Single life

I was awake at around 8. Played two games of chess on my phone and eventually got out of bed at around 9. I made a coffee and a smoothie for myself, and played the piano for about an hour to warm up my body. It’s the coldest day of the year today, and I was mostly ironing out some unsmooth bits in the tango piece I’ve been trying to graduate from (ie record a video of it) but failed two attempts thus far.

I then took a shower, moisturized my face and limbs, dried my hair, meditated with my fresh scented body for 20 minutes, and texted my friend Tom about my preference to stay in tonight. (We loosely talked about meeting tonight even though he loathed NYE and would rather hibernate through it.) I was playing chess against a bot when someone called, someone I’m casually involved with. I was remotely delighted to receive the call, but started to feel the need to hang up after 10 mins. A little over 11, I started to wash the rice. When waiting for the rice to be cooked I read my book in the living room (Housekeeping by Marilynne Robison). The music playing was Nina Simone. My lunch – braised ribs today – was prepared by my part-time cleaning lady, Lan, who comes every Saturday. Two weeks ago I asked if she could try making meals for me and she gladly jumped on the extra income. So every Saturday, she’d make the amount of food (two dishes) for about a week and I’d put them into boxes, and boxes into the freezer. For each meal I’d defrost a box and heat it up. I inherited the idea from a terminated tinder date that I went out three times with. I definitely mocked at him when he told me this was how he managed his work week meals and secretly I thought, maybe I should try that too. And I did. I have to admit it’s kinda genius.

I ate my lunch – braised pork and freshly cooked rice – with an episode of In Treatment. I cried a little bit at the end, (it was very moving), and realized it’s been a while since I last cried. After lunch, I got dressed properly and left the house for some errands. It’s the last work day of the year and I gotta go to the bank for some stupid reason. The weather was chilly and sunny, which made the walk to the mall a pleasant one. After the bank, I took a stroll to Muji and M&S and found nothing to buy. I snatched a takeaway coffee and on my way home, took a detour to the park and sit under the sun for a while, sipping my coffee. The last stop before home was the fresh market, where I bought two avocados, 3 pounds of sugar orange and two bouquets of fresh flowers, one purple-ish, one yellow-ish.

It was 4 when I was back home. I arranged the flowers into the vases and wasn’t sure what to do next. After two more games of chess, I put on some Thelonious Monk, and sat down in front of the desk for the first time of the day. The coffee was getting cold, so was the day.

I’d admit. I was contemplating writing a year-end essay all this time, as I usually do. But somehow, some part of me wasn’t convinced of the idea. Is it more of a gesture than of any actual meaning? Do I really owe myself, or anyone, such a gesture? Mostly importantly, deep down I know there’s nothing groundbreaking I could possibly write, as some kind of reflection of an unimaginable year. I’ve come across numerous “look back at 2020” kind of contents, people hastily making mental closures, plowing for the positive meanings and takeaways, and desperately wishing for a brighter, freer year. For the whole day, I was hoping these sentiments would arise so I could seize it and sugarcoat the hell out of it. But they never really came. There wasn’t a moment of epiphany. I went on with the day as how I lived most of my days in the past year, ordinary, alone, placid. I wrote it down becoz this is the only thing I could write about.

On the last day of this year, I still feel amazed at how I could live the kind of placidity that I always wished for in such a unexpected way; and how, despite my longtime yearning for the simple and solitary way of living, difficult it really is. Underneath the tranquil surface, is a delicate balance that I constantly struggle to strike. There are times I could have melt myself in the gentleness of being, and there are times I just wanna scream the solitude out of my flesh. I have briefly harboured some, mostly out of the need of companionship. Also have I remorselessly steered away from many. Ultimately, it’s a year I’ve been (voluntarily or involuntarily) more devoted to the single life than I could ever imagine. The “single” here isn’t referring to one’s relationship status, but rather an unreserved acceptance of one’s sheer existence, as imperfect as it might be, and a persistently conscious effort to be compatible with it. On this, as strange as it might sound, being through 2020 isn’t bringing me any sense of ending. It’s merely the beginning.


Last but not least, here’s a song for you, my dearest, mysterious readers. Until the next dance.

Cover of a Dylan love song and (brief) thoughts on the sincerity of music.

Think I’d share my latest cover song here with a few words.

I first wanted to do a cover of this song as early as May this year, but was stopped by the intensity of affections in the lyrics. I didn’t remotely have anyone in my mind that’d make me feel singing it is a genuine act, the cover thought was thus halted for a few months. (Although, I’m also curious how genuine Bob Dylan was when he first wrote the lyrics.)

I don’t usually ponder over this matter that much, not when I did my previous other cover pieces. I have covered songs which the story basically felt quite irrelevant, but merely out of my appreciation of the music itself (eg Hallelujah, Santa baby). I also covered some songs which I could more or less relate to but the emotion was kinda water under the bridge when I recorded it (eg Mad world, End of the world).

