Dear 18-year-old self

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I wish I had met you earlier.

Then I would have pulled you aside and told you to be brave. Don’t let the weight of someone else’s words (and everyone else’s abilities) crush you or stop you from becoming who you can be. Confidence is such a strange thing isn’t it? It takes only a moment to trample it, but years to build. You will be comforted to know that it is something you gain with age and wisdom.

I would have asked you to go to bed, instead of falling asleep at your desk every night, buried under the weight of your daily stresses. If you are going to learn effectively, you are going to need your sleep.

I would have told you to own up to your faults, but never let incidents define you.

I would have reminded you that everything will be fine eventually.  You can afford to make a couple of “wrong” turns at eighteen. You are at the peak of your youth, and there are so many options, so many roads to take… so much future.

I would have told you I missed writing the way you do.

And that I am proud of you for giving your time generously to those who needed it.

Finally, I would have asked you to be patient. When the system you only know asks of you to go faster, to be better, to beat the rest, it is hard to fathom what slowing down would entail. Be consoled, that sometime in the near future, you will make sure to enjoy this world unreservedly. You will continue to make memories in the way you love best, in words and pictures. You will trod the roads of new territories, and soak in the cultures of their people. You will do it slowly, because there is no other way to do it.

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A mini Feb update

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2018 came late for me. I was still stuck in old ways and rushing my year’s project when the rest of the world moved ahead, refreshed and determined. And there I was, holed up at home with my laptop, notes, and refills of hot tea. I haven’t seen my face in a while, and my head’s wheezing from the cold I caught on the last day of the old year.

6 weeks on, I’m working on the last bits of work, running errands in between, stealing some hours on the weekend for appointments, but the tiny pockets of time that I have mostly go to tv – because all I really am doing is waiting for 2018 to happen. I’m not usually this way. Can’t wait for the time to reboot.

See you later.

2017 was a year of broken resolutions, too much putting off of things, and tested confidence.

It was one I was thankful for nonetheless. Small everyday moments reigned this year (will write about this another time). There was more letting go and sharing. Acquaintances and friends, old and new, and family, guided my path and renewed a part of me with little reminders, advice and their presence.

And above all, 2017 was a year of laying foundations. In 2018, with a thankful heart and nourished mind, I am ready to be a better version of myself.

Youth and I

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The other day, I found an old thumbdrive which was left neglected in my stationery basket after dropbox and google drive took over my professional life.

I have been using it for about a month since, and decided today, of all days, to click on an old folder labelled with my name. It turned up another folder “atheleventhour”, named after my now-defunct blog. Went down the list of mostly half-completed, mostly unpublished scribbles that brimmed over with so much youth that I laughed and cringed over my words.

On ways to introduce myself, these are versions I wrote that didn’t make the cut:

“Really likes the number eleven and gets most motivated at the eleventh hour. Writes, for love of the language… and for love of the past.”

“A sociology graduate who counts buying novels and notebooks among her interests. Reads, writes, plays squash, sings, and will spend the last dollar on travel.”

The young version of me also thinks and whines too much about doing things, without actually doing things:

That aside, I worry too much that I may cease to write. The anxiety results from a lack of academic diligence. Then again, I don’t think I can stop writing completely.

… and is sometimes insecure, sometimes pretentious:

“23 years and 361 days, with weight issues.”

Contrary to her lackluster grades in school, she is deeply inspired and intrigued by sociological thoughts. The construction of social reality titillates her senses, in the same way cultures and their people fascinate her.” — what?

It is no wonder these never saw the light of day until now. Almost a decade on, my hobbies and interests haven’t varied much. Very much still fascinated by cultures and the human condition, very much into travelling and writing, favourite number’s still 11, and so on.

But so much has changed too. That youth, like a struggle to establish myself, is all but gone, and my words have become plainer and more personal with the years, as though time has lifted the veil on me and here I am, more comfortable than ever in my own skin.

Exposed.

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This late morning, I was on a comfortably-packed train, wondering if I should drop by the poke bowl shop to pick up lunch before heading for the office. I had a small craving for it, but not enough to rule out a simple sandwich, or a bowl of noodles, completely.

Lost in thought over my first-world problem, my idle fingers found the folder of film-taken pictures on my phone. I should post something on the blog, I thought above my lunch thoughts.

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I flipped through pictures of my Italy holiday, my multiple Taiwan escapades, and weekend walks, pleased to see them again. Then my finger hit a folder of experimental double-exposed (and somewhat failed) photos. I had connected with a stranger on the other side of the world for this little project, and for my part, I wandered into the streets off East Coast Road to complete it.

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But as I looked at these photos, it wasn’t the stranger I thought of. Or the streets I could no longer name. Or the reason why I couldn’t take a proper double-exposed photo. My thoughts strayed onto the companion who’s absent, yet undeniably present in all the photos.

Strange how life could change the course of a friendship, how archives and archives of fond memories were not enough to keep it together. Not nearly enough.

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Then the overhead sound system announced my stop. I barely heard it, but my body has learnt the routine, and I stepped out to join the rest of the working crowd.

Birthdays and wishes

I am one of those people who remember birthdays without having to rely on social calendars too much. But I am also one of those people who rarely send a birthday card (and gift) in time.

Then I saw the cutest The New Yorker online cards on the beautifully-curated Paperless Post. I am such a fan of its art and humour. So I wrote my friend a simple birthday message, inserted into an e-envelope holding a The New Yorker card, against a customised gold polka-dotted backdrop – all in 5 mins (excluding the time taken to actually decide which card to go with) and more importantly, in time for her birthday. I hope it perks up her morning when she sees it.

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