#2067 | No vibes, just chaos

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Friends, I have returned, if only briefly. Since I last dropped in I have completely lost the plot thanks to an anime rabbit hole I spiraled down. For days? No. Weeks. Maybe a month. I am ashamed, but I suppose, not regretful. How can one be regretful, when much of the last month was spent away from the drabness of reality in the pandemic, and immersed in the world of xianxia and magic?

Life has been eventful in the most chaotic way. On the 2nd of April I wrote the last words of my novel’s first draft and burst into tears, celebrated with beer and fried chicken, and fell sick immediately. A novelist friend of mine said it was the same for her – the first draft being followed immediately with a high fever, raging for days. The body’s reflection of a mind’s truth, burning. Cue the anime days, cue celebrations, cue sweet, sparkling wine.

Soon after, Shane and I (finally!) decided to get married after being engaged for two years. However, turned out the joke was on us, as Singapore basically went into lockdown right after, banning all wedding services. Oh to the well. I did promise chaos. It did deliver.


On a happier note, I’ve also booked my flight ticket back to New York for the Fall. I’ve been tracking prices for ages, it had been hovering around the 3k+++ mark (insane!), but for some reason dropped to 1.2k one Sunday. I booked it immediately, and the next day it went up to 1.7k. Now the going price is 3k. As you can imagine I am all smug and pleased with myself for that bout of spontaneity. Hello again, New York, soon enough. Hello, long-distance?

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har di har. Always track flights y’all! Old habits die hard from my budget travel blogging days.

Anyway. Since booking my flight back, I’ve been asked multiple times if I’m excited to return. I suppose a year ago I would have said yes without hesitation, but return means something different now than it did before. Before, I had not yet accepted nor adjusted to the fact of the pandemic, to me, it was a temporal aberration, and return was proof that I was right, that I could slip back into the life I had carved out for myself there, that all the choices I made thus far had not been for naught. But America has changed and so have I. As I wrote in an essay for No Contact Magazine, the New York I return to eventually may not be one I recognized from before – the challenge, I think, is making peace with that fact. I recognize also, that America is not mine, I am a temporary sojourner, my claim to it is less than a smudge. But my version of America – that is mine and mine alone. And it is this that I fight to preserve.

And so, return, today, means no more or less than return a year before, it is just different. This time, I feel like I am meeting a version of my life there with a sense of inevitability, but without a sense of haste. I do not run, I walk, I arrive, I adjust accordingly. How much difference a year makes. I remember declaring, two years ago, in a fit of naivete, that I was exactly where I was meant to be. That can be true, and this can be, too: I have learnt to unlearn, to soften the fossilized parts of myself, so as to bend and not to break. Where unwavering determination has served me well before, an easy directionlessness benefits me now. And in the future, this will change, too.

I mean, who would have thought that I’d become a hard-core anime girl in 2021? Not I.

In the meanwhile, I am leaning into all of it – time with family, with friends, with fiancé. The months of faux-normality that we have enjoyed in the last couple of months, the gentle clinks of cutlery in restaurants, the rain, the hugs, the movies, the letting go. The biggest change that has come of all this, I think, is that I no longer dream of labour, I now only dream of the work I want to do, and I cannot believe it has taken me this long to know the difference.

x
Jem

#2066| nian nian you yu

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I must admit that I’ve never been *into* Chinese new year per se, probably because the idea of dressing up in tight new clothes and sitting in front of a steaming hotpot in the supremely humid Singapore while long lost relatives grill you on every single life choice you’ve ever made doesn’t quite sound like the ideal long weekend, yes? Try explaining your choice to be a writer, albeit one that’s infrequently, if ever, paid. Besides, the idea of reuniting with family might hold water in a country where you have to geographically traverse mountainous lands to be together once a year, etc, but this is Singapore, where you can get from one end of the island to the other in 30 minutes, flat, 45 if there’s traffic. Any lack of regular contact is, make no mistake, a choice.

All that to say that I thought I knew all that, but time has a funny way of revealing your own naivete to yourself, and it was only after moving across the world and back did i find it in myself to have fun on Chinese new year, to confront inappropriate interrogations head-on with cheeky comebacks and nudges, to harass my deaf grandmother with unnecessarily loud yells which, despite what she says, she enjoys, to unzip my jeans in the car after all the cny eating to my parents’s horror and amusement, to take CNY lightly, which in my books, ends up being to take it seriously, to treasure, to hold.

Ah, a cliche? Yes, yes, and yes. Anyway, I wrote about CNY this year more formally on Curbside. Here it is.

x
J


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#2065 | Making the best of a shitty situation

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In a move that was extremely on brand for 2020, my sister fell off a rock wall and broke her arm in two places last year, a thing traumatic and incredulous in equal measure (isn’t breaking a limb something that happens only in the vague realm of ‘to other people’, without ever taking on specificity for most of us?). She’s since had copious amounts of medication, surgery, and physiotherapy, thank God for insurance, and now lives with a red scar down her hand that can only be described as thicc.

She’s young enough that the bone will heal, she will function at close to full capacity again someday, albeit with a smudge more caution and paranoia, but the scar, i think, is here to stay. The scar, smooth and soft, a site of repair, a battle wound, a rope of thickened tissue, silky to the touch, fading slightly, stitching skin together. Let’s celebrate it I said, grabbing a sharpie, going at her, and she groaned, pushed me off, and said, jie, i think the only person enjoying this is you. But she was smiling.

x
J


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#2064 | New Year, Same Lower Back Pain

With each renewal of the calendar year comes the expectation of change, against all reason, which is probably why I find myself ridiculously disappointed in the second week of 2021, still struggling with lower back pain, still plagued with orthopedic concerns, still shocked to find that I do not, in fact, have a completed manuscript draft on hand.

x
J

#2063 | an ode to cheese


I truly cannot get over how much I love cheese. I’ve always loved cheese, of course, but growing up in Singapore it was considered a luxury, and the kind of cheese I was most acquainted with was those kraft single slices, ultra-processed but still good when melted over a bowl of hot sesame nissin noodles. Even those I found to be a treat, when I was a broke undergrad I’d think for a long time before buying a packet because it was five bucks in the grocery store and most of the things I bought were way cheaper than that (think of a massive carton of eggs for 3 bucks, a head of veggies, a box of cherry tomatoes for a dollar). Anyway, all that is to say that when you have no money, nutrition is not at the forefront of your mind, much less small dairy luxuries. When I started working, being able to order a cheese board at bars was considered the ultimate pleasure, it was at Robertson’s Wine Connection and Cheese Bar that I was introduced to things beyond the basic understandings of cheddar and brie. Last year, when I stopped working and moved to the states to pursue my grad studies, I thought having no income for the first time in 8 years would mean the end of my love affair with cheese. Imagine my delight, then, when it was revealed that cheese was available in abundance in the states, that a great hunk of blue cheese could be had for two dollars in the grocery store, that smoked gouda could be procured for slightly over a dollar. What wonder, what joy. Now that I’m back in Singapore, waiting out the virus or my own delusions, who knows, only time will tell, the relative price of cheese has gone up again, and I find myself staring at the price tags in cold storage and ntuc and what not with a small measure of grief. Still, I find that this year more than any other, I have given myself over to irrational purchases, spontaneous buying… for if joy can be had for five bucks, who am i to say no, when so much else in the world around us burns?

x
Jem