Panic at the Disco

Gay clubs were for flowers. 

Update: I wrote this piece before we learned more about what happened. I’m sorry about misgendering or mis-identifying the victims.

I’m 31 in a few months. Not old, but old enough to remember how coming out was not on Tumblr, it was at Taboo. 

I would go with my best friends, all of us so drawn to each other (boys and girls) because we saw a spark of — what was it? We thought it was weirdness at the time — in each other. It was a badge nobody gave us, but we saw on ourselves anyway. 

If only someone could have told us: this badge, it is a badge of queerness. Use it well, do not sleep with worthless people, and you’ll be okay. One day. 

Why did the Orlando shootings reverberate across the world as I knew it — on the walls, timelines, of every queer person I know, and their allies?

The idea of safe spaces, and sanctity, kept coming up. Weird, perhaps to consider something like a sweaty, sweltering gay club sacred. But it was. And will always be. 

Even if I never felt like I was of “the scene” (there was literally nothing for me there), being a woman, outnumbered with my persuasions out-persuaded, it was, in so many ways, where I found myself. 

I’m a terrible dancer, but some alcohol with the encouragement of men who don’t care about sleeping with me, made gay clubs the only place I felt safe. I didn’t have to worry about men, even if I went alone. And most times, I did. In Singapore, in Bangkok, in Helsinki, in every place I have called home or visited for longer than a day. A gay club had always found itself on my itinerary. It was my window into the pulse of the rebels, the misfits, the mostly straight but didn’t want to be fag hags I could sometimes persuade.

Most of all, the complete sense of belonging and the unadulterated self. There, I could be myself, long before I could be that person at school, at home, in my places of worship. 

When Omar Mateen went into a gay club halfway across the world, spraying bullets and quite literally hunting down gay people, my memories merged into one, as it did for many queer people everywhere. He didn’t kill 50 gays in one club, he reached into, placed himself in, and ripped up the safe space we have all found. 

But how to explain a safe space to people who have never needed one?

18, venturing out timidly with my best friends. Seeing educators; kissing each other (of the opposite gender) to pretend, badly, that we were all straight. 

20, between life milestones, trembling and swooning every time an older women “picked me” (hahaha, I was very young and very hot; they should have been swooning instead).

More recently in life, being protected and cared for by wonderful gay men in cities all over the world. From Istanbul to Helsinki and San Francisco. 

It was not just 50 gay men that Omar Mateen killed. 

It was all of us on the dance floor. The veteran gays who go to see friends and dance with them. The young man peeking out from his closet, having to hide his queer clothes in his bag. His career as a hot young stud, vanished. The fag hags who love the gay men they cannot have. The old couples who go because they want to believe they still got it. The amazing dancers. The not so good ones. The long lines for the men’s toilets; the lack of one, of the lack of a toilet, for women. The bad vodka. The cheap rum. The smell of leather and sweat. The promise of darkness and kink — but is it really that dark or kinky if you were the one getting it? The camaraderie. The cliquey lesbians who think anyone talking to their girlfriends is infidelity, even when gay men do it. The stolen kisses once outside. The sobering effect of a greasy meal early in the morning when you didn’t meet someone interesting or you made the right choices in life. Kebabs and Chinese food. Drunk friends you send home vowing to never let them drink again. The sullen faces that sometimes harbour disgust the moment you walk out of the door knowing you will not be accepted outside. 

That’s where Omar Mateen took us all. He sprayed his evil bullets into our sanctuary, hiding his last minutes in the toilet of a gay club. Let that sink in for a minute. Possibly the worst homophobe the world has seen since the Holocaust. And he hides out in a gay club toilet before he dies?

All across the world violent acts are performed on minorities every day. Queer people are persecuted. Women are beaten. Trans people are murdered. Immigrants are hunted. Other ethnic and religious groups including atheists are tortured, hated, cussed at. What you think is casual racism, homophobia, transphobia, funny jokes that won’t hurt anyone, magnifies with a weapon in its hands. 

