Posted in Film Recommendations

The six films that saved me last week

“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”

― Ingmar Bergman

Being stuck in my room for two months now my days has begun to melt into puddle of beigy dullness. I have spent most of my days just trying to reach the next day’s daylight. Writing for work and leisure is extremely hard when your brain refuses to light the little sparks of joy you are trying to feed it. When everything else fails I go back to the thing that always picks me up, gives me a hug and makes me a warm chocolate drink: cinema.

As to how much I love films, its elements, and its production process warrants another essay. For now, I want to talk about the six beautiful films that I have watched last week. They are all Korean and Japanese films, so if you are not into foreign movies then maybe this is the time for you to open your hearts to them. As Director Bong Joon Ho said in his Oscar speech: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”.

So, shall we begin?

The unexplainable comfort of sad romantic movies

Movie #1: Josée (2020)

Josée is a South Korean romantic drama film based on a Japanese short story Josee, the Tiger and the Fish written by Seiko Tanabe.  The story begins with Yong Seok finding a woman sprawled by a side road, having fallen from her electric wheelchair which had a broken wheel. The woman introduces herself as Josée. An unlikely relationship blossoms between the two, as Yong Seok continues to visit Josée despite her protestations. He finds out Josée is a voracious reader, and has fabricated a whole made-up fantasy world of her own to escape the realities of her hopeless situation.

I am sucker for melancholic films. I do not know why but I find comfort in knowing that sometimes good things have to end. This film has succeeded in reminding me of that. The flow of the story is far from perfect and the ending felt rushed and some things are unresolved. However, the visual storytelling is impeccable. It made me miss Seoul even though I have never been there. The mood and the entirety of the film can be capsulized using one of its poetic lines:

In the autumn the leaves are dying, silently and prettily dying.”

Watching a delightful musical as the world falls apart

Movie #2: Dance With Me (2019)

Musical meets road trip in this lighthearted comedy with an outstanding performance by Ayaka Miyoshi. Shizuka works at a big Tokyo trading company and harbors a secret crush on her dashing boss. One weekend she takes her niece to visit a carnival hypnotist to inspire her for an upcoming school musical. But it is Shizuka who falls under the spell and she is soon breaking uncontrollably into song and dance whenever she hears music.  With an important meeting coming up, Shizuka is desperate to break the curse, so she embarks on a cross-country hunt for the shifty hypnotist, dancing the whole way.

I love musicals and I feel bad for people who hate them for being too “corny and unrealistic”. Don’t you want some music and joy in your life? As a perpetually sad person, I definitely do. I watched this film after reading a lot of heavy tragic news from my home country and other parts of the world. Watching this film is like eating a cotton candy when you’re in a carnival–it is soft, sweet and melts into your mouth perfectly. The musical numbers are vibrant and fun and the theme which is about letting go and following your heart never gets old. What I like about it the most is it made me smile, a lot, and that is already a win for me.

Another Ghibli film that consecutively broke and rebuilt me

Movie #3: When Marnie Was There (2014)

This studio Ghibli film is  based on Joan G. Robinson’s same-named novel. It transposes the setting from Norfolk, England in the original novel to Hokkaido, Japan. The film follows Anna Sasaki, a young girl is sent to the country for health reasons. Anna comes across a nearby abandoned mansion, where she meets Marnie, a mysterious girl who asks her to promise to keep her secrets from everyone.

I have not seen any Ghibli film that I did not like and this is not exception. I am not going to deny that at first I thought this movie was queer coded but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. This movie is blessed with abundant narrative and visual beauty and it is magical as any other Ghibli film. It has captured the anguish that comes with being young and not understanding yourself and gives an ending that feels redemptive and hopeful. This film reminded me that in the end I will always find my way back to myself no matter how many times I get lost.

A better Jazz movie than Whiplash (according to Letterboxd)

Movie #4: Swing Girls (2004)

This film is directed by the same person who made ‘Dance With Me’ and that is how I found out about it. Swing Girls is tale of delinquent and lazy schoolgirls who accidentally fell in love with jazz. In their efforts to cut remedial summer math class, they end up poisoning and replacing the schools brass band.

This movie is chaotic, hilarious and comforting. I absolutely loved it. The premise and narrative are formulaic but you will love it more because of it. Everything is so delightfully predictable that you need not waste time trying to unravel it. Instead, you just sit back and enjoy the presentation.

P.S. You do not need to know about Jazz to enjoy this film. Just watch it and revel in its heart and hilarity!

