the things you don’t say eat away at you

In the past week, I thought a lot. Overthought a lot, since I had to self-isolate. Why do we fill our precious free daytime with work? This has to be some sort of capitalistic ploy to make us too tired to do real things.

Real things being the things you think you’d like to do as you try to fall asleep. The things that keep you up, that you wish you could do when you ignore money, the kind of things that scare and excite you deep down. As RM says, “if you feel stable and comfortable, you’re in the wrong place.”

Anyway, that’s what’s been eating away at me.

If only it was easier to be more callous with my words! It makes me wonder if my constant careful picking of them has made me a constantly careful person that filters my words three times before I say or write anything.

How does one learn to let their words go?

the growthspeed of adulting

Like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, I realised that adulting happened to different people at different speeds. It kind of caught up to me, how I was nudged into this 9-to-6 schedule like a wave pushing you out towards sea.

The funny thing is that adulting can look like days where nothing happens.

Just like how you look at yourself every day in the mirror and don’t see anything different.

And then it’ll only take one moment – it hits you that there is this and that you ought to know or should be doing, and it all feels so overwhelming because you know next to nothing and yet you want to complete everything. This feeling tends to hit you all at once.

What often ends up happening, then, is we hold it at the back of our minds as we focus on our day jobs, and we use the weekends to recover while thinking about what we should be doing instead. (At least, that was me. Is me? Very likely!) It made me wonder what happened to those big dreams of ours, the ones they told us to hold fast to – all the better to hold onto if they scared us, they said.

“No wonder adults are the way they are,” a friend and I commiserated.

Watching others run on their metaphorical, figurative train, you end up wondering if you know where they’re running to, and where your own train is headed towards. I suppose we could let the train run on its own, and when we get sick of the scenery, we stop looking out of the window to check the map or talk to other passengers about where this train is actually headed for.

But I feel it’s always best to have a bit of both: to have a general idea of where the train is going, and let the tracks uncover the scenery. Maybe make a side trip and such.

I think, because of how straightforward my education path has been, I’m afraid to derail too much. (I mean, they did colloquially call the Integrated Programme the “through-train.”) All I learnt and knew to look for on the map were famous places others had been, or time-limited novelties everyone seemed to chase after: hustle! side hustles! awards!

So, these days I’m pausing and looking closer at the map. Trace the paths others have taken to get to where they are, look at what they’ve stopped for and done along the way, and reflect on whether that’s the same path I want to undertake. Looking ahead at what’s at the place others have reached, what value it carries for me, and whether that is even something I want to experience or pursue, because our time and energy is finite. Our earth, too, is finite.

Rather than following after where others have gone, it’s also fun to uncover your own sort of path, no? Find your own scenery that’s meaningful to you, and always ask if this is where you want to be going, even if you had to do it all over again.

Anyway, that line brings to mind one of my favourite poems: 

The Problem with Travel, by Ada Limón:

Every time I’m in an airport,

I think I should drastically

change my life: Kill the kid stuff,

start to act my numbers, set fire

to the clutter and creep below

the radar like an escaped canine

sneaking along the fence line.

I’d be cable-knitted to the hilt,

beautiful beyond buying, believe

in the maker and fix my problems

with prayer and property.

Then, I think of you, home

with the dog, the field full

of purple pop-ups—we’re small

and flawed, but I want to be

who I am, going where

I’m going, all over again.

I sat on this post for a good four months at least, if that’s any indication of how easy it is to fall into procrastination when you have a job occupying 80% of your weekday thoughts.

But! I’m trying to go above that. Starting with this post. 🙂

the half-life³ of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in singapore

Now, at the half-life…of the half-life…of the half-life, I marvel at the sheer systematic way I arrived. And how life is still not quite what I thought it’d turn out to be.

(Fun fact: I procrastinated this post for 1.5 years; I had originally meant it at the end of Year 2 and now I am halfway done with my final year.)

Technically, “half-life” refers to the halving of the concentration of any substance, but I’ve been thinking of this word for a while, ever since I came across the line, “The half-life of love is forever” by Junot Díaz – who has not-so-recently been accused of sexual misconduct and abusive behaviour. It is so disappointing that such a romantic line was written by a douche.

Moving on!

