you know how although it's called "new year", there's always almost nothing new on the first few days? it usually starts with you falling back into the same old routine. the stars somehow aligned this year.
within the first week of the new year, not completely knowing what lies ahead, I walked into my first proper job, with a desk and a pantry and all, after an hour of laying down in my car snacking on Nature Valley, still not used to waking up before the Sun does.
working a job where things are constantly changing (what ain’t though) actually changed my perspective on time and luck. Murphy's law, you know, "anything that can go wrong will go wrong" really stopped me from being such a control freak.
I can carry an umbrella all the time. wear a raincoat too, just in case the umbrella malfunctions, but if the sky decides to turn grey and the rain finds a way to soak me up either way, I might as well just fuck it. there’s no point in pushing myself to the brink of sanity trying to keep myself dry. it's not like the weather listens to me anyway. knowing that I underestimated my ability and creativity in the past, I'm much better at keeping my cool now.
whenever I’m unsure of a choice, I’m always reminded of that time I downed a glass of whiskey, someone clearly cheering my name amidst the noise. I've never had one up till that point in my life. all I know is that it's strong and I’m not gonna die. heck, I didn't even know that it burns. then, I realize that this recklessness is me, it’s my trademark in doing things. as long as nobody’s gonna get hurt or I won’t end up in a prison, I would down whatever drink that’s given to me and have faith that things would turn out okay. hopefully more than okay. it’s not necessarily a bad thing to embrace because there are only some things that only the devil can do. thankfully, most decisions ended up worthwhile. I guess, ignorance is sometimes, indeed, bliss.
getting a dip in the industry often makes us wonder if a tertiary education is worth it - 30K worth of debt for a glorified toilet paper roll. of course, who am I to say? right? I haven't actually used it yet. I don't know how much power (or lack thereof) it holds.
except from a few lecturers, there’s no substantial knowledge from my modules anymore. there's not much damn left from me to give, hiding at the back row of class reading No Film School articles or watching Adobe tutorials helped me way more than classes did. my watchlist grew considerably and seeing what I read being applied on these films is a much better lesson than classes anyway.
you see, I’m good at two things: 1. getting interested quickly, and 2. getting bored quickly. it seems great to be able to pick things up fast, when tough times don't disheartened but are instead, welcomed. that is, until I got stuck. it's that phase that I'm so familiar with - after getting bored, before getting interested.
I do have a list as long as a fresh toilet paper roll of things I wanna try, but I don't know where to start. maybe the curiosity ain’t enough, maybe the appetite is weak. I don't want to start. I was in limbo. I thought I should no longer be in this cycle where I take months to turn from doing something really badly to making some satisfying result (to me, at least), only to abandon it to start doing something really badly again.
I didn’t know what to do. I decided that time will help me decide and started binge watching films. I enjoyed it. it didn't make me feel guilty, because I wasn't exactly not improving, right? I was actually learning. but it was the "not doing" that bothers me. it's when I thought, damn, am I depressed?
the thought of launching Photoshop or Illustrator itself tired the hell out of me. I’d choose movie over anything that I used to spend hours doing. and, I’d choose sleep over anything. god, was I really exhausted. a little part of me was actually glad that I’m getting all that sleep that I lost the previous year.
at one point it got so bad that I holed up in my apartment for three days, living off tuna sandwich and takeaways from my housemates. I wasn't lost, but I didn't know what exactly to do either. at the least, I was clearly aware what was going on and what I should do if it worsens. but the people around me wouldn't understand, and the people who would... they weren't here. it was lonely. it was knowing all the words in the Oxford English dictionary but the whole damn world doesn't understand English.
the worst of that lasted for less than a couple of weeks. during that period, I questioned myself a lot on picking up the camera in the first place. I realized that Instagram is the creative killer. there’s a booming of similar, albeit pretty work out there. (thanks, YouTube and presets.) so, I went back to Tumblr and saw that, I didn’t look at photos as photos, I lived in them. I was 8, 16 and 32, wind in my hair in Byron Bay, stepping crunchy leaves in New York City, making clack-clack-clack sound on the cobblestoned street in Paris and taking in all the crazy neons in Tokyo, in 1990, 2000 and 2010 all on the same day. the convenience of Instagram filling idle time successfully killed that. I knew I needed to get the hell out of it and I have a better sense of what I want to do with my camera.