Influencer meets shy poet and the charms of young love

Movie #5: Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop (2020)

A meeting and romance starts between two people with communication issues. Cherry always wears headphones and puts the feelings he cannot utter into his hobby, Japanese haiku poems. Smile always wears a mask to conceal her large front teeth, for which she has dental braces. As a popular video star, she streams a video about seeking “cuteness.”

If you are a jaded adult like me watching anime films that centres on the innocence of young love is always a good antidote to the cynicism slowly enveloping your heart. With vibrant candy colours, fluffy music, and a cute couple, this movie will surely make you smile. Also, you will get a lot of good haikus which I really need because I am bad at writing good ones myself. Overall, this movie is cute.

A film that held me

Movie #6: House of Hummingbird (2018)

This film is a coming-of-age story about a lonely and awkward teenager struggling to figure out who they are and who they hope to become in a time of upheaval both in their personal life and in the outside world.

Based on that description alone, you might come up with a number of movies that fit this parameter. This one, however is one of the good ones. This movie for me is a character study that is captured through poetic cinematography. It also one of the few coming of age films that perfectly captures the loneliness and isolation of growing up. It is slow but not dragging, poignant but hopeful. There are so many wonderful things to write about this film and one of those is the remarkable performance of the main young lead. The last lines spoke to me, as if it’s holding my hand and stopping me from jumping off the bridge.

“What’s the right way to live? Some days I feel like I know, but I really don’t know for sure. I just know that when bad things happen, good things happen too. And that we always meet someone and share something with them. The world is fascinating and beautiful.”

Films, just like any other art form, will not save the world. However, it can save you from yourself while you figure out how to not fall apart with the world.

Posted in Personal Essays

On starting a passion project

If you feel like there is something out there that you are supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.

Wanda Sykes

One of the most popular idiomatic phrases in Filipino is “ningas cogon” which literally means a fire that extinguishes quickly and is used to describe someone who is only doing well, in whatever it is that they’re doing, during the beginning. Ladies and gentlemen, that someone is me. Perhaps this is my fatal flaw—I start so many projects but I lose interest in a snap and I abandon them all like an unwanted lover.  However, this time I created something that I truly want to commit to and I believe I got the one thing that will help me fix this fickle passion of mine, purpose.

I wish I was one of those writers who writes every single day. Sitting at my living room, the sun hitting my face and looking regal and serious as my pen takes control of me, that is how I envision myself when I think of writing. Sadly, most of my writing happen at 3:45 am, my brain drunk with a mix of misery and ideas and my hand dragging my pen. I wake up the next day unable to read my own words. Then one sleepless night while I was reading “The Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay something snapped within me. I rushed to my laptop and opened this blog after leaving it for a year to be devoured by internet termites. The desire to write again consumed me and so I did.

“The Bad Feminist” started as a place on the web where I dump all my mind’s ramblings. I posted random think pieces, short stories and photos and named it “girl with paper wings”. I did not give a care about who would read it and what they would think of me. Things changed when I pretended that I was a writer for Scarlet magazine, a fictional magazine in The Bold Type, a show I was binge watching. For a night I was a junior writer in New York, caffeinated with drive and ambition. I submitted “Why I read more books by women” to my imaginary editor and for the first time in a long time I was proud of something I have written. The next day I woke up to messages from friends and strangers telling me how my piece made them think about their reading choices. I was reminded of I why I have always wanted to become a writer, not only to share stories but also to write pieces that would push people to think and question. Ideas flowed from my head and they looked like a web of nonsense on paper but when I gave them a chance to reintroduce themselves to me I began to see what they wanted me to write: women and their stories.

Once you find the purpose of something you are working on everything else just follows, they might not fall immediately into place but knowing where you are going gives you courage. “The Bad Feminist” last month is my personal blog where I write book reviews to promote books by women. That remains to be true, but now I don’t want it to end just there. I aim to create a platform that will help budding female creatives. I intend to create a community where women can talk about issues that matter to us­—a safe space of understanding and growth. That is not to say that men are not allowed. Feminism is not a female exclusive movement, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her TED Talk, We Should All Be Feminists: “My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.”

I know that the words I will be writing here might be just a shout into the void but I do hope somehow this reaches anyone who needs it. I pray that it reaches you and it gives you the push to do that one thing you have always wanted to do.