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since i’m 22

The weird thing is, I don’t think I feel 22 – if there is a way to feel 22. I think of the year 2021 just to make sure, and then think about how I celebrated my birthday this year. (I can’t quite remember.)

I’d startle myself, sometimes, when I realise I’m not 20 anymore.

Not that it’s a bad thing.


One day, sipping beer by the murky Singapore river will become painfully familiar. It’ll be warm, as it usually is here. Everything will be bright and everything will be unexciting. You will be older, and you will reflect more than you wonder.

The boats, laden with tourists, will cross and uncross. You’ll watch for the golden hour that never quite comes (or is never quite golden as in your imagination). You’ll wonder, as you did back then, if this moment is to come again. Now you can say it will, but back then – back then, you let yourself think maybe this a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Less frequent than once a year you’ll meet these friends again, less happening than a blue moon you’ll wander around town to start drinking in the late afternoon, and less still, you’ll find yourself not knowing what to think, now that you’re not-quite-retiring yet emulating the retirement lifestyle you’ve imagined to live.

Sometimes you wish you had more words to say. Or you’ll wish for more moments of enlightenment. Instead, you’ll reach for another sip and try to taste what the beer is trying to tell you. This time, it won’t be a gentle bottle of Hitachino craft beer. This time, the pungent stout will be bittersweet and welcome. This time, you’ll mix beer and champagne and find life’s failures – really, a detour – just as gratifying.

You will grip the glass and the condensation will run through your fingers. You will tilt liquid courage to the last of the evening light and quietly toast to being alive, being in the here and now. You will swallow, and your mind will move on with the persevering belief that the best is yet to be.

two poems, published

For the longest time, I couldn’t show anyone my poetry. Writing poems was one thing, letting someone else judge your words was another soul-baring thing.

In February, I published two of my poems in an online literary journal for the first time. It’s lovely Sunny’s Interstellar Literary Review, and a first step out for me. I appreciate how the editors painstakingly went through my poems line by line, and how they were so sweet about their suggestions and thoughts.

Read still, on the ark here, a poem on a moment of stillness. An excerpt:

We look for an answer in the wavering river
where the distant ducks tell time
where the early moon stutters. 

read more

I was inspired by that time in Copenhagen when I stared down the mirror-like lake in the blue dusk. It seems like I keep revisiting that moment in my works, but life is pretty predictable here, and I miss the unexpectedness of travel. Who says the same moment can’t inspire you differently?

The second poem is early is the godforsaken night which you can read here, a poem on coming alive when the lights go out. An excerpt:

a thousand tears 
are aglow on my window,
unyielding, suspended 
in possibility.

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When I’m the last one to turn in, it strikes me anew every time I turn off the lights. The outside world becomes illuminated with the streetlamps keeping vigil, with the occasional fellow night owl and their rectangular window of white light contrasting against the inky night sky. I used to love it when it rained at night, and if I woke up, I would move near the window where I could watch the raindrops stay and write a few words against the cool glass pane. The poem was, in a way, an amalgamation of those emotions.


It’s the annual SingPoWriMo (Singapore Poetry Writing Month) since it’s April, but I haven’t been feeling like writing poetry. Should I feel bad? I’m trying not to dwell on that. Wanting to get better at a craft is natural, but I wonder if I should be more disciplined about it.

I’m currently watching abstract: the art of design, a docu-series on Netflix. I think my favourite episodes mostly lie within Season 2 with the episodes on typography, illustration, bio-architecture, and the design of art (which not-so-coincidentally, perhaps, showed us places like Denmark). Denmark is a lovely place to explore architecture. They are really, really passionate about chair design (really). After seeing that episode, it made me want to go to the featured fjordenhus, an office space with curved walls and glass windows by the sea. Just look at the aesthetics.

fjordenhus, Denmark


it’s been 3 good years

It didn’t occur to me until tonight that it was 7 February, 花花 Hua Chenyu’s birthday.

He looks so happy here ❤

It’s been perhaps 3 years of following his music journey as an artist – I first watched his singing from《天籁之战 2》in December 2017, after the A levels. After which, he was a huge, undeniable source of inspiration and motivation that gave me comfort in pursuing my dreams and daring to dream a little bigger. (I kinda wrote about it in an older blog post, “Destined for Greatness“.)

