Tuesday, December 28, 2010

For future reference: MBTI profile

According to my 2007 post, I was actually an INFJ.

but for future reference, sometime in the intervening years I became ENFJ:

Strength of the preferences %
Extraverted 22
Intuitive 88
Feeling 75
Judging 22

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A trip into Rowland Heights

This morning I went to dim sum with three other Asian American Sponsor Program sponsors. I'm a sponsor, even though I'm not AA. It doesn't matter really. There are new students who come from Asia, and our perspective is way different. I think being in a country for four years doesn't make you American, your home and roots lie elsewhere. Thus it's fine that things aren't perfect here, that you're not really represented in white mainstream America. A very different story if you're born here and have to come to terms with your racial identity.

That's all fine, not really the point of my story. We went to Rowland Heights for dim sum. It was good but not amazing. The general experience was great though, because while we're friends, we're not best best friends so there's no assumption of deep meaningful conversation, just a lot of mutual affirmation which is nice. Sometimes one is too brutal with people one knows well.

Bought green tea with honey at the milk tea store, it's very clean and pretty and even had a few good-looking men. (They had good skin and hair and regular bodies. That's probably all there is to it, really. One gets tired of the scruffy, skinny, college look.)

I get strange sensations whenever I enter an Asian enclave so far from home. It's almost like time travel, really. I am here, but am I, really? Familiar things are not where I expect them, not in California, not in English, not in such a large parking lot meant for big SUVs and not small Toyotas and Protons. The odd December heat adds to the sense of a mismatch, I'm used to it being much colder here.

Being there brings back reptilian memories, more recent memories of my last teen years in Hong Kong, feeling awash in the moving sea of Chinese faces. Further back, inhabiting the world and eyes of my girlhood in Malaysia. I may have gone to more places since then, but my world has not grown any larger. And it's times like these, here, when there is a crack in the day-to-day living in the outside world, a mini earthquake that cracks open and exposes the layers and layers of years of experience and sights and sounds underneath, that I remember who I am. It connects my past to my future in a way only I can understand, in a way only each of us can see authentically for ourselves.

On the way back, in the car, I reminisce about the past. Disjointedly, the way you don't organize a room that no one but yourself has to see. Or perhaps you have your own disorganized way of sorting things out, and you take pleasure in the private space. I realized how important it was for me to think, to be alone in my head - which also meant getting away from the foreign voices I hear within it. The voices of duty, and what others would think, and how so-and-so would see it. It is fine if my thoughts are untranslatable, it is good to have one's private space. I don't give that to myself enough. Even now, I share my most private thoughts to this blog, because even in my mind I speak to an audience.

But when I thought, in that car while we sped back to campus, I was far, far away, and I did not feel alone. Words cannot do it justice. Words will wreck it, somehow, aggrandize or injure that mindful silence. For while words must describe, feelings are just happy to be. Thoughts are just happy to be thought, in whatever language the heart speaks.

I am so glad I went for dim sum this morning.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On Nights Like These

When I have taunted the dreary day of obligations and made it to the inviting, timeless, changeless hours of the night, I feel invincible. My mind is sharp, my body is ready, my feet are itching for an adventure. Bring it on, bring on the heedless mad calls, the topsy-turvy, the strangers turned friends, the mundane turned beautiful and mysterious when enveloped in dark shadows.

Join my ranks, join my army - I am a general of the night. I will lead you on fun, fun trips into the back of time and the back of your head. And you will not believe what we can do before morning.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Rainy Californian Day Haiku

It is rainy and cold
and dark outside.
My room is cold.
Darn air-conditioning.

Hot tea is so boring.
I want to swallow a lighted candle
feel its yellow warmth travel inside me
and look down at the glow in my belly.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Your hyperbole stretches my mental muscles into positions they never wanted to assume, into conclusions they are reluctant to defend.

What this talk of -

What you teach ain't what you live.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It is a lovely Sunday afternoon

Not bright-shiny like the inside of a mall, but sunny enough to see the leaves sway on branches, unaffected by autumn brown. It is a common complaint that in Southern California we do not have proper seasons. It is a balmy 21 degrees Celsius. After the unusual long periods of rain that we have been having the past week, along with the cold and gloom, this is a refreshing change.

