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 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

“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.