As this the longest I’ve ever seriously been starstruck by a celebrity/singer, this post will be a homage of sorts. Granted, I listened to Taylor Swift for longer, but I didn’t listen to every song in her repertoire. I don’t even remember her birthday. Anyway. Read on if you want.

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The Burning Disquiet

[Disclaimer: I wrote this for one of my creative writing classes, based on an old post you might remember here]

We missed the train. We missed the bus. We were going to miss the sunset. 

            The early crescent moon was high out, sharp and clear against the pale late afternoon sky. Twenty minutes for the next bus seemed like too much time to give a setting sun. We were leaving tomorrow, and I hadn’t seen enough of Copenhagen. 

           The bus shelter had a plastic frame that was fractured from impact. The point of contact unfurled into a web of cracks, a jarring filter splitting the sky into pieces. So this was Ishøj of the Zone 5 district, where the ARKEN Museum of Modern Art was located. The bus stops were less busy the further away we strayed from the Zone 1 city centre. The cobblestone pavements of Nørrebro of the past two days had been crowded in by pigeons, made sombre by rain, but the warm lighting and fairy lights in their window nooks were so very hygge. Even our backpacking hostel lined our partition tents with warm yellow fairy lights and artificial flora. The many cafés and adults strolling with baby prams gave the city a soft atmosphere partial to slowing down. 

           We had timed our purchase of the 24-hour city pass to use for the airport located within Zone 4 tomorrow to cut costs like the budget students we were. This was our first venture outside Zones 1 and 2, which gave way to lower, older buildings and looming construction cranes. This part of Copenhagen already seemed more gritty, less kept to the tourists’ ideal of neat streets and warm brown tones. I finished the rest of my half-eaten pastry, impulsively bought at the train interchange.

           Level-headed Kaitlin warmed her hands with heat packs and scrolled her social media feed. I paced. An old man sat waiting silently beside us. Well-bundled grocery-buyers strode, purposefully, away from the train station. After posing for a few photos for me, Bonnie scampered off to the nearest washroom inside the supermarket across the road, her tall red beanie bobbing across the zebra crossing. I passed time composing photographs of the moon and the fractures in the same frame – the moon, alone in the blue sky. The moon, and the contrail of passing planes. The moon, rising above the bare branches of winter. 

           The bus turned into the interchange unhurriedly. The town was quiet, and the bus ride was calm. There was a dad with a pram on the bus, and even the baby drew no attention to itself. It was a bus bringing tired locals home. Not a bus bringing young travellers to their next adventure. 

* * *

We alighted at what seemed like a deserted open area. The one curved road the bus travelled on was empty of people and vehicles.

            That doesn’t look like the museum, Kaitlin said confusedly, squinting at the pale green angular building across the field. Behind us were the docks and the pier, to our left and right were bare roads, and this was the only path ahead. 

           It’s the back of the museum, I said, we’d have to walk to the front. Google Maps would never lie. Bonnie shrugged in agreement. She was getting cold and eager to move off.

           Once the bus had puttered away, we fell quiet together with this vast open space. There were no vehicles, no underground city trains thrumming, no insects screaming this late into the February winter. There were no other people either. The greater part of the sky was cloudless, a gentle gradient with the cool blue of China porcelain and last remnants of the bright afternoon. 

           Desperate to catch the last of the evening light, I wanted to photograph at least a sliver of the sun. I hurried Kaitlin and Bonnie along. Our three Asian faces and one camera would have signalled to any local that we were exchange students on a sightseeing trip. Our boots crunched the gravel of well-worn paths as we strode across the darkened fields. A burly man walking his white bulldog smiled as he walked past; the first and last local we encountered. 

           The path ended at a crossroad. The left would lead us to a wind farm and charming houses by a lake, where two stationary stark white swans resided. The right curved around a bend towards a bridge, the lake stretching across the length of the road to surround the museum. The perfect mise en scène to take haunting 360-degree videos. 

            It’s like a scene straight out from a music video, I laughed in delight. We were well and truly out of the city and suburban worlds I knew. I spun around to take in my surroundings. Tried to make out the shadowed details of the darkened town pier. Midnight blue-hued outlines and dark mossy green flora. I imagined a protagonist running onto the empty paths, exhausted and desperate as they hit an existential turning point. Or perhaps the heroine streaming across open spaces like in Vance Joy’s Riptide. I could burst into song, and the only souls to know would be my friends and the distant swans. 