So if you’ve ever stopped to say, why are you people demanding your rights? It’s a playbook from Western activists wanting to erode our culture! What next, marriage? Yes. We are demanding to not be massacred. To not be spat on and beaten in Albania. To be not pistol-whipped and left to die on a fence in Wyoming. To be not raped — correctively and incorrectly — in South Africa. To not be kidnapped by your parents and sent to “pray the gay away” camps, all over the world where evangelical Christians have found money and warped theology. 

We are here and we are queer. Do not kill us like deer. 

In Small Rooms with Betawi Women

Not for the first time, I found myself in a tiny room on a hot day, the youngest among old women. Each with a different thing to say to me, also the only person not from around these parts. 

“You’re so old now! And unmarried!”

“Your hair is too white! Eat more soy beans!”

One woman rubbed my tattoos, making a screechy sound with her teeth, before announcing to all the other old women around her: “these are real.”

No judgement, no scorn – I was local enough to be in a place like that, but not local enough to be judged. 

“Can you bring me some white chocolate next time you come, girl? I had them once and only in your country (Singapore). I’ve never had them since.” She rubbed my back some more. 

At places like these old women collectively talk, soothe each other’s tired or injured muscles, and together not give a damn about anything outside of those doors. At least for an hour. 

I went often to places like these, my severe back pains often needing urgent attention from anything that would give them rest. In Jakarta, I am a frequent visitor to Haji Naim – a group of famed healers in the Betawi community. I figured that if it didn’t work there was at least delicious soto Betawi to be had next door. Now that I come here so often, a massage almost always precedes a lovely bowl of soup and beef. 

I’ve always been glad to have the ability and opportunity to bond with old women anywhere in the world – their wisdom and unlikely sorority is what I look forward to, whether in Yemen or India or Singapore. Here, the Betawi women took turns rubbing my tattoos, shrieking when they discovered (repeatedly) that they were real. 

Most of my time in this city has been about discovering, for the first time, scenes that played such a large part in my youth. Hot afternoons with old Indonesian women. Dusk on the street with teenagers singing with their guitars. Children begging. Families living under bridges. The Indonesian movies that used to play so often in my tiny, hot Singaporean shoebox apartment, now alive in parts of the city. 

And yet the other parts of it are real, too. Large gleaming buildings. New shiny things. Cocktails as expensive as Singapore’s. Malls full of only imported things. My feet in both worlds: one in the village and one in Pacific Place. One in meetings with fancy people, another under the firm thumbing of extremely old women. 

It’s a difficult balance to keep up, but I enjoy each moment. White chocolate in Betawi houses; going home to my $5 room after a day out in $5 coffee houses. Improbable things and inevitable places. As I chug along at work and in life, I’m relieved to have the opportunity to make things work again.

When I Was Young

I’m seated now by the side of an old vending machine in Jakarta airport, with power sockets so dirty and old I had to think twice about plugging my cables in. Yet in all of Terminal 1, one of the oldest airport terminals in a country not known for modern aviation facilities, there was only this one socket free. Confined to my fate of temporarily sharing power with a giant Teh Botol (not Coke!) machine with no seat within range of my Macbook charger, I am, obviously, on the floor yet again.

Sitting on floors: a practice cultivated in many countries across the world. Sometimes involuntary, most of the time because my inner hippie wants me to. The difference between now and then — I am now at the kind of age where you would, if you did not know me, expect some kind of manners from me. Wear proper clothes, wear proper shoes. Sit on proper surfaces. I imagined I would too! That one day, I would finally learn how to be proper. How wrong I was on that, and many other fronts! I am happy to still-sitting-on-dirty-floors. No — I am overjoyed. Overjoyed to be still a chapalang, anyhow and anyhowly chapalang person.

So much has happened since the last real post of any substance here. Mid, early 2014 perhaps. I started a company. It still lives. I have teams, collaborators, all across my different endeavours. The foundation I started in 2012 is still alive, too. I am relieved and grateful for all of the opportunities thrown my way, all of the paths revealed and then some.

