#2078 | A note on sleep, on time management


I feel like I might have said this before, somewhere, but it’s the kind of thing that needs to be nudged once in awhile, so here I am again.

A couple of weeks ago, Roz and I put out an open call for an Ask Me Anything episode we were doing for Hype Hunt (upcoming, stay tuned!). It was pretty interesting to see how the type of questions we got differed between us, but one of the overwhelmingly recurring questions I got was that on time management. It seems there are a lot of you struggling with work/school, having a social life, getting enough sleep, pursuing your life passions and hobbies… and I can understand how you would relate to me, as I do to you, a person struggling to keep afloat with all that has been going on especially in the final leg of my Masters programme.

A very flippant reply I give most people when they ask how I manage to balance everything is that I have no social life. This is true to some extent – I have significantly cut down on all my social activity, and at the start of this year, I sent out a round message to my different groups of friends telling them that I would be a sort of hermit in the coming semester due to #thesis, not to take it personally, and that I would be back again properly after August, which is when my submissions are. I do miss making plans to go out with my girlfriends after a long day of work, I miss being able to freely commit to a painting class date two weeks in advance, things like that. But something’s gotta give. You can’t have everything. And in any case, it wasn’t going to be a permanent thing – and everyone thankfully was very understanding and supportive and also, they all had their own lives to lead so I flatter myself by thinking that they might miss me too much anyway.

I’m thankful that my work in filming and hosting forces me outdoors and to participate in activities outside the academic, and I’m surprised and grateful that I still find time for spontaneous dinners when my friends are in my office area. So in some sense, I still have that semblance of balance in my life. I think if I didn’t, I would go crazy. All in all – it’s been a stressful year or so, and it’s been tiring. This is not a complaint – I think that life becomes meaningful when you have challenges and from this you grow – but I’m just saying, yes, it’s been tiring. But when I compare working patterns between myself and my two younger sisters, both of which are also still in various stages of school, I can’t believe how recklessly gung-ho I was in my younger days in prioritising what to give up in favour of my schoolwork.

It seems that a lot of kids these days are still championing the you can sleep when you’re dead motto when it comes to their studies. I sure did. In fact, I think it was my MSN byline for the longest time – I’LL SLEEP WHEN IM DEAD, GPA IS FOREVER. Jeez. MSN. I feel old. That doesn’t even exist anymore. But ok, that’s besides the point. The point is, the idea of giving up sleep and pulling all nighters is part necessity and part romanticised, and I have to tell you in retrospect, it’s bullshit.

I’m perpetually trying to force my sisters to go to sleep. My youngest in particular gets very frustrated when I do this, because she says that jie if i sleep i literally cannot finish my work. It’s her A level year, tension is running high. And I get it. I do. This is a problem, that we are loading kids with so much work that they are literally hunching over under the weight of the sheer volume of content they need to memorise and regurgitate at will. And it creates panic, and this mill horse kind of mentality that no matter what, you just have to keep going. I pulled countless all nighters in my secondary school, JC, and uni undergrad days. And I regret them.

Yes, there are friendships forged from the occasional comradeship that a room full of desperate undergraduates studying for finals form, and they do occupy quite a significant space in my nostalgic memory of schooldays. But seriously, if you’re just looking purely at productivity and effectiveness of study, a lack of sleep does you way more harm than good.

One of the most important things someone ever said to me was, just because you’re not sleepy doesn’t mean your body isn’t tired.

I cannot emphasise enough how important and true this is. When your body is tired, it suffers. And it tries to warn you that it’s suffering, so to signal this to you, your mind slows down, you become sluggish and moody, and heck, it’s bad for health, body, and fitness. It messes with your eyesight, it makes you less effective and productive as a worker, and it makes you more prone to depression. On the other hand, sleep regenerates you, refreshes you, and i mean, come on buddy. I don’t have to tell you why sleep is great. Everyone loves sleep. I actually get emotional about getting into bed because it feels so good I could cry.

Perhaps you can trick your body into not feeling sleepy, but this changes nothing about the fact that you’re probably still tired as heck. I think the problem is partly our culture, that we are such a generation of overachievers that we feel like if we can keep going, we should. But no. Im here to tell you that this is terrible for you in the long run. It’s ok to tell yourself that tonight, this is as much as you will do, and you can continue tomorrow. Allow yourself to sleep. Forgive your body it’s failings. JUST GIVE YOURSELF A DAMNED BREAK.

This is the reason why today, I can compromise everything – social life, watching TV, taking a break from my hobbies for awhile, not meeting my boyfriend as often… but I will not compromise sleep. I have experienced first hand how shit it is to be tired all the time. And yeah, sure. Maybe you can give up everything and have enough sleep and still not have enough time to finish your work. Fine. But at least you’ll be a happier person, and more productive, and, you’ll actually get to do the best thing ever, which is sleep.

