Thursday, April 15, 2021

PETER LUGER

A notion commonly held across the world is that young adults are less politically engaged than older generations. A significant reason for this prevalent view is that voter turnout at national elections is taken to be the main and most important measure of political engagement. In this paper, I will set out to reject the claim that young adults’ political participation is on a decline. This will be done in two prongs. First, I will highlight several causes that may contribute to and account for low voter turnout among younger generations of people, aged 18 to 35. Secondly, I will prove that in other measures besides voter turnout, younger generations are very active and involved, indicating to a large extent that they are in fact not any less politically engaged than their older compatriots. 

In a focus group discussion done with youths in New Zealand, contrary to the findings of research in the quantitative tradition, fewer differences were found between young voters and non-voters: the interviews and focus group reveal surprising similarities in the political efficacy of young voters and non-voters. High school students made statements reflecting the necessity of working in community to improve the sustainability of life on this planet, as well as beliefs that money would be much better spent on ‘feeding hungry people’ than on ‘weapons and bombs for war’ (Sheerin, 2007). 

Another key finding from the same study is that young people, including non-voters, are often interested in and enthusiastic about political issues. 80% of the survey respondents, including non-voters, said they felt strongly about one or more political issues, such as unemployment and education. In the US, Braungart and Braungart (1998) have similarly challenged assumptions of youth political apathy, arguing that young Americans (again, including non-voters) are increasingly concerned with a wide range of political issues, including gun control, healthcare and the environment. Similar research in Australia has revealed that young people are interested in a wide range of political issues, leading researchers to conclude that young Australians are not politically apathetic, but rather disinterested in politicians and traditional party politics. (Sheerin, 2007) 

In the United Kingdom, research studies were conducted by Nestlé to survey teenagers’ attitudes towards politics. Most knew little about politics, had not thought a great deal about political issues, nor been involved in political activities. When shown a list of different types of people whom they would trust, young people placed their trust in doctors, teachers, and their own parents. Adults, on the other hand, were significantly more cynical and less trusting. While younger people in the UK may rightly judge their own grasp of political knowledge to be tenuous, they may be inclined to trust their elders and previous generations to make wiser and more informed decisions through the electoral process, as opposed to youths casting their own votes (Mortimore, 2003). 

The Nestlé study also revealed that many young people do not have the intention to vote because they do not feel valued by political leaders. One in five (23%) say they would not vote because ‘politicians don’t care about people like me’. For young people, this applies to all political parties. 17% say voting is pointless because ‘all political parties are the same’. As a result, 16% also believe that politics do not make a difference to their lives. However, half of all respondents indicate they would be interested in learning about the issues ‘which will help me decide how to vote when I turn 18 years old’. This notion is stronger among students of private institutions than those attending state schools, which may suggest that it is those from a background more supportive of political awareness or those who have already received some degree of citizenship education who are most keen to find out more. If so, citizenship classes may have a beneficial effect, not only in initiating the educational process but stimulating the curiosity or desire for further knowledge. (Mortimore, 2003) 

In Cyprus, a country divided by separatist lines between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, fieldwork shows youths being excluded from decision-making and peace-building processes. Young people frequently think that their messages are devalued or ignored. Research highlights what is known as ‘adult territoriality’, where the politics are mainly dominated by older men who do not allow young people to take part in any type of governmental body. An interview with a young Cypriot revealed, “political parties are hesitant to encourage youth candidates in politics and they don’t have any intention to open the doors to youth either”. This creates a glass ceiling that prevents young people from being included in politics, decision-making or peacebuilding. “It might be because of the Mediterranean culture, but elders do not listen to you until your hairs turn grey,” was a comment by another 28-year-old Turkish Cypriot. “It is deeply embedded in the Cyprus culture that if you are a young person, you [have] no experience to be listened to,” said a 27-year-old Greek Cypriot, indicating that youths on both sides of the issue share the same sentiments. (Dizdaroğlu, 2020) 

In a cross-national study (Kitanova, 2018), the researcher proposes that lack of political activity is more likely to be apparent in countries which are newly democratised. The age of a democracy is argued to have a direct impact on the propensity of young individuals to engage in politics. Through the democratic experience in a country, individuals develop loyalty and form certain political habits (Jackman & Miller, 2004). Countries with similar historical trajectories will have similarities to the process of how a young person goes through life and develops their political beliefs and behaviors. When the democratic experience is new, therefore, there would not be necessary developed habits of voting. In new democracies, historically there are high levels of state centralisation, low levels of freedom, and a lack of automatic examples in the nuclear family structure, on how to engage in political participation. In contrast, young people are more engaged in politics in advanced democracies compared to new democracies because there is a certain know-how that has been passed down. (Kitanova, 2018) 

The global atmosphere and unforeseeable circumstances in recent years have brought forth many valid reasons for political unrest as well as community organizing. One such example is the fight against climate change. In the past two years, especially, students have pioneered and championed for long-term solutions to the pressing issue of mitigating impending climate disaster. Students were the ones holding placards in Kiribati and chanting: “We are not sinking, we are fighting.” Concurrently in Australia, the finance minister, Mathias Cormann, had said that students should stay in class rather than go on strike. Danielle Porepilliasana, a Sydney high school student, made a comeback comment: “World leaders from everywhere are telling us that students need to be at school doing work. I’d like to see them at their parliaments doing their jobs for once.” (Laville & Watts, 2019) 

Over in Taiwan, dozens of representatives from primary schools, high schools, and universities gathered in the capital, Taipei, to launch a petition demanding presidential candidates to lay out concrete policies that would reduce climate change risks. Protests demanding environmental protection and accountability took place in New York, Sydney, Nairobi and Delhi, among countless other major cities throughout the globe. Historical movements were ongoing, and young people were in charge. There was widespread media coverage, and one of the many remarks made was: “This is a movement led by young people across the globe. We’re not just looking for an excuse for a day off school or college; we’re standing up for the future of our planet (Laville & Watts, 2019). 

In another major crisis that culminated in 2020, to stand up for black lives and against police brutality and systemic racism, protesters stormed the streets in hotspots around the world, including in Auckland, Paris, London, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam. Students planned BLM marches across the United States and many were at the forefront of the global Black Lives Matter movement. Activism also found a platform on social media, where students propagate resources and information for others to become educated about the pressing need to strive for racial justice. 

Students and young adults share links to petitions, offer advice for safe protesting practices, create templates for emailing authorities, list bail funds and black-owned restaurants and businesses in need of support, and share videos documenting instances of police brutality at protests. At the risk of endangering their own lives, safety, and mental health, students rallied behind the BLM movement and have spearheaded and founded far-reaching branches of the movement. In a 2015 case that unraveled at the University of Missouri at Columbia, after students reported multiple instances of being subjected to racial slurs and mistreatment, the student body launched protests and called for the resignation of then-president Tim Wolfe. The president resigned shortly after. (Rim, 2020) 

Raising awareness and fighting misinformation is an important role that many youth have taken up, and an ongoing example of this would be the COVID-19 pandemic. A Tweetchat in Africa has attracted over 90,000 participants and helped to protect against disease spreading. #STOP-COVID-19 infographics are available in more than sixty African languages dedicated to dispelling myths about the virus. A number of creative ways of sharing messages have also emerged, including via music in South Africa, graffiti in Kenya, and poetry in Gambia. 

Young people are supporting their communities in various ways through maintaining access to basic services and providing humanitarian assistance. Many local initiatives are engaged in distributing soap, installing handwashing stations, manufacturing bottles of home-made hand sanitiser and making protective masks. Other youth groups are working together to hand out food packages and sanitation kits, deliver free and anonymous mental health services, and maintain the menstrual health of women and girls in rural areas during lockdown. (Itcovitz & Kazimierczuk, 2020) 

Youth-led demonstrations often receive harsh criticism, such as calls for youth climate activist Greta Thunberg to “shut up and go back to school” (Dizdaroğlu, 2020). The aforementioned studies have shown that at least in Cyprus and in the UK, younger generations do not feel cared for nor listened to. It takes no great leap of faith to put forward that when a segment of the population do not feel included or validated, they would be much less inclined to participate in politics as well as vote in national elections. For states that regard young adults with apathy, it is state governments and politicians who should have the maturity to extend their empathy and inclusion to youth, if the intended result is creating and fostering political empathy in young adults. 

Furthermore, Kitanova’s research as well as the Nestlé study both show that when you foster an interest and plant seeds of knowledge in kids and younger adults, they are much likelier to want to know more and do better. It naturally follows that to inspire higher levels of political participation, young adults need to be exposed to political knowledge earlier in their lives. Political and citizenship education can and should start with government initiatives at the grassroots level. 

On the other hand, when looking at factors beyond the electoral process, within the past year alone, it is apparent that young adults and even teenagers are not lacking in their concern for the plight of the community. They have taken to the streets and writing letters to congress, starting political movements and organizing online, protesting and rioting, for greater causes than themselves. They stepped up and displayed their passion for and dedication to saving the environment, social justice causes and weeding out racism, and in the healthcare and welfare of their fellow citizens during a global pandemic. Given all that they have done for the sake of community, it would be hard to assert that young adults are less politically engaged than their older counterparts. 

