an ode to 2016.

December 31, 2016

i write, first and foremost, for myself. i try not to look back. my goldfish memory perhaps has less to do with genetics or nature than it does with my determination to not think back to what came before, and to always keep looking ahead. so i write to look back eventually. i write so i don’t have to remember. i write to let go, as much as i write to make sense of the world. 

it is the last day of 2016. these are my thoughts:

*

“She spoke of evenings in the country making popcorn on the porch. Once this would have gladdened my heart but because her heart was not glad when she said it I knew there was nothing in it but the idea of what one should do.”

i spent many a day in 2015 trying to be like the people around me and crying when i got home because i felt so disingenuous, like i’d let down myself. in 2016 i embraced - or better embraced - my inherent introversion. the fact that sitting in a cafe on my own is where my best thoughts happen. how i struggle to be vulnerable and open until the very second where someone says something that gets me excited. a marvel reference. a love for books or magazines or beauty products or christopher nolan movies. i find comfort in picking up movie or book references and incorporating them into my life. blueberry muffins, black coffee, red wine, loungewear. green parkas. i see a little of someone else everywhere i turn. mirror syndrome? on the road scares me - is there anything in it but the idea of who i should be? i’m not entirely sure, still. but i am closer to finding out than i was in 2015. and that in itself says something about the year that has been. 

i am terrified of living an inauthentic life. i spend hours, if not days, second-guessing my actions. whether i genuinely love a thing, or if i’m embracing it because a part of me thinks i should. i cannot be the only person who wonders if there are several facets of them dictating their wants and needs, and that figuring out one true voice is a hard thing. do i really like baths? do i really think the corporate 9-5 is the only path? am i really that brave? what do i really REALLY think about daily coffee? religion? which comes first? the inspiration from an external source to love a thing, or the thing itself which is meant to inspire a love? 

an inception quote: the mind can always trace the genesis of the idea - true inspiration is impossible to fake. 

i fear that i can trace the genesis of the things i do. my love for baths, i get from self-care blogposts. food, i got from jamie oliver. does that make my love for these things less real? maybe that is why i still love dance. i still love books and writing. i don’t know where they came from. i only remember already dancing, reading and writing.
*

i remember placing dickens books on my desk at school when i was eleven. to curate a preconceived notion of myself as being smart. already, back then, i knew that perception sometimes was truer than truth. already, back then, i was doing my own public relations. 

*

2016 was an interesting year, in that i had to find something new to fight for. 

i wrapped 2015 with an australian passport, which felt despairingly like something i had to pry from someone’s cold, dead arms. i gave myself a twelve month break. i took a job that would allow me to find rest, allow me to focus on filling the space that was our new apartment and the end of what felt like a perpetual long-distance relationship, only to realise mere months in that i was not a rest-y kind of person. so i jumped into an intense job. and i realise that this is not the answer, of course. or at least, i WANT to realise this. i want to find more in the world to touch and reach out to. 

2016 was a year of travel and adventure. of visiting dream locations and finding new places. but i cannot help but feel like there is more i am meant to discover. i joke about moving to an island and scooping ice cream, but i cannot help but wonder if there is a thread of truth in that. that we should be fighting for less instead of more. and that perhaps the fight for less, the fight for meaning, is the hardest fight of all. 

*

it only hit me a few months ago that not everyone writes for a living. when a colleague commented that ‘jacob writes for a living too’ - a fact that i often overlook. he reads as much as i do, and writes perhaps just as much. we both trade in the written word, although when i said years ago that i wanted to date a writer, i was envisioning more klosterman than cronkite. 
this year i looked around and realised there were whole careers in which writing was not a thing. in which no one would ever need to announce that they were having a bad case of writers’ block. or sit for ten minutes trying to find a new way to describe a new thing. and i wondered for the first time in a long time whether i could do something for a living aside from write. 

i could, potentially. but i still cannot imagine it. i could never not write. never not pull words out of thin air. when deciding on a size for my incoming mulberry lily bag, my one stipulation was that it would need to fit a moleskine. i feel lost without paper. i have always felt lost without a way of getting words out of my body. 

i used to write fiction. i don’t any more. i still do what i always did those years ago, and write to figure out the world. and myself. back then the facets of me took on different names and different characters. it is incredibly telling to look back at the pages and chapters that i wrote a decade ago. i often named my characters ‘sophie’ or different versions of the name ‘alexander’ - two names i’ve since earmarked for any forthcoming children. even then, i was some version of me that i am now. searching for meaning in the things i wrote. 