We usher in the seasons differently here. Fall and winter are coming, dragged by the feet and sending us rainstorms, unusually hot days sandwiched between cold ones, and all other weather anomalies, but we are prepared. Rain boots make their cheery multicoloured appearance, while on some days I still come out unprepared in my flip flops.

It is a lovely Sunday afternoon, and I am puzzled that you are not online. I have work to do, but the edge of panic has been taken off by working through a Saturday night. I am content to stay in today, on this balmy beautiful day looking out the window, and work on my bed.

What would make this day thrice lovelier would be if you were here, working intensely on your laptop. Maybe once in a while we'd both break from our fixed sight on the screens, look up, and stare at each other -- disbelieving the fact that the 't' has been taken away from there, that we are both here, now. I know we would treasure each frame in the montage of our togetherness, beautiful and ridiculous alike, finding precious gems in activities others may find mundane.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

When I screw up

An emotional wrecking ball, that’s what my life has been like. Little things, little signs adding up and I don’t see it coming till it hits me in the face. Unanticipated, and yet once I know of it, the dread starts building up and it grows, grows and it does not make the fall any better.
More to come, more to come. Prescient awareness, one of the unique things about being human, is a double-edged sword.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I have decided

as far as I can, as much as I can, as long as I can; to live without substitutes.

Without deadeners.

Without mind-altering, numbing substances.

Without caffeine.

We can live without life and we can smile without happiness. We can touch without feeling, we can speak without understanding, we can sit together and talk without ever once making a connection.

Part of the responsibility of living is to live truly, and boldly.

Otherwise, all of life is just palliative care. And that would truly be a tragedy no drug can ease, though it may take the edge off it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We cannot afford

to disconnect like this, to have long silences not looking at each other, to be immersed in our own mundane lives.

I cannot afford to live like this. Trenches. Trudging. Toiling. There's trouble in the air, turmoil in the soundwaves.

My cryptic messages shroud the confusion of my soul. Deep inside I know my subconscious, my soul, is thinking.

I'm just trying to unearth what it wants me to hear.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Push, pull, wind, unwind

[Free write]
There's a tension, a balance in everything
Even this blog! I want to use this space to sort through, untangle my most inner thoughts and feelings, but I am afraid of what my readers will think
And yet, there is a motivation coming from a different part of me that just wants to be known, to be understood.

Tiredness and elation.
Just a drip of caffeine away.
Funny how something that is so simple can change my mood so dramatically
Make me instantly awake, open to possibilities and filled with the energy to take action on them
And yet leaves me feeling tired, drained, out-of-sorts, unable to focus and feeling generally unsatisfied. Centreless, that cuppa just knocked me out of my chalk-drawn circle, smudged the lines as I slid out of it and into the chaotic outside world.
I want to fall into the dark formless dreamless world of sleep, but my cares and concerns and hunger for connection won't let go easily.

I teeter on the edge of chaos, but the light over the edge is just so seductive, and if I step with the beat of my heart it looks like a dance to anyone who's watching...

Monday, August 16, 2010


On this great expansive journey of life, it feels sometimes that we are nothing but little boats set adrift, bobbing along the gentle waters with no land in sight. No navigation points. The stars are invisible during the bright light of day and taunting, meaningless harbingers in the black night. Most of the time life goes by without much rocking; each day you move forward, backward, left or right, not that you would know because direction are relative and the only point of reference you have is you.

But one day, we realize that we are all anchored. It doesn’t matter how deep the anchor is embedded into the seabed or how long the chain. Maybe you were almost flipped over in a storm and wrecked, and then you noticed a little weight in the hull that you’d never discerned before. The knowledge that an anchor exists, that you are attached to it, refocuses your existence. Suddenly it is not just you just struggling to stay above water, knowing that one day you too will be dashed to pieces by a tremendous wave. The anchor, the anchor -- who put it there? Why am I attached to it? How far can I stray before the anchor pulls me back? And perhaps even - how can I get away from this?