Why did I not write? I did not write, because life overwhelmed me and kept me away and sometimes light-headed. I did not write, because I forgot how to. It isn’t like riding a bicycle — it’s more of riding a unicycle where you know eventually you’ll find your balance but only after falling flat on your face anyway, no matter how many times you’ve ridden one. In my pursuit of achievements, exceptional or otherwise, prizes, awards, Silicon Valley-style work yourself to the bone for some big undefined payoff (emotional or otherwise); I lost myself in the race. I lost myself, too, in the unclear idea of what it meant to be an adult.

An adult, I was told, lived in a proper house with a proper bed with a proper pillow (for all of the neck pains you’re bound to have). I have neck pains, indeed, but realise I can do without all of the rest. I haven’t sat on dirty airport floors for years. I haven’t gone somewhere with nothing in my bag other than the clothes currently on me, in years. I haven’t gone somewhere without a plan, without a place to stay, without any idea of what i was going to do. I don’t know how else to live, and forcing myself into being the opposite of those things brought me further and further away from who I really was.

Maybe this year, after learning to like myself again, I’ll finally get my groove back again. I’m proud to be an anyhowly person. I’m proud to extreme and spontaneous. I will no longer knead the image of who I truly am into the uninspiring ideas of what some people had wanted me to become. I don’t want to achieve things for the sake of doing that — I want to learn to be alive, again. Let’s see how we go on this journey, I’m excited but also shit-scared about it.

But as I once believed (when I was much younger) — if it doesn’t scare me like hell, it probably isn’t worth doing.

Said airport power sharing setup   

The Freedom to Love

Ten years ago the Internet was a different place. Singapore was a different place. While it wasn’t exactly the sort of pitchfork-wielding, gay-vilifying environment you would imagine, you certainly did not feel like people understood. You felt, at that time, at odds with large swathes of society, as though it would never accept you. Worst of all, you felt doomed to forever be avoiding the marriage question at Chinese New Year. It did not seem like your Asian relations would ever stop asking you intrusive questions about your personal life, when there was none to share because your chosen pronoun would cause you to be thrown out of the house, ostracised, prayed for, or otherwise politely ignored.

This year, the climate cannot be more different. The hate groups have openly stepped forward to identify themselves. They even have their own colours. Like in the US, and anywhere else this theatre of ‘cultural war’ is being waged, they’ve chosen to usurp the word, ‘family’, for themselves. No matter.

Each year the dot gets bigger and bigger. Each year the LGBTQ community gains strength in multitudes; and its allies, even more. Each year I see more and more families; each familiar face is not the girl I last slept with in a club, unlike what they think, it is a friend, ally, collaborator, or all around interesting person.

Challenges abound. Hatred reeks. Certain religionists (that’s really what they are, and I won’t even sully the term religious by associating that with them) desperately hope to roll back the tide. In 20 years I will be happy to never have to hear a squeak from them ever again, for their present struggles against demographic and cultural sea change will seem as bizarre, absurd and archaic as opponents of interracial, inter-religious love a couple of decades ago.

Here are a couple of things I’ve written in the past decade. My sexuality has been a big and defining part of life; but love itself comes through, above all. Hope to see you at Pink Dot, and say hi if you see me.

P.S. Also, a friend and I are hosting Rabbithole, a brand new party for queer women who like good drinks and older company. 🙂 Come by at Life Is Beautiful, 99 Duxton Road, from 10.30PM on 28 June 2014.

Eight Ages of a Woman
Release
Excavation
Why I Am Still A Feminist
Love, Singapore
The One About Having It All

Sitrep

BSG Tattoo

  1. I got a Battlestar Galactica tattoo
  2. I’m pretty pleased about that
  3. It’s one half of the pair of wings and Caprica constellation that Starbuck gets when she marries Anders
  4. Within a couple of hours of getting it, a random stranger proposed to me — saying she would get “the other side”
  5. Which would be romantic, but that would also mean (a) she’s a Cylon (b) we’d have a tumultuous relationship (c) she’d better be damn good at Pyramids
  6. It’s unbelievable that 10 years has passed since I first started to watch this show
  7. I don’t generally fan-girl anything, but this was special
  8. I identify with Starbuck in far too many ways, if you know what I mean
  9. It’s potentially far more meaningful than anything else I could have gotten
  10. After getting this done I do kinda feel like nothing can frak with my qi

I love BSG.

