had gone back to her teenage years, she made entirely different choices and eventually became a famous actress who won a best actress award for herself. I think one of the reasons this story really stood out for me was I felt a bit of empathy for the main character with regards to her situation with her mother. The main character was basically estranged from her mother in the previous life when she married that actor but in the second life the estrangement never happened because she avoided that actor like the plague. In reality, I was on the verge of becoming estranged from my Mum after I broke off my phD- well, we had a bit of a Cold War going on. But now it’s all water under the bridge between us and we are much more open about many things, including the large extent that we both love each other.
As promised, I will start off this year with a post summarising my take-away from the personal reflection spell I alluded to in my last blog post last year.
But firstly, let me describe what happened that brought it on. Well, the main culprit was this mainland Chinese dating show that I stumbled upon that I could watch like TV drama (I’ve always like watching TV drama due to the fact that it’s something I can follow over a period of time, I like immersion in a story, same reason why I prefer series to a standalone book). I got a bit addicted to watching it to be honest. At the same time, my WIP has an anti-romance/romance plot that I was trying to figure out and I was majorly blocked because I had always been single.
Then, I don’t know why but from some time in July I stopped being able to go back to sleep when I woke up in the middle of the night. Instead, my mind was somehow concocting mini-stories of how two particular guys on that dating show found their matches. And why these two men on the show stood out was because they made me feel I could potentially befriend them. This was special because:1) I am quite selective in who I want to befriend as a rule and 2) I had never wanted to befriend someone out of the blue in my 37 years of life (actually I was 36 when I had the personal reflection spell but I digress). I had known my best friend ever since we were both 14 but it was she who was perpetually taking the initiative in keeping in touch. From the start, she was the one pursuing my friendship and it was clear that she would be doing this and willing to do this for her whole life.
Anyway, I had no idea how it happened but I was really into the love stories I was concocting in my sleepless brain, so much that I was crying in bed. The form of crying where I had to blow my nose as well as wiping away at tears. And I don’t usually cry- somewhere during my teenagerhood I decided I would never cry again, ever (I only relaxed this after I started visiting a psychologist to sort out my phD fiasco and he told me that I shouldn’t have created this rule because it’s not healthy, much better to let the negative emotions flow out with your tears. Still, you are not going to catch me crying in public or admitting to it, at least.). So this is just a bunch of strong emotions that suddenly got sprung on me. And it didn’t help that the female characters in these two stories were too much me, too close to my core personality and values. So essentially, my personal reflection was triggered.
I suffered from a period of lack of concentration (due to sleep loss) and negative feelings as bad memories re-surfaced during the personal reflection phase. But the following are my overall takeaways from this experience:
- I managed to clear some cobwebs to do with bad relationships. They were basically stuff about my biological father and cousin, both of whom I had decided to completely forget and remove from my world. But apparently my memory or heart was still harbouring something about them in a dark corner. So it was good that they got pulled out into the light again and I could examine them and truly lay them to rest or burn them out of my system.
- It made me realise how precious my friendship with my best friend really is. So much that I was moved to tears thinking about her (and she’s the only one out of people I actually know in real life who could do that to me other than Mum). In addition, it provided a point of contrast for me to put into my perspective the relationship I had with my cousin who I grew up with and used to love like a brother. We had lived together under the same roof for more than half of our lives at one point but ultimately he chose to let our relationship just go. In retrospect, that made my love for him feel like an attempt on my part to force him to love me (that was never my intent: I had never even wanted him to love me in return. What I really thirsted for was just him as a play-mate. Me and him were both an only child so I was lonely. I had not always loved him even though I was very close to. Then I was 14, I was learning about inner circles in health, I realised I was so close to loving my cousin- literally one step away. For multiple reasons, I decided to take the plunge into loving him). Meanwhile, my best friend had a great desire to be BFF with me from the get go and had already given me a friendship that had lasted for more than half of our lives up to now.
- I was forced into re-examining the role of romance in my life which I’m not sure I really appreciate but perhaps it’s just due. To be honest, this is one aspect that I’ve neglected for as long as I can remember. Like, ever since high school and until uni, I was of the attitude that I would never marry and never even date. Reason? My core personality contains being serious. That means if I ever allow romance into my life, I want to be serious about it, treat it with a serious attitude. Anyway, long story short is that I had convinced myself that if I never intend to marry, I should never date because that is not being serious enough about romance. Then I think I reconsidered and told one or two of my friends that I change my mind about romance that lasted maybe a couple years. But then I started doing a PhD and I’ve always had the attitude that I won’t date when I’m studying. So then things got back to square one. Then I had the career change crisis after the phD fallout, the rediscovery of fiction writing as my passion, the return to FT job, job change etc. As of currently, I’m juggling between a FT job and trying to write the first book of a debut set of 3 novels. So I’m feeling time constraints keenly and just don’t feel that I have the spare time for a boyfriend yet and truth be told, perhaps never. Or maybe after 50. Absolutely no idea to be honest.
So I just came back from my holidays and I wanted to write about something a little different from my usual focus: jigsaw puzzles. Actually, it was one of my childhood hobbies that I only recently picked back up. So what has it got to do with writing at all?
Well, jigsaw puzzles:
Trained my intuition. That’s how I think of it anyway, so much when Mum asked me to explain how to go back about a jigsaw, I actually replied I used my intuition and that was too abstract an answer for her that she couldn’t understand what I meant. Anyway, so how is intuition useful for writing? Well, mostly the way I visualise a story is as different ideas (about characters, about a main situation, about the setting) all clicking together like pieces of jigsaw. But ideas are elusive creatures, you know. Sometimes I get divergent ideas on the same character or a particular point in the story. So I was hoping that the intuition I built up through jigsaws would transfer over when I outline stories. Then again, you can say I’m just making up an excuse for me to throw myself back into a favourite pastime 😛
Taught me that I’m a person who does things purely because I enjoy the process. Yes, that’s right, jigsaws led me to such a self discovery and I think it’s a very important discovery. Shame that I don’t always keep it in mind! What this meant for me in terms of being a writer is that I need to be more mindful to keep the ‘play’ element of being a writer more prominent as I tackle each WIP. I’m quite self-disciplined in general. But the down-side of this is that writing often turns into a type of second job for me that is not much different from my FT job. And that’s not quite right because writing is actually my passion so while I need to persevere in it, I also need to loosen up in a sense so that I can also enjoy the process because that’s what feeds me as a person.
And let’s just keep it short and sweet today. Come back next week to hear about my writing update. Haven’t done one for a while now *rubs hand in anticipation*, aren’t you excited *wink*?