It’s usually easy for people to sing a song without fussing over what it means, and most of the time I enjoy the simplicity of this approach. And yet, somehow, with “Make you feel my love”, there is something in the lyrics that alarms me of the basic sincerity of music. Maybe it just steps above the comfortable level to which I’m willing to give a dramatic license for my own covers. Maybe the lack of an imagery in my mind was too much at odds with the affections in the lyrics. Or maybe, I’ve simply passed the age that one is able to sing an ordinary love song lightheartedly.

Fast-forward to 5 months later, I covered this song eventually. As vigilant as I am of how pop love songs can be self-fulfilling and shallow the realness of the subject, I do consider myself lucky that I was feeling an inch closer to the emotional state that (I think) is required to cover this beautifully composed Dylan piece.

And, for the sake of everything I just said, I added some personal footnotes for the lyrics to my own interpretation below. Consider it another laughable and serious act from me. Hope you’d enjoy the song.


Make You Feel My Love

Bob Dylan

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

(Yes, I guess I can and will do that. I don’t think I need to “offer” that – I’ll just do it.)

When evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

(A million years…I don’t know. I’d rather not put a time stamp on it.)

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong

(No seriously, this is something I’d rather not promise, and not be promised on. )

I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

(This sounds quite condescending and I don’t feel all comfortable with it)

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
And oh, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

(Alarmingly dramatic.)

The storms are raging on the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet

(I feel this is the part that’s most real in the whole song. And I love that it implies “I” am a flawed character but “I” am also confident that I shall be a new experience to “you”. If it only takes one line in a song to wrench a heart, “you ain’t see nothing like me yet” is this line for me. )

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love

(Another dramatic verse, but I’m touched by and can relate to the intention of “make you happy and make you dreams come true”, which I believe is something shared by everyone ready to love, at the great length a poet can go.)

「week 29」Ringing out the old

It’s this time of the year again. The date on the calendar is reading a mixed sense of anxiety and hope. Another year has passed, are we closer to the things we want or further? At this time of the year, we seem to always secretly think that “let’s just get it over with”, wishing that a change of vintage would just miraculously write things over.

In a nutshell, I am actually quite happy with my 2019. It’s probably the one year that I spent the most alone time in my life. I traveled by myself four times throughout the year, two of them profoundly changed my perspectives — a 6-day unplugged silent retreat in Bali and a long-overdue first trip to Paris. I got a new job, made more money. I reignited an old passion for piano. I took my body serious and trained hard. It’s a year I didn’t share myself with anyone. A year I fully retreated to the basics. A year I worked hard to make me re-like myself.

Last time this year, I was alone in Bali. I didn’t intend to be alone. (Even for me, someone who travels solo all the time, I still would prefer to be not alone for that time of the year.) But I didn’t really have a choice. My relationship ended before the trip I planned with my ex so I had to go by myself.

I booked a volcano sunrise tour for Jan 1st, so I celebrated new year’s eve by dining alone at 5pm in the best restaurant in Ubud center and went to bed at 9pm. I woke up at 2:30am the next day, a tour guide picked me up and drove me to the volcano area. It was a long drive, we chitchatted a little bit. I looked out the window at the moon, feeling both sleepy and nervous, for I really dreaded climbing a mountain and I knew it’d kill me for my pathetic level of muscle strength. I started to climb up following a local guide in pure darkness. It was slowly lighting up. People passed ahead of me one after another while I was panting like a cow. It was as tough as I imagined, if not more. By the time we arrived at the peak, the first sunbeam of 2019 was out. It’s hard to describe how I felt at that moment. I was both exhausted and excited. I had no one to share the excitement with. I remember thinking to myself: it’s not that scary, isn’t it? (I was wrong, it was really scary going down the hill.)

When I was back to ground level alive after scratching and scrambling and cursing my way down the hill, I posted on Instagram and said: “I reckon there’s no better new year present than this, stronger legs, stronger heart.”

Looking back, I do believe I have lived up to my own expectations this year.

A few days ago I realized I sort of made a list of resolutions sometime last year. So I dug it out and did a self-review. The result, surprisingly, is only 50% disappointing. Attaching it below for everyone’s entertainment. (I wrote it in Chinese originally, so I’m keeping the Chinese and giving a quick translation in English.)


New Year Resolution 2019:

Behaviorally:

狠狠加大阅读量。不是for pleasure only的阅读量,是真正通过量变达到质变的阅读量。每天集中时段阅读一小时以上。每本new yorker至少读2篇(不包括shouts and murmurs). 确保身边永远有书可看 。
Read, a lot, not for pleasure only, but read to the extent that qualitative change happens. Read one hour everyday. Read at least 2 articles in every issue of New Yorker.(excluding shouts and murmurs). Make sure there’s always a book around.

Review: Failed. Stopped reading books after Paris. And only read New Yorker occasionally.

写作。除了平时的随笔和日记,每个月进行一次短篇写作尝试。
Write. Except essay and diary, try to write a short story every month.