I picked things up here and there. it's okay to scatter my energy and my focus around this time. it's okay. it's something. eventually, the emptiness left, but the loneliness stayed.
I probably have ninety-nine problems but loneliness definitely ain’t one. well, that’s what I thought. being alone has always been freedom in disguise for me. heck, I love being alone because nobody's gonna sulk if I spend too much time in Kinokuniya or complain about the books I decide to buy.
how foolish am I, right? to only learn now that loneliness is a whole other thing from solitude. yeah, sure, solitude is drooling over the thousands of beautiful book covers alone for hours but loneliness is finding a line from one of those books that resonates so well with me to only look up and realize that there's no one to read the words out aloud to, (maybe because none of them understand English), and watch them give you a face that says "I get it". I thought all along I knew how to deal with it. but boy, was I wrong. they don't get it. no, they don’t. they listened, yes, but that's only because I was shouting.
ultimately, it's a shout into the void. so, why shout?
I thought I should use all that energy for myself and to peek at what people are interested in. so, I read whatever I like silently, because hey, everyone's got their nose deep into their book, right? or their phones, whatever. anyway, it's this keeping to myself that I learn a lot more about myself; another thing that makes me go "boy, was I wrong all this time". I love and cherish myself much more. I see this gap between who I am and who I can be. I understand myself well enough to know what I like, and what I actually don't. I'm clearer with the difference between what I want and what someone else think I should have.
and the toughest part of it all? learning and accepting my own flaws. it’s difficult to be the one grabbing your own skull and turning it to face your own dark, ugly sides. it’s different when someone else is doing it for you because then, you can kick and scream, and they are gonna tell you what to do or what not to do. undoubtedly, it's daunting to stand face front of my mistakes alone. what’s worse, when I was unsure if a mistake is a mistake. on one hand, it’s liberating when you know no one can take advantage of your feelings anymore. on the other, it’s terribly hard when you’re your own god.
it’s much better this way though. I only got myself to blame if I burnt myself from playing with fire, not because I stupidly listen to someone else’s dumb piece of advice. also, I’m the one who gets to say what I should change, and what I shouldn’t, even though people may hate it. at least I understand why I did what I did. free will, baby, free will.
still, it felt pretty much like the famous 52-hertz whale this way. and I can’t help thinking of the other people who feel the same. so I thought, if you don’t read the book I read, we’re never gonna know each other well, unless I read the book that you read. so, fine, this time, I’ll give it a try.
it’s surprising to see a big, big world outside of my own bubble. things I’d never imagine exist, exists. I stopped putting people into these boxes. I didn’t even know these boxes existed. you’re probably thinking that I’m such an asshole to stereotype people in the 21st century. now, try to think the last time you took a train and you saw all these strangers and you started to imagine how they came to be here. that’s the kind of box I’m talking about. you’d probably done that too. but when you learnt their story, you realized it’s completely different from the version that you had imagined.
when I looked closely at the book that others were reading, I got a slap in my face waking me up from trying to talk about Magritte to someone reading biography, or discussing Plato with someone reading a cookbook. but, what intrigued me most is why people read the books they read. despite that, I understand perfectly well that just because what they’re reading is different from me, I shouldn’t stop reading what I like.
living at the outskirts meant many long drives alone (toldja, I have no problem being alone for a long, long period). one day I got so bored of those long, long drives I started talking to myself. out loud. yeah...
I’m a lunatic. I know. but this helped me to articulate myself better, and I know, when you’re a confident person you’re comfortable in your own skin bla, bla, bla, but try to listen to your own voice for half an hour continuously. YIKES.
being a shy and quiet person around new people, I thought New-Friendship-After-I’m-Twenty-One - Rest In Peace, you’ll never see the face of the Sun. having a resting bitch face definitely doesn’t help. thankfully, those solo talking sessions turned into How To Make Friends 101. no, in fact, another reason I talked to myself is to practice better response at Human Interaction instead of freezing or smiling awkwardly when I’m in a conversation.
