Okay but the real question is: is it cheating if I count my mandated class readings towards fulfilling my annual Goodreads Reading Challenge? After all, reading is reading… (I’m ashamed to say I probably still wouldn’t meet my goal even with their inclusion, though.)


Chanced upon this extract in an email from BooksActually. I’m so blown away by its wit that I figured the best compliment I could give the author was to quote it. It’s exactly how I like my reads: social commentary and an exploration of sexuality at once, bundled together via a tribute to literature.

lamenting the lack of private spaces in our country

in order that we will not have to roam
two miles down rifle range in search of dark,
or circle round the lots of kent ridge park
to find a spot; that rooftops may be home
to birds alone, that smokers may have stair-
wells to themselves, that public toilets might
be less mysteriously occupied,
that cinephiles need never turn and glare,

we humbly bid the government to erect
more libraries. Since all books lead to sex,
the inevitable best place to shag
is back against the shelves or on the stacks —
and there, we’ll find our private cul-de-sacs
to make the beast with many paperbacks.

Joshua Ip (in Sonnets from the Singlish)

meta on oversharing

I used to have a (even more) personal blog where I overshared about everything under the sun. I even posted love letters there. Look, I have no justification, but in my defense I thought they were sweet. (Don’t ask me, I’m not telling.) Well, everyone has their big cringe phase. But all good things must come to an end.

A friend asked me why I write. At least part of the reason I do so – though not entirely – is for others to read. Social connection is, quite simply, the essence of humanity. It always has been. For my friends, lovers, peers – for anyone that’s reading. Few things are quite as intimate as reading the stream of consciousness of another person. Especially when pieces are not written with a specific audience in mind: take away the grammar and all that’s left is a projection of the self.

And oversharing is a high. It feels great to be validated by others, even if they’re faceless figures whose existence is represented by a series of numbers. Add to that basic need the technology of instant gratification and you have the billion-dollar industry that is social media. All of it, for us to come to this point where we say too much and take back too little because we can’t anymore.

OB markers and fake news aside, I’ve been told to refrain from saying too much online if only for fear that it will someday come back to bite me. The vulnerabilities that distinguish my person, the arguments that I construct my identity with, and the emotions that tie me to moments of lived reality. Because anything can and will be weaponised against you if you’re not careful – even when you’re careful. I don’t deny it’s true. Yet, if we live like that all the time, where censorship is not merely an external force but coming from within, then we have been defeated even before we begin.

Where would the space left for self-expression be? In a draft hidden away in the unpublished virtual space, or in the dusty corners of the backs of our minds? If it’s not cherished here in the moment, something we’ll never recapture otherwise, where does it go? If social reality is constructed by two or more people, and a secret is not shared, did the latter ever exist?

I write to remember. Each piece is a fragment, a piece of broken glass. Put them all together someday, and maybe I’ll see in it a mirage of the entirety of lived experience, along with the people who mattered to me. I hope it’s a reflection worth remembering.

weekly jam, #6

Today is the first day of my month-long social media detox. Three hours in and I’m not feeling so good. My finger still absentmindedly taps on the space where Instagram used to be on my iPhone. It doesn’t know. But a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do. In the meantime, I want to appreciate this beautifully shot music video. Four devilishly good-looking men lounging around in a lavish house under the control of some… cultist? Along with those undeniable Meteor Garden vibes? I’m all yours. Take my money. Step on me.

modern mediocrity

These days a string of conversation I had keeps making its rounds in my head. It winds itself in and out of my awareness, lodging itself in between as it sees fit.

I was speaking to someone I know. He’s enrolled in a prestigious university overseas, pursuing a degree of the future. At that point, he was reflecting on his time there. I don’t remember the specifics, so a lot of liberty has been taken with the exact words exchanged, but the essence is accurate.

Him: … Like you know, it’s not easy. I struggle to keep up with the material sometimes, and projects can be challenging.

My intuition told me he wasn’t being upfront about something, so I probed. Maybe I just wanted to know. There are one too many maybes in this world.