Review: 80% on target. Didn’t manage to make progress on short story.

显著减少社交网络使用。social networking screentime降至1.5hr以下。有意识地养成每天只在固定时间(如午饭、 晚饭等)看社交网络的习惯。
Significantly cut down on social mediating. Keep social network screentime under 1.5 hour a day. Develop a habbit to only look at SNS at particular times in a day (eg lunch, dinner).

Review: hmmmmm. pretty much failed. my phone addiction is more serious than ever – I blame it on the new iPhone 11pro.

每周健身3次——yoga、fitness、boxing。夏天学paddling。养成在家可以做的30分钟routine。 Three times of fitness activity a week. Learn paddling in summer. Develop a 30-minute home workout routine.

Review: 80% on target. didn’t learn paddling. didn’t do any home workout – too busy ordering chicken nuggets. But training has become a core part of my daily routine and I have developed a mental need for it.

每天练半小时吉他。每个月至少练一首新歌。
Play the guitar for 30 mins every day. One new song a month.

Review: On target, except that guitar is replaced by piano now.

减少看电视时间,美剧一天最多只能看一集,whatever that is。每周可有一天chill day。
Cut back on watching tv. One episode a day at most, whatever that is. One chill day a week (means free pass on TV).

Review: hmmm. I did watch less…. but sometimes before I reachded the controler to press “stop” the next espide has already begun. I blame Neftlix for leaving too little mental struggling time for viewers.

生物钟目标:12点睡,7点起。早上预留一小时时间做以上任何一件事,如阅读、瑜伽、吉他。 Schedule goal: bed at 12, up at 7. Leave one hour in the morning to do anything mentioned above: read, yoga, guitar.

Review: 100% failed.

消费及存款目标:减少可有可无的消费。普通衣物购买准则:买一件新衣服,就要舍弃一件旧衣物。每个月可以买一件pricey & timeless piece。每个月平均存1/3收入。
Consumption and saving goal: cut down on Latte factors. Principle of buying clothes: an old piece has to go to make room for every new piece. Can buy one pricey and timeless piece a month. Save 1/3 of salary at least.

Review: Beating the target thanks to my one year clothes shopping hiatus pledge.

饮食目标:晚饭戒碳水。学会3个可以自己做的晚饭菜式(excluding速冻饺子)。勤用榨汁机!
Diet goal: no carbs for dinner. Learn 3 dishes that I can cook myself (excluding frozen dumplings). Use the juicer frequently.

Review: pretty much failed. I need to eat heathier.

掌握高质量地独处技能。对每一次大剂量独处进行规划和目标设定。谨记独处不等同于懈怠。
Master the skill of spending quality time alone. Make plan and set a goal for every big chunk of alone time. Remember being alone doesn’t mean slack.

Review: 50% on target. There are ups and downs.

Mindset:

1 – 对新事物保持开放态度。Keep an open attitude to anything NEW.
2 – 减少成见、偏见、不在不了解对方时stereotype任何人。Hold back on prejudice. Never stereotype anyone before knowing them.
3 – 建立positive perspective. Establish a positive perspective.
4 – Don’t be petty. 
5 – 在亲密关系中做到坦诚。过没有谎言的生活。Be honest in any intimate relationship. Live life without lies.

Review: can do better on no.2.


This will also be my last post this year. I appreciate everyone who has ever visited this place and spent time reading my thoughts. Resuming writing, out of everything, is the most meaningful move for me in 2019. A friend asked me earlier this year that “what do you like about writing?” It got me in the first few seconds. I don’t think anyone has asked me that before. After thinking for a while, I told him “I write to help myself. It’s a therapeutic process for me.” I guess people write for different reasons. And I, for one, write for very selfish reasons, and will probably continue to write for this reason only. But I believe every writer writes in the hope to reach someone, anyone, a potential reader, a potential reader that can resonate. Knowing there are people reading, does make me feel less lonely.

Thanks for reading and happy new year.


「week 25」Returning and the cave

I decided to write this piece with as least thinking and organizing as possible.

In the past month or so that I didn’t write, I was busy with many things. Travelling alone in Laos. Starting the new job. Getting annoyed and exhausted by the new commute. A short and reminiscent trip to Shanghai. Seeing someone that means something to me. Meeting many that mean little to me. Being distracted for silly reasons. A few silent and chronic heartbreaks, for the soured friendship, the enlarging gap on a society level, the fleeting intimacy.

On top of all these undercurrents, I feel like I was really just busy doing one thing. I was waiting for them to pass. I was waiting for this moment that I can sit down back at my desk and type, with a more or less neutral mind. The moment of returning.

There were twice I tried to force myself to sit down and pretend I’m here, but both times I failed. I wasn’t here. I was somewhere else. I discarded the unfinished drafts that I wrote as if they were mind garbage. I don’t want to force it. It has to be flowing out of my mind naturally. It has to be that I really feel ready to be here, instead of the adult version of me ordering me to be here. When I was in primary school, the schoolwork that I dreaded most is the weekly journal we had to write. I always felt deeply stressed by that assignment and would have a mini-breakdown (a mix of tears and curse) most Sunday afternoons when I didn’t know what to write. Funnily enough, I almost replicated the same scene in my middle-age adulthood.