I’m an impatient person. when making friends, I always couldn’t wait to jump to the part where we get each other's humour, judge each other’s taste, insult each other's music preference, and tolerate each other's lousy puns. I tried to change that by staying interested as long as possible instead of regarding someone as “full of shit” after like, what, three minutes of conversation. what I didn’t know then, my patience rewarded me with many beautiful souls whom I ended up building valuable relationships with.
and speaking of people, this year is packed with exceptionally many goodbyes. most of them to my favourite people and they’re hard. yeah, I know there’s Skype and all, and they’re not leaving for good. yet, deep down everyone knows it’s different. at one point in life, after saying enough goodbyes, you know, you know that things won’t stand still with time. but life goes on, man. I’m glad that at least I got to properly farewell.
like I said, I’m an awfully impatient person, but some gems I’ve bumped into taught me that it’s okay to always give time some time. here’s this crazy story: I spent thirteen years looking (on and off) for a movie based on a five-second swimming pool shot I’ve seen on the TV when I was about eight years old. guess what, one day it was just there on Facebook. you see what I’m sayin’? the pieces will fall into place someday. if it isn’t, it doesn’t mean it won’t. so, relax. time will do it’s thang. this year, fortunately, it happened to me a lot.
when you’ve experienced something like this, your perception of time changes. a photographer, on his third anniversary with his girlfriend, wrote that three years seem long, yet is short compared to the rest of the years they’re gonna spend together.
now now, I haven't lived much, but I reckoned that twenty turning twenty-one and then going on twenty-two is definitely one of those toughest years. my peers are constantly agitated about their future. I don’t blame them. I mean, it’s hard not to, especially at this age, when we have to make a lot of “big” decisions that may greatly change the course of our lives in the next five or ten years.
but you see, we reach like, what, only a quarter of our lifetime. I know it’s important to not make any major fuckups. but there’s an infinite number of versions of life that you may lead. life is made up of happenstance. what I think, the what-ifs will always find its way to you. in the movie Before Sunrise, Jesse said, “you can consider this traveling back in time, to see what you are missing.” that’s why, yes, let your brain talk, listen to your heart as well, take that leap. there’s no need to fret too much. because...
nothing is permanent. don’t believe me? just look around. lovebirds who proudly declare their love for their partner five years ago no longer has the same partner now.
upon realizing this, I became hyperaware of my surrounding. I can actually feel time passing. it’s one of those things like the putting in the box that I mentioned before. it’s not looking back at secondary school days and sticking up one and another finger to count that five years has passed and how much I missed the old days. it’s more like, looking at how twenty-one of these one years are forming something greater, and I can finally see it now. all of a sudden, the details caught my eye. I noticed these changes around me. small change, big change, small change that led to big change.
I figured, if this is a quarter of my life, I have another three quarters to go. three twenty years is hella long and many things are bound to change. what started out bad could turn good, what turned bad from good, well... just give it some time. it's not the end. it's never the end. what we're seeing is a cacat Waze map with lousy connection. as we move on, the map will slowly load. just when we thought the map is fully loaded, we get a notification to update the app.
so, I learnt that with time, I change, people change. no one is always the same.
there are times when I thought of a friend, and how much they’ve changed over the years to become a better person. it always breaks my heart to think that it must have taken a lot of pain for them to grow into such a person. and I always have this urge to go back in time to hold them tightly and tell them it’s okay. to tell them I’m sorry I wasn’t there when they’re in their hardest time. it almost feels like I don’t deserve the person they are today.
I now learnt that while people are at their best, cherish them and let them know. while they’re not, be kind, be patient and be there like I would want them to if I’m in their shoes. because sometimes people do hurtful things and they don’t even know why and sometimes I do too. many times we’re just lost and confused. so, stay. because some things take time. despite the damages, there is always beauty in seeing people around me grow to become better people.
coming of age is mostly like standing in the middle of a tunnel where both ends can't see each other, yet from where I stand, I can see perfectly well what’s happening at both ends. something like this hallway.
one day, I found bullshit that would come from a shitty adult coming out from me. one day, I found myself agreeing to some shitty opinion from some shitty adults. one day, I am doing something that ten-year-old me would be shaking her head when she sees it.