What I Learned

Two years ago I found out I have an autoimmune disease. I will always have it. It changed everything about my life from what I do for money to where I live. It prompted a reinvention of myself which was at turns painful, but ultimately necessary. This is what I learned.

1. Never forego sleep. “You’ll sleep more over the weekend” is bullshit. Not sleeping is bullshit. There is no amount of money in the world anymore that can make me sleep less, even if I grumble about it: I’m convinced sleep is the single most important thing I will never, ever give up again.

2. Make your own destiny. The single best thing I have done in my 20s was to grab every damn opportunity that came my way. And there were plenty. Even if people can’t see the method in the madness, every little thing adds up. I truly believe that.

3. Be nice to your family. At least for me, they’ve been the foundation upon which I’ve been able to build a life. Through illness and in health.

4. Home is home. There are many reasons to not want to live in Singapore, but returning here to build my adult life here in my late 20s was the best decision. There are a ton of opportunities and we are in the centre of exciting things, at least for what I do in tech and business.

5. Surround yourself with smart people who care about people. I’ve been lucky to have some of the smartest people in the world in my direct orbit. I’ve learned an immeasurable amount from them. It’s the only way to be better. If they’re douchebags, nothing you learn can ever be of use.

6. If you need anything, just ask. There’s a longish essay in this that I need to write sometime. If you don’t know anything, ask as well. Only good things can ever come out of asking.

7. Don’t date people who want to hold you back. Or down. Ever.

8. Do date someone who inspires you to get up every morning and change the world. Who won’t laugh when you say that. Who will ask you what part of the world you would like to change today, and how she can help.

9. Milestones are a sham. You’re expected to check certain boxes by a certain time: degree, first job, first apartment, blah blah. It’s not that they’re not important, but following someone else’s timetable for your life is the biggest lie we’ve all been told.

10. Corporate conferences are never worth any amount of money you are asked to pay. Ever. If there is a giant billboard and a roomful of suits, go to the bar and do some real work instead.

An Open Letter

On February 21, I wrote an open letter to the Health Minister, CC-ing the Prime Minister and the Law Minister. This was prompted by the Feminist Mentor’s own open letter. I found LoveSingapore’s pro-377A guide very helpful for this purpose — it gave me everyone’s email addresses in a single page!

OPEN LETTER TO

Mr Gan Kim Yong,
Minister of Health
Singapore

Dear Minister Gan,

A few days ago you made a step which many of my peers and I applauded. You let it be known, in a written reply to Mr Lim Biow Chuan’s question about the Health Promotion Board Sexuality FAQ, that you would reaffirm the Government’s commitment to the nucleus family but also stand firm on your belief that the FAQs did not do more than affirm certain scientific facts about human sexuality as well as disseminate much-needed information about STIs.

In the ensuing turmoil which followed after the FAQs first came into public spotlight leading up to the point where you have probably received countless letters from concerned Singaporeans about your ministry ostensibly leading the way in normalising homosexuality, to where we are at the moment: receiving a letter unlike the others, one which will express in no unclear terms that young, secular Singaporeans like myself will always make our voices heard in continuing to champion for our Republic’s secular values, even if we have not often given enough credit or praise to your government and to your party in recent times.

Cultural “wars” have been waged and fought in many developed democracies across the world; secular values that impart equal weight to all of the important freedoms we hold dear — the freedom of speech, love, action as well as of thought and of belief, the freedom to live a life of love across racial, religious, geographical as well as gender barriers — have always triumphed. Those who have let their cultural “wars” wage on unchecked have, as the United States is testament to, seen their societies grow increasingly polarised.

As a young lesbian Singaporean who has returned home after many years abroad despite the odds: despite knowing that I may never be able to have a family recognised by my State, despite knowing that as a “single” person of a “minority” our public housing laws unfairly discriminate against me, despite knowing that I may never see significant institutional change in my lifetime, I refuse to leave.