I won’t say I’ve completely shrugged off the aftermath of this mini-storm in the past month or so, but here I am anyways, giving it a try, and documenting with my maximum honesty.

I started to meditate for 15 mins every night before I slept (if I’m not too drunk) recently, as an attempt to regain some control in the midst of a turbulence, or simply out of a need to spend some “quality time” with myself out of a crazy life schedule.

When I close my eyes, the one scene that keeps emerging is when I was in a dark cave in Laos. In some way, it seems my mind was trying to take me back there. The cave experience is not very pleasant to think of. I was at the end of a full-on doing-stuff day in Vang Vieng. And the last activity in my booked private tour was visiting Jung Cave. My driver dropped me off at the entrance of the area and I started to walk in myself. I was quite exhausted already and thought, let me just get this over with.

When I was walking in, I realized this scenic area is bigger than I thought. Since it was already the last opening hour of the day, people were walking out as I walked in. The whole area was getting quiet. I didn’t see any peer tourist around except myself. At somewhere, I saw a group of Lao teenagers hanging outside a small entrance to a cave, they were playing guitar and singing. I walked over, and saw a buddha at the entrance of the cave. I walked into the cave without a second thought, assuming that was the cave I was supposed to see.

As I continued to get in, the natural light was quickly lost. It was pitch dark inside and it became more and more challenging to climb. I had to use all my four limbs to climb up. I remembered seeing a group of elderly tourists walking pass me as I entered and wondered how they climbed this challenging cave. Despite of the suspicion in my mind, I proceeded to climb in pure darkness. I had to use my phone as torch so I can make out the inside of the cave – it was absolutely a wild cave, extremely narrow and steep. At one point when it was simply too narrow for me to climb through and I didn’t see any other possible ways around, I knew it was time to give up and retreat. And it was at that moment, when I tried to step down with my body in a completely twisted posture, that I missed a step and fell off in the cave by about two meters in height, with my arms and legs scratching against the rough rocks and my phone dropped off my hand. The typical “FUCK!” moment. I probably did say that, gasping and evaluating the damage. My phone was ok. I managed to stand up and reorient my body to be temporarily safe. Some scratches and broken skins on my arm and my right hip hurt terribly, but I managed to get out without further surprises.

It was an unfortunate but minor incident and I didn’t linger on too much for the rest of the trip. It was also a stupid mistake. I found my way to the “right” cave I was supposed to visit, a huge one that no climbing was involved at all. I hastily dressed the wounds and scrapped the whole wild cave excursion to the back of my mind.

When my subconsciousness took me back to the dark cave, I had no choice but to revisit the scene, the whole process, and especially the state of mind in the few seconds right after the fall. I remember feeling a fluttering fear in my heart, becoz I was all alone in a pitch dark wild cave and I just fell. If I injured myself more seriously, I could be in a real danger and it’d be very tricky to get help from where I was. I remember telling myself to stay calm and figure out a strategy (to move my body around the tricky rocks in dark) as soon as possible, I quickly switched my mind to a “surviving is key” mode. I was alone, absolutely alone, not just physically. It was like in an instant, that fall cut off all my connection with the world outside the cave and I slid to a parallel universe where there was just me. I also didn’t have any intention or bandwidth left to connect. I was 100% there, body and soul. In an obvious way, it wasn’t an ideal situation. But in a less obvious way, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, having revisited the scene repeatedly in my meditation, I realized it isn’t a situation that could be easily labelled as “good” or “bad”. It is simply an irregular heartbeat in the scale of life.

I’m not sure why this scene, of relative insignificance, kept emerging in my meditation. I could only assume it’s my subconsciousness reminding me of that feeling of my sheer existence, the kind that one sometimes can only feel through an irregular heartbeat.

Not many of us is in search of that cave. I’m certain that many of us aren’t even aware of the existence of caves like that. But the cave is just there. I have been there, by chance or by choice.

「week 20」Leaving Central

Suffering a huge hungover and a splash of self-loath, I finished my last working day with my old job. It was also my last working day in Central, after four years and four months. 

I was the last one to leave the office on my last day, waiting for my gym class at 7pm on a Friday evening. As I walked out of the office building with several bags carrying all my remained office belongings, the evening was quietly falling with an early autumn chill. I stood at one of the busiest crossing in the middle of Queen’s Road Central waiting for the light to turn green, and just at that moment, an unexplainable sense of emptiness came upon me. And I know that’s something I cannot fight against. It’s what one is supposed to feel in the situation of a substantial ending, despite of what leads to it.