References: 

Braungart, R. C., & Braungart, M. M. (1998). Citizenship and Citizenship Education in the United States in the 1990's. IN ICHILOV, O. (Ed.) Citizenship and Citizenship Education in a Changing World. London, Woburn Press. 

Dizdaroğlu, C. (2020). Young people are campaigning for political change worldwide - but their voices are too often ignored. https://theconversation.com/young-people-are-campaigning-for-political-change- worldwide-but-their-voices-are-too-often-ignored-132893 

Itcovitz, H., & Kazimierczuk, A. (2020). Never giving up: youth voices and participation in the time of COVID-19. https://includeplatform.net/news/never-giving-up-youth-voices-participation-covi d-19/ 

Jackman, R. W., & Miller, R. A. (2004). Before Norms: Institutions and Civic Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 

Kitanova, M. (2018). Youth political participation in the EU: evidence from a cross-national analysis. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13676261.2019.1636951 

Laville, S., & Watts, J. (2019). Across the globe, millions join biggest climate protest ever. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/21/across-the-globe-millions -join-biggest-climate-protest-ever 

Mortimore, R. (2003). Young People’s Attitudes Towards Politics. https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/migrations/en-uk/files/Assets/Docs/Archi ve/Polls/nfm16.pdf 

Rim, C. (2020). How Student Activism Shaped The Black Lives Matter Movement. https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherrim/2020/06/04/how-student-activism-sh aped-the-black-lives-matter-movement/?sh=5177d06a4414 

Sheerin, C. A. (2007). Political Efficacy and Youth Non-Voting: A Qualitative Investigation into the Attitudes and Experiences of Young Voters and Non-Voters in New Zealand. https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/handle/10092/962

Friday, April 9, 2021

KÁRMÁN LINE

I have had the most tiring week. I am tired of tiring weeks, and months, and days, and years. This morning, I presented my Indigenous Gender project with my groupmate who lives in Vancouver. Her name is Alessia. She was quarantined for two weeks because the mother of the kid she nannies had Covid. I had a great time chatting with her for hours this past week, doing our project and getting to know each other and our families. I have a screenshot of Alessia being really shocked and laughing when I told her I was 30. She thought I was 18. I woke up at 5.15am this morning to present the project at 5.30am, I think our professor and classmates were impressed and it was a job well done. I am tired of online classes and will be so, so glad when we can all be rid of them. I have three more weeks of school. I have an exam, and three essays to go. 

This past week, I have just realised how much I’d yet to be aware of in myself. I’m scared Lucas hates me. When we ended things, he said he’d look forward to one day when we were friends again, but I’m really sad thinking of if he changes his mind and doesn’t care about me anymore. Sometimes, I think I would be a prime candidate for cancer. There has been so much cortisol in my system for such long periods in my life. My mother had cancer when she was about forty years old. I am so tired of the stress and the unhappiness.

I look forward to being in Canada, and rooting myself in nature, and forest bathing, and putting away my phone to be present, wherever I am. After going through this entire week, I have realised that I have a different notion of love. I think I have had enough of fiery passionate flame-like love. I don’t want and I don’t need the heart-pumping love of racing through a desert wasteland. I don’t want a two-week whirlwind winter romance in the greatest city in the world. I just want the comfort and safety of loving a man who loves me back. I want the warmth and pacifying feeling I get when I am self-soothing and place my hand over my heart, to calm myself when I am overwhelmed by my emotions in public.

In life, I’ve always had the mindset of wanting to experience everything at least once. I want to take all the drugs. I want to try polyamory. I think life is so short and time-limited, I want to do all the things! Then I realise, my mental health is not intact. I am not an average privileged white man who has gone through life relatively unscathed. I take everything seriously, I go through life fiercely and furiously, and when things end, as things do, I am the one who crashes and burns. I don’t want that to happen anymore. I have made enough mistakes in life, I’ve seen my parents make enough mistakes in theirs, and I think it’s time. I’m ready to start building. I forgive myself for everything I’ve done to date, I forgive myself for not knowing better, for hurting other people from a place of hurt.

I’ve been having a sharp, stabbing pain in my heel, and it’s either a splinter I can’t find, remnants of when I slipped and injured myself on the overhead bridge last week, or a case of plantar fasciitis. I’ve never had that last one before, and I suppose my Nike sneakers that I wear to work are really worn out now, so I need to get new shoes, which means a higher expenditure this month. Sigh. I need that 100K to heal me and my life.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

PALO SANTO

I've been using Instagram much less often the past few days and I'm trying to keep it that way. I don't want to be tempted to search for and view Lucas' profile, the last time I viewed it last week broke me and I'm broken enough to ever go through any more. I am mentally ill and I just need to protect my headspace. Please be kind to me, and help me believe I deserve it. Please.
 

my soul I am broken by you
one morning I'll wake up renewed
don't go love
I need you to stay
my soul I am broken today


and I will work out what it meant
and I will mend you in the end
'cause I'll do anything, I love you
love you
I'll do anything, I love you
love you


it may not be easy to see
but I'm ready
I need to believe

and I will work out what it meant
and I will mend you in the end
'cause I'll do anything, I love you
love you
I'll do anything, I love you
love you

Eleanor: I was never good at being sad. Partly because my mom straight-up told me not to be. But this is sad, man. You got a John Locke quote or piece of Kantian wisdom you can throw at me?

Chidi: Those guys were more focused on rules and regulations. For spiritual stuff, you gotta turn to the East. 

Eleanor: I'll take anything you got. Hit me.

Chidi: Picture a wave, in the ocean. You can see it, measure it - its height, the way the sunlight refracts when it passes through, and it's there, and you can see it, and you know what it is, it's a wave. And then it crashes on the shore, and it's gone. But the water, is still there. The wave was just a different way for the water to be, for a little while. That's one conception of death, for a Buddhist. The wave returns to the ocean, where it came from, and where it's supposed to be. 

Eleanor: Not bad, Buddhists.

Chidi: Not bad. None of this is bad.



The caption of this series has not much to do with the images. These photos were taken two weeks ago. I don’t always feel the way I look or portray myself to look. I have mental health issues, stemming from my childhood experiences, and even experiences I’ve had as an adult. In the past week, I’ve cried so much, people who’ve seen me on the train were worried about me, they’d stop talking among themselves to steal glances at me, blowing snot into my mask (otherwise I’d have had to remove my mask and get fined???). In the past six days, I sat again in and with my post-breakup feelings. Whenever I go through a breakup, so many more feelings surface than perhaps would happen for a non-mentally ill person. I’m worried that I’m unable to accept happiness, I suffered depression for years after hearing tough words from my mother. I’ve pushed away so many people I’ve cared for and who have cared for me, I wonder if I’m just going to abandon everyone before they abandon me like my father did. I want to heal myself from these invisible wounds before I venture into another relationship. I was not fair to my ex-boyfriend, and I loved him, I truly did. I want to be comfortable with the knowledge that even if a relationship ends, the love in such relationships was real and true, and can always be. I’m scared to forge close connections and to let people in, I hope the people I love now, my friends, I hope I never push them away, I hope nobody else allows me to. These images were captured for a casting that led to a shoot for products I truly am impressed by and would use (founded by women for women), and I can’t wait to see the final images!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

WHENEVER YOU’RE READY

I watched a scene about a stillbirth today and it threw me off-balance, or even more off-balance if possible. In the span of ten minutes, my brain went through all the bad things that have happened in my life. Unstable parents, my father serially cheating, leading to the partner of someone he solicited sex from asking me to advise him, being strung along by someone who was cheating on his fiancée, having a miscarriage, my mother telling me the miscarriage was a blessing because it was premarital, even with my knowledge that I was premaritally conceived, the time a stranger followed me up the staircase landing and flashed his penis with no remorse at all, whilst I was shaking and trembling all the way home and when I reached home, then being guilted by my mother that I’d reached home so late. I never felt enough for my parents so I’ll never be enough for myself and no one will ever be enough for me. Today all my brain told me was, you don’t deserve happiness. If anyone in this family were to ever end their life, it would be me because I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in an afterlife, and I’m not scared of anything happening to me after death. I think I need antidepressants. I’m not very well in this moment. All I am is tired.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