I refuse to leave as I refuse to let the country I hold dear be held hostage by a group of religious bigots who take it upon themselves to proclaim my sexual orientation, if normalised, necessarily leads to a “regression” of Singapore society especially when they base their beliefs on Judeo-Christian beliefs which, I must remind you, a majority of Singaporeans do not prescribe to.

HPB in its FAQ provides timely, factual information to parents as well as to questioning younger Singaporeans. In its current form, our existing sexual education programmes do not provide much by way of actual useful information outside of “abstinence”, which is a conversation which has already been hijacked by a militant group in our society that has demonstrated its continued ability to organise and to politicise their pet topics. Should ground be ceded once again, we risk being completely unable to reach out to young Singaporeans who need information on sex education, STIs and other important subjects because we would have failed them and lost our credibility — it seems only rational to worry that they would look elsewhere for information, as I did as a young lesbian woman when the schools I attended uniformly pretended that my needs did not and should not exist.

These groups also ask for civility and tolerance accusing other groups who disagree with their interpretation of Judeo-Christian history and family law of demonizing their right to their beliefs. By purporting to speak for a “silent majority” of Singaporeans and by building upon their network of religious organisations in order to advance a political cause, as a young Singaporean I am concerned about what this means from a sedition perspective. As a Christian, I do not condone a fringe Protestant grouping taking it upon themselves to speak for all Christians — nor for all Singaporeans.

The public needs to see prompt action demonstrating that the State will not stand for potentially seditious and religiously divisive viewpoints which tolerate vitriolic, daily verbal abuse as evidenced by the posts of Senior Pastor Lawrence Khong on his public Facebook page — directed towards tax-paying secular Singaporeans who just happen to form a minority.

I understand this divisive topic is not one our society can come to immediate consensus upon, and am open to a variety of differing viewpoints and debate. Yet as a politically concerned young secular Singaporean who also happens to be lesbian, I cannot sit idly while I witness religiously-affiliated groups wage a cultural “war”, one which no one else is interested to fight.

I urge the HPB, the Health Ministry, and the Government of Singapore to remain steadfast in its affirmation of its commitment to the family as a nucleus of society, while also continuing to make progress in areas such as making available scientific facts on human sexuality which can save lives as well as inform parents and young Singaporeans in need.

I am not a member of the Pioneer Generation, but I am a member of the Millennial Generation who desires to see small steps in social progressiveness so that the Singapore I call home will grow into becoming the inclusive society we want to be. This does not have to begin with an immediate consensus on sexual minorities, but we must make a stand that we will not tolerate religiously-affiliated hatred that a majority of Singaporeans do not belong to nor agree with.

Yours Sincerely,
Adrianna Tan
Millennial Generation (Tech)

The Geography of Hope

At 18 I certainly believed I knew everything. I did not know just how much it’d hurt this boy’s heart if I told him the inevitable: that I was in love with someone he could never be—a woman. We went to our favourite bar and sat glumly while he tried to drink away his pain and anger.

At that time it felt as though life simply led me into various unforeseen encounters, at turns dramatic and at others explosive, as if I were but a mere spectator. The woman I loved walked into the bar. I stole a glimpse. I could not look away. Even without saying anything at all, he knew it was her.

She met the man she was to marry that evening after I left.

***

There was a girl I noticed at the campus coffee shop.

I liked her pants. And her hair. It helped that I sat at that coffee shop every day nursing a cigarette because that’s what I did when I was young and stupid. She would walk by, and I would try to find out who she was.

Every day we passed each other in that little corridor or at the coffee shop. I don’t remember how, but she agreed to come on a date with me.

We went to a place I still go to, then on a 46-day backpacking trip to India. I bravely led the way. By the second week we were at the Taj Mahal. We had waited to see the sunset because I thought it might be good to attempt romantic gestures sometimes. As the sun set over Agra I reached for her hand. She pushed it away.

We broke up at the Taj Mahal, which was fitting because we had also fallen in love at the Angkor Wat. From one wonder to another, she still could not erase the shame she felt from being with a woman. Even in a country where no one knew her name.

The next 30 days were epic and vengeful, full of sadness and train schedules.