I remember making the decision of coming to Central four years ago. A lot happened in 2015. I ended my 2-year relationship, quit my 4-year job at the TV station, and moved out of my 3-year apartment in Tai Wai. I’m not quite sure how my mentality exactly rolled out back then, except that I was desperate for a change, any change. It was probably for the first time, I felt the need to take back some control from life and I needed all those big gestures to make that point.

I remember telling myself, I need to find a job based in Central. And I took the first offer of a job I randomly found. It’s a really boring job, translator for an investment bank. But I didn’t care. All I needed was a job that can get me to Central, a transition in my non-existing career path. In July 2015, I started to work in The Center, just like I wished. I remember feeling odd at the beginning when I found myself blended in the central crowds, a mix of curiosity, repulsion and constant awareness of my otherness. 

I didn’t stay long on the translator job before I found another job in the same building. Dark amusingly, what motivated me to leave wasn’t the lifelessness of that job, but that I realized the medical leave benefit wasn’t good enough for me. And it wouldn’t have mattered at all if not for the illness I had to cope with at that time. As such, after 4 months of translating at machine speed but better than a machine, I moved to another job that granted me more medical leaves that I needed and a starting point in marketing, on which I spent the past 4 years at.

Thinking back, it was for pretty random and reckless causes how my whole Central chapter has happened. And it was pure damn luck that I met my previous boss (also a great mentor, role model and reliable friend), who gave me that job and enabled me to find my position in the marketing field, which I can now more or less see it as a career, instead of just a job. I really can’t take any credit but simply exclaiming at how life somehow just managed to connect the random pieces together.

From the moment I accepted the new job offer and knew that I’d be leaving Central, I’ve been in the mood of a mild grief and panic. In one way, my life sphere and activities in the past few years has been heavily based around Central. My regular gym, my boxing gym, my go-to massage parlour, my bars, my secret happy hour/people watching place, my lunch takeaway spot, my midnight snack place, my brow-trimming salon, 90% of my blind dates and 95% of my social activities… In another way, no matter how demoralising and nakedly materialistic Central is, I can’t help but feel that it did play a big part in the becoming of me. It’s an intimate witness of how I have struggled through my late-twenties crisis and landed into my thirties. It’s where it all happened. Even though I could somehow still relate to the sense of otherness that I was feeling four years ago, it doesn’t bother me anymore.

When I just started working, at the end of the first year, I wrote an essay to examine what change had working brought to me. My outcome would be utterly different if I did the same by comparing my current self to who I was pre-Central. Back then (in 2011), I was relieved I didn’t change much, while this time, I’m glad I did. I’m living a better life, not just becoz I’m making fivefold what I was making, but for that I’ve evolved from the girl who would take whatever was given solely for location’s sake, into someone strong enough to make a well-thought-out career move, even if it means leaving Central.

P.S. This piece was written in the McDonald’s at ChiangMai airport on my way to Luang Prabang. #funfact

「week 16」Story of job hopping

So the wait is over. I verbally accepted a job offer last week. (And got completely wasted on that same night semi-coincidentally, the sickness that stretched over the next 24 hours convinced me I’m too old to celebrate by over-drinking.)

I was really happy though, mostly becoz I do think it’s a positive move career-wise, but partly also becoz I was cathartically relieved the wait was finally over. For someone who hasn’t changed job in the past 4 years, I was indeed a bit rustic in the job market and had little idea of how difficult and agonizing the process can be these days, even from the side of being headhunted.

Let me start from the beginning.

Sometime last year, I was approached by a recruiter about a job, and I happened to start to have the idea of looking around at the same time, so I agreed to proceed with the opportunity without knowing what I signed up for. It was a very strong brand, let’s say Company P. The interviews went quite well, I managed to move to the next steps successfully after every round, and I managed to complete all ten rounds of interviews and one written test with all positive feedbacks.

In the end, I didn’t get that job. They chose another candidate over me. Things like this happen. But the annoying part is, I had to wait for literally one month for this piece of disappointing news. I remember receiving the email from my headhunter when I was alone in Bali during the new year break, right after a morning yoga session. I was sitting at a beautiful cafe facing a beautiful rice field, and feeling only deeply depressed. In fact, it wasn’t even about not getting the job (trust me, after one month of not hearing, you wouldn’t be still expecting anything positive anymore). It’s about feeling a concrete sense of loss, which only started to kick in from that moment, all the interviews that I had to go through, all those nights and weekends spent preparing for them, all the time and effort I had committed. For what? I’d be lying if I said there was no bitterness felt at all. From the first day I heard of this job to the last day I heard from this job, it took two and half months.

After this episode with Company P, and several other unfruitful interviews that my headhunter rushingly set me up with (I couldn’t tell if he was trying hard to comfort me or just can’t wait to cash me out), I just felt pretty exhausted and decided to put my job-hopping thoughts on hold. I was equally jaded in the job market as I was in the dating market, and turned myself into the “not-looking” mode all together.

