Last night, I slept early thinking I'd wake up early too. Apparently, my body does not work that way, so I'm sticking to my late nights and late starts. Since I'm working on some very exciting projects, I'm pretty sure I'll be up later than usual these next months.
Without further ado...
To the Night and My Fellow Owls
To the Night and My Fellow Owls:
Good Early Morning
When there are few of us left
To roam the streets
Or lay on our beds
And avoid sleep.
The grey sky has infected our hands
And our eyes
And our dreams
Like the poison we willingly drink
If we should hoot
Into the twinkling night
Shall our call pierce the silence
That has so long accompanied us?
Shall we rest our heads
And find sorrow in sleep?
Shall we remain awake
With our eyes devouring
The soft glow of our world?
The first poem of the Cityscape project is a play on imagination, though it's not much of a city poem per se.
The lights glitter overhead
Spells leave behind.
Into the space that men in suits and ties cannot find.
It is quiet here
Where no one goes
But little old me
Who is not so old
As utterly free.
Feel more like candle wick flames
Never hurting me.
The rain painted leaves
To music that makes no sound.
I feel the rhythm.
It seeps into my marrow,
Still my ears hear nothing
And I am stilled.
I do not care for dancing
I am still as death.
It is not me
Who takes to the dance floor tonight.
Not when the stage is smaller than my feet.
Here, fairy children dance
In the bushes
With their lithe limbs
Taunting us Big Folk
To confuse reality with fantasy.
But as I lean my head closer, closer
The bushes are empty
And it's just the wind playing tricks on me.
I've been compiling a few concise poems I've been writing lately. I wrote it primarily to get some poems out on my wattpad account, but I figured I'd get them out on this site as well.
The basic vision I developed for these poems is how mundane life in the city isn't as mundane as it feels.
All it really takes is seeing everything in a new perspective.
And it does become increasingly difficult to see the city in a positive light when I inherently dislike the place. (My personal take on it, don't feel offended please.)
So, that's what I'll be exploring for the next few posts. I realise I've got a lot of things on my plate for this term, so I'm trying to balance this whole site thing with my studies as well as my other writing projects.
It's quite exciting, and it keeps me off Facebook. (I say it like it's my drug.)
Here it comes.
I’m sure of it.
I can feel the ground vibrating as it approaches; I can feel my stomach twist itself into a knot; I can taste the blood on my tongue; I can feel the train crash into my side, crushing my skull and shattering my bones.
To be honest, I used to be terrified of this dream.
Perhaps my fear was heightened by (a) my wild imagination at the ripe age of seven and (b) the pain I had felt in the dream.
I don’t understand why I can feel pain even in dreams. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to be impossible to do so, but apparently I am an anomaly. So, I dream and it feels real. I feel fear, and dread, and pain—the kind of pain that causes a child to cry uncontrollably.
For this reason, when I was younger, it was difficult to compartmentalise dreams and reality. I remember Mom waking me up for school one day, and me staying in bed but dreaming I’d already gotten dressed. Five minutes later, when Mom came back to wake me, I muttered “but I’m already dressed.”
Another afternoon, after a nap, I began to dismantle our wooden dresser. I tossed shirts and pants here and there, claiming I had tucked a golden pouch in between my shirts. I remember being extremely upset about it, only to realise years later that it had been a dream. I’d never owned a golden pouch.
And so, when I slept, I often feared my recurring nightmares. The crash, I soon found out, was inevitable. On nights I was quite aware of myself, even when I dreamt, I attempted to manipulate my fate. I struggled to outrun the train; I tried to climb off the tracks; I lay flat on the track gaps so the train would whizz above me.
All attempts failed.
All ended as painfully as the last nightmare.
As the years lapsed by like wispy clouds on a windy day, the nightmares faded away. I no longer have these dreams, but I am still afraid of a different sort of crashing.
I fear that there will be that one opportunity that life presents me—that incoming crash—that I will fail to live up to.
I fear that after all my attempts at living a meaningful life, after all the opportunities I’ve been given, I will crash and achieve nothing.
There are times I fear that I won’t be ready when this great opportunity knocks on my door. What if I hadn’t heard the doorbell ring? What if I’d slept in? What if opportunity just decides to up and leave before I can turn the knob?
It is the crash that seems inevitable.
But I refuse to believe it is certain.
I suppose this urgency keeps me on my toes—keeps me writing, and studying, and learning, and improving myself in an attempt to prepare myself for fate’s vigorous knock.
Yes, opportunity may never come for me.
Yes, the crash might be this huge myth I’ve been inclined to believe in.
Yes, maybe I will have to seek my fate in another way.
But no, I refuse to sit idly by and dream of the rain whilst failing to till my soil.
My crash is coming.
I best be ready for it.
At five, I learned the lesson of love through bedtime stories and hot chocolate. In curled up blankets, in the space between ‘awake’ and ‘asleep,’ Mom kisses my forehead and whispers goodnight. Her kiss lights the night light so my sister no longer fears the dark. Her kiss protects against the monsters lurking in the shadows for the times she was.
Dad boards planes and circles the world, but when he lands, he brings back postcards of where he’s been, and our house seems to stir in anticipation as he unlocks the gate.
At five, I learned to love this way—blankets and postcards, stories and used plane tickets.
At seven, I learned the lesson of love through illegal notes passed backwards—always backwards—containing secrets that mean nothing but the thrill of the act. Amidst the lessons learned at first glance, and the thick paperbacks read underneath the classroom armchair, and the incomprehensible noise of hallways and cafeterias, I learned friendship through my seatmate’s words. Both of us mischievous second graders—I was just not as good in math.
I learned the lesson through the people of the pages—ones I believed were real.