Keep hanging in there, guys. x


#2073 | hashtag cheryl blossom


starbucks’s new green tea strawberry blossom is ultra grammable

Is it normal to love coffee so much? I really don’t know. I drink it black and cold (like my heart) almost exclusively nowadays, but one must make exceptions, and my exception this week was a sip of shane’s green tea strawberry blossom frap. so sweet. so pretty. so indulgent.

the new blossom frap reminds me of the ever annoying cheryl blossom from riverdale, this new netflix series that i cannot stop bitchin about. everyone i know, and i do mean everyone, is obsessed with it. even my self-proclaimed cinephile friends, and film-maker friends. I’m in disbelief. as someone who grew up in absolute love with cole sprouse (or dylan, i dont care, my affection is interchangeable), devoted in heart and spirit till i was in junior college and discovered sterling knight aka chad dylan cooper from disney’s sonny with a chance, this breaks my heart. i vowed to love everything my boy sprouse was in. but i cannot take riverdale seriously. i just cannot.

putting aside the fact that i told everyone i had no more time to tv cos, yknw, #thesis, i still dont stand up as well to peer pressure as i thought i would. i finally got suckered into watching it by martin who insisted that its surprisingly damned good. thus four hours of my life passed, and at the other end of four hours i came out and yelled at him for another four for making me do that.

firstly what the hell.

is no one in the show at least attempting to be believable? i cannot bring myself to believe that betty loves archie. she looks like she secretly hates him off camera. i have never seen anyone look so unconvincing when declaring to their gay best friend their love for the generic main protagonist. and generic is cutting it too close for comfort – whats up with archie? dude’s way basic. yes ok he’s cute – but so is literally everyone in the show. plus why are we pretending that his songs about heart break are revolutionary and indicative of talent?! hearts get broken, songs get sung. entire careers are built on this trope. ahem taylor ahem swift. this is nothing new. I’m tired of people using artistic endeavours like music or painting or whatever as a crutch that’s meant to symbolise that a character is ~varied emotionally and deep~. couldnt they have been a bit more respectful of female standards instead of making betty and veronica fight over this lame boy?

is the show’s aesthetic that no one can act? is this everyone’s first real role out of acting school? why is veronica always crossing her eyes everytime she wants to look serious? i cannot believe that veronica is a real person. she is very attractive but i think that’s the actress and not the character. who wrote this show? why do the character lines and dialogue feel like they’re trying to teach me something about ~insert hot social issue here~? and what is up with cheryl blossom? is she a fake blair waldorf? why is she so unbelievable as a character? why are all the parents in this show crazy? is this show channeling pretty little liars? when are we going to stop using this idea of male-female-bestfriendship as a vehicle for one party pining for the other? it is totally possible for men and women to be friends without one falling in love with the other. every single time a tv show turns a platonic friendship into a plot device for a romantic relationship, a fairy dies somewhere. tinkerbell, save me.

the only thing i liked about it was the appearance of josie and the pussycats, whom i loved in the comics. but then the representation of josie confuses me too. why is she so angsty? why is she so unnecessarily bitchy to everyone she talks to? wheres all this emotion coming from josie??? tell me!!!!

I was bitchin about this in the car, on the way to supper with my uni friends. the occasion was that emmanuel, who had migrated to hongkong a month ago, was back in town for twenty four hours. and in the car, we were talking about television, and either one of us brought up riverdale, and i went onto this tirade again.

watched episode one and hated it, he said. does it get better?
I’m on episode four and it still makes me want to smack something.
ok never mind then
i dont understand why its so unbelievable emman i really dont. why didn’t they qc the acting a bit more??

emmanuel stopped and stared at me.

its the CW, jem. acting is not their priority. hot people and melodrama is.

and i suppose he has a point there.

so that’s kind of my life update for the week, i guess. been studying, drinking starbucks, and bitching about television. i think school related stress is making me unnecessarily emotional about everything. my boyfriend was looking at emman and i go on and on about riverdale, and he finally said: jem, why u gotta be so triggered?

hashtag life.


#2069 | life update; feb


Ola, guys

No, I am not drinking two cups of coffee. One is my boyfriend’s. Though I would not put it past myself to drink two cups at a go, or three, or four…

Anyway. Like I’ve been complaining rather self consciously to the people around me, life has taken a decidedly more contained outlook this year thus far. This relates mostly to matters of academia, where my not so secret double life as a masters student has been cannibalising most of my time, of which I’d already had limited supply. This mostly means that in between commercial work, hosting, teaching, and thesis-writing, I have a window of about seven and a half minutes to do other things like try and have some semblance of a social life, and so my social circle has shrunk to about three – my boyfriend, my cat, and my other girlfriend who also rents office space at the Hive a desk over from me.

