Of smoke and water

It’s been a day since the death of Jonghyun, by suicide.

I have not been a huge fan of him nor his idol group but the circumstances of his suicide have really shaken me to my core.

I think, the thing that had shocked me was thinking how easily that could have been me.

Past this semester I have had a very hard time both in school and at home, and all my thoughts and opinions towards suicide and depression, till to that point- a rather detached, passing remarks of  I won’t be that girl– had been thrown out of the window.

It has gotten better, definitely, and I have been able to slowly talk to my friends about how the worthlessness I have carried around me for my whole life was actually eating me out from the inside, but he didn’t.

If I didn’t have my sister, didn’t have a friend to turn to, an outlet for me to vent and reflect upon, have the privacy to grief and throw a pity-party for myself- it could have been me.  Because. Because I did think that all it took was just one leap, off the ledge behind the washing machine. And when I didn’t, I berated myself for being just too chicken to do it, that I couldn’t even get this one thing right.

Jonghyun, you will be missed; your talent and your music and the overwhelming love you carried inside of you, the love that was just too much that when it burst out of you, and when you had no more to give you retreated to your corner of the world and didn’t come back- but you will be missed.

Rest in peace, Jonghyun. May you be at peace with yourself, the world- may you feel overwhelming love forever and ever.



Of trial and error

Times when I wasn’t good enough:

  1. When I was 8 and you said my hair wasn’t neat enough, that I had stubbornly refused to comb my hair even though you’ve said it a million times, and you dragged me to the salon where I got my hair lopped off into a bob; I hated it and you told me I was ugly.
  2. When I was 9 and I broke my sunglasses; you caned me and made me sleep with our helper. I lay in bed beside her and wished I was her child instead of yours.
  3. When I was 10 and I had forgotten my black shoes for performance with the band at the other house, when we were in the midst of moving; and you angrily refused to drive me back to our old house to get them; my bandmates looked at my white shoes and yelled that I was bad luck.
  4. When I was 12 and I had scored miserably for PSLE and you told me that I was lazy, I was obstinate, and that see lah, now you have to go to a neighbourhoood school.
  5. When I was 13 and with bad grades and you said there was something seriously wrong with me, and that I was a pig because I only eat and eat and eat. 
  6. When I was 14 and plunging right into puberty, you took a look at my changing body and told me I was fat.
  7. When I was 17 and the boy I liked didn’t like me back.
  8. When I was 17 and I couldn’t understand why my grades were dismal even after trying, trying and trying.
  9. When I was 19 and we fought and you said I was stupid, that I was a bad influence, that I thought myself clever but I was wrong. 
  10. When I was 20 and with my grades and self-esteem suffering, you told me to tidy up your room or get out of the house. 

Of blood and water

Today I had a little tiff with my brother.

Over nothing major, really, it was basically an argument about how much chores we each did and accusing each other of not doing enough.

In particular, he insisted my sister (the quintessential middle child) barely did any chores because she was busy with school. And that I didn’t care, nobody did, about him and that the chores were precisely the reason he couldn’t study.

Angry words were exchanged, voices got sharper with each passing minute, and at the end of it he was crying silently (his back stubbornly facing me) and I was trying my darndest not to cry. And in the end the core of the matter wasn’t even about the chores at all, it was about how he felt taken for granted (and me writing it off as ridiculous).

Blood is thicker than water.

Everybody says it like the gospel truth whenever family issues crop up, yet it still is humbling when a jolt of realization shoots through me, just how much we take our families for granted, how much I take my family for granted.

It’s easy to assume just because we’ve lived around the same people for our whole, if not most of our lives, that because we share blood and little habits we pick up from one another and the same way our nose scrunches when we laugh that we think, we assume that we know them, and they know us, and this very knowledge we assume we have entitles us to say,  yes, blood truly is thicker than water.

What we fail to see is that the very nature of the intimate relationship we have with family, that they are the blood that courses through us is how the thickness chokes us, derails us from saying truly what we feel.

The very blood we share congeals our words and coagulates the emotions we throw at each other when hurt; we put up our pride as shields and effectively curdle our relationships. The very thickness of the familial bond, the blood that ties us together makes the hurt we cause upon one another all the more upsetting, all the more traitorous because how could you, you are my family.

Blood is thicker than water, yes, but precisely it is because we are blood, living breathing blood and not water- that we have to nourish it, to be aware of the poisonous feelings we imbue in it through our treatment of one another.

And at the end of the day, I was aware, I could hear the hurt in my brother’s voice as he says, “nobody cares about me” and the unspoken I’m all alone because this all-too-familiar loneliness is in me too. But because I was angry, because I need to be right I threw a “fine, be the victim” as a parting shot and retreated to my room.

It’s hard to be honest when I’ve spent all my life being the kind of elder sister per expectations and that I’m not all that close with my brother. Which, I know is not an excuse by any measure, but still.

Maybe I’ll fry him up some eggs tomorrow. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll be a little kinder.

I’ll try again.

Of words and words

Talking to my mum about how hard this semester was, got me thinking why I chose literature as my major. Why literature?

Honestly, my relationship with literature (in the academic sense) has not been smooth-sailing at all, from nearly failing almost constantly in J1, to doing decently well in J2.

And again, coming to University and realizing that there are so many people ahead of me in the race to good grades.

But yet, I chose literature.

I wish I could confidently say what matters is my choice, my passion, but I still question myself, I’m still very much unsure and…afraid, I guess.

Halfway through this semester I realized, that reading, which gave me so much joy in my formative years (like seriously, I read everywhere and anywhere- in class, while eating, in the shower), was now less than joyful when I was so pressed for time, so pressed for original insights for my essays.

Maybe it’s because I’m so caught in my own head, thinking of my grades, or just the fact that doing well in literature has come to factor very much in how I see myself.


Literature to me is a discipline that reifies and magnifies the feelings and experiences of an individual- all the joys and all the sadness- to a common experience of all mankind. Literature deals with the details, the little nooks and crannies-reading a really good passage gets my heart tingling, and I really do love literature.

It’s a process, and maybe I’ll start with learning (again) to enjoy books and reading again.

(and get a head start on my books…not a good idea to cram 4 books within 13 weeks)

English literature is a flying fish.  It is a sample of the life that goes on day after day beneath the surface; it is a proof that beauty and emotion exist in the salt, inhospitable sea.’

-E.M. Forster

Of As and Bs

I’m done with my finals!

Honestly, this was one of my most tiring semesters thus far, and with the grades for my submissions trickling in (a disappointing conga line of Bs); I tell myself that I have done my best, that I really, really did.

I just hope my grades this time around won’t be as soul-crushingly bad as my grades for the last semester has been.

I really, really did my best.

(And it’s the whole tussle in my head, with myself, about how grade doesn’t matter, what matters is that I’m learning and growing…it’s an ongoing process.)

For now, I will revel in my freedom and all the sleep I will be getting.