Thursday, September 27, 2018

A LUSH LIFE




all the shine of a thousand spotlights all the stars we steal from the night sky Like every family, this one has siblings that don't always get along, parents that may not know everything but are always trying and learning, good days and bad days and days where everything is completely off (although mostly, off days are gr8). Unlike some families, though, this one is progressive, and they accept you through changes and mental health issues, and see you not just for what you portray yourself to be, but for what you can become. At the heart of our family, we all want to do better for the people we know, the animals we care for and the planet we live on, at the heart of this family is a lot of heart, and I love them. We usually smell good too. (Also: I would like to thank the Academy and all my friends who voted me Best Dressed — I know it doesn't show on a daily basis but besides books and words, I do love fashion and clothes and I wish the industry were much more sustainable but in any case, y'all made a girl's dreams cum true!!!!!) #Lush #LushSG #LushVivocity #family #love
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

BY PROVIDENCE

So, a lot has happened since my last post, and I will try to place them in linear chronological order so you might be able to follow my thought process in the past, I dunno what, five days?

The day after it was posted, Luca (who happens to be British), the last guy I dated, said to me in a text: "just to offer a non-Singaporean perspective, a doctor here told me that they very rarely prescribe SSRIs to locals and also seemed to think that medication could be a hindrance to therapy. I think that Singapore is lagging behind in this respect."

Of course I'd already known that, but he was sweet though, and I appreciate it. I know pills aren't a surefire method, but the people here are still very resistant to the idea of medicating for mental health. It's like, if you thought sex was taboo here, I think they shudder at taking pills for mental health.

I think it's even worse in religious communities, where of course, anything you think or feel is usually pinned on you, for not being "close to God", because to them, God is the solution to anything and everything. I just feel like it's a double jeopardy situation, where my mental health is closely linked to my familial bonds, but even when I know I'm doing poorly and want to seek help, I can't find the moral support to treat it, medically.

I don't know if my manager Aileen read my post, but she could see on Instagram that I hadn't had a stable week, so she texted me too.
Aileen: Hi Sarah
Aileen: I hope you're feeling better
Aileen: With whatever you're dealing with
Aileen: I'm here if you need me to listen
Aileen: Even after three months
Aileen: But I just wanted to say thank you. You have a good heart. You're a good person, thank you for supporting our team. Your presence makes me calm and happy.
Aileen: Thank you Sarah. Thank you for being part of the best team I can ever ask for
We have a joke between us because the last time she had a personal story to tell me, we somehow never got to sitting down and talking until three months after I first asked her about it. I love Aileen, she is the best manager you could ask for, she's usually calm and composed and encouraging and so very accepting.

The team has been nothing short of amazing. I don't know if I gravitated towards Lush because it's a campaigning company, and we are one of the very few companies in Singapore that are openly accepting towards hiring the LGBTQIA+ community, etc.

Sometime on Saturday, I was like, this is it, I can't stay in Singapore, this is not the place for me, so I tried to open a Chase savings account so that less money I earn would be contributed to this goddamn stupid dictatorial Singapore economy. I obviously needed a social security number, but I don't have one unless and until I get my working visa, yadda yadda yadda.

I think if I apply for Lush in the US, I might wanna try to do manufacturing. We don't have a manu team in Singapore, 'cos we don't have a Lush factory here. I think it might be fun to make the products, instead of selling them in retail, I dunno. I think retail staff really do God's work, facing people all the time.

Viv then told me about a friend of hers who'd also received similar treatment (or lack thereof) at the Institute of Mental Health, who'd received much better treatment from JCU's psych office, and whose case would be expedited even with a waitlist, based on the same details she'd provided. I emailed JCU psych, and they called back within two days.

I told her my story over the phone, my tendencies for suicidal ideation, that I veer very easily between being okay, and my depressive moods, and the fact that sometimes I'm okay makes it very hard to catch me suddenly drop in moods for no reason. She was very worried, and she says she would also try to expedite my appointment, even though there definitely is a waitlist.

(I infer from the fact that there is a high demand/long waitlist at JCU's psych, that either the psychiatrists/therapists available in Singapore are not providing satisfactory services, too expensive, or there aren't enough psych resources, and also there must be more people who have mental health issues than you'd think there are.)

Between the last post and this one, one of the aunts I'm closer to, also checked in on me and told me I could talk to her if I ever needed or wanted to, as well as my real dad. My dad asked if I was still seeing a therapist, and whether I paid for it myself.