sometimes i think my bouts of anxiety stem from the inability to find words to express my emotions. until they burst forth in giant fountains of words from my mouth or out of a pen and i finally experience the relief that xanax or melatonin can’t provide. i’ve tried ‘blogging’ - about food, about beauty products, about things i like. but i cannot write for others; i cannot write from deep within myself for the sole purpose of telling people about my opinions on things. i utilise my skill, but keep my distance. i write to tell people about things every day, but i leave me out of it. i pick my things. i pick my brands. and right now, i write about pretty good things. 

perhaps all we are seeking in this life is self-actualisation. and i find mine when i find the right words. 


in 2017 i pray to speak louder, to take up more room in the world. to always expand, to always learn. to be lovelier to strangers, and seek out new stories. to wander, and to seek. to write more, read more, and learn more. perhaps finally learn how to develop film photos. or take a pottery class. i dream of doing aerial silks - it is one of the reasons i want to develop the muscles for a pull-up. in 2017 i pray for better body image, to get over disordered eating. and most of all i pray that i will know or come closer to knowing what or whom i am praying to. this year was the biggest in terms of doubting the existence of God. but i have never once stopped praying, even when i have said the words ‘You know, You may not exist’, i have been talking to Him. daring God to prove me wrong, perhaps. sometimes when i think i am farthest away from my faith i realise that i am still closer than i think. i am still talking to only one person. i have not prayed to anything else. my wishes on every birthday candle or every 11:11 have never changed: i pray to live a full and colourful life in which God’s existence cannot be doubted.


and so we go. 

portland.

December 1, 2016


never had i been so excited to visit a city. portland, a destination i picked solely based on the instagram feed of their tourist bureau. i'd felt listless as we tried to decide between chicago and seattle, or new york again? every so often, i would add, 'portland maybe?'

because a tv show i used to love when i was nineteen was set there.

it wasn't until the instagram feed that i felt the fission of excitement and realised i had to go. i had to eat at pok pok. i had to walk the streets of division. and for months i studied the city, curated my list and decided on my doughnut place (pip's. even though we did try blue star as well). and fell in love with the way portland cared about its produce. with how portland had food podcasts.

this year was tasty.

in 2016 we started in singapore. then we saw margaret river, adelaide, melbourne, sydney, portland, anaheim and los angeles. i perused the aisles of erewhon, fell in love with zucchini flowers in santa monica, had the best tacos i've ever tasted in a tiny spot on a street in anaheim, got drunk in barossa valley, stayed in an airbnb built by a man imitating gaudi, went to markets, ate doughnuts and chai, and drank tea at the langham. we picnicked in our backyard park, watched star wars under the stars. and i watched it again in the comfort of a glorious plane experience in one of the most touching surprises ever.

for months i thought i was (just?) being surprised with tickets to disneyland.

2016 has been filled with other things. tears and laughter and challenges and a heap of self and life doubt. the quarter life crisis that made me want to move to an island and take up the job of ice cream scooper. but first and foremost i want to remember the travel, the food, the different smells and tastes. chatting to bartenders in strange wine bars. drinking endless glasses of krug and dom perignon. going pescetarian in america. daily scoops of salt and straw in portland. mimosas with fresh juice at the butcher's daughter on abbott kinney. fourth of july fireworks from the balcony. lavender scones. baking bread. langham love.

here's to more adventures.





a list for twenty five.

October 26, 2016

i was defending my inability to spend three hundred dollars on something for my sanity, with the line, “i don’t want to spoil myself!” and i realise that i punish myself daily. punish myself with lines like, “you had to pay for a car service so you can’t do X.” little things that eat away at my health and happiness in the name of ensuring i am not spoiled. taking the harder way out, so that i am not ‘soft’. i relish the birthdays and special moments when people buy me the matcha bowl i cannot bear to buy myself. when i get a voucher that i can put towards something i haven't given myself permission to buy. when other people show me more love than i show myself.

a lot of this comes from where i’ve grown up and what we were taught to believe - that harder is better. that working until 2am is a good thing. that with enough discipline and determination, we can somehow forget our weak desires and discipline ourselves into… well, submission. every workout is a fierce pleasure, every purchase i talk myself out of buying a triumph. 'sucking it up' is prized. it is rewarded. i left so that my future child would never have to know it, but i myself have not fully left it behind. gentle is not a word i have taught myself to live by. 

and every day i realise that being a grown up is unlearning the things we’ve been taught, and forging a path based on what we now know, having seen a little more of the world than we have in the past. that every day, every year is one step forward into crafting a better day ahead. 

so with that, a list for twenty five. 