Me: So, how well are you doing among your cohort?

I knew he would’ve delicately sidestepped the entire topic if I didn’t ask – the Asian norm of humility is pervasive. No one asks about a peer’s ranking without expecting to be either humbled or skewered for it. In this case, my question was merely a confirmation.

He looked at me, eyes sharp.

Him: … I’m first.

Then his gaze darted downwards, almost bashfully.

Something about that exchange got to me. It might have been his discomfort. It might have been my own sudden sense of alienation. Either way, that something etched its way into my consciousness, burrowing itself deep in my self-doubt, where it lingers. And the blood from those wounds seep into my thoughts ever so delicately.

Maybe it’s envy.

Have you ever sat in a room and realised you were scraping the bottom of the barrel? I had that experience recently. It shook me to my core: I wasn’t ready to stand face to face with my insignificance and ignorance relative to a group of people like me, much less in the grand scheme of things.

I was told – and I wanted to believe – that just like that senior from my course who graduated with a perfect 5.0, who was extensively painted in the brushstrokes of a model student, an ideal, that I could be the best too. It was almost as if that such a feat could be possible for anyone who made an equivalent effort. It should be attainable, granted I could make the necessary sacrifices.

I’m surrounded by so many competent people I feel like an impostor. Except it’s a little more than that. It’s more of this nagging sense of impending doom in a form of a train charging towards me at full speed where I’m stranded on the tracks, and its name is The Force of Mediocrity.

Maybe it is mediocrity.

What happens when your best is not good enough?

We are all trying, but in this system there can only be a few who make it. What happens, then, to those who are left behind?

weekly jam, #5

I suppose
I want you to myself
Your peach give me good health
I need you, need you, need you
Bad batch I’ll bite the belt
PCP on my shelf
My pump when I in hell
I breathe you, breathe you, breathe you

I want you bad
Need you, want you
What’s there left to say?
I need you back, what can I do?
Nothing left to say (ay)

berhana – health food (lyrics)

unipsych symposium

This is a short piece on what UniPsych Symposium is about. It was originally written as part of a broader text of what the NTU Psychology Society does, but I’ve opted to publish it as an independent article as the event is approaching soon (7th September 2019, Saturday). All links open in a new tab. Opinions are my own.

I was elected as the representative of PsychSoc to join the organising committee of UniPsych Symposium 2018. It was spearheaded by InPsych, an organisation with a purpose similar to the Society, but less constrained by institutional boundaries. The organising committee comprised 5 people, including me – one from each of the participating universities (NTU, NUS, SIM, SUSS, and JCUS) for the purposes of equal representation.

In short, the event is a series of independent seminars occurring simultaneously, each featuring a specialist from multiple sub-disciplines within psychology. Participants get to attend 3 talks of their choice from out of more than 20 speakers/sessions (subject to demand). The topics covered can be radically different in breadth and content – in my year (2018), it ranged from an overview of forensic/investigative psychology to specific techniques in psychoanalytic therapy. Another pivotal component is the panel session, where leaders in specific fields ponder over the future of psychology careers and answer questions from the audience. Included also is everyone’s favourite part: lunch and networking.

An annual, single-day event where undergraduates and specialists within the psychology field in Singapore gather to network and exchange opportunities

apparently, I wrote this

I was in charge of publicity and outreach efforts. It wasn’t a role I was accustomed to up to that point. Still, together with a talented designer in my sub-committee, we crafted all the advertisement material from scratch, ranging from the banner to the Facebook page’s header image. We were superbly compatible – while I generated content ideas and the publicity timeline, she worked her artistic prowess. You can still find the website we produced here [outdated]! The learning experience was a fruitful one, and it set the foundation for my later endeavours as a student leader – a story for another time.