On Monday night, around midnight, my mother texted me that she loved me, so I texted her back that I loved her too. And then, I'm not sure how or why it transpired, I don't know if someone else had clued her in to my dispositions, or she just felt like it, but at 1.14am, she said "please forgive me if i haven't been a good mother" and I started bawling insanely, just by myself in my own room.

It reminded me of some pages I'd read in Educated: A Memoir (because of course I am one of the biggest perusers of books I know of in person).
There was a pause, then more words appeared—words I hadn't known I needed to hear, but once I saw them, I realized I'd been searching my whole life for them.

You were my child. I should have protected you.

I lived a lifetime in the moment I read those lines, a life that was not the one I had actually lived. I became a different person, who remembered a different childhood. I didn't understand the magic of those words then, and I don't understand it now. I know only this: that when my mother told me that she had not been the mother to me that she wished she'd been, she became that mother for the first time.
The thing is, I haven't actually had the time nor chance to see nor talk to my mom since that text, so I don't know what the text meant for the both of us. From the anecdote above, I also know that sometimes words are spoken but nothing changes, so I honestly don't know what it will entail. I want to believe it's a major breakthrough, and I hope it is, I hope perhaps that she and I could even go to some therapy sessions together.

Friday, September 14, 2018

THE HUMAN CONDITION

On a very bad night, after I am done crying, I write letters. I tell my grandma I no longer believe in a god, or heaven or hell, so she does not have to worry, I will not be in pain or suffering nor face any punishment. All I will be is gone. I tell my sister she can have my meagre worldly possessions, and I hope she appreciates the number of inside jokes I have included. I hope she remembers me by my jokes and all the things I did to make them laugh, even though I know she would be very angry at the onset. I write letters to tell everyone that nobody is to blame. My mother is not to blame. My father is not to blame. None of the men I have ever dated is to blame. Nobody is at fault. My brain is not wired the same way, that is all. It is so strange that for the only things in the universe that can try to make any sense of the universe, sometimes brains themselves just make very little sense. I have tried, and I can make not much sense of why my brain does this. Logically and factually, I know that I have nothing to be depressed about. I am an attractive person, people are always telling me to be a model or a flight attendant or one of those things. I also have brains, I use them most of the time, I have the capacity to change my life, day by day. I am also the person who throws her head back and laughs fully, I let things slide at work, I am witty and naughty and I tease and am able to play. But sometimes, it doesn't want to. Sometimes, when it's at its lowest, all it feels is that regardless how many people are next to me, or holding me, they will never be able to alleviate the dread I feel, the pointlessness of it all. I am scared of becoming Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf, writing often of their depression and simply dragging it on until one day they gather enough courage to end. I write and write and I hope that this pain doesn't spill over, I hope everyone who's directly related to me in my life doesn't think, oh it was something I missed, we should have done something more --- there was nothing to be caught. We all know I have depression, and nobody could have done anything more. I hope my best friends and all my loved ones forgive me, and forgive themselves, for everything. If there is one thing my words could do, I hope it is to convince everyone that I have always loved them, but sometimes I honestly can't say any of this is worth it. This is what I feel on my worst nights.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

YELLOW FLICKER BEAT

I'll say it again, I don't date white guys only because they're white, but because they tend to be the lesser of two evils, in my opinion. They're not Singaporean/Asian, the kind of men who think they own women. I see the ones whom my family members and friends are dating, the men who don't quite like their girlfriends wearing this outfit, or going to that club at night, the ones who think they have a say in a woman's life under the pretext of caring for the ladies. Of course, this happens because the women themselves allow it to happen, because our parents have all taught us that women must defer to men, and it is natural to defer to a man's opinion, and to cater to his happiness. So no, I will not date Asian men, especially Asian men who are so insecure they have to make snide remarks about Asian girls dating white men. I am not here to please you, nobody owns me, my mother does not own my body, and I will not allow you to own me.

A couple weeks ago, or whenever it was before Jon left for the States, he asked "why do you like me?" and this was because we both knew we didn't want the same things, and he could be very mean to me, so what he left unsaid was, "why do you like me despite my making myself dislikeable to you?" I asked him, "why don't you like me?" and what was left unsaid was, "why don't you like me, despite my being incredibly witty, funny, sweet, and making myself likeable to you?" I hadn't thought of it at the time, but it wasn't the first time I was asking such a question. I'd asked many other men before him, the same thing, in different ways and forms, and I realise those weren't even the first times, they were all echoes of my trying to win my parents' approval, which I never earned, despite my sincerest, deepest efforts to. I cannot find love from anyone else, if I cannot love myself the way I am.


