1 year

A collection of memories I hope I’ll never have to archive.

18 April 2021

Friday night we make critically acclaimed haikus
Saturday afternoon we were Egyptian master builders
Sunday morning you’re my ride from the bedroom to the ottoman
Some days I just want to tell you I love you, but I can’t bear not hearing it back
So I hold you tight before we part ways, and hope you know I mean just that

27 April 2021

We took two days off this week but it’s been crazy busy for you the past few days. We’re trying to agree on what time to meet, and in typical fashion I insist on a later time to let you sleep in while you insist on an earlier time so as not to waste our holiday. I go into my usual long, explanatory monologue text to iron out details and you reply by saying “we took these days off to spend them together”. My anxiety about being another burden in your life disappears and I realize that all I want to do is be with you the soonest – whether you’re awake or still sleeping

12 June 2021

We’re looking out the dark waters of Macritchie Reservoir and we see a person walking towards us. I tease you that it might be a zombie. You then make me promise, for your birthday, that if it ever happens that a zombie attacks us, I will run and let you save me. I don’t agree to it and tell you I’d rather die with you. You explain that you’d rather see me live and be happy. And that though it’s sad, sad things are what make good things good – otherwise everything is average. I don’t say anything because I’m crying. I don’t know if you realized how much it hurt me to listen to you say all that. You have no idea how miserable I’d be if that happened

17 June 2021

Nothing in particular to write about today. Just wanted to appreciate how you always take the time to check on me every day, even when you’re busy. I secretly love how you’ve been calling me “honey” lately, and “Koala”, and “KB”. And though it’s always still a struggle, I find it easier to open up to you about my fears and feelings. If I could solve all your problems for you, I would. But as I can’t, I hope my company gives you a safe space and respite from the daily drudgeries of life. Because that’s how I feel about you. Thank you for always being there for me.

21 June 2021

A week ago I got unreasonably upset because I thought you left me hanging in the middle of a conversation, and it played up a lot of my previous bad experiences unexpectedly. I regretted it and apologized, and am I one lucky girl because you instantly forgave me. We had a talk about it and you listened to me without judgement. You told me you understood where I’m coming from, even if I know it’s an unhealthy habit of mine. You told me you’ll start letting me know when you can’t continue a conversation when you have to do something, and I felt that you valued my feelings. I don’t even do that all the time, but you actively trying to do that was so considerate of you. Today you did that, and I thanked you before the day ended. You replied with “you deserve it”. I wish I can be a person who deserves a person like you.

17 July 21

After a long emotional day – me asking you if you loved me and you telling me you’re not sure, and us talking it all out – I snuggled close to you in bed, wrapped my leg around you and said, “you’re my favorite”.

“You’re my favourite too”, you answered

clarity

Most days, everything makes perfect sense.

But there are days lost in a blur of unresolved questions. Like today. I crave for clarity, but maybe all I crave for is a numbness that can take me away from facing hard realities. I speak not just of the daily atrocities committed by human beings to fellow human beings and the existential dread brought about by natural cycles and the affliction of industrialization. I speak of my anxieties fueled by unresolved pasts and the knotted thoughts wound up in my head.

I cry it away most of the time, a song on repeat playing until I’m hypnotized to sleep. Using fellowship as a means to avoid being alone in my thoughts and exercise to redirect the emotional agony into physical pain. Until I come back to lucidity – transient and fragile in nature.

I wish I felt and cared less.

one day

[this is a late post of something I wrote back in December (7) 2020; cleaning out the many notes on my phone today and figured I’d post this anyway]

One day I woke up and I felt a slight jab of pain on my left, when I wondered how life would be if fate decided the future was not you and me. There was nothing out of the ordinary previous to that day. No grand gestures done, no ceremonial celebration. No heavy exchange of conversation. I still made the same mistakes, and you still corrected me as always. You were not more romantic than I first met you, and I was not any less emotional than when you first met me. You see, I often wonder about that every now and then. And prior to that day, I would always decide after a moment of consideration that it’s alright, I can take it. I’d survive, maybe just a little more jaded.