UniPsych Symposium 2019 [Facebook page] is happening soon (tomorrow, actually), so if you’re fresh on the field trying to expand your horizons or Finding Your Passion, it’s worth your time. There was admittedly a mild slant towards the field of clinical psychology in 2018. This year’s appears more diversified, and I’m impressed at some of the niches they managed to tap into. There’s a defence psychologist from SAF (I’m legit shookt!?), a medical music therapist, AND a Gestalt therapist – and that’s just the icing on the cake. A mere glance at the list of speakers [UniPsych 19 website] already reveals how heterogeneous the discipline is, and the overall picture excellently elucidates the tagline of this year’s Symposium: discover opportunities, uncover possibilities. I like that. InPsych was so kind as to invite me this year, so I’m going to make the best out of it.

I’m recommending this not in the capacity of a former organising member, but as a Psychology undergraduate (though I’ll admit that I have some lingering affection for the project, of course). I registered earlier at 4:15am and noticed that tickets are still available, so if you’re thinking about it, give it a chance. After all, the fact that you’re reading this is a sign, no? It’s a worthwhile investment. P/S: The talks that I’m interested in are neuropsychology (A8), community psychology (B3), and the one with Resilienz Clinic (C2). Well then – I’ll see you if I see you!

If you’re interested, get your tickets here ($30 for PsychSoc members; $40 for general public). Programme list is available here [website].

weekly jam, #4

Even if you say nothing, I know it all
Even if you pretend to be fine, it all shows
In your sulking lips, your cold way of talking
Why are you being suspicious of my heart
You know it the most
The word ‘sorry’ has become a habit, yeah
Again, I carefully say sorry, but
My body is about to ache whose stomach is upset over my senses
Today had been this and that, um, too late, yeah
Uselessly spitting out excuses, yeah
Please hug me, my baby
My stupid self

Say it to you
I’m bad, bad
Because I’m busy, busy
Because your heart is hurt, hurt
Bad, bad, bad
I’m bad, bad

On the way walking you home
Looking elsewhere, for no reason
Though I try to hold your hand
Plead for you to look at me
To me that is insignificant
The whole world is you
Making promises I won’t be able to keep
Repeat the word ‘sorry’ over and over again
At your expression full of disappointment
My footsteps slow
After scraping your heart to the bottom
I only behave like a spoilt child, so selfish
Please hug me, my baby
My stupid self

crush – nappa (lyrics)

chocolate ice-cream

I had an odd experience earlier. I was at a school (Union) event, walking side by side with a friend while slurping a melting chocolate ice-cream, when she suddenly gasped in delight and rushed forward. She embraced a guy who was beaming as brightly as her. In the resultant flurry of happy laughs, I learnt they were old friends who had not seen each other for a few years. They launched straight into reminiscing with great fervour, drifting away into their own corner figuratively and physically.

I was left standing there not quite sure how to react – after all, it was their moment. So, I turned my attention to his friend, who was in the same predicament as me. He had turned his back to me, occupying himself with a performance onstage. Since it was part of my duties anyway, I whipped out my phone and asked him to complete a survey about the event. He politely obliged, before asking a question about the Union, which in turn led me to snap into Student Representative mode and blabber away. He followed with more questions, and I more answers, and so a tenuous back-and-forth was born under the blessing of the music in the background.

Anyone who knows me well enough realises I’m the awkward type. I typically compensate for it by rambling so there are no uncomfortable silences, but there wasn’t a need with this guy. He caught on to the trails in my sentences, added his own flair, and hit them back into my court seamlessly. Earlier in the day I had brushed shoulders with an old friend: yet when we made eye contact, the shared recognition that we had nothing to say to each other hung sombrely in the crowded silence between us. On the other hand, there I stood with a stranger, bantering away.

Still, he didn’t strike me as the smooth-talking, charismatic type – perhaps it was this disjuncture that made our encounter stand out in my memory. We were yelling at each other over the music half the time, yet the conversation progressed organically without me feeling like I had to say something for the sake of it. That and he kept telling me that I had chocolate ice-cream all over my mouth, the mere thought of which continues to make me cringe in embarrassment.

I never asked for his name. He says that since my friend knows his friend, we’ll probably see each other again. I don’t think so, though. But it was fun while it lasted.