Anchors pull back when a boat drifts too far. Anchors strain. They hurt, sometimes. But anchors are there for a reason - to secure a boat. And anchors can be removed, can be shifted when the boat needs to move, although that takes deliberate effort. More than all that, though, anchors remind us that we exist for a purpose. Someone put that anchor down. We are not set adrift. We may not find out who, and our anchors’ positions may not obviously communicate why we are where we are, but it gives us boats a place to start.

Anchors give us dignity. Tiny fishing boats do not have anchors because they do not sail far enough into the sea or long enough to need them. Realizing that we are anchored triggers a re-evaluation of ourselves. Perhaps we are more than cheap bits of wood nailed together. Perhaps we are merchant ships. Perhaps we are luxury cruises. Perhaps we are anything in between. But we have value. We have purpose. We contribute to bettering others’ lives.

Find your anchor. Pull it a little, test it a tad. but don’t resent it. It’s more important to you than you think.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just to balance things out, you know. Not to brag or anything.

I am so very happy right now. Content, and excited for the future, and exhausted at a job well done but in a good way.

But most of all, I feel inexpressibly grateful that out of the gut-wrenching mess of the past, good things can and do happen. I have been redeemed. And it makes me feel a little closer to God again.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On Good Writing

The discipline of writing still eludes me. After over a decade of intermittent diary-writing, and some years of blog-updating, my words and ideas do not stack up neatly like well-designed, uniformed plastic chairs at the hawker store.

They say writing is good for oneself. Writing is an exercise in truth. It does not reflect truth but creates it. There is so much power in words wielded well, words that are not clumsily shoved into a sentence. Words that exceed their limitations so that it is not the words you hear, but the feelings and ideas expressed through them that are transmitted and embedded in your soul.

Really good writers have that effect, of being able to transport the reader into their consciousness, to see out of their own eyes and think not as one mind to another, but as one and the same mind.

Maybe it's not really about skill. Maybe it's also about heart. The burning desire to communicate something transforms itself into eloquence, the blue sparks glint off the page and creates flashes of light in the dark recesses of a reader's mind.

And I don't have it.

Monday, July 5, 2010


A year. It has *only* been a year. It feels like a lifetime ago, once removed.

This is my bed, white sheets, two pillows. The shower with it's partial sliding glass doors, the collapsible partitions. My old, old clothes. The humidity, not as insufferable as Hong Kong's, but pressing close by like a debt collector or an old friend. The books of my childhood, a row of CS Lewis and L.M. Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott.

It's hard to categorize this particular feeling I have. The getting of something that one has longed, pined for for so long - what do you do next? What grand gesture can you do, besides running down the street crying "I'm home! I'm home!" (and even that might not work) that will relieve this feeling in your chest? This exultant jubilation, this bottomless contentment, this quiet relief, this surging sentimentality agitated by the tangible reminders of everything that has shaped you. With wonder you look at the marks you left on your surroundings, pinpoints in time past to a history you barely remember happening.

Success, the future, dreams are vague, but home is very, very tangible. I just want to bask in this for a while.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Let me be flexible

The title comes from a Chinese proverb: the reed bends and sways in the wind, but remains standing; while the strong tree that neither bends nor sways crashes in the storm.

I realize that I often think of myself as grown-up, mature, able to make intelligent decisions. And I let little things go, bit by bit, excusing my behavior too easily, slacking off - and then I realize that I'm not all that grown-up. I have a-ways to go. I am not done. I am still making mistakes. I am still making excuses. I need forgiveness, and I need to forgive others too.

Why do we try to maintain balance in a world of flux? It's like looking for patterns within a lava lamp. The components are always the same, but the appearance is ever-moving, ever-changing. Except, perhaps, humans are even more complicated, because we change each other - we are interacting with our environment, adapting, discarding older models of thinking, moderating and analyzing all the time.

It's time to be flexible. It's time to trust. It's time to be...vulnerable. Because I need to, to retain and reclaim my sanity. To sway, to bend, and not to break.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

When you walk, you think - and you blog after.

Walking quietly, next to you, both of us wrapped in thoughts so far away. It makes me think of the difference between physical space and mental space. That physical proximity can be so powerful. Although I may be millions of miles away mentally, I'm still aware of you. I think my own thoughts, but I wonder what you're thinking.