FAIT ACCOMPLI

When I first met Lucas, one of the first things I saw him post was an Instastory that said “healing is not linear”. How apt, or how curious it is, that it describes how I am, at the end of the relationship. When I broke up with him, I’d expected to hurt right after the breakup, so I gave myself a little time and space to hurt. I listened to Taylor Swift’s saddest songs, and I thought I was healed. I didn’t picture myself four months later, being awake at extreme times, pushing my brains to expand a little bit more, to learn a little bit more, to churn out words for just a little while longer. I didn’t see myself working two jobs, running to photoshoots, juggling earning an income and simultaneously spending it all on educating myself, with no one by my side. In 2019 to the end of 2020, in all my tumultuous times, when I was learning, when I was growing, when I was literally pushing the boundaries of the person I was to become the person I am, Lucas was always, constantly by my side. Now he is not. I suppose I am grieving the loss of his consistency, the solidity he provided. The grief is overwhelming me, I did not expect it and therefore sometimes, at the mention of any word I associate with Lucas, I start crying, at work, during a shoot, while in a class at 2am. Currently I have makeup on, waiting for my turn to model for some photos to advertise a product that I actually would use and advocate (I’ll talk about it when it’s out and ready). At this moment, typing about this, I am grieving and trying not to cry so my makeup stays intact. The tears will come and they have come. They say you will never truly get over the people whom you love, and I suppose that’s one way of knowing I did love Lucas. Also, fuck the non-monogamy thing. There is no way in hell I could do that in the next five years. I don’t have anything against his new partner, I know Lucas and I trust they will be happy together, and I’m happy to know that, but at the same time, Jesus Christ, it does hurt to see him with someone else. I don’t know how to reconcile humankind’s history of communal families and having multiple partners ingrained in our DNA, and the conditioning we’ve all had to commit to one individual for the rest of our lives. But that’s not a question I have to figure out now. I’m also really not even the type to fuck around, despite what some people think I’ll be doing in Canada. I’ve got two new vibrators since the breakup, but I haven’t slept with anyone since Lucas. I haven’t even kissed anyone since Lucas. I fully advocate for people doing whatever they want with their bodies, but unfortunately I’m not a no-strings-attached kind of person. I have a gazillion strings attached to the person I am. When we first got together, I truly did envision living out the rest of my life with Lucas, and I grieve the loss of that. I’ve decided, when I next date, I want to be fully intentional. I want to be healed and self-aware, and I want it to be long-lasting. I want a really long dating period, of at least six months, to gauge if it’s a person I can and really want to commit to, before even putting any label on a relationship. I really don’t want to go through another breakup, I think I’ve had enough in my life and I’m not doing well at all with this one.

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB

I am in great pain. Please help me. 
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me. 
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.
I am in great pain. Please help me.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

SKID ROW

but what is grief,
if not love persevering?

I’ve had quite the week. Or maybe the month. The year? An entire life? Yesterday I met my cousin Hazwani, and I told her about having seen Lucas with another girl on his Instagram. We went to The Projector, it’s the only independent cinema in Singapore, and Lucas liked it, aesthetic kid that he is. We used to like going there together, of course it was the location of our first date, and many more after that. Hazwani and I took pictures at the photobooth in The Projector. We laughed over our silly rhymes, pretending to be “writers” like Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur. My cousin is truly one of my best friends, I love her, she’s seen me through so much, through everything in my life I guess, but it did make me miss Lucas, who was my best friend for close to two years. It was raining heavily yesterday, I slipped on an open staircase and fell five steps down, breaking the fall with my bum and left arm. My arm is bruising, and both my cousin and I were completely shocked for a while, but I told her I’d get over it. I’m not too bothered by physical injuries anymore, I think it’s a lululemon thing. My arm is bruised, it takes two or three weeks to heal, it goes away forever. What worries me is my heartbreak. You get heartbroken, you spend three nights sobbing. You think you’re done. But then you see your ex with someone else. It starts all over again. I miss Lucas. I don’t know in what capacity. Yes, I took him for granted when we were together. I enjoyed his company, being my partner, he was also my best friend. While we were on lockdown, it was his money that went towards my therapy sessions. He never treated me like I needed to be fixed, he’d just let me be however I had to be, let me go through whatever I had to go through. He was really good for me, and I know I loved him, but I don’t know if I knew how to love him. When I was young, my parents would have violent fights, and they’d make up, and I thought that was love. Their fights would involve one of them telling me to throw away a peace-making gift from the other, and the other one telling me I’d better not throw it away. Their fights were the kind that resulted in one of them smashing in the windscreen of the other’s rented car. My parents were not stable people, I don’t know if I can say they are stable people now, and I’m clearly not stable either. I miss Lucas being dependable and stable. I don’t know if I broke up with him because we weren’t compatible, or I’m not equipped to love. Why do I crave love from people who barely give me any attention? I’m an emotionally attached person. If I can feel for people in third-world nations I’ll probably never get to visit, if I can harbor feelings for someone I met in LA five years ago, if I can still recall the romance I had with a man I spent two weeks in New York with, you’d best believe my memory will not let slip a man I spent two years being best friends with. He was a solid, dependable, soft, funny, loving and considerate man, and I will always love him. If anything, I just hope people know I loved them, I love them, and I tried my best to love them. I know not all relationships are meant to last forever, I know sometimes you just have to enjoy things in their season, but I just want to know whether I had the right reasons, I just want to know my reasons. My heart hurts, and my body is banged up from the fall. I cannot stop crying, and I want the stages of grief to be over. I’m in pain, everywhere and I just want to know when it will end.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

BALLPARK FIGURE

I wonder if I would have made a good TV writer. I think I watch a fair bit of TV but more than that, I internalise it and my brain churns out thoughts in the formula of TV writing. You know, when the woman knocks on the man’s door on Christmas to make a declaration of love, or when the guy arrives at the airport a tad too late and makes a PA announcement to stop the love of his life from boarding the plane to relocate elsewhere in the world. I have made grand gestures, more than once. I write long, elaborate notes. I write them on owl postcards, on the back of packages. I wonder if they still exist in the world, or if they’ve long been incinerated. In TV world, grand gestures almost always work. The recipient changes their mind, and they choose each other. There’s a literal scene in Grey’s Anatomy, where Meredith says “pick me, choose me, love me”, embodying the literal version of the pick-me girl. 

I wish I weren’t such a person, but one of the values that motivate me is most definitely acceptance. It’s highly likely due to the fact that my father left the family (ish) when we were young, and my mother literally doesn’t accept the non-Muslim, tattooed, physically “promiscuous” person I am. She refuses to acknowledge that part of me, which is a big part of me. When I see workplaces professing to be families, I gag because it’s just a way for capitalism to legitimise the gazillion hours you spend slaving away at work. And yet, I always absorb myself into my work teams and treat them as I do my family members, or better than, because they treat me better than my family members treat me. They see me, hear me, acknowledge and validate me, and I cannot help but appreciate them for it. 

I have a colleague whom I really like, her name is Mel. I don’t know why, but I like her a lot. Sometimes we just spend a few minutes chatting at work, and she always gives off the chill vibes I aim to internalise and embody. She reads as much as I do, or perhaps even more, and sometimes she talks to me about books and restaurants. I think she knows a lot of things, but she’s always professional about her work. When she has fun, she really has fun. When we were unboxing new things at a shift, she’s the kind of person who would act like she’s Paris Hilton DJing in Bali, she’s just weird like that. She also recently bought a mini basketball game for the pantry, to hit free shipping on an order. I want to be that kind of person. I want to be the person who knows many things, but also has my shit together. 

Apropos of nothing, I really don’t think, given the global situation we’re all in, happiness is an attainable goal, nor should it be. We’re living in an age of social media and information, it is impossible or at least unlikely that you can stay unaware of global inequality. I just watched Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez make a three-minute case on her Instastories, about the migration crisis, which she rightly says is not simply a migration crisis. The crisis was created because imperialist America invades and destabilises other countries and regions, capitalist America thrives off consumerism and contributes a majority of carbon emissions, and the climate and economic crises force the global South to relocate, for lack of a choice. 

Every day that you don’t consider the interconnectedness of everything is a day you choose to be wilfully ignorant of injustice. It is necessary that you don’t numb yourself to the ills of the world, to the Asian hate crimes, to police brutality, to Myanmar’s decades-old and ongoing political instability, to bigotry that the LGBTQ community face everywhere, it is necessary that you don’t literally buy into personal joys and happiness, at least not most of the time, because it is only when you face facts, that you begin to want to effect change. If you don’t see how broken the world is, you’re not paying attention. When was the last time you cried?

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

HOMESLICE

I did a silly thing. I went to view Lucas’ Instagram and his recent story showed he was dating intimately (a spa/massage or something) with another girl. I don’t know why I did this. I’m sad now, and I also don’t know why I’m sad. Perhaps because I used to be that girl next to him. Last week, my grandma asked again why I wasn’t speaking to him, and again I had to say, it’s not me not speaking to him, he’s not speaking to me. I have sent him a couple of messages, unanswered. He has a whole life, as do I. It’s okay to not remain in each other’s lives. I’m on the way to work, and today I think about all the little things. The way I’m feeling, the wistfulness, the nostalgia, I’m sure in the few millennia of humanity to have existed, I’m not the first person to feel it. It’s okay to feel this way, it’s natural. We all set timelines and quotas of when to look at our exes’ pages, we tell ourselves not to, we say okay let’s give it a year, and then we go ahead and do it at three months. I used to love watching Grey’s Anatomy and identifying with the songs used in the soundtrack, and adding those songs to my Spotify. If you go to Youtube, there are so many comments that say “Grey’s Anatomy brought me here” or — brought me here. It’s the collective human experience. My colleagues and friends think rather highly of me, in terms of my brain power, they think I read much more than I actually do, but I’m more emotionally intelligent than I am intellectually intelligent. When I am sad, like I am now, or when I’m angry, or when I’m tired, I vocalise it and express it, and people like it that I’m so human. It reminds them that it’s okay to be human too. I feel weird when I think about how I throw caution to the wind and let everyone know about every single turbulent thought that goes through my head, on social media, but then I stop and think, how many people have found courage to open up to me first, about family issues, about money issues, about anger management issues, because they’ve seen me with mine? How many people have I helped with mental health because they’ve seen me seek help for mine? I’m vulnerable, and that allows them to be vulnerable with me. I know so many more things about so many more people that I would never have known if not for the humanness I display. All this to say, I viewed an ex’s Instagram today, and on the whole, it didn’t make me feel pleasant, but I’m not about to beat myself up over it. I’m a human being, being human.