*

breathe deeper. invest in shoes that are comfy for walks. have more picnics. feel your way into stillness. rise early. love your body. write more. take the nap. find good leggings. eat greens. move naturally. gaze at the trees.

love yourself enough. love yourself more. always eat the damn cookie. be gentle. keep faith. open the windows. take more baths. put down the phone. be surrounded by greenery. buy the ballet tickets. book the plane flight. relish the ability to go anywhere, do anything. make reckless choices. 

buy comfier jeans. stop using the word ‘fat’. read more books. stop using the baby college fund as an excuse to not live your life. stretch more. make your own kombucha. forgive yourself for the days you don't. take more pictures. walk everywhere. find stillness. find space.

realise that mistakes happen. allow mistakes. make deliberate mistakes. 

you are still so very young. enjoy it. 

24.

October 6, 2015

i don't write for the web any more. or should i say, i write for the web so much for work that i rarely throw personal words into the void. i very much believe i will never be a {creative} writer in this lifetime, because it means too much to me to have to write for profit {life may surprise me}. i am a content creator for a profession. but i turn 24 this week, and so as i always do at this time of the year, i put a little personal out into the world. 

24.

the year where i learnt a little more about self care. about opening that bottle of wine and having a glass a night. staying home and cooking because i now have an apartment and a burgundy wine glass. craving roast chicken and making it myself instead of going out. defining a personal style. getting clothes properly altered and tailored to fit me. swapping sourdough for rye bread, but also splurging on lovely buttery brioche (the blueberry and white chocolate ones are the best!). 

the age where i continue to learn: the difference between slim and fit

is huge. i am one of the more flexible in my xtend barre classes, and probably one of the slim ones. but the weakest by a long shot. i cannot get through a whole weights series, or the abs series. slim and fit are two different things, and who knew that for me, getting over my tendency to slip back into calorie counting and disordered eating just meant exercising more? because seeing my body change in the mirror was just the key. not slimmer, but stronger. i think it is so important that we do not mix up slim with healthy. slim is not fit. 

women often tell me that i don't need to exercise when they see me running out the door in my reformer gear. 'you're slim,' they say. not knowing how harmful the mentality of 'only non-thin people need to exercise' can be, to women of all sizes. exercise used to be punishment to me, because it was a validation of the fact that i needed to lose weight. 'i don't exercise for weight loss,' i want to say. i exercise because i'm starting to see muscles and it genuinely excites me, and do you know how long it's been since i've been able to say that? 

i own a fitbit. i go for 3km morning walks every morning. i do xtend barre twice a week and am starting personal training sessions next week. I CAN DO PUSH-UPS. and the funky planks with the quick footwork! i do this not to be skinny, but to be strong. i love that my abs engage now without hurting my lower back. that there is a line down the middle of my abs that tell me my bone structure is changing due to all the work. i can see my biceps, and triceps (a muscle whose location i never knew of until a month or so ago). thin was an ongoing battle i was never going to win, but the more i see definition pop up around my body the less i care about the fact that my measurements may never reach my 33-24-34 unhealthy ideal*. it is not my body type, and that was a losing battle. but fitness is an uphill climb and i can see real results. 

and when i am hungry, i eat. 


*this is not to say that 33-24-34 is not healthy. but due to my actual bones being in the way, it is not possible for me without removing a couple of ribs. 



23

October 11, 2014



Here are the things I understand about myself at 23.

life is too short not to have the haircut you want.

it is okay to want more than one coffee a day. 

no matter how hard it is to get yourself there, you will never regret that yoga session. 

"The truth is, you can skip the pursuit of happiness altogether and just be happy.”

Take walks. Move. Breathe. Do what makes you happy right now. Do it now. 

I will never want to be just one thing.
Sometimes I favour baggy tee shirts and no makeup, only to hit the pavement on the hunt for the perfect red lip (NARS Red Lizard) the next. In my twenty third year I learned how to do my hair, and got a cut I am delighted with. I still get my colour from a cardboard box, mostly. 

But I am not glamorous or sexy or glossy or tall. And any attempts to play-act at those things makes me feel awkward and never quite right. I will likely be asked for ID at every bar until I’m at least thirty. I don’t think I’m ever going to be the girl who takes the perfect sexy-pout-selfie while slightly inebriated at 2am. If I’m inebriated at 2am, I’m likely in my owl-print bottoms sipping out of (okay, classy) champagne flutes at home. I can be adorable. I can even be pretty. And I will forever be excitable, naive about a lot of things, and not classy at all. And that’s okay.

