i are you, you am me
by The Dreamer
woke up feeling like i had my breath arrested from me, lungs clenching and unclenching like it’s re-learning how to breathe. another one of those paralysing dreams, clasped down by imaginary chains onto my bed, mind trapped in that box that amplifies the horror over and over again. funny how my nice dreams are fleeting and easily forgotten, but the nightmares stay.
i dreamt that i had my words robbed from me.
i was sitting in the centre of the vast examination hall, pen in my hand, the composition paper starkly naked. i tried to write, i tried to think, but it was like i was on a running mill and i couldn’t get anywhere. it was like my well of imagination evaporated dry.
i raised my hand for a dictionary because i couldn’t conjure a single word, pen pressing against the paper until the ink bled through and spread further and further until it became a big black hole waiting to suck me in. the teacher said they ran out of dictionaries.
that feeling of loss was so huge and so inescapable, i felt it even when i forced my eyes awake.
i remember in my dream that i walked out of the hall in the middle of the exam, having given up. i went to the cafeteria, ordered the blandest meal possible, and gobbled it down, thinking to myself, this is my life now. bland-as-fuck porridge.
it must bore you to hear me say this many times, but im disgustingly unbalanced, grossly extreme in my ways. just the day before, i was blindly feeling for my laptop even before my vision cleared, typing furiously and vigorously despite still having morning wood in my eyes. the idea just impressed itself on me like a heart-wrenching crush that i woke up from my slumber with a smile. i never published something so fast, and i’ve never loved something i’ve written so much, so dearly, in a very very long time.
such a huge contradiction to how i’m feeling today, wordless and meaningless.
(and lol, can’t even standardise my grammar – “im” or “i’m”, pick one jean.)
that ride of euphoria came to an abrupt stop when i started factoring in reality or societal expectations. of course, how could i forget? just because you like something you’ve made doesn’t mean the world would.
with the reactions and feedback slow, sluggish and dismal, my stomach churned with disappointment. why is it the things i love to write never receive the love i think it deserves, whereas the other stories that i birthed without much attachment seemed to be triumphing?
simultaneously felt like a horrible mother, picking favourites and forcing people to love my son over my daughter.
also felt like a spoilt brat/ hypocrite: give me attention, but the right kind!
i decided that i had enough of dwelling on fictional grounds; that i needed to get dressed, get out, and assimilate back into reality.
i brought the kids in my neighborhood out on an excursion to the museum, along with my other volunteering buddies. i always have such a nice time with them because they are a literal breath of fresh air, so completely different from my social circles.
sometimes you feel closer to people that don’t know you well; sometimes you have more intimate talks than you could ever initiate with the friends dearest to you; sometimes you establish the deepest understanding and connections with people that you only see twice a year, like the occasional phenomenon of having the sun and the moon embrace only to part.
i sat in the bus with another girl. we passed by a park that held our country’s largest lgbt pride parade, and she said she volunteered there. that’s when we really started talking, and i was mildly surprised at how casually she came out to me without even using the terms one associated with coming out; how she immediately lapsed into telling me about her crushes with our mutual friends and how we laughed and joked and shared secrets, living in our own little bubble while cramped in that tiny bus en route to the museum.
we talked dreams, ambitions and even superficial pleasures like makeup, dramas and music. i really like watching fires being ignited.
my parents are listening to melancholic Cantonese songs in the living room. it’s distracting but the lyrics sound like a beautiful poem. and i don’t even understand half of it.
i really wonder how long i can keep escaping before everything catches up on me and pounces on me like an aggressive police dog, ripping me apart.
43 more days, jean. time to wake up. no one’s going to give you gentle nudges anymore; it’s more of tugging the blankets roughly from you and pushing you off the bed.
the museum lives inside my mother’s alma mater. the old architecture still remains. i can imagine my mom in her younger self, hair parted in equal halves and ending in tidy plaits, uniform ironed neatly and pinafore below her knees, socks high, not smiling. standing exactly where i was, but instead of looking at beautiful haute couture hanging on mannequins, she’s quietly singing along to the national anthem, watching the flag slowly ascending the pole. similar pieces of fabric for different purposes.
i like thinking of stuff like that. getting nostalgic even though i haven’t even lived in that period of time. maybe i just like the concept of living many different lives; hence my abundance of online friends, my obsession over collecting stories, my craving for fiction.
anyway, my friend and i walked around. the kids were less than interested in product/landscape/fashion design, but everything was really intriguing to me.
we marvelled over intricate fashion designs particularly, especially the clothing that came from the 60s, cheongsams that were so absolutely stunning that we decided we would rent them out for our weddings in the future.
and then there was the confounding aspect of art that we had to face. incomprehension. we looked from many different angles, tried to interpret the artist’s intentions, but the art…just looked like a single piece of plastic, glued to the floor. an ugly-ass chair that’s not even functional. and yet, it was worth usd 14,000.
i don’t see it reflecting the worth society has placed on it.
and evidently, neither did the crowd around us.
but society says it, so we accept it.
this is good art.
we must appreciate it.
flipping through the national design winner portfolios of each year, my friend and i discussed this issue and came up with this conclusion. okay, it was more of my own personal epiphany while my friend kind of shrugged and said yeah.
my enlightenment was this: i’m going to keep doing what i loved doing. i’m going to keep writing what i loved writing, even if the rest of the world doesn’t seem to place a finger on why i fall in love with it. because art is subjective, there really is no right or wrong, no good or bad. a wildly popular artwork might not really be the best, evident from that chair. society’s words is not the final thesis and judgement. do what you love, love what you do, and even a single praise from an anonymous netizen is enough. no praise is enough too. praise yourself.
(reading through this draft, i kind of hate the contents already. i really, really do sound like one of those conceited brats whose blog posts i scorn over.)
heard this on tablo’s snapchat and thought it to be rather meaningful:
“i realise that there are three things that matter to me: family, friends, fans.
but the thing is, almost all of my worries and headaches and heartaches come from things that have nothing to do with the three.
so i realise that progress and wealth for me now is less of what i can get my hands on and more of i can let go of.
im at a point of my life where eventually i have to let go because the three is all i need, it’s my wealth.”
came back home thoroughly exhausted and decided that i maxed out my social interaction quota.
took a nap, and woke up to one of my friends texting me: “jean! i was watching this movie and the entire time i thought about how you would love it! it has a jean-vibe to it.”
my heart felt warm and fuzzy.
i love entertaining the thought of people thinking of me, as self-indulgent as it may sound.
i watched the movie. i cried a lot. i really did love it. but i think i loved it more because someone thought i would appreciate it.
a parable that my friend reminded me of:
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. many rich people threw in large amounts.
but a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. they all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”