Fast-forward to this June, I got an email about a role from the same recruiting firm. The role was with, let’s say Company A. I took a glimpse and forgot about it. I got several more messages from the recruiter chasing me over it, telling me Company A was really interested in meeting me. I relentlessly ignored them. (yes I was that jaded.)

Fast-forward to this August, I received another email from another recruiter, telling me about the same role of Company A and the same message that the hiring manager was really interested in meeting me. Now Company A had successfully got my attention. Why is Company A so obsessed with me? Out of curiosity I agreed to meet with the recruiter and hear him out about this job. It turned out that the hiring manager joined A from P earlier this year, and even though she didn’t interview me for that Company P job, she had heard good words about me from her ex-colleagues (who interviewed me), and thought I’d be a good fit for the Company A role she’s recruiting.

Everything after was pretty plain and straightforward comparatively. After only 2 rounds of on-site written tests, 7 rounds of interviews (including a final round of being asked about my political views on the current HK mess and I basically took a leap of faith by being truthful of what I think), two weeks’ nerve-wracking wait after all of the above and one round of salary negotiation, I got the job.

At this point, my friend, I guess you could more or less resonate with how relived I was, not even for getting the job, but simply for having proved that at least someone does fancy me, and I’m after all not completely un-hireable in this cruel cruel market.

And at this point, I guess I could finally go back to that early January morning in Bali, pat on the shoulder of that girl sitting in the cafe gazing at the rice field with dismay, and tell her that all those interviews she had to go through, all those nights and weekends she spent preparing for them, all the time and effort she committed…she didn’t go through them for no good reasons.

P.S. Ironically, I got an unexpected raise last week on the same day I got the offer. Even though it didn’t change anything, still, I just wanna look up in the sky and ask whoever is up there: dude, WTF?

「week 15」Insecurity attack

I had to go through a long and agonizing process of waiting (for a piece of news) in the past two weeks. In fact, as of now, the wait is not over yet. But the worst time has passed. After knowing the reason why I had to wait longer than expected, I’m waiting in a very chill fashion now.

It’s more or less a shame, but the previous excessive anxiety and disturbance from the waiting, did trigger a sense of resemblance of what I felt when I was in an emotionally abusive relationship several years ago. The sinking heart when staring at my quiet phone as hours went by, the mix of disappointment, anger, self-doubt, paranoid speculations and damaged pride, the state of being completely seized by the uneasiness and couldn’t focus on anything else.

These are two substantially different situations, apparently. But what makes me feel the resemblance, I know, is that the deepest insecurity inside me was triggered, and the reluctancy to face it. Different people has different source of the their no.1 insecurity. In the context of love and romance, some might feel most insecure about the financial state of their partner, some feel most insecure about the fidelity of their partner, some feel most insecure about the companion and attention they can get. In some way, I do more or less feel some of the above. But if I have to go full-on psychoanalytical and diagnose myself, my deepest insecurity lies in the quest I was dreading very much to face: what is my life without love, or the illusion of love?

It was the dread of the internal void that made me would rather entangle myself with someone who was clearly wrong for me for two years than letting it go, rather stare at a phone that didn’t ring and wound’t ring for hours than looking in the face of the void.

In the past ten months, I’ve been consciously staying single and focusing on filling up the void. I spent a lot of time being alone, not only becoz I realize it’s the state I’m more comfortable with relative to social occasions, but also becoz I see it as a necessary, repetitive practise. I’ve only spent time on meaningful human connections in my life and retreated from the others, acknowledging to myself that not every relation is worth keeping. I’ve rejuvenated some of my old-time hobbies. I write, I play music, I watch movies, I exercise, I take photos to document my state of existence, however ordinary it seems. I can’t say how successful I am at filling up the void, but at least all this time, I’m looking at it as it is.

My friend Jorge once told me, many people think they have to find the other half of their orange (don’t ask why, he always has some peculiar metaphors), that’s becoz they decide to see themselves as half an orange. But it’s not the case. One has to be a full orange first, and try to be a ample, happy orange. After that, no matter if you find another orange or not, or even another banana, apple, you’d at least have the power to make yourself happy. Then you make other people happy. —— That’s perhaps a cheerful Spanish version of my gloomy void theory, if one prefers.

I guess the bottom line to deal with insecurity is, there’s no shortcut, and you just have to be honest about it to start with. Of course, some people would easily resort to a temporary quick fix (e.g, finding a rich husband to oppose financial insecurity) or even slide into a sad state of self-denial/deception (e.g, engaging in a marathon dating game to maintain a perception of self worth). But there’s a difference between resisting insecurity and feeling secure. And it’s no secret that any sense of security can only come from within.

As of the reason lies under my most recent insecurity attack, well, I don’t wanna talk much about it yet to jinx the result I’m waiting for, (I’m insecure, remember?) but it did force me to look underneath the symptoms and to think hard on what to do with it. The first step is, unfortunately, wait.