***

The woman I loved four years ago did not marry the man she met at the bar. I may or may not have had anything to do with it.

The truth was that the more I sunk into the sadness, the more I elevated our mythology. It was not the great love which never was. We were not star-crossed lovers. Not only had I not grown from that point, I had even regressed. Waking up with her every morning made me feel I would lose her any time now. I was a little bit older now but really I was still the awestruck girl in my school uniform and my tie, wanting to know how I could punch above my weight because I can, and God she’s hot.

We were the cartographers of silence which began with a lie, later snowballing into a mountain of mythology and characters with their own CliffsNotes and paths strewn with sad poetry and despair and sadness.

When you throw yourself at a wall repeatedly, it’s okay not to know when to stop, especially if you enjoy feeling sorry for yourself.

But I had adventures to go on and mythology was too heavy to come along for that ride. I threw it away.

***

I don’t dream very much, but that year I had a vivid dream: I dreamed of a tall, slender woman with a soft voice who captivated me completely in that dream. I felt happy in that dream. I was a new person in that dream. I grew to be a better person with this figment of my dream, in my dream.

When I awoke from that dream I was with such a woman barrelling down the River Skrang in Borneo on a hare-brained plan to see tattoos and drink moonshine with the tribal elders of the tattoo artists we knew in the big city. We hit a rock and the river rushed around us as if it wanted to have us whole.

We went places without names on maps. Places without maps. We were apart a lot, but she drove 300 miles to meet me all the time and we travelled tens of thousands of miles together when we could. I ended up travelling tens of thousands of miles each time I needed to see her, which was all the time. We met in Istanbul. We made video postcards about the places we were in without each other, and we sent them to each other every other week.

Eventually we decided it was time to try to steer our way home.

I don’t even remember what home means any more. I had wandered a few hundred thousand kilometres, some of it by foot. Mostly by bus, train or taxi. Even boat.

Home was where she was. Some days it was London. Others, it was Kuala Lumpur.

I found a little house I thought we could be happy in, got a dog, and perhaps for a time we were. It feels as faraway as all of my 18-year-old memories.

***

I don’t remember when I stopped trying. I was back at the Taj Mahal again, and everything about that monument still fills me with despair. I’m never going back there ever again. I looked at her. I felt despair. I didn’t know how to fix us. I just stopped trying. Or talking. I held her hand on a cold New Year’s Eve in Jodhpur. I felt nothing. I kissed her. She did not want to kiss me back. I fell asleep with my back turned, full of anger and secret tears. It had been that way for a while now.

A few months earlier I asked her to marry me. I was met with nervous laughter and panic. In hindsight, it was a bad idea. Everyone knew she would say no.

Except me. Ever the optimist.

The computer says no.

Everybody knows it. But I didn’t get the memo. It was always no.

***

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a lesbian in this society, and it all comes down to this: other people. It’s that I have to automatically assume that all of the following are bonuses, not expectations: having my love recognized for the purposes of property, tax and inheritance; attending a partner’s family functions without unnecessary outcry and suspicion; knowing that if I were to be in a medical emergency, my life partner would be legally allowed to make decisions on my behalf. In other words, to even hope for my future life partner to be perceived as anything other than a complete stranger, is going to have to be taken on other people’s good faith.

As outsiders, that’s all we have to go on: the goodwill of other people. The readiness of other people to stop thinking of us as criminals, sexual deviants and perverts. If I hold hands with a woman I love, I am rubbing it in a conservative society’s face and being too declarative about my sexual orientation; if I walk side by side with one, the man who catcalls and makes lewd comments at us bordering on sexual harassment, is just, after all, being a man and is entitled to his opinions about my body and hers.

As for someone who generally feels like there is nothing in the world I cannot do, all I can do is to keep on doing what I do best—live my life as best as I know how, be kind to old people and animals, donate to charity sometimes, avoid premature death—and dream about the day I hope to see in my lifetime: when our lovers will be our equals, and our love as deserving.