P.S. Please follow us on our Instagram for more content coming: @thebadfeministwriter https://www.instagram.com/thebadfeministwriter/
If you are a budding woman writer please feel free to send us your work for review at lyndethegrande@gmail.com

Posted in Personal Essays

angry and sad potato

If an alien abducts me today and tries to scan my brain, our otherworldly friend would definitely be disappointed because what it will see is a sole sentence written in fine print: YOU RUIN EVERYTHING, YOU STUPID BITCH! (Coincidentally, this is a song title in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a great musical tv show with a hot mess as a main character—the representation we messy bitches need).

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to that shitshow that is my mental space. Last fortnight I have decided to revive this blog by writing a piece that ended in a hopeful note. I wanted this blog to be the opposite of what I am actually feeling most days. I even named her “girl with paper wings”, a name I gave myself five years ago when I was a doe-eyed girl with the belief that my hopes and dreams would be good enough to make me fly. Perhaps, this is my attempt of bringing my old self back. Sadly, it is not working.

Trust me, I have tried myriad ways to romanticise my life. I even started a YouTube channel (you can check it out and please subscribe lol) just to convince myself that I having the best life by going to lovely places and inserting poetry in my videos because I so badly wanted to channel the art hoe and cottage core aesthetics. Tragically, pretending to be some main character of a cringey YA novel just does not make your mental anguish disappear. And it took me two years to admit that moving to a foreign country where you do not know anyone will not magically transform you into a new polished person.

subscribe or else you will have seven years of bad luck

It is about time for me to accept that I am no girl with wings. I am an angry and sad potato. I have been obsessed with projecting a fairylike version of myself who goes on delightful afternoon walks, listen to morning affirmations and do nothing but read books. I am no self-help pixie. My real hobbies include binge eating junk foods, drinking mixed vodka and having both an existential crisis and a stomach ulcer attack at 2:30 am. I spend lots of my time nursing my resentment by lurking on social media posts of the people who have wronged me. My weekends are spent binge watching the same shows with antiheroines (i.e. Fleabag, Search Party and of course, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and when I am sick of watching the lives of these fucked up characters, I google the nearest ocean and think of Virginia Woolf and her suicide note. “I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate.” Same, girl. Same. And before I could think of sticking my head into the oven (I don’t want to burn my flatmate with me, she’s a good person, sorry Sylvie) I call the Beyond Blue hotline and say to the voice on the other line that it is nice to hear a voice that isn’t mine.

Sarah, the lovely and kind counsellor who uses her precious time to talk to messed up people like me at 4:00 am, tells me I should go to a GP and get a referral to see a medical professional because I have signs of depression and anxiety. Yes, Sarah, I know. “I don’t have a GP and I don’t have Medicare but I will find a way somehow. Thank you so much for your time, Sarah. The world needs more people like you.” I lie to the likes of Sarah every time because I don’t have the heart to tell them that I am too broke to get therapy and I would rather pay rent and live in a semi-beautiful apartment in misery than pay someone $200 to talk about my childhood and adult traumas and live in a bunker bed or worse in the streets. I know it has been said before and been talked about a lot but I am going to just repeat and scream it out loud, THERAPY IS SO FUCKING EXPENSIVE!

Is it the pandemic that has made me feel this way? Yes and no. Yes, because ever since Miss Rona came all of my sense of stability has been thrown out the window. And no, because these dark emotions whatever you want to call it (demons are too dramatic tbh) has been there since I was ten (childhood trauma, ammirite?). I am aware that I am not the only one feeling this way. As a matter of fact, I am part of a generation that makes self-deprecating and depressing jokes on the internet as part of our personality because we don’t know how else to talk about it. Does this comfort me? Not really. I wish we could find a way to talk about our little miseries without feeling guilty because our parents had it worse. I wish there was a way to say, “I am not okay.” without adding ‘lol’ or a bunch of laughing emojis. Because why would we be? We just saw the ocean on fire and it was as if we opened a gateway to hell. We just lost loved ones to a virus that has also eaten our days. So, I guess it’s okay to be sad and angry. It’s okay to not know when we’ll be truly alright. Nobody knows the answer (not even the billionaires who are having a dick race towards the outer space).

I should just go to sleep and hope for things to be better when I wake up…it will be alright, right?

