Grace. 19. Reader, writer, dancer, dreamer. Prone to bouts of ditziness.

Friday, January 2, 2015

146. 2015

Photo taken by me- 30 December, 2014
Looking back at “a year of blog posts”, I realized I haven’t really been writing much this year. (My 2013 wrap-up post was just six posts ago!) But I have posted some pretty monumental posts in 2014- monumental, for the depth of personal connection which I finally dared to post on a public domain; monumental, for the way I am learning to grapple with religion in my writing; and monumental, for the surprising number of people whom my writing has managed to touch.

Odd, that as I grow older I grow more introspective, but at the same time more willing to open up and reach out to other people. This year, I’ve learnt how everyone is fighting a battle you may not always know about, and yet, everyone has similar battles. So when you unsheathe your battle scars, and be open and honest about what it’s done to you and how you are trying to grow stronger, you help others as well as yourself.

My annual wrap-up posts (for lack of a better word) are usually in point form, I suppose to encourage brevity and aid my future selves in scanning through past posts. But this year I feel a little more like ruminating- perhaps because, like my roll of blog posts, 2014 has been quick but monumental.

Where to begin?

On a purely factual list, I began this year with the stuff of all students’ dreams: a half-year break between JC and university (sorry, boys). I chose to spend (most of) it doing a five-month internship at an e-commerce firm. I had long harboured wispy notions of entrepreneurship, particularly in the fashion line- in primary school, I had no idea what a lawyer was, but would tell literally anyone that I planned to be a fashion designer. In secondary school, this gave way to slightly more practical (if humdrum) ambitions, although I began to nurse an interest in graphic design, which continued into publicity work for my JC CCAs. My internship, therefore, was a culmination of sorts of buried ambitions and secret hopes which I planned to shelve once I entered university. 

There was once when I really couldn’t imagine a future outside fashion. My mother once told me that I could always “settle” for being the best-dressed employee wherever I went, but I couldn’t imagine settling for such; I had heady dreams of magazines, runways, and big cities. Growing older has changed me in a myriad of little ways, but my internship, if anything, settled the fact for me that fashion could only be on the back burner throughout a career pursuing other burgeoning interests that seemed more tailored to my personality and skills (or lack thereof). That said, I am thankful for the five months I spent doing everything from manning the counter, to styling photoshoots, to managing social media. It was a crash-course to everything I’d dreamed of (and more), that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

That cramped little office an hour away from my home became the setting where I dealt with much bigger changes that dwelt on my horizon. I filled out university applications in a side room, using my friend’s hot spot when the office’s Wifi was down. I took leave to attend university and scholarship interviews, and told my boss about them when I returned. It was at my office when a very kindly NUS staff member told me over the phone that it was “highly likely” I hadn’t gotten into NUS; and at my office, in that same side room, a few minutes to closing time, when a scholarship officer told me the same, and suggested (kindly, but painfully) to think of other options.

But God has dealt his cards kindly this year.

Even as He gave me things which I hadn’t wished for, He knew –so much more than I did- what I needed. 2014 was the year of God proving me wrong, and 2014 was the year in which I am so glad my life is in His hands. I didn’t get the internship I wanted initially- but I got something totally different, and one I really enjoyed. I didn’t get the A level results I wanted- I got a bit less, but less enough that it made my scholarship and university applications difficult, particularly when I aspired to such competitive fields. I didn’t get the scholarship I wanted- but the one I got (thanks be to God), sent me to a place where I find things to thank Him about every single day. And in those nights alone in hostel, when the single light over my bed made my eyes strain to read my notes, and no amount of music could make me feel any less alone, He taught me to pray.

Where I am today is nowhere I could have envisaged myself being a year ago, let alone twelve. And this is what I remind myself, when sometimes (all the time) I get impatient and demand God to show His hand. “Show me what’s next. Show me where I’m going.” But if He did, would I believe Him? And if He did, would I let Him? The path 2014 took was so unexpected, so difficult, so painful, and yet, I am so thankful for 2014. You taught me a lot.

In 2014, I got my first job, in the field I’d always dreamed of, and learnt why perhaps it wasn't the right field for me.

In 2014, I realized that my personality meant I needed a career giving back to something, a career which meant something to me, a career worth fighting for. I realized that some things are worth fighting for.

In 2014, I realized that comparisons are odious when the path God has planned for you is unique, and tailored to your interests, your inclinations, your passions. I realized that better than wailing and comparing, is sitting up and making a battle plan- and making it through.

In 2014, I realized that friends come from unlikely places. And if you find them, fight to keep them.