Don’t Lugi Be Happy

In peninsular Southeast Asia there is a word of Malay origin, bastardized by Chinese pronunciation that perhaps best describes the prevalent mindset of the middle class in everything from career to politics: lugi.

More than the losing of face and the losing of status, our collective great fear is the fear of losing out. What of? Anything and everything. A recent history of imperialism, colonialism, authoritarianism and other forms of oppression have perhaps conditioned our brains into a state of perpetual loss. And need for perpetual validation.

Our toddlers go for a dozen classes, academic and non-academic, before they even learn to independently put on their pants. Other people’s kids may win, you see.

It is not enough to get a perfect score at the “O” Levels, scoring a total of 6 points (the fewer the better, 6 being the lowest); to qualify for the top three schools one must have enough point deductions from higher second language, sports and activities, and alumni affiliation, so you’re really aiming for 0 points.

To what end, paper pushers and PowerPoint warriors?

The most successful people I know who have emerged from this Matrix ask a different set of questions.

They do not ask, “what can I lose by doing this?”

They ask, “what can I gain?” Then proceed to minimize the risks through calculated steps and methodologies.

They do not ask, “how can this help me be seen to be more successful by my peers?”

They ask, “how does this help me learn, build, make a life I want for myself, help others, and can it also afford the life that I want such that my peers can see economic success attained through healthy, self-deterministic ways?”

They do not understand the politics of lugi and perhaps it is because some of us do not understand fear; every challenge is a learning curve to be conquered.

Of course this is a privilege of a certain socio-economic class, perhaps an indulgence, but for anyone of an aspirational mindset the fear of losing out is the biggest death knell you can sound. It’s not a competition, but even if it was you’d better be competing because you love it, not because you’re trapped in a race whose rules you don’t understand and whose finish line offers an indeterminate prize you’ll figure out later. Life’s too short to be afraid.

Rebuilding

1.

Almost exactly two years ago I was, too, on a flight to India.

Only then I did not know exactly how drastic a turn my life would take on when I returned.

2.

More and more of my friends are getting diagnosed with diseases similar to mine. Autoimmune diseases are the new black.

Across all of these experiences the one we’ve all had has been the extreme upheaval in all of our emotional lives.

3.

Sometimes I wonder if the person who made those decisions at the time was me, or the severely impaired bodily part that’s wreaked havoc in my head and my heart.

Even if the conclusions are the same in the end, I would still like to know that I had some control. But I did not.

4.

There is nothing I hate more than feeling like my self-determinism, even if it doesn’t really exist, has been impinged upon.

Even if the other person making decisions for me was just a temporarily damaged version of myself.

5.

I’ve spent almost two years rebuilding my life.

I’ve subjected it to some pretty extreme versions of what it could have been and can be, and now I’ve chosen the version I like best.

I like this one.

6.

This one:

This one is happy and confident, pushing 30.

This one is writing more, and better.

This one has had a handful of career highlights and is working harder to create the sorts of situations and opportunities that will define the next decade; it’s within grasp.

This one has an incredible support system in Singapore, Malaysia, India and all around the world and feels like the luckiest person in the world to experience such love.

This one has a loving, intact family. A beautiful dog. A lovely house in a magical part of the city that she loves more and more. A slew of projects taking shape.

This one is learning to finish what she’s started.

7.

That girl is an anomaly, someone told me.

She should terrify you — and amaze you.

She does.

8.

I’ve struggled to articulate what I feel whenever I return to the city I once lived in.

It is a living museum of my loves and losses.

It is a diptych where one side is the city that I once knew and the other is the one I no longer do.

Time has stopped for me in that city. But I am learning to love it again after.

9.

I had an argument with someone recently.

She believed all of these feelings come from unresolved pain — but she was wrong about nearly everything in the end.

10.

The city that is a living museum of love and loss merely preserves them so I can learn to love again.

The streets I walked in in them will never be the same.

Just as it should be possible to hold two opposing positions at once so as to form a better informed opinion, so too should it be possible to hold multiple feelings simultaneously so that we can love better.

For now I pick: terrifying, amazing.

Life’s too short for compromises. I’m too fond of jumping off boats then learning to swim, anyway.