bibliofailure

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.)

bibliophilia

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.

ihgmt, #6

Did you know ihgmt stands for I have good music taste?

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?