I love yoga as a form of exercise, but am slightly hesitant these days due to cultural appropriation. In my twenty third year, Australia became my sort of proper home after seven years here. And I have become more educated about the manifestations of racism. I am fortunate that my personal encounters with racism have been minimal. But I do know that this is in part due to my (genetic!) features, American accent, and the fact that it has always been my dream to live in the United States. Having essentially been immersed in American culture from a young age, I’ve grown up with a very international world view and way of acting. None of which should make me exempt from any inappropriate comments - ignorant or otherwise - about my race. I am still racially one hundred percent Chinese. I am not the ‘exception’. I am just a Chinese girl brought up in Singapore who spent her entire childhood wishing she was somewhere different. Everyone is different, and our diversity should be celebrated.
I never talk about my weight. Mostly because I know how numbers can be a trigger for so many people, as it used to be and maybe still is for me. My eating disorder is in the past, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t still occasionally struggle with the shape of my thighs. But I know that a 33-inch hip can be just as healthy as a 35-inch hip (which I am) as a 38-inch hip. And that fat-shaming may be a thing, but then so is skinny-shaming. Privileged or not. And it is more important to focus on whether we’re eating enough greens, moving our bodies, and are happy. At least, that is what I want to worry about.
I also want to worry about rest. And how I seem to be constantly exhausted, prone to collapsing and susceptible to illness. I want to stop treating life (and work) like a marathon that I cannot stop running. I want to embrace the stops and the starts and everything in between. But in this season in my life I need to stop and reflect and listen to me a whole lot more. 

"
There comes a point in those hungry moments when your legs go weak, and your mind can’t stop formulating to-do lists and the email notifications are coming in faster than you can even delete them.  It’s a point where you’re perpetually late and the clouds of your brain clear for a second to think…there must be another way.  There must be a way to sit down with the person I love for just a few minutes in the morning and see how they’re doing and maybe, just maybe, hear that sizzle of bacon grease." 
Source
I did not experience heartbreak in my twenty third year. And it is interesting to think about the fact that if Jacob and I marry as we say we are likely to, that I will not experience the only sort of heartbreak I’ve known, ever again. That is: the heartbreak from unrequited love, from the going of separate ways and the I-don’t-love-you-any-mores. There is worse pain, of course. Permanent devastating loss (of life), the loss of a child, and all the things that come after. Growing up scares me.
I want to wake up early, sleep in, wake up late. Drink coffee, eat a burger, then freak out and eat a lot of salad. I want to learn how to take personal days without the crippling guilt. How to style a pair of flats that aren’t ballet flats. I want to drink a lot of tea, stay up late, slow dance in the kitchen and drink far too much champagne. I used to believe in the quotes that talked about moving fast not wasting time, and want to believe in the quotes that said to be still. I want my life to be a lot of both. Activity is life. Laziness is life too. I want to learn how to spend my money on things that make me happy. Knowing that I will probably never be happy with a $1000 bag, but that books and lipsticks that I never wear tend to make me far more excited. Whether it’s a bag of coffee beans or oatmeal with far too much cinnamon in the morning, or sitting in a cafe watching the world come to life, I want to live a life that makes me happy.
i don’t want to look back and regret. especially not when i know what that regret would be. i won’t regret not banking that extra couple of hours at work. but i will regret missing the sun-shows happening on the beach a fifteen minute walk away from me.

2014.

January 8, 2014

practise mindfulness
adopt a minimalist mindset
embrace self-love

i am the kind of girl that panics on the last day of the year. i am intent on getting my ducks lined up, my life in order, goals mapped out and being all set to sprint when midnight strikes. basically, completely nuts. the last week of a year is when i have the biggest panic attacks, and more often than not make the decisions that affect the next year to come. one year, i decided on the city i was going to move to. two years, i ended relationships - once actually on new year’s eve. the new year reaaaally turns on the crazy for me.

so this year i decided to pause. i decided to forgo the intention-making, and breathe the first few days of 2014 before jumping into figuring out what i want the year to hold.

there are many things i want to do this year and want to see happen. and there are many ways in which i want to see myself change. move past my eating problems for one. embrace moving {read: gentle exercise} a little more. pour out a lot more. and be a lot more optimistic. but i find goals like these cause more panic and frustration than necessary. a goal to ‘practise yoga three times a week’ would send me into throes of panic if i missed a couple of sessions because i preferred baking a cake. or if i chose to go for a walk instead. and i’d feel guilty and awful for doing what the whole thing is all about to begin with: to learn to love myself more.