We stared down the dark museum windows. 

            It had closed nearly an hour ago, which was not enough time to have seen any exhibits. In our excitement to see sunsets and to maximise our Zone 1-4 city pass for the next day, we had forgotten to check the museum opening hours. Not everything operated until late hours here. 

            No wonder no one was here. 

            I turned around to face the lake in front of the museum. Kaitlin had already wandered off into the permanent art installation, a four-metre-tall cage that extended into the lake’s territory through a long boardwalk. It struck a lonely silhouette against the still lake surface and sharp evening outlines. I pressed on the shutter for the haunting view: royal blue sky, glowing ivory moon, black steel cage, mirror lake, Kaitlin’s shadowed figure alone and encaged.

           Walking inside, I realised that half a circular mirror was suspended in the middle of the installation. One half was a semicircle; the other half was made up of thick, vertical mirror strips. Bonnie joined us as we took in the view in hushed awe. All around us was water and the uninterrupted sky, which had deepened into a more saturated shade of silky, azure blue. A small silhouetted line of ducks glided smoothly across the darkened lake. The steel bars curving towards the cage’s dome cut the sky into perfect geometric triangular slices. We were inside looking out, but it felt like the cage was offering protection against the blanket expanse of sky that could overwhelm us with its sheer presence. 

           Kaitlin whispered a story of Ted Bundy as we stared at the silhouette of a man’s statue across the lake. We creeped ourselves out trying to imagine what went on in the mind of a murderer. We stared off into the deepening shadows of the lake edges and bushes.

           We eventually fell still with the quietness of gentle lapping water. Followed with our eyes where the water extended further on, to the small car bridge across the lake. Inhaled in the clean, unscented cool air.

           It’s like…nothingness, Bonnie breathed. 

           Vast nothingness, I echoed. 

           The cage inside was filled with the great outside. 

* * *

Cage and Mirror was created in 2011, two years after the Danish artist was diagnosed with burnout. Jeppe Hein’s burgeoning international reputation of being playful and unusual with his works led to him measuring success in the number of exhibits, articles and catalogues. Growing up with divorced parents, hungry for love and attention, he worked at full frenzy scheduling interviews, attending openings, meeting art collectors.[i] Everything came to a standstill the moment he realised that he no longer felt like he belonged in his own body. He started going to therapy, stepping back and slowing down, removing himself from constantly having to hustle to sell his art. 

            After the burnout, he started putting out art that was more existential, more mindful of the balance in life. 

           The Buddhists’ approach to life, “I expect nothing, but I am open to everything” inspires Jeppe Hein who today strives to wake his viewer of their own presence through his works.[ii] The mirror rotates with the wind to show you the inside and outside of the cage while you stand within it. You cannot help but try to catch yourself in its reflection and its composition of you simultaneously inside and outside the cage. 

           Jeppe Hein’s intention with Cage and Mirror was to set the viewer’s mind free. As an artist working across the fields of sculpture, architecture, installation and design, he strives to achieve an interaction with his art installations. Cage and Mirror creates an uncanny ocular illusion of your own existence as you try to perceive the world in a new manner. 

* * *

This was it – 9,967 km away from home. The blue-infused quiet magic moment between sunset and nightfall that made Copenhagen unreal. If we hadn’t struggled for half an hour to change train stations, if I hadn’t spontaneously said yes to this backpacking trip, if I hadn’t chosen to travel instead of attending lectures during the university’s reading week, all this would have been nonexistent. This wonderful, heart-wrenching moment, this solitude and vastness – 

            Here I was, and here was the world through the caged mirror. The loudest thing around seemed to be my thoughts. Not trapped so much as being cognizant of my existence. I could not ignore the way all my thoughts were clamouring to be heard. I could not understand what I was supposed to be feeling. 

           Is this why people love to travel, I wondered aloud, to experience all these otherworldly moments? It felt like my lungs trembled with every deep breath.

            What does it mean to travel, Bonnie mused. 