Why is this the wikipedia photo of Sylvia Plath???
Posted in Poetry

On why men should know the price of my beauty

I have been thinking about my body,
how it looks beside someone else’s skin
I think about people telling me                                                                                                                                 how smooth my skin is as I rub my breasts                                                                                                                                                                                                                             in circles with lotion for the second time of the day
I have been wanting to turn my skin into milk                                                                                                                                                                   fresh and white and sweet that men would                                                                                                                                                                                                                         want to drink the very last ounce of me
the same skin I wanted to shed off for years
my soul wanting to crawl out of this shell                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   and possess the next most beautiful thing I see

I have been thinking about my body                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        and how it would look like without the grasses                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  of hair that continues to grow unwanted
I can feel them rough and just newly born                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         and I condemn each one of them                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    along with all their mothers                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         who lived and grew before them
I let the light burn them                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   and curse each tingling sensation                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    as I pray to the gods of fire that                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            they may never see the light of day again

I have been thinking about my body                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           and wonder what the mirrors whisper to each other                                                                                                                                           when they see me and I am curious to know                                                                                                                                                                             do they hear the growls my stomach makes                                                                                                                                                                when I refuse to hear its yearning as my spirit                                                                                                                                                                                               demands for a smaller space to live in
I feel the temple that I have built becoming hefty                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 but saggy and I have been looking at
the sacs of fat that cling to my every inch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            and I think of the men who told me                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I should lose weight as their cracked lips                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             sucked my pumped and brown nipples                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           like an infant holding on for its dear life

I have been thinking about my body                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             and the face that it carries everyday                                                                                                                                                           fair and soft in calloused hands                                                                                                                                                            that have tried to hold it                                                                                                                                                                      and I think of all the tongues                                                                                                                                                                 that have forced themselves down my mouth                                                                                                                                                                                  hungry and angry and always asking for more then                                                                                                                                              

I pick up the razor                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       and I allow my pale face be damned with blood                                                                                                                                                                                     and I laugh
and I put on my red lipstick                                                                                    and I wait for men to worship me.
Posted in Personal Essays

Happy Old Year: How to Declutter with a Cold Heart

Writer’s note: Dearest reader, this piece was supposed to be my post for the end of June 2020. However, my unstable mental health could not handle the pressure of regular posting and writing last year. Now that I am back with a *better* brain and heart, I want to post it as the first blog for my reintroduction to this site. I hope you are still with me in this journey.  

This is not a film review. I was trying to write one, I swear, but I ended up writing about myself.

When Netflix recommended this movie to me I was thrilled. A breakup movie that was inspired by the Marie Kondo movement of decluttering and led by the star of Bad Genius? Okay, I’m sold. So, I started the movie thinking this a breakup movie where the main character has to throw away the things her ex gave her and then she’ll have flashbacks of the happy days and she won’t be able to throw the mementos and she cries and I will cry with her. However, Jean (the main lead who is played by one of my favourite Thai actresses) subverted my expectations. She is a cold-hearted woman who decides to turn her family’s home into a minimalist house by throwing everything away.

I want to be like her. I want to have that ability to toss away the things that I simply do not need. I think of all the boxes of academic papers, essays, and school projects I stored under my bedroom back home. Now, they are home to spiders and cockroaches but to me they are reminders of the years where I felt that I was good at something. I think of all the movie tickets, MyBus tabs, and restaurant receipts, their prints slowly fading as they breathe and hold each other inside an ice cream tub that I turned into a memory box. Why do I still keep souvenirs from people who cannot even remember my name?

I watch as Jean puts everything she owns in black trash bags with a blank expression. It was exhilarating to see her put away things without any drama or remorse. I was proud of her and I bet the queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo would be too.  But an incident (which involves a friend and a CD, and a brother and an old sweater- just watch the movie so you’ll know what I mean) compelled her to take a step back. She realizes that to trash to pieces of her history, to cut them loose is to lose parts of her autobiography, and to declutter is to delete. And so, begins Jean’s process of digging into her own past especially the unfinished episodes concerning her ex-boyfriend whom she dumped without any explanation when she went to Sweden, and her father who unceremoniously abandoned them when they were kids.

This is Jean amidst the ‘trash’ that she has to let go.

Now, dear reader, this is the part where I have to pause the movie and I have to admit to myself the main reason why I watched it. I just ended a relationship with the love of my life and I am looking for a good cry. I could write a whole other piece about this breakup but it is too fresh and I am still in my ugly crying face.

Another writer’s note: Dearest reader, I have failed to finish this article and I totally forgot about it. I came back to it after six months. Come December 2020, I was not crying on trains anymore.  