P.S: A very important lesson I learned from recent piano practise: it’s more difficult to play lightly (and have perfect control of the finger strength) than to play it out loud and hard. When I realized this, it was like an “ah-ha” philosophical moment. The same rule can actually be applied to many things in life, isn’t it?

「week 14」Wasted talents

Last weekend I was practising piano in my parents’ home in Shenzhen, on the acoustic piano I played in my childhood. Since I resumed practising piano, the progress I’ve made and my relaunched passion at it have way exceeded my own expectation – I feel more attached to piano than I did when I was little. One key evidence, is Bach doesn’t appear distasteful anymore. He’s still a pain in the ass, but in a good way.

My father was pretty surprised at how “well” I was playing in such a short time and commented, “it seems all your childhood hardwork isn’t completely gone.” I joked back:” Yeah I think I’m pretty talented in Piano.” He said: “Well, you and I, we are both artistic people in the nature, with our talents wasted through time coz we didn’t stick with it.”

I was almost triggered and wanted to remind him that I didn’t stick with piano only coz you didn’t let me, which apparently is a forgotten episode for both of my parents, but I didn’t. I have no intention to risk the peace with them, and I’ve also passed the age to blame one’s parents for everything less than ideal.

But I can’t stop thinking about the “wasted talent” theory – did I really waste my talents? To be entitled to this statement, one has to be talented to start with, which, without some sort of obvious achievement or outstanding performance, is quite in question itself. Even so, throughout the process of growing up, I did hear people telling me of my potential talents from time to time: my language expression and writing skills; my singing voice and musical ear; my handwriting/calligraphy; my photography touch; my aesthetic and styling sense……and I did use to believe that I was talented in some, and was indeed quite passionate at each of the above at different periods of my life.

The thing is, I grew up in a culture that worships success, and sees a talent only worth celebrating if the value of it is maximized, ie, either one is living on a talent or making a name out of it; otherwise, an “unfulfilled” talent is merely a situation to sigh over with. These values have indeed caused me anxiety over those “wasted talents”, I can’t even begin to describe how much guilt and disturbance I had to live with for not pursuing them, for not trying harder, for not risking things for them along the way. For years, I couldn’t write anything and didn’t write anything, only becoz I cared too much about it that I thought if I don’t have the luxury of doing it perfectly, I’d rather not do it. My therapist after hearing me once pointed out: “You have a very unhealthy relationship with writing.”

These days, standing in my early 30s, it has more or less come to my realization that the intrinsic value of a “talent” lies in the fact that it brings you sensual revelation, unconditional pleasure, fullness at the soul and eventually, peace of mind. This shouldn’t be compromised with or without a worldly-defined success.

Am I really talented? Who knows. And I’m certainly less assured than my younger self, a girl who had little idea of how much it takes to call it a talent. Have I really wasted my “talents”? Maybe. But the least I have achieved so far is that I have made my peace with all my wasted “talents”. And I’m grateful that they are mostly still with me in my life, in the form of “interests”, supporting me through the daily mundane, completing me as the person I am.

P.S. My father is probably more talented in many ways than I am. He resumed his calligraphy passion after he retired a few years ago and here is the work he did for the mid-autumn festival that just passed, which is a traditional poem verse presented with a creative character. I am truly impressed.

「week 13」It’s been a while

It’s been a while that I don’t feel like doing anything. I don’t feel like working, don’t feel like reading, don’t feel like running, don’t even feel like watching tv, probably the most effortless activity available in the world. It’s like all of a sudden, I’ve lost the interest in all the stuff I’ve been doing, or used to enjoy doing. I took myself to the theatre to watch a movie. I ordered McDonald’s. I wear make-ups everyday so I look 20% prettier than what I really am. I tried many different way to please myself, but still, I don’t feel a thing.

The good thing is, it’s nothing new. Once in a while, it happens, the ultimate boredom, the lack of interest in the world I live in. When it comes, it’s like someone you know a long time ago suddenly arrive in town — you don’t particularly like her, you don’t really wanna do it, but you kinda have to entertain her when she’s here.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m living too lonely a life. Lonely not as in that I have no one to hang out with, well maybe a little of that too, but more in a way that I have no attachment in my heart. The other day when I arrived back in hong kong after my red-eye flight, sitting in the taxi home at 4am, I looked out from the window, watching the city passing by in the damp darkness, at that moment of sheer fatigue and fragility, I realized I have no one to think of. No one here, no one elsewhere. There I felt a hole in my heart. It’s been there for a while. It’s been there for a reason.

I’ve been single for ten months now, probably the longest window in my romance life. But that’s not the point here, in today’s world, being single is most of the time merely a choice of statement, instead of the reflection of a real status. The point is the lack of attachment. I almost always had some sort of attachment no matter if I’m single or not in the past, some a fleeting intimacy, some a persistent anomaly. In some way, I feed on attachments. I fed on it so I could feel something.

I’ve been free of attachment for a while now, after withdrawing from the old ones and freezing the new ones. It wasn’t a smooth ride, but here I am, in my attachment-neutral ground. It feels like an emotional rehab.