SUMMA CUM LAUDE

My politics research paper is due in two weeks, and I promise I will get it fully completed at least one day before the deadline. I promise. 

These are the topics I have to choose from:

i. Is either Russia or Turkey or Brazil a hybrid regime or an authoritarian regime? Why? Be sure to first define and discuss the characteristics of hybrid and authoritarian regimes and provide some background on Russian/Turkish/Brazilian politics before assessing whether its regime is hybrid or authoritarian.  

ii. Compare and contrast two binding referenda from two different regions or countries. To what extent do referenda enable a majority of citizens to have an effective direct say in decisions of national importance? Why or why not? Be sure to address the relevant historical context as well as the key actors, arguments and consequences.

iii. Young adults aged 18 to 35 are often said to be less politically engaged than older generations. To what extent is this correct? Why? Be sure to use examples from at least three countries.

I just want to say, for transparency's sake, that the reason I'm running around like a headless chicken (or is it cockroach? or do both work??), is I didn't know anyone who earns enough to be a guarantor for a loan to pay for my entire tuition. I therefore took out a loan for half my tuition, or two years' worth. I have enough savings for rent for a while (also two years' worth??), and I can probably scrape some kind of money for maybe a year's worth of tuition while studying, but then hopefully for my last year, I have the money for school before I start paying it all back. 

I'm exhausted! I'm just.... writing here because I'm having a politics class now and if I don't move my fingers or any part of myself I will likely fall asleep. Honestly, I cannot wait for this semester to end in a month. For my last fourish months in Singapore, I'll be working two jobs to earn and save more money, and I can sleep at slightly more sensible times. I have had so much cortisol in my system for the last three months, I really, truly, honestly need it to stop. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

BOOK OF JOB

The Bhagavad Gītā is a text that expounds the three yogas (disciplines), of bhakti yoga, karma yoga, and jñāna yoga. In this paper, I will set out to uphold the claim that practising and engaging in the three yogas will lead to joy and freedom for the practitioner, as well as advocate that fulfilling one’s svadharma (duty) through the three yogas serves as a method for liberation.

Bhakti yoga is the path that encompasses love and devotion to a deity. Devotional worship, singing and dancing, as well as pilgrimages to holy places, are tangible expressions of this spirituality. An internal personal surrender to and love of the chosen god or goddess complements the above religious practices. A recurring theme in the Epic literature of the Bhagavad Gītā is devotionalism, as exemplified in “He who serves Me with the unswerving yoga of devotion, transcending the gunas, gains the fitness to become like unto Brahman.” (Bhagavad Gītā, Chapter XIV: Verse 26, n.d.) 

All through history, people of faith have engaged in forms of worship as well as pilgrimage activities. Recent research has shown participants of different worship practices reporting improved outlooks on life, greater life perspectives and finding existential meaning. Some participants even quit their jobs or change their careers at the end of their pilgrimage journeys (Jørgensen, Eade, Ekeland, & Lorentzen, 2020). 

In a study conducted by Vanderbilt University, subjects’ attendance at worship services was analysed, along with mortality and allostatic load. Allostatic load is a physiological measurement of factors including cardiovascular, nutritional/inflammatory and metabolic measures. The higher the allostatic load, the higher the stress level an individual was interpreted as experiencing. Of more than 5,000 people across different race and gender markers who were surveyed, 64 percent were regular worshipers. Non-worshipers had significantly higher overall allostatic load scores and higher prevalence of high-risk values for three of the 10 markers of allostatic load than did church-goers and other worshipers. People who attend church or other houses of worship reduce their risk for mortality by 55 percent. (Patterson, 2017)

Karma yoga is the path to God through selfless action and service to others. Devotion to God through such works means a practitioner has to practise non-attachment and renounce the consequences of their actions, effectively surrendering oneself to God. One who engages in karma yoga acts in a dispassionate manner, without attachment to the results of their actions, including pleasure or pain, success or failure. 

Interestingly, although karma yoga is to be endeavored with no consideration for its consequences, acting in the spirit of community leads to many benefits for someone who acts in such a manner. For instance, research has repeatedly documented that volunteering leads to boosting general well-being and lowering levels of depression. Even when it comes to money, spending on others correlates to increased happiness compared to spending it on one’s own person. There is now neural evidence from fMRI studies suggesting a link between generosity and happiness in the brain. For example, donating money activates the same (mesolimbic) regions of the brain that respond to monetary rewards or sex. In fact, the mere intent for generosity can stimulate neural change and make people happier. (Pogosyan, 2018) 

In another study, engaging in helpful behavior, along with other types of social interaction, is associated with positive health outcomes, including reduced mortality. The research indicates that helping others predicts reduced mortality specifically because it buffers the association between stress and mortality (Poulin, Brown, Dillard & Smith, 2013). Even though being on the receiving end of these benefits is not the purpose of anyone who engages in karma yoga, they can certainly not deny the physiological effects that a person will experience from it.

Jñāna yoga is the path of knowledge or wisdom. Chapter IV, Verse 39 of Bhagavad Gītā states: “He who is full of faith gains Divine Wisdom, seeking after it with supreme devotion and mastery over his senses. Gaining Wisdom, in no long time he enters the state of supreme peace.” As the most arduous and spiritually fulfilling of the yogas, jñāna yoga encompasses attainment of mental tranquility, self-control, dispassion, perseverance, mental resolve or intentness of mind, and a positive longing for wisdom and freedom. Broadly, jñāna yoga entails the study of Vedāntic texts, sustained reflection upon the philosophical principles of Advaita, and constant meditation. Advaita is the concept that Brahman alone is real and that the world we live in is a transient and illusory appearance of Brahman.

Recent evidence suggests that meditation has neuroprotective properties, with implications for enhancing cognition and preventing dementia. A study carried out at Yale University found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering. The DMN is active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Mind-wandering has typically been associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, and therefore the goal for many people is to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, through its quieting effect on the default mode network, appears to do just this. Even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it. (Walton, 2015)

In relationship aspects, analysis has revealed that mindfulness during conflict helped romantic partners not take things so personally, regulate their emotional reactions more quickly, and empathise with their partner more deeply. Researchers infer that while mindfulness helps people remain more engaged during constructive conflict, it also enables them to disengage more quickly from conflicts that become destructive. (Graham, 2016)

Bhakti yoga, or worship, has been found to give people more meaning and purpose in their lives. Some even quit their jobs, signifying freedom and courage to not simply be a cog in the machine. One could say that a majority of the world population are enslaved by systems such as capitalism and oppression, and for believers of a higher being or purpose to rise above that, is a form of liberation. Positive correlation has also been made between worship and health indicators, with worshipers presenting at lower risk for mortality. With comparatively better health, worshipers may have less to worry about, and thus more freedom to enjoy life. Generosity has been linked to happiness and lowered levels of depression, proven through MRI scans. Practitioners of karma yoga therefore have much joy to gain by working for selfless reasons. Helping others usually leads to increased social interaction, also reducing mortality. 

Joy has been defined as feeling good in the moment, and it is an emotion that is a lot more immediate and accessible than happiness (Lee, 2018). People who practice jñāna yoga may reduce their susceptibility for going through prolonged unhappy periods of time, as well as conversely, increasing their propensity for joy, by staying present in every passing moment instead of dwelling in the past or future. Meditators also de-escalate personal situations more effectively and experience increased empathy. Pertaining specifically to the Bhagavad Gītā, one who has faith in the concept of Advaita would also take things less personally when they view this world as an illusion, and therefore may be more liberated from the occurrences in their daily life.  

Even when practised as three isolated factors, each of the disciplines of bhakti yoga, karma yoga and jñāna yoga yields much physiological benefit. It is therefore viable to argue that when all the disciplines are practised simultaneously, the three yogas would naturally lead to joy and freedom for people who observe and practise them.

References:

Graham, L. (2016). How Mindfulness Can Help Couples Cool Down. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_mindfulness_can_help_couples_cool_down

Jørgensen, N. N., Eade, J., Ekeland, T., & Lorentzen, C. A. N. (2020). "The Processes, Effects and Therapeutics of Pilgrimage Walking the St. Olav Way," International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 6. https://arrow.tudublin.ie/ijrtp/vol8/iss1/6/

Lee, I. F. (2018). Why The Secret To Happiness Might Be Joy. https://aestheticsofjoy.com/2018/05/14/why-the-secret-to-happiness-might-be-joy/

Miller, B. S. (2004). The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War. New York: Bantam Books.