i love myself enough to want to move my body as frequently as i can. but i also love myself enough to give my body a break when it needs one. i love myself enough not to fill myself with guilt every time i don’t do something i think i’m supposed to do. i love myself enough to not let my ego control me when it comes to possessions - i don’t need the world. i do not need a ton of shoes or makeup. i love myself enough to go bare-faced some days and not point out every flaw in the mirror. i love myself enough to load up on the veggies because i deserve that much. i love myself enough to keep my house clean because i deserve to live in a proper home. i love myself enough to allow myself time to breathe, time to push, time to hold back, and time to love. i love myself enough to love myself as i am now. to live in the moment and love myself as is, and not keep pushing to be better.

i don’t know about you... {22}

October 8, 2013

no, i don’t feel twenty two.
In so many ways, i feel younger. And then i also feel older.
I have a typically adult schedule. I rise absurdly early at 6am – sometimes even 5.30am – and I do things like laundry and grocery lists and meal planning. I make a coffee, I dress for work. I have breakfast at my desk while I read the paper... I leave for home in the evening, swing by the store. We prepare dinners and lunches and trade news. I didn’t know I’d be doing these things at 22.

At 22, I like loose jeans. The kind that allow adventures and explorations to breathe into them. I don’t like going out for brunch much any more; I relish the puttering around my kitchen more. I still love coffee; its comfort and warmth. I avoid sugar as much as I can, although if I crave a chocolate bar I have it. Kinder Buenos fill me with happiness, and blueberry muffins are deeply comforting. I prefer my hair on the shorter side, though not too short. I like sunny days and weirdly enough have been craving doughnuts. We drove to the cool random van parked in a carpark yesterday just to grab some fresh hot ones.  

I was meant to graduate from law school at 21. I still graduated at 21, but not with a law degree and 6 months later. That is not a failure, I know. I hated law school. It was so far away from what I wanted to do. Yes, it validated my intelligence, grades and yadda yadda whatever. But what was the point? And leaving law school might just have been the best thing I’ve ever done.
They say the twenties are the experimenting years, the wild years. But I’ve never been much of a wild child. I had a couple of more typical college years {even though I still drank hardly any, but I did sit around in pubs and eat bad fast food}, but I’ve always hated wasting time and panicked over a lack of growth. That’s me – always moving. Always looking upwards {and onwards}. My aim is to build a life in my twenties. And in my 23rd year, I hope to build a home – one I know I’ll stay in for a while.
If there’s one thing my life has lacked, it’s probably stability and permanence. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 22nd year, it was to accept these things. I learned that grown ups love big.
Jacob and I had a slight scuffle last week, where I said something insensitive in my despair, and hurt him. And then I asked him why – why turn down jobs, why stay here, why support me to the extent that he does. To which he said in exasperation, “Because I love you!” And perhaps these are the years where I learn to accept that kind of love and sacrifice, and learn how to love immensely in return.
In my 22nd year, I moved down to Albany to live with the guy I love. I got a job. I graduated. We bought furniture. I learnt how to relax a little more. It’s okay if the bathroom isn’t completely tidy, or if there’s clothes on the floor. Let the dishes go for a night. Relax. I learn that so much of my panic and anxiety is unnecessary. I don’t have to be in such a perpetual hurry to move and grow and clean and move again.
I’m excited for my birthday weekend. Dinner at Pepper and Salt, naturally. It is our spot. And I know party hats will be involved sometime over the weekend. Silly party hats, because it is with this man where I can be a grown up 22 and a childish one. We’ll go out to brunch, have raw organic cheesecake, and visit a few wineries and eat cookies. And I’ll try to relax. I nixed the elaborate chocolate cake idea. I might make a chocolate truffle cake – the simplest chocolate truffle mousse cake there is, and the ABC naturally gets the leftovers. They tell me they’ve had a lack of baked goods since I started working. But I’m excited about my apple tarte tatin. Store bought puff, because making a rough puff after 8 hours of work is too much and that’s OKAY.

I never saw birthdays as a big deal, but this year it kind of is. This year, I moved here and we made a home here and I’m learning to settle in and love and accept love. I’ve peeked into the world of decision-making and proper discussions and complaining about the massive amounts of tax we have to pay. And the world of heaping piles of laundry, meal plans and figuring out a different kind of life step by step. And so I celebrate.

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