Jo March, Harry Potter, Oliver Twist, Peter Pevensie…
Ones who I’ve come to realise were real but not really real.
At seven, fondness expanded, and I believed there was no capacity limit. Black was black and white was white and I was one or the other, more times one than the other, and there was no grey in my little world.
At twelve , I learned the lesson of a mistake: that ‘love’ can be thrown around, that ‘love’ and infatuation should be delineated, that words cannot be taken back once said, that sometimes what looks like love isn’t love, that loving love and being in love were two different things, that love is not an idea with a face.
At fifteen, I learned to love through Fridays huddled up with radicals in the church basement—people who would carry me through the fire and hold my head up when I’d rather keep it down. I met a Seattle girl with a heart like the ocean, who taught me that ‘love’ transcends all barriers—mistakes, sexual orientation, race, belief systems. We were not meant to judge.
At seventeen, I learned the lesson like a firecracker. I saw the world vividly, like a rocket launched into the sky. The night had stars that winked as I whirled by. Exploding was only part of the experience. I should have known rockets combust.
At seventeen, I learned the lesson of restraint, because ours was the ambiguous grey of hollow blocks, foundations without follow through, the requirement of cement to fill our holes. In hindsight, we were nothing, and yet in that moment, we were more than enough. We were the grey I’d refused to acknowledge existed.
We were nothing.
We were more than I was willing to take.
And for this reason, we were nothing.
I learned the lesson of words unspoken, fugitive glances, and straying thoughts.
There are days I wish we could have played it out—the story of open endings—but you played the game with another muse, and I was content with our nothing.
At seventeen, I learned that ‘almost’ is what we had, and more than I ever wanted in the first place. And that hot chocolate with mom and plane tickets with Dad stir up more warmth in my soul than I’d ever experienced.
And at an older age, the lesson is not over. Perhaps I shall overthink the year tonight and decide that I learned the lesson of an unseen fire—steady and unwavering, and yet unnoticed. I, perhaps, have learned the lesson of appreciation: for the dinners Mom made, for the comments Dad gave, for the laughs my siblings shared, for the friendship never thanked, for the nights spent in prayer, for the nights prayers were answered, for the God who never seems to rest, for the King who still listens.
This week, I’ve learned the crippling side effect of fear.
It begins with some certain hope.
When my friend Frankie introduced me to the ASEAN Young Writer’s Competition, exhilaration coursed through my veins. I’d been searching and praying for a regional competition I could enter, but so far, my stories had never quite fit the designated theme. But this was a competition that encouraged short stories of all forms: fantasy, reality, tragedy, borderline crazy, basically anything. I became drunk with the possibility of winning from the very start.
(Note: possibility does not mean high probability. I'm still working on believing in myself...)
Then, once my hope was established, fear crept in like a Serpent.
“How could you possibly win this,” it whispered in the dark recesses of my mind, “you haven’t published anything so far. All you are is an amateur storyteller. Ha! You’re not even an amateur. You’re just a tiny speck holed up in front of your laptop!”
I could not contest. It was true. I haven’t been given the opportunity to publish my work. When I’d submitted my novel to literary agents, I received their spear tipped rejection letters with a target marked heart. Before 2013, I refused to ‘put myself out there’ precisely because I considered my work as filthy as rags.
Fear had struck its chord, and I had turned my ear to listen.
By bed time, I felt defeated. I was not planning to enter at all.
Then, Mich sent me a text I did not expect at all.
“There is no fear in love,” the text read from 1 John 4:18. “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear…”
I’d practically begged my mom not to take me back home after school yesterday, because I would have been sitting in front of my laptop, writing but not really writing.
That’s the tricky thing about fear. I did not even know what I was afraid of until that very moment.
I feared that if I allowed myself to dream, I would be disappointed. I feared that I was yelling into the void and that no one would find me worthy enough to yell back.
So when the text continued to say “we can dream a bigger dream than the dream we live today,” I felt like shrinking back into my shell.
What if my dreams are rendered invalid? I thought. What if I am simply setting myself up for a huge let down?
Mich went on to say “don’t be afraid to aim for the big [dreams] because [God’s] perfect love drives out fear…Love is and has always been the greatest motivation ever!”
For those who do not know, I believe in Christ. I believe in God.
This does not mean I do not doubt His plans or even Himself sometimes, it just means that when all else has happened, I will always come to the conclusion that, yes, God is my Lord and Christ is my Saviour.
I’ve been afraid that my dream to be an author—a storyteller—will never happen. I’ve been afraid that God will say “no” to my dream.
My dream makes me feel alive, like the way a thousand winds make you want to dance in the rain. My dream makes me want to live, but my fear kills the hope I have in my dream.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about fear: it will always look real if there is no other truth to counteract it.
When I first began posting stories online, I used a pseudonym for fear of being called a horrible writer by my peers. This year, though fear was present, I began to operate Blot Press (what others call my blog) under my own name.
It took much courage. I prayed for months before beginning Blot Press, and I’d wrestled with God when He’d clearly said “stop arguing with me and start writing.” In fact, it felt like I was gambling away the privacy I had fostered for myself.
The result was overwhelming. I had never expected my stories to impact people in the way they have.
Here’s the other thing I’ve learned about fear: we are not meant to wait for it to disappear before conquering it.
There’s an internal battle within me at this moment. Shall I fear the absence of a response from the void or shall I, despite that fear, step out in faith and yell as loud as I can anyway? Shall I fight God when I’d prayed for this opportunity in the first place? Shall I not seize this chance by the neck and take a step towards my dream?
I’ve made my decision.
Though the buildings seem tall, I will attempt to touch the sky.
I will attempt to yell into the void.
And you, dear reader?
Are you prepared to conquer your fears?