Patterson, J. (2017). Worship is good for your health: Vanderbilt Study. https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/05/31/worship-is-good-for-your-health-vanderbilt-study/

Pocosyan, M. (2018). In Helping Others, You Help Yourself. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/between-cultures/201805/in-helping-others-you-help-yourself

Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., Dillard, A. J., & Smith, D. M. (2013). Giving to Others and the Association Between Stress and Mortality
https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2012.300876

Walton, A. G. (2015). 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/?sh=1d3c75cd1465

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

CORRELATION DOES NOT
IMPLY CAUSATION

I submitted my second Eastern Philosophy essay. I submitted it right before my politics class last night so I was in a rush and the conclusion of the paper is the weakest ass conclusion I have ever written in my life. However, this morning, I received news from the Canadian immigration office that my visa has finally been fucking approved. I was so happy, I forgot to be tired. I'm still only flying in August, but at least I can now focus on finding a place to live, securing my finances, getting my Covid vaccination and whatever. Legally, I'm allowed to be in Canada for at least the next four years. I took a screenshot of their approval, sent it to my family's group chat, my lululemon babies, and Tina. 



Tina sent me this. She's in Hawaii visiting her younger sister. Tina's Covid-vaccinated, by virtue of being a healthcare worker.

I went for a boxing class after my shift today. I really enjoy boxing but I went after this brutal week just to use up my credits. We have a budget from lululemon for sweaty pursuits and as a person on the lowest rung of the lululemon hierarchy, I don't earn as much as I can or should, so I desperately use up my credits just to lessen the ways capitalism can exploit me. 

I sent Ben a message on Instagram, he hasn't read it, I don't know if it's because he doesn't see it as he doesn't follow me, or he doesn't want to open it, anyhow. I will feel slightly embarrassed if it's the latter, but again, I'm a newborn atheist, time is finite and nothing matters, so what the fuck, I will tell everyone exactly how I feel because it's all gonna vanish one day soon anyway.

I will be in Canada in half a year. :)

Monday, March 22, 2021

A POCKETFUL OF POSIES

In my head, I wonder if I could get 100 people in my life to contribute $100 each to my tuition/rent fund. It would help go a fucking long way, especially for my mental health. I feel like I could, also only if they didn't have rent or debt or anything else to clear. I don't want to burden anyone else, but I also know I know quite a few people who are already well-settled in life, who have their money just sitting and growing for them, that $100 to them doesn't mean the same as it does to me (an entire day of waged work). I don't have enough money to invest and make my money work for me, and also I truly do not know how to feel about the ethics of investing, if I did have the money. 

I am perhaps a third of the way done with my essay. I might have more Red Bull than blood in my body right now, scientifically that is probably not possible nor accurate, but I have so much Red Bull in me that I threw up a bit of it this morning. It is probably a sign that my body is rejecting it, which on the whole, in the long run is probably better for me, seeing as Red Bull is just 100000% sugar and I am speaking only in hyperbole this morning. 

Sometimes my colleagues tell me they don't know how I do it, the taking up of extra shifts when people don't want them, the staying up overnight to attend classes and do my school work, the actual audacity of me scheduling in time to socialise so I can get good vibes, the pretence that five minutes of meditation a day could balance out the impossibility of my situation. I don't know how I do it either, there is no knowing how, if I knew how I was doing it, it would take up too much energy for the awareness, I am simply holding on and doing it, and doing and doing and just doing it. I should be Nike's ambassador. Don't know, just do. 

I am holding on by sheer volume of Red Bull and I need to 

breathe
breathe, Sarah, breathe
breathe
I said breathe, not cry
breathe
it's okay
it will be okay

Friday, March 19, 2021

生き甲斐

So.... My next philosophy essay is due in three days, and I haven't started on it. A couple of minutes ago, I just received feedback for my last essay (I got an 80% mark - which I think was pretty generous, given his remarks), which is making me a little nervous. Apparently my philosophy professor is not one to be smoked nor fluffed through, as can be seen from his feedback. I have work shifts all through the weekend, and also on Monday when my paper is due, so all I can say is, lord be with me, or alternatively, I will subsist on Red Bull or Monster Energy. Melyssa took a photo of me listening to my lecture on the couch in the work pantry after my work shift had ended, and she shared it on the work group chat. It looks like I'm asleep in the photo, but I promise you, I was retaining the information, somewhere in my brain. 
Sarah,
Your paper introduces a number of interesting ideas concerning this topic, but misses the main arguments for the Taoist notion of statecraft, which can be found in Chapters 17, 37 and 57-61. At the minimum you should have discussed the passage in Chapter 60, ruling a country is like cooking a small fish, and Chapter 17 on the qualities of a good ruler. A further point of consideration is the connection between Confucianism and the modern notion of humanism. Does this connection allow us a more accessible understanding of Confucianism and the place of the Jun Tzu in the modern world? If so, does the Jun Tzu meet deeper human needs, or are they better met in Taoism? Your paper makes a good argument for social cohesion, but is the social cost personal authenticity? Finally, given the growing environmental problems we are facing, does a Taoist perspective offer a clearer perspective into altering the course of this crisis?
I wish he had sent me the feedback earlier than today, so I would have had more time to panic and realise the kind of standards he expects of the upcoming essay submissions. Alas, I cannot change what is done and past. As the start of my high school's song goes, "ever onward" it is. I feature many of my assignments on Instagram, whether it's for my indigenous gender mod, or politics, or philosophy. I'm paying hella money for my degree only to receive instructions over the interwebs, so I might as well share all the resources I have access to. If you'd like readings on my courses, let me know and I'll share them with you. 

The world will have you believe in scarcity, but there really isn't scarcity in the ways we've been conditioned to believe. There isn't scarcity in love, nor friendships, nor information and knowledge, and especially not in money. If we all stopped working today, right now, at this very moment, the richest fucks in the world ie. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc, would still have enough money to help out the poorest people of the world, let alone working-class people like you and I. All they'd have to do is realise nobody needs a goddamn hotel in space. Everyday I read something new that rich people are doing and I think, we are truly in the endgame of life. 

A couple of hours ago, I ended my first ever chess game with a person that was not Jaysen. I played it on chess.com with a guy from Bristol, whose name is, surprise surprise, Ben (there are too many Bens in the world, but my name is Sarah, so I'm not one to talk). I lost quite terribly, no surprises there, and he asked if he could give me advice. I'm glad he asked, because if he'd just sent me the advice without a preface, I would have been sore and probably said he was mansplaining. So I said yes, and this is what he said:
Ok so the main thing I’d say is that every move needs to have purpose. Sometimes I think you maybe moved a piece because it would go there(?), but it needs to be either an attacking or a defensive move. I liked what you did with your pawns - a strong defensive line is good and that’s what took me a while to get there. I’ve got a great entry level video for you which I’ll find a link to now
Every move needs to have purpose. I think it's solid advice, and if I were the type to apply chess advice to life, I would say to myself, "every move needs to have purpose" but am I the type? Who knows. I'm reading Grit, because my friend Monica recommended it to me. She said she thinks I have grit, and I'm the type who drinks up people's impressions of me like it's horchata (except when obviously it comes from a place of self-dissatisfaction and malice, then idgaf lol). In Grit, the writer says your highest-level goal must be deep-rooted, even if the mid-level goals shift on the way there. That means, if my main passion is feminism and finding justice for marginalised people or whatever, the things I do to get there may be switched out and interchanged, but the grittiest of people don't change their top-level goal. So we'll see. The book also says you can practise and train yourself to be gritty, and I think that's what's important in it.

Two nights ago, I went to Tif's place for dinner. She'd recently just moved in with a friend from school, so it was my first time seeing her room and all. We listened to Taylor Swift on the speaker, because her roommate likes Taylor Swift, and so does Tif's boyfriend. They're not the biggest fans, but both of them went to Taylor's 1989 concert in Singapore. I was meeting both Tif's boyfriend Lester and her roommate Justin for the first time, and both guys had never really hung out before that day. So when we were all seated, Justin asked Lester whether he liked watches, and Lester said, not really... Justin asked Lester whether he liked cars, and Lester said, not really.... The third question he asked Lester was, "do you like seaweed?" and immediately I thought, this Justin guy is a character. Who goes from cars and watches to seaweed??? Justin then proceeds to tell us there's a company making alternatives to plastic from seaweed (I fact-checked, it's true).  