After I'd been meeting with Professor Steinberg for a month, I wrote an essay comparing Edmund Burke with Publius, the persona under which James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay had written The Federalist Papers. I barely slept for two weeks: every moment my eyes were open, I was either reading or thinking about those texts.

From my father I had learned that books were to be either adored or exiled. Books that were of God — books written by the Mormon prophets or the Founding Fathers — were not to be studied so much as cherished, like a thing perfect in itself. I had been taught to read the words of men like Madison as a cast into which I ought to pour the plaster of my own mind, to be reshaped according to the contours of their faultless model. I read them to learn what to think, not how to think for myself. Books that were not of God were banished; they were a danger, powerful and irresistible in their cunning.

To write my essay I had to read books differently, without giving myself over to either fear or adoration. Because Burke had defended the British monarchy, Dad would have said he was an agent of tyranny. He wouldn't have wanted the book in the house. There was a thrill in trusting myself to read the words. I felt a similar thrill in reading Madison, Hamilton and Jay, especially on those occasions when I discarded their conclusions in favor of Burke's, or when it seemed to me that their ideas were not really different in substance, only in form. There were wonderful suppositions embedded in this method of reading: that books are not tricks, and that I was not feeble.

I finished the essay and sent it to Professor Steinberg. Two days later, when I arrived for our next meeting, he was subdued. He peered at me from across the table. I waited for him to say the essay was a disaster, the product of an ignorant mind, that it had overreached, drawn too many conclusions from too little material.

"I have been teaching in Cambridge for thirty years," he said. "And this is one of the best essays I've read."

I was prepared for insults but I was not prepared for this.

Professor Steinberg must have said something more about the essay but I heard nothing. My mind was consumed with a wrenching need to get out of that room. In that moment I was no longer in a clock tower in Cambridge. I was seventeen, in a red jeep, and a boy I loved had just touched my hand. I bolted.

I could tolerate any form of cruelty better than kindness. Praise was a poison to me; I choked on it. I wanted the professor to shout at me, wanted it so deeply I felt dizzy from the deprivation. The ugliness of me had to be given expression. If it was not expressed in his voice, I would need to express it in mine.

I don't remember leaving the clock tower, or how I passed the afternoon. That evening there was a black-tie dinner. The hall was lit by candlelight, which was beautiful, but it cheered me for another reason: I wasn't wearing formal clothing, just a black shirt and black pants, and I thought people might not notice in the dim lighting. My friend Laura arrived late. She explained that her parents had visited and taken her to France. She had only just returned. She was wearing a dress of rich purple with crisp pleats in the skirt. The hemline bounced several inches above her knee, and for a moment I thought the dress was whorish, until she said her father had bought it for her in Paris. A gift from one's father could not be whorish. A gift from one's father seemed to me the definitive signal that a woman was not a whore. I struggled with this dissonance — a whorish dress, gifted to a loved daughter — until the meal had been finished and the plates cleared away.
I've been reading Educated: A Memoir for the past few days. It's a factual memoir written by a lady who was raised in Midwest North America, in a Mormon family, by a father who had bipolar disorder.

The writer and her siblings were not allowed to go to school, for her father's fear that it was brainwashing from the Government. They also never went to the hospital, and never took pills, because "if you believe in doctors, you believe in the devil and not God's work", etc.

Although my family is not such an extreme case, I do recall the resistance that my mother would have towards medicine and painkillers, with the explanation being that it would take years to flush out of our bodies, making me inherently suspicious of painkillers, until only very recently, because of course a parent's suspicions tend to also become their children's.

I know not many people are born wealthy, but I'm guessing everybody sometimes wishes they could be really well-off. Or is it just me? Sometimes I really wish I were a legacy kid. That I could have had a clear and encouraged path to academia, in Harvard or Oxford or wherever my parents went to. That I didn't have to worry about money or health or living in the same room as my parents and siblings during my childhood, that I could have pursued whatever I wanted to. I wish that I were in an alternate universe, where nobody judges me for wanting to study when I clearly can't afford to, or wanting to study for the sake of studying, which I know is frivolous and impractical. I wish I were so rich that nobody thinks I'm a sellout for enjoying the act of studying, of reading and writing essays, and using my brain's capacity for synapses in learning to code, or being an activist on gender and race studies, or I dunno, just doing creative writing the formal-conventional-university way, instead of struggling with my physical tiredness in an industry I do not enjoy. Sometimes I hate saying such things here, because I know it sounds like I'm whiny, but this is my space, and I'm allowed to feel and say what I want. I'm not asking anyone to sponsor me, I just wish things were different, a lot of the time. I wish that I were challenging my brain to make a difference in an avenue I could be useful to, instead of remembering the thousands of details I know about men I've met. I mean, my memory could be so useful, my best friend depends on me to remember tiny details from our shared past, or to navigate in foreign situations that we've only been in once, and all I use it for, is men. Men, who appear, and leave. I wish Rick and Morty were real, so I could travel to an alternate universe.