I’d rather think of my recent inactivity as a small setback in my rehab process. There’s nothing new I’m dealing with here. I’m most lucid when I’m alone. And I’m most lonely when I’m lucid. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Thank god I can resort to playing some piano these days. Piano is my new porn.

PS. I’ve vowed to not buy any clothes for a year. (*From Aug 30 2019 to Aug 29 2020). Now this is something new I’m dealing with. And it is for sure gonna be the HARDEST thing I ever have to do. Only if I succeed, obviously.

「week 9」Piano and dinner table

I went to pick up a second-hand digital piano I bought earlier yesterday. On the same night, some random stranger came and picked up the dinner table I gave away on AsiaXpat.

On my way back home with my piano on the mover’s van, I was feeling both excited and slightly embarrassed. Excited as it feels like the start of a new journey, embarrassed coz it’s not really a new journey. I played piano for 5 years when I was in primary school and junior high, and have obtained a level 8 certificate. But after 18 years of obsolescence, if you put me in front of a piano now, it’d be the same as if you put a cow in front of a piano. I simply can’t play anything anymore. One may think playing piano is similar to swimming, the kind of skill that once acquired it would never be lost. Well, it’s not, at least not in my case. It’s a skill I used to have, witnessed it evaporated through time, and am now trying to regain.

After the mover left, I sat in front of my “new” piano and pressed the keys rigidly, I simply couldn’t believe a younger version of me used to be able to work her fingers fluently on this instrument. It somewhat saddens me. I always thought I’ve evolved in a continuous way, in a way that every frame of me is perfectly stored in a safe place. But sitting in front of the piano and not being able to reconnect with the skills I used to have, I realized I’m old enough to feel dislocated from “the past”. The memories are there, but you look at it like you’re looking at someone else’s life.

And if I’m being honest, most of the memories of my piano-playing days feels pretty blurred now. I only remember a few things. I remember my first piano teacher lived in a commercial building where the basement was a McDonald’s, every weekend after my piano lesson my dad would take me there for a happy meal and my fondness for chicken nuggets was deeply rooted since then. I remember losing my temper when I was practising Bach that I used a pencil to stab the score book, tearing the page off, crying, wishing to end the misery. I remember feeling very precious of having a piano at the beginning, I was 9. One day shortly after I got the piano, my father turned up in the school out of blue looking for me. My first thought was, something bad must have happened, oh no, my piano must be stolen. It did turn out to be some bad news, not that my piano was stolen though, but my grandmother had passed away. And I remember when I was in the first grade of high school, I told my parents I wanted to resume learning piano (after one year’s break due to highschool entrance exams). My parents objected the idea without any hesitation and told me I should focus on my schoolwork. I was 15, top-notch in my schoolwork, easily convinced.

During the period when I grew up as a kid, in China, especially in Shenzhen, having their kids learning piano just started to become a thing. Almost every child growing up in Shenzhen has learned a bit of piano. I remember my father used to always say, (as he likes to put a good reason to everything) that they wanted me to learn piano not in the hope that I’d achieve anything as a piano player, but to enable me to have a musical tool to find some consolation if one day I happen to need it in my life. And here I am, after 18 years of not touching the piano once, echoing what he used to wish for me. In my shock, I realized if I have to explain why I wanna pick up piano again, there’s no better way to answer it than my father’s initial intention. I guess I simply wish for some musical consolation as a 30-something woman living alone in a hectic city. And I need it so badly that I have to get rid of my dinner table to make room for the digital piano.

The best thing is, there’s no objection anymore. There’s no one there saying something like “No Ellen, you should focus on your career, it’s not the right time for piano.” I guess this is the beauty of being middle-aged. You have a better idea of who you are and you make your decisions at your well-earned discretion. If you want some consolation, you play some music. If you don’t have enough room for the piano to play that music, you sell your table to make room for that piano to play that music. And you tell yourself, it’s a right decision. You know it’s a right decision. Becoz you’ve only used that table 4 times in 3 years.

Now, I can’t wait to have my first piano lesson.

P.S. I’ve been using the same mover since 5 years ago. We never really had a real conversion, I only keep going back to him becoz he has great moving skills and reasonable price. And of coz, it feels good to “have a guy” for something. This time as usual I contacted him to move the piano. When we met at the pick-up place, he said: “I’ve known you for so many years and I never know you play music.” I laughed embarrassedly and thought to myself “of coz, you don’t know me at all.”

But I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said. He does know me for many years. And he was always there when I was in need. He helped me move from Taiwai to Sai Ying Pun, from Sai Ying Pun to Tsing Yi. He helped me move many pieces of furniture here and there and he assembled my wardrobes both times, which is literally the center of my life. I couldn’t help marvelling at how strange people’s relationship can be. How easily I grant my loyalty to this random skinny mover guy, how familiar and dependable to me he feels in a certain way, how well he knows about me and how little I know about him. For Christ’s sake, I don’t even know his name.