Justin has many nice tattoos running down his arms and legs, so I thought, okay, this guy's pretty cool. He then saw the sunflower tattoo on my back and guessed the tattoo artist correctly (affectionately calling her Maxitos instead of Maxine), and also when I'd gotten it. I still didn't realise it at the time, but when I went home and looked up his Instagram, I found out he used to be a tattoo artist. Obviously. Tif cooked us vegan bolognese made with meat substitutes, and then French toast. It was delicious and I was really enjoying the night, chilling and half-watching an old Jackie Chan movie on the TV. Lester and I were trying to follow the plot of the movie (there really wasn't one), while Justin goofed around and Tif had to make kombucha for her business. While I had been talking to Justin, he said his first love had loved Taylor Swift, and so he listened to Taylor Swift's songs and memorised the lyrics (this is the exact story of literally all men who listen to Taylor Swift, I'm pretty sure), and he sang them in front of me, while the songs were playing on speaker. I was very entertained.

I have been thinking of all the conversations I've had after sex. I love having conversations after sex, which men tend to hate, because they usually just wanna sleep. I have learned so much from those post-coital moments, before you drift off to sleep. I wonder when my next one will be. The last one was months ago. Jeez.

Monday, March 15, 2021

INGENUE


the stranger sang a theme
from someone else's dream
the leaves began to fall
and no one spoke at all
but I can't seem to recall
when you came along
ingenue, ingenue
I just don't know what to do

the tree-lined avenue
begins to fade from view
drowning past regrets
in tea and cigarettes
but I can't seem to forget
when you came along
ingenue, ingenue
I just don't know what to do

Sometimes I feel like I'm pulled in many different directions and I don't know what to do. Before I left LA in 2016, when Joey and I were spending time together, he said he'd done long-distance before, and I didn't know what to make of it. I didn't think he was asking me to do long-distance, mainly because he didn't actually ask the question, and also because I think it was also too sudden for him, and he didn't treat me very well even when I was there. And then, of course we discovered I was pregnant when I was back in Singapore, and who needs that to happen in a is-this-isn't-this long-distance relationship? No one. In the past four years, he would intermittently ask if I would be coming back to the US, and I think, we might, we could have actually been something if not for the distance.

Two years ago, at the start of 2019, I dated Ben in New York City. I really liked him a lot, and he also seemed to like me. I discovered from reading past notes, that it was him who asked me if I wanted to be in a relationship, not the other way around, and I said yes. When I found out I would have to leave for lack of a working visa, he told me he wouldn't disappear on me, and that he would try everything that he could do to help me stay. He suggested that I study in New York, and that was what first implanted the idea. I flew back to Singapore, but then he really disappeared on me, despite saying he wouldn't, so I didn't know, I still don't know whether this is a case of trusting someone's words, or believing their actions.

Two weeks ago, I went on my first date since my breakup with Lucas three months ago. His name was Owen, and we had matched on Bumble. I know he'd read my blog, because during the date, he mentioned something that was inevitably pointedly from my blog, without actually saying it. I don't know what it was that night, it could have been Melyssa having said that Lucas and I were good together, it could have been the fact that Ben was on my mind and Owen knew about it, it could have been PMS, it could have been me being drained from my school and work week, it could have been a culmination of all of those things, but I was a true asshole and I pushed him away.

I said repeatedly that we were not compatible and we had nothing in common. After the date, I realised I actually did like this Owen guy, he works in finance and he was telling me of how he'd been experiencing cognitive dissonance in his job and how he was trying to pivot to a more ethical industry. He was funny and tactful and he brought up feelings that I hadn't felt nor recognised in ages. I tried to make it up to him, but I think I hurt him, and I probably am not ready to date again, so I have deleted my Bumble account.

When I meet Jaysen along with the rest of the lululemon bunch, I think everybody feels a palpable tension, knowing that I am fond of him. It feels a little strange, because I think Jaysen may be worried about leading me on, so he hasn't acted the same way around me since he left lululemon as a workplace. Sometimes I wish there wasn't that barrier, sometimes I wish I hadn't explicitly told him, so we could continue flirting harmlessly, but I cannot change what's done and past.

There is another guy at work, his name is MJ. He's been at the store for about a month or so. He's got bad past experiences with his ex-girlfriends, and he's also got a reputation for picking up more shifts than he should (which I used to do for the money), just because he's now the resident nice guy. Anyway, we've been texting each other, I've been giving him advice about workplace and relationship boundaries, and as I've mentioned before, lululemon is known for hiring attractive people, so we flirt sometimes. I have been starved of physical touch so when he massages my shoulders or holds my hand, I simultaneously die and live a little more inside. According to someone else at the store, he has written me "an essay", because he wrote some really nice things about me in texts, and you know how much I value words. He also says he's someone who takes things to heart and remembers things way, way past their time, and I keep thinking, is he me??

In summary, I really do not know what the fuck I'm doing with my life. I want to leave and be in Canada, and text Ben, but the immigration forces that be, refuse to allow me to move on. I decided to date in Singapore, given that I'm likely to be staying here and only flying to Canada in September for the semester then (if my visa is ready by then, if it is not, I might honestly just kill myself then). My brain is sometimes in Vancouver, my body in Singapore, my heart in New York, and sometimes, I am everywhere and nowhere, and I am ready for this entire year to be goddamn fucking done. I HAVE HAD IT UP TO HERE.

A 2AM edit: They sprang forward in Canada and no one told me so I stayed up till 2am for a class that was ending. Jesus mf Christ kill me now. Which revolutionary is going to fuck daylight savings and take it away once and for all. Now my 630am classes will be at 530am if there is a God he doesn’t exist THERE IS NO GOD

Saturday, March 13, 2021

WEST POINT

I have had such a good week. I actually had a couple of nights ridden with anxiety earlier in the week, but my friends have proven to be amazing confidants and supporters through my tough times, and I felt safe, and I feel safe. I went for two back-to-back boxing sessions yesterday, both instructors were super fun and the sessions were great and I felt again, pumped with serotonin or dopamine or endorphin, or some combination of the three. Both instructors had ass-lifting exercises or some variation of the squat incorporated into the core sections of their sessions and I’d just been lamenting my lack of an ass last week. I wonder if they somehow knew, my boss at lululemon is also an instructor at CruCycle, the sister studio of CruBox. Maybe word went through the grapevine. Maybe not, I mean it’s common enough for everyone to want to have some semblance of a booty. I also spent some time with myself and my vibrator, so that was a lovely combination for the day and I slept well through the night. I don’t know if you know, but my mental health affects my sexual health, I would guess on average that a person’s mental health affects their sexual health too? Last night was a very nice and fulfilling session for me, though. :)

Tonight I met my lululemon bunch. I call them the lululemon bunch, but only two of eight of us are actually still working at lululemon, and I am one of the two. We had pizza at Chooby Pizza. The pizzas are made with naturally leavened dough, or some such thing, it was Jaysen’s recommendation and the pizzas were really quite yumz. While waiting for the rest to arrive from their spin class, Jaysen and I played a chess match on his phone, and I think but I can’t be sure, that I’m actually getting better at it? I don’t know, Jaysen’s the only person I know who plays chess, so I only play chess every two weeks lolz. We then squeezed in Jaysen’s car and then all drove over to town for dessert and tea, if you know what I mean. 

Jaysen had taught 17 classes this week (he’s the master trainer at Ground Zero so he’s also training the new instructors) so he was losing his voice, and he had a very deep, raspy voice tonight. Xuan kept joking that she was getting turned on by his voice and tbh I completely concur. The man was wearing a T-shirt and jeans and I had to keep telling myself — don’t look at his forearms, don’t look at his forearms. We chatted as a group about our celebrity pass. You know the Friends episode where, if you’re in a relationship, you’re allowed to choose the celebrities you can sleep with should you somehow miraculously happen to bump into them. Jaysen also joked about starting a Tinder profile with a photo of an actual catfish and punning in his bio about being a catfish, and so Sarah Yap started Googling catfish photos. We were all entertained by Jaysen’s silly ideas, and his warped, twisted mind, and I realised today, that actually we all love Jaysen in some form, given how big of a catch he actually is (not as a catfish, as a real human person). He’s a lovely person, and he makes us all laugh so much. I know I have slightly more feels because I know he reads provocative books and does weird brainy things like play chess and as Angelica Schuyler raps, “so this is what it feels like to match wits with someone at your level” and it’s very fun to play on words with him. I also know that we wouldn’t actually be too compatible, though, there are fundamental differences between us, I think he might actually be religious, or at least he’s definitely not irreverent like I am. I am much more open to pushing conventional boundaries whereas he’s very pleasant and sticks to the status quo. As you can see, I have clearly given this some thought, because I give most things some thought. 

In any case, today, through hours of banter, of teasing each other about this and that, I realise that this bunch of people have really carved some space in their hearts for me, to know useless things like I don’t like bandung, and I know things about them, like they never check their Whatsapp messages. I feel part of a whole, especially when they always make me feel whole, even through my whackjob nights and when I’m completely ungrounded and unsettled. I love my lululemon babies and I am grateful they are all part of my life.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

RINGO STARR

I just got my period, so now I know why my entire last week crashed and burned. I deeply regret the entirety of last week, I don't remember the last time I had such a continuous bad week, nothing was turning out right. I was a douchebag on Friday, and I feel terrible about it. I'm not a douchebag, I don't think? But if I allow myself to be a douchebag on my bad days but then don't measure myself as one, what does that even make me? Clearly, I am in some ways a douchebag, argh. This frustrates me to no end, I would like to rewind by a whole week and get a do-over. ARGHWJEKDJSKDSKDK. However, I am in a constant state of learning and growth, and if I am not soft and gentle on myself on my worst days, who is to be soft and gentle with me? Thus, be soft and gentle with myself, I shall. It's okay, I'm human, I get to be a piece of shit sometimes. I will forgive myself for it.