I think of so many things. I guess its because I can't talk to you, you need your space, but I can't do something rude like pull out a book or listen to some music either. I can't sleep because I'm walking. So I am forced, not unwillingly, to retreat into the cove in my mind where I think deep, spacey thoughts. I get high on observations about the world and human nature.

I think (not in order):

1. How harmonious the night is. The quietude, the smell, the dewy grass. I think about how everything is unique. How each person's footsteps reveal their personalities, their mood. Whether they're confident, poised, serene; or angry, impatient, distracted. I think of breathing and how no two people breathe the same way.

2. I think about how counter-intuitive life is. We expect to grow more complex the older and more mature we become, but in fact we get more simple. As children, we act on our impulses and are taught not to. As adults, we have to "find ourselves" - get in touch with our impulses and against all reasoning, act on them. We find that what we wanted to do is the right thing after all.

3. Now, I think about how rarely I think. How infrequently I actually take the time to be completely away from consumption (of ideas, of conversation, of visual movements) and just occupy my mind. Why? Is it because I am afraid of what I will find? Or because I feel that it wastes time? Sometimes it does feel like a waste of time, because I can't remember what destination my thought journey brought me to, and it follows that all that thought-time was a waste. But perhaps in the recording of this process, and in your consumption, it wasn't a waste at all.

4. I don't think its wrong to want things. It is not wrong to want love, it is not wrong to be forthright about what you need. It is wrong to snatch things away or to make others do what you want them to do if they are unwilling. But in being clear about our wants, our reasons, our lives, our reasons for life - it makes it so much easier to be helped, and to help others achieve their hopes.

Friday, April 30, 2010

So the elation!

begins when you've finally finished a hectic week of school. Presentations, papers of various lengths to write and rewrite, meetings, reading for class, class debates, problem sets, doing favors for friends - all in a short five days! I felt like someone was knotting up my stomach all the time, my mind was strategizing every minute on what I was going to do next - and yet when I sat down in front of my computer I felt nothing but a paralyzing reluctance to begin anything useful and a compulsive urge to update Facebook every three seconds. And then there was the mind worm, the energy uselessly expended waiting and wishing all week for something that never came...

Yesterday night I slept at 4 am. Twice this week I've been up till the early morning. Yesterday wasn't quite as bad...the sleep debt will probably come knocking later. I'm hoping to cancel it out by sleeping well this afternoon and tonight.

When you're stressed out and strung out, every task seems like a major chore. Living seems to be an endless sludge, dragged on simply by the momentum of your organic fuel, never getting true rest till the day your heart stops beating.

I had so much time (because of the relative nature of time, as well) this week to think about why I'm here, and what I'm really learning. I realized that so much of what I do is extraneous. All this reading, writing, thinking...what do I have to show for it? My degree? My brain? I have stopped believing in my native intelligence. I don't think intelligence gets you very far here. Academia is full of the intelligent and perceptive, and I know without a doubt my professors can read through my uninspired bulls**t. What stands out as a good piece of writing in a curriculum based on memorization does not go far in an institution that prides itself on its interdisciplinary thinking and problem solving.

A crucial long-term lesson that I've learned from this (besides the one that I keep having to experience because I never internalize it, that doing work last-minute is not a good idea) is that its important to focus on a few things and do them well. I took five academic classes this term, one physical education class (Dance), work 8 hours a week, am involved in a very-active Asian American Student Union which organizes or co-organizes 5-6 events a month, am the treasurer of the Hall Council, the founder of the International Students club, and participate in a 2.5 hour weekly Bible Study. Along with the Saturday party nights which I am loath to give up, when all these commitments demand my time and energy at the same time, I cannot give it my best or even a decent effort. I feel like I'm fat-free milk. All the fat, the good stuff; has been skimmed off, all you're left with is mostly white, tasteless water. Or bak kut teh with only lean meat. Sometimes, a little sizzle, a little extra makes all the difference.