But that day it hurt for no rational reason. And that was the day I knew that it didn’t matter what you’d think, just that I knew it would break me the moment I lose you.

writing – an analysis

It’s 2 AM and more than a year since I’ve written. I had taken leave from work the last two days which makes it an extremely inconvenient idea to stay up and attempt to complete something I have been unable to do so for months. Unfortunately, the espresso I drank more than 12 hours ago has ruined it for me despite the melatonin and double gym session I put myself through today, or more aptly put, yesterday.

I’ve been stumped by my lack of motivation to write anything for too long a time now. When I think about this thought alone, I rarely come to a conclusion. On the other hand, discussing this with other people has led to possibilities of the waning perceived profundity of my emotions, inability to extract value from the mundane, the fear of judgement, lack of travel and general busyness of life.

I don’t think my emotions were ever so profound, but I could describe them then. They were sharp, even if they were feelings of confusion. I suppose it has been the lack of any dramatic change in my life recently, but which does not mean there have not been any noteworthy changes either. After writing the book about my mother, I wanted to separate my identity from a grieving daughter, and that was how I found a new writing persona of writing about my travels. I suppose that left me with less clear-cut emotions. Grief was easy; happiness was always something I struggled with, whether it was for its celebration or acknowledgement. As for traveling, just a few emotions were needed to meld into the more exciting fabric of actual happenings.

Lack of profound emotions conveniently leads to the second possibility. I know that I’ve never written about things unless I see the intrinsic value in them, and yet I have written about numerous mundane events in my very average life because I somehow still saw value in them. I’m not sure why I struggle with that now, which is a precarious thought to explore as this could just about lead to throwing this draft once again for the lack of extracted value. I shall leave it at that for now.

My fear of judgement has always been there. I doubt if it has grown more, I would have thought less. I don’t really care who reads what I write and I have always published freely on my blog. I’ve met a handful of strangers over the years I’ve written on the internet, which has been a humbling and rewarding experience. I also appreciate friends and acquaintances, who for either curiosity or the lack of other things to do, have taken the time to read what I’ve written and let me know when it has affected them somehow. While I don’t think I write for other people, I won’t deny it is heartwarming for a writer for their writing to be appreciated. It’s not a necessity though because writing in itself is cathartic.

When I shifted my writing mindset to traveling, I guess in some ways I turned off seeing the excitement in my routine every day. That was what made traveling exciting after all, the uncertainty and the novelty of places, people and sensations. It has always been more interesting for me to write about trips I’ve done alone but some of my favorite entries were of trips with another person. Traveling alone allows me full control of my itinerary, freedom to meet people in my own introverted capacity, and the space to reflect in solitude and therefore write. Traveling with friends has provided me many memorable moments on their own, though the trouble with capturing the exact value of these experiences lies in the unwritten context of friendship, often too cumbersome to describe. And anyway, the purpose of traveling with someone, to me, lies more on the shared experience. Now we all know travel has been halted for some time now and I’ve actually not been too bothered about it save for my lack of writing subject. While photos can be easily recycled, a recounted experience taken out of context is harder and quite pointless. I suppose only by being open to experiencing genuine interest in my daily life would I be able to surmount this challenge.

Finally, life has always been busy and I am not especially busier compared to most people. Maybe this is in fact what’s preventing me from writing. I’ve not been busy with anything I feel to be important enough for me to write about. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge this but I guess everyone experiences this in life at some point. This is not to say I think what I do every day is worthless because I can definitely enumerate a few things of worth. They’re not something I’d write about though, as much as live. Why do they feel separate now? I lived through the coffee and have finally churned out some kind of written analysis. If anything, at least I know I can still create verbose prose.

Notes: Homo Deus

Took me 3 years to finish this book because I kept putting it off in favor of more interesting things. The truth is, it was too real and required so much of my brain power, that I needed my entire will power to see it through (as I typically read books for leisure and not necessarily learning). This book made me think a lot so I wanted to save the notes I wrote down on my little notebook and asked my brother to type (haha). He had time because of the lockdown. I’ve not put an effort to summarize this book as I think it would be a lie to pretend that I’d be able to summarize all the ideas it put forth. Every single statement I saved here is worth a separate conversation altogether.