For the next couple of days, my workplace @lushvivocity is holding a contest in which you choose your favorite perfume from Lush and write or draw how it makes you feel. You stand to win a bottle of it! We contributed our submissions (although nope, I can't win - but if you have the time, I totes recommend that you pop by our store and enter!) and because I am not the most artistically-inclined of people, I wrote about 1000 Kisses Deep: "this reminds me of my favorite memory in my life so far, my happiest and the prettiest picture I can paint in my mind. I am watching the sun set in a pink sky, over calm waters on RAT Beach in California. even though the place and its people eventually brought me to depression, there is a love I will always have for Cali, that lies deep beneath the turmoil, and I think it is the kind of love that is a thousand kisses deep and cannot be shaken." #lush #lushsg #gorillaperfume #1000kissesdeep #love #rightaftertorrance
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On a lighter note, I was in Bangkok with my family for four days, and my mom still apparently does not know about my tattoo. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

MANTRA

There is a lot that I have to unlearn in order to learn new behaviors and patterns, and I try. The good thing is I do try, and I will try.

Not a single ounce of my value depends on how I attract others. I am not a thing made for other people's consumption. My worth isn't dependent on how many dates I get. Choosing to stay single rather than intentionally pursuing partners who are toxic, emotionally unavailable or just straight up wrong for me is a good thing. Know my worth. Take my time until it feels right. Savor getting to know myself and fall in love with That person.

Read. Rinse. Repeat. Read. Rinse. Repeat.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

WUT

My family is at the airport now. My parents, sisters and I are waiting to board our flight to Bangkok while the younger sisters are having a week-long holiday from school. The last time I was here at the airport, it was quite a trip. I don't talk much about weird messy situations bc like, wtf, but my life has many of such moments, of puzzle pieces that don't fit, of the strange and the out-of-ordinary. So the night I'd gotten my tattoo, I went over to Jon's place to help him pack, 'cos he's moving to a new apartment and he was leaving the next morning for his trip to Boston. The next morning, I realised I had time before work so I got into the car he'd booked, and told him I'd spend some time at the airport with him. He then said he wasn't comfortable with me sending him off, 'cos he had work to finish, he gets anxious before travelling, etc, but I knew he was clearly hiding something. Eventually he admitted another girl would be sending him off at the airport, so then we both got flustered. We weren't dating exclusively, but I'd just spent the night packing his goddamn apartment with him and he wouldn't even tell me the truth. Throughout the ride we realised the depth of his non-commital issues, and then because I am me, I asked our driver whether he had ever heard of anything more absurd happening in his car, and the driver said no. When we got to the airport, Jon thought I left him at the curb but I'd just gotten my tattoo, and I realised fuck this shit, time to start a fire, so when he was checking in at the counter and the girl was waiting off at the side, I had bags of plastic from his place that I'd intended to recycle, I dropped them off in front of him at the counter and made the most dramatic exit I could, storming off. After he had checked himself in, Jon laughed gleefully in text, and said "that was way shady" and up till now, I'm so drawn to him even though he's not looking for someone to date exclusively, probably because thanks to my daddy issues, I only fall for emotionally unavailable men. Last night, I chatted with him again and we realised besides his issues of not wanting to commit and actively not seeking therapy, he also didn't like that I'm so intense, which made me think, maybe this intensity of mine that I'm so comfortable with, is a defence mechanism that drives people away and keeps them at bay. In any case, last week I had a date with Luca, who is the sweetest, but clearly I have very bad issues about needing unhealthy drama that I attract all of it. Somehow we happened to sit in the restaurant, at a table right next to Julien, a French guy I used to date (if you searched for it I think you could find a post of him showing me stars), and I was sitting facing Luca, who was seated adjacent to Julien, so I was looking at both of them. I said hi to Julien, and then proceeded to have a riveting conversation with Luca about how reverse racism Does Not Exist, because I inherently needed to prove that I was a better conversationalist than Julien's date. Luca and I laughed and enjoyed ourselves but truly, my life is a mess because I am a mess because I subconsciously feel like I don't deserve happiness and TOO LONG; DIDN'T READ --- I NEED THERAPY