In the last drawer in my new tiny new bedroom I hide all the love letters and special trinkets he gave me. I keep these things because sometimes I want to look back and hold on to the bittersweet feelings. I let go of the people but I cannot let go of the sentiments and what they represent to me. I gave myself six months to be restored and refurbished. Perhaps, after six months of hibernation, introspection, learning and decluttering in my heart, I will be able to create a version of myself someone would want to be with. But who am I kidding? No matter how many times I try to reinvent myself I will never be modern. I will always be part of someone else’s history as they were with mine.

Next year, I will be turning 25. I will continue to keep inside my body the remnants of the people whom I have loved and lost. Their lives will continue as they carry a piece of me. And I will continue to live, my body may be older but my heart is whole and complete.

I am blooming again.
Posted in Personal Essays

Lockdown in a rich country

Ever since this pandemic started and everyone around the world (except for the people on the frontlines) were forced to stay inside their houses, we have seen two major personas online:

  1. “I sleep, eat and sleep again.”
  2. “I am making the most out of this situation by learning a new skill/ working out.”

Of course, as someone who has prided herself in being a ‘productive’ human being I decided early on that I will be part of that second group. I took an online class in World Literature and got my certificate. I Marie-Kondo’d my room. I read books and wrote reviews. I took another online class on Sociology. I learned how to bake muffins. I worked out and went jogging. I started this blog.

my lockdown photo collage

For two months, I was successful in convincing myself that I am totally fine, that my unemployment does not bother me that much because I can do so many things in my free time. But alas! You cannot sway yourself for far too long. My bills did not care that I learned a new skill. It barged on my door like some uninvited neighbour. Then, a realization hit me. I am broke. Broke AF.

When you are rich person who lives in a mansion, this pandemic is a minor inconvenience. You cry a little bit inside thinking of those cancelled vacation plans. Then you see photos of clean streets, bluer skies, and you can’t help but think “Oh, the world is healing.” So, you post something stupid online like: This pandemic is a blessing in disguise.

I am not a rich person and most certainly I do not live in a mansion but I almost had the same epiphany. Every time I finish a book or a new TV show I think to myself, “I will not be able to do this on a normal workday.” I went out for a walk and saw our neighbour’s pretty flowers and the lovely autumn trees and I caught myself thinking, “Probably, this pandemic is really a blessing in disguise.”

I was appalled that I even thought of that. I was mad at celebrities for posting tone-deaf content. I talked about how to not let your privilege blind you on social media but here is my hypocritical brain tinkling like an ignorant Instagram influencer. All along I was wrapped in a privilege bubble.

Yes, I check the news a lot to keep myself updated. I get angry reading news about my home country and I post about wanting to join protests on social media but that’s about it. I turn my internet off, drink my tea and go back to my bubble… because to be honest even if I had the chance I probably would still not go out to march. And I hate myself for saying that.

Being in a rich country has blinded me. Now, I understand why it is easy for many OFWs to say that Filipinos back home are just lazy and do not know how to save money that’s why they are struggling during the lockdown. The comfort that a country like Australia can give will hug you tight like a blanket, so tight that you do not want to wake up to the reality. But you have to.

My bubble popped when I checked my bank account. It is scarier than a Stephen King book. My unemployment days no matter how productive they may be, they still hurt my finances. I will not be able to adhere to my annual financial pan. I am not able to pay bills and my tuition fees on time. I was such a clown for thinking this was a blessing in disguise. Only the ultra-rich are able to benefit from this (American billionaires got $434 billion richer during the pandemic).

 As I was about to wallow in self-pity, I thought of how I am still much more fortunate than many of my fellow Filipinos who lost their jobs during the lockdown. I can cry about being broke inside my air-conditioned room and have a hot shower after. However, being broke in the Philippines does not give you the luxury to be this melodramatic. You have to get your job back as soon as possible even if it means walking for hours (because public transport is not allowed). Being broke in the Philippines means you can die from starvation and it is not because you did not work hard enough but it is because the system has failed you.

Nothing is certain for me after this lockdown. I do not know when I can be financially stable again. For weeks, I have tried looking for casual jobs on Indeed, Seek, and even on Craigslist. None of them has helped me get the money I need. I honestly do not know what to do. As of now, I will follow the number six advice of Psychology Today on ‘What to do when you don’t know what to do’: Sleep on it.

I will drink my Twinning’s Sleep tea and go to sleep.

Posted in Personal Essays

“Sorry for My Bad English”

When an interviewer tells you that your résumé is very impressive but they cannot give you the job because of your accent, you can’t help but ask yourself, “Is my English that bad?”