I am also not here to talk about myself being a piece of shit. I am here because I had a magical night, and despite the dumpster fire that last week was for me, I have a renewed bubble of hope within me from tonight. I have a friend from work called Adelene, we've been friends for a few months, thanks to lululemon. She's a dancer, and for the past couple of months, she'd been posting on Instagram about her journey with eating disorders. She's also been collaborating with a lingerie brand in Singapore called Perk by Kate, and so tonight, for International Women's Day, she organized an "Intimate Session In Our Intimates" just for women. Ten of us, mostly strangers to one another, got together and stripped down to our intimates, sharing our intimate stories of body image, self-esteem and self-acceptance issues. Adelene also incorporated a little bit of movement and play in the session. 

As we shared, we cried with and for each other. It's easy to read on your phone or computer screen that everybody has self-esteem issues, and therefore you shouldn't let it affect you. It's a different thing when you're all almost stark naked, looking at yourselves in a mirror in a dance studio, actually saying out loud all the things people have commented about you, that have hurt you. The things people say about rolls, and cellulite, and your age, and arm fats, and your hair, and a million other things. You pretend to let it roll off you, but sometimes they come from people who matter, and they echo in your own head, and you see it and feel it still, when you see your own reflection. I talked about my own journey when I practised disordered eating without even realising it, and the excessive running and skipping, that all have translated into painful joints and hunched shoulders now (I started hunching because I used to have very little body fat and I would feel very cold, so I would fold into myself to warm my body up). 

We talked about how we've all been made to feel less than. I thought but didn't talk about how, when I had my miscarriage, I felt truly not enough for my mother, and therefore not enough for the world. How I had wanted to have a child because my mother had kept me when she had me out of wedlock, but then how my mother said the miscarriage was good because I wouldn't be reminded of my so-called sin, and how she couldn't have terminated me because it was too late in the term. These things are things that no longer affect me now, because I have extricated myself from my mother's value system and the world of sin, but once upon a time they did, and I was depressed about it for a long, long time. 

Our other friend from work, Aishah, also cried a lot, because she's in a body that's not portrayed to be accepted or beautiful in mainstream society, especially in Singapore. Watching her cry when she talked about the comments made by her friends or peers, and seeing all the other women and girls almost yell good things about her, to her, ooof, it was crying season. Aishah is such a lovely person, when I go to work, I always look forward to her energy and her jokes and her dancing, one time I laughed so hard at her rapping and dancing, I literally got depleted of energy and fell to the floor (I tell you, depression takes up a lot of energy). I wish more people really believed their worth to be in much, much more than just their bodies. 

I really like so many of my lululemon friends, so much. I know I mention Jaysen's name a lot because damn if I didn't have romantic feelings for him (unreciprocated but it's okay, I'm a cool person someone! will! love! me??????), but I actually really do appreciate my team very much. When they crowdfunded that sum of money for my studies, I really wanted to write a long-ass thank-you note to every person who contributed to it, I haven't yet, seeing as I haven't left, but I think a lot of my team is truly very special. There are many, many words I could write about so many of them, but I'll write the words to them when I leave, someday, eventually, before I die of burnout. 

Tonight was something special, and it takes a special someone like Adelene to open up about her own painful journey, on something as public as social media, to gather a group of like-minded people. It was almost a support group therapy session, and I am so grateful to have been part of it, to have witnessed ten people's relentless journeys through life. I have politics class in ten minutes, so the excitement and magic from the intimate session is slowly dissipating into a tiny bit of dread and sleepiness. It's okay, though, I'll process it properly this time, and we'll keep on keeping on.

Monday, March 8, 2021

BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA

It is a brand new week, time to reset all the counters. We went for Kristal’s debut class at Revolution on Saturday, it was super fun. She’s very verbally expressive, at least as an instructor, so it felt interactive and you could see her having lots of fun, making us have lots of fun. I think this is a great path for her to be on. Yesterday, we went for Jaysen’s Blitz class at Ground Zero. It’s almost like circuit training with six pods. I didn’t know what half the exercises meant. Jaysen was demonstrating a toe-to-bar move, which I think requires pure brute strength, and which barring any miracles that remove my depressive episodes that take up half my energy, I say with confidence I will never be able to do in my life. The alternative were knee tucks. Putri was my partner for the session, and I’m so glad my friends from lululemon are the fittest yet most encouraging people you could find. She had to do her sets for more reps while waiting for me to go through mine, and she still had the energy to cheer me on. Jaysen also modified most of the pods so I could do them. For example, he left a 5kg plate on the sled for Putri but removed it for me hahahahahaha. There was an assault cycle station, which hurt my left elbow, I think my left elbow is slightly more hyperextended than the right? I also think that’s why I don’t enjoy spin classes as much as other people do, spin almost always requires you to cycle while standing and bearing your weight down on the handlebars with your hands, through entire tracks, and my left elbow inevitably hurts at every spin class, so I just carry my weight on only my right arm instead while leaving my left arm hanging. Whenever spin instructors ask if anyone has injuries, I don’t know whether to tell them about my elbow. Is it an injury or just a condition I was born with and have to cope with? Who knows?? Xuan and I were saying, after yesterday’s Blitz, that Jaysen has a persona while teaching. He usually has a little bit of it even when he was on floor at lululemon (he doesn’t work at lululemon anymore), he’s very personable, but as an instructor, he adopts even more elaborate flair and finesse, and it’s very pleasant to watch. You can see he enjoys his work, as Kristal enjoys being a spin instructor, and I love it. I have mad, mad admiration and love for my lululemon friends. I started meditating again three days ago, and I’m determined to meditate once a day for the next thirty days. Meditating always makes me feel more grounded, and yet I never do it until I’m completely unsettled in life. I get busy with school and work and family and bills and I think meditation is not a priority, which is obviously counterproductive because the more things I have going in my life, the more I would need a moment a day to pause and breathe and root myself in my body. It’s been an alright Monday morning, I hope you have a much, much better week ahead than you did last week. If you already had a good week last week, then all the better! I’m rooting for you!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

TRANSPLANT

This morning, while walking to the train station, I saw a couple walking with their toddler. The girl was taking the tiniest steps and being fascinated by the tiniest things on the sidewalk and on her shoes and I heard her father sigh through his mask, but then he turned to her and said "good pace, good job!" and suddenly I felt better about the morning. The family eventually got to the same traffic light I was at, and I was going to jaywalk before the light turned green because there was no vehicular traffic, but then the little girl was there. I stopped myself and waited for the light, just in case she was looking at me and would emulate whatever she saw. 

I just got done with a boxing session, it was a really good one. I was able to do the correct moves at the correct pace, and I broke into quite a sweat. Tonight I'm going for Kristal's debut spin class, so that's another sweat I look forward to. I'm currently sitting in the basement of Guoco Tower waiting for the spin class, taking a break between doing my readings. This week has been a tough week, I keep thinking it might get better but it really isn't, every week feels tougher than the last. I've fucked up everywhere this week, at home, at work, in my personal life. My fuck-up at work actually cost quite a bit of money that could have been avoided if not for me messing it up.

At this moment in time, I've just read the timeline of indigenous history in Canada, and it feels heavy. My Indigenous lectures take place at 6.30am Friday, Singapore time, and my politics classes are 2.30am on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I attend them and then I go back to sleep for a few more hours. I don't think I'd ever acknowledged the extent of this, but every week, I read or watch an injustice via either my indigenous gender class or my politics class. Every day, there is something terrible happening in the world, and I learn about these things in the middle of the night, in between my sleep cycles, and I absorb and internalise them, and it weighs so heavy on me, and then I project it on everyone else.

As I type this, I can feel my tears building up, and I don't know what to do. I allow myself to cry, I've never been the type to stop myself from crying, but I really don't know how to do this longer than the absolute shortest period of time I have to. I don't think I can cope with the dual timezones for another semester, so I'll defer it if my visa doesn't get approved by then.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

ALETHEIA


the moon is high 
like your friends were the night that we first met 
went home and tried to stalk you on the internet 
now I've read all of the books beside your bed 

the wine is cold 
like the shoulder that I gave you in the street 
cat and mouse for a month or two or three 
now I wake up in the night and watch you breathe 

kiss me once 'cause you know I had a long night (oh!) 
kiss me twice 'cause it's gonna be alright 
three times 'cause I've waited my whole life 
(one, two, one-two-three-four!) 