            I watched the wobbly moon reflection ripple. It was on the tip of my tongue to fill the silence with the answers of wanderlust, the cravings for new experiences, or whatever cinema and literature had taught me, but I let the question burn quietly in my mind. If I could answer Bonnie with emotions instead of words, I would. 

Should we go, Kaitlin asked.

           Did I want to go? My mouth opened, but the reply wasn’t ready. 

           The longer I stared out at the encroaching nightfall, the longer I watched the quivering moon reflection, the harder it was to ignore the inexplicable sense of ache. There was bittersweet feeling. The subtle underlying disappointment. The knowing that all this would soon be mere memory, malleable and fallible. I wondered when I would get such a quiet moment to myself again. 

           It wasn’t right to feel disappointment – I was supposed to feel filled, with a sense of wonder, or come to a realisation from all these unusual experiences. Travel was supposed to change you, clue you in to what was truly important in life. What if I returned home the same way I had been? 

           There was no epiphany. No revelation.

           What did it mean to experience a moment like this, and go back to who you were?

* * *

We trudged to the bus stop, stomachs growling, feet exhausted from the constant state of walking in the past two days. Thirty thousand steps was a personal breakthrough. Tomorrow we would fly back to our temporary accommodations in Hertfordshire. The day after, we would be off to exotic Iceland. The future couldn’t wait, yet I was hesitant to leave the cage behind. In that five-metre wide space, I could stave off the pursuit of planning my next step and watch the world fall quiet. 

            We’d spent nearly forty minutes walking around the locked museum. All that was left of this place was the lonely sodium lamp posts and the occasional car. No one else would have known that three girls had been awed and enthralled by the blue-hued landscape from a cage. Was I changed, yet? 

           I wanted answers for the moments that were quarter-life crises.  

* * *

“Arken” is Danish for “ark”, the vessel that saved Noah, his family and all the animals from the Great Flood. “Ark” also meant something that offered protection and safety. I thought it ironic that this single, unanticipated experience could let me feel so safe for that disconcerting moment in time.

            The simplicity of its design lured you in. The arched passage of steel bars invited you into the doorless cage, but the spinning mirror trapped your sight with its movement. It was as though the cage kept out reality; for the time I was in the cage, I was safe from thinking about the next step. I only had to look at the mirror, the then and now, to focus on what it immediately showed me. Back then, I was clueless of what Jeppe Hein intended, but the experience Cage and Mirror offered was alluring enough to keep me coming back to that moment. 

I think back to that moment when I look at these photos, and let my mind wander. 

           To the burning disquiet that is fleetingly silenced. To the rare, quiet pockets in timespace. To the most tranquil moment in Copenhagen.

[i] Janning, Finn (2014). The Happiness of Burnout. Journal of Philosophy of Life, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 48-67.

[ii] Janning, Finn. “This is Your Way.” This Way, edited by Ralf Beil and Uta Ruhkamp, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2016, pp. 4-34.

Dabbling into Design

This year, I started designing visuals.

It was something I once brushed away as too time-consuming to delve deep into. I used to read up a bit on typography and had some UI/UX experience in my web design class, but I had never tried to produce anything for people to see. After a while, I figured that the most important thing is still to try even if I felt intimidated! I wanted to master some new skills and develop my eye for design and aesthetics.

I found that I enjoyed choosing the colours, arranging the elements, and watching everything come nicely together. It felt like scrapbooking, only digitalised!

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A poem filled with ‘i’s

Lipogram: any text composed of words which lack a particular letter

In this case, I attempt a poem using only ‘i’s and avoided all a, e, o, u vowels.


I’m livin’ in this city

It’s this wild city child’s first fling with limits.
In this itty bitty nitty-gritty city
in its big bright swirling whirling lights
in its sky-high crisis, its dizzy ditzy thirst
I spill my pills silly willy-nilly
(fittingly, my city is twirling-tipsy)

Will I find infinity in this city?
Is living dying? Is dying living?
Clink my drink; sink in my insipidity.

This city is hiding my pyrrhic win;
in my midnight crying singing limping
I find my sighs kind, my lying finicky.
If I’m within limits, will this city still vilify my sins?

I’m wishing, I’m willing, I’m clinging
tightly, this city wrings me.
Is this still living?
(why, its pink sky lining is winking its hi)
If I’m dying, sing my finishing.