Continue reading “Notes: Homo Deus”

920

The bed creaks
an undulating rhythm

Rising chests and sinking limbs,
one on top of the other
fighting for a single soul

Struggling to get out of binding ropes
A moan is stifled
but it gives way
Far too strong to be silenced out

The earth shakes
and a few stems fall,
but they were not roses

(Life)

job

It’s a Sunday night and I’m sitting in front of a fully-protected doctor asking me my personal particulars before they assess if I should be screened for the new coronavirus or not. Only some parts of his skin are exposed, I cannot see his face. He positions his gloved hands on the keyboard and pauses to ask behind his face mask, “what do you work as?” I have been asked this question multiple times – in family reunions, on dates, while traveling, in parties (I don’t party), and what not – and it has been rarely fun trying to explain it. I resist saying I’m an instructional designer because the chances of him understanding what that means are far more dismal. It’s 10 pm and I want to get over the anxiety of not knowing whether I have become a harbinger of the virus or not – sounding smart won’t help. “I’m a medical writer”, I answer. “Oh, like insurance?” “No.” I explain using a mouthful of words, then catch myself by condensing it with an “it’s hard to explain”. I understood my grandfather and the generation he came from when he assumed that I wrote drug literature (which I don’t) for my day job, and I try to understand the fact that what I do is not a conventional job description that most people have the familiarity with to understand. The same way I tried to understand when someone I went on a date with had asked me, “the smart girl” as he had annoyingly labeled me, what my PhD was on and I said “tissue engineering”, and him getting surprised that toilet papers needed to be engineered. It’s not uncommon for me that people reduce medical writing to something more akin to medical transcription (which is not lowly work by the way). Though I have also repeatedly experienced people who replied with a more overestimated assumption of “oh, you’re a doctor!” To which I answer with not any more hope of them being closer to the real definition with a, “well yes I have a PhD, but no that’s not what a medical writer is”.
When I was still in academia, I thought explaining what I did was already difficult. It seems like that challenge haunts me until now. I’m actually not a traditional medical writer, although I do some things that a medical writer does – which is to write all sorts of materials on healthcare: slide decks, detail aids, newsletters, down to invitations, flyers, and what not. It’s like copywriting, but with a necessity for disease and therapy understanding. I still read scientific journal articles and clinical trial papers (something I thought I’d escape outside academia), but the fun part is getting to communicate this in a far more effective, clearer and prettier way. As an instructional designer, I specifically keep in mind learning theories and user experience whenever I write content – and that’s why more than writing, I’m also designing. The end goal is of course to deliver effective learning. Our clients are pharmaceutical companies, which probably explains why this job description is overlooked by many as we work behind these bigger names. Think more around e-learning modules, training toolkits, interactive pdfs, patient awareness materials and the like. We bridge the gap between scientists and different stakeholders like doctors, nurses, drug representatives and patients – the science doesn’t simply pull through without us.
In hindsight, it was much easier to say “I repair broken hearts” back when I was doing my PhD on cardiac tissue engineering. At least then I was providing an easy way out to the predictable come back of “oh, could you repair mine?” Unfortunately my answer then was always both a figurative and scientifically-backed “no”. Because you can never regenerate hearts to their previous functionality once you “break” them (ie post myocardial infarction).
Now if only I could figure out a way to explain my current job description just as coyly.

4095.2 meters, Mt Kinabalu

While finally reaching the summit was exhilarating, it was the memory of darkness slowly descending upon the forest as April and I climbed the final steps together back to Timpohon Gate that was the most memorable for me. Definitely a trip that made us realize “you win some, you lose some”. In this case, we reached the summit but didn’t make the cutoff time for the Via Ferrata (consequently forfeiting the money we paid because we had underestimated Mt Kinabalu/overestimated ourselves). And in addition, because of twisting my left knee, I had to ask someone to carry me for the last 1.5 km of the trail before the 1 km mark. Not only was it embarrassing, but it also felt like a personal defeat. But walking the final 1 km together with April, even at a snail’s pace and in pain, was what felt like the real achievement. A lot of respect and gratitude goes to our mountain guide, Alfred – and the rest of the guides and community in Mt Kinabalu that keep the park clean.

On another note, Mount Kinabalu’s summit was definitely breathtaking.

 

 

third

In keeping up with tradition, I am again dedicating a post to mark the beginning of this year and remember the year that had passed.

There are numerous things that come back to me as I remember last year.