Best of all, in 2014, I realized (in the words of a prayer I wrote just before starting university), “…how small I am, not in the face of difficulties or the ‘real world’, but in the palm of God's hand”. He is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Making yearly resolutions doesn’t seem to make much sense- particularly when, as I read in an article a few days ago, every new beginning inspires a re-evaluation of where we’re going next. 2014 was chock-full of new beginnings (perhaps enough for a lifetime), and therefore, necessarily, chock-full of introspective re-evaluations. Looking back on 2014’s wrap-up post, I planned to “not compare myself to the 2%” (struggled, but more or less succeeded); “stop being so harsh on myself” (struggled, still struggling); “stop being so harsh on others” (struggled- urhgihwh); and “to sleep earlier” (hello, law school). I also continued a one- or two-year long tradition of paying tribute to this wine-red asymmetrical skirt which I bought around this time years ago, and promised to wear forever (which I didn’t, but hey, marsala is the colour of 2015! Close enough).

If anything, for 2015, I want to stop making conscious plans insofar as I want to start leaving my plans in God’s hands. “Those who leave everything in God’s hands will eventually see God’s hand in everything”, right? Then again, it would be good if I survived my first law exams (upcoming next semester). Also, if I learnt to procrastinate less, and take better care of my health, and be kinder in my thoughts and in my words. I would like to leave 2015 a better person, having touched people around me for the better, than I was in 2014. 

Now, dare I say- God, go ahead and prove me wrong in all my expectations. You always know better.

Monday, December 29, 2014

145. New Desktop Backgrounds for Christmas and New Year!

Ho ho ho!

A strange combination of Christmas shopping, present wrapping, and learning calligraphy have led to me hastily downloading my very old Photoshop (really, it's probably five years old, or more) onto my new laptop and churning out four desktop backgrounds that I'm more or less proud of. Help yourselves- but let me know if you use them, I'd love to know! Screenshots of them in use are purely optional but would be very lovely to look at (considering you don't have any strange things on your desktop).

Dimensions are all 1280 x 800 pixels.
Customized versions available to my convenience- comment or email me!

Credits: Brusheezy - Dafont - Google Images

Have a belated Christmas, and happy New Year in advance :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

144 The Disenchantment of Our Existence

the unfiltered view of sunset from my hostel
“Disenchantment” is such a lovely, bittersweet word.

This I wrote onto a Post-It on my desktop, having discovered the word in one of my readings- ironically, during the lead-up to the main test I had this grade-free first semester in NUS, when surely all freshmen must in some way or another be becoming disillusioned with the heady ideals with which they chose their majors.

For “disillusioned” is all “disenchanted” really means, but somehow the latter sounds a lot more magical and mysterious than the former. Rather than something tricksy and indeed, a little nasty, an enchantment sounds so much more romantic (didn’t Audrey Hepburn say you had to be a little in love with every one of your leading men to play a role well?). I always liked the idea of that- and the corresponding attitude to life it demanded, that we be a little in love (if not more) with every pursuit we take up, whether for the better or worse.

What this inevitably means is that every journey you embark on must shrug on the proverbial arc of a love story. You fall in love. Behind your new rose-tinted glasses everything is shrouded in the mist of fairy-tale. You love everything about your new pursuit- the ethics, the arguments, the dilemmas, the stories… You wonder where the plaintiffs and defendants ended up after their cases ended. You wonder how anyone could have mustered the will to defend someone against whom public opinion raged- you wonder at their dedication to the belief that one is innocent until proven guilty- you wonder how it is that you enter the case believing instantly in the guilt of someone you have never met.

But then the little intricacies of daily life and the daily grind start to set in. The way your lover never closes the cap on the toothpaste, or leaves expired loaves of bread in the kitchen. The way the cases just kept on coming and you couldn’t see the overarching theories and movements for the details. The way you can’t muster up any sort of passion whatsoever to argue about certainty in contracts. The way a three-hour seminar is the antithesis to your idea of a perfect Friday morning in bed.

You start to remember the life you led before. Or, if you prefer, the lives you led before- for how many have you led exactly?

I had a nightmare the other night- that I had to live my thirteenth and fourteenth years again, except with my current mind trapped in an old body- that initial heady optimism, that life is going to change for the better and this new exciting journey would be the best yet- before being encumbered by the realizations of “different”, of “popular”…

Social media doesn’t exactly help. If law is my new lover I see others who have chosen differently- who have been with the one I had before, who have stayed. Would I have been happier there? As I recently wrote to a friend in an e-mail, surely it is a testament to resilience and adaptability that we must always wonder if we would be happier somewhere else. But equally essential to the strength of our character must be the ability to be happiest where we are.

For just as we become disenchanted with where we are, we must be aware of how we tend to slip off our rose-tinted glasses, only to put them on in the perspective of the past- to romanticize and over-glamourize our memories of where we were before. “Wasn’t I so happy then?” you wonder, forgetting instantly the gritty details that made you leave.

It is a painful, sobering feeling to be disenchanted with your journeys on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. But at the same time, it is an oddly comforting one- like the swallow of bittersweet coffee- knowing that as long as you can always find something to fall in love with, you can never leave. And the knowledge that what keeps you staying does not need to be what attracted you in the first place is the balm that soothes your soul during the storm.

There may have been equally happy (or dare I say, happier) paths elsewhere; but oh, what a joy to be on the one I am.