So next year, I'm going to make a conscious effort to keep the fat in. To not overload my schedule to the extent that I have to give up on friends, long walks, spontaneous conversations and new experiences just to maintain a good GPA and deliver on my commitments. I'm taking four classes, all different things and all promising to be pretty challenging. I'm taking one PE class, first aid, which is something I think I should know. Just in case. I'll still be really committed to SIS, AASU and (perhaps) Christian Fellowship, but I want to meet new people too. Being a mentor to new students is an important responsibility, and I need to make sure I do it well since my mentors have helped me so much along this often-difficult freshman year.

That's about it for now...I have a really packed summer schedule as well! Thankfully, the beginning and the end are mostly fat - 3 weeks in Claremont with no obligations besides cat-feeding and house-sitting, and a month of travel and exploration with beloved family and friends at the end. Perhaps then I will have more time to reflect on how this year has changed me, and what I should do/expect in the future. Or perhaps I will just laze, and rest knowing that I have gone through it well :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sometimes you feel like your own two legs are too weak to stand on

That's when you know what you're made of.
You need a goal, something to look forward to.
Look up, look up, look up.
Your tired feet will bring you to rest one day, my child.
Go north, keep walking, do not stop.
You are your own best friend.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Death and swimming

How is it possible to talk to 10 different people in a day, and yet still feel alone?

Is there something missing in online conversation, or am I just too self-absorbed? I think there is a bit of both (okay, perhaps a lot more of the latter).

I've been having a class on Death.
Death class --> makes me think about life, because all we know about death is from the perspective of the living -->makes me depressed about life but not want to die because now I have learnt that we ESSENTIALLY know NOTHING about what comes after. And that is scary. I don't even book a flight ticket without getting accommodation first. Who will accommodate me in the hereafter? That became a much more philosophical question that I intended it to.

Perhaps, in the end, we should not be left alone for these particular reasons - falling into moodiness and deep depths of thinking, when we should be paddling in the bright sunny waters. But then, how would we know what life truly is if we don't dare confront its edges?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

There comes a time...

I have always wondered why people, when writing autobiographies, seem to write in terms of months passing, years and of the changes that they face then. For me, it has always seemed that so much emotion can be lived in a day, so much drama and change and mood swings, that it is insufficient to only paint one's changes, particularly in moods (eg. he was depressed, she was jubilant, they were purposeful) only in months and years and not days and minutes and sun-hours. Because a life can be lived in a day, and months can follow on end of nothing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A misty state of mind

Makes me feel that all is possible, that all worlds are half-shadow and half-solid, that all emotions are multi-faceted, shining like sapphires.

I see in the past the paths that have brought me here and the ghosts of roads not taken. I look at the ground and see the vines that are strewn all over the way. This road, and every road I have walked whether deliberately or just as the result of the passage of time, have changed me.

It is a wonder that we can connect at all, human beings walking separate paths and brimming with destiny.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The irony...

I traveled to a foreign country alone to begin a new chapter of life.

I have been riding on competitive academic scholarships for the last three years.

As a university freshman, I am applying for a research grant that's usually given to sophomores and juniors.

I dance in public spaces, I sing without embarrassment, I make lame jokes.

I speak up in class. I voice my opinions when I think they are intelligent. I voice them even when they're not.

I participate in clubs, and when there isn't one that caters to a need, I form one.

I can do so many things I never thought I was capable of.


But I can't muster the courage to ask you out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The bitter pill of discontent...

Rancours, bubbles to the surface when you least expect it.

The feeling that you aren't appreciated, that you could do so much better, that you are not achieving everything you are capable of. That you made wrong choices, you heedlessly stepped on a green path and you're not sure if you're ever going to reach the sunlight as you trudge beneath the monotonous canopy of expectations and unfulfilled dreams and the susurrus of time as it flows by - if you listen closely you can hear the grains falling in the hourglass that holds your earthly hours.

You tell assuring stories to yourself about individuality and different definitions of success until you can't be sure where reality ends and your dreams begin. Or were they intertwined from the very beginning?

But there is light, there is meaning, there is hope: lift your eyes from the crunching dead leaves you step on, and with filmy eyes envision the road to come. While your feet have strength, walk straight, walk upright, walk forward.