I never liked the way I speak English. I hate how my vowels are never as smooth as they sound in my head. My tongue sometimes does not know how to position itself in my mouth. I always clear my throat before I speak as if there is a solidified saliva stuck in my larynx. Six years of studying the English language and I still do not sound like a native speaker, not even close. I am aware of that. However, the truth hits differently when someone else throws it at you.

“I am sorry for my bad English.”

This is a sentence I have heard a lot of times when I was teaching in an ESL academy. It has become part of every ESL student’s introduction. I heard it a couple of times from my non-native classmates here in Sydney. They apologize when they stutter during their presentations, when they pause to reach for that English word trapped at the tip of their tongues. Yet, I have never heard the British guy in the class apologize when his talk was all fillers and when grammatical errors jumped out at every corner of his sentences.

“Sorry, my English is very poor.”

An old Chinese woman said these exact words as she called her daughter to help her understand the nurse’s directions. She smiled apologetically the whole time. When they went out of the clinic, another patient remarked, “Ugh. These old Chinese people, they keep on coming here in Australia not knowing how to speak basic English. The government should not let them get in that easily.” That statement would have horrified me but I have heard them a lot from old white men that my ears have learned how to filter them out. Then, I think of the old white expats in the Philippines drinking their black coffee in Ayala terraces. They have stayed in the country for years but they still manage to butcher Cebuano words and most of them do not have an interest in learning the language at all. No one expects them to speak Tagalog or Bisaya. No one thinks they should go back to their countries for knowing only their native language. I think of my friends and former ESL students who cried when they failed their first IELTS examination whilst Western backpackers in Thailand beg for money in the streets.

I am in love with the language that has been used by colonizers to oppress my ancestors for almost five decades. The same language that subconsciously made me believe that Western books, movies, and songs are inherently superior. I love the language that has instilled in me the feeling of inferiority.

The interviewer who told me that my English isn’t good enough offered me another job and I was in no position to say no. He said that I should study English in an Australian university. He said that I can learn more about Shakespeare and other classical authors if I enrol in their university. I did not tell him that I have spent the last six years studying about Western literature. I did not tell him that I spent most of my free time reading classic novels. I just smiled, nodded, and shook his hand.

I got a cappuccino for free. I won.

Posted in Personal Essays

My Affair with Loneliness

“These days, loneliness is the new cancer–a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.”

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
tea, cookies, and a book: antidote to loneliness

Eleanor Rigby, a song about lonely people, is one of my favorite songs from The Beatles. Now, I am reading a book about another lonely woman but with the same first name, Eleanor Oliphant.

Loneliness is a theme often present in books that I have loved. I take delight in reading about the eccentricities of people who have chosen to be obscure. However, the delight of reading about loneliness vanishes when you realize the familiarity of silent days, talking to the walls, talking to no one but your brain, reading a book out loud to hear your voice and to remind yourself that you still exist. The joy of reading about loneliness disappears when you realize that you yourself is one of those lonely people The Beatles sang about. This joy turns into a dash of sadness, that will later turn into a tad of confusion about how you lived your life, and finally into a question: ‘Why am I so lonely?’

Before I moved here to Australia, a lot of people had warned me about the solitariness of living in a foreign land. I just shrugged off all their comments for I have always considered myself a master of isolation. With all the goals and confidence I packed in my luggage I came to Sydney feeling better than ever. And yes, I was in bliss for the first few months. I had no social obligations. I went to grocery shops disheveled with no fear of meeting a high school classmate. I stayed in my room all day to read books on my free days and no one would tell me to get out. I was living my dream life.

Then the lonely days crept in.

On New Year’s Eve while everyone at home was busy preparing for their festivities, I was alone at my new house. I was skimming through Netflix titles and wishing that there was someone else with me who could choose a movie in a heartbeat. I wished I had somebody to hug me that night. I had forgotten what it’s like to touch another human being.

Three days after, I found myself crying on the morning of my birthday. I woke up early expecting to smell my mother’s cooking and my father’s voice but then I remembered that they are 3, 540 miles away. I spent the whole morning sobbing and hugging myself.

Loneliness is not romantic. It isn’t always an image of you drinking wine in a tub surrounded by scented candles. Most of the times loneliness is staring at the ceiling all night or scrolling through all your social media accounts for hours waiting for a friend’s message.

Perhaps, John Donne was right when he said that ‘no man is an island’. Yes, there is beauty in solitude but we need each other in order to live and not just exist. I learned that the hard way.

I am still lonely now at times, but I have learned how to reach out. I hope Eleanor Oliphant learns that too.