I went somewhere late January to pursue adventure, and either of the two – love or closure. I never was able to determine which exactly was it. But by the end of that trip, I definitely secured the former, and as for the latter two, it felt for a good while that I got neither. There is difficulty in explaining it out of context, but if you can imagine an experience where you both fall in love with a person even more while simultaneously realizing how impossible that love is – that was what it felt like. I left that place in tears. I cried a full day, which conveniently equated to the entire journey back, if you don’t consider the fact that it meant I cried in the bus, in the airport, in the plane, and in the cab. The strange thing was that it mostly wasn’t for the failed love story, but for the profound confusion that it left me with.

I tried to write about it over the entire course of the year, to salvage the adventure I had there which was truly remarkable and worth writing about. I even tried to write about it now, but ended up deleting it. In any case, as a result of that experience, my positivity when that year began had to be set aside because I felt I had given away too much of myself. If I didn’t find those pieces again, at least I had to replace them. Only then would I have anything to give.

On one hand, this left me slightly callous, more cautious, less feeling, a little bit jaded – in a lot of ways too independent. On the other hand, my deliberate creation of space around me allowed me to rediscover and pay more attention to the relationships that mattered. I made time consciously for people I wanted to be with (including myself), and things I wanted to accomplish. There weren’t any big goals achieved last year, but there were numerous small goals that I wish to celebrate – rekindled friendships, strengthened relationships, newfound friends, new hobbies, new places, consistent exercising, a good year at work. In less abstract words, everyday phone calls to my dad, spending more time on relationships I had previously neglected, forging new friendships, getting into sports climbing, my first trip to Europe and the Middle East, traveling with good friends, sticking to a 7am swimming habit, working on both my strengths and weaknesses at work, and everything else in between. In truth I wasn’t able to do everything that I had set out to do when the year entered, nonetheless it was a year worth celebrating.

In spite of this, there are numerous shortcomings I became more aware of. My lack of long-term plans, how I’ve left my faith obscurely defined, shutting people out of my life as a defense mechanism, and being more self-centered rather than selfless. I am thankful that somehow despite all of this, I managed to overcome what I thought was the slow disappearance of my belief in love. I was in fact still able to love my friends, my family, other people. Imperfect love, but love nevertheless.

Yesterday, as I stood in the room of a person who I could call “lolo” (grandfather) yet truly wasn’t quite anyone to me – a distant relative, we’ve had limited past interactions perhaps less than a handful of smiles exchanged in this lifetime, I was gripped by the sight of him. He was my father’s distant uncle, his daughter requested for a visit in my dad’s capacity as a nephew and a doctor. He’s been confined in bed for 6 months, protein wasting is evident with his lack of muscles, missing dentures, and weakened strength. He was in good hands with his family, he had everything he needed. It was simply a consequence of old age. Yet the sight painfully reminded me of life wasting away, of my mother during her last few months, of the fact that my parents – our parents – are approaching the end of their lives as well. In a decade, maybe more, perhaps just a few months even. I thought I knew death better already after writing the book about grieving my mother, but it surprisingly still made me physically uneasy. I saw in his eyes the pure happiness from a simple visit. It made me realize that only company could console you in your dying days, yet perhaps it was also company that mattered the most in your living days. It made my first few days of the year spent in the company of my family feel more precious.

This year, I want to feel more again. To be softer, but still a little bit reckless in the spirit of adventure. To be more resolute, and to acknowledge my dependence. I want to buy those tickets to follow my heart, and those tickets to come back home. I want to continue the cycle of this life’s ups and downs – losing and rediscovering myself again and again.

I apologize to anyone I’ve hurt or offended. To relationships I’ve allowed to fade or fall apart, perhaps there’s a chance of reconnecting in the future, or perhaps just wishing you well is for the better. Most importantly, my wholehearted gratitude goes to the people who have filled my year with great memories, life lessons, opportunities of growth, and genuine affection. I will leave you all unnamed, but know that every small thing matters to me.

In turn, I hope you’ll also be able to recognize and appreciate the small things that I will try to do for you.

photo6086809394441464037Negros Oriental, Philippines

 

 

If

If I learned to love
My patches of hardened skin
The slight kink of hair that I took trouble smoothing
An imperfect smile in certain angles
Flesh and folds in the wrong places
Half-baked thoughts that bore no wisdom
Words I have regretted saying
Parts of my heart that I have shamelessly given

If I learned to love all of those,
Perhaps then only can I be whole.