I like shiny things, but I'd marry you with paper rings 
uh huh, that's right 
darling, you're the one I want
I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this 
uh huh, that's right
darling, you're the one I want 
in paper rings, in picture frames, in dirty dreams 
oh, you're the one I want 

in the winter, in the icy outdoor pool 
when you jumped in first, I went in too 
I'm with you even if it makes me blue 
which takes me back 
to the color that we painted your brother's wall 
honey, without all the exes, fights, and flaws 
we wouldn't be standing here so tall, so 

kiss you once 'cause I know you had a long night (oh!) 
kiss you twice 'cause it's gonna be alright
three times 'cause you waited your whole life 
(one, two, one-two-three-four!) 

I like shiny things, but I'd marry you with paper rings 
uh huh, that's right 
darling, you're the one I want
and I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this 
uh huh, that's right 
darling, you're the one I want 
in paper rings, in picture frames, in dirty dreams 
oh, you're the one I want 

I want to drive away with you 
I want your complications too 
I want your dreary Mondays 
wrap your arms around me, baby boy

I think there is a Taylor Swift song for every occasion in my life, or anyone's life, tbh. This is the one I want to dance to at my wedding. Every time I hear it, I bop to it. It plays on the work playlist sometimes, and it cheers me up, every time. I went for a boxing session yesterday, have another two this week, just to use up the credits I get from work. I have a spin session to support my friend's first class, and then we're going for Jaysen's resistance workout at Ground Zero on Sunday. I already know I'm going to be the weakest person in the class, so I hope Jaysen just ignores my existence while I trail behind everyone else. Some days I feel like I'm dying, I am so exhausted, and still somehow my body survives. Life is a game of chess, not checkers. Rome wasn't built in a day, yadda yadda yadda. I finished watching WandaVision. "What is grief, if not love persevering?" I think it's a little frilly and predictable, just about the best summary of Disney+ so far, but an easy and enjoyable enough watch. 

A couple of days ago, we were talking about dating in the work pantry, and Melyssa (her name is actually spelled the same way as my sister's!) asked why I wouldn't get back together with Lucas, because she thought we were quite good together. I told her I have much more fond feelings for him as a friend than anything else, and trying to pretend otherwise would be unfair to both of us. We were together for 500 days or so, and he never watched Hamilton, with me or otherwise. This is the piece of media that changed my life enough that I have a tattoo of it, I wouldn't expect my partner to love it, but I'd think sparing 3 hours to watch it isn't too much to ask for. I also definitely want a partner who's not too self-conscious to dance in public, and Lucas (bless him, he's the sweetest but) was not that. He refused to dance, on account of dancing really badly, but you know, do I look like I can dance? I absolutely cannot, but I wouldn't let anyone's impression of me stop me from doing it, anyway. There were many tiny things that translated to something lacking in our compatibility, and nothing at all to do with either of us as people. We were quite good together, but I know myself better than that and I wouldn't settle for a quite good partnership for life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

PHIL 158

The Tao Te Ching advocates the concept of wu wei, or non-action, while the Analects of Confucius propose ruling through ren (jen) and the enforcement of li. In what follows, I will highlight the contrast between these two ideals in matters of contemporary political disposition, while also putting forth that the Confucian Analects, in its proposition of ren and li, are comparatively more relevant to our modern political world, than the Tao Te Ching is.

According to the Tao Te Ching, the ideal situation is one in which a person strives for nothing, and the ideal person, often referred to as a Sage, is one who simply goes along in time, letting tao take its course. To a Sage, only the present moment exists and to find everything that one needs, one has to look within as it already exists and is flowing. The tao is not an external entity that has to be chased after, but is sought by finding one’s own purpose, by being present in oneself.

A person in the practice of tao would be in the habit of wu wei, refraining from setting things astir, and thereby supposedly maintaining harmony and peace. Without having done anything, one who lives in tao has already done all things as they have no desire to do more. The Tao Te Ching also proposes that governing a society well constitutes gentle advisory from the background instead of an institution or a political leader that’s in the limelight to control every move (Lao Tzu, n.d.). 

While the Tao Te Ching has merit to its teachings and may have been relevant at its point of conception thousands of years ago, the reality is that current modern society has evolved to a point of imbalance. The teachings within the Tao Te Ching do not serve to correct imbalances in a society and its virtues cannot be applied or reflected well in a society that has already been put out of balance and which needs a course back towards a fair and equitable situation for all members of that community. 

At the present moment, in the United States, the wealth divide among upper-income families and middle- and lower-income families is sharp and rising, and “the richest are getting richer faster” (Horowitz, Igielnik & Kochhar, 2020). Globally, the world’s richest 1 percent, those with more than $1 million, own 44 percent of the world’s wealth (Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, 2020).

Juxtaposing an ideal government from the Tao Te Ching into our current society would translate into allowing the prevailing wealth divide to exacerbate. Up to the 1980s, the economies of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) member countries, including the United States, were generally more regulated than they are today. Governments of these countries have also trended towards taking more passive roles in the labor market. 

In the past, wage increments were sometimes negotiated at a federal level and there was relatively tighter regulation of how and when companies could let workers go. Today, market forces are generally allowed freer rein. These factors have tended to widen the wage gap, pushing down the wages of “low-skill” workers and pushing up the wages of “high-skill” workers. Part-time and temporary workers, in particular, are now covered by weaker employment protection laws than in the past (Keeley, 2015). 

While the above may expound only one manner of governmental intervention, wages are a significant and important factor of caring for society. A person’s wages directly affects the environment that surrounds them, the education and healthcare options available to them, and essentially their entire livelihoods. A governmental leader who is also a practitioner of tao would not deign to intervene in such political matters, as the teaching advocates moderate counseling instead of executing active and dynamic responses. Hence, the Tao Te Ching bears little relevance to the modern political world, which requires swift and sure arbitration, if an equitable society is the aim. 

Alternatively, the Analects of Confucius champion ren, a concept of strengthening relationships between human beings as well as supporting one another, as a means of elevating society and oneself. Ren functions based on the premise that a society is only as strong as its weakest link, and Confucian Analects appeals to its followers to empower one another, so as to uplift society as a unit. 

Excerpts from the Analects that directly demonstrate the concept of ren include “people who are ren are first to shoulder difficulties and last to reap rewards” and “the ren person is one who, wishing himself to be settled in position, sets up others; wishing himself to have access to the powerful, achieves access for others.” (Confucius, n.d.)

Within the past century, working conditions of modern society have largely been the creation of both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, who campaigned for the passage of fair labor laws. Henry Ford took the monumental step of raising the wages of workers to five dollars a day, a huge salary increase for factory workers at that time. Ford’s objective was to improve the conditions of the workers’ lives. Mohandas Gandhi, John Kennedy and Andrew Carnegie are all among the historical giants who rose to leadership heights by empowering people (Mumford, 2006). Almost all distinguished leaders in all walks of life have exercised influence and empowered their people. By empowering people, they were able to succeed in their aspirations for the world. This proves by and large similar to the teachings of Confucius from thousands of years ago. (Dhakhwa & Enriquez, 2008) 

A modern leader practising the philosophy found in the Analects of Confucius would be encouraged to head labor unions or transform legislation, for the cause of achieving fair and just treatment not just for him or herself, but also all the people they serve and work with. Governing in such a manner would have a more desirable impact, with the potential to eventually reduce existing wealth and income disparity. At the very least, taking swift action to uplift one another would be more helpful than having a passive stance whilst the current situation proliferates. In this aspect, the Analects would benefit modern society more and have more relevance than the Tao Te Ching.

The Analects of Confucius did contain limited ideas about women. During the Tang dynasty, two female scholars created a separate text based on his ideas, which became known as the Analects for Women. It cemented the idea that the roles of men and women should be distinct from each other. A study done by the International Monetary Fund in 2012 showed that only 9 percent of corporate management positions in Japan and South Korea were held by women, compared to 43 percent in the United States. (Worrall, 2015) 

This knowledge indicates that Confucius’ teachings may yet be lacking in several ways and would need to be supplemented with other philosophies for proper governance. However, comparing the Tao Te Ching and The Analects, the teachings of the latter would serve more good, to a much wider demographic of society. 


References:

Dhakhwa, S. & Enriquez, S. (2008). The Relevance of Confucian Philosophy to Modern Concepts of Leadership and Followership. http://digitalcommons.unf.edu/ojii_volumes/5

Global Inequality. (2019). Inequality.org. https://inequality.org/facts/global-inequality/

Hinton, D. (1998). The Analects of Confucius. Washington, DC: Counterpoint.

Horowitz, J., Igielnik, R., & Kochhar, R. (2020). Most Americans Say There Is Too Much Economic Inequality In The U.S. But Fewer Than Half Call It A Top Priority. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/01/09/trends-in-income-and-wealth-inequality/

Keeley, B. (2015). “Why is income inequality rising?”, in Income Inequality: The Gap between Rich and Poor. OECD Publishing, Paris.

Mumford, M. D. (2006). Pathways to outstanding leadership: A comparative analysis of charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic leaders. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Worrall, S. (2015). Why Is Confucius Still Relevant Today? His Sound Bites Hold Up. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/150325-confucius-china-asia-philosophy-communist-party-ngbooktalk

Wu, J. C. H. (1961). Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. https://terebess.hu/english/tao/wu.html#Kap01