slowly, I understood why adults are so fucked up. why, a lot of times, they couldn’t just blurt out what’s bothering them. why do they have to always complicate things. still, I understand how kids don’t see why adults are so fucked up. how they don’t see how some things are never as simple as it seems.
on one hand, it suits me fine, because I can see from both points of view. bonus, I can choose to pretend I’m a kid or an adult depending on the situation (yeah, taking full advantage of this). on the other hand, there’s this frustration that I guess only those at this stage in life can understand. I sometimes want to grab people and throw them to the opposite end. I wish I have that superpower. but sadly I don’t, so the best thing I can do is to never forget how it is at the kid’s end while I slowly march towards the adult end.
reminiscing old days through our adult eyes to see how young, dumb and… well, broke too but I was gonna say stubborn - how young, dumb and stubborn we were, often, I find myself wishing we could go back in time, but wiser, like now, so that we can save all that pain we inflicted on others. but what’s the point? it’s a paradox.
one day, I saw a friend fell off the cliff. another day, I saw another friend fell off the cliff. dammit, Holden, are you doing your job? I kept telling myself to look out for the border of the cliff because I don’t ever want to leave. but it’s hard. for a long time, I kept feeling I’m at the part of the story where Maurice and Sunny came to take another five dollars from me.
I've seen lots of disgusting, hideous things this year. sure, there’s the far length someone would go to take advantage of someone or something, which is something I saw a lot on TV, but this time in real life. it seems the only way to counter is to jump off the cliff and become that sort of person as well. I had to keep reminding myself that that doesn’t mean I should.
however, that’s not the scariest of all. the scariest ones are the ones who are completely indifference and cold towards anything; those who, even though they know they could and should, don’t give a flying fuck because they don’t think that every action and decision they make creates a ripple. they thought that it doesn’t matter because they come and they go, and that the ones who should care are the ones who have the money and time to.
one time, I had this conversation with my close friend about the small, happy thing that seeps through the gap of our daily routine. like the perfectly saturated gradient of a certain day’s sunset, unexpectedly finding a pen that’s so smooth for writing, the right song playing in a shopping mall car park, things like that. even the mundane conversations like when to buy new toilet paper rolls sounds interesting to me. we’re crazy, we know. it’s always nice to have friend who’s just as crazy as yourself.
we laughed and asked ourselves, have our lives really become so dull that even these silly, little things could make our heart dance? nevertheless, we are glad. we are glad that happiness comes so easily for us when the people around us constantly need one more branded bag, one more luxurious vacation, one more latest tech-gadget.
I enjoyed the year.
I wasn't sure why is that so at first. as I reflected, I came to see that it's because I didn't have any regrets. it wasn't a I-carped-every-fucking-diem no regrets, it also wasn't an all-of-my-choices-was-so-wise no regrets (I mean, NO RAGRETS). rather, it was becoming accepting of the cause-and-effects of whatever that happens in life, regardless of my voluntarily putting them into motion or pure luck. it also wasn't picking a path that I realized was wrong halfway through it, only to suck it up and hopelessly follow it until I reached somewhere great. okay, there was a bit of suck-it-ups (*coughs* 30K debt *coughs*), nevertheless I love each and everything I saw along the path that led me to where I am now. I mean, c'est la vie, no?
maybe I’ve become an adult, you know, like feeling happy for a new sponge, no more having my mom explain to the doctor my medical condition, always being prepared to be disappointed and so on. things rarely caught me off guard anymore. I've become pretty calm, huh? if I had to pick the best transformation this year, this is it.
that said, I wasn't all so cool that I just accept any shit that's shoved into my way. I’m talking about shit that I have the power to change, because excuse me, I ain’t born a rational robot devoid of sensitivity and concern. I will still yell until my lungs burst for the things that I care for. Time is never going to polish my stubborness away.
I don't know how to put this feeling into words. I say it every year: this year was like a roller coaster ride. this year was all the more so. I'm at the end of the ride - flat ground - where people are starting to unbuckle their safety belts, and I thought, "well, the ride wasn't that scary at all", only to leave the ride and take in the giant and be like "WHOAH, I actually rode that?!"
the more I think about it, the more it becomes like the last night of an exhausting but fruitful road trip, or the end credits of an epic movie. it's like the time when I finished three months of marathon-reading Harry Potter.
what. an. adventure.