The self conscious element kicks in because I know that all things considered, it is a good life. A brief sacrifice of social life / fun is hardly a blip in the grander scheme of things, especially since, as everyone tells me, it’s only till August! But knowing that and feeling it is completely different matters. All my friends have gone out to play šŸ™ I told my boyfriend, and I wanna go too.

Then go, he said.
I cant. I’ll feel guilty.
Then don’t.
But I want to play too.

And so the conversation loops and drags on. Sometimes I just loop the same conversation over and over to see how long it’ll be before the boyfriend tosses me a glass of wine to shut me up. But his patience has been both amusing and impressive thus far.

The only till August part saddens me too, because I love being in school. I love it! I’ve always been the type of kid who loved going to school everyday because I am a nerd and i love learning about new things that i may not have had the chance to encounter otherwise. I think I only started hating school when I was eighteen, and that was because I am seriously not a morning person (side note: all three classes I’ve taught so far have been extreme morning classes, and so I’ve started to think the university has an agenda against me.. or something). But even then I freakin loved finding an empty spot by the study benches to drink cheap 3-in-1 coffee and eat dollar-seaweed-chicken and study with friends. And so it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t, because I wish I had more time but I love the thing that is precisely taking up all my time, ie. school, and so.. I don’t know. This is a good problem to have, and a privilege, and I am just being a whiny bitch.


Having a 4pm beer by myself on the roof of my office during my 7 minutes of free time per day

In any case. The commitment I made to myself to not go out and play till, I dunno, August – with the exception of 1. momentous occasions, aka my friends getting married or something 2. friends playing the friendship SOS card, aka someone broke up, someone has a emergency and needs support, someone etc etc etc 3. a friend from abroad dropping in to singapore, which happens more often than you’d think – has given me the mental freedom to devote nearly all my time to work and writing. The idea was to start off with 1-1.5k words of academic writing per day, then on alternate days either moving on to replying business emails and working on commercial work, or continuing my academic research and marking student papers. So far the plan has been functioning okay. If nothing else, I had a moment where I realised that no matter how spontaneously I’d like to believe I can live my life, I am still ultimately the sort of person who thrives on routine and compartmentalised decisions. The word neurotic has been used on me far too many times in the past year. I cannot find it in myself to disagree.

In concrete terms tho, this meant that in Feb I read two books, wrote about the best six books in my past six months, had a new editorial out for Paypal SEA, started working on phase two of my Times x Jemma Recommends book collection which is rolling out soon, and hijacked exactly two talks (one talk show for power98, one hosting gig for huawei mobile) with what I thought modern feminism represented, despite them both having engaged Jemma and not Jemimah to speak. Which, again, is how I realise that no matter how hard i try to keep them apart, my two worlds always inevitably end up crashing into each other. The other day I went to school and told a student I liked her eyeliner. Horror!


BTS of recent gigs i did

In general I was feeling pretty productive and proud of my progress work wise and academia wise, but that is not to say (i explained to the bf) that i dont miss just hanging out with my friends. I wish i had something else to sacrifice, like a video game habit, but i dont. Which is why I was so chuffed when we decided to work out of a starbucks instead of the office yesterday, and a couple of our friends nearby crashed!!!!!!!


And suddenly life was flowers and rainbows again.

A new week. Onward, I say. Happy Sunday, y’all.


#2062 | life buoy


Male, Maldives

The new semester has begun, as has my rubber-band launch back into the seesaw balance between my academic and professional life. Writing my thesis on a liveaboard in my head was one of the many ways one doubles up social and work life, an efficient use of time, if you will. Dive by day, write by night. I’m sure this wasnt what Papa Hemmingway had in mind but it works, for now. Surprisingly it’s been wonderfully productive. You’d think that an arrangement like that would never work, and it probably wouldn’t long term, but something about the mix of sea air, waves with a chance of dolphin, and literature, makes for a fantastic combination. The beer doesn’t hurt too, nor the dozen Blackmores Travel Calm pills I take per day. What’s a girl to do when she loves to travel but is deathly afraid of plane rides and gets sea sick at the slightest rock of the boat? Not sure if this question were ever asked, but if so, the answer is right here.


#2060 | Cafe (waiting love?)


Starbucks Singapore, Tanglin Mall

Singapore, you were pretty exhausting today.

It is a perpetual struggle to accept that it’s okay to be both fulfilled and exhausted. To love what you do but also want to give everything up for five more minutes in bed. A horse a horse my kingdom for a horse and all that. There are easier routes but none in my head. Life has become a giant check list and my brain, cotton candied mush. How can you ache for something you’ve never had? How can your chest pang for something you know you wouldn’t want if offered? We are walking ironies stitched together by the kindness and love of others. We all hope they